Has China succeeded in implementing the "joint development" policy with its neighbor in the East Sea

SCSC - The Chinese media has ballyhooed the results of Chinese President Xi Jinping's and Premier Li Keqiang’s visits to some of the coastal countries in the East Sea and said that during these visits, China achieved the goal of promoting the implementation of "joint development" policy.

We shall analyze some of the recent developments around this issue to truly understand the situation.

During the visits to Malaysia and Indonesia in the beginning of October 2013, Mr Xi Jinping engaged these countries in supporting Chinese policy of "shelving the disputes and seeking joint development". However both of these countries have no signs of replying to the wishes of Mr. Xi Jinping. The two countries confirmed that the international law, particularly the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 should be observed in addressing the matters related to the East Sea, including the "joint development". Especially, not long after the visit of Premier Xi Jinping, Mr. Hishammuddin Tun Hussein, Malaysian Defence Minister stated that Malaysia would establish a naval base and a navy unit based in Bintulu in the East Sea to protect the surrounding areas and the oil fields. This naval base is only 60 nautical miles from James shoal, where China carried out military exercise in March 2013. This action of Malaysia is to respond to Chinese actions of pressuring Malaysia to collaborate for "joint development" in Malaysia's continental shelf recently.

According to the Chinese media, during Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's visit to Brunei, China and Brunei signed an MOU on maritime cooperation and an agreement on establishing an oil and gas service joint venture between the national oil and gas corporations of the two countries. However, Brunei has always confirmed that the oil and gas joint cooperation between China's and Brunei's corporations in the continental shelf of Brunei must comply with Brunei's laws. Therefore the maritime cooperation between Brunei and China is not the "joint development" that China wants.

The Joint Statement during Premier Li Keqiang's visit to Viet Nam also includes the establishment of a Working Group to discuss the "joint development" at sea in the framework of the governmental negotiation on Viet Nam - China boundary. According to China's press, this is Mr. Li Keqiang's success in promoting the "joint development" policy with Viet Nam. However, in reality, this is just a unilaterally over - exaggeration of China. After the visit of Premier Li Keqiang, Vietnamese authorities confirmed that the cooperation for development (which is what Viet Nam names the cooperation for the so called "joint exploitation" by China) can only be realized in the disputed areas in accordance with the international law and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982. This means, the newly established working group will be tasked to identify the disputed areas in compliance with the international law and this does not mean cooperation for development in Viet Nam's continental shelf, within the claim of nine - dotted line by China.

As for the Philippines, on 23rd October, 2013, Filipino Minister of Energy Jericho Pettila stated that Forum Energy PLC (a joint venture between the Philippines and the UK) and China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) had discussed an agreement on oil and gas exploration in the Reedbank of Spratly Island. However, on the same day, Filipino President Benigno Aquino III told foreign correspondents that any agreements with China must follow the Philippines' law; and the Reedbank at the Northwest of Palawan province belongs to the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Philippines. In March 2013, the Chinese ship prevented the exploration ships of the Philippines in the Reedbank in order to force the Philippines to accept the "joint development" with China in those areas; the Philippines sent two jet - fighters to that area, however the Chinese ship then went out of the area.

In reality, the coastal states in the East Sea do not approve the so called "joint development" as proposed by China because all countries are aware of China's plot to make the undisputed areas in the continental shelf become disputed ones. The Chinese media wanted to ballyhoo the results of the visits by Mr. Jinping and Mr Li to split ASEAN countries on the issue of the East Sea with a view to threatening, involving and putting pressure on other countries to realize the “joint development” under the form of “shaking the trees to intimidate the monkeys”. In addition, over - exaggeration of the outcomes of Xi and Li’s visits also aims at creating a good image for the new leadership in Beijing.