The statement of President Xi Jinping that China is incapable of hegemony or militarism does not jibe with its actions especially in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), an analyst said on Sunday.
International law expert Harry Roque Jr., a professor at the University of the Philippines, cited China’s naval modernization and its growing aggressiveness in disputed waters.
“They have written a defense policy that they will develop sea denial capability by 2020. They say they’re not hegemonic and yet they’re claiming territory that is not theirs,” Roque, also the director of the UP Law Center’s Institute of international Legal Studies, said.
Over the past months, China has asserted its claims to contested areas in the West Philippine Sea, forcing the Philippines to file a case at an international tribunal to contest Beijing’s nine-dash line policy. China refused to participate in the arbitration proceeding.
At the 5th Annual Meeting of the Japan Society of International Law at the Chuo University Law School in Tokyo last week, Roque said China’s refusal to participate in the arbitration and its unilateral acts in building artificial islands in the disputed maritime area of the Spratlys constitute a “serious breach” of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).
Xi said on Saturday that China is incapable of “hegemony or militarism,” after calling for stronger border defenses to avoid a repeat of past humiliations by foreign powers.
“Hegemony or militarism is not in the genes of the Chinese,” he noted in a speech commemorating the six-decade old establishment of a commitment to peaceful co-existence with India and Myanmar.
“China neither interferes in other countries’ internal affairs nor imposes its will on others,” Xi said. “It will never seek hegemony no matter how strong it may become.”
He spoke to an audience of Chinese officials, military officers and foreign diplomats in a cavernous room in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.
Myanmar President Thein Sein and Indian Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari, who also gave speeches, sat on stage as Xi spoke, as did Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and two other top ruling circle officials.
The speeches were part of commemorations for the 60th anniversary of a mutual peace vow by China, Myanmar and India.
Xi’s speech to an international audience contrasted with nationalistic remarks quoted by state media earlier in the day when he said China should bear in mind its history as a victim of foreign aggression and strengthen its frontier defenses on land and sea.
Those comments came at a “national meeting” held last Friday and also attended by Premier Li and Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, the official Xinhua news agency said.
The remarks underscored China’s resolve amid testy territorial disputes with neighboring nations that have accused Beijing of being increasingly aggressive in pressing its claims.
Xi told the Friday meeting that the country’s weakness in the past had allowed others to bully it, the report said.
“Foreign aggressors broke China’s land and sea defense for hundreds of times, plunging the Chinese nation into the abysm of calamity,” he said, again calling on the people “not to forget the history of humiliation and to build a strong frontier,” according to Xinhua.
“Xi urged China’s frontier defenders to meticulously monitor over and control the frontier and to mount actions to defend the country’s maritime right, while implementing an overall national security outlook.”
Tougher military stance
The comments are Xi’s latest pitches for a tougher military stance.
Since becoming China’s leader during a once-a-decade power transition that lasted from November 2012 until March 2013, Xi he has urged the country to turn its military into a force that can “win battles.”
Xi’s reference to frontiers comes as China is engaged in occasionally tense maritime disputes over territory with Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam.
On land, China has a long-standing dispute with India, with which it fought a brief, but bloody border war in 1962, just eight years after the peaceful co-existence pledge.
And Beijing has also blamed what it describes as foreign-based “religious extremists” for fomenting terrorism in its largely Muslim far-western region of Xinjiang, which borders Central Asia.
China’s Communist Party has for decades stressed that under its leadership that began in 1949, the country finally overcame more than a century of humiliation by outside powers dating back to the Opium Wars of the 19th century.
Under the last imperial Qing Dynasty, China also saw incursions by western powers and Japan that secured trade and legal concessions as well as control of territory seen in China as unfair.
JOEL M. SY EGCO AND AFP