By Yuan Yue, Sina English
China’s leadership transition comes at a defining time when the country is engulfed in maritime disputes. In the past year, we have seen China’s foreign policy toughened, and in President Hu Jintao's report just a few days ago, we have also heard him mentioning beefing up naval power. Now, the question is, how will the new leaders, who are about to get on stage, react to similar issues?
Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt is a Beijing-based China adviser and Northeast Asia project director for the International Crisis Group. She says in her CNN blog, that those expecting China to turn the other cheek are mistaken.
Here is what the article says: The prolonged stand-off with Japan over the sovereignty of a few islets offers a vivid example of China’s tough stance. In September, the Japanese government announced that it was finalizing “the purchase” from their private owner of the disputed Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea.
Beijing, hence, interpreted the move as a betrayal of the two countries' agreement to shelve their quarrel, and saw the timing as a deliberate attempt to foment instability.
China responded decisively, with what media called "combination punches." These measures ranged from the verbal –Vice President Xi Jinping labeling Japan's purchase of the islands a "farce" -- to economic countermeasures and large-scale anti-Japan protests and naval exercises in the East China Sea.
But the real game-changer in the stand-off came when Beijing declared its territorial baselines around the islands; a move that legally places them under Chinese administration.
Once the announcement was made, China began to regularly dispatch law enforcement vessels to patrol waters off the disputed islands, directly challenging Japan's de facto control of the area for the past 40 years. Such is the new normal, claim Chinese officials.
Kleine-Ahlbrandt believes similar heavy-handed action was used against the Philippines in April. When Manila responded to a fishing run-in by sending a warship, China strengthened its claim over the Huangyan Island by deploying law enforcement vessels to the area, extending its annual unilateral fishing ban to cover the waters around the shoal, which has all along part of the Chinese territory since ancient times; quarantining tropical fruit imports from the Philippines and suspending tourism; and roping off the mouth of the lagoon to prevent other fishermen from entering.
By doing that, China has managed to establish a new status-quo in its favor.
A similar blueprint was then used in June in response to a maritime law passed by Vietnam with new navigation regulations covering the Chinese Xisha and Nansha Islands. Before the ink on the law had dried, China upgraded the administrative status of Sansha City to govern its vast stretch of South China Sea waters and islands and established a military garrison.
Furthermore, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) offered oil exploration leases in nine blocks, overlapping with blocks offered by PetroVietnam.
A key component of Beijing's counter-punches are the use of economic punishments, including suspending imports, halting tourism, encouraging boycotts, offering up oil blocks in “disputed areas, “ or impeding fishing access.
The author analyzes that in the past, foreign policy was designed to serve economic growth; but today we see a different scenario: China is increasingly using its economic might to advance political ends -- even when this hurts China itself. According to one Chinese analyst, "These measures will hurt China. But they hurt Japan more".
A Pandora's Box has been opened, claims analysts in Beijing, and there is no going back to the tacit agreement that has kept peace in the East China Sea for decades.
With the new leaders stepping on stage, they certainly will not want to look weak, thus blunting the edge of their "increasingly assertive" foreign policy. From now on, if there is any perceived slight, no matter how minor, China would react, some so-called China Watchers or Advisers might believe.
Japan's Diaoyu diplomatic futile in the West
By Yuan Yue, Sina English
An editorial published in World Journal, a daily Chinese-language newspaper based in North America, on Nov.12 says the "island purchase" started by Noda administration has led to the deterioration of Sino-Japan relations.
Japan lobbied, not long ago, in the European countries over the islands dispute, only to find UK, Germany and France turning cold shoulder. This is a no doubt a diplomatic setback, commented the paper. But Japan was once again frustrated over its explanation on the country's diplomatic ground.
As it claims, Japan has been exploring in the waters off the Diaoyus since 1885, when it found the islands uninhabited, and later seized them. But long before that, China already had the islands incorporated into its territory, as proved iron-clad by history.
Meanwhile, Japan resorted to the Treaty of San Francisco signed in 1951, claiming that the Diaoyu Islands are not included in the territory that article two of the treaty requires Japan to renounce; it claimed that the Diaoyu Islands fit under article three of the treaty, covering areas under the administration of the US, while the US returned the islands to Japan under the Return of Okinawa Agreement.
But Japan should not forget that in Cairo Declaration, which was signed before the WWII ended, it has already been decided that Ryukyu should be returned to China, which--of course-- includes the Diaoyu Islands. Can the defeated countries steal the territory of the victors? It wouldn't make any sense. That the US handed these islands over to Japan later for administration is just an implicit plot. Anyway, sovereignty and “control” are two different concepts. (Full story)