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

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces a Chaotic World and the Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt 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.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid