Despite the bombastic remarks by some U.S. generals, China is not qualified to take the blame of militarizing and risking free navigation in the South China Sea. Another country is much more qualified.
First of all, it is crucial to understand that as a country heavily dependent on this important waterway, China is the last country in the world to wish for turbulence in South China Sea. In words and in practice, the country has been actively pushing for a peaceful environment in the region, constantly promoting talks to resolve disputes.
While many issues have yet to be addressed, for a very long time the South China Sea has been quite peaceful, especially when compared with the bloody conflicts in other parts of the world. Moreover, there has never been any problem with free navigation. Only minor incidents, such as disputes over fishing rights, occur.
That valuable peace, long enjoyed by countries in the region, has been threatened in recent years by the frequent emergence of warships. Warships from countries not originating in this region.
These warships are sailed in the South China Sea under the high-sounding name of upholding free navigation. Yet their arrival has only brought more turbulence to the peace and free navigation of the South China Sea. They have undoubtedly brought a tangible element of tension.
If somebody has to take the blame of militarizing the South China Sea, the generals and politicians behind those warships are worth considering.
As there hasn’t been any problem with free navigation and countries in this region inherently do not like war, what are these ships here for?
The frequently cited reasons for the show of force, which include island building by China and other countries in this region and China putting military facilities on islands it controls, are not tenable.
Island building by countries in this area has been going on for years and China is only a latecomer to the frenzy. While there may be different views about such a race, it hasn’ t caused any notable conflicts so far.
For thousands of years, countries in this region have co-existed peacefully and developed their own way of associating with each other, all cherishing peace and harmony above strife. Major conflicts between countries are rare or non-existent at all.
The intervention of an outsider, although under a noble pretext, has complicated the issue and may lead the situation in an undesired direction.
The building of military facilities on islands under China’s control and in Chinese territory, is certainly a matter not worth alarm. Any normal country would do this, no permission required. The close-up surveillance of Chinese islands by foreign warships only creates more reasons to beef up defense capabilities.
As a region featuring the most dynamic economic growth in the world, Asia has assumed an increasingly important role. Attaching more attention to Asia is a wise and laudable decision, whether in the name of a “strategic rebalance to the Asia Pacific” or something else. But Asian countries want this “rebalance” to bring more prosperity, not conflict and war.
As for countries in this region, it’s best they take the helm of local issues firmly in their own hands. The reason is obvious: Only they themselves know what they are truly after, only they know what’ s in their best interests and only they truly care for their own interests.
There have been enough lessons for that, notably the disasters in the Middle East, which have not only caused misery for locals, but also weighed down many countries in other parts of the world.
Tian Sulei is a writer for Xinhua.