South China Sea Showdown: Here's How America Is Trying To Contain China In Its Own Backyard

South China Sea showdownRecent US diplomatic and military moves in the Pacific theater are conveying a strong message to both friends and foes that Washington is determined to preserve the hegemonic status the United States has enjoyed since the end of World War II. The latest confirmation is the addition of the Pacific Deterrence Initiative (PDI) to the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. Both the PDI and other US actions are implicitly directed against one target: the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Over the past decade, and especially during President Donald Trump’s administration, the perception has grown within America’s political and policy elites that China is no longer a constructive economic and diplomatic partner. Instead, officials see Beijing as a strategic competitor at best and an outright adversary at worst.

That mounting mistrust of Beijing has several sources. US military leaders have watched with growing unease for years as the PRC’s military budget ballooned and funds were directed disproportionately to the development of sophisticated anti-ship missiles and other anti-access, area denial systems. The primary purpose of such programs was to raise the cost severely to the United States if Washington sent its air and naval forces to defend Taiwan or otherwise interfere with PRC strategic goals in waters near China. An increasingly bold foreign policy agenda has accompanied Beijing’s new military muscle.

Trump’s Reelection Woes, Not Policy, Are Root of Escalating China Tensions

policies woesThe Trump administration on Tuesday demanded that China close down its consulate in Houston, Texas, which officials say was serving as a hub for espionage and influence operations, within 72 hours. With the deadline quickly approaching, Beijing announced retaliatory measures on Friday, demanding that the U.S. shutter its consulate in Chengdu. This is a major escalation in the already tense standoff between Washington and Beijing, but as Trump looks to bolster his faltering reelection campaign by pumping up his base with anti-China rhetoric, escalating tensions may be precisely the point.

David R. Stilwell, who leads the State Department’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, told the New York Times that the Houston consulate, the first Beijing opened in the U.S. after relations were established in 1979, had a history of engaging in “subversive behavior.” Stilwell offered no details, but the Times also cited a document showing that multiple FBI investigations were centered on the consulate. The offenses alleged in these probes include attempting to steal medical research and other sensitive information, as well as a talent-poaching strategy to lure dozens of local researchers and academics to Chinese institutions.

The United States Has Gotten Tough on China. When Will It Get Strategic?

The US has gotten toughOn Wednesday, the New York Times reported the Trump administration is weighing a ban on all members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and their families from traveling to the United States. We do not know the full details of the proposal, and we do not need to. The move, however it might eventually be worded or implemented, would be a mistake.

Several flaws with the plan are immediately obvious:

There is no public membership list, so there is no way of knowing for certain who is a CCP member and who is not. How could an individual prove they are not a member of the CCP?

There are nearly 92 million CCP members, yet less than 8 million serve in party or government organs, meaning the vast majority of members have no meaningful connection to policy decisions. The single biggest occupational category of party membership is “farmers, fishermen, and cattle workers.”

US, China may ‘stumble’ into conflict in South China Sea, war game scenarios suggest

SMPAs diplomatic relations between China and the US deteriorate to their lowest point since they were established in 1979, a military conflict between the two countries no longer seems a far-fetched possibility.

Their last direct engagement was during the Korean war, from 1950 to 1953, at a time of sparse trade and no diplomatic relations between Beijing and Washington. The spark which set off that confrontation was fear among China’s leadership of a unified Korean peninsula loyal to the US on the doorstep.

China did not enter the conflict – which began with a Soviet-backed invasion of the south – until North Korean forces were pushed back to the Yalu River, which forms the border with China, by a UN-backed force dominated by US troops.

Has China's Rise Peaked?

Has peakedEven though the Western mainstream view is that China is a military and economic dynamo that is quickly leaving America behind, the world may be turning against the Middle Kingdom, and Chinese leadership may be turning to a harsh brand of nationalism as a result. Its recent border clash with India in the high Himalayas and crackdown on free Hong Kong are the most recent manifestations of this.

China's rise as a global economic power, and regional military power, is one of the fastest in history. China has grown faster than America for four straight decades. It has built the industrial and technological foundations for a rapid expansion of its military, to include world-class capabilities in space launch, and its own version of GPS. China's mercantilist economics have taken over entire sectors of other economies, including those of the United States. All this has occurred not just with U.S. acquiescence, but intentional facilitation. America first wanted China as a counterweight to Soviet Russia, and then aggressively helped China to get rich, with the expectation that self-government and democracy would follow in the Middle Kingdom.

Revisiting the Arbitral Tribunal’s Ruling on the South China Sea after 4 years

Arbitral Tribunals Ruling on the South China SeaThis July 12 marks the fourth anniversary of the PCA ruling in the Philippines vs. China case on the South China Sea. Over the past 4 years, the situation in the South China Sea has become very complicated because China does not enforce the award but also increases more aggressive activities. The ruling has however been quieted down and rarely mentioned since and the new administration of President Duterte in the Philippines temporarily puts it aside in a bid to enhance relationship with China. However, the value of the ruling cannot be lost. Rather, it is still silently upheld and becomes increasingly stronger, as shown in the followings:

First, the public initially worried that Pres. Duterte’s administration would abandon the ruling to ensure cooperation with Beijing. However, the situation has changed after 4 years. In the past one year, Manila has referred to the Ruling several times. Pres. Duterte even directly spoke about it when talking to Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit to China in late August last year. Further, after that, Mr. Duterte also mentioned the ruling in a speech at the United Nations General Assembly.

How China Now Threatens America’s Academic Freedoms

How China now threatensDuring the height of the 1950s Red Scare, when there were Communists under every bed and spies in every closet, America saw threats to its national security everywhere. Justifiably, there were purges of those who really sought to sneak state secrets to the Soviets. War plans and bomb-making schematics were the most important of those confidential documents. Accusations abounded; not everyone was guilty.

Fast forward to 2020, and the new Red Scare is Beijing, not Moscow. The fear is that China’s long reach is not only touching but grabbing some of America’s dominant industries, institutions, plans and, of course, people. Scientists and researchers are in the crosshairs. Dr. Charles M. Lieber, the Harvard professor who recently was arrested by U.S. officials for allegedly sending research to China—and lying about it to American authorities—pleaded not guilty on Tuesday.

ASEAN finally pushes back on China’s sea claims

ASEAN finally pushes back on Chinas sea claimsMANILA – In a sign of rising resistance to China’s Covid-19 strategic opportunism, the typically tight-lipped Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc has articulated a tougher stance on intensifying South China Sea disputes.

In a major departure from its notoriously anodyne statements, ASEAN has “reaffirmed that the 1982 UNCLOS is the basis for determining maritime entitlements, sovereign rights, jurisdiction and legitimate interests over maritime zones.”

It marks the first time that the regional body has explicitly identified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as the sole legal basis to resolve maritime and territorial disputes in the region. Regional leaders participated in the summit remotely online due to Covid-19 related travel restrictions.

China’s major South China Sea drill: Threats to regional peace and stability

Chinas major South China Sea drill Threats to regional peace and stabilityKyodo News (Japan) on 11 May 2020 reported that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was planning to conduct a large-scale landing drill off Hainan Island in the South China Sea in August to simulate the possible seizure of the Taiwanese-held Pratas Island. According to the U.S Star and Stripes on 27 May, China will deploy two aircraft carriers (Shandong and Liaoning) for this exercise in the South China Sea.

Some sources also revealed that on the way to the exercise site, the aircraft carrier strike group will pass through the Pratas Islands on its way to the southeast of Taiwan in the Philippine Sea while other parts of the naval flotilla would be involved in landing exercises at a site near Hainan, about 600km southwest of the Pratas Islands.

‘India-China border clash may reverberate in South China Sea’

India ChinaThe medical experts at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) have been at the forefront of the global fight against Covid-19 both as a seat of medical research, and as a reliable soundboard for policy interventions. What most don’t know, however, is that the strategic affairs and diplomacy experts at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), specialising in the East Asia and Indo-Pacific, have also been busy during this period pondering on how the post-Covid-19 geo-political dynamics emerges in that region, where the United States, China, Taiwan, Asean countries and Quad partners are increasingly appearing to be closing ranks. Additionally, the recent moves by India to collaborate further and deeper with the countries of that region gain significance, as New Delhi gets embroiled in an active conflict with Beijing at the Line of Actual Control.

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The “Notes Verbale Debate” on sovereignty in the South China Sea “reactivates” the PCA award

MalaysiaOn December 12th 2019, Malaysia submitted a new Note Verbale to the Commission on the Limits of Continental Shelf (CLCS) of the United Nations (UN) to assert its claim about extended continental shelf based on the final award issued by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) dated July 12th 2016. The PCA’s award concludes that China’s “nine-dash line” has no validity and no feature in the Spratly Islands generates any maritime entitlements. Through its Note Verbale on the extended continental shelf, Malaysia has sparked the “Notes Verbale Debate” among claimants in the South China Sea sovereignty dispute.

It is called the “Debate of Notes Verbale” because after the Malaysian submission of Note Verbale to the UN, the Philippines, China, Vietnam, and recently Indonesia followed suit, either to object the Malaysian and related nations’ claims or to protect their national sovereignty, or both. Some states even submitted two or three Notes Verbale. Some submitted theirs in response to others’. This has been the second “Debate of Note Verbale” on the South China Sea since the 2000s.

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