China Gives the US Clear Signal It Owns Vast Areas of South China Sea

A pair of B-1B Lancer bombers soar over Wyoming in an undated file photo. Staff Sgt. Steve Thurow/U.S. Air Force/Handout via REUTERS

China’s nine-dash line is to some extent vague in meaning: Does it mean that the area within it is China’s territorial waters? If so, shall other respect the status of the areas as China’s territorial waters?

In fact the disputes over the areas with China’s neighbors are in essence for the rich fish and energy resources there. As China is willing to share with other claimants and its military dominates the area, other claimants have stopped significant protest against China’s claim.

US military, however, has tried but failed to force China to accept Hague arbitration award that utterly denies China’s sovereignty and interests in the area as China responded with the stance to fight a war to defend its sovereignty and interests.

US military is unable to fight as the US does not want to fight for other countries’ interests. Moreover, China has geographical advantages there. US president does not want to fall in the trap of a war that the US can extricate without losing face. US retreat from Iraq and Afghanistan has already been tricky enough.

That has caused Southeast Asian countries to lose confidence in the US. Even US long-term ally the Philippines has switched to Chinese side.

US military is always willing to take risk and as always, it wants to save face.

In addition, it is strategic illiterate so that it almost always enter a war without calculation whether it has enough factors to win the war.

Moreover, neither US military nor politicians know that they have to set a clear and definite strategic goal when they enter a war. If it is clear that they cannot achieve the goal, they have to stop immediately.

For them to save face is much more important. They knew they were losing but still sent US boys to be killed and wounded by their enemy in Vietnam as they wanted to retreat without losing face. Their face is more important than US boys’ life.

China, however, has followed its gifted strategist Sun Tze’s teachings for more than 2,000 years. It set its strategic goal of forcing Vietnamese military to retreat from Cambodia before invading Vietnam. As soon as it realized that it could not achieve that goal, it retreated within weeks with the excuse that it but wanted to teach Vietnam a lesson. However, everybody outside China knows that China lost the war. China lost face in the world but it did not care. Its boys’ life is much more important than its face.

US military certainly will not willingly give up. It keeps on freedom of navigation operations though few and far between and now even sent its advanced stealth bombers to conduct military drill in the South China Sea to show its muscles there.

That gives China the opportunity to give the signal that it owns the area.

In its report titled “China says it is vigilant as two U.S. bombers fly over South China Sea” yesterday, Reuters quotes Chinese Defense Military as saying in a statement, “China always maintains vigilance and effective monitoring of the relevant country’s military activities in the South China Sea”. Reuters says the relevant country refers to the United States.

What is US response?

Reuters says in the report, “The latest exercise was part of Pacific Command’s ‘continuous bomber presence’ program, but it did not give details on where it was conducted, and did not refer to it as a freedom-of-navigation operation.”

US Pacific Command did not give details of the location of the exercise. It obviously did not want to openly challenge China’s sovereignty and interests in the South China Sea.

In fact, that is the present situation there. The US conducts limited challenge and China conducts limited response. Even if there is a dramatic incident such as the crash between Chinese and US warships or warplanes, there will be no war because neither American politicians nor people want it.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters’ report, full text of which can be viewed at

12 Comments on “China Gives the US Clear Signal It Owns Vast Areas of South China Sea”

  1. Steve says:

    Who won the Sino-Vietnamese war.?

    Probably no one did or tactically, the Vietnamese claimed short term victory and China can claim a long term victory. The invasion I believe started due to the the Sino Soviet rivalry, since China identified that the biggest threat to itself was the Soviet Union rather than Vietnam. Also, the fact that the Vietnam war ended and Vietnam became a Soviet ally……..the rest are now lost in history and debatable…..

    Really strange indeed, whilst the Vietnamese and Chinese ghost are probably still debating and fighting in the ghost realm and humans until today are still debating Who won the Sino Vietnamese war. Unfortunately, the losers are those slaughtered in the war.


  2. chankaiyee2 says:

    Sorry, I can’t agree.

    Judging by Vietnam’s attitude in its dispute with China, it is not afraid of China.

    Vietnam has defeated the US and stopped Chinese troups’ advance without transfer of its major troops back from Cambodia to fight Chinese troop. China’s strategy of seiging the State of Wei to rescue the State of Zhao (Chinese gifted strategist Sun Bin’s strategy often copied in Chinese wars) was thus failed and had to retreat.

    The two wars have made Vietnam arrogant instead of afraid of China. Vietnam sent fleet to attempt to drive away Chinese oil rig inspite of its much smaller navy clearly proved that.

    I was in China then and had much better source of information at that time.

    China learnt a lesson from the war that it had to modernize its military. The war helped reformists overcome resistance to reform from the military that was very powerful in Chinese politics at that time!


    • Basic rules says:

      China withrew from Vietnam after almost reaching Hanoi only because USSR started amassing troops a Sino USSR border. If China had continued I onslaught and captured Hanoi, USSR could have reacted and start another front.
      But it’s wrong to say Vietnam defeated China because it was Vietnam that also got conquered by China and not the other way around. Though its true China failed to make Vietnam leave Cambodia. But it’s also true, China stop Vietnam from taking Laos like Cambodia to make French indo China territory.


      • chankaiyee2 says:

        False information.

        Do not confuse winning a war with achieving strategic goal. China was winning but Cambodia had been conquered by Vietnam and China failed to make Vietnam withdraw from Cambodia. China had to retreat though it has won the war as it could not achieve its strategic goal.

        If you really know war, you see that failure to achieve the goal means losing the war for the commander of the war.

        In fact, one has to have a plan to withdraw before one invades. Keeping invading troops in another country has never been desirable as proved by history.

        Chinese troops have long been deployed along its border with USSR due to boder dispute there. They were well prepared for USSR invasion. USSR simply was unable to seige Chinese capital to force Chinese troops to retreat from Vietnam. Invading China is too costly for USSR to afford.

        Laos and China have common border to enable Chinese troops to enter Laos to annihilate any Vietnamese troops that dare to invade Laos.

        What you said about USSR and Laos were but unfounded speculation.

        One has to calculate whether one has enough factors to achieve its strategic goal when one starts a war. Chinese commander-in-chief Xu Shiyou, famous for his military achievements, planned to surround Hanoi within a couple of weeks to force Vietnam to retreat from Cambodia. If so USSR simply had not enough time to respond. Sun Bin surrounded Wei capital but retreated as soon as Wei troops released its seige of Zhao and returned to defend their capital.

        Taking Wei’s land was not Sun’s strategic goal. That was his wise strategy. So was China’s strategy in its war with Vietnam.

        China was winning the war but its troops failed to surround Hanoi in time as their advance was hindered by Vietnamese resistance. Xu underestimated Vietnam’s capability of resistance and overestimated Chinese troops’ capabilities of attack.

        He had thus learned the lesson that Chinese troops needed modernization. Otherwise, as the most fathful Maoist and very powerful general, he would have been able to create much trouble to slow China’s reform.


        • Basic rules says:

          It is wrong to say China lost sino Vietnam war even if China couldn’t make Vietnam withraw from Cambodia. The actual winner was USSR. If USSR wasn’t a factor, Vietnam was and is just just a minnow, a small country. They are fighting for USSR geopolitical objectives. Also, Vietnam had aspirations of reclaiming French indo China by merging Laos and Cambodia with Vietnam. If China wasn’t a factor, this would happen long time back.


          • chankaiyee2 says:

            What counts is achievement of strategic goal! War is not children’s play. Lots of lives may be lost and resources destroyed. It is utterly a failure without achievement of the goal even if the war ends in a draw. The discussion about victory based on taking of land and wiping out of enemy troops is but laymen’s discussion. It is useful but for saving faces and maintaining confidence.

            Due to the serious consequence of a war, Sun Tze teaches politicians and generals to calculate how many factors they have to win. If there are not enough factors, they simply shall not start the war. China should simply not have invaded Vietnam if it had made correct calculation and known Vietnamese troops’ weapons and skill captured and learned from their war with the US. Lots of brave Chinese soldiers and officers were killed and wounded only for Chinese generals to realize the necessity of modernization. Maybe that is good but too costly.

            No one can always win. What is important is to learn from one’s failure and seek improvement. China has learned from its failure in Vietnam and made great efforts to modenize its military so that its military has grown to be able to resist US intervention in the South China Sea.

            Strategic goal is everything. If the strategic goal is not correct or unclear, the war is a failure even if it is an overwhelming victory.

            What was the strategic goal when China attacked Indian troops and won an unqualified victory. Was China’s goal to scare India and make India refrain from confronting China in its border disputes with China? If so, the goal was wrong as the war has made India more active in confronting China.

            China’s victory resulted in getting Indian people’s hostility that seems permanent.


            • Basic rules says:

              First about India, Nehru was replicating forward leap policy of Kennedy and was starting to grab Chinese lands in both south Tibet and in ladakh /aksai chin. If China hadn’t responded, China and Mao would have construed as weak. The great effect of the 1962 war was that aksai Chin got restored to China while south Tibet tawang are was occupied but withrew. I think withdrawal from captured territory was a mistake and is even a area of contention today. Another effect of the defeat of India, Nehru was thoroughly compromised and he died 2 years later. Mao came out undisputed stronger leader for afro asian countries.

              With regard to 1979 China Vietnam war, there are two camps viz Maoist and Dengist. And it Dengist camp that want to disturb redirect and spin a negative narrative to the detriment of China’s dignity just to marginalised Maoist camp. Deng wasn’t a leader who seem not too overly concern with dignity of China in front of the world. But the truth is, Vietnam was beaten and China withraw from Vietnam. Even though China fail to make Vietnam leave Cambodia, it warn Vietnam on Laos. The other effect is jammy Carter ‘s visit to China and eventual recognition of one China policy. This events couldn’t have happen with these catalysts.

              So, overall China even if Dengist camp want to paint a defeatist picture of Maoist strategy was actually a winner.


  3. Fre Okin says:

    China should quickly send Chinese tourists, in particular to Fiery Cross, Mischief and Subi islands just like she is sending Chinese tourists to Woody island in the Paracels. This is very important as a public relation strategy to make US look like a fool as building up tourism will help soften Chinese image in the Spratlys. Chinese soft power will make US look like an idiot, especially if her ships sail nearby, let the Chinese tourists give them a finger.


  4. Simon says:

    China defeated Vietnam with the option of taking the country but China did not want to be an occupying force just like when China utterly crushed India and held territory deep inside India but left in soon after. China had more pressing concern against Vietnam’s powrful ally at the time the USSR. What China has achieved in the war with Vietnam was deterrent against USSR preventing it from intervention from attacking China for attacking Vietnam. China also gained territory from Vietnam to remind everyone who the victor is.


  5. post says:

    >It set its strategic goal of forcing Vietnamese military to retreat from Cambodia before invading Vietnam. As soon as it realized that it could not achieve that goal, it retreated within weeks with the excuse that it but wanted to teach Vietnam a lesson.

    I think you are mistaken.

    search “China crushed Vietnam in 1979. Vietnam will always be afraid”

    edit: made a new comment since I know you dislike links in comments


  6. Joseph says:

    With the last of US ‘ally’-puppet in the region, Phillipines finally comes to its sense, the American and its Western cronies has no more valid claim on the SCS. The American is now behaving like a child in tantrum over lost lollipop. In a sense, the American is behaving exactly like what they describe North Korea’s Kim Jong-un would. The American is in fact behaving worse than North Korea. For all its ‘belligerent’, North Korea is doing it in its own backyard, ‘provoking’ invading force. The American is being belligerent prowling in someone else backyard. Without the support of no one in the region, the American is no more than a rogue nation just like North Korea, where North Korea fires missiles, the American is sending ships and bombers. Of course, just as North Korea claims to have right to fire missiles, the American claims to have ‘right’ to violate someone else sovereignty. And just as the American claims to have ‘right’ to put sanctions against North Korea, anyone in the region should have the right to put sanctions againt the American. After all its denials, the American knows well how damaging Russian sanctions were, either directly and indirectly. The American should be grateful that China does not push for sanctions against the American in the UN Council, for its belligerent behaviors in the SCS. Unlike the American proposed sanctions for North Korea who no one cares, there is plenty of supports to UN sanctions for the American from the region, especially among ASEAN. After all, we are all sick and tired of American belligerent attitude in the SCS. We consider the SCS debacle and American’s pivot to Asia finished. There’s no excuse for the American to try to renew it, to set a new flame in our home. The way we see it, the American is more of a rogue nation, more of a clear and present danger, than American’s arch-nemesis, North Korea. For all its trouble, North Korea just fires missiles to nowhere. They are not trying to create regional problem, they are not violating anyone’s sovereignty, they do not set one nation against another. In a sense, North Korea and Kim Jong-un, no matter how insane he is, is much much more responsible and sane than the American ever be.