South China Sea Disputes: Lucky China; Unlucky Philippines


I write this post due to Mr. Jose Mario Dolor De Vega’s furious response to my post “China boasts of strategy to ‘recover’ islands occupied by Philippines” at China Daily Mail on May 28.

First, I should make clear that the strategy mentioned in the post is neither my strategy nor China’s strategy as proved by Chinese government’s recent words and actions. I sincerely hope that Chinese and Filipino peoples maintain their traditional friendship.

My daughter has a Filipino housekeeping assistant mainly to take care of my granddaughter Piao Piao. The assistant loves Piao Piao so dearly that Piao Piao is very close to her, closer perhaps than to Piao Piao’s mother.

I am always very grateful to her for taking such good care of my granddaughter and we are good friends. Why shall the dispute over some tiny islands, in fact mostly reefs, turn us into enemies?

I do not see anything in the report I translated and posted that may stir up enmity between Chinese and Filipino peoples though I made the mistake in regarding Major General Zhang Zhaozhong’s strategy as China’s strategy because he said that in an interview with CCTV, an authoritative Chinese media. Moreover, it was precisely what China did in dealing with the incident at Scarborough Shoal.

Major General Zhang made me believe that China would drive Filipino troops away from the shipwreck at Ren’ai Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) by cutting off their supplies of water and food. However, at a routine press conference of China’s Defense Ministry on May 30, to a reporter’s question “a Filipino official said today that the Chinese warships converged at the South China Sea area around the Ren’ai Shoal will cut off Filipino military personnel’s supplies of water and food. Please confirm,” Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said, “It is necessary to make clear that Philippines side’s allegation has no support of fact at all.”

Obviously, Zhang’s strategy is not Chinese government’s strategy.

I posted the news about what Chinese Ministry spokesman said on May 31, but perhaps Mr. De Vego did not see that. Anyway, I owe Mr. De Vega an apology if my post on the “cabbage strategy” made him believe that the strategy is Chinese government’s strategy. I am sorry, Mr. De Vego.

Mr. De Vego’s post obviously will stir up Chinese people’s enmity against Filipino peoples by saying “his country (meaning China) is a mere dirty scavenger, thieves and pirates of the worst kind”.

Territorial dispute is a very complicated issue. No wonder even some Chinese officials are ignorant what is the basis of China’s claim. However, there are certainly sound basis for China’s claim including lots of documents and maps from Yuan Dynasty up to now.

When I studied geography at primary school, Nansha Islands (the Spratly) and the nine-dash line were already in the map we studied. At that time China was the Republic of China before the Communist takeover in 1949.

Taiwan (the Republic of China (ROC))’s claim to the sovereignty of those islands, reefs and sea areas is identical to China’s. The PRC has just inherited ROC’s claim that in 1949. The speculation about the rich oil and gas resources in those sea areas emerged decades later. Therefore, accusing China as “dirty thieves and pirates” who want to grab the islands, reefs and sea areas because of the resources is entirely groundless and will hurt Chinese people’s feeling.

The republic of China has claimed sovereignty since 1911, several Chinese dynasties claimed sovereignty before 1911.

Even if you had better grounds to claim sovereignty than China, you should not use such insulting and abusive language.

Perhaps, such language is common now in Filipino media aiming at stirring up Filipino people’s enmity against Chinese people. However, I do not think such language is suitable for a well-educated university lecturer before he has made himself well informed about the issue.

Perhaps you believe Taiwan is a country other than China. In the Shanghai Communique of the US and China dated February 28, 1972, the US said, “The United States acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. The United States Government does not challenge that position.” That was in 1972.

What is the situation now? The KMT, the ruling party, in Taiwan and the Chinese Communist Party, the ruling party on the Chinese mainland, both uphold the “consensus of 1992” that there is only one China.

The one China on both sides of the Taiwan Strait has identical claim to the islands, reefs and sea area, i.e. Chinese people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait have claimed sovereignty of the islands, reefs and sea areas since at least 1911.

Major General Zhang’s strategy obviously indicated Chinese people’s unwillingness to fight a war for those islands and reefs, but Mr. De Vego is bellicose. He talks a lot about a war between the Philippines and China in his post.

On January 29 and June 28, 2012, I respectively placed my posts titled “China’s greater Asia co-prosperity sphere” and “China’s dream of a greater Asia co-prosperity sphere” to give my speculation on Chinese leaders’ intention to establish an organization like the EU for prosperity of all the countries in East and Southeast Asia.

As I was for a time close to the new generation of talented intellectuals with moral integrity that emerged during the Cultural Revolution and has seized state power now, I am familiar with their mindset. What the Chinese top leader has recently done proves that I am right.

In early June, Xi Jinping sent Lieutenant General Qi Jianguo to launch a charm offensive at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore to stress that China wanted peace and was willing to leave the disputes over the islands in East and South China Seas to future generations.

SCMP says in its relevant reports, “On June 19, Chinese President Xi Jinping told his visiting Vietnamese counterpart of Wednesday that maintaining peace and stability in the contested South China Sea was vital for both countries, who should remember their traditional friendship.”

“On June 20, the presidents of China and Vietnam set up a hotline to defuse territorial disputes and expanded a 2006 agreement to jointly explore for oil in the Gulf of Tonkin,” (refer to my posts titled “China tells Vietnam it wants peace in South China Sea” here and “Beijing, Hanoi set up hotline, sign oil deal during visit by Viet president” in my blog tiananmenstremendousachievements.wordpress.com).

As for the disputes between China and the Philippines, I would like to say that China is very lucky while the Philippines is unlucky. Why?

First of all, Chinese people regard as top priority keeping the legacy they have inherit from their ancestors, but such legacy may perhaps be useless or even an expensive burden.

When I studied Chinese geography about Nansha Islands at primary school, I wondered what was the benefit to have those remote uninhabitable islands. They seemed to me expensive burdens that China had to incur lots of expenses to safeguard its sovereignty over them.

However, it turns out that the sea areas around those islands may have rich oil and gas resources and are of strategic importance.

The burdens China inherited have turned out to be treasures.

What good luck!

However China seems unlucky that such treasures have attracted quite a few contenders, especially as China was weak and poor for quite a long time in the past and seemed unable to keep the treasures from being taken away by contenders.

Surprisingly, China has become rich and powerful in a few decades and able to protect those treasures.

What good luck!

On the Philippines side, at the beginning of the 20th century, the United States offered the Philippines the choice to become a state of the United States, but was rejected. If the Philippines had become a part of the US, perhaps the US would have developed those islands and reefs long ago and extracted all the oil and gas in the sea areas there. At that time, China had neither navy nor commercial fleet to counter the United States.

Later, there were US navy and air force bases in the Philippines and the islands, reefs and sea areas were in fact under US control while Mao Zedong neglected development of Chinese navy, but used all Chinese resources for the development of atomic bombs and ICBMs for world hegemony. If the Philippines had seized all the islands, reefs and sea areas in dispute at that time, China would have had great difficulties to recover them.

Luckily, the Philippines drove away the US and took back the bases to deprive the US of the obligations to spend lots of money for the defense of the Philippines. At that time, we were really very happy about that as we were worried that US presence would make it very difficult for China to maintain its sovereignty to the islands, reefs and sea areas given that it took time for China to develop its navy.

When the Philippines began to contend with China for the islands, reefs and sea areas, China had grown relatively rich and was developing its navy quite quickly. Still, the Philippines has occupied some shoals and China and the Philippines both patrolled and fished in the rich fishing area around Scarborough Shoal.

In my opinion, even though China has sovereignty over Scarborough Shoal, the two countries shall maintain the previous status quo. China shall allow Filipino fishermen to fish there as like Chinese fishermen, quite a few Filipino fishermen had been fishing there for generations; therefore, before the standoff there, China did not drive away Filipino fishermen from the sea area though perhaps, China had the intention to do so.

Luckily for China, Filipino navy tried to drive away Chinese fishermen and provided China with the excuse to drive away Filipino fishermen. China is thus very lucky to gain complete control of Scarborough Shoal peacefully.

Luckily again, Filipino coast guards fired at Taiwanese fishermen and killed one of them. As China regards Taiwan as a part of China, it has given China further excuse to drive away Filipino fishermen when China thinks fit.

China was not so lucky with Ren’ai Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal). If the Philippines had sent building materials to stabilize it shipwreck there, China would have had the excuse to drive Filipino troops from the shoal, but the Philippines did not give China such a chance.

By my post “China boasts of strategy to ‘recover’ islands occupied by Philippines”, I provided Filipino and world people with the information on possible Chinese strategy. I believe, if Mr. De Vego had not been so furious as to lose his mind, he would have made calm analysis and known what the Philippines had better do to avoid making China lucky and the Philippines unlucky.

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  117. Renz Pejana says:

    There’s nothing to boast for china to have grabbed territories from the philippines. It happened because the philippines was lenient to china in the previous. She thought that china is trustworthy and has word of honor. Moreover there’s nothing to boast to have grabbed territories from weak country _it’s not surprising. But I will admire china if she can successfully grab territories from japan, u.s., or russia.

    In 1995, the Philippines had found out that china built a structure on mischief reef, the Philippine government asked china to remove it, but china said that it’s only for our fishermen’s shelter. The Philippines being a friend just left and didn’t mind it. But after years it turned out to be a military garrison, from then china started to apprehend filipino fishermen in the area. But despite what china did, Philippines was still friendly to china. she did not want the dragon to get angry. To let china build the supposed shelter for fishermen is a gesture that the Philippines is not against the Chinese as well as other neighbors to fish in the Spratly area. But the Philippines being a vocal on protecting natural resources is against the illegal fishing (such as using large fine-meshed net, dynamite, cyanide, and most esp. catching endangered species like turtles) so they apprehend the perpetrators whether you are a Filipino or other nationals. But sad to say most of the Chinese fishermen fish illegally and even fish within the Philippine territory from Luzon to Mindanao. Some hoisted Philippine flag in their boat to pretend that they are Filipino fishermen. They fish in huge amount like there’s no tomorrow, and even destroy reefs to remove endangered giant clams. If China keeps barring the Philippines from apprehending the natural resources abusers, sooner Spratlys which is known for ample of fish will be totally denuded. There will be no fish left for the generations to come. They can no longer see species like turtles in reality.

    In 2012, two Chinese navies blocked the Philippine navy while apprehending Chinese fishing boat carrying endangered species in the Scarborough shoal area _that led to standoff. Then both parties agreed to leave the area to defuse the conflict, moreover there was a bad weather at that time. But after the storm Chinese navies came back right away to the area and blockaded it. The Philippine government complained China by not adhering the agreement, but China government answered, they don’t need to comply the agreement since they didn’t have signed it (meaning it’s only verbal). What a cunning reason! In truth, whether the agreement is signed or unsigned by China, she has no intention to honor it because she thinks that she’s so powerful now. Just like what she did to the rule of UNCLOS whom she’s one of the signatories. She defies her own signature. If china indeed has no malice of her claim, let her sit down with the Philippines before the UNLOS to settle the dispute peacefully, lay down her evidences, and be respectful to what might be the verdict. The international law is urging your country now to submit her counter documents. So this is time for China to prove to the world that she has indeed an indisputable sovereignty over spratlys and the sea, or else the international community will think that what China has been claiming is a hoax. China should show it with documents not by mere words so that she will become credible in the eyes of international community. I don’t see any problem in proving your claims for the seek of peace except you have nothing to prove.

    China is not yet satisfied with her wealth now she even grabbed properties from her poor old friend. And she’s happy of what she’s doing because for her it’s only justifiable to push her poor old friend into even poorer state. Before, when she was poor, the Philippines welcomed her poor evacuees making them one the Filipino citizens. Almost half of the Filipinos have Chinese blood people. If China attacks the Philippines its like she attacks her own blood.

    It’s weird to imagine for the officials to fire at somebody while laughing. Personally, I have not seen anyone here in the Philippines laughing after that shooting incident. The killing was not intentional, the navy only going after to disable the boat because it tried to escape from the apprehension. The bottom line is don’t encroach another’s territory so that you will not get apprehended or shot.

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  121. […] You can read about this in my post: “South China Sea Disputes: Lucky China; Unlucky Philippines.” […]

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  123. chankaiyee2 says:

    Last message to Mr. De Vega,

    As a Chinese, I certainly support my government’s reasonalbe and justifiable claim, but I respect your right to express you view and will never use insulting and abusive language to deal with Filipino people in spite of the dispute.

    I hope that you understand that if the two sides do not each uphold its claim there will be no dispute at all. However, as I am no expert nor have the authority to resolve the dispute, I would rather leave the dispute to be resolved by those who have expertise and authority to make decision.

    In the meantime, I still wish Filipino people good luck and their country prosperity.

    As for Tibet, even Dalai Lama admits that Tibet is a part of China. Sorry, that is not disputable.

    Judging by your abusive language, I know you are desparate in the dispute so that you compare Tibet with the islands in dispute, but that does not help. There are problems of human rights and religious freedom in Tibet just as the situation in other areas of China, but it has nothing to do with the question of whether Tibet is a part of China.

    Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama does not claim sovereignty of Tibet separate from China, nor does any other country, even your country!

    However, I do not think I shall argue with you since you are so ignorant and irrational and do not use the language that an educated person shall use..

    Any further comment from you will be deleted as my blog site is not much visited so that there will not be enough people to know that there are so rude and bellicose people in the Philippines full of hatred at people who hold views different from them.

    I hope you will place your posts and comments at China Daily Mail where there are much more visitors so that lots of people in the world may better understand why Filipino coast guards willfully fired at unared Taiwanese fishermen and killed one of them and why they laughed when they are fireing at Taiwanese people. Obviously, those coast guards are people like you.

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