|Modernizing navy for self-defense|
|AuthorGong Jia… 文章CopyFromhttp://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2010-07/13/content_10097187.htm Hits567 UpdateTime2010-7-14  |
Updated: 2010-07-13 07:59
Reports in some foreign media outlets that Beijing considers South China Sea a part of its "core interests" have caused concern among some countries.
This has happened because they have grossly misunderstood China's actions. China is a large country with huge marine resources, but it does not have enough power to protect them.
It is strengthening its marine strategy and its navy to protect its core national interests and not to pose a threat to any country. The People's Republic of China has never infringed upon any country's marine rights. On the contrary, other countries have violated its marine rights and interests repeatedly.
History shows no country can be a great power without a strong naval force. And no country in modern times has faced greater threats from the sea as China. It is thus logical for it to develop and modernize its marine force.
China's sea-related problems are three-fold. First, China has very complicated and intractable problems with its waters-sharing neighbors. Longstanding disputes over China's core interests in the Yellow Sea, East China Sea, Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea come to the fore from time to time.
The subjects of these disputes range from sovereign control of islands to delimitation of exclusive economic zones. For example, the dispute over the South China Sea involves conflicting claims of several parties in the region and interference of outside powers.
Second, China has some inherent internal weaknesses and faces outside threats to its marine interests. Internally, the country is yet to build a sound naval force, and its ocean strategy lags far behind its economic and political strategies. Externally, it has lost valuable resources when other powers have seized its islands and exploited its waters. It faces threats to its sea lanes, too.
By misinterpreting the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and basing their actions on the so-called principles of "adjacency, prescription and security", some countries have violated its rights over islands, reefs and territorial waters.
Third, these disputes are seriously depleting China's strategic resources. For example, it is impossible to resolve the disputes over the South China Sea to the mutual benefit of all because of the huge differences in the political stances, sincerity and tactics of the other parties. China has to use an enormous part of its economic and diplomatic resources in its efforts to settle such issues with every country that has a stake in the region.
Seas have played a very important role in the development of a country. And their importance has multiplied manifold in the era of globalization. In order to secure its maritime resources, waterways and national security, a country has to defend its sea rights and interests.
The disputes over rights and interests in the East China Sea, Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea are the remnants of the history of invasions of China from across the seas and colonial rule. But China's claims are based fully on historical facts. Its territorial sovereignty, strategic resources and trade routes comprise its core interests, and like any other country China will never compromise them.
Rapid economic development and rising national strength have given China the chance to make it clear to the international community that it will never compromise its core interests.
By adding the South China Sea to its core interests, China has shown its determination to secure its maritime resources and strategic waters. Its South China Sea strategy should thus be seen as a move to make up for its past ignorance about sea power and not as an aggressive expansionist measure.
China's foreign policy has always depended on a "soft, gentle" approach, and it has practiced the doctrine of "setting aside disputes and working for joint development" of the seas with neighboring countries. Its new naval development strategy is a continuation of this approach and aimed exclusively at "offshore defense".
While securing its core interests, China will continue to cultivate friendly ties with neighbors, increase regional cooperation and seek common development. It has no intention of posing a threat to other countries. But it has to change its backward marine strategy to suit the changing times.
Its strategic initiatives should not be misunderstood by other countries - something that the West often does. The West, because of its tainted glasses, sees China's military modernization as military expansionism with potential strategic aggression.
What Western politicians and media do not understand is China's need to safeguard its security to ensure sound economic and social development. It's a matter of perspective that the West considers a dragon as a symbol of "evil" when in China it signifies "luck".
To safeguard its core interests, China should increase bilateral and multilateral exchanges with the countries that have a stake in the region, and actively publicize its commitment in building a "harmonious world". It should clarify its stance and eliminate fuzzy statements; hold all-round talks with other countries and strengthen political, economic and military mutual trust to help them understand that it is modernizing its navy for self-defense and is committed to traveling the road of peace to secure its core interests.
The author is an associate professor at the School of Politics and Public Administration, Guangdong Ocean University.
(China Daily 07/13/2010 page9
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