China patient, not reckless, over islands

Source:Global Times Published: 2012-7-1 20:10:02

The China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) recently offered nine blocks in the South China Sea for joint exploration with foreign companies. Meanwhile, Hainan Province announced it would designate four areas around the Xisha Islands as cultural relics protection areas. These, together with the newly established city administration of Sansha, have been interpreted as new Chinese moves to reinforce its sovereignty over the South China Sea.

However, China is not behaving aggressively in the South China Sea despite its absolute advantage in this region. Just take a look at Vietnam and the Philippines' projects in the disputed waters where they've long begun oil and gas exploration, and one may understand how much restraint China has demonstrated.

China has long proposed to set aside disputes and pursue joint development in this region. Nevertheless, Vietnam and the Philippines just ignored this and have adopted radical actions, which have led to the current scenario in the South China Sea.

Countries like Vietnam and the Philippines have to clearly understand that China is capable of quickly changing the geopolitics in the South China Sea. The US is a strategic player in this region, but it's not a force that Vietnam and the Philippines can mobilize at will.

As to China, it is not interested in being involved in frequent wrangles with Vietnam and the Philippines over the South China Sea, which is merely one of its core interests. As a great power, China has strategic concerns all over the Asia-Pacific region and even the world. But if Vietnam and the Philippines continue to provoke and go too far, they must be prepared to face strong countermeasures from China.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has reiterated its stance on the South China Sea, which remains "unchanged." This is not diplomatic rhetoric. Since its maritime clashes with Vietnam in the 1970s, China has been pursuing a consistent stance on the issue. What's changed is China's pace to deal with the dynamics.

Some analysts believe Vietnam and the Philippines may take revenge against China's latest moves over the South China Sea. They can go ahead if they really want. However, they must be aware this will stir up a new round of countermeasures from China.

China does cherish peace and stability in this region, but it will not solely undertake responsibilities that should have been taken by other countries.

As neighboring issues erupt, China should remain both resolute and patient. This is not only a strategic design, but also a pragmatic attitude due to all kinds of troubles and complexities.

The article is an editorial published in the Chinese edition of the Global Times Wednesday.

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