China has more room to maneuver than its opponents in the still simmering disputes over the South China Sea, according to Xu Liping of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Xu made his comments speaking to reporters from Elite Reference, an internationally focused newspaper run by the Communist Youth League of China.
China has formed a new local government called Shansha, namely a city, to administer the Nansha, Zhongsha and Xisha Islands, which others might speculate acts as a counter measure to the so-called Law of the Sea passed by Vietnam, which lists the aforementioned islands as under Hanoi's jurisdiction and part of its territory.
In response, Zhang Zhijun, China's deputy foreign minister, expressed concern over Hanoi's policy to Vietnamese ambassador to Beijing Nguyen Van Tho on June 21.
Xu Liping said that the United States will use its relationships with Vietnam and the Philippines to constrain China in the Asia-Pacific. But Washington will not find it easy to pick sides if Hanoi and Manila engage in all-out war with Beijing, he added. What the United States really cares about, according to Xu, is freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, and its own interests in the region.
Meanwhile, Indonesian defense ministry spokesman Hartind Asrin has denied rumors that Indonesia is hoping to form a multinational fleet with Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei to oppose China in the region. Indonesia will remain neutral and follow the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, signed in 2001 between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Asrin said.
Without the full support of the United States or regional cooperation among the nations of Southeast Asia, both Vietnam and the Philippines would be unable to challenge China in any realistic confrontation. Due in part to this fact, and the close ties which has been nurtured for all these years between China and ASEAN nations, China has upper hand in the South China Sea.