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

Russia Names US NGO 'Undesirable'

Prosecutors determine activities of National Endowment for Democracy to be 'undesirable,' paving the way for it to be outlawed on Russian territory More

Erdogan Vows 'Anti-Terror' Campaign in Syria, Iraq

Erdogan expressed confidence the 'necessary steps' will be taken by NATO leaders, who will meet Tuesday at Turkey's request More

North Korea: 'No Interest at All' in Nuke Deal

Senior US envoy Sydney Seiler visits Beijing Tuesday for talks on how to revive the stalled six-party nuclear talks with North Korea 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 Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs