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

VOA Exclusive: Interview With Myanmar President Thein Sein

Thein Sein calls allegations that minority Muslim Rohingya are fleeing alleged torture in Rakhine state a media fabrication More

Video Better Protective Suit Sought for Ebola Caregivers

Current suit is uncomfortable, requires too many steps for removal, increasing chance of deadly contact with virus More

UN Rights Commission Investigates Eritrea

Three-member commission will start collecting first-hand information from victims and other witnesses in Switzerland and Italy next week More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concernsi
X
November 19, 2014 11:39 PM
The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.
Video

Video What Jon Stewart Learned About Iran From 'Rosewater'

Jon Stewart, host of the satirical news program "The Daily Show" talks with Saman Arbabi of Voice of America's Persian service about Stewart's directorial debut, "Rosewater."
Video

Video Lebanese Winemakers Thrive Despite War Next Door

In some of the most volatile parts of Lebanon, where a constant flow of refugees crosses the border from Syria, one industry continues to flourish against the odds. Lebanese winemakers say after surviving a brutal civil war in the 1970s and 80s, they can survive anything. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.
Video

Video China's Rise Closely Watched

China’s role as APEC host this week allowed a rare opportunity for Beijing to showcase its vision for the global economy and the region. But as China’s stature grows, so have tensions with other countries, including the United States. VOA’s Bill Ide in Beijing reports on how China’s rise as a global power is seen among Chinese and Americans.

All About America

AppleAndroid