China installs rocket launchers on disputed South China Sea island: report


China has installed rocket launchers on a disputed reef in the South China Sea to ward off Vietnamese military combat divers, according to a state-run newspaper, offering new details on China’s ongoing military build-up.

China has said military construction on the islands it controls in the South China Sea will be limited to necessary defensive requirements, and that it can do what it likes on its own territory.

The United States has criticized what it has called China’s militarization of its maritime outposts and stressed the need for freedom of navigation by conducting periodic air and naval patrols near them that have angered Beijing.

The state-run Defense Times newspaper, in a Tuesday report on its WeChat account, said Norinco CS/AR-1 55mm anti-frogman rocket launcher defense systems with the capability to discover, identify and attack enemy combat divers had been installed on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands.

Fiery Cross Reef is administered by China but also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.

The report did not say when the defense system was installed, but said it was part of a response that began in May 2014, when Vietnamese divers installed large numbers of fishing nets in the Paracel Islands.

China has conducted extensive land reclamation work at Fiery Cross Reef, including building an airport, one of several Chinese-controlled features in the South China Sea where China has carried out such work.

More than $5 trillion of world trade is shipped through the South China Sea every year. Besides China’s territorial claims in the area, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan have rival claims.

(Reporting by Philip Wen; Editing by Ben Blanchard)

Source: “China installs rocket launchers on disputed South China Sea island: report”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


China, Vietnam agree to keep South China Sea tensions in check


An aerial view of uninhabited island of Spratlys in the disputed South China Sea, April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

China and Vietnam will manage and properly control their maritime disputes, avoiding actions to complicate or widen them, so as to maintain peace in the South China Sea, the two nations said in a joint communique China released on Monday.

Vietnam is the Southeast Asian country most openly at odds with China over the waterway since the Philippines pulled back from confrontation under President Rodrigo Duterte.

After what China said were “positive” talks on the South China Sea last week between President Xi Jinping and Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang, the joint statement stressed the need to control differences.

Both countries agreed to “manage and properly control maritime disputes, not take any actions to complicate the situation or expand the dispute, and maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea”, it added.

The document, released by the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said both had a “candid and deep” exchange of views on maritime issues, and agreed to use an existing border talks mechanism to look for a lasting resolution.

China claims 90 percent of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea. Besides Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Taiwan lay claim to parts of the route, through which about $5 trillion of trade passes each year.

Last year, tension between Beijing and Hanoi rose after Taiwan and U.S. officials said China had placed surface-to-air missiles on Woody Island, part of the Paracels archipelago it controls.

Vietnam called China’s actions a serious infringement of its sovereignty over the Paracels.

In 2014, tension between the two communist countries peaked more dramatically when China moved an oil rig into disputed waters and protests broke out across Vietnam.

Relations have gradually improved since, with exchanges of high-level visits, though the regional military buildup continues, including China’s construction of airstrips on man-made islands in the busy waterway.

Quang arrived in Beijing last week for a state visit and to attend a two-day conference ending Monday on an ambitious scheme proposed by Xi to build a new Silk Road connecting China to Asia, Europe and beyond, through massive infrastructure investment.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Source: Reuters “China, Vietnam agree to keep South China Sea tensions in check”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Xi Jinping’s One Belt, One Road Defeats Obama’s Pivot to Asia


Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang (behind L) and China’s President Xi Jinping (behind R) attend a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, China May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Lee

China has the economic resources to fund the construction of infrastructure in its neighbors and along its Silk Road economic belt and 21st century maritime Silk Road (OBOR). In doing so, China certainly takes political risks as quite a few of those countries lack political stability. Those countries will first be benefited while China will be benefited in the end if it is lucky enough. Anyway China can afford that.

China’s OBOR plan aims at benefiting itself through benefiting others with no intention to cause difficulties or contain any other countries but it in fact effectively counter US pivot to Asia that aims at containing China.

US pivot to Asia, however, solely aims at containing China. To make other countries join it, it creates the mythology of Chinese threat, but China’s OBOR initiative thoroughly breaks such mythology.

To attract other countries to join the US in containing China economically, former US president Obama almost succeeded in establishing his favorite Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) by promising some benefits to some Asian countries, but Obama’s successor Trump and Clinton who tried but failed to succeed Obama, both find that the US cannot afford giving others such benefits. Trump withdrew from TPP as soon as he was inaugurated.

Now, Reuters says in its article “China says has ‘positive’ talks with Vietnam on South China Sea” today, Vietnam, “the country most openly at odds with China over the waterway since the Philippines pulled back from confrontation under President Rodrigo Duterte”, has sent its president Tran Dai Quang to attend China’s OBOR summit.

Obviously, Vietnam also wants to be benefited from China’s OBOR initiative though, strictly speaking, it is not a country along the Silk Road. It will certainly be pleased if China is willing to provide funds for construction of its infrastructure. That will make Vietnam put aside its disputes with China in the South China Sea.

In its article “Why China’s trump card in global diplomacy is fraught with peril” SCMP points out the lots of risks in China’s OBOR plan in its article “Why China’s trump card in global diplomacy is fraught with peril” on May 10. Like other Western and pro-Western media, SCMP believes China’s OBOR initiative aims at expanding its world influence and perhaps replacing the US as world leader.

If so, China certainly will make efforts alone instead of inviting as many countries as possible to share the benefits of its OBOR plan. To have world hegemony, one shall make oneself much stronger than others instead of making others grow stronger along with oneself.

Xi is very pragmatic. Take Vietnam for example, it is quite enough that China funds Vietnam’s infrastructure to facilitate moving its labor-intensive industries to exploit Vietnam’s cheap labor.

For Southeast Asia that is far from Silk Road, the infrastructure funded by China will first of all facilitate rich overseas Chinese there in growing their business. As overseas Chinese love their motherland, China’s influence will be greatly expanded there.

What is the use of US pivot there compared with China’s OBOR initiative that has in fact nothing to do with Southeast Asia as the area has never been along China’s Silk Road.

In my opinion, China holds the OBOR summit to mark the collapse of US pivot to Asia and China’s success in resisting the pivot.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters’ and SCMP’s articles, full text of which can respectively be viewed at http://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-vietnam-idUSKBN1871HH and http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2093140/why-risks-abound-belt-and-road.


Why America—and Its Political Leaders—Should Think Twice about Poking China


Politicians should carefully consider the impact that their words may have on America’s international relationships.

Jared McKinney March 26, 2017

The first rule of rational thinking is that one should not assume what one hopes to prove. The first rule of international politics is that misperception is rampant. And the first rule of strategy is that the adversary gets a vote too. Sadly, Rep. Ted Yoho violates all three of these rules in his March 22 analysis titled “How America Should Confront China’s Unchecked Maritime Bullying.” The result is an empty shell of words masquerading as strategic advice. Isolated, this could be ignored; more worryingly—and more difficult to ignore—is that Rep. Yoho’s article nicely represents the resentful, unreflective, incurious and superficial rhetoric that is increasingly coming to dominate Washington’s view of China.

Assuming What We Claim to Prove

Rep. Yoho begins his article by commenting on the economic importance of maritime Asia. Undisputedly, a large amount of commerce passes through these waters. He then suggests this commerce may be threatened by China, which has “possibly” indicated its “ambition to exclude foreign vessels from China’s near seas at will.” His evidence? The increasing strength of the People’s Liberation Army and Chinese investments in Anti-Access/Area Denial weapons.

Confronted with the fact that China has sought to strengthen its military since Deng Xiaoping launched his “four modernizations,” an intellectually curious person might posit a variety of explanations. These might include Chinese embarrassment over its poor performance in the 1979 war with Vietnam, a desire to be recognized as a great power by the United States and Russia, and a commitment to defending China’s territorial interests, particularly given the humiliation it suffered in the 1995–96 Taiwan Straits Crisis. Indeed, if a person took the trouble to speak with some Chinese military officers, or even merely read some standard histories of China’s rise, then that person would discover that this last explanation is particularly salient. China desires the ability to defend its territorial integrity and sovereignty. Since U.S. actions have threatened—and could once again threaten—these objectives, China is making investments intended to preserve its interests. Here we have the origins of China’s A2/AD investments, and an explanation for Chinese strategy.

But this is not what Rep. Yoho does in his analysis. Instead, he connects China’s growing military power to the possible “ambition to exclude foreign vessels from China’s near seas at will.” This connection is not impossible, and if it were something China was capable of doing, and if it was something China was likely to do, given the region’s importance, then this would be a big deal. But Rep. Yoho never completes that argument. He never informs us why it is likely that China might exclude trading vessels from the region, thereby injuring global commerce.

Risk is calculated by multiplying the probability of an event occurring by the estimated consequence of that event. When probability is extremely low, even when the consequence is high, risk is low. This formula must lie at the heart of all strategic thinking. When it does not, the results are not just irrational but dangerous.

So what is the likelihood that China would disrupt the “$5 trillion” in commerce that moves across the Asia-Pacific region? Most of this commerce is coming from China, going to China, passing through a Chinese port, or ultimately destined for China in one capacity or another. This is a good place to start: disrupting this commerce would be contrary to China’s most important interests.

Seemingly aware of this fact, Rep. Yoho moves on to discuss energy supplies for nations like Japan and South Korea. Perhaps China would intercept those? And what does Rep. Yoho think would happen to the Chinese economy if the economies of two of its closest neighbors collapsed at China’s behest? Does Rep. Yoho understand that a disabled Chinese economy would destroy the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party? Does he know that oil can be sold on a spot market (sometimes as many as thirty times on one journey), making it difficult for a blockading force to tell where oil is ultimately destined? Does he know that transshipment of oil from Southeast Asia would be impossible to prevent? Has he calculated China’s ability to impose such a blockade? Does he know that the South China Sea is a “tough neighborhood for hegemonies” because it lacks any dominating geographical features? Is he aware that China’s neighbors could respond with their own A2/AD networks, locking China out of the region’s seas? Does he realize the United States could easily respond tit-for-tat in the Persian Gulf, for China, too, is dependent on oil imports? And has he considered that such a move would forever alienate China’s neighbors and most of the globe’s respectable powers? The answer to all these questions is an apparent “no.” But if someone did bother to answer them, then that person would come to the realization that it would be literally suicidal for China to disrupt the commerce of the Asia-Pacific region. Further reflection would likely yield the conclusion that China could not effectively do so even if it so desired.

Where then is the evidence that China’s military investments are intended to disrupt the commerce of the Asia-Pacific region? None has been offered. What Rep. Yoho desires to prove he has merely assumed. Until evidence is provided to the contrary, the risk of China destroying the maritime commerce of the Asia-Pacific region should be assessed as close to nonexistent.

Misperception Is Rampant

Rep. Yoho seems to believe that Chinese “belligerence” is running in a straight line, and as a result of the Obama administration’s failure to “impose costs,” China is running rampant, bullying its neighbors. This view misperceives the extent to which the situation in the South China Sea has stabilized. Indeed, in the last year, both the Philippines and Vietnam have ended their open rivalry with China and engaged in bilateral negotiations. Knowledgeable diplomats believe an Association of Southeast Asian Code of Conduct will be agreed upon this year, and Chinese insiders have told me that China is committed to seeing it through. China is no longer building the types of islands that so concern Rep. Yoho and Filipino fishermen are back at Scarborough Shoal. In East and Southeast Asia, foreign-policy elites are now more worried about being dragged into a U.S.-China conflict than Chinese “assertiveness.” Japanese nationalism, naturally, remains alive and well, and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense issue has made China-South Korea ties the worst in recent history, but these are separate issues.

Yet even if interactions in the South China Sea have stabilized, there remains plenty of room for misperception. For example, Rep. Yoho claims that China’s seizure of America’s unmanned underwater vehicle in December 2016 was “a transparent attempt to deliberately engineer an international incident.” This is an assertion, but not an argument (see point one above). Furthermore, this statement assumes a good many things about China that may not, in fact, be true. Why would China want to engineer a conflict with the incoming Trump administration, which has not yet decided how it’s going to deal with China? Is Rep. Yoho aware, as I have previously argued, that it could be that the United States was the actual engineer of this international incident? Even more significantly, as I have recently learned from conversations with two dozen Chinese foreign-policy experts, within China there is a sound consensus that the seizure of the unmanned underwater vehicle was not authorized by China’s political leaders. If this is the case, then Rep. Yoho is perceiving an unauthorized Chinese move as an intentional political challenge. In other words, that is a common case of misperception.

The Adversary Gets a Vote Too

The single most extraordinary fact about Rep. Yoho’s article is that he never once considers whether his solution for Chinese “belligerence”—imposing costs—will, in fact, change Chinese behavior in the way he intends. Anticipating an adversary’s response is the most basic rule of strategy. This rule is endemic to human interaction, and highlighted in certain games, such as chess. Only a fool would move first and consider consequences later.

Yet this is what Rep. Yoho would have us do. He suggests a series of moves: more freedom of navigation operations, commercial sanctions, punishing (though expressed in more diplomatic terms) the Philippines for its realignment and disinviting China from the 2018 Rim of the Pacific naval exercise while inviting Taiwan. Rep. Yoho merely assumes these moves will result in his preferred outcome. Yet there are alternative possible outcomes. One is that such moves change nothing. Minor pokes are not going to force China to fundamentally alter its strategy. Another alternative is that China escalates tensions, but in its own way. Perhaps it more closely tails U.S. forces in the region. Perhaps it increases its long-term military investments. Or perhaps it punishes American “allies,” such as Taiwan.

The most likely outcome need not be assessed in this essay. My present plea is only that we—as Americans—reorient our thinking. If the United States is going to formulate intelligent strategies in this increasingly complicated time, simple assertions need to be excised from our strategic discourse. The National Interest and other serious foreign-policy publications should not publish a single new essay on the theme of changing U.S. strategy towards China unless that essay carefully considers how China (and other regional actors) would respond to such a change. Strategic interactions are dynamic, and, like good chess players, we must model probable action-reaction cycles to the best of our ability. In the realm of international politics, the rules are not as certain as those of chess, but that is no excuse. In real life, our decisions could result in conflict or even war. As chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, Rep. Yoho has a particularly weighty responsibility in this regard—one that his piece in the National Interest sadly neglects.

Conclusion

I have been forced to take a negative tone in this article, but I do so for a constructive purpose: we can do better than this. Indeed, if peace is going to be preserved in the coming decade, we must do better. Doing better means formulating thoughtful arguments. That means justifying assumptions, considering alternative explanations and being genuinely curious about discovering the truth. Doing better means realizing that misperception is common in international politics, and doing what we can to mitigate this fact. Signals can be ambiguous; states often aren’t unitary rational actors; and situations evolve constantly. Finally, doing better means realizing that strategy is a dynamic process, and actions can have short- and long-term effects. In 1996, did anyone consider that by projecting force around China in such a humiliating manner that the United States would stimulate a huge Chinese military buildup, including A2/AD investments and an aircraft carrier program? Perhaps not, but that is the point. The Chinese are here to play the long game, and if Washington elites are going to make a habit of publishing articles calling on the United States to poke the dragon, then they should at least consider whether the dragon, in fact, needs to be poked and how the dragon might respond both today and a decade hence.

Jared McKinney is a nonresident fellow at the Pangoal Institution (Beijing) and a PhD Student at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University (Singapore).

Source: National Interest “Why America—and Its Political Leaders—Should Think Twice about Poking China”

Note: This is National Interest’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


Maritime Dispute Insignificant for Vietnam as China Controls Water


Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and Vietnam Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong raise a toast following their official talks at the VCP's Headquarters in Hanoi (November 5, 2015). Image Credit: REUTERS/Hoang Dinh Nam

Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and Vietnam Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong raise a toast following their official talks at the VCP’s Headquarters in Hanoi (November 5, 2015). Image Credit: REUTERS/Hoang Dinh Nam

The Diplomat says in its article yesterday titled “The Resurgence of China-Vietnam Ties”, “A visit to Beijing by Vietnam’s Communist Party chief underscored a major shift in Sino-Vietnamese bilateral relations…. According to Vietnamese news media, the four-day visit resulted in a joint communiqué, which among other points stressed upholding mutual political trust and both sides’ commitment to deepening their all-around strategic cooperative partnership. Trong’s trip and the sharply increased mutual trust it reflects will rehabilitate China-Vietnam ties in the near future after a few years of remarkable disruption.”

The article regards the new development as Vietnam’s response to Trump’s policies of America first and withdrawal from TPP as there is no hope for Vietnam to rely on the US to counter China whether economically or militarily. Without TPP, Vietnam cannot reduce its economic reliance on China.

However, the vital factor that has caused Vietnam to seek China’s favor is China’s control of the Mekong River, the source of freshwater for 2 million Vietnamese people. The article described Vietnam’s trouble caused by Chinese-backed mainstream dam-building projects in the river in countries close to China but hostile to Vietnam.

Anyway, Vietnam shall regard itself as lucky if China does not annex it as it did in the past when China had grown powerful.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on The Diplomat’s article, full text of which can be found at http://thediplomat.com/2017/01/the-resurgence-of-china-vietnam-ties/.


Vietnam police halt anti-China protest over islands


Police in Vietnam’s capital stopped an anti-China protest within minutes on Thursday at a ceremony to commemorate a clash between the two countries in the South China Sea more than four decades ago.

Vietnam and China have a longstanding dispute over the South China Sea, nearly all of which is claimed by China. Four other countries have claims in the sea, through which an estimated $5 trillion in trade passes each year.

The protest in Hanoi started after a peaceful commemoration for soldiers of what was then South Vietnam who were killed in 1974, when China seized the Paracel islands, which it still holds.

Police dragged about 20 protesters on to a bus after they ignored a warning to disperse and began marching with banners and chanting “Demolish China’s Invasion” and other slogans.

The government and police made no comment and state-controlled media did not report the protest.

Tension between the two communist countries peaked most recently in 2014, when China moved an oil rig into disputed waters and protests broke out across Vietnam.

Relations have since improved, although a quiet military buildup continues in the region.

China and Vietnam last week pledged to manage their differences and safeguard peace in the South China Sea during a visit to Beijing by Vietnamese Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong.

The potential for the busy waterway to become a global flashpoint was highlighted last week when the nominee for U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, told a Senate hearing that China should be denied access to islands it has built there.

(Reporting by Hanoi Newsroom; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Source: Reuters “Vietnam police halt anti-China protest over islands”

Note: This is Reuters report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Military Solution Unpopular in Vietnam for South China Sea Disputes


Vietnamese and Chinese leaders Nguyen Phu Trong and Xi Jinping at a tea party given by Xi in Trong’s honor. Photo: Xinhua

Vietnamese and Chinese leaders Nguyen Phu Trong and Xi Jinping at a tea party given by Xi in Trong’s honor. Photo: Xinhua

Reuters says in its report “China and Vietnam to ‘manage’ differences over South China Sea: communiqué”, “China and Vietnam pledged on Saturday to manage their differences and safeguard peace in the South China Sea, in a joint communique issued during a visit to China by Vietnamese Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong.”

In addition, “In the joint communique on Saturday the two sides agreed to continue to ‘fully and effectively’ implement the Declaration on the Conduct (DOC) of Parties in the South China Sea and strive for the early conclusion of a Code of Conduct (COC) on the basis of consensus in the framework of the DOC.”

The DOC already signed by China and ASEAN and the COC to be finalized and signed are aimed at peaceful solution of disputes in the South China Sea. It proves China’s success in subduing the enemy with diplomacy.

It has won over the Philippines and the victory of Nguyen Phu Trong’s détente faction in Vietnamese communist party’s election over the hardline faction that caused standoff in the South China Sea over China’s drilling rig there proves peaceful solution is much more popular even in Vietnam.

That is especially true as Vietnam talked up in public statements its traditional friendship with China in spite of the fresh memory of China’s war with Vietnam in 1979. Vietnam’s military build-up mentioned in Reuters’ report proves the memory of the war is indeed fresh in Vietnamese people’s mind. Still they prefer peace and have been won over by China’s peaceful diplomacy.

Now only the US wants to subdue others with war, but as military solution is unpopular in the world, the US has failed to get ASEAN’s support for its confrontation with China in the South China Sea.

Poor United States, it goes nowhere in the South China Sea in spite of its strongest military because it has the weakest diplomacy.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters’ report, full text of which is reblogged below:

China and Vietnam to ‘manage’ differences over South China Sea: communique

China and Vietnam pledged on Saturday to manage their differences and safeguard peace in the South China Sea, in a joint communique issued during a visit to China by Vietnamese Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong.

After “candid” discussions, the two countries agreed to “manage well their maritime difference, avoid actions that complicate the situation and escalate tensions, and safeguard the peace and stability of the South China Sea”, said the communique published in full by China’s state news agency Xinhua.

China claims almost all of the South China Sea, where about $5 trillion worth of sea-borne trade passes every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan, in addition to Vietnam, also have claims in the sea, believed to have rich deposits of oil and gas.

In public statements, Chinese and Vietnamese leaders regularly talk up their common interests as “traditional” friends and neighbours, but conflicting claims of sovereignty in the South China Sea have become a major source of tension in recent years.

In the joint communique on Saturday the two sides agreed to continue to “fully and effectively” implement the Declaration on the Conduct (DOC) of Parties in the South China Sea and strive for the early conclusion of a Code of Conduct (COC) on the basis of consensus in the framework of the DOC.

In September, Chinese President Xi Jinping told Vietnam’s visiting prime minister their common interests far outweighed their differences, and called for their dispute in the South China Sea to be resolved through talks.

Vietnam is in the midst of a quiet military build-up which analysts say is designed as a deterrent, to secure its 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone, as China grows more assertive in staking its claims in the South China Sea.

(Reporting by John Ruwitch; Editing by Andrew Bolton)