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East Asia

Danger of undefined territories in the South and East China Sea

Teja Palko

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The number of disputes has risen over the decades in the region known for dynamic economy, competition, rich waters, possible big oil and gas reserves, important international roads, global trade flows, distrust, inability to define territory boundaries and lack of share of information between countries. Various actions, including harassing vessels, blockading islets and shoals and destroying equipment have increased diplomatic tensions.

Many unresolved territorial disputes till this day exists. From the map below we can see that almost all countries in this part of Asia have some unresolved maritime or other long lasting territorial dispute waiting for salvation.

Conflicts in the South and East China’s sea

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Source: Thomas Wright’s “Outlaw of the Sea” in Foreign Affairs.

 

Resources are important drivers of competition in this area. The sea is deep and no official records of oil and natural gas, so far only assumptions exist for the area has not been entirely researched yet but it has great potential. In the rising importance of energy and its price, desire to control this area is also rising. Estimates of reserves differ and reach up to 213 billion barrels of oil and 900 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, which is in oil reserves 10 times the proven US reserves and with natural gas equal to Qatar reserves. Another reason and source of conflict are also fishery resources. All coastal countries have developed fishing industry and with fishing in the disputes waters different incidents such as harassment, confiscation of catches and equipment and also imprisonment of fisherman happen. Many of these areas are being patrolled by coastal guard and local maritime agencies. Another reason for rising tensions has been pointed out and that is China’s rise and evolving regional dynamic. With growing capabilities, globalization and rising economic capabilities is China more and more dependent on other countries to trade and that’s why open access and water corridors to China represents great importance. China’s growing military budget also poses some concerns to other countries in the region. Also growing nationalism has been seen in Asia.

To understand the basis of the conflicts one needs to look way back into the history, international laws, agreements and conventions and last but not least every country’s interpretation for every single conflict alone.

China Sea Territory Disputes

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Source: Money Morning staff research.

 

Spartly islands and Paracel islands are lying in the South China Sea, where the People’s Republic of China makes extensive claims so called “nine-dash line” (claims almost 90% of areas of the South China Sea) seen also on the map above. Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan have claims over some part of mentioned territories. China and Vietnam claim they have historic rights. Philippines on the other hand, invoke its geographical proximity. Malaysia and Brunei (does not claim any of the disputed islands) claims of territory have a background in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and their economic exclusive zones. Bigger disputes exist in the South as they do in the East, where have we seen also more escalations and tensions in recent times.

In the East China Sea, China, Japan, and Taiwan each claim a Japan-administered island that Japan calls the Senkakus, China the Diaoyu Islands, and Taiwan the Diaoyutai Islands. The BBC has reported of the importance of the islands in its rich fishery grounds, potential oil and gas reserves, strategic positions and rising competition between the United States and primacy for military primacy in Asia-Pacific region. The dispute over inhabited land began escalating after the United Nations Law of Sea codified access to maritime resources based on control of nearby land features.

The Scarborough Shoal is claimed by China and Taiwan. China defines territory as it’s one based on the line that no other country recognizes. The Philippines filed the case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2013 but China has refused to take part in the process. Even successful pursue at the United Nation tribunal will not make China obliging by the ruling. This could also have a negative impact in a case of Philippines failure because it will be less likely that other countries in the region that have similar disputes will turn to international institution to resolve their disagreements. Another two disputed in the region are among others The Macclesfield Bank which is claimed by China, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines and Pratas islands that are claimed by China and Taiwan.

Council of the Foreign Relations has suggested some preemptive potential measures should be made: resource sharing, military – to- military communication, bilateral management of the disputes, dispute resolution mechanisms with third party get involved, International court of justice and international arbitration. Peace and stability should be guaranteed also by ASEAN, which plays an important role in this region. The question lingers is Asia pacific diplomacy going to be able to settle the disputes in Asia-Pacific region?

Teja Palko is a Slovenian writer. She finished studies on Master’s Degree programme in Defense Science at the Faculty of Social Science at University in Ljubljana.

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East Asia

The West, Sinophobia and Cooperation

Irfan Khan

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Interestingly, populace they are inhabitant of whether West or East pole share having almost common issues like weak productivity growth, proliferation of sophisticated war weapons and climate dangers; however, except for a few issues which, in particular, people of West considers most panic and hazardous. Policy-makers of the West are indulging themselves with a narrative that China’s rise would threaten capitalist economic model and the very survival of the West liberal democracy. Is it so?

Not at all. What must be ponder here is the fact that international capitalists model has stopped functioning, which have witnessed 2008 financial crisis. The leading investors and tycoons, unfortunately, have not been maintaining a steady balance between profitability and investments: profits are becoming increasing while no apparent increase in investments has been recording. Its consequential effects are lowering trends in productivity across the globe; which, in response, has been adversely affecting the prosperity of people across the globe. Establishment and corporate-based politics put the nations in a competition with each-other, that affect masses; as it is underpinned by observing myriad portion of budgets are going into military weapons.

British colonial hegemony culture, and US-led conflicts since last few decades, morphed world into most devastating state, perhaps. In this scenario, China’s rise seeds a hope to the indigent and penurious economies, which the West is fury of.

The current dispute between the US and China in terms of trade and technology, and if European take side, would morphed to a more dramatic state; where the health of the global economy will likely to be damaged. It is safe to say and notwithstanding predictable that this  trade would be converted to a new hottest-cold war, which may force the emerging multipolar world to split into financial bipolar form.

How long will this bubble not burst? It will be likely to head the world towards a global conflict.

However, here’s one good news or perhaps token. West-Policy makers, instead of spreading Sinophobia, should assure that they can be living comfortably with China. It is because, so far so good, China has been depicting a cooperation and advancement, irrespective of humanity, ethnicity and religion. What’s more the West propaganda that China is appearing as geopolitical actor is equivocal; because it never influences and impose their culture on any nation.

Embracing a different economic model, China, is plausibly on a runner-up position to the US and experts claimed it will surpass the USin the next decade. Whether it’s 5G tech. Or leading status of green energy, or ultra-scales exports or its leading developments for the nations having indigent economies are hallmark achievements in recent history. The US and the West should, I propose, consider China’s rise a piece of cake, and welcome its come out while securing its interests under the umbrella of cooperation. This logic, while posing no threat, seems to be long term functional.

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Beyond China-U.S. trade and where is its outlet?

Wang Li

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Since China-U.S. trade war started in the Mid-2018, it has lasted for more than 14 months. From the beginning, the World Bank and the IMF have taken the position that the trade conflict America has trigged will serve no country’s economic progress and their action is patently wrong. Since then, China has at several occasions showed its good-will and sincerity including purchase of the products from the U.S. and the consensus reached between the two heads of state at the summits in Argentina and Japan, during which both parties agreed to move towards dropping all of the additional tariffs introduced during the dispute, and reach a comprehensive agreement that is fair and beneficial to the two sides. Yet, there is still no insurance of the end of trade war between the two largest economies of the world.

Now comes a new possibility that from October 10-11, a senior trade delegation from China, headed by Vice Premier Liu He, is scheduled to meet their American counterparts in Washington DC, led by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Yet, the trade talks also come at a precarious time in Trump’s decision to reduce the number of U.S. forces in the Syrian border areas with Turkey and amid a spiraling impeachment inquiry into his interactions with Ukraine. More than that, the White House has repeatedly used national security as a reason to sanction Chinese companies, and this has been a talking point in U.S. presidential campaign speeches.

As a matter of fact, the Sino-American rivalry, like the German-Britain rivalry one century ago, is as much a clash of two major powers as it is of two systems: the authoritarian and state-protected development of a rising power vs. the liberal, free-market constitutionalism of a ruling power. Therefore, differences in economic system inevitably amplified the salience of the narrowing economic gap, leading the ruling power to feel cheated and the rising power to feel unsatisfied and threatened. By taking the current China-U.S. trade war into consideration, several factors are complicating the upcoming round of talks.

First, the American resentments against the Chinese economy have grown and seemed to be systematic steps to decouple the world’s two largest economies. As American scholar James Rae argued that with a series of steps, ranging from the tariff rollout to restrictions on dealings with major Chinese technology firms and “ordering” American companies to move production out of China, the U.S. has signaled that this is a trade war, indeed a confrontation over the fundamentals of two rival economic models involving at least four economic tools—standard-setting, technology acquisition, financial power, and infrastructure investment.

Second, the U.S. argues that the Chinese story historically resembles the German one in an overall sense and these parallels are not entirely coincidental. China has long admired the German export-led growth model and is skeptical of laissez faire capitalism. The founding statesman of unified Germany has been consistently seen as an icon of a modernized and powerful country since China has taken its own modernization in the later 19th century. Even it is held, though groundless, that after China emerged from the civil turbulence in 1979, it supposedly structured its development banks on the German model, though it supplemented their loans with Western capital. Under state-directed development, China eventually emerged as the world’s largest exporter with enormous market share in the United States, similarly creating economic interdependence while inadvertently laying the foundation for political competition. This is one of the sources of the Thucydides trap” occurred in the United States but rejected by China and in particular President Xi Jin-ping.

In addition, as a result of these strategies, the speed of the catchup is equally alarming to American elites now. For instance, China’s GDP was only 25% of U.S. GDP in 1990 after a decade of reforms, but has since approached American GDP in 2018. On the one hand, China, like previous Germany, is perceived to have undergone a radical and alarming economic modernization that catapulted it into the rank of first-rate power in mere decades. On the other hand, the United States, following the British mentality of the day, holds that the Chinese developmental model is a form of cheating, forced technology transfer and manipulation in finance. In light of this, China has paten reasons to be concerned that the United States has sought to halt its peaceful rise and undermine its economics by restricting trade, technology and capital flows—whether through economic means or direct subversion.

Yet, Trump’s instinct to do something is not entirely unwelcome, and some of his administration’s policies may prove promising. For example, bipartisan legislation like the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act presents an instrument to deal with China’s state-backed purchases of Western intellectual property that is somewhat more surgical than blunt U.S. tariffs. Other challenges, including China’s forced technology transfers, non-tariff barriers, and subsidies to state champions remain, and although they violate WTO rules. It seems to testify some people’s growing concerns that the economic escalation is now moving the trade dispute into the political realm, from where it had formerly been immune. First, the U.S. has already used the dubious frame of national security to make rhetorical demands as well as launch new policy initiatives to punish the Chinese firms. Second, even the issue of human rights has been inserted into the equation as the U.S. has released an export blacklist of companies with business in China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region. Also while President Trump has been quiet enough on the riots in Hong Kong, a commentary on the topic by the Houston NBA franchise has ironically started a new row that could have major implications for the broader relationship. As Rae observed, the consequence is that debating social issues is easily a slippery slope and the intrusion of trade into China’s domestic affairs even crosses highly sensitive issues related to China’s core national interests and sovereignty. It is true that once those red lines are crossed, unraveling a pathway back will be enormously complicated.

It is understandable that China appears more optimistic or even confident in resolving the current trade war. It declared to purchase huge amount of soybeans, pork and other agricultural products from the United States, signaling that such deals will be exempt from additional tariffs imposed on U.S. goods. This is another gesture of goodwill from the Chinese side to further demonstrate its sincerity in ending the trade issues between the two sides. In the span of two days, China and the United States are supposedly to take a series of positive steps in preparation for a new round of trade talks scheduled for this talks in Washington D.C. Although China resolutely opposes any escalation in the trade war, it admits that there are no winners in a trade war, and therefore a constant escalation of tariffs is not the road to a solution. Only by adhering to the principles of equality and mutual respect, and by negotiating with a calm and rational attitude, can the dispute be defused and differences resolved. To that end, it argues for sincerity, patience and practical action needed. On the eve of the new round of talks, the two sides did have taken actions and created favorable conditions for making substantive progress, in line with the expectations of the international community.

True, as a cliché goes, where there’s a will, there’s a way. China has expected a positive result from this round of talks, but the issue is that the United States has already perceived or misperceived China exactly following the path of rising Imperial Germany one century ago. Some observers even hold that Trump’s trade approach is emotionally satisfying but diplomatically disastrous, therefore they fear his confrontational strategy and support a more cooperative economic relationship with China. Yet, in an overall sense, China has been described frequently as a rising power with patent ambition to take advantage of having a state-directed system competing in technology standards, innovation, financial politics, and geo-economics, which force the United States to seek a coordinated response. Given this, that American response should neither be blindly confrontational nor naively cooperative; instead it should be competitive. Sure competition remains the theme of the China-United States relations in the next decades. It is unclear if it takes the scenario of the cold war or the cold peace, but it is clear that the approach America will adopt would be to work with its allies to strengthen rules, set standards, punish Chinese industrial policy and technology theft, invest in research, welcome the world’s best and brightest, and create alternatives to its geo-economic statecraft. It is truly hard to predicate who might be able to play a better hand in this globalized chessboard.

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East Asia

Five demands, not one less: China’s test of Leadership

Irfan Khan

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There were students, doctors, lawyers, activists; in short people belong to every faction of society, who came out on the streets in a number of tens of thousands in Taipei, Taiwan, marched against “totalitarianism” what they consider China holds in the regime. Yes, it was the recent September 29, Taiwanese citizens packed to the streets for upholding solidarity with Hongkongers.

Plebeian in Hong Kong (HK)—a former British colony—is protesting for the last four months against China authority. The key reason that forced them to do so was China’s authority intervention in the city internal affairs. The episode started since March this year, following an extradition bill issued by the Chief executive of HK on the edict of China. This, however, seems a little to the people outside to HK, but it instead has grim historical facts for Hongkongers. HK-plebeian considered Chief executive of HK—Lam—pro-Beijing, while Mr Xi’s regime as despotic, who has been dreaming unified China. The current legal status of HK is linked to its special status enacted by China-British declaration, 1985. It was this, according to which the city was allotted the status of semi-autonomy with a mini-constitution. While in 1997, HK was taken to handover to China, the administration of China pledged to not intervene in HK internal affairs at least until 1947.

However, China’ s demand from HK’s administration to issue extradition bill for a HK-man who has murdered his girlfriend during visit to Taiwan. HK-plebeian considered it an example of attack by China on its internal system and has now been protesting. At a rally, protestestors contended five demands: the withdrawal of extradition bill, relabeling them as rioters, assurance of universal suffrage to choose chief executive and legislature for the city, and lastly patently investigation for police violence against the demonstrators and activists.

Are there atrocities?

Yes: Various televised recordings shows what has been going on there: They have brutally been shelled, thrown gas, and fired.

China’s view

From the day first, China viewed it the CIA’s plot aiming to stir up people against China Cumminst Party’s rule or a  foreign-led campaign against the regime.

Mark Pinkstone, an Australian journalist with 50 years of experience in Hong Kong, said, “The Basic Law, the constitutional document that supports ‘one country, two systems,’ provides freedoms of expression, speech and religion. Not one of them has been eroded since the handover in 1997. The current demonstrations are living proof of that.”

According to the Human Freedom Index monitored by the Cato Institute, based in Washington  Hong Kong is ranked No 3, trailing only New Zealand and Switzerland. The index ranks 162 countries and autonomous regions based on 79 measures of personal and economic freedom. The US is ranked 17 as measured by the same indicators.

The World Economic Forum published a survey of people from 25 nations who were asked if they thought their own government was heading in the right direction or not. The survey was conducted between October and November of 2016.

China emerged leading the pack, with 90% of its citizens responding that their government was on the right track while only 10% thought not. The US was squarely in the middle, ranked at 13, with 35% of its citizens thinking their government was going in the right direction and 65% disagreeing.

China’s leadership

Once an ideological and internationally solitary state China is now transformed to a most advanced one under the rule of communist party. It made its intriguing appearance on the chessboard of international power, however, still enduring some domestic challenges–HK is one of them. While it claims to work towards various connectivity and cooperation based projects, yet do not have efficacy to let the World its way of leaderships. Its think-tanks are either  do not want to lead or they believe in pragmatic steps rather than bolstering theoretical ideas. Even its media can not counter the west propaganda and what the consequential effects are people around the globe hear much about it from the west. The current HK’s issue is amid the problems which matter more and are the real  tests of China’s leadership.   

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