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

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment 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.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
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.
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.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid