Thursday, July 26, 2012

Pouring concrete on troubled waters

Not content to fund concrete relationships with South Pacific island governments, China now bunkers down in its efforts to cement its claims on the South China Sea.

China establishes Sansha City
China on Tuesday officially set up the city of Sansha on Yongxing Island in the southernmost province of Hainan. The city government is located on the 2.13-square km Yongxing Island, the largest island in the Xisha Islands group.

The national flag was hoisted while the national anthem played after the signboards of the Sansha Municipal Government and the Sansha Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) were unveiled.

Luo Baoyou, Party chief of Hainan province, said in a keynote speech that Sansha was established to administer the Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha islands and their surrounding waters in the South China Sea. "The provincial government will be devoted to turning the city into an important base to safeguard China's sovereignty and serve marine resource development," he said.

He said the main task now will be to build up political power in Sansha to ensure efficient management.
China placed troops on the disputed islands, forming a new city “Sansha”
In the conflict over the South China Sea, Beijing has achieved a diplomatic success. It managed to split the ASEAN – the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Some of these countries did not support Vietnam and the Philippines.

It takes 13 hours to reach the island from the mainland by sea. There are post office, bank, supermarket and hospital.
From the website of Holiday China Tour:
There is a city in China with a population of less than 10,000 and an area of almost one-fourth of China's territory. It is Sansha in Hainan province, People's Republic of China.

The State Council, or China's cabinet, approved in June the establishment of Sansha, a prefectural-level city that will administer the Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha island groups and their surrounding waters in the South China Sea. The government seat of Sansha will be stationed on Yongxing Island, part of the Xisha Islands. Sansha exercises political sovereignty, both actual and claimed, over three disputed archipelagoes in the South China Sea. Nationally, it is the smallest prefecture-level city by both population and land area, the largest by water area, and the southernmost.

The founding of Sansha city will improve China's management of the region and help coordinate efforts to develop the islands and protect the marine environment, said Zhao Zhongshe, director of the Hainan provincial Department of Ocean and Fisheries.

There are two ways to reach Yongxing Island, by ship and by air. The airport on the island can now accommodate a Boeing 737, but there are no airlines based there. For most people, flying to Xisha Islands is still a wild wish. And traveling by ship is subject to weather on the sea, which changes a lot in June.

China stands firm on Sansha
Ruan Zongze, vice president of the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times on Wednesday that it's inappropriate for the US to criticize China on the establishment of the city, because what China has done is reasonable and is a logical move given the nature of Asian politics.

US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at a news briefing on Tuesday that the country remains concerned regarding "unilateral moves of this kind," AP reported.

US Senator John McCain warned Tuesday that China was "unnecessarily provocative" in saying it would establish a military garrison on disputed South China Sea islands, and called for a multilateral solution to the dispute, according to AFP.

McCain said other actions by China, including the appointment of legislators to govern such disputes "only reinforces why many Asian countries are increasingly concerned about China's expansive territorial claims and the possibility that China will attempt to impose those claims through intimidation and coercion."

"The US should reflect on its diplomatic interference in the region which has sent inaccurate signals to neighboring countries. The recent statements from the US on the Diaoyu Islands have broken their promise to take no position on competing sovereignty claims and it will lead to damage to Sino-US relations," Ruan said.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was reported to say on Tuesday that the Diaoyu Islands will be included in a bilateral security treaty between the US and Japan.

"Establishing Sansha City is a domestic affair of China which shouldn't be interfered with by any other countries. The US has no reason or grounds to protest through diplomatic channels, which explains why the country has only released a statement," Ji Qiufeng, a professor at the School of International Relations at Nanjing University said, adding there's no need to worry that the establishment of the city will lead to military interference by the US.

Su Hao, director of the Asia-Pacific Research Center at the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times that the establishment of Sansha city has shown that China will not back down when the matters concern sovereignty or compromise their principles, regardless of whether the issue is the South China Sea or the Diaoyu Islands.

Since the disputes over the South China Sea have intensified, it is time for China to show its confidence in its ability to protect its own rights and sovereignty, Ji added.
China's hawks gaining sway in S. China sea dispute
Most Chinese and foreign security policy analysts believe China wants to avoid military conflict across sea lanes that carry an annual $5 trillion in ship-borne trade, particularly if it raises the prospect of U.S. intervention.

However, they say Beijing is increasingly determined to block any unified effort from rival claimants to negotiate over disputes, preferring instead to isolate much smaller and weaker states in direct talks.

The official Xinhua news agency said the Sansha garrison would be responsible for "national defense mobilisation ... guarding the city and supporting local emergency rescue and disaster relief" and "carrying out military missions".

The city government is located on the 2.13-square km Yongxing Island, according to Xinhua, which contains a small military airport, a sea port, roads, a clinic, a post office and an observatory. This is in the Paracels, a group of islands also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.

One of China's most hawkish army officers, Major General Zhu Chenghu, an influential teacher and strategy researcher at Beijing's National Defence University, has dismissed the entitlement of these rivals to the disputed waters.

In a speech to the World Peace Forum in Beijing earlier this month, Zhu said it was "unreasonable and illegal" for the Philippines and Vietnam to claim territory that historically belonged to China.

He said there had been no disputes in the South China Sea before the 1970s when maps published by rival claimants also acknowledged it was Chinese territory.

"Relevant countries did not begin to lay claim to islands and sea waters in the area until the discovery of large amounts of oil and gas reserves in the South China Sea," he said, according to an extract of his speech published in the official Global Times newspaper last week.

Zhu also blamed U.S. "meddling" for prolonging the current tension.

The retired general is best known for his assertion in 2005 that China should use nuclear weapons against the United States if American forces intervened in a conflict over Taiwan.

He escaped any serious censure over what he stressed at the time were his personal views and has since become a regular member of high-level Chinese military delegations in security talks with U.S. counterparts.

Other officials calling for a tougher line include Cui Liru, president of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, a Beijing think-tank closely linked to China's intelligence services, and Major General Luo Yuan, a retired army officer who is well known for his hard-line views and provocative media commentaries.

It is unclear how much sway these blunt speaking officials exercise over foreign and military policies or whether their views reflect official thinking.

But for the PLA, the persistent territorial disputes undermine a carefully-honed image as a force that will never allow foreign powers to encroach on Chinese territory as they did in the colonial period.

"The South China Sea situation is certainly highly frustrating for Chinese military officers," said Sun Yun, a Washington-based China security policy expert and a former analyst with the International Crisis Group in Beijing.

"If the PLA cannot even defend China's own territory at its doorstep, what capacity or legitimacy does it have to cruise around the world?"
Red Flag over Sansha City (And also)
There are nearly 300 cities in China. On June 21, the Chinese Government added another to that list: Sansha is the smallest city in China­.

China is the first country to discover, name and exercise sovereignty over the islands and their adjacent waters. The People's Republic of China set up a county-level administration office governing the area in 1959. In 1988, Hainan Province was established, and the administrative office was put under its auspices.

A spokesperson of the Ministry of Civil Affairs said on June 21 that the founding of Sansha will help improve China's administrative management in the area, promote its future development and protect the waters of the South China Sea.

In its 50-plus years of history, the administrative office had fulfilled its responsibilities, yet its functions were no longer compatible with the area's social and economic development, said Li.

Qu Xing, Director of China Institute of International Studies, said that setting up Sansha City will not only strengthen China's governance over these South China Sea islands and waters, but also safeguard the country's sovereignty and marine rights and interests in the area.

Through these actions, the Chinese Government is exercising legitimate jurisdiction over South China Sea islands, Qu said. Sansha will also handle fishery disputes in the South China Sea and protect fishermen's personal and property safety.

"This is a very good opportunity for foreign enterprises to invest in the area," Li said. Foreign companies can seek approval from the Sansha Municipal Government to build factories or make other forms of investment to tap local resources according to relevant laws and regulations of the country, he said.
CNOOC, Shell sign deals for oil exploration in South China Sea
The blocks, 62/02 and 62/17, lie in the Yinggehai basin off China's Hainan island, according to the agreement.

Shell will undertake 100 percent of the exploration costs in the blocks while CNOOC can take up to 51 percent of equity interest in any commercial oil and gas discovery in the blocks.

China Establishes New City on Disputed Waters

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