Tuesday, May 26, 2015

President Ma proposes South China Sea peace initiative to collective yawn

Most of the time the losers just leave their trash behind on the table...

Taiwan Today has the skinny...
President Ma Ying-jeou unveiled May 26 his South China Sea Peace Initiative, calling on all countries and territories in the region to employ it in resolving disputes and developing resources.

“In view of rising tensions in this region, the ROC, drawing on its successful peacemaking experiences in the East China Sea, solemnly pledges to take the lead in advancing peace and prosperity through this initiative,” Ma said.

“Whether from the perspective of history, geography or international law, the Dongsha [Pratas], Nansha [Spratly], Shisha [Paracel] and Zhongsha [Macclesfield Bank], as well as their surrounding waters, are an indisputable part of ROC territory. The nation holds full rights over them in accordance with international law.”
Ma remains the Chinese nationalist ideologue, even as his administration enters its twilight. The idea of "peaceful development" is of course territorial expansion by other means -- since these islands and sand banks were never Chinese, it follows that any "shared" development is handing China resources it doesn't own.

Bill Hayton shows how China has warped the historiography of the South China Sea in an excellent piece in the Asia Sentinel.

Ma's "peace initiative" comes as the US was challenged by Chinese as its aircraft overflew the area. The Chinese are attempting to claim nearly the entire South China Sea as if it were its own local waters, and will likely impose an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the area, more salami slicing extension of sovereignty.

What China is doing is trying to turn its bogus EEZ, created by island building, into territorial waters. Even within EEZ every nation has right of passage. The only limitation is on who has the right to exploit the resources within the EEZ. Activities, including scientific exploration, laying communications cables, even military exercises, are all legal inside the EEZ and outside of a state's territorial waters (the 12 nautical mile limit). As a friend noted "It's just Beijing making us think that EEZ and territorial waters is the same."

The SCS drama makes it clear what would happen if China ever annexed Taiwan: more extension of its "sovereignty" out toward the Japanese islands to the east, Okinawa to the north of the Senkakus, and south towards Batan Island north of the Philippines.

It was rather widely reported that a Chinese paper said "China threatens war over South China Sea!" That was the Global Times, which apparently does that a lot. Please ignore...
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les said...

This needs to be one of Tsai Yingwen's first tasks as President. Step away from these stupid ROC claims ASAP, let the Chinese wear the black hat alone.

Anonymous said...

Agree with you 100%, Les.

Tommy said...

"What China is doing is trying to turn its bogus EEZ, created by island building, into territorial waters." I know this is an unintentional mischaracterization on your part, but I will point it out anyway. China's bogus EEZ based on bogus territorial claims existed before the islets were being reclaimed. The difference is that, under Xi, China is attempting to turn its bogus claims into a reality on the ground (water).

Personally, I think this is stupid. It makes no sense to invite trouble with the US now over some questionable real estate and questionable marine resources. There is no way that the US will stop using the entire sea and turn its entire military strategy on a dime just because China thinks it has a point to make. And there is no reason why the rest of Asia has to play along either. Meanwhile, propaganda is not going in China's favor. Every day brings a new story about a slowing Chinese economy and a recovering American one. The US Navy may be slowly shrinking, but that can be reversed if enough people want it to happen, and every day China plays the fool makes it more likely it will.

Remember all that talk about a flash Chinese attack of Taiwan, which the US would be too dumbfounded and divided to intervene over? How much sense does it make to gradually piss off most Washington observers so that they start paying attention to your shenanigans. Less division, more resources to Asia, harder to attack suddenly. Yep, keep it up Xi Jinping!

Ben Goren said...

Absolutely agree with Les. Note how everyone criticised Chen for his Taiping Island stunt but no-one has gone after Ma in even remotely the same way for reviving claim to Senkakus and sovereignty over entire PRC. It will be hard for Tsai to pull out of Taiping but what she can do is a) categorically refute 11 dash line & then seek constitutional amendment defining Taiwan (ROC) as TPKM + Taiping Island (including a referendum for Kinmen and Matsu on choice of rejoining the PRC). That would then counteract KMT claims that the ROC Constitution includes all of China (which it doesn't state). Note that it's no good asking for a constitutional interpretation from Grand Justices because a) it's been tried before and they passed the buck & b) it's stacked it Ma appointees who will likely resolutely block the move instead of passing it to another body e.g. Legislature.

The referendum question would be tricky and in 2 stages though:
1. For K&M "Do you wish to exit the ROC and fully join the PRC?"
2. If K&M vote Yes - "Do you agree that the Taiwan (ROC's) constitution should define the nation's sovereign territory as including Taiwan, Penghu, Green Island, Orchid Island, and Taiping island, and extends due west no further than the median line of the Taiwan Strait?"
If No - "Do you agree that the Taiwan (ROC's) constitution should define the nation's sovereign territory as including Taiwan (ROC's) sovereign territory includes Taiwan, Penghu, Green Island, Orchid Island, Taiping Island, Matsu, and Kinmen?"

les said...

Interesting idea Ben, and a great dilemma for the Chinese. Throw a bitch-fit because a direct democratic process will decide whether the territory becomes the PRC's, or wet yourself in excitement over the prospect of getting the islands without any bloodshed?

Ben Goren said...


Yep ... and it would be delicious irony. If they voted YES then the would be democratically voting for an end to direct democratic representation and voting ... they would also be voting YES for an end to visa free travel privileges they enjoyed as holders of the Taiwan (ROC) Passport, voting for inclusion behind the Great Firewall of China and internet censorship, voting for an end to membership of the KMT, DPP and all Taiwan political parties, and of course voting for autocratic policing.

If they voted No it would be a clear instance of 'ethnic Chinese' voting against being part of China on islands less than a few KMs from the Mainland. It would be a symbolic and unbearable slap in the face. It would say "we had the choice of rejoining the 'motherland' but we decided that wasn't the kind of China we Chinese wanted to be part of"

Naturally then, we would see KMT legislators and local politicians campaign hard for a NO vote to preserve their status and privileges which in turn would drive a wedge between the KMT and CCP. We would likely also see the CCP try its hardest to fix the vote so the outcome was YES all the while pretending that being part of China is not a matter that is open to a popular vote anywhere within the Empire.

Here's another idea. If Tsai wins, she should sign a mil-mil CBM measure with the US to periodically or in emergency make use of Taiping Island as a refuelling and joint exercise base so the US to help maintain 'peace and stability in the SCS'. This would cause such an immediate reaction from the PRC that it would utterly expose how Ma's claims to the SCS were just a way to please the PRC rather than 'protect the nation's sovereignty / interests' etc After all, if ROC use & expansion of military facilities of Taiping island under Ma wasn't a problem for the PRC then why is it a problem under a Tsai government?

les said...

All good points Ben. KMT will do everything in it's power to prevent a referendum if possible as they hate direct democracy and hate even more to lose. If it's unavoidable they will seek (as always) to load the questions in their favor or make the questions unintelligible to lay people. Failing that, they will call for a boycott and then call old friend White Wolf to scare people away from the polling stations.

les said...