Posts Tagged ‘Chinese’

South China Sea turning into signals hub for Chinese military

February 21, 2018

Throughout the ages, wars have been waged over territory. From nation states and warring factions, to gangs and real estate developers everyone knows location is key.  The more land you control, the more territory you lord over – the more power you wield.

Generally the acreage and borders  in question are based on the land as nature intended it to be. But what if your strategic interests required creating land out of thin air, or in this case, deep blue ocean?  Enter the People’s Republic of China and their man-made islands in the Spratly island chain, in the hotly disputed South China Sea.

The United States and its allies have been watching the construction of these man made islands for some time. China began the projects under the auspices of navigational necessity but analysis of their chosen locations quickly revealed there was another strategic motivation at work. In fact, they were building new military bases.

In early 2017 the DC based think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)released a report– having analyzed recent satellite photos –and concluded that runways, aircraft hangers, radar sites and hardened surface-to-air missile shelters had either been finished or were nearing completion.

The report also stated that the satellite images appeared to be the most conclusive indication yet that China is using its island-building project to bolster its claim over almost the entire South China Sea and its islands and reefs–bases that will give China the ability to deploy combat aircraft and other military assets with efficiency across the disputed region.

The U.S. and its allies raised ref flags and held press conferences to express disapproval but effectively the Chinese continued their projects unabated.

Fast forward to February 2018, when new satellite imagery shows China’s new military lily pads in the South China Sea may have an even more nefarious purpose in the form of full on intelligence communications nodes. On Saturday CSIS released another report, this time comparing its own satellite images and aerial photos released by the Philippine Daily Inquirer earlier this month.

CSIS says the photos add more detail than previously available but do not show new capabilities so much as reinforcing their earlier point that “these artificial islands now host substantial, largely complete, air and naval bases, and new construction continues apace despite diplomatic overtures between China and its fellow claimants.”

The report finds the northeastern corner of Fiery Cross Reef is now equipped with a communications or sensor array bigger than those found on other artificial islands in the Spratlys. Fiery Cross is one of the seven reefs Beijing turned into islands in the Spratlys. It is the smallest and the southermost of the “Big Three”, which also includes Subi, or Zhubi in Chinese, and Mischief, or Meiji.

Construction on Fiery Cross Reef:

Image courtesy of CSIS/Philippine Inquirer

Specific construction on Fiery Cross according the CSIS:

  1. The northern end of the base’s 3,000-meter runway, which was completed in late 2015.
  2. Hangars to accommodate four combat aircraft. Hangar space for another 20 combat aircraft and four larger hangars, capable of housing bombers, refueling tankers, and large transport aircraft, have been built farther south along the runway. All the hangars were completed in early 2017.
  3. A tall tower housing a sensor/communications facility topped by a radome, completed in late 2016.
  4. A field of upright poles erected in 2017. The original notations on the aerial photos identify this only as a communication facility, but it is most likely a high frequency radar array like the one built on Cuarteron Reef two years earlier.
  5. One of the four point defense facilities built around the base in 2016. Similar point defenses exist on all of China’s artificial islands, sporting a combination of large guns (identified in one of the aerial photos of Johnson Reef as having 100-mm barrels) and probable close-in weapons systems (CIWS) emplacements.
  6. A large communications/sensor array completed during 2017. None of the other bases in the Spratlys so far has a comparable array, though smaller ones have been built on Subi and Mischief, suggesting that Fiery Cross might be serving as a signals intelligence/communications hub for Chinese forces in the area.
  7. Three towers housing sensor/communications facilities topped by radomes, completed in 2017.

Additional Construction of Concern

Subi Reef, just 12 nautical miles from Philippine-occupied Thitu Island: China has built a large lighthouse, a 3,000-metre airstrip, a high-frequency radar array and underground storage tunnels that could be used for ammunition.


Mischief Reef: Three towers housing sensor or communications facilities topped by a dome to protect radar equipment were completed in 2017.

Gaven Reef: a solar panel array was built in 2015, along with other facilities such as wind turbines, a tall tower housing a communications facility and an administrative center.

Fiery Cross was the site of the most construction in 2017 with work on buildings covering an estimated 100,000 square metres (27 acres).

What Say you China?

Beijing has been accused of militarizing the South China Sea, which is also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam but has repeatedly rejected those accusations. Their actions continue to say otherwise.

In order to wield power over this region–to create a sphere of influence–China needs to dissuade all others concerned from any further resistance. Strategic locations like Fiery Cross have been talked about as potential command and control centers for Chinese activity in the Spratlys since the early 1980’s – it appears once again that while the world was involved in other things, the Chinese made their plans into reality.



China New Year (Year of the Dog) Starts Quietly — Firecrackers, fireworks banned in the name of lessening air pollution

February 16, 2018


© AFP | A man prays with incense sticks to celebrate the Lunar New Year, which has had an unusually subdued start in Beijing
BEIJING (AFP) – Beijing began the Year of the Dog Friday with eerily silent streets, as the usual thunderous bursts of firecrackers and fireworks were silenced by a strict ban that sacrifices tradition in the name of an anti-pollution campaign.Overnight, police patrolled deserted neighbourhoods in the Chinese capital — normally abuzz with excitement as the country welcomes the arrival of the Lunar New Year.

“I never imagined it would be this quiet! It’s usually packed,” said a Beijing resident surnamed Wang who had been out in the city centre following a traditional New Year’s Eve family dinner.

A migrant worker from neighbouring Hebei province surnamed Zhu said that without the firecrackers, “the magic of the New Year is gone”.

The low-key celebrations were in stark contrast to previous years, when the streets were crammed with Beijingers setting off firecrackers and the sky was lit by near-constant firework displays, unleashing a deafening thunder until dawn.

But the tradition, conceived as a way to ward off evil spirits, has this year been targeted by authorities anxious to lower winter pollution levels.

Some 440 Chinese cities have banned the use of firecrackers and fireworks — which are also set off during weddings or when moving house — since last year. Beijing introduced a ban in December.

“Like all Beijingers, I have been lighting firecrackers since I was a child. But times have changed (…) air quality is what matters most to people now,” said a man who gave his surname as Zhang.

The government has launched a huge campaign to reduce pollution during the winter, ordering polluting factories to leave Beijing and its surroundings, and designating “no-coal zones” where more than three million homes have abruptly switched to gas or electric heating.

In 2017, the level of PM2.5 particles — which penetrate deep into the lungs — in Beijing over the New Year was 26 times higher than the level recommended by the World Health Organisation.

But on Friday the sky was a brilliant blue.

“It (the ban) is a good thing, given the disastrous state of the environment,” said Xi, a young student, before adding: “Even if it deprives us of a little pleasure”.

– Peace and quiet –

Safety is another reason behind the ban. Every year there are numerous accidents caused by pyrotechnics, many of which are of poor quality in China.

Dong Weiwei, a resident who had volunteered to patrol his street, stood ready to alert police should he see anyone flouting the new regulations.

“In the past I have seen people wounded, an eight-year-old child whose finger was blown off by a firecracker explosion,” he said.

In southwestern Yunann province, a fireworks explosion killed four people and injured five others Thursday night, state media said.

The ban has made some happy, including Zhu Ye, an elderly Beijinger who took advantage of the peace and quiet to take her dog Xiao Mi for a nighttime walk.

“I no longer liked it at my age… with the fireworks and firecrackers everywhere, we didn’t dare to go out,” she said.

“But this year, there are not many people in the streets and I am finally able to walk my dog.”

Ahead of New Year celebrations, hundreds of millions of Chinese travel back to their home towns, often on crowded trains, making it in the world’s largest annual human migration.

Meanwhile in Hong Kong a spectacular fireworks display scheduled to mark Lunar New Year was cancelled as the city mourns victims of a deadly bus crash.

A speeding double-decker overturned in northern Hong Kong on Saturday evening, killing 19 and leaving more than 60 injured, some critically.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said residents were grieving and wanted “to express their sombre mood”.

In Shanghai thousands flocked to temples to pray for good fortune.

While in Nepal, exiled Tibetans living in Kathmandu carried images of their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, as the community — estimated to number in their thousands — gathered to celebrate Lhosar, the Tibetan Lunar New Year, with traditional music and food.

China urges shoppers to turn their backs on foreign goods after Heathrow duty free row

February 15, 2018

A plane taking off at Heathrow Airport,

A plane taking off at Heathrow Airport, CREDIT: PA


Claims that a store at Heathrow Airport “ripped off” Chinese shoppers have prompted calls in China for the country’s cash-rich consumers to rein in their overseas spending.

The People’s Daily, the official mouthpiece newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party, suggested in an angry commentary posted on its website that Chinese tourists should turn their backs on foreign goods.

It came after an employee at retailer World Duty Free, which is located at Heathrow, alleged that the store was offering 20 percent discounts on the next visit for consumers who spent £79 or more – but people travelling to China had to spend £1,000.

The claims went viral, forcing the airport and retailer to apologise.

But Chinese web-users were up in arms and state-run newspaper, the Global Times, vented fury at what it claimed was “cultural discrimination” and “ripping off” Chinese consumers.

The People’s Daily joined in with the chorus of disapproval in an article titled: “Heathrow airport has apologised, but the questioning won’t stop”.

“Victims should bravely use the law as a weapon to defend their rights against businesses which are dishonest and do not respect regulations and the rule of law,” the commentary said.

“As this shop treats customers differently, should we vote with our feet and stop buying foreign goods?”

A Duty Free shop is seen in Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport in London
A Duty Free shop is seen in Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport in London CREDIT: REUTERS

Such comments would likely cause alarm among British retailers.

Chinese spending in the UK increased to £231 million during the first six months of last year, up 54 percent from the previous year, according to national tourism agency VisitBritain.

About 115,000 Chinese tourists visited the UK during that period, an increase of 47 percent on the same period in the previous year.

Chinese experts were also suggesting that consumers should alter their spending habits when they are abroad.

Cui Hongjian, the director of the Department of European Studies at he China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times that the incident proved “racism festers deeply in the psyche of some British people and should be condemned”.

“Chinese tourists should adjust their irrational consumption idea of spending extravagantly when buying products abroad,” he said, in comments which were reported indirectly.

A Heathrow spokeswoman had previously told The Telegraph that it found the offer “unacceptable” and would ensure that “it does not happen again”.

Additional reporting by Christine Wei

Pope’s Deal With Beijing Is ‘Putting Wolves Before Your Flock,’ Cardinal Says

February 14, 2018

Retired Hong Kong prelate rails against Holy See’s plan to unite divided Chinese Catholics

The former head of the Catholic Church in Hong Kong, 86-year-old Cardinal Joseph Zen. Photo: BOBBY YIP/Reuters


HONG KONG—As a priest in the 1980s, Joseph Zen helped revive links between the Vatican and Catholics in China after decades of religious repression by the Communist government. Now, the retired, octogenarian cardinal is trying to block Pope Francis’ detente with Beijing.

Cardinal Zen calls a Vatican plan to recognize seven bishops appointed by Beijing a betrayal to Chinese Catholics who have refused to recognize the authority of government-backed church organizations and faced persecution for their participation in “underground” communities loyal to the pope.

“You are telling them, ‘You are stupid for being loyal for so many years. Now surrender,’” Cardinal Zen said in an interview in the Hong Kong seminary he joined seven decades ago.

A Chinese Catholic plays a keyboard as she sings a hymn during mass at an underground church in April near Shijiazhuang in China’s Hebei province. China places a number of restrictions on Christians, allowing legal practice of faith only at state-approved churches. Many people have therefore been forced to worship at underground churches. Photo: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Vatican officials and Chinese supporters of the plan say healing the 70-year-old rift with Beijing is a way to bring together China’s state-backed and unauthorized church communities.

Pope Francis’ recognition of the excommunicated bishops would open the way for an already-negotiated agreement with Beijing to give him the right to veto its future appointments.

Cardinal Zen, 86 years old, lives and keeps a paper-filled office in the Salesian House of Studies, an airy, four-story neoclassical building perched on a steep slope on the east side of Hong Kong island.

Choir members sing during a Christmas Eve mass at the Southern Cathedral, an officially sanctioned Catholic church in Beijing, in 2015. Photo: Mark Schiefelbein/Associated Press

His blog posts, interviews and a personal appeal in Rome last month to oppose bowing to Beijing on Chinese bishops have put the Vatican on the defensive and stoked debate in Catholic communities in Asia about compromising with an authoritarian government.

He ramped up his opposition to the plan after Vatican officials in December asked two underground bishops to cede authority to two Beijing appointees.

“They are appointing bad people to be the shepherds of the flocks. How can you do that?” he said in the interview, closing his eyes and shaking his fists. “You’re putting wolves before your flock, and they are going to make a massacre.”

Cardinal Zen says the Vatican risks making the same mistake with China as it did in compromising with Communist regimes in Eastern Europe during the Cold War. His critics call his fierce anti-Communist stance a relic of the past.

Retired Cardinal Joseph Zen hands a letter to Pope Francis at the Vatican earlier this year. Photo: L’Osservatore Romano

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, in an interview with the Italian daily La Stampa last month, said repairing ties with Beijing would help all Catholics in China to be in communion with each other and the pope.

Cardinal Zen once shared that view. In the 1980s, after Pope John Paul II called for building bridges to Catholics in China recovering from persecution under Mao, Cardinal Zen forged ties with the government-backed church community, teaching in official seminaries.

At the time, he was optimistic for an acceptable compromise. Under Pope John Paul’s successor, Pope Benedict XVI —who elevated him to the College of Cardinals in 2006—Cardinal Zen tried to negotiate the long-sought breakthrough with Beijing.

Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress, meets with new leaders of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association and the Bishops Conference of the Catholic Church in China in late 2016 in Beijing. Photo: Xinhua/ZUMA PRESS

He thought the two government-run organizations overseeing China’s Catholics could be modified to become acceptable to the Vatican. He later became convinced that Beijing wouldn’t allow it.

“I had been one of the very first to plead with the Vatican on behalf of the aboveground church,” he wrote on his blog in February 2012.

Related Coverage

Pope Francis to Bow to China With Concession on Bishops (Feb. 1, 2018)
Five Things to Know About the Catholic Church in China (Feb. 1, 2018)
Pope’s China Calculation Clashes with Image as Champion of Oppressed (Feb. 2, 2018)
Pope’s Controversial China Overture Has Cold-War Precedent (Feb. 7, 2018)
By then, he was disillusioned, having reached the conclusion that Beijing was unwilling to cede any meaningful authority to the Vatican, a view he still holds.

“The atheist government absolutely did not change its policy of total control of religion,” he wrote at the time.

The last time the Vatican appeared close to a deal with Beijing, in 2016, Cardinal Zen said it would be better to pray alone than join churches that take their orders from Beijing.

“You can pray at home,” he wrote. “Even if you can’t be a priest anymore, you can go home and plow the fields. A priest is always a priest.”

Born to Catholic parents in Shanghai in 1932, Zen Ze-kiun grew up during the Chinese Civil War and left shortly before the Communist victory and the beginning of Mao’s 27-year rule. He arrived alone in Hong Kong to join the Catholic Salesian order in 1948.

Cardinal Zen joins leading pro-democracy activists in front of a Hong Kong police station in January 2015. Photo: PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Taking contentious stands became a familiar role. His fellow Salesians dubbed him “tiger” for his sharp tongue, according to longtime acquaintances.

After his appointment by Pope John Paul II as assistant and designated successor to the bishop of Hong Kong in 1996, shortly before the British colony’s handover to Chinese rule, he urged people to defend their civil liberties against its new rulers in Beijing.

At 79, he held a three-day hunger strike to show his disapproval of new Hong Kong government oversight of Catholic schools.

“The reason why I am talking so much,” he wrote on Feb. 5 on his blog, “is because I’m afraid pretty soon I won’t be able to talk anymore.”

Write to Eva Dou at

A crane winching a large red cross from one Guantou’s three domes

A crane winches a large red cross from one of three domes on the Guantou church in Wenzhou


Philippine President’s Plan to Allow China to Secure the Sulu and Celebes Seas, Even Approaches to the Malacca Strait, Called “Careless and Ignorant”

February 1, 2018
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier suggested that China should help  secure the Sulu and Celebes Seas from pirates and terrorists. Google Earth

MANILA, Philippines — Allowing China to secure the Sulu and Celebes Seas from pirates and terrorists would be tantamount to encouraging “a threat to your own backyard,” a lawmaker said Thursday.

Magdalo Partylist Rep. Gary Alejano made this statement in reaction to the suggestion of President Rodrigo Duterte to ask for Chinese presence in the Philippine waters, where pirates freely pass through.

“It is careless and ignorant to encourage a threat in your own backyard. The President should not be crass on dropping such suggestions without looking at the whole situation in that area,” Alejano said in a statement.

Prior to his flight to New Delhi last week, Duterte said that China would help secure the Philippine waters like what the did in addressing the piracy problem in Somalia.

“Sasabihin ko sa inyo, kung hindi natin kaya, we’ll just have to call China to come in and blow them off just like Somalia, that Aden Strait there. Were it not for the presence of the Chinese, hindi mahinto ‘yung piracy doon,” Duterte said.

Alejano, however, said that attributing the curbing of piracy in Somalian waters would be an exaggeration as US and European ships also conducted patrols and anti-piracy operations in the region.

The Philippines should instead develop maritime cooperation with Malaysia and Indonesia to secure the Celebes and Sulu Seas from the threat of piracy, the lawmaker added.

“I agree that we should have a hardline policy against piracy and terrorism. However, rather than immediately running to China, let us instead develop maritime cooperation with Malaysia and Indonesia. Their borders are included in the Sulu and Celebes Seas, so it would make more sense geographically for them to be involved,” Alejano said.

RELATED: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines launch joint air patrols

The Philippine government should also focus on the modernization of the Coast Guard and the Navy in combating piracy before asking assistance from an outsider.

“I subscribe on having an independent foreign policy. However, as we are seeing now, it is not an independent foreign policy which the Duterte administration is going for. It is a dependent-to-China policy,” the Magdalo lawmaker said.

Duterte had been suggesting to request China to patrol areas in international waters leading to Malacca Strait and the Sulu Sea since last year.

In February 2017, the president said that Beijing could deploy its coast guard cutters, but not its “gray ships” or naval assets, into the country’s territorial zones.

RELATED: Duterte: Philippines, China can have military exercises in Sulu Sea


Philippines Finds Previously Unknown Increased Chinese Presence at Scarborough Shoal — At Least Nine Chinese Vessels Inside the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone

January 31, 2018


The air patrol mission of the Navy’s King Air surveillance C90 aircraft was its first since its delivery and commissioning late last year.  File

MANILA, Philippines — On its maiden patrol mission in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, a Philippine Navy aircraft donated by Japan has monitored increased presence of Chinese vessels in the area now under China’s control despite being within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

The air patrol mission of the Navy’s King Air surveillance C90 aircraft was its first since its delivery and commissioning late last year.

It was the second such mission to be launched within a two-week period at Panatag Shoal by the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Northern Luzon Command (AFP-Nolcom) amid growing concerns over Chinese military buildup in the West Philippine Sea.

Wielding de facto control over Panatag, the Chinese might build an island on the shoal just like it did on other land features in the disputed waters so that it could strengthen its hold on a seized territory, security experts say.

Flying 800 feet above the rich fishing ground, the Navy surveillance plane reported the presence of nine Chinese vessels – four coast guard vessels, four unmarked Chinese ships and a Chinese fishing vessel.

Last week, a Philippine Air Force (PAF) C295 plane also circled over Panatag and spotted four Chinese coast guard ships and a fishing vessel in the area. Filipino fishing boasts were also present.

The Chinese ships in Panatag did not challenge the Filipino patrols.

Located 120 nautical miles from mainland Zambales, Panatag Shoal used to be a target range for live fire exercise of the US and Philippine militaries in 1970s to 1980s.

The dismantling of the US bases in the country in the early ‘90s, observers say, may have given China opportunity to assert its South China Sea nine-dash line maritime claim, initially by establishing its presence in Panganiban (Mischief) Reef off Palawan in 1995.

Meanwhile, a Japanese destroyer is set to arrive in Manila tomorrow for a three-day goodwill visit. The destroyer JS AMAGIRI (DD-154), which has a DH-60J patrol helicopter, will dock at Pier 13 in South Harbor.

Image may contain: sky, mountain, ocean, outdoor, water and nature

JS Amagiri

The visit is part of the continuing initiatives of the Philippine Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) to further improve relations.

In November 2017, an anti-submarine destroyer of the JMSDF also made a goodwill port call in Manila.




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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

Philippines’ pivot to China — Mr. Duterte is indeed rolling out the red carpet for China.

January 29, 2018
 / 02:13 PM January 29, 2018

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AIR SECURITY A Chinese bomber patrols the islands and reefs in the South China Sea in this undated photo released by Xinhua News Agency. —AP FILE PHOTO

China’s presence in the Philippines has never been more pronounced than it is now.

Manila recently allowed a Chinese ship to conduct maritime research at a resource-rich vast underwater plateau known as Benham Rise, east of the main island of Luzon, near US bases in Guam and Hawaii.

Image may contain: sky, ocean, outdoor and water

China research ship Ke Xue

For months, the Philippines has been drumming up a joint venture with China to explore for oil and gas in a contested area of the South China Sea.

China is also dipping its fingers into the Philippine telecoms industry. Shenzhen-based telco ZTE is leading a consortium that plans to invest US$2 billion (S$2.6 billion) to build 50,000 microcell towers and compete with the two leading players.

Most big-ticket infrastructure projects have some level of Chinese involvement.

Tourists from China are also pouring in. The Chinese have dislodged the Koreans as the top tourists on the resort island of Boracay. Some 376,000 tourists from the mainland visited Boracay last year, compared with 375,000 from South Korea.

A historic ruling by an international tribunal in The Hague granting the Philippines rights to vast waters China is claiming, meanwhile, is fast slipping out of the national consciousness.

 Image may contain: 1 person, smiling

All this, of course, plays to President Rodrigo Duterte’s brand of diplomacy. Since he took office in 2016, ties between Manila and Beijing have never been as warm or mutually beneficial.

China has pledged over US$24 billion in investment and loans to help finance Mr Duterte’s ambitious 3 trillion peso (S$77 billion, US$59 billion) “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure plan.

Beijing has also backed, with funding and weapons, Mr Duterte’s brutal crackdown on the narcotics trade and war against Islamist terrorists.

In turn, Mr Duterte has set aside the decision from The Hague. He has also looked the other way as China fortifies its island bases in the South China Sea.

When told China had transformed Fiery Cross reef into a 2.8 sq km airbase, Mr Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque said “there is still no breach of good faith, as long as China has not embarked on new reclamations”.

Mr Duterte is indeed rolling out the red carpet for China.

That pivot, however, has not come without consequences, especially as it relates to the Philippines’ decades-long relationship with the United States.

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis has turned to Indonesia and Vietnam, instead of the Philippines, to lead a pushback against China’s expansion in the South China Sea.

Mr Duterte’s aides have been obfuscating his pro-China remarks to allay concerns in Washington.

Seeking to downplay the Chinese presence at Benham Rise, Foreign Secretary Alan Cayetano said the Philippines, since 2000, has approved all 13 requests from the US to conduct maritime research there, all nine Japanese requests, and all four from South Korea.

China filed 18 requests, but only two were approved, he said.

“I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves,” he told reporters. “Tell me, who are we favouring?”

Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, meanwhile, said Manila would lodge a diplomatic protest over the militarisation of Fiery Cross reef .

“If it is true, and we can prove that they have been putting soldiers, and even weapons systems, that will be a violation of what they said,” he said.

Dr Amado Mallonga, an expert on geopolitics at the University of the Philippines, said the Chinese are just “behaving like they should behave”. “China is a state, and it has state-owned enterprises,” he added.


“Obviously, the activities of its enterprise will be aligned with its foreign policy, and they see an opening because Duterte is open to them.”

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No automatic alt text available.

China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

Philippines: “I will ask China to open its doors to us” — President Duterte vows

January 29, 2018
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President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

President Rodrigo Duterte presented China as an alternative destination when asked how he would deal with the repercussions of stopping the deployment of workers to Kuwait.

“I will ask China to open its doors to us. They need teachers and domestic helpers,” the President said upon arrival early Saturday morning from a state visit to India.

In a statement at the airport on his way to India, Mr. Duterte said he would “never again tolerate one more incident of rape” of a Filipino worker in Kuwait.

He again brought up the matter upon his return and said he was willing to accept the social and economic consequences of stopping the deployment of workers abroad.

Decency and dignity

“As a worker of government [and] as one who also decides whether we go there or not, I will not hesitate to lose your friendship, not at the expense of the Filipino. Do not do it,” he said, addressing countries receiving OFWs.

Mr. Duterte said all he was asking from other countries was to treat Filipinos with decency and dignity.

“Do not abuse them,” he said. “Filipino women are not merchandise you buy and just do what you want. It sucks.”

Mr. Duterte admitted that his predecessors might have opted to remain silent on many complaints of sexual abuse, unfair work conditions and outright inhuman treatment.

Human Rights Commissioner Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana, the agency’s focal person for migrant workers’ rights, said the President’s words and actions might give stakeholders “time to reflect” and adopt necessary reforms.

Greater harm than good

“The [Commission on Human Rights] supports the government’s efforts to promote stronger protection and enhanced welfare mechanisms for our overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) especially those most prone to abuse and exploitation,” Gana said in a statement.

But the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said imposing a ban might expose migrant workers to greater harm.

Rothna Begum, researcher at HRW women’s rights division, said similar bans, such as in Indonesia, did not end the abuses.

“Instead, people desperate to work still migrate, but through unsafe and unregulated channels, leaving them more exposed to abuse and trafficking,” she said.

Under such circumstances, Begum said issues of abuse would be more difficult to address once workers were already in the Middle East.

Instead, Begum suggested that the Philippine government demand “an end to the abusive ‘kafala’ (visa sponsorship) system which ties workers to their employers and prohibits them from leaving or changing jobs without their employer’s permission.”

She also said the Philippine government should call for improved cooperation from Middle East governments in rescuing distressed workers and in investigating worker deaths.

Kuwait, meanwhile, has expressed its “regret and bewilderment” over the suspension.

In a report in Kuwait Times, Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Sulaiman al-Jarallah told Philippine Ambassador Renato Pedro Villa that the move “contradicts the nature of the distinctive ties between the two countries and does not serve their common interests.”

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China Signaling it May Finally ‘Militarize’ the South China Sea Officially — China has Already Built Up Seven Land Formations With or Able To House Chinese Military Installations

January 29, 2018

China may be getting ready to overtly “militarize” its island bases in the South China Sea. After years of counter-accusing the United States of militarizing the region while maintaining that its man-made islands were “necessary defense facilities,” Chinese officials are using a recent transit by a U.S. warship to lay the groundwork for deploying real force projection capabilities to its outposts.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed that a U.S. Navy destroyer violated its sovereignty over the Scarborough Shoal by sailing within 12 nautical miles of the disputed feature in the South China Sea on January 17th. In an unusual step, China was the first to reveal that the transit occurred and may be using it to signal future military deployments to the bases it has built on reclaimed islands in the Spratly Islands.

Lu Kang, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the U.S. ship’s passage gravely threatened the safety of Chinese vessels and personnel in the area, but did not elaborate how. He went on to say that China would take “necessary measures” to safeguard its sovereignty.

The Scarborough Shoal is claimed by both China and the Philippines. Starting in 2012, China effectively occupied the shoal, using maritime law enforcement and paramilitary Maritime Militia vessels to evict Filipino fishermen. In early 2016 the United States apparently believed that China might attempt to begin land reclamation at Scarborough Shoal as a prelude to constructing military facilities similar to what it has done in the Spratly Islands, prompting the head of the U.S. Navy to voice rare public concern over China’s impending moves. Analysts from the Center for Strategic and International Studies speculated that China’s intended reclamation efforts were only stymied following intense behind-the-scenes diplomacy and deterrent signaling.

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A Chinese bomber over Scarborough Shoal last year.

Since there are no structures on Scarborough Shoal to support the deployment of military equipment, unless China again tries to build an artificial island on the shoal those “necessary measures” probably just mean a heavier Chinese maritime presence in the area. But other Chinese commentary points to the possibility that China may use the Hopper’s transit as pretext for militarization elsewhere in the South China Sea.

Militarization is a sensitive topic in the strategic waters of the South China Sea. To quell concern about its robust island-construction campaign, China’s President Xi Jinping said that China “did not intend” to militarize the Spratly Islands in 2015 remarks at the White House. Those reclaimed islands are now home to extensive communications and sensor facilities, long runways, and hardened hangars and ammunition storage bunkers. Chinese officials have long explained away this construction as “necessary defense facilities” but not militarization.

As early as 2016, U.S. intelligence assessed that China’s Spratlys bases could, or could shortly, host forces like fighters, bombers, and long range anti-ship or land-attack missiles that were capable of projecting power far beyond any defensive requirements. But to date, China has only deployed short-range missiles and point-defense weapons that cannot project control over the seas or skies around the islands, allowing Chinese officials to sustain a thinly plausible claim to be staying within President Xi’s promise that China would not militarize them. But Chinese officials now appear to be laying the narrative foundation to claim that the strategic situation in the South China Sea will force China to deploy the more robust military capabilities those Spratlys bases can accommodate.

Chinese officials have floated the premise that the United States was forcing it to deploy increasing military capabilities to the region for defensive purposes before. In 2016, a Ministry of National Defense spokesman invoked this explanation when he responded to a U.S. think tank report revealing new defensive weapons on China’s Spratlys bases by saying that “If somebody is flexing their muscles on your doorstep, can’t you at least get a slingshot?”

China’s recent statements signal that deployments could be more imminent.

Following the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ comments, the official People’s Daily newspaper published an editorial saying that the U.S. presence in the South China Sea would “hit a brick wall.” It went on to warn that the United States activities would force China to “strengthen and speed up” its buildup of capabilities in the South China Sea to ensure peace and stability in the region. An editorial in the Global Times tabloid claimed even more explicitly that China had exercised restraint in its responses to the United States’ military presence in the South China Sea and that eventually China would “militarize the islands.”

Claims that U.S. freedom of navigation represents a threat to its islands is more plausibly pretext for militarization. The United States excels at over-the-horizon strike, using long range missiles to hit targets from beyond ranges that they would be subject to easy counterattack. If the United States was going to attack China’s built-up facilities in the South China Sea, there is little reason that its warships or bombers would close within visual range of the islands to do so.

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USS Hopper

It is doubtful, then, that the Hopper’s transit had any effect on China’s plans. China has been building up its islands’ capabilities for some time, with deployments perhaps restrained only by a desire to mitigate backlash from the United States and other countries in the region. It’s also possible that the United States’ 2016 assessments were optimistic about the islands’ readiness to accommodate sustained deployments.

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative recently released a report revealing China completed over 70 acres of new construction and facility improvement on its bases in the South China Sea, last year. That construction provides some context to recent reports from Chinese official media about the special facilities and preparationsrequired to support a deployment of fighter jets to the Paracel islands last year. Details on the special accommodations the Chinese military had to make for the tropical conditions in the South China Sea like sealed, thermostabilized airplane hangars, suggests that its bases in the Spratlys are only now reaching a level of completion that can confidently support advanced combat forces, and all China needs now is an excuse to justify the deployments.

China built artificial islands in Kagitingan (Fiery Cross), Panganiban (Mischief), Zamora (Subi), Burgos (Gaven), Kennan (Hughes), Mabini (Johnson) and Calderon (Cuarteron) Reefs




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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.


Chinese marine exploration in Philippine waters begins

January 24, 2018
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Weighing 4,711 tons, China Daily described Kexue as a “moving laboratory on the sea” capable of global voyages and all-day observations. Photo from Institute of Oceanology of Chinese Academy of Sciences website

MANILA, Philippines — China’s most sophisticated research ship has arrived in Philippine waters to conduct marine scientific research after securing a permit from the Department of Foreign Affairs, a lawmaker claimed Tuesday.

Rep. Gary Alejano (Magdalo party-list) earlier slammed the DFA  for allowing the Institute of Oceanology of Chinese Academy of Sciences (IO-CAS) to conduct research in waters off Eastern Luzon, where Benham Rise (Philippine Rise) is located, and off Eastern Mindanao.

The Chinese marine exploration will take place on January 24 to February 25 this year.

READ: Alejano: DFA approved Chinese think tank request to study Philippine waters

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang later disclosed that Chinese research vessel “Kexue” will survey Philippine eastern waters.

READ: Chinese ship ‘Kexue’ to conduct research in Philippine waters

In a statement, Alejano said his “sources” informed him that Kexue was at northeast of Palanan, Isabela as of January 23.

He also claimed that the research ship entered the Philippine territory on January 22, “two days early from the granted duration” of the sea exploration.

“What we should make sure now is the compliance of China to all the requirements demanded by the Philippine government as conditions to the permit issued,” Alejano pointed out.

“In particular, we should be wary on the sharing of information that will be culled from the said expedition. Filipino scientists on board should be given equal access to all results of the research activity,” he added.

The $87.5-million Kexue was handed over to IO-CAS in 2012, newspaper China Daily reported.

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Ocean research by Tara Oceans of France was denied by the Philippine government

Weighing 4,711 tons, China Daily described Kexue as a “moving laboratory on the sea” capable of global voyages and all-day observations.

The Chinese researchers will be joined by the University of the Philippines – Marine Science Institute “as a requirement.”

In 2012, the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf approved the Philippines’ undisputed claim to the Benham Rise.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier signed an Executive Order officially renaming Benham Rise to “Philippine Rise” to assert the country’s sovereignty there following reports that Chinese research vessels were spotted surveying the area in 2016.

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A Chinese bomber flies over Scarborough Shoal last year

Malacañang had sought to defend the Philippine government’s approval of the Chinese marine exploration, saying Filipinos can’t conduct research in Benham Rise without the help of Beijing because such an activity is “capital intensive.”

But Alejano refuted the Palace’s statement, arguing that “it is not because our scientists do not have the ability to conduct research. It is because the government does not allot sufficiently for it.”

For his part, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano had said the law gives equal chance to foreign countries to study Philippine waters as long as there are Filipinos on board.

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Foreign marine researchers must also share their findings and data with their Filipino counterparts, Cayetano added.

In a move to dispel claims over the Duterte administration’s alleged bias toward China, the country’s top diplomat also on Tuesday said the DFA approved 13 applications from the US, nine from Japan, and four from South Korea to do research in Benham Rise.

READ: DFA OKs Benham Rise study by US, Japan, Korea


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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.