The following is a Huanqiu Shibao account of a guest article in the Philippines Daily Inquirer. The original article was published on June 5; Huanqiu Shibao followed on June 7 (local time).
Not every line of my translation (back into English) may be accurate, and Huanqiu’s account does not reflect the original Inquirer article in full. I have listed some of the major differences (as I seem them) as footnotes. I haven’t noted every difference in the terms chosen by the author of the original, and the Huanqiu translator/editor.
Summary: During the past few months, centering around the Philippine-Chinese dispute, there has been a lot of discussion from the Philippines’ perspective. The Philippine public also needs to understand the country they are dealing with. The claim Beijing makes on what they call the Huangyan Island is based on the belief that “China first discovered and named it, integrated it into its territory and exercised jurisdiction over it”.
Philippine Inquirer essay, June 5, original title: Understanding China
During the past few months, centering around the Philippine-Chinese dispute, there has been a lot of discussion from the Philippines’ perspective. The Philippine public also needs to understand the country they are dealing with. The claim Beijing makes on what they call the Huangyan Island is based on the belief that “China first discovered and named it, integrated it into its territory and exercised jurisdiction over it”. China sees it as part of its inherent territory, and, like Taiwan and Tibet, as belonging to its “core interests”. China also sees it as an indespensable part of the entire Zhongsha Islands [i. e. the Macclesfield Bank - JR]. As a key part [of it], “losing or winning it is believed to decide if you lose or win the entire archipelago”1). Therefore, China insists on its territorial claim, worrying that “by letting go an inch, a yard would be lost”2).
As can be seen from these factors, China’s room for negotiations is small. This means that the Philippines are demanded to respect Chinese sovereignty in this matter, or at least not to create anything that China would see as “tensions”. Otherwise, China could respond, in a sea standoff or in a deadlock in negotiations, and drag matters out as long as it takes.
In such deadlock, China will make use of its diplomatic, economic and military power. The action recently taken were seen as measures to avoid loss of “face”within the international community, and “trust” within among citizens at home.
In terms of diplomacy, China insists on resolving disputes by its own methods. The Philippines proposed to submit the dispute to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, which China has always opposed. From Beijing’s perspective, to settle disputes through multilateral channels carries political risks3). China likes bilateral channels, as this allows is asymmetric power advantage over the Philippines. China also draws on a huge amount of economic resources as means to defend its security interests. This includes sanctions on Philippine agricultural exports, and calling a halt to Chinese tourism on the Philippines. In this protracted standoff, it is to be expected that China uses the economy as a weapon as a veiled warning to its counterpart. Apart from that, China displays military power to warn the Philippines not to take provocative measures. China has dispatched warships from its huge modernized fleet, signalling that “China doesn’t want war, but absolutely doesn’t fear war”.
These methods have created negative effects. In the West, China is seen as an arrogant country which increases vanity by economic power on a daily basis. In Asia, China is seen as an empire making a comeback which regards its neighboring countries as tributary states. In the Philippines, China is basically seen as a “bully”4).
In fact, China’s behavior as a country is normal. Like other countries, China’s approach is based on safeguarding its own interests. To pursue its global interests, China applies enormous resources and power. This isn’t different from other countries5).
That China pursues its national interests is an unalterable truth. Hopefully, China won’t overbearingly use economic and military force. China’s threats and sanctions – without official acknowledgement, will only arouse and exacerbate tensions. If Beijing exercises restraint, the Philippines can trust China, negotiate, and hopefully arrive at a result which is acceptable to both sides.
(The author, Andrea Chloe Huang, is a senior fellow and translator at the Philippine Foreign Service Institute)
Copyrighted work, without authorization by “Huanqiu Shibao”, reprinting is strictly prohibited, offenders will be held liable.
(Editor in charge: Guo Wenjing)
1) The original’s explanation is more detailed than the Huanqiu translation:
China also views Scarborough Shoal as an indispensable element that could generate potential maritime zones as part of the whole Zhongsha Islands. It regards the shoal as a critical component, “the loss or gain of which is thought to determine the loss or gain of the whole island group.” Thus, China is steadfast in its claim, fearing that if it “gives up an inch, it would lose a yard.”
3)The argument that it would be illogical to submit a sovereign country’s territory to international arbitration is left out in Huanqiu’s translation:
It [China] has already objected to the Philippines’ proposition to elevate the dispute to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, arguing that it is illogical to submit a sovereign country’s territory to international arbitration.
4) One reader “liked” the original article by Thursday night. It doesn’t seem unlikely that the Huanqiu editor pushed the button, but a few lines simply go too far:
It is largely viewed as a “bully” bent on putting pressures on the Philippines to yield to its demands in a persistent attempt to consolidate its territories as if it were above international law.
Emphasis added – this is what is missing in Huanqiu’s account.
5) Also missing:
Ultimately, what the spat in Scarborough Shoal reveals is not simply the competition for overlapping territories and the validity of territorial claims. Essentially, it exposes a critical showdown of state behaviors, particularly so when China, as a major power, throws its weight around, and the Philippines, as a small power, struggles to put up a decent “fight” and stand its ground.