A map with a line around the South China Sea is what the current Chinese government has inherited from the previous Chinese government.
What is the value of that map? The current Chinese government and a lot of its supporters on this matter think that the map represents the rights for China to own the part of the South China Sea within the line, which is almost 90% of the South China Sea.
However, has any agreement between China and the countries around the line on the map ever been reached? If not, the map only represents an ambition, a desire, a plan, not a fact or reality. It only represents a goal that China tries to achieve, not a historical fact as the current Chinese government is claiming.
The reason why this goal is now being pursued openly despite of all the oppositions is that the current Chinese government is now more confident of its ability to achieve this goal and has more domestic support for this ambition because of increased nationalist sentiments, both of which is the result of increased national strength, including economic and military strength.
However, increased national strength can not alter historical facts and should not be used to try to alter historical facts. The current Chinese government may now have the money to buy ads all over the world to sway public opinions around the world. But historical facts will not change even if people’s perception of them change.
In Chinese, what the current Chinese government is doing is called 自欺欺人 – deceiving oneself while trying to deceive others (i.e., being delusional).
Although I do not know where libertarianism came from and I know that it probably exists all over the world all the time, I first got to know about it in the US, and I find it to be the most American thing of all.
As I understand it, libertarianism is the believe that people should not interfere with each other’s freedom and this is out of respect for each other’s rights.
A lot of time, people interfere with each other because they want something for themselves and they want others to give up some of their rights so they can have what they want. This is a main source of conflicts around the world.
Sometimes, it is hard to figure out who should have the rights to do what, as in the case of a restaurant wanting to not accept gay customers. If the restaurant is allowed to ban gay customers, it sends a message to the society that it is OK to discriminate against gays. If it is not allowed to ban gay customers, the society is interfering with the restaurant’s business and may cause the restaurant to lose businesses because some customers may not like to dine with gays in the same restaurant. Moreover, if the restaurant is the only one in a neighborhood, some people may not get to dine out in the neighborhood whether the restaurant is allowed to ban gay customers or not. (Is it easier to learn to accept gays or to stop being gay?)
Most of the time though, it is possible to accommodate all sides, as in case of the South China Sea disputes, a solution to which I have made a proposal for in an earlier post. That proposal was rooted in respect for the rights of all parties involved to continue exercising whatever rights they have had up until recent years. If the status quo needs to be changed, all parties involved should be consulted and arguments for change need to be presented if any party is not willing to accept the change.
When there is an impasse, it is more likely that a party wants something for itself that hurts the interests of others. Then is the time to remind everyone involved that all parties should be respected.
The Philippines had negotiated with China over their South China Sea disputes for many years before going to court. It is very obvious that bilateral negotiations have not been working for them. So why is China still insisting on having bilateral negotiations rather than accepting arbitration?
The answer is very simple. Arbitration results are beyond China’s control.
Bilateral negotiations sound like a good way to resolve disputes when compared to armed conflicts. But bilateral negotiations work only when both parties in the negotiations are willing to compromise. They do not work when one party is not willing to compromise and insists that something is not negotiable.
When bilateral negotiations fail, that is when arbitration is needed.
Another problem with China’s insistence that bilateral negotiation is the only way to resolve disputes is that while negotiations are ongoing, China does not stop activities in the disputed territory that may need to stop because, as long as no results come from the negotiations, China still has “indisputable sovereignty” over the disputed territory. So if bilateral negotiations never come to a conclusion, China can do whatever in the disputed territory forever. That will give China the incentive to never compromise in the negotiations and let them fail.
Rule based orders are often not accepted by the strong. The strong believes that they can get what they want with their strength and should always be in control as long as they are strong. A rule based order will challenge that. It makes the strong feel vulnerable, which is especially unacceptable to them.
However, a rule based order protects the weak and keeps the peace. Without a rule based order, armed conflicts can break out, because there are often more than one party who are confident of their strength or want to test or prove their strength. This is the reason why there have been armed conflicts throughout history. The reason for rule based orders to come into existence is to avoid armed conflicts.
We should not go back to the time when there is no rule to rule the world, when armed conflicts are the way to settle disputes, just because a strong nation does not want to accept a rule based order, as suggested by some.
By the way, bilateral negotiation works only if both parties are sincere in resolving their disputes and so are willing to compromise. It does not work when one party insists that there are certain things that are not negotiable. If bilateral negotiations always work, we will not need any legal system.
Thanks to the recent ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration, we now have a better idea on how to settle the dispute between China and the Philippines over some part of the South China Sea.
If I understand what is said in the article “This tiny islet in the South China Sea is now officially a “rock”—and the implications are global” correctly, China gets to keep the islands and do whatever with them, while the Philippines get to fish and explore and extract natural resources within its EEZ. China can not stop the Philippines from doing what she is allowed to do according to the UNCLOS. The Philippines can not evict China from the islands that China is occupying or forbid China from doing whatever with those islands. China only has 12 nautical miles around each of those islands for her own use, and can not stop ships from passing near those islands or stop airplanes from flying near those islands as long as the ships and airplanes are more than 12 nautical miles away from those islands.
If the dispute is settled this way, China can not complain that she has been forced to lose some of her territories, while the Philippines still gets to use her EEZ, and Taiwan can just relax – no one is trying to force Taiwan out of Taiping Island (Itu Aba).
As I understand it, when a country has signed up to the UNCLOS, it is allowed to sue other UNCLOS member states, and allows itself to be sued by other UNCLOS member states as well. So when a country has signed up to the UNCLOS but ignores rulings issued by a UNCLOS authorized court, it gives itself an advantage over all other countries, whether they are UNCLOS member states or not, and thus undermines the rule of law.
Don’t make a commitment to something that you are not sure whether you can commit yourself to or not. It is not a crime not to sign up to the UNCLOS. But it is crime to sign up to the UNCLOS and then ignore a ruling issued by a UNCLOS authorized court. The fact that there is no way to enforce the ruling does not mean that not respecting it is not a crime.
This map has been shared among Chinese netizens as proof that China owns the South China Sea. I am sharing it because I can see from this map why people can not agree on who owns the South China Sea.
Chinese who think China owns the South China Sea see the word “China” written under “Paracel Islands” and point to that as evidence that China owns the South China Sea. However, people who disagree with them can easily see that while this map was made in 1947, Vietnam, which declared independence from France in 1945, was not even on it. This is proof that this map was not completely correct.
If this is the earliest map in which the South China Sea was shown as part of China, then it is not logical to conclude that the South China Sea has been part of China “since ancient time”.
It is possible that some parts of the South China Sea have been occupied by the Chinese since some time after the end of WWII because China was an ally during WWII. That is probably the best argument for China to be among the owners of some parts of the South China Sea.
All countries around the South China Sea have been using the South China Sea since ancient time. Even countries from other parts of the world have been using the South China Sea since ancient time. Having used the South China Sea does not give a country exclusive rights to it.
By the way, if the map above is correct in describing the Paracel Islands as a Chinese territory at the time, Vietnam will have to find later maps to prove that the Paracel Islands had somehow become Vietnamese territory after 1947, or find some way to prove that the Chinese wrest control of the Paracel Islands from Vietnam illegally in or before 1947. Vietnam may argue that the islands were passed on to the Chinese illegally. But is there any remedy for it?
This issue is critically important, and so has to be repeated and elaborated on.
The first and most stressed upon reason for the Chinese government to oppose the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s handling of the South China Sea disputes is that the court decided to rule on sovereignty. The Chinese government has been saying it loud and clear that what the court has been doing in this case is illegal because the court does not have the right to rule on sovereignty, and that since the court’s decision is illegal, no one should pay attention to it.
The word “illegal” accompanies every mentioning of the court’s decision in the Chinese media all day long, day after day. So whether the court’s decision is really illegal is an important issue.
In fact, the court did not rule on sovereignty. In this case, it did not have to rule on sovereignty because all countries that have signed on to the UNCLOS have given up their historical rights to the sea, and the court’s decision is only for countries that have signed on to the UNCLOS. If China does not want to be bound by the decision, she just needs to drop out of the UNCLOS. Accusing the court of making an illegal decision is incorrect and so will not have any meaning.
The way things are going, China does not get punished for not respecting the court. So China does not need to accuse the court of anything to get away with not respecting the court. China might as well stay quiet.
It’s no secrete that a lot of Chinese admire Westerners, try to imitate Westerners in every way possible, including having plastic surgeries to look more like Westerners.
For your reference, here is an article that lays out the similarity between the Chinese government and the US government: “The DC echo chamber must accept that China is emulating U.S. behavior“.
“Rules are for the little people” is also explicitely stated as the reason why China should not be contrained by international laws in an article being shared on Wechat.
So, if the US government wants China to do something or not do something, show China that the US government is doing just that.
By the way, this is one of the reasons why I think Hillary Clinton should not be the President of the United States. Imagine that there are two Hillary Clinton in this world, what would it be like?
There is a major mistake in my previous posts concerning the recent Permanent Court of Arbitration case on the South China Sea disputes. The case was not about the ownership of a territory. It was about what China and other countries around the South China Sea are entitled to according to the UNCLOS.
The reason why I made this mistake could be that I was misled by the Chinese government into mistakenly believing that the case was about sovereignty.
In fact, the court was not ruling on sovereignty as the Chinese government has been protesting. (The Chinese government is accusing the court of issuing a ruling against the laws for the reason that, according to the Chinese government, the court has ruled on sovereignty.)
The reason why the court was able to make a ruling on what each country around the South China Sea is entitled to is that when any country signs up to the UNCLOS, she gives up her historic rights to the sea. The basis for the court to make the ruling was not sovereignty, as the Chinese government has been claiming.
For China to avoid being constrained by the UNCLOS, China needs to leave the UNCLOS instead of attacking a court that makes a ruling based on UNCLOS.