US should stop pouring fuel onto South China Sea issue
Published: Dec 15, 2023 07:32 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

In a Nikkei Asia interview on Thursday, the Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez claimed that the South China Sea, not Taiwan, is the flashpoint. "[If] anything happens in our area, it's like the beginning of another war, world war," he said.

One day before, the Philippines, together with the US and Japan, reaffirmed their "commitment to freedom of navigation and international law in the South China Sea and East China Sea" and their decision to "conduct close trilateral coordination" in this regard.

Currently, the Philippines continues to provoke China on the South China Sea issue, with the shadow of the US behind it.

China has made its stance clear to the Philippines over the past several years that it will never fire the first shot, which is crucial. Although, whether in peace or in war, China will firmly stand to defend its sovereignty. There is no basis for fabricating claims that would override China's historical proof of sovereignty over the islands, atolls and reefs in the South China Sea.

Peaceful negotiation is the only viable option. China is not interested in war with the Philippines; instead, we aim to pursue peace, uphold the rule of law and engage in meaningful dialogue to address any issues related to territorial disputes. Peace should be at the forefront of the minds of both the Philippines and China. While there are territorial disputes, we can sit down and talk, and try to find peaceful solutions to these disputes rather than resorting to war. I hope this kind of goodwill and the eagerness to promote mutual understanding will prevail.

A war between China and the Philippines is a dead end. I don't think anyone in the Philippines should indulge in any fantasy that their country would be the winning side if a war were to break out. For the Philippines, resorting to the extreme of initiating a futile military operation against China or betting that the US would be dragged into such a war would not benefit the country whatsoever.

I believe cool heads will prevail in the Philippines, allowing the Chinese and Philippine people to focus on what matters most between the two countries - close economic cooperation, mutual assistance and China's support in large-scale infrastructure and connectivity projects in the Philippines, which will increase their productivity and efficiency in the coming years and decades.

If the Philippines wants to transform itself into a proxy of the US, that will not be good for the Philippines or the US. The militaries of China and the US, which have now resumed military-to-military communication, should engage in direct dialogue because neither wants to have a showdown or a direct military confrontation. I hope President Joe Biden, the Pentagon and US intelligence fully understand the consequences of any reckless military provocation against China.

There is a strong tendency in Washington to do whatever they can to contain the rise of China. However, Washington should be realistic because no country or group of countries in the world can contain the rise of China. The right to economic development in a peaceful way is an inalienable right of the Chinese people. How can any country imagine that they could take away or derail the economic development of China, which has a population of 1.4 billion people?

Washington should not indulge in the nightmare that China will become the hegemony in the world. China does not want to be the next top dog in the world. China wants to treat all countries as equal, big or small, including the US. And China's position is very clear to the US: You believe in your god, I believe in my Buddha. Don't try to impose your god on me, and I will never try to impose my Buddha onto you. We need to live and let live, and get along with each other for mutual benefit and for the reduction of international tensions.

I've been emphasizing one thing: the inevitability of peace between China and the US. Basically, war is not and should not be an option between China and the US. If war were to break out, it is difficult to predict when or how it would end, considering both countries are armed to the teeth, not just with conventional weapons but also with nuclear weapons. Both nations have the capacity to inflict severe damage on each other multiple times. Does Washington really want to test the waters by instigating a war with China? I hope not.

I hope the US will really see how this megatrend is unfolding and eventually come to the right conclusion that war is not going to help the fundamental interests of the American people. If they don't want to bleed to death by war after war, then they need to focus on how to promote peace, and how to resolve all these burning issues in the world, rather than pouring more fuel onto the fire.

The author is a chair professor at Soochow University and Vice President of the Center for China and Globalization. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn