News

    Report Says China Worsening Tensions in S. China Sea

    Photographed through the window of a closed aircraft, an aerial view shows Pagasa Island, part of the disputed Spratly group of islands, in the South China Sea located off the coast of western Philippines Wednesday July 20,  2011.
    Photographed through the window of a closed aircraft, an aerial view shows Pagasa Island, part of the disputed Spratly group of islands, in the South China Sea located off the coast of western Philippines Wednesday July 20, 2011.
    Shannon Sant

    A new report from a Brussels-based think tank says Chinese government agencies are exacerbating tensions in the South China Sea.

    As relations worsen between China and its South China Sea neighbors, some analysts say Beijing governmental agencies with little experience in foreign affairs are jockeying for influence, presenting inconsistent policies across the disputed region.

    The International Crisis Group (IGC) says Beijing's highlighting of historical claims to the territory is also stoking nationalist sentiments.

    Graphic of South China Seas

    Stephanie Kleine Ahlbrandt, the China and Northeast Asia Policy Director for the ICG in Beijing, says the growing U.S. military presence in the area is also upsetting the balance of power among the neighboring countries.

    “This raises the stakes in the entire region," says Ahlbrandt. "It’s beyond the South China Seas, in places like Myanmar, in places like India, and this profoundly disturbs China because China feels like [the region belongs to it], and they’ve responded by engaging in more military build up, which is sort of a circle whereby these countries feel more afraid and then they ask the U.S. to come in.”

    The United States has long held annual military exercises with countries in the region, but escalating tensions have brought those efforts under new scrutiny.

    The U.S. and Philippines held annual naval drills earlier this month, and China and Russia have begun their own joint military exercises in the region.

    Two Spheres of Influence
    “We have two centers: China as an economic center, the United States and her allies as a security center," says Huang Jing, director of the Center on Asia and Globalisation at the National University of Singapore. "As a result, all the countries are caught in this dilemma. Economically they have no choice but to go with China because China has become the largest trade partner to every country in this region -- even Japan and South Korea who are American allies. On the other hand, they know that the United States still holds supreme power in terms of military capability.”

    Asian countries have been buying arms at a record pace in recent years, causing some to worry about a military buildup. But so far, confrontations have mainly involved civilian vessels and fishing fleets.

    Overcrowded Fishing Grounds
    According to Ahlbrandt, civilian vessels and fishing fleets are easier to deploy, making confrontations and skirmishes among the vessels more common.

    “So what you have is kind of a quasi Coast Guard arms race going on, and that’s dangerous because navies are generally more threatening but harder to deploy,” she says.

    Thousands of fishermen earn their livelihoods on the South China Sea, but because of overfishing, pollution, and the race to feed Asia’s growing populations, fishermen are increasingly pushing farther out from coastal areas and into internationally disputed waters.

    While China’s growing economic and military power may lead it to stake out territorial claims, Ahlbrandt says other countries, such as Vietnam, are also showing increased commercial and territorial assertiveness in the region.

    “I think it should also be noted that China’s behavior in the South China Seas is largely reactionary because other claimants, [who] are driven by similar factors, are also stepping up their territorial claims and economic activities in disputed waters,” she says.

    Need for Compromise
    South China Sea countries have tried to resolve disputes via arbitration, and agreeing on a regional code of conduct has long been a goal of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). But efforts have largely been fruitless.

    “Any negotiation over territorial issues will have to involve compromise," says Ahlbrandt. "It’s just that these actors, including the Philippines and Vietnam, will have a difficult time explaining to their public -- who have been imbued for decadees with some of the sense that some of these maritime areas are theirs -- that the government has to compromise on these things.”

    This month China and the Philippines are engaged in a standoff near Scarborough Shoal -- an area both claim as their own. One Chinese newspaper has warned of small scale war over the waterway, but Huang says this tough talk is driven by China’s domestic political dynamics.

    “As China is getting into this leadership transition period, all of the ruling elite members are geared up for this transition," he says. "So as a result, few of them can afford to appear soft in terms of national interests such as in the South China seas."

    With China's National Party Congress schedule for this fall, harsh rhetoric and aggressive comments over the region are likely to continue.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Wangchuk from: NYC
    May 18, 2012 10:17 AM
    Once again the PRC thinks it is the Middle Kingdom again & can order other Asian nations around to pay tribute. Now the PRC claims sovereignty over the entire S. China Sea. This is an example of Chinese hegemony. It's time Asian nations stooop up to the PRC & say they will no longer kowtow to the PRC Empire.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Testing Bamboo as Building Materiali
    X
    June 27, 2016 9:06 PM
    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapides’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora