War or Peace in the South China Sea?

Last week, Taiwan’s president Ma Ying-jeou made a visit to Itu Aba, a disputed island in the South China Sea. Itu Aba, also known in Chinese as “Taiping Island,” is under Taiwan’s control. Taiwan has recently finished upgrading a port and built a lighthouse. The island has an airstrip and a hospital.

MaYingjeouTaipingWhile Washington considers the visit “extremely unhelpful” to regional stability, many in China applaud it. The rational is that Taiwan shares China’s claims in the South China Sea. Since Taiwan is part of China, Ma’s assertion proves that the South China Sea is part of China’s territory.

On WeChat, China’s most popular social media site, people cited Ma’s speech on Itu Aba that Spratly Islands were originally discovered by their fore-bearers during the Han Dynasty (200 BC). At least during the Qing Emperor Kangxi’s time (around 1700), China had officially incorporated most islands and reefs into China’s coastal defense system.

After WWII, the U.S. sent Chiang Kai-shek-led Chinese troops to take over Itu Aba from the Japanese. In 1947, Chiang Kai-shek, China’s then president, issued maps with eleven dotted lines that included virtually all of the islands in the South China Sea. Continue reading

Will China Challenge U.S. Global Dominance?

Will China challenge U.S. global dominance? If you had asked me this question two years ago, I would have said “definitely NO.” But now, I am not so sure.

In an article “A Bigger, Bolder China in 2016,” Jeremy Page, Beijing-based Wall Street Journal reporter, wrote:

With Beijing holding the rotating presidency of the Group of 20 nations next year [2016], Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to press ahead with his drive to challenge U.S. dominance of the global financial and security order.

South-China-SeaPage listed a number of issues: the South China Sea, cybersecurity attacks, Taiwan, and Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). None are new, but any one of them could potentially spin out of control and result in more tension between the U.S. and China.

In the case of the South China Sea, China hasn’t stopped the constructions on the disputed islands. Continue reading

Why Washington Should Embrace Beijing’s “New Type of Major-power Relationship”

At last week’s APEC summit in Manila, President Barack Obama sharply criticized China for building artificial islands in the disputed waters of the South China Sea. But instead of calling out China, Obama should have taken the opportunity to reconsider Chinese President Xi Jinping’s proposal for a “new type of major-power relationship.”

ApecObamaThe Obama administration was concerned when Xi first raised this concept in 2012 when he was still China’s vice president. Does that mean that China expects to share power equally with the United States? What signal would that send to U.S. allies?

In his 2013 meeting with Obama, Xi Jinping defined the “new type of major-power relationship” as “no confrontation, mutual respect, and win-win cooperation.” This proposition marks a break away from the zero-sum game mentality, and serves American interests as well as the interests of the world.

However, all Xi Jinping’s benevolent messages such as “win-win,” “shared future,” and “interdependence” are falling on deaf ears. Americans tend to view anything the Chinese say with suspicion, perhaps for good reason. China has repeatedly claimed that it will never pursue hegemony. Yet, the Communist Party itself is the hegemon within China. Beijing has a lot of work to do in order to convince the international community that it would behave differently on the world stage.

For the U.S., however, embracing the “new type of major-power relationship” does not diminish American leadership, nor does it mean that the U.S. needs to share power with China equally.

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