News / Asia

China’s Maritime Disputes Fueled by Need for Energy

A destroyer of the South China Sea Fleet of the Chinese Navy fire a missile during a training in South China Sea, (File)
A destroyer of the South China Sea Fleet of the Chinese Navy fire a missile during a training in South China Sea, (File)

The Chinese government has downplayed its maritime disputes with its neighbors in the region, although maintaining its sovereignty over islands in the East and South China Seas that are also claimed by other countries in the region.  

When China recently released its biennial defense white paper, it was clear that the country’s number one maritime security issue is Taiwan, a separately-governed island that Beijing considers part of Chinese territory.

One maritime issue that got little attention, though, was the contested islands around China.

In the South China Sea, there are the Spratly and Paracel islands.  The Spratlys are largely rocky shoals which are claimed by Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.   The Paracels, a smaller island group, are claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam.

In the East China Sea, China and Japan disagree strongly about who owns the islands that the Chinese call the Diaoyu and the Japanese call the Senkaku.

The islands are near key shipping lanes and important commercial fishing areas.  But, more importantly, they are believed to sit astride large oil deposits.

Gabe Collins is a commodity specialist with the analytical website, China SignPost. He says he thinks China’s thirst for energy is one important explanation for its interest in maintaining sovereignty over the islands.

"Each barrel of oil that you can produce from your own adjacent offshore regions is at least ideally one less barrel that you have to import from somewhere else,” Collins states.

Collins points out that China’s onshore oil production is starting to decline and that the country will soon need to look elsewhere.

"But I think in the coming years, as onshore production continues to plateau, if things geologically do pan out for the Chinese and their offshore exploration and production, I think you are going to see offshore oil and gas production rise as a percentage of the total in China over the next five to 10 years," he said.

Another major reason for China’s strong claims for the disputed islands has to do with national pride.  Li Mingjiang, a political science professor at Singapore’s Rajaratnam School of International Studies, says this feeling has to do with recent history - when China felt Western powers were taking advantage of it.

"And, this of course is related to the so-called century of humiliation.  And, many Chinese feel that in the past, China was weak and it was not able to control or compete with other powers in the South China Sea to protect China’s interests,” Li said. “But now it is getting stronger and so it is time to protect its interests."

These two interests are highlighted in all official Chinese pronouncements on the subject.  Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu last month was asked China’s position on Philippine oil exploration in the disputed Spratly area.

Jiang says China owns indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands, which is what the Chinese call the Spratlys.

She says oil and gas exploration activities by any country or company in waters under China's jurisdiction, without permission of the Chinese government, constitutes violation of China's sovereignty, rights and interests.  She says China considers such actions illegal.

Many other countries are closely watching the Chinese navy’s actions.

Admiral Robert Willard, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, last week told a House of Representatives committee that, although confrontations between American and Chinese ships have been rare, there is still some reason to be concerned.

“The Chinese do continue to shadow some of our ships as they conduct their missions in international waters that are approximate to China,” Willard said. “The confrontations that have occurred have occurred with our partners and allies in the region."

He pointed to recent incidents with Japan about the Senkaku or Diaoyu Islands, and with a Philippine ship in the South China Sea.

The United States sparked some controversy in the region in July when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington thinks the claimants should pursue their territorial claims in accordance with the United Nations’ Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Singaporean professor Li says these comments worried China.  He says Beijing is seeking to resolve the territorial disputes bilaterally, because it feels it has a better chance of working things out in its favor.

"Right now, China does not control some of the major islands in the Spratly Islands, and many clauses of the U.N. Convention of the Sea are not favorable for China, as well.  So there is fear on the part of China that China might end up losing a lot of things in the South China Sea, if the dispute is submitted to international arbitration," Li explains.

Li says he thinks countries in Southeast Asia were happy, to a point, to see the United States involve itself in the South China Sea maritime dispute.  But he says, because all of the countries in the region are so economically dependent on China, they also do not want to be forced to take sides.  

You May Like

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid