News / Asia

China Might be Moving Closer to ASEAN on South China Sea

 A Chinese warship launches a missile during a live-ammunition military drill held last year in the South China Sea. A Chinese warship launches a missile during a live-ammunition military drill held last year in the South China Sea.
x
 A Chinese warship launches a missile during a live-ammunition military drill held last year in the South China Sea.
A Chinese warship launches a missile during a live-ammunition military drill held last year in the South China Sea.
— China's new leaders may be moving closer to resolving disputes over the South China Sea through a regional alliance rather than through separate negotiations with each of its territorial rivals.

This week's summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations showed again the scale of sensitivities over the South China Sea with the Philippines objecting to a draft statement saying all sides agreed not to internationalize the maritime dispute.

China has consistently opposed ASEAN's involvement in rival claims over the South China Sea that involve Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei.
Following the summit in Cambodia, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Qin Gang said an ASEAN Declaration of Conduct over the dispute - or DOC - could help ease tensions.

"China will continue to come back [with] sincere dialogue with ASEAN countries and to fully implement in an effective way the DOC so that all parties can accumulate mutual trust and carry on cooperation and put this issue of South China Sea in good control so that we can work together to safeguard peace, stability, cooperation, and development," said Gang.

That Declaration of Conduct includes all parties exercising self-restraint by not inhabiting any of the currently uninhabited islands in dispute in the oil-rich sea.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa says talks are already underway to keep alive Chinese/ASEAN cooperation on the issue.

"The key challenge, of course, now is we must ensure that the situation, on the ground or at sea, does not become not conducive so we must contain a conducive atmosphere so negotiation and dialogue can begin to take place," said Natalegawa.

So why might China's new leaders be more willing to consider ASEAN's role in the dispute?

Professor Xiang Lanxin chairs international affairs studies at Shanghai's Fudan University. He says Beijing's outgoing leaders miscalculated how Southeast Asian neighbors would respond to broader Chinese territorial claims.

"They did make huge strategic mistakes. I am talking about diplomatic mistakes. One is the assertion of core interests that cover the South China Sea," said Lanxin.

He says that led to the mistaken impression in Washington and Hanoi and Manila that Beijing intended to claim all of the South China Sea for itself.

"This is an indication of Chinese great ambition of taking over the South China Sea. That's not the Chinese plan. It is a mistake," he said.

He expects China's new leaders will appeal less to nationalism over the South China Sea, moving away from a narrative that focused on the United States as a declining power trying to maintain its status by repositioning diplomatic, military, and commercial assets in Asia.

"Our leaders frequently use the same argument - basically it is a social Darwinist argument - to try to sell their version of nationalism. That has been a very, very risky business," he said.

Elizabeth Economy directs Asia studies at the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations. She says the new Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, has a choice between a more Deng-Xiaoping-style domestic focus or a more Hu-Jintao assertiveness in regional affairs and the establishment of China as a naval power.

"This more assertive foreign policy, of course, has helped to raise China's profile internationally but at the same time has brought it into conflict with its neighbors such as Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam. So the next set of Chinese leaders faces great opportunity in the China that they have inherited but also a set of very distinct challenges," said Economy.

U.S. President Barack Obama raised the South China Sea issue during closed-door sessions of the ASEAN summit.

ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan says Southeast Asian nations do not want the maritime dispute to interfere with what he calls "positive momentum" on other issues, and the Declaration of Conduct does not prevent member states from pursuing rival territorial claims through other channels if they like.

You May Like

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid