ASIAOPINIONPOLITICS

China ready to gulp in South China Sea

By Ipshita Bhattacharya

Speedily and surreptitiously moving ahead in reclamations, constructions and deployment of its military bases in South China Sea (SCS), China seems definitely not using SCS only for economic factors, but also in the business of a stealthy development of a strategic military base.

Generally, territorial reclamations are done proximate to a country’s coastline, whereas China is reclaiming it all over the SCS region. There is a provocative surge in China’s most strategically and methodically developing sea capable fortresses to enable its military ambitions especially after President Xi Jinping took power in 2012. The artificial islands are being developed to station Chinese military to project its military power and might to the small regional powers. These military bases will definitely be rendered with radars and electronic listening equipments that will help them in reconnaissance and other maritime investigations. Recently, China built World’s largest aircraft carrier dock in the SCS naval base, which is 700 meters long, it is able to accommodate ships on both sides. It seems Beijing wants to have a perpetual plan to safe guard and equip its southern part which geographically opens up to this vast water body and to intimidate the small regional claimants. Secondly, China wants to use, explore and utilize these natural sources solely and egocentrically.

The major concern is the silent acceleration and the scale of its building islets in the SCS. Although, currently the sizes of the islets are small for any large military function but definitely it will support the air and marine patrolling. No matter that China is reiterating that the islets are mainly for maritime search, rescue operations and surveillance at the same time it has never denied its military agendas too for the same. China’s growing military influence in the SCS and brooding by rest of the claimants has now become more or less a quotidian issue. The concept of political liberalisation i.e. China rising is somewhat seems to be an illusion term as it appears from China’s actions that China is morally falling. Surprisingly China is least bothered about its adamant actions in the SCS and the consequences it may reflect in the region. Most significantly China’s actions are creating lot of insecurity and threat perception to the other claimants. One of the World’s biggest economic power and leading Asian Nation China is least expected to be cavalier in this kind of regional security matters. It is easily palpitated that China is coercively and brazenly changing the status quo of the SCS. The main conclusion could be behind the building of artificial territories is to enhance and fortify their claims in SCS, probably Beijing is reinforcing these claims for legal advantages in international law. Since China is the most leading and powerful country in the Asian sub continent it has to show the responsibility of being powerful and has to maintain peace and tranquillity in the region.

Recently Chinese Foreign ministry spokesperson Lu kang said that island construction will not hamper the freedom of navigation and air flights of various countries and this is to be with accordance to the International law. But despite this statement in last few months there are incidences of Chinese military governing the orders to leave US naval planes and Philippines air force plane immediately from SCS while they were on patrol. China is also taking every measure to avoid discussing this potential issue in the International forums like ASEAN summit held in this month, also clearly indicating non interference of the countries outside ASEAN. China is playing an open, dominating and challenging game in the International waters; Beijing knows that through satellite images and media vigilance World knows its affairs and operations in SCS but still it is continuing with its purpose with determent ambitions. That clearly explains two things firstly that China knows what may be the consequences and secondly it is very well prepared for those consequences, Probably that is one of the major cause of exhaustive and speedy construction work for military purpose. Avoiding the SCS issue in the ASEAN summit 2015 clearly indicates that China knows that there is a legitimacy crisis in the SCS region on her part probably that’s the reason for avoiding interference and involvement by other Nations. Moving with sheer boldness in an explicit manner obviating the small regional claimants and avoiding the diplomatic dialogues, China has carefully adopted this method to strategically deal the issue. Moreover China is successfully imposing its will over the weaker claimants and restricting them to a limited area of respective coastlines with restricted economic prospects.

China is also taking advantage over USA’s managing of soft diplomatic phase of US-China relations. USA’s deliberate inactions towards this dispute could have serious implications for her alliances in the region; it is also noteworthy that it could lead to an understanding of acceptance of China’s action on Washington’s part. More importantly its gradual pushing away of USA from the SCS theatre and tardy, soft and candied diplomacy of USA may become a heavy payoff. China wants to simply reduce U.S. influence and negate American alliances in the region. This growing complacency of China on her set historical evidences before the international community for SCS is gradually shooting up and disguising her illegitimate functioning in the SCS. Over the time, this big Asian Giant has never restricted herself from criticising USA for militarising the SCS along with her alliances. China was avariciously trying to gulp the rich fishing areas, oil and other commodities in the SCS, but suddenly it has started military advancements aggressively in the region which is worrisome and alarming. The continuous defiance by China to the International Law underscores latent hostility in the water of South China Sea. Moreover it is also tarring the relationship with the ASEAN Nations, and increasing the trust deficit within the region.

Original published at Modern Diplomacy

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Ipshita Bhattacharya

Ipshita Bhattacharya is Ph.D Scholar in History & International Relations (interdisciplinary) with special focus on trilateral defence relations between India, US and China.

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