China Shrewd in Easing Scarborough Tension for Duterte instead of USPosted: June 6, 2016
With vision to foresee possible unfavorable arbitration award about sea area around Scarborough Shoal and possible US actions to help the Philippines enforce the award that may lead to military conflict, China has eased off interception of Philippine fishing boats in the sea area according to SCMP article “China eases off Philippine fishing boats in overture to incoming president Duterte” today.
China has thus given credit to Philippine president-elect Duterte for his intention to talk but do not want to allow the US to have credit if the US has gathered the courage to interfere for Philippine fishermen in the area around Scarborough Shoal.
In fact, the construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea (SCS) is a coordinated challenge to the US with Russian’s challenge in Ukraine. The US has responded the challenge in Ukraine by sanctions but has responded in SCS with only strong words but no deeds. I pointed out in my post “US Predicament: If It Loses the Philippines, It Loses Asia” on June 4 that if the US does not respond strongly to help the Philippines it will lose not only the Philippines but also the entire Asia.
China is wise. It responds with equally strong rhetoric to US Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s speech at Shangri-La Dialogue in its delegate Sun Jianguo’s speech, but wisely, it relaxed its control of the sea area around Scarborough Shoal to deprive the US of the opportunity to take any strong actions to infuse some confidence into its allies and others.
In fact, the US perhaps does not have the wisdom or courage to take strong actions to enforce the coming arbitration award, but China is wise to take precaution in advance.
In fact, China does not lose anything if it relaxes the control. Before Scarborough standoff, both China and the Philippines patrolled the shoal and fished there. Philippine President Aquino was stupid to start the standoff by trying to round up more than a dozen Chinese fishing boats, thinking that the US will help him in the standoff but the US did nothing but told Aquino to retreat. By so doing, the US has already lost Philippine people’s confidence. If it fails to make up by some strong actions to enforce the arbitration award, it cannot recover their confidence in the US. As a result, what Carter said about US role in maintaining security in Asia will entirely be boasting.
Since China’s control of the shoal has been caused by President Aquino, it is natural for China to ease the control when Aquino is leaving the office. Before Aquino, there was no tension between the two countries in spite of the maritime territorial disputes.
Since China has deprived the US the opportunity to take actions at Scarborough Shoal, what alternative the US has to recover Philippine people’s confidence in it?
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP’s article titled “China eases off Philippine fishing boats in overture to incoming president Duterte”, full text of which can be viewed at http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/1966444/china-eases-philippine-fishing-boats-overture-incoming