Freedom-chanting Washington imposes autocracy in S. China Sea affairs

By Ju Hailong Source:Global Times Published: 2017/8/13 20:18:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

China and ASEAN foreign ministers adopted the framework of the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea during a meeting on August 6 in Manila, the Philippines.

However, the US, Australia and Japan issued a joint statement the following day implying that the framework lacks legal validity and consistency with international law. The three countries called on China and the Philippines to honor the international tribunal's ruling last year. In addition, they urged claimants to "refrain from land reclamation, construction of outposts and militarization of disputed features," a reference to China's construction activities in the South China Sea islands. Their opposition to the framework also reveals the US and its allies are attempting to have absolute "freedom of navigation (FON)" in the SCS.

US claims that FON operations in the SCS are to protect the more than $3 trillion worth of US cargo passing through the waters goes against international law. FON has been frequently mentioned with regard to the SCS issue since 2009. However, no one has clarified the fundamental difference between the FON rules championed by the US and those stipulated in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Michael D. Swaine, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said in a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific on July 23, 2015, "China has no interest in obstructing commercial shipping or flights across the South China Sea." Therefore, the US FON program is concerned with the access by US and other countries' navies to the region.

Bonnie S. Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, explained in clear terms that a failure by the US navy to guarantee its FON operations in the SCS region would challenge US national interests and its role of protecting the interests of US allies and partners in the region. In this regard, it is believed that everyone will understand why FON for commerce purposes in the SCS has never met with barriers, while the US and its allies always stress the importance of FON for naval forces in the waters around the Chinese islands.

The US and its allies implied in the statement that the COC framework lacks legal standing. The US has always advertised itself as a state of freedom and democracy. According to the American definition of freedom and democracy, individual equality is the prerequisite of freedom. A social order built on a consensus reached by individuals equal in social status ensures justice. When the social order, featuring freedom and justice, agrees to a contract, the law is made. The law enjoys supreme justice. The paternal restrictions pushed by the US run counter to the freedom and democracy it advocates. The deprivation of individual rights to choose on one's own will by any powers and the imposition of self-righteous justice on individuals are unjust.

The US, Australia and Japan have witnessed the negotiations and approval of the framework. Therefore, they issued a joint statement right after the approval of the COC framework. However, the US and its alliances have ignored the justice embedded in the negotiation process of the document. They not only voiced strong opposition to the approval of the framework based on the spirit of freedom, equality and justice, but also urged ASEAN member states mentioned in the document to put more pressure on China.

In fact, the US is the autocratic ruler of East Asia. Addressing regional issues and establishing regional order in East Asia must be in accordance with US will and interests. No countries in the region shall act against US will. Acting against US will is not acceptable even if countries in the East Asian region adopt the freedom and democracy championed by the US when tackling regional issues and formulating international rules concerning the region. Therefore, East Asian countries should do what the US asks them to do, and not pay attention to the difference between US words and deeds. East Asian countries shouldn't even harbor the innocent idea that adopting universal values promoted by the US like freedom and democracy will win its praise.

The author is vice dean of the School of International Studies, Jinan University and a research fellow at the Collaborative Innovation Center for South China Sea Studies. Follow us on Twitter @GTopinion


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