By Li Hongmei, Special to Sina English
Is China slowly and patiently approaching to dominating Asia? The answer is definitely yes in an article: Salami Slicing in the South China Sea, published two days ago in the Foreign Policy magazine.
The following is the excerpts from the article:
“The Pentagon recently commissioned recommendations from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on its military basing plans in the Pacific. CSIS's June 27 report recommended that the Pentagon reallocate forces away from Northeast Asia and toward the South China Sea. Specifically, CSIS called on the Pentagon to base more attack submarines in Guam, beef up the Marine Corps' presence in the region, and study the possibility of basing an aircraft carrier strike group in Western Australia.
The South China Sea is undoubtedly heating up as a potential flashpoint. Disputes over territory, fishing rights, and oil leases have accelerated this year. A recent ASEAN conference in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, aimed at making progress on a code of conduct for the South China Sea, collapsed in acrimony and failed, for the first time in 45 years, to agree on a concluding joint statement. Vietnam and the Philippines were particularly upset that their Southeast Asian neighbors made no progress on a unified stance against Chinese encroachments in the sea.
But what about an adversary that uses "salami-slicing," the slow accumulation of small actions, none of which is a casus belli, but which add up over time to a major strategic change? U.S. policymakers and military planners should consider the possibility that China is pursuing a salami-slicing strategy in the South China Sea, something that could confound Washington's military plans.
The goal of Beijing's salami-slicing would be to gradually accumulate, through small but persistent acts, evidence of China's enduring presence in its claimed territory, with the intention of having that claim smudge out the economic rights granted by UNCLOS and perhaps even the right of ships and aircraft to transit what are now considered to be global commons. With new "facts on the ground" slowly but cumulatively established, China would hope to establish de facto and de jure settlements of its claims.
In April, a naval standoff between China and the Philippines occurred when Chinese fishing vessels were caught inside the Philippines EEZ near Scarborough Shoal (Chinese Huangyan Island). On the eve of the ill-fated Phnom Penh summit, the China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC), a state-owned oil developer, put out a list of offshore blocks for bidding by foreign oil exploration companies.
Finally, in June, the Chinese government established "Sansha City" on Woody Island in the Paracel chain (Chinese Xisha Islands). Sansha will be the administrative center for China's claims in the South China Sea, to include the Spratly Islands (Chinese Nansha Islands) and Scarborough Shoa (Chinese Huangyan Island). China also announced plans to send a military garrison to the area.
China's actions look like an attempt to gradually and systematically establish legitimacy for its claims in the region. At the end of this road lie two prizes: potentially enough oil under the South China Sea to supply China for 60 years, and the possible neutering of the U.S. military alliance system in the region.”
Not accidentally, Washington on Friday accused China of raising tensions in the region for the establishment of the city of Sansha and a garrison on an island in the South China Sea.
The U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said in a statement the administration was "concerned by the increase in tensions in the South China Sea and are monitoring the situation closely”.
China, in a timely response, lashed out at U.S. groundless accusation, saying it sent the "wrong signal" and threatened peace in the hotly disputed waters.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said the U.S. remarks sent "a seriously wrong signal, which is not conducive to the efforts safeguarding the peace and stability of the South China Sea and the Asia Pacific region".
The establishment of Sansha was "completely within China's sovereignty", he said.
And he accused the U.S. of "selective blindness" as "certain countries" escalated disputes by opening oil and gas blocks, threatening Chinese fishermen, and illegally appropriating territory.
Also on Saturday, a commentary on Xinhua attacked the US accusations as "groundless and irresponsible" and urged Washington to "draw back its meddling hand from the South China Sea disputes".
The fact is that the United States has rallied behind Southeast Asian nations, expanding military ties with the Philippines and Vietnam. In April, the first of 2500 U.S. Marines touched down in Australia in a further show of the U.S. power in Asia, resonating with Washington’s strategy of “pivot to Aisa”.
Time would tell who is actually “Salami Slicing” in the South China Sea.