Posts Tagged ‘Taiwan’

Senior Chinese Leader Says Has ‘Shared Destiny’ With Vietnam

September 19, 2017

BEIJING — China and Vietnam’s Communist Parties have a “shared destiny” and the two nations have huge potential for economic cooperation, a senior official said on Tuesday during a visit to Vietnam, which has clashed with China over the South China Sea.

Though the two countries are run by Communist parties, they are deeply suspicious of each other and relations have been strained over the past few years because of the dispute in the strategic South China Sea.

China has appeared uneasy at Vietnam’s efforts to rally Southeast Asian countries over the busy waterway as well as at its neighbor’s growing defense ties with the United States, Japan and India.

In July, under pressure from Beijing, Vietnam suspended oil drilling in offshore waters that are also claimed by China.

However, Hanoi and Beijing have also tried to prevent tensions from getting too out of control, and senior officials from two countries make fairly regular visits to each other.

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Liu Yunshan, a member of the Chinese Communist Party’s elite Standing Committee which runs the country, told Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in Hanoi that the two parties “constitute a community of shared destiny with strategic significance”, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The two economies are highly complementary, with huge potential for practical cooperation, he added.

While the report made no direction mention of the South China Sea, it quoted Liu as suggesting the two countries “properly manage and control their divergences, so as to create favorable environment for bilateral cooperation”.

China claims nearly all the South China Sea, through which an estimated $3 trillion in international trade passes each year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan also have claims.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Michael Perry)

See the report from Xinhua:

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2017-09/18/c_136619021.htm

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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.

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The power of China’s checkbook diplomacy

September 10, 2017

There are many ways a government can assert its interests on the international stage. Some use military muscle. Others use subversion or bluster. In Asia, Africa, Latin America, and even in Europe, China is using investment to get what it wants from countries and governments in need.

The most obvious examples are in Asia. Pakistan’s relations with the United States have deteriorated sharply in recent years for many reasons, and President Donald Trump’s warmer ties with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have given Pakistan’s government and military good reason to invest more deeply in strong relations with China. In turn, Beijing’s investment in Pakistan has gathered momentum. An infrastructure development project, the US$55 billion (S$73.6 billion) China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, part of China’s broader One Belt, One Road Initiative, is generating growth and creating much-needed jobs in Pakistan. In return, China is developing the port of Gwadar, which will provide China a stronger presence in the Indian Ocean.

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte does not like criticism from the US and Europe, and Beijing has pledged to help him improve his country’s underdeveloped infrastructure. So far, China hasn’t delivered much, but the promise alone has persuaded the Philippine President not to push hard against China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea. He has also added the Philippines’ voice to a more pro-China stance from the 10-member Asean. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has also added to Asean’s tilt towards China and likewise backed off rival claims in the South China Sea because his country also needs investment in roads, bridges and especially rail lines – and because the scandal involving misappropriation of funds from 1Malaysia Development Berhad, a sovereign wealth fund, has left Mr Najib and his government short of cash.

China’s deep pockets have long bought influence in Africa, where President Xi Jinping has pledged billions more in investment in coming years. China is also amplifying its voice across Africa via StarTimes, a state-backed, though privately owned, Chinese media and telecoms firm that beams Chinese content – and a Chinese worldview – via subsidiaries in 30 African countries into African households.

As a member of the Brics group since 2010, South Africa has given China a gateway into the Southern African Development Community, which provides access to natural resources that support China’s growth and boosts its political influence across the region. China is South Africa’s largest trade partner, and the two countries signed commercial deals in 2015 worth US$6.5 billion. South Africa’s government has rewarded China’s willingness to invest by denying Tibet’s Dalai Lama, who is persona non grata in China, entry into South Africa on three separate occasions since 2009, though South African officials deny this.

Chinese trucks at Pakistan’s Gwadar port in Pakistan. Beijing’s investments in the South Asian nation has grown, with China developing the port and the $73.6 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. PHOTO: DAWN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta was one of just two African leaders offered a seat at the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing earlier this year, and Kenya can expect to be a major recipient of Chinese infrastructure investment as part of the maritime route of the One Belt, One Road project. China has already built a high-speed rail connection between the Kenyan cities of Nairobi and Mombasa, and Kenya’s government has expressed thanks with support for China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and for Beijing’s bid to persuade the International Monetary Fund to add China’s currency to its Special Drawing Rights basket.

China has also spent considerable time and money building its influence in Latin America. China has become the largest export market for Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Peru, and Uruguay. But this is no longer simply a story of China buying commodities. These same countries, plus Bolivia, now import more from China than from anywhere else. Panama has also become part of the story, in part because China’s investment in the expansion of the Panama Canal has allowed Chinese mega-freighters to reach the Atlantic and eastern seaboard of the US. Earlier this year, Panama announced it would no longer recognise Taiwan, providing China with another diplomatic victory.

Beijing has even extended this strategy into Europe, where leaders still act as though the world is hoping to follow their lead. The most recent Chinese investment is in cash-strapped Greece, a country fed up with imposed austerity and bitter criticism from the European Union. Greece has won Chinese investment through the One Belt, One Road project. In particular, a Chinese state-owned firm now operates the Greek commercial port at Piraeus, the busiest in the Mediterranean. Earlier this year, Greece blocked an EU statement to the United Nations Human Rights Council that criticised Mr Xi’s crackdown on domestic political dissent and joined Hungary to support China’s South China Sea territorial claims at The Hague.

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A senior Greek official last month said: “While the Europeans are acting towards Greece like mediaeval leeches, the Chinese keep bringing money.”

There is a lesson here for the US, the EU and any other international player that would condition badly needed investment on domestic political behaviour. Mr Trump boasts of American power, but he has made clear he has no interest in writing large cheques. Now look at China from the recipient’s point of view. China offers good deals for governments and countries that need them – and it does not demand risk and sacrifice in return.

The only question about this strategy’s future is where it will succeed next.

http://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/the-power-of-chinas-chequebook-diplomacy

The writer is the president of Eurasia Group and author of Superpower: Three Choices For America’s Role In The World.

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Shiite corridor from Tehran to Damascus)

 (John Bolton)

(Includes John Bolton’s Plan for Iran and the Nuclear Deal)

Vietnam Protests Over Chinese Live-Fire Drills in South China Sea

September 5, 2017

HANOI — Vietnam on Tuesday issued a strong condemnation of Chinese military live-fire exercises in the disputed South China Sea, amid rising tension between the two countries.

The Maritime Safety Administration of China’s southern province of Hainan, which oversees the South China Sea, said last month there would be live fire drills around the Paracel Islands, which Vietnam claims, until September 2.

“Vietnam strongly objects this action by China and seriously requests China to respect Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelagos,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said in a statement.

“Vietnam once again asserts that (we) will resolutely protect our sovereignty and our legitimate rights and interests in the East Sea (South China Sea) through peaceful measures that are suitable with international laws,” the statement said.

China claims nearly all the South China Sea, through which an estimated $3 trillion in international trade passes each year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan also have claims.

Tension between China and neighboring Vietnam is at its highest in three years over the disputed waters.

Vietnam suspended oil drilling in offshore waters that are also claimed by China in July under pressure from Beijing.

China has appeared uneasy at Vietnam’s efforts to rally Southeast Asian countries over the South China Sea as well as at its growing defense relationships with the United States, Japan and India.

(Reporting by Mai Nguyen)

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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.

After Taiwan alarm, China says air force drills were routine

September 2, 2017

Reuters

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s Defence Ministry said on Thursday that a recent series of air force exercises around self-ruled Taiwan were routine, after Taiwan’s military said this month it was on a high state of alert following three straight days of drills.

The Chinese aircraft, which have included bombers and advanced fighter jets, staged exercises flying through the Bashi Channel that separates Taiwan from the Philippines and up to the north of Taiwan, by Japan’s Miyako island, according to Taiwan’s government.

The drills were the latest in a series of exercises conducted by China near Taiwan and Japan in the past several weeks.

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A Chinese H-6 bomber and two fighter jets

China said nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

“These activities are routine exercises by the Chinese air force,” Defence Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang told a monthly news briefing when asked about the most recent drills around Taiwan.

He did not elaborate. China frequently refers to such exercises as routine.

China has been increasingly asserting itself in territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas. It is also worried about Taiwan, run by a government China fears is intent on independence.

Beijing has never ruled out the use of force to bring proudly democratic Taiwan under its control, and has warned that any moves towards formal independence could prompt an armed response.

China is in the midst of an ambitious military modernization program that includes building aircraft carriers and developing stealth fighters to give it the ability to project power far from its shores.

Taiwan is well armed with mostly U.S. weaponry, but has been pressing Washington to sell it more high-tech equipment to better deter China.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel

U.S. to Challenge China With More Patrols in Disputed Waters

September 2, 2017

Schedule of naval operations is set for the first time in effort to pressure Beijing over its maritime claims

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Photo: USS Dewey

Updated Sept. 1, 2017 6:25 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—The Pentagon for the first time has set a schedule of naval patrols in the South China Sea in an attempt to create a more consistent posture to counter China’s maritime claims there, injecting a new complication into increasingly uneasy relations between the two powers.

The U.S. Pacific Command has developed a plan to conduct so-called freedom-of-navigation operations two to three times over the next few months, according to several U.S. officials, reinforcing the U.S. challenge to what it sees as excessive Chinese maritime claims in the disputed South China Sea. Beijing claims sovereignty over all South China Sea islands and their adjacent waters.

The plan marks a significant departure from such military operations in the region during the Obama administration, when officials sometimes struggled with when, how and where to conduct those patrols. They were canceled or postponed based on other political factors after what some U.S. officials said were contentious internal debates.

The idea behind setting a schedule contrasts with the more ad hoc approach to conducting freedom-of-navigation operations, known as “fonops” in military parlance, and establish more regularity in the patrols. Doing so may help blunt Beijing’s argument that the patrols amount to a destabilizing provocation each time they occur, U.S. officials said.

Chinese officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the latest U.S. plans. Beijing has accused the U.S. of militarizing navigation in the region by conducting military patrols. There have been three navigation patrols so far under President Donald Trump; there were four during the Obama administration, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Officials described the new plan as a more predetermined way of conducting such patrols than in the past, though not immutable. The plan is in keeping with the Trump administration’s approach to military operations, which relies on giving commanders leeway to determine the U.S. posture. In keeping with policies against announcing military operations before they occur, officials declined to disclose where and when they would occur.

The added military pressure on China comes while the U.S. is seeking greater cooperation from Beijing in reining in North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile program. The Trump administration has complained that Beijing hasn’t done all it can to pressure its allies in Pyongyang not to develop weapons or threaten the U.S. and its territories and allies.

In a new facet, some freedom-of-navigation patrols may be “multi-domain” patrols, using not only U.S. Navy warships but U.S. military aircraft as well.

Thus far, there have been three publicly disclosed freedom-of-navigation operations under the Trump administration. The last one was conducted on Aug. 10 by the navy destroyer, the USS John S. McCain, which days later collided with a cargo ship, killing 10 sailors.

That patrol around Mischief Reef—one of seven fortified artificial islands that Beijing has built in the past three years in the disputed Spratlys archipelago—also included an air component.

According to U.S. officials, two P-8 Poseidon reconnaissance aircraft flew above the McCain in a part of the operation that hadn’t been previously disclosed. More navigation patrols using warships likely now will include aircraft overhead, they said.

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P-8 Poseidon reconnaissance aircraft

Pacific Command officials had no comment on the matter.

The first such patrol under Mr. Trump was conducted by the destroyer USS Dewey May 24 around Mischief Reef. In July, the guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem conducted a patrol near Triton Island in the Paracel Island chain in the South China Sea, coming to within 12 nautical miles of the island.

Together, the moves amount to a more extensive U.S. posture in the South China Sea, where the U.S. has attempted to counter what it sees as excessive Chinese claims around two island chains, the Paracels and the Spratlys, where Beijing has conducted reclamation activities, building or expanding islands using sand dredged from the ocean floor to establish runways, ports, buildings and other facilities for military purposes.

Those structures worry the U.S. and other nations, which believe China’s presence there could impede shipping lanes through which billions of dollars of cargo transit each year.

The U.S. doesn’t make claims to any of the islands, but conducts the patrols to challenge China’s claims, which overlap with those of Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan and the Philippines, a U.S. treaty ally.

Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said U.S. forces operate throughout the Asia-Pacific region every day, including in the South China Sea. “All operations are conducted in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows.”

Col. Manning declined to comment on the new Pacific Command plan.

Countries in the region have welcomed the more unhesitating Pentagon approach under Mr. Trump, said Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Washington, and a former consultant to the Pentagon and State Department.

“I think there has already been a positive reaction from the region that we see in the aftermath of the three fonops we’ve seen so far,” Ms. Glaser said.

She said the Obama administration was “too risk averse” when it came to freedom-of-navigation patrols. “We need to conduct fonops on a regular and consistent way that sends a signal about our unwillingness to accept excessive maritime claims, to challenge those claims, and to underscore that our operations in the South China Sea are no different in other parts of the globe,” she said.

A former Obama administration official said a move to increase the number of navigation patrols is a good idea, but must be accompanied by a broader strategy.

An aerial shot of part of the Spratly Islands in April 21.Photo: TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images

“I think regularized fonops are a good idea,” said David Shear, an assistant secretary of defense at the Pentagon under Mr. Obama. “I think they should be conducted in the context of a broader South China Sea and regional strategy, and it’s not clear to me that this administration has devised a strategy for the South China Sea or the region, so I’m not sure what purpose the fonops serve outside of that context.”

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis spoke to U.S. aims in the region in an address earlier this year at a security conference in Singapore, declaring Washington has an “enduring commitment” in Asia based on strategic interests and “shared values of free people, free markets and a strong and vibrant economic partnership.”

The Obama administration’s move to “rebalance” U.S. military and economic attention to accentuate Asia was widely criticized, especially by Republicans. But Mr. Shear said Mr. Mattis’s remarks don’t spell out a new approach.

“This administration has repealed the rebalance but it hasn’t replaced it,” said Mr. Shear, now a senior adviser at McLarty Associates, an international trade consulting firm in Washington, D.C.

Pentagon officials often were frustrated with the process of planning and conducting navigation patrols under the Obama administration. Typically, officials said, such plans would be forwarded from U.S. Pacific Command to the Pentagon and then vetted by the State Department and the White House National Security Council before being approved or disapproved depending on the White House’s own set of political priorities with the Chinese.

The chief of U.S. Pacific Command, Adm. Harry Harris, has publicly and privately pushed for more of these kinds of operations, and on a more regular basis. Speaking to reporters last year, Adm. Harris put it simply: “More is better” when it comes to navigation patrols.

Write to Gordon Lubold at Gordon.Lubold@wsj.com and Jeremy Page at jeremy.page@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-readies-plan-to-increase-patrols-in-south-china-sea-1504299067

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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.

Vietnam protests over Chinese military drill in South China Sea

September 1, 2017

Vietnam on Thursday opposed what it called a Chinese announcement of military exercises in the disputed South China Sea, disagreements over which have pushed tension between the neighbours to its highest in three years.
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Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in this still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the United States Navy May 21, 2015. U.S. Navy/Handout via Reuters/Files

HANOI: Vietnam on Thursday opposed what it called a Chinese announcement of military exercises in the disputed South China Sea, disagreements over which have pushed tension between the neighbours to its highest in three years.

China has appeared uneasy at Vietnam’s efforts to rally Southeast Asian countries over the busy waterway as well as at its neighbour’s growing defence ties with the United States, Japan and India.

In July, under pressure from Beijing, Vietnam suspended oil drilling in offshore waters that are also claimed by China.

Vietnam was deeply concerned about drills in the region of the Gulf of Tonkin, at the north end of the South China Sea, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said in a statement, but did not make clear what drills were being referred to.

“Vietnam proposes China to cease and refrain from repeating acts that complicate the situation in the East Sea,” Hang said, employing Vietnam’s name for the South China Sea.

All foreign activities in Vietnamese waters must comply with Vietnamese and international laws, she added.

Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry conveyed its position to a Chinese embassy representative on Thursday, the statement added, without saying when China’s announcement was made or when any drill might take place.

China’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Last month, the Maritime Safety Administration of China’s southern province of Hainan, which oversees the South China Sea, said military drills would take place south of the province and east of Vietnam from Aug. 29 until Sept. 4.

There would be live fire drills around the Paracel Islands, which Vietnam claims, until Sunday, it added.

China claims nearly all the South China Sea, through which an estimated US$3 trillion in international trade passes each year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan also have claims.

(Reporting by Mai Nguyen; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Alison Williams and Clarence Fernandez)

Source: Reuters

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Read more at http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/vietnam-protests-over-chinese-military-drill-in-south-china-sea-9177280

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Deepsea Metro I

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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.

People in the Philippines Ask Nagging Questions on China

August 27, 2017

By  – @inquirerdotnet

 / 05:16 AM August 26, 2017

Question: What is the similarity between China and the Caloocan police?

Answer: China claimed that it had stopped reclamation work on the disputed islands in the South China Sea since 2015 (Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano supported the claim); the Caloocan police claimed that Kian delos Santos was shot and killed because he shot at them first. Both claims were belied by pictures: In China’s case, satellite images showed its reclamation activities in late 2016; in the Caloocan case, CCTV footage showed the policemen dragging Kian off…

In short, both are bare-faced liars, caught red-handed by modern-day technology.

Q: How far do Filipinos trust China vs. America?

A: The Social Weather Stations survey in September 2016 showed that Filipinos trusted America the most (+66) and China the least (-33), among the countries surveyed. The SWS also reported that since 1994, when the question was first asked, America has always showed positive ratings, its lowest being +18 and its highest +82; China has showed positive trust ratings only 7 times out of 40, and its highest trust rating was +17 (lower than America’s lowest), while its lowest was -46.

In short, Filipinos don’t trust China any further than they can throw it (and China, a giant, can’t be thrown very far).

Q: So why does President Duterte trust China so much and distrust America?

A: No hard evidence on which to base an answer. Communications Secretary Martin Andanar told me in an interview (you can catch it on Monday) that the President “listens.” Well, yes, he “listened” to the outraged cry against Kian’s murder, but he obviously hasn’t “listened” to the Filipino distrust of China (Filipinos have dealt with Chinese since pre-Hispanic times).

All these make up background for the current issue relating to China’s bare-faced lies or its treachery vis-à-vis the Philippines, which are well-documented in Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio’s book, “The South China Sea Disputes” (downloadable, free).

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While vowing eternal friendship with us and offering billions of dollars in “aid” (we should look that gift horse in the mouth, given the offerer’s predilection for mendacity), China has sent two frigates (warships), a coast guard vessel and two militia maritime fishing boats, to guard Sandy Cay (which is Philippine territory, being within 12 nautical miles from Pagasa). Moreover, it has prevented a Philippine government vessel from approaching.

Q: Why should Filipinos be worried?

A: Because it is the same strategy that China employed to gain control of Scarborough Shoal (Panacot, Bajo de Masinloc) off Zambales in 2012. More, after the United States brokered a deal under which Chinese and Philippine ships were to leave the area, China reneged on what it had agreed to; the Philippines left, in good faith. Nadenggoy tayo. Which is why we went to The Hague, and won our case.

The effect of Sandy Cay’s occupation by China is enormous, according to Justice Carpio. It will reduce Pagasa’s territorial sea by a third or more, and it will prevent us from claiming Subi Reef. “By any yardstick, this is a seizure of Philippine territory.” And he demanded that the Philippines take active diplomatic and legal measures on record.

Q: What is the Duterte administration doing about it?

A: The reaction is such that one would think it was lawyering for China. To wit: 1) What ships? (It denied their existence, although they were caught on satellite); 2) The ships are just exercising the right of innocent passage. (Carpio: Innocent passage requires no stopping, or loitering. The ships have been there since Aug. 12—again caught on satellite); 3) AMTI-CSIS, the think tank that provided the pictures, is American, therefore it is there to promote US interests. (Me: What? Do we think they photoshopped the whole thing?); 4) We are not going to war over a sandbar. (Me: Nobody suggested going to war. Moreover, that sandbar, since it has high-tide elevation, is entitled to a 12-nautical-mile territorial sea around it, more than twice the land area of Metro Manila).

And lastly, Q: This issue is one where we need the best and brightest to decide on strategy. Why isn’t Justice Carpio in the loop?

Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/106634/nagging-questions-china#ixzz4qyo0e8JE
Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

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Deepsea Metro I

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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.

As the U.S. steps back, Vietnamese wonder if China is taking control

August 27, 2017

By 
The Washington Post
August 26 at 5:00 AM


Because Vietnam’s closed political system keeps diplomatic machinations secret, most ordinary Vietnamese don’t know what’s happening. (Hoang Dinh Nam/AFP/Getty Images)

HANOI — Citizens of Vietnam have developed an unusual national pastime: Across the country and on social networks, people trade suspicions that their government is secretly giving in to an aggressive China. And lately, there has been plenty of fuel for their rumors.

Some blame a visibly diminished U.S. presence for giving Beijing an opportunity to act behind the scenes. Many blame officials in Hanoi for putting economic cooperation or alleged communist solidarity above questions of national pride. Last month, when a valuable project overseen by the Spanish company Repsol was suspended without explanation, both theories abounded.

“Is Trump weak, so therefore China is getting stronger? Maybe,” said Dung Nguyen, a small-business owner in Hanoi who often deals with foreign countries, including China. “People even worry in the future we could have another war with China. It’s all very scary.”

But with Vietnam’s closed political system keeping diplomatic machinations a secret, most people — even experts, by their own admission — simply don’t know what’s happening, providing the perfect atmosphere for wild speculation.

“We don’t really know what’s going on,” Nguyen said. “Now that everyone is online, we’ve realized that our [state] media wasn’t telling the whole truth, but we don’t have access to that whole truth, either.”

Domestically, China is one of the most sensitive issues for Vietnam’s otherwise stable communist government. Much of the country’s small dissident community attacks the Communist Party on this issue, and perceived weakness regarding Beijing is often seen as its most vulnerable point — more so than calls for democracy, expanded human rights or even the need to maintain economic growth.

Vietnam is a pillar of opposition to Beijing — at least in public view. Of the ten countries in the ASEAN trade bloc of Southeast Asian nations, which has drifted in a pro-China direction since President Trump took office, Vietnam is the last member openly pushing for a tougher stance on China’s expansion in the South China Sea — called the East Sea in Vietnam. Though many countries express private concerns, Hanoi is now publicly isolated on the issue of using international law to push back against China.

At an ASEAN forum in Manila in early August, not long after news broke of the drilling-project suspension, Vietnam reaffirmed its public opposition to Beijing. The United States, meanwhile, played an obviously reduced role, said Richard Javad Heydarian, an assistant professor of political science at Manila’s De La Salle University.

For those in the region opposing Chinese expansion, Heydarian said, “Trump has not been very helpful. We have seen a dramatic collapse in confidence in American leadership in Asia. Tillerson didn’t look like he was representing the superpower [at the forum]. He looked more like the representative of a second-tier power, and everyone here knows he is besieged at home.”

Vietnam and China have a centuries-long history of strife, which has continued well into the modern era. Though China did support North Vietnam in its war against the United States, the last war Vietnam fought was with its large neighbor to the north, when China invaded in 1979. Vietnam’s battle-hardened troops surprising Beijing by pushing Chinese forces back, and sporadic clashes continued until a formal peace in 1990.

Vietnam’s fierce rivalry with China often exceeds any lingering resentment against the United States, which is now seen as a crucial counterweight to Beijing’s ambitions.

Yet the suspending of the Repsol drilling project has provided wary Vietnamese with a reason to believe their government is capitulating behind the scenes. Neither the Spanish company nor the Vietnamese government has offered an explanation for suspending offshore activities.

“There are so many rumors swirling around Repsol, as there always are when it comes to China and Vietnam. But there doesn’t appear to be any reason to do what they did other than pressure from Beijing,” said a prominent member of the international business community who frequently interacts with officials representing the three countries involved, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to publicly speak about political matters.

If Vietnam did privately back down, he said, it has not been left with much choice since President Trump took office. “The U.S. really left Vietnam at the altar when it canceled TPP. What are they supposed to do?” he asked, referring to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the trade deal that included Vietnam and explicitly excluded China. Trump had slammed the deal as a job-killer during the presidential campaign, and he withdrew from the pact just days after taking office.

Another theory is China threatened military action if Vietnam did not capitulate. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte — not always a reliable narrator — has said Chinese President Xi Jinping mentioned the possibility to him, lending some credibility to the theory. But experts point out war would be disastrous for China’s strategy of convincing neighbors to view Beijing as a font of benevolent stability.

Or the move might simply have been a tactical maneuver by Vietnam. “I think perhaps this is just a short-term withdrawal, as they are waiting for a less difficult geopolitical moment,” said Hoang Viet, a professor of maritime law at Ho Chi Minh City University of Law. “But this is a very sensitive issue. It’s sacred for Vietnamese people, but the government absolutely does not want to make Beijing angry.”

Meanwhile, along the dreary coast of the South China Sea, rapid construction continues unabated. Vietnam’s economy is growing at a steady clip, something often seen as a prerequisite for maintaining support for the Communist Party. And that imperative, more than the rivalry with Beijing, may be more important to Hanoi in the end.

“Maybe China is just too big. All we can really do is deal with them as sensitively as possible,” muses Le Dinh Toan, an intellectual property researcher passing through Hanoi. “Maybe we have to accept we are lesser.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/as-the-us-steps-back-vietnamese-wonder-if-china-is-taking-control/2017/08/25/deb41a9e-8838-11e7-a50f-e0d4e6ec070a_story.html?utm_term=.83704770a652

Vietnam calls for Southeast Asian unity amid South China Sea tension

August 24, 2017

Vietnam’s most powerful leader has called for greater unity among Southeast Asian states at a time the country has appeared increasingly isolated in challenging China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.

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FILE PHOTO: Vietnam’s General Secretary of the Communist Party and National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Phu Trong talks to media after he casts his vote for members of the 14th National Assembly and People’s Councils at a polling station in Hanoi, Vietnam May 22, 2016. REUTERS/Kham/Files

HANOI: Vietnam’s most powerful leader has called for greater unity among Southeast Asian states at a time the country has appeared increasingly isolated in challenging China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Making the first visit by a Vietnamese communist party chief to Indonesia, Nguyen Phu Trong said in a speech televised at home on Wednesday that the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) needed to be unified in resolving territorial disputes.

“Do not let ASEAN become a playing card for the competition among major countries,” Trong said, without identifying which he meant.

Vietnam has emerged as the most vocal opponent of China’s claims in the South China Sea, where more than US$3 trillion in cargo pass every year.

To China’s annoyance, Vietnam held out an ASEAN meeting this month for language in a communique that noted concern about island-building and criticized militarization in the South China Sea.

Chinese pressure forced Vietnam to stop drilling for oil last month in a Vietnamese oil block that China claims. Beijing has also been angered by Vietnam’s growing defence links to the United States, Japan and India.

Some Southeast Asian countries are wary about the possible repercussions of defying Beijing by taking a stronger stand on the South China Sea.

China claims most of the South China Sea, while Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei claim parts of the sea, which commands strategic sealanes and has rich fishing grounds along with oil and gas deposits.

After Indonesia, Trong is due to visit Myanmar.

(Reporting by Mai Nguyen; Editing by Matthew Tostevin and Lincoln Feast)

Source: Reuters
Read more at http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/vietnam-calls-for-southeast-asian-unity-amid-south-china-sea-tension-9152728

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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.

At Beijing book fair, publishers admit self-censorship

August 24, 2017
© AFP / by Joanna CHIU | The censorship controversy that hit Cambridge University Press (CUP) sent a chill along the stands staffed by representatives of publishers from nearly 90 countries at the Beijing International Book Fair, which opened on Wednesday.
BEIJING (AFP) – Just days after the world’s oldest publisher briefly caved in to Chinese censorship demands, international publishing houses are courting importers at a Beijing book fair, with some admitting they keep sensitive topics off their pages.

The censorship controversy that hit Cambridge University Press (CUP) sent a chill along the stands staffed by publishers from nearly 90 countries at the Beijing International Book Fair, which opened on Wednesday.

But some acknowledged their companies have already resorted to self-censorship to ensure that their books do not offend and are published in China.

CUP had given similar arguments when it initially complied with a Chinese import agency’s demand to block articles from its China Quarterly journal, before reversing course on Monday after coming under fire from the academic community.

Terry Phillips, business development director of British-based Innova Press, was candid about it as he prepared to meet a Chinese counterpart at the fair’s section for overseas publishers.

“We frequently exercise self-censorship to adapt to different markets. Every country has different sets of requirements about what they consider appropriate for education materials,” Phillips told AFP.

“But as authors, I think we also have a responsibility to find ways to teach good citizenship and human rights,” he said.

John Lowe, managing director of Mosaic8, an Asian educational publishing specialist based in Tokyo, said the authorities govern the distribution of the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) that companies need for their books to be sold in China.

“So it is in publishers’ interest to not publish something that would anger authorities,” Lowe said.

“You don’t mention the three ‘Ts’: Tiananmen, Tibet and Taiwan. But it’s usually fine to discuss human rights issues generally,” Lowe said.

– CUP quiet –

The 300 articles that were temporarily removed from China Quarterly’s website in China included texts on the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, the status of Tibet, the self-ruled island of Taiwan and the Chinese democracy movement.

CUP had said last Friday that it wanted “to ensure that other academic and educational materials we publish remain available to researchers and educators in this market”.

In an about-face, the publisher announced on Monday that it was restoring access to the articles after international academics criticised CUP for succumbing to Chinese pressure and launched a petition demanding that it reverse course.

But the US-based Association for Asian Studies revealed this week that CUP had received a request from China’s General Administration of Press and Publications to remove 100 articles from another publication, the Journal of Asian Studies.

Cambridge University officials said they would discuss the censorship issue with the importer at the book fair, which runs until Sunday, after expressing concern about “the recent increase in requests of this nature”.

Rita Yan, a CUP coordinator at the publisher’s booth, told AFP that the censorship issue “wasn’t affecting our activities at the book fair.”

Yan declined to comment further and said CUP’s managing director of academic publishing was unable to speak with the press because she was occupied with meetings.

– Censorship: ‘A selling point’ –

Other publishers participating in the fair said the uproar has created an atmosphere of anxiety about censorship.

“Currently, we don’t have any problems, but in the future, we don’t know,” said Ding Yueting, a marketer for Wiley, an educational publisher and research service based in New Jersey.

A representative of a large American publishing house, who requested anonymity because she was not authorised to speak to the press, said: “We’re nervous about whether there will be increased censorship requests from Chinese agencies in the future.”

But a representative of another major American publisher, who also requested anonymity, said that a factor influencing self-censorship decisions is that there would be “no point” in producing books that will likely get banned.

“It would be embarrassing to go through the trouble of translating a book from English to Chinese, and then being unable to publish in China,” he said.

“On the other hand, books that are censored in China often sell better abroad,” he said.

“It’s usually a major selling point.”

by Joanna CHIU