The South China Sea issue has attracted much attention and media coverage. As the waters of the South China Sea dispute have been so muddied up by tension, it is highly necessary to help those who are interested in the maintenance of peace and stability in the South China Sea to get the facts and essence of the matter straight.
It is important to note that China enjoys sovereignty over the South China Sea Island (the Xisha, Nansha, Zhongsha and Dongsha Islands) and the adjacent waters since ancient times and consistently maintained its position in the South China Sea dispute, which is safeguarding national territorial integrity and maintaining regional peace and tranquility. China has been firmly committed to resolving disputes peacefully through friendly consultations and negotiations with countries directly concerned.
Since the late 1990s, China has proactively engaged with some of the ASEAN parties, through bilateral consultation, to resolve sovereignty disputes over islands in order to maintain peace and stability in the region.
It is just natural that disputes might exist between neighbors. What is important is how to resolve those disputes.
China has had rich practices in successfully settling boundary, territorial and maritime disputes through negotiations. China’s 14 land neighbors all have vastly different national conditions. On the basis of respecting historical facts and international law and in the spirit of equality and mutual understanding,
China has conducted peaceful and friendly negotiations and consultations with these countries and has settled most of the boundary and territorial issues in an equitable and reasonable way. Records may show that China has so far successfully solved the boundary issues with 12 of its land neighbors, and delineated and demarcated 20,000 kilometers of boundary, which accounts for 90% of China’s total land boundary with neighbors. China’s position and practices are the same concerning maritime disputes, which came up at a relatively later time. For instance, in 2000, China and Vietnam equitably delineated the maritime boundary in the Beibu Gulf and, along with it, signed the Agreement on Fishery Cooperation in the Beibu Gulf. We see no reason why China should abandon such successful practices that it has upheld for long.
The above stated, clearly demonstrates how passionate the Chinese people are with resolving disputes with their neighbors, a stance which should be highly supported and commended by every peace-loving people and countries.
The core of the South China Sea issue rests with the territorial disputes on islands and reefs, and overlapping claims on maritime rights and interests in waters of the South China Sea, which are caused by the illegal occupation of some islands and reefs of China’s Nansha Islands by some coastal countries.
Formed in the long historic course, China’s sovereignty and relevant rights in the South China Sea have solid historic and legal basis, and have been upheld by successive Chinese governments.
However, ignoring the fact that China has excluded compulsory settlement proceedings in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), some other countries unilaterally initiated the South China Sea arbitration in January 2013 in an attempt to deny China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests. It abused the arbitration procedures in order to use the UNCLOS as a pretext to negate the obligation under the UN Charter to respect sovereignty and territorial integrity of countries. The claims in essence are about territorial sovereignty and maritime delimitation, which are not subject to UNCLOS. In this regard, the UNCLOS is not the “constitution” for addressing territorial and maritime issues. As a matter of fact, the acts of the Arbitral Tribunal have contradicted its purpose of peaceful settlement of international disputes and affected the stability of regional and international maritime order.
Negotiation and consultation represent the right way forward to resolve the south China issue. The basic guidelines for China’s neighboring diplomacy is to build good-neighborly relations with and bringing harmony, security and prosperity to neighboring countries, and concentrate on the concept of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness. This conforms to the traditional Chinese culture, and is the strategic option of China. As a coastal country of the South China Sea, China has always been a staunch force for maintaining peace, stability and promoting cooperation and development. China is the last country that hopes to see any turbulence in its neighborhood, including in the South China Sea.
Proceeding from the overall interests of safeguarding regional peace, stability and prosperity, and on the basis of respecting historic facts and international laws, the Chinese side has always adhered to resolving relevant disputes with sovereign states directly concerned, through consultations and negotiations. This has been the consistent position of the Chinese side, and conforms to the consensus that China and ASEAN countries reached in the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DoC).
In September 2013, China and ASEAN countries held the Sixth Senior Officials’ Meeting and Ninth Joint Working Group Meeting on the Implementation of the DoC in China. All parties exchanged views on the full and effective implementation of the DoC and enhancement of maritime cooperation. Consultations on the Code of Conduct (CoC) were also held under the framework of implementing the DoC. The Tenth Joint Working Group Meeting on the implementation of the DoC held in Singapore by China and ASEAN countries scored progress in the CoC consultation process.
China is Africa’s biggest trading partner, thus any crisis that engulfed China will have a negative adverse effect on Africa’s economy. The Chinese “Wild Geese” concept has remained a major growth factor helping to strengthen the weak economic trajectory of most African countries, Liberia being of no exception. China for example, has been a great help to Liberia in every aspect of its rebuilding efforts. It must be pointed out here that any dispute that will have a negative effect on China will in return injure our fragile economy. Currently, China provides substantial amount of assistance to Africa in general, through the FOCAC arrangement, which include; completed projects, goods and materials, technical cooperation, human resource development cooperation, medical assistance, emergency humanitarian aid, volunteer programs, and debt relief. China’s assistance to Africa covers a wide range of fields, such as agriculture, education, transportation, energy, communications, and health. For instance, China has provided almost 900 aid projects to African countries, including assistance supporting textile factories, hydropower stations, stadiums, hospitals, schools, etc. It is the hope and anticipation of this article that an amicable solution to resolving the South China Sea dispute be reached within the true spirit of peace, stability and mutual coexistence.
To conclude, let me state that the Chinese side has always stayed committed to implementing the DoC together with parties concerned to safeguard peace and stability of the South China Sea, to resolve relevant disputes through negotiations and consultations with parties directly concerned, and has been upholding the proposition of “shelving disputes and seeking joint development”. China has proposed a series of measures that aim to promote maritime cooperation. For example, in November 2011, the Chinese side set up the China-ASEAN Maritime Cooperation fund with RMB 3 billion, with the aim of promoting maritime cooperation between China and ASEAN countries in the fields of environmental protection on the sea, maritime science and technology, maritime connectivity, safety of navigation and rescue, as well as combating transnational crimes, and etc. Also in May 2013, China and relevant ASEAN countries announced the initiative of the establishment of China-ASEAN maritime emergency rescue hot-line. China and relevant ASEAN countries are in close communication on the approach to properly handle the South China Sea issue. Positive progress has been achieved in maritime issue consultations and mutually beneficial cooperation. As all parties earnestly implement relevant consensus, adhere to consultations and negotiations, promote practical maritime cooperation and joint development, the South China Sea will become a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation. All these measures on the part of the Chinese side clearly demonstrates the willingness of Chinese in resolving the disputes that has engulfed the Region and in return has had a negative impact on the African economy. We call on all parties to the dispute to see peaceful negotiation as the best option to resolving this dispute.
Once again, we call on all parties to see negotiation and peaceful settlement as the appropriate means of bringing to an end the territorial dispute in the South China Sea.