Is­land con­struc­tion will con­tinue as planned

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE -

China’s For­eignMin­istry Spokesper­son Lu Kang on Tues­day con­firmed that the coun­try will “soon” com­plete the land recla­ma­tion projects un­der­way in theNan­sha Is­lands in the South China Sea “as planned”. The an­nounce­ment, how­ever, has been mis­in­ter­preted by someWestern media out­lets as a con­ces­sion to theUnited States, which has been pres­sur­ing China to stop its recla­ma­tion and con­struc­tion ac­tiv­i­ties in the South China Sea. Such a mis­read­ing not only un­der­es­ti­mates Bei­jing’s staunch de­ter­mi­na­tion to pro­tect its le­gal in­ter­ests and mar­itime sovereignty, but also dis­torts the re­al­ity of China’s en­deav­ors.

China be­gan work­ing on the is­lands in­Novem­ber 2013, and the planned recla­ma­tion projects are near­ing com­ple­tion. But, as Lu said, once the land recla­ma­tion ac­tiv­i­ties are com­plete, work will be­gin on con­struct­ing fa­cil­i­ties that can ful­fill the rel­e­vant func­tions.

The Chi­nese gov­ern­ment is clearly will­ing to con­duct its law­ful land recla­ma­tion and con­struc­tion in a trans­par­ent and co­op­er­a­tive man­ner.

In re­sponse to the con­cerns ex­pressed by theUnited States, Ja­pan, and the Philip­pines, China has re­peat­edly stated the recla­ma­tion and con­struc­tion work are aimed at meet­ing mul­ti­ple civil­ian de­mands, im­prov­ing liv­ing con­di­tions of peo­ple sta­tioned in the is­lands area, and en­abling the coun­try to bet­ter shoul­der its in­ter­na­tional obli­ga­tions and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

How­ever, these coun­tries have to­tally dis­torted Bei­jing’s peace­ful in­ten­tions and in­ten­si­fied ten­sions in the South China Sea by claim­ing the work is part of Chi­nese at­tempt to “mil­i­ta­rize”the South China Sea. Ac­tu­ally China is last one of con­tend­ing claimants in the South China Sea to con­duct land recla­ma­tion.

The work, which is law­ful, rea­son­able and jus­ti­fied, will ben­e­fit nec­es­sary mil­i­tary de­fense, but, as China has re­it­er­ated over the past months, it will pri­mar­ily serve mar­itime search and res­cue ef­forts, dis­as­ter preven­tion and mit­i­ga­tion, marine sci­en­tific re­search, eco­log­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment con­ser­va­tion, and fish­ery pro­tec­tion. Even theUS has been in­vited to use the Chi­nese fa­cil­i­ties for search and res­cue pur­poses when they are fin­ished.

As well as boost­ing re­gional co­op­er­a­tion and en­sur­ing sound nav­i­ga­tion, the recla­ma­tion and con­struc­tion projects will play an im­por­tant role in se­cur­ing the coun­try’s mar­itime sovereignty and en­su­ing mar­itime rights China has been long com­mit­ted to in the area. Thus, the con­struc­tion projects will con­tinue and fin­ish as planned, ir­re­spec­tive of the pres­sure and threats from other coun­tries.

In all like­li­hood, op­po­nents of China’s con­struc­tion on its own is­lands and reefs fear that China may use its ex­pand­ing pres­ence in the South China Sea to con­duct uni­lat­eral ac­tions in the ter­ri­to­rial dis­putes with its neigh­bors. But history would say oth­er­wise, be­cause China has long been known for main­tain­ing friendly re­la­tions and seek­ing mu­tual ben­e­fits with its neigh­bors. In par­tic­u­lar, the past two decades also tell us that the closer re­la­tions are, the more likely Asia is to pros­per and sus­tain peace.

Seen in this light, China’s con­struc­tion ac­tiv­i­ties in the South China Sea can be seen as part of the ef­forts to cre­ate an Asian com­mu­nity. The au­thor is ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Col­lab­o­ra­tive In­no­va­tion Cen­ter of South China Sea Stud­ies and pro­fes­sor of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions at Nan­jing Univer­sity.

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