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Tribunal rejects China’s claims in South China Sea

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An international tribunal, Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), has ruled against Chinese claims to rights in the South China Sea, backing a case brought by the Philippine, declaring that there was no evidence that China had historically exercised exclusive control over the waters or resources.

The tribunal ruling in a sweeping decision on July 12, obviously under strenuous US pressure tactics, that China has no legal basis for claim has further aggravated the seething regional dispute with its large-scale land reclamation and construction of artificial islands that destroyed coral reefs and the natural condition of the disputed areas.

The tribunal also found that China had interfered with Philippine petroleum exploration at Reed Bank, tried to stop fishing by Philippine vessels within the country’s exclusive economic zone and failed to prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone at Mischief Reef and Second Thomas Shoal.

Ruling on a variety of disputes the Philippines asked the tribunal to settle between it and China, the five-member panel unanimously concluded that China had violated its obligations to refrain from aggravating the dispute while the settlement process was ongoing.

The Philippines, which sought the arbitration ruling, welcomed the decision, and China rejected it outright. “The Philippines strongly affirms its respect for this milestone decision as an important contribution to ongoing efforts in addressing disputes in the South China Sea,” Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay said in Manila. He pledged to pursue a peaceful resolution of his country’s territorial disputes with China.

The ruling is binding on both countries under a UN treaty that both have signed, but there is no policing agency or mechanism to enforce it. The tribunal said that any historic rights to resources that China may have had were wiped out if they are incompatible with exclusive economic zones established under a UN treaty.

It also criticized China for building a large artificial island on Mischief Reef, saying it caused “permanent irreparable harm” to the coral reef ecosystem and permanently destroyed evidence of the natural conditions of the feature.

China called the ruling “ill-founded” and says it will not be bound by it. China claims almost all of the South China Sea, including reefs and islands also claimed by others.

The ruling came from an arbitration tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which both countries have signed. The ruling is binding but the Permanent Court of Arbitration has no powers of enforcement. The US sent an aircraft carrier and fighter jets to the region ahead of the ruling. Meanwhile, the Chinese Navy has been carrying out exercises near the disputed Paracel islands.

Philippe Sands, a lawyer for the Philippines in the case, said it was a “clear and unanimous judgment that upholds the rule of law and the rights claimed by the Philippines”. He called it a “definitive ruling on which all states can place reliance”.

However, the China said that “as the panel has no jurisdiction, its decision is naturally null and void”. In a statement, the Chinese foreign ministry said China was the first to have discovered and exploited the South China Sea islands and relevant waters, “thus establishing territorial sovereignty and relevant rights and interests”.

The tribunal was ruling on seven of 15 points brought by the Philippines. Among the key findings were: Fishermen from the Philippines and China both had fishing rights around the disputed Scarborough Shoal area, and China had interfered by restricting access; China had “destroyed evidence of the natural condition of features in the South China Sea” that formed part of the dispute; Transient use of features above water did not constitute inhabitation – one of the key conditions for claiming land rights of 200.

There were no celebrations, hardly even a smile in Philippines.. And there’s a reason for that. This is not the same government that first brought this case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration three and a half years ago, in the aftermath of a standoff at Scarborough Shoal. Two weeks ago, Rodrigo Duterte was sworn in as Philippine president. All the indications are that he is more willing to seek accommodation with the Chinese than his predecessor, Benigno Aquino. Here in Manila, many believe that the new president may have sought promises of Chinese investment, in return for a quiet, dignified response.

As already declared, China quickly responded saying it does not accept or acknowledge the tribunal or the ruling. China has long maintained that the tribunal did not have jurisdiction over the dispute. China drafted its nine-dash line to demarcate its claims to virtually the entire South China Sea. Manila brought the case because China’s claims infringe upon its own 200-mile exclusive economic zone.

China, which boycotted the case, summoned its demobilized sailors and officers for training drills in exercises that apparently started just days ago. The People’s Liberation Army Daily newspaper said on social media that Chinese navy reserves have been called up to perform “functional tasks.” The post followed online rumors that reservists in central Chinese provinces were called up for an unspecified mission from July 10-22.

The dispute centers on waters through which an estimated $5 trillion in global trade passes through each year and are home to rich fishing stocks and a potential wealth of oil, gas and other resources. The ruling comes as the USA has ramped up its military presence in the region. However a new Philippine leader who appears friendlier to Beijing could also influence the aftermath of the ruling.

China has argued that the tribunal has no jurisdiction and says it won’t accept the ruling. It has insisted that bilateral talks between Beijing and other claimants is the only way to address the dispute.

In the Philippines, interestingly, more than 100 left-wing activists marched to the Chinese Consulate in metropolitan Manila, yelling, “Philippine territory is ours, China get out.” They called their campaign to push China out of the South China Sea, “CHexit” or “China exit now.”

Vietnam, meanwhile, accused Chinese vessels of sinking a Vietnamese fishing boat in disputed waters. Nguyen Thanh Hung, a local fisheries executive in the central province of Quang Ngai, said two Chinese vessels chased and sank the Vietnamese boat around midday Saturday as it was fishing near the Paracel islands. The five fishermen were rescued by another trawler around seven hours later.

Findings of the tribunal are binding on the parties, including China. But the court — without police or military forces or a system of sanctions at its disposal — can’t enforce its ruling, so its potential impact remains unclear.

World was looking forward to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruling on July 12 over a case between the Philippines and China over the South China Sea. The case was filed by the Philippines back in 2013 under Annex VII of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the primary treaty governing international maritime law—both countries are party to the treaty.

The ruling was expected to determine who will write the navigation rules for South China Sea, and therefore, control trade in the region, China or Philippines’s close ally, the USA. That’s why both China and the USA (with its Asia pivot program) stepped up their presence in the area ahead of the ruling.

Many experts concede it really does matter who controls South China Sea trade, considering that 60% of this commerce goes to China, the US in essence presently controls commerce to China. This means that it is very easy to rationalize what China is doing, they argue. In the 1930’s it was the USA, France, England and the Netherlands which controlled all the commerce passing through the South China Sea.

It was this control that allowed the USA to impose an economic and oil embargo on Japan. This economic aggression led to Japan’s attack on the USA. The aggression against Vietnam was part of the overall plan to keep Vietnam as a colony and in turn retain control of maritime traffic in this part of the world, i.e., China’s backyard.

The US has militarized this area from the Philippines to Korea and added a couple of carriers which in air power alone is 10x what China has done in those islets. What China is trying to do is to gain control of its own commerce or to be better able to defend against any US aggression — and this makes perfect sense. For China it is an existentialist endeavor; for the USA, it is trying to keep world hegemony

It is argued that China and its neighbors should use American power to ease rather than escalate the on-going disputes in the region. “China and its neighbors should see and use American power as backing for peaceful efforts to resolve their disputes, not as an excuse for deferring or avoiding settlement of their differences.

The issues of the South China Sea are too trivial to be allowed to spark armed conflict or trans-Pacific confrontation. The rebalancing of US global strategy toward the Indo-Pacific known as the “pivot” is welcome by Americans ad allies as “timely and appropriate”. But it should lower military tensions between the nations of the Indo-Pacific and thus between China and the USA, not lock these tensions in, still less escalate them. US diplomat Chas W. Freeman says that all disputes are solvable, if those enmeshed in them are willing to make the effort to imagine and pursue solutions to them. The parties need urgently to get on with this. And they deserve American encouragement to do so.

A debate is taking place around who is right and who is wrong and who will benefit from the tribunal ruling. If modern trade is viewed within the traditional mercantile system, where trade is a vehicle of exploration, it benefits only those who control South China Sea trade. But if the trade is viewed within the modern global system where trade is a vehicle of economic growth and prosperity for all parties involved, it doesn’t matter who controls South China Sea trade.

Therefore, China and other regional powers should consider the second option for peace and prosperity for the region, while USA which is not at all linked to the region should help promote peace and tranquility in the region without using the remaining pro-US nations in Asia Pacific against China which is a key financier of US capitalists. While USA opposes and even obstructs development of socialism anywhere in the world by misusing the international financial institutions like World Bank and IMF, China, still claiming to be a communist country, goes all the way out to subsidize US capitalism.

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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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East Asia

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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