The Rakyat Post interviews IEMS’ Barry Sautman and David Zweig on recent Chinese incursions into surrounding countries territorial waters

Published on: 2014-05-10


In a Rakyat Post article on recent conflicts between Vietnamese Coast Gaurd ships and Chinese commercial boats, IEMS’ Barry Sautman and David Zweig were asked for their commentary on the reasoning behind China’s increasing number of incursions into what heretofore has long been considered Vietnamese waters.

As Barry Sautman argued:

““I think that the Chinese government is trying to be assertive with regard to its claims about this or that little island in the South China or East China Seas in order to keep those claims alive,” said Barry Sautman, a specialist on Chinese politics at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST).

“Under international law… all states that have territorial disputes must periodically do something to show that they have an active interest in the territory in question,” he said.

“Whether this is politically beneficial to China is, of course, another matter,” he added.

Beijing has defended its actions as “completely reasonable, legal and justified”, arguing that the intended drilling location is close to the Paracel Islands.

China has controlled the archipelago since ousting South Vietnamese forces in 1974 but Hanoi still claims them.

Vietnam said Chinese boats have used water cannon and repeatedly collided with Hanoi’s patrol ships since May 3, injuring six people, while Beijing counters that “disruptive” Vietnamese vessels have rammed its ships 171 times,

The clash is only one of several maritime spats between China and its Asian neighbours, the most volatile of them with Japan over a small East China Sea island grouping called Diaoyu by Beijing and Senkaku by Tokyo.

In that dispute, a key Japanese argument is that until the 1970s, “there was a substantial period in which China didn’t show any interest” in the islands, Sautman said, and Beijing will want to avoid allowing that argument elsewhere.

“I think China is caught in between the requirements of politics and the requirements of law,” Sautman said.”

David Zweig also added:

““If I were an American, I’d say, ‘Thank you’, because it just makes everybody feel that China’s being aggressive,” said David Zweig, director of HKUST’s Centre on China’s Transnational Relations.

“It’s clear, there’s tension in all of this area and it wasn’t happening before China was stronger,” he added.”

Read the full article here.

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