G7 stirs up SCS issue to sow discord in Asia-Pacific
Published: Apr 20, 2024 07:37 PM
Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Once again, the G7 has pointed its accusing finger at China. The group's Italy 2024 Foreign Ministers' Statement issued on Friday claimed, "There is no legal basis for China's expansive maritime claims in the South China Sea, and we oppose China's militarization, coercive and intimidation activities in the South China Sea."

The club of so-called great powers in the West, the G7, which closely follows the footsteps of the US, reckons that it has the right to interfere in the affairs between China and neighboring countries. It ignores China's legitimate and reasonable claims on the South China Sea and blindly discredits China. Sun Xihui, an associate research fellow with the National Institute of International Strategy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that the objective of the G7 is to create an image of a "bullying" China on the world stage, thereby suppressing China's development.

China's law enforcement actions related to the South China Sea islands and reefs are within the scope of China's sovereign rights. Its exercise of sovereignty and jurisdiction over the Huangyan Dao (Huangyan Island) and Ren'ai Jiao (Ren'ai Reef) are established on firm legal basis and undisputable. This has nothing to do with the so-called militarization in its true sense, because militarization means not only strengthening military construction, but also clearly issuing military threats to the other party.

China's use of its coast guard to exercise jurisdiction over islands, reefs and waters within the scope of sovereignty is a common practice. This practice is not limited to China, therefore the argument that China is "militarizing" the South China Sea is simply untenable, according to Zhou Shixin, director of the Institute for Foreign Policy Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies.

Since last year, the tensions between China and the Philippines have been flared up by the Philippines to make illegal claims over South China Sea islands and maritime rights. On March 5, two Philippine supply ships and two coast guard ships illegally intruded into the waters near Ren'ai Jiao in the South China Sea. They attempted to deliver supplies to a military vessel illegally "grounded" at Ren'ai Jiao. The China Coast Guard (CCG) took necessary measures to deal with the Philippine ships in accordance with domestic and international law. On March 21, 34 Philippine personnel landed on Tiexian Jiao (Tiexian Reef) in the South China Sea, ignoring warning and dissuasion from the Chinese side. Regarding such violations, the CCG lawfully landed on the reef to investigate and address the situation. If similar incidents happen to G7 countries, they are likely to deal with it in a radical way, unlike China in a restraint manner.

Regarding the South China Sea issue, and in particular the dispute between China and the Philippines, the historical latitude and longitude and sovereignty ownership issues are very clear. Anthony Carty, an Irish professor of international law, spent years examining official British and French archives and found they back China's maritime claims. Member of the London Court of International Arbitration Mark Hoskin believes that historical records support China's claims in the South China Sea 100 percent.

However, Western countries deliberately turned a blind eye and are now seeking to blame China. They refused to explain the origins of the dispute to the international community, nor have they called out the Philippines' provocation against China. This gives Manila the illusion of being supported by the West and Manila is pushed to the front line of the West's confrontation with China. The West uses this method to contain China and sow discord between China and ASEAN countries, thus bringing chaos to the Asia-Pacific region.

Zhou thinks that chaos in Asia may not be what the Philippines wants to see, but it is what the US and the Western countries is pushing for. The stability in Asia is in sharp contrast to the havoc Europe is currently mired in, as the Europe has become bogged down in the Ukraine crisis, with no end in sight. This combined with the West's influence declining at the global level. G7, the Western club with weakened authority in discussing the global economy and narrowing political representation, can only flame the flames of public opinion by issuing anti-China statements.

For the Philippines, it would be a tragedy to find itself acting as a Ukraine-style pawn of the West. It is hoped that the Philippine government and society will have a clear understanding in this regard and will not become cannon fodder for the G7 to confront China.

The author is an editor with the Global Times. wangwenwen@globaltimes.com.cn