Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai speaks at the Asia Society in Hong Kong July 5, 2012.
Today’s news opens with a speech July 5 in Hong Kong by Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai, a key figure in Chinese relations with the United States. The speech calls for “building a new type of relationship between major countries here in the Asia-Pacific,” a key Hu Jintao phrase from the Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) between the United States and China in May [speech in Chinese / in English]. The Xinhua storyabout the speech also emphasized this new relationship, suggesting that the idea of something like a U.S.–China “special relationship” is gaining traction in Chinese policy circles.
The remainder of the speech emphasizes the need for expanded mutual trust between the two countries, and the importance of the Asia-Pacific region as a locus for this relationship. None of this is groundbreaking, but I think it’s worth noting that this is one of the highest-level speeches on the United States since the May meetings that coincided with a diplomatic tangle over the fate of Chen Guangcheng, the self-taught lawyer who escaped home detention and entered the U.S. embassy in Beijing, eventually ending up as a special student at New York University Law School. Cui specifically mentions S&ED as a successful development, and calls out U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, who, along with Cui, was reportedly at the center of tense negotiations over Chen.
The other big news come from U.S. President Barack Obama, whose administration has filed a WTO complaint against Chinaover auto tariffs. The timing had clear political content, as Obama is beginning a campaign trip in the Midwest, where much of the U.S. auto industry makes its home.
Zhou Yongkang, for one, is not a fan of U.S. opinions on China. According to an AFP story:
“We will never change in our endeavour to defend the party’s leading role and socialism with Chinese characteristics,” he wrote in the latest edition of a Communist Party publication, “Qiushi”.”We will resolutely resist the attacks of hostile forces on our nation’s political and judicial systems, and we will resolutely resist the influence of mistaken Western political and legal views.”
Zhou was writing in his position as head of the party’s Politics and Law Commission, which oversees China’s courts, prosecution and police.
And the U.S. State Department expressed displeasure with Chinese online censorship after Bloomberg News’ website after its blockbuster story on the family finances of Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping.
As always, there has been movement in the South China Sea
The Philippines may ask for U.S. spy plane assistance in areas disputed with China, Philippine President Benigno Aquino said, reportedly referring to P3C Orion aircraft. (July 2)
The People’s Daily that day also accused the Philippines of attempting to stir up trouble in the region ahead of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting July 9. (English of full article.)
The Philippine military has “no problem” with Chinese patrols near disputed islands, according to a media report, as long as they stay in the “freedom of navigation area”—i.e. international waters where any ship has a right to be. (July 3)
The Philippines issued a new “note verbale,” a type of diplomatic communication, objecting to China’s plans with its newly upgraded administrative distinction for the administration of some of the islands it claims in the South China Sea, a Philippine news site reports. “Sansha city” officially includes both an island disputed with Vietnam and the Scarborough Shoal, which China and the Philippines disagree over. (July 4)
Chinese Maritime Surveillance ships are patrolling within 1 nautical mile of the Nansha islands, Xinhua reported.
The Chinese government announced it would open a research station in the “Zhongsha” islands, part of the controversial Sansha City. A quick check suggests these “islands” are not even above water all of the time, and they have not been part of the recent dust-ups with Vietnam or Philippines. (July 5)
An Economiststory comes with a nice map that includes oil claims.
The first set of links are on things other than the South China Sea. The second set are devoted to that ongoing issue. See also my new post on the Global Times referring to the South China Sea as one of China’s “core interest.”
In an apparently newly released speech to a track II meeting between the United States and China, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai spoke about common U.S.–China interests, adding:
Upon his acceptance of Lifetime Achievement Award VDZ Publisher’s Night in November 2011, Dr. Kissinger said that the current international system thus faces a paradox: its prosperity is dependent on the success of globalization, but the process produces a political dialectic that often works counter to its aspirations. Indeed, we need to think carefully about how to go beyond political differences and achieve common prosperity. The United States is the most powerful nation in the world. Does the United States regard globalization as a zero-sum game or a win-win process? Does it view the development of China and other big countries as posing challenges to the position of the US or as offering greater development opportunities with more cooperative partners? These are crucial questions. Whether the United States can make a correct choice will to a large extent influence the development of the world situation in the 21st century.
Q: Will the mutual suspicion be lessened by the increasing number of non-governmental exchanges between the two sides?
Wang Jisi: Not really. Most people, whether in the U.S. or China, who acquire information via domestic mainstream media, will not get a true picture of the other country. Even getting involved in people-to-people communication does not negate wider existing differences. For instance, say that a person travels in America and becomes genuinely fond of the country and people, this individual experience will not eliminate the political differences and mutual suspicion which exist between the two countries. Simply learning more about a country does not necessarily mean you will trust it more. …
Q: Some scholars think that the U.S. is behind the South China Sea and Diaoyu Islands disputes. Is that true or is the U.S. simply being opportunistic as far as these disputes are concerned?
Wang Jisi: From the U.S. point of view, increased tension between China and the Philippines over the disputed Huangyan Islands can only be an advantage because, to some degree, the dispute will contain its biggest opponent. On the other hand, it will make the Philippines more reliant on the U.S. China cannot openly blame the U.S. for provoking or exacerbating the disputes, despite the fact that it will certainly suspect the U.S. of being is behind these disputes. Despite this, the U.S. will definitely not become involved in the dispute.
Now on to the South China Sea
Four Chinese Marine Surveillance ships on Sunday reached “Huayang Reef,” a coral formation in the disputed Spratly Islands, Chinese state media reported. The Spratlys are at the core of a China–Vietnam maritime territorial dispute. [China.org.cn] [AFP]
Anti-Chinese protests erupted in Vietnam Sunday. Hundreds [Reuters] or about 200 [AP] protested an announcement by the China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) that it is seeking foreign collaborators to develop fuel resources in the disputed Spratly Islands. Vietnam’s government claims the areas up for exploration are within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.
A Human Rights Watch representative told the Voice of America that some prominentbloggers were preventedfrom attending the Vietnamese protests.
As to China, it is not interested in being involved in frequent wrangles with Vietnam and the Philippines over the South China Sea, which is merely one of its core interests.* As a great power, China has strategic concerns all over the Asia-Pacific region and even the world. But if Vietnam and the Philippines continue to provoke and go too far, they must be prepared to face strong countermeasures from China.