Illustration: Liu Rui
No South China Sea issue existed before the 1970s. The problems only occured after North and South Vietnam were reunified in 1976 and China’s Nansha and Xisha Islands then became the new country’s target.
Unfortunately, though hammered by China in the 1974 Xisha Island Battle and later the Sino-Vietnamese War in 1979, Vietnam’s insults in the South China Sea remained unpunished today. It encouraged nearby countries to try their hands in the “disputed” area and attracted the attention of the US so that a regional conflict gradually turned international.
China, concentrating on interior development and harmony, has been ultimately merciful in preventing such issue turning into a global affair so that regional peace and prosperity can be secured.
But it is probably the right time for us to reason, think ahead and strike first before things gradually run out of hands.
It seems all the countries around the area are preparing for an arms race.
Singapore brings home high-end stealth aircraft while Australia, India and Japan are all stockpiling arms for a possible “world-class” battle. The US, provoking regional conflict itself, did not hesitate to meet the demands of all of the above.
It’s very amusing to see some of the countries vow to threaten or even confront China with force just because the US announced that it has “returned to Asia.”
The tension of war is escalating second by second but the initiative is not in our hand. China should take part in the exploitation of oil and gas in South China Sea.
For those who infringe upon our sovereignty to steal the oil, we need to warn them politely, and then take action if they don’t respond.
We shouldn’t waste the opportunity to launch some tiny-scale battles that could deter provocateurs from going further.
By the way, I think it’s necessary to figure out who is really afraid of being involved in military activities. There are more than 1,000 oil and gas wells plus four airports and numerous other facilities in the area but none of them is built by China.
Everything will be burned to the ground should a military conflict break out. Who’ll suffer most when Western oil giants withdraw?
But out there could just be an ideal place to punish them. Such punishment should be restricted only to the Philippines and Vietnam, who have been acting extremely aggressive these days.
The Afghanistan and Iraq Wars have already set some bad examples for us in terms of the scale of potential battles, but the minnows will get a reality check by the art of our move.
Many scholars believe that the US presence in this area caused our inability to sort the mess out.
However, I think US pressure in the South China Sea should not be taken seriously, at least for now given the war on terror in the Middle East and elsewhere is still plaguing it hard.
The Philippines, pretending to be weak and innocent, declared that mosquitoes are not wary of the power of the Chinese elephant.
The elephant should stay restrained if mosquitoes behave themselves well. But it seems like we have a completely different story now given the mosquitoes even invited an eagle to come to their ambitious party. I believe the constant military drill and infringement provide no better excuse for China to strike back.
However, being rational and restrained will always be our guidance on this matter. We should make good preparations for a small-scale battle while giving the other side the option of war or peace.
Russia’s decisive move on Caspian Sea issues in 2008 proved that actions from bigger countries might cause a shockwave for a little while but will provide its region with long-term peace.
The author is the strategic analyst of China Energy Fund Committee. firstname.lastname@example.org
South China Sea Conflict