Tag Archives: Vietnam

China News Update for July 1, 2012 – U.S.–China relations and South China Sea update

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.”

  • The People’s Daily reported that preparations are on track for the fall party congress and leadership transition.
  • 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.

  • In an interview published on China.org.cn, Peking University Professor Wang Jisi speaks about the persistent differences between the United States and China:

    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 prominent bloggers were prevented from attending the Vietnamese protests.
  • The nationalist-leaning government-controlled Chinese newspaper Global Times issued an editorial on the South China Sea that could be read as a threat against Vietnam and the Philippines:

    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.

  • *The use of the term “core interest” is politically charged, and I’ve devoted an entire post to the issue.
  • Meanwhile, the Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Samuel Locklear, spoke with the Global Times for an interview. Not especially ground-breaking, but it’s worth a skim.

'Global Times' calls South China Sea a 'core interest'

The nationalist-leaning state-controlled newspaper Global Times on its English-language website Sunday made what might be a significant statement in the ongoing Chinese dispute with Vietnam and the Philippines, among others, in the South China Sea. In an unsigned opinion piece, the paper states:

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. (emphasis added)

The question of whether the South China Sea has been identified as one of China’s “core interests” is important to diplomats, because it puts the waters on the same level as Taiwan, Tibet, and Xinjiang. Quoting the International Crisis Group‘s excellent recent report on the issue:

In early 2010, speculation arose that China had defined the South China Sea disputes as one of its “core interests”, a term traditionally reserved for matters of national sov- ereignty such as Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang, where China is unwilling to compromise its position and would resort to force, if necessary. Reports first suggested that Chinese officials used this expression during a private meeting with U.S. officials in March 2010, and then cited U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as claiming that the sen- ior Chinese leader responsible for foreign policy repeated this declaration in May 2010. However, another senior U.S. official* has since asserted that the term “national priority” rather than “core interest” was used. Chinese researchers almost unanimously agree that the government has not made any conscious policy decision to rank the South China Sea as a core interest at the same level as an issue such as Taiwan.

What does something like this mean from the Global Times? First, it’s critical to note that this paper is not regarded as authoritative in the same way that observers take the People’s Daily as the vetted mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party. It is not even as strong a source as the official Xinhua News Service, which is the source of dependably “correct” political news for the broader Chinese media sphere.

What does this mean? One way to discount this statement would be to speculate that there has been a mistranslation, but the Chinese version of the editorial also uses “core interest” (核心利益). It seems unlikely to me that the paper, in an unsigned piece, would use this term lightly. What it indicates is that the consensus view of more hawkish voices in China is that the government and national defense establishment should be more protective of the country’s claims than compromising.

The headline of the piece claims that China is “patient, not reckless, over [the] islands,” and this suggests that the threat of “strong countermeasures” is meant as an “or else.”

On the face of it, the argument that joint development should be pursued as a way out of this dispute might seem relatively fair, but various accounts from the region suggest that Vietnamese and Philippine analysts view Chinese proposals of “joint development” as giving them little autonomy. Moreover, recall that some of the islands in question unquestionably lie within a 200-nautical mile distance of Vietnam—an area generally regarded as one country’s exclusive economic zone.

This issue is not likely to be resolved any time soon, but watch carefully for other uses of the term “core interest” from the Chinese side. If they start emerging from more authoritative sources, this may signal a significantly harder line than the current mixture of patrols, protests, and accommodations.

See today’s China Update for more South China Sea links for the last few days, or see previous updates.

*This refers to Jeffrey Bader, in his new tick-tock book on U.S. Asia policy during his time in the National Security Council during the early Obama administration: Obama and China’s Rise: An Insider’s Account of America’s Asia Strategy

Daily Update, June 29, 2012: Rich leading families, NYT China, South China Sea

Today’s links begin with an exhausting-sounding investigation from a team of Bloomberg reporters into relatives of Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, who is expected to become the country’s top leader this fall. Sometimes through assumed names, holding companies, and other tactics, many of Xi’s relations have significant business and real estate holdings. [READ THE STORY]

China’s “outward direct investment” (ODI) is a “game changer,” says Columbia University’s Jeffrey Sachs. Peking University’s Yiping Huang adds details:

So China is leveraging its ODI to buy natural resources, acquire strategic assets, and set up companies that will facilitate exports. “The single focus of all these activities is to strengthen and improve the competitiveness of [their] factories at home,” he says.

Huang calls this the “Chinese model” of ODI but says it is hardly unique to China. Other rapidly developing economies, such as Korea and Brazil, are pursuing similar strategies, but those countries’ outside initiatives have been overshadowed by China’s massive capital resources, he says. “The difference between China and Korea is that Korea is a small country,” Huang says. [FULL STORY]

There might be a big, non-resource investment coming up: China Development Bank is looking at a $1.7 billion tie-up with a San Francisco real estate developer.

The South China Sea is still keeping things interesting.

  • Philippine officials said their planes spotted Chinese fishing ships back in the area surrounding the disputed Scarborough Shoal on Monday.
  • On Wednesday, a new spat between China and Vietnam over oil exploration in the disputed Paracel Islands added to the recent bilateral dust-up that has seen Vietnam passing a law supporting its claim to the islands and China upgrading the administrative status of three of the islands.

    China National Offshore Oil Corp. said it was offering a new batch of oil-exploration blocks inside the 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone granted to Vietnam under the United Nations’ Law of the Sea.

    Vietnam’s government quickly objected, saying the Chinese state oil firm was moving into its territorial waters. On Wednesday, state-run Vietnam Oil & Gas, or PetroVietnam, weighed in, showing how territorial claims in the sea are increasingly being backed up by powerful companies in addition to rival governments, and potentially adding new sources of tension to the conflict. [FULL STORY]

  • On Thursday, a Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman said China is considering setting up a military unit in “Sansha city,” the newly created prefecture-level body that encompasses three islands also claimed by Vietnam. [China Daily report]
  • The official also said China is sending combat-ready patrols to the Spratly Islands.
  • July 2–10, the United States and the Philippines are planning joint military exercises in the South China Sea.

Speaking at a CSIS conference Wednesday, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell said the United States wants to work with China on the South China Sea, according to a press report. From the video: “We will have areas of difference, we will have areas where we compete… we want to build a strong, durable partnership with China that works for everyone” to build peace in Southeast Asia.

Daily Update, June 27, 2012 – more on South China Sea

Today’s links continue following the micro-developments in the South China Sea, as Vietnam and the Philippines both move to manipulate matters in each country’s ongoing island and territorial water dispute with China. The first four links fit into the Vietnam–China framework. The last two are on Philippines–China.

  • Vietnam Warns China to Halt Oil Bids in Area Awarded to Exxon – Bloomberg
    Vietnam’s state-run oil explorer warned China to halt efforts to develop disputed areas of the South China Sea that Hanoi’s leaders have already awarded to companies including Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and OAO Gazprom.

    Vietnam Oil & Gas Group, also known as PetroVietnam, will ask China National Offshore Oil Corp., the government-owned parent of Cnooc Ltd. (883), to cancel an invitation for foreign companies to explore nine blocks, Chief Executive Officer Do Van Hau told reporters in Hanoi yesterday. PetroVietnam and its partners will continue exploring in the area and asked foreign companies not to bid for the nine blocks, he said.

  • Vietnam Calls on Cnooc Parent to Scrap Oil Exploration Bids – Bloomberg
    Cnooc deployed China’s first deep-water drilling rig last month near disputed islands to assert Beijing’s territorial claims. The company said the blocks, covering an area of 160,124 square kilometers, are available for exploration and development cooperation with foreign companies this year, according to a June 23 statement on its website.

    The area “lies entirely within Vietnam’s 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone and continental shelf,” Nghi said. “This is absolutely not a disputed area.”

    China’s oil exploration in the South China Sea is “normal corporate activity” and complies with international law, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a regular briefing in Beijing yesterday.

    The invitation for bids came as Vietnam’s parliament passed a law reasserting its sovereignty over the area. China summoned Vietnam’s ambassador June 21 to protest the move, with Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun saying Vietnam’s statement wasn’t “conducive to peace and stability.”

  • Sansha city set to protect marine environment – China Daily
    The country’s Sansha plan will help coordinate the three islands’ efforts to protect the marine environment and islands’ scientific development, said Zhao Zhongshe, director of the Hainan Department of Ocean and Fisheries, Hainan Daily reported during the weekend.

    The State Council has approved the establishment of the prefectural-level city of Sansha and decided that its government seat will be on Yongxing Island, which is part of the Xisha Islands, according to a statement released by the Ministry of Civil Affairs last week.

  • Google Maps aerial shot of “Yongxing Island” or “Woody Island” or “Phu Lam” Island
    Largest island in the Paracels.
  • Phl set to lift fish ban – The Philippine Star » News » Headlines
    CLARK FREEPORT, Pampanga, Philippines – The Philippines will lift on July 15 the fishing ban it imposed last May at the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal off the coast of Zambales, half a month earlier than the scheduled lifting of a similar ban imposed by China. …

    China was the first to announce the fishing ban in May, followed by the Philippines. …
    China’s fishing ban is until Aug. 1 and covers nearly the entire South China Sea. It is meant ostensibly to curb overfishing in waters China claims as its territory.

  • Philippines opens school on disputed South China Sea island
    Filipino troops guard Pag-asa, the largest of nine islands, sandbars and reefs held by the Philippines under a municipality led by Bito-onon. The Philippine government established the far-flung municipality in 1978 to reinforce its claim to the Spratly archipelago.

Daily Update, June 21, 2012

This is an experiment. In my new position, I need to keep close track of news developments. Perhaps a good way to do this is to build a daily briefing, in the tradition of Bill Bishop’s update at Sinocism or Politico’s morning e-mail, or indeed of this blog’s former practice of posting Del.icio.us links. Only time will tell just how daily this actually is, and here goes a first shot. Of course, this is far from comprehensive.

South China Sea

  • China has raised the status of three island groups from county- to prefecture-level. This raises the level of the Hainan Province administrative body with purported jurisdiction over the Paracels and the Spratlys.
  • “Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun summoned Vietnamese Ambassador to China Nguyen Van Tho on Thursday to lodge a solemn representation to the Vietnamese side on passing a national law of the sea.” The law reportedly asserted sovereignty over the islands.
  • A South China Morning Post article considers the potential for the Philippines to bring China to international arbitration or tribunal unilaterally, despite the convention that both parties need to agree to such a resolution.
  • The Philippines will conduct a flyover of the Scarborough Shoal, and its ships will return if foreign vessels are present in the region, President Aquino said.
  • Both the Philippines and China had previously reportedly pulled out their vessels from the area surrounding the Scarborough shoal, a land feature in the South China Sea claimed in various ways by each country. The reason? Supposedly, bad weather.
  • Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie and Singaporean counterpart Ng Eng Hen met on June 18and discussed the South China Sea, among other issues.

Air-Sea Battle Concept

  • U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert spoke on the Air-Sea Battle “concept”/”doctrine” at Brookings May 16. No mention of China, but the opening of the Arctic is noted, as is electronic warfare.

Scientific Collaboration With China

  • A U.S. Congressional committee chairman may or may not have called China “the enemy.” While a colleague questioned White House advisor John Holdren—previously a key figure in the Harvard environmental politics world—House Science Committee Chairman Ralph Hall (R-Tex.) had something to add. “I don’t think you’re gonna get the answer that you expected to get, Mr. Rohrabacher,” Hall said, referring to his colleage. “I too have seen our president bow and scrape to the enemy on many occasions.” The line of questioning was on scientific collaborations with China.

China–U.S. and China–World Investment

  • A Missouri man has been stuck in China over a business dispute for several months, the Associated Press reported. I think Dan Harris of China Law Blog would offer a  forehead-slapping motion over the following: “Because of the unpaid debt to Chinese suppliers, and citing Fleischli’s status as NorthPole’s legal representative in China, a court in Xiamen ordered Fleischli detained. … Fleischli hadn’t even realized he was NorthPole’s legal representative, a role that makes Fleischli the point of contact for the company.” Why you pay attention to business laws.
  • In my first contribution to Fortune Magazine, I explore what’s behind some sizable investments apparently by Chinese individuals in Toledo, Ohio. The article will run in super-short form in the magazine, but this version is more complete.
  • Foreign investment in China may get a bit simpler, reports the Wall Street Journal: “the China Securities Regulatory Commission said it would lower entry requirements and simplify the approval process for applicants under the Qualified Foreign Institutional Investors program, the primary program for foreign investors to enter China’s capital markets. It also will allow qualified foreign investors to hold more shares in domestically listed companies and enter the country’s interbank bond market.”

Daily Translation (another experiment)

  • Beijing has a new bike sharing system, but a long-time Beijing resident with an out-of-town ID has sued the company for discrimination. So far, only Beijing residents with new Beijing IDs can use the system. I translated part of a Caixin story for fun. If you read Chinese, just go read it.