Land Reclamation on Scarborough Shoal, China’s Stupidest MovePosted: September 14, 2016
An artificial island on Scarborough Shoal is of great strategic significance due to its location near the Philippines. Subic Bay naval base is well within the range of China’s rocket artillery. China has developed rocket artillery with the longest range of 400 km, but Subic Bay is less than 200 km away from Scarborough Shoal.
Rocket artillery differs from missiles in its great fire power and low costs. It can destroy everything in a quite large area. That is why the US regards the construction of artificial island on the shoal as a red line that the US will take serious actions if China has crossed.
For China, not only the geographical location but also the potential for the construction of a large artificial island on the shoal is very attractive. The island will be an ideal tourist resort for people to enjoy their honeymoon and month-long annual leave. Moreover, a visit to the island can be included in a relatively cheap tourist scheme to visit the Philippines.
There is rich fishery resource in the sea area around the shoal; therefore, an artificial island on the shoal may be ideal for fish farming.
Building an artificial island is very expensive, but the island may bring much return from tourism and fish farming to the investment. Why then has China failed to include the shoal in its plan to build seven artificial islands in the South China Sea?
That is because building an artificial island on Scarborough Shoal is the stupidest thing for China to do.
China’s first priority is to conclude a binding South China Sea Code of Conduct with ASEAN to prevent others from building artificial islands on the reefs occupied by them but claimed by China in the South China Sea.
Reuters says in its report today titled “China says interests outweigh differences with Vietnam” that according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute think tank, which tracks the arms trade over five-year periods, Vietnam has increased its budget for defense procurements by almost 700%. Still, Vietnam knows that however much it spends, its military is no match to China’s huge military with the support of a huge budget.
That is why Vietnam’s prime minister is now visiting China to mend ties.
What if Vietnam spend the fund in building artificial island like China’s instead of weapon purchase? It will make much more difficult China’s recovery of the reefs occupied by Vietnam but claimed by China.
If China’s artificial islands have turned out to be profitable, the Philippines may set up joint ventures with enterprises from other countries to build artificial islands on the reefs it occupies but claimed by China in the South China Sea. Certainly, at present the Philippines dare not even think about that. It would rather have a binding code of conduct that forbids further land reclamation as an artificial island on Scarborough Shoal will be too great a threat to the Philippines. Just imagine, even Manila is within the range of rocket artillery deployed on the shoal.
On September 9, I had a post titled “China’s Dominance of South China Sea Undisputable Now” based on Obama’s inability to have ASEAN urge China to respect Hague arbitration ruling and US flinching at China’s military challenge. But China shall not want such dominance. In fact, China is stupid if it wants such dominance.
Before US began to interfere with China’s disputes with its neighbors, China had never tried to use force to resolve the disputes. It had always asked other claimant to hold bilateral talks for joint exploitation of resources without ever mentioning the use of force. The US and Philippines must have the common sense that a country shall not give up its historical rights and interests for whatever reason even the defeat in war, let alone court or arbitration ruling.
It is especially so for China. Qing Dynasty was overthrown and Chiang Kai-shek lost the civil war precisely because of that. Now Xi has told Chinese people to share his Chinese dream for recovery of China’s past glory and avoid being bullied by foreign powers. He would have lost his popularity and his party would have collapsed if he had not had the courage to fight a war to defend China’s historical rights and interests no matter whether he wins or loses the war.
If he wins, he will be regarded as a great hero in Chinese history. Even if he loses, he will still be a hero in Chinese people’s hearts. He and his party will remain popular in China.
He is fortunate that his predecessors have made great efforts to modernize the PLA to enable him to win the war after his purge of corrupted officers and reorganization of PLA to make it more combat effective.
The timing is good for US to fight China. If it fights China later, China will have grown much stronger and the US will be entirely unable to win. If the US cannot successfully attack Chinese homeland, it can at least cut China’s trade lifelines. However, US people do not want to fight a war for other countries’ rights and interests, especially Vietnam, their old communist enemy, and the Philippines that previously drove US troops away when it did not need US help.
Obama has no way out but to urge China not to flex its muscle, but China and even ASEAN simply disregarded his urge. He had to refrain from even mentioning Hague arbitration ruling after he met Chinese and ASEAN leaders.
Obama must have the common sense at the very beginning that a country will fight for its historical rights and interests no matter what means others adopt to deprive it of the rights and interests. He simply should not have begun his interference if he had not decided to fight.
Now, his inability to fight in face of China’s flexing of muscle reveals America’s weakness and has ended up in China’s dominance that China does not pursue.
I hope China shall act wisely and continue its efforts to resolve the disputes peacefully through bilateral negotiation. It shall not take the stupidest action of land reclamation on Scarborough Shoal.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters’ previous reports that he has reblogged and the report today, full text of which can be viewed at http://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-vietnam-idUSKCN11J00X.