The publication has been automatically translated. If you want to read texts translated professionally, please make a donation and help us develop the institute.
American-Chinese relations have become so complex that they elude the existing schemes and lack a good terminology to define them. The scale and extent of the confrontation as well as the degree of mutual connections clearly distinguish current events from the Cold War or the rivalry of the great powers of the past. Professor Zheng Yongnian from Singapore pointed out that three fields of the current conflict can be distinguished: first, the trade war fought by President Trump, the technological war led by Congress, and finally “Cold War 2.0” promoted by the Pentagon and some American analysts and publicists. All three complement each other and form part of the National Security Strategy announced in December 2017, defining China as the main challenge for the security and position of the United States. In turn, the Chinese researcher Chen Xiangmiao recently proposed the term “cold confrontation”, although only in relation to the South China Sea.
A strategic point on the map
Why has this reservoir become so important in the politics of the great powers? As a reminder, the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan), Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia are in dispute over the affiliation of the Spratly and Paracel Islands and several other reefs and atolls. All these countries are involved in economic factors, i.e. control over oil, gas and fisheries, as well as a sense of national pride and prestige. In the case of China, two factors have to be taken into account. The first is control over commercial shipping routes, which account for 60% of Chinese exports and 80% of oil imports. The South China Sea also creates a “strategic depth”, allowing for more effective defense of the southern coast of China, including the island of Hainan, where the base of atomic ships with ballistic missiles and a modern spaceport are located.
China-USA: competition in the South China Sea
For these reasons, over the past ten years, Beijing has intensified a very assertive policy in disputed waters, increased diplomatic and economic pressure on other claiming countries (primarily the Philippines and Vietnam). The next measure is the construction of artificial islands with wharves, airports and military installations. These facilities allow China to effectively extend control over the entire disputed area.
Washington drew attention to the South China Sea in the mid-1990s, but more visible actions were taken only during the presidency of Barack Obama. American actions lacked consistency and resolve. China diligently used it, efficiently realizing its goals and trying to undermine the confidence of the region’s states in the USA. Events have gained momentum after the election of Donald Trump. Even before the new cabinet was sworn in, future Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that China should be blocked from accessing the artificial islands they build. The official newspaper body of the CCP “People’s Daily” called this statement “word bombs”.
It is impossible to wipe out China from artificial islands without military action, so the US decided to demonstrate power. At the beginning, the intensity of operations of freedom of navigation (FONOP) was increased, and then exercises with allies in the waters of the South China Sea. At the turn of March and April this year, the United States conducted the annual “Balikatan” maneuvers together with the Philippines. They were important for several reasons. The Philippine phrase of Filipino certainly did not meet the expectations of President Duterte, hence the return to closer relations in the sphere of security from the US. Somewhat encouraged by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during his visit to Manila, he announced that the United States would defend the Philippines if they were attacked by China. The US-Philippine Mutual Defense Agreement from 1951 is to be renegotiated. Significantly, the main object of “Balikatan 2019” was apparently the landing on the islands occupied by China. A month later, the United States and the Philippines carried out joint maneuvers with India and Japan in the South China Sea.
The “old powers” also increased their activity in the region. The United Kingdom announces that an aircraft carrier will be sent to South East Asia in the coming years. The British, the French, and the Australians began to regularly carry out their own FONOP. The Americans and allies have also intensified flights over the South China Sea. There were even opinions that Germany could join this group as well.
The Pentagon’s strategy for the Indo-Pacific region, which has been crystallizing since Obama, was announced on June 1 by Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan at the Shangri-La Dialogue Singapore conference. There was no surprise. China has been described as a revisionist power, striving in the short term for hegemony in the region and, in the long term, a global primacy. The Pentagon has calculated all the sins of Beijing, announced the continuation of FONOP and cooperation with regional allies. At the same time, Shanahan’s speech, although critical, was subdued. It is even rated as an olive branch drawn towards Beijing. However, according to unconfirmed reports in the corridors of the conference, Shanahan was supposed to hand over to China’s defense minister, Wei Fenghe, photos of the North Korean ships carried out in the waters of China. Such operations are a clear violation of the UN embargo.
If the Americans wanted to upset the Chinese delegation, they managed to achieve the goal. Wei’s speech was in sharp contact with the speech of the US secretary of defense. Some commentators even stated that China is aiming to change Shangri-La Dialogue in Shangri-La Monologue. Wei decidedly and sharply, almost arrogantly, rejected all charges against Beijing. Moreover, he presented the Tiananmen massacre and the persecution of the Uyghurs as legitimate and even beneficial actions. David Capie from the Australian University of Victoria described Wei’s speech as the speech of “the Minister of State of a certain position in the region,” although other states do not necessarily think so.
US operations are also beginning to take on a non-military character. A major problem in the South China Sea is China’s use of numerous paramilitary formations, from coast guards to sea militias. This enables Beijing to freely graduate from the pressure and conduct activities in the “gray zone”, which reduces the risk of escalation. The inclusion of the coast guard in the People’s Armed Police in 2018 gave another advantage in the form of better coordination of activities with the militias and the navy. For several years, there have been voices that the best response to such actions would be not sending more destroyers under FONOP and referring to disputed waters of the US Coast Guard.
The demands were partly met this spring, when USTB Bertholf was directed to Sasebo in Japan. The task of the cutter was to supervise the embargo on North Korea, however, along with the destroyers of the US Navy, they would sail through the Taiwan Strait twice. According to some analysts, this could have been attempts to create mixed navy teams and coast guards. The possibility of the emergence of such groups, or the start of independent operations in the South China Sea by the US Coast Guard is taken in China with concern. This would mean a more even control over the escalation ladder, thus increasing the pressure on Beijing.
“South China Sea and East China Sea Sanctions Act”
Interesting events are also taking place in Congress. Senators Mark Rubio (Republican) and Ben Cardin (Democrat) introduced the “South China Sea and East China Sea Sanctions Act” to the senate. The bill provides for sanctions for individual citizens of the PRC and Chinese companies involved in the construction of artificial islands and their facilities, as well as in “illegal and dangerous” activities undertaken by China in the areas of the East China Sea, claimed by Japan and South Korea. If the law came into force, the state department would be obliged to submit to the Congress every six months a list of persons and enterprises involved in such activities. The proposed sanctions include the withdrawal or refusal of visas to the USA.
“South China Sea and East China Sea Sanctions Act” is not new. It appeared for the first time in 2017, but it did not leave the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. Currently, the bill enjoys the growing support of senators and congressmen from both parties. The Chinese Foreign Ministry has criticized the draft laws stating that it violates the “basic norms of international law”. He also called for “not introducing new disturbances in the Sino-American relationship”.
China, the USA, and the countries of Southeast Asia
In fact, the American engagement in the South China Sea should be seen in the context of not the dispute between China and the countries of South East Asia, and as part of Washington’s wider response to the challenge of Beijing. The current situation is the sum of the mistakes made by both parties over the last twenty years. The US’s lack of reaction to the first actions drastically emboldened Beijing and encouraged Chinese decision-makers to abandon the strategy of “avoiding and achieving goals with small steps” recommended by Deng Xiaoping. The concentration of the attention of the United States in the Middle East had very far-reaching consequences. China gained great freedom of action in its immediate vicinity, which made it possible to make the South China Sea an important element of nationalist propaganda and the CCP’s built narrative of the “Great Rebirth of the Chinese Nation” and a rematch for the colonial period. Thus, any concession or defeat in disputed waters means Beijing’s loss of face and undermining the mandate to exercise power.
American decision makers are probably very well aware of this and carefully differentiating the pressure exerted on China. It is worth noting that the diplomatic appearance of Shanahan in Singapore occurred shortly after the breakdown of trade negotiations. The game between the US and the PRC is currently at the highest rate. For this reason, what one party considers a good compromise for the other is unacceptable, and as demonstrated by the Economist in a trade conflict, both countries make the decisions that hurt the opponent and themselves the most. The South China Sea may, however, be more dangerous than a trade war. With the increase in the number of countries sending their ships into this inflammatory region, the risk of escalation and the situation getting out of control increases. The countries of the region perfectly feel the thickening atmosphere. Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has asked several times over the past few months that the United States and China would not force smaller states to choose and party on one side.
The publication was created thanks to the financial support of the CSPA.
North Korea is considered as a secretive state, but, paradoxically, the country is developing last trend technologies. With prohibitions restricting the flow of money, the country is turning to bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to finance their programs, instead of coming under new pressure.Nicolas Levi
Interview of Ewelina Horoszkiewicz with prof. Chiwen Jevons Lee on China on globalization of Chinese business education and his thoughts of China’s role in the global marketplace.Ewelina Horoszkiewicz
The aim of the paper is to discuss the role of the ASEAN as a critical component of the solution to the Korean unification. The Korean Unification refers to the potential reunification of both Koreas into a single sovereign Korean state led by the leadership of the two Koreas.Nicolas Levi
With China one of the key players in the global supply chain, supplying major manufacturing companies with commodities, components and final products, the recent emerging outbreak of Coronavirus provides for a number of organizational as well as legal challenges.
In the first part of this analysis of Ulaanbaatar’s winning 2040 General Development Plan Conception (GDPC) I look into the historical preconditions for the city’s planned development as well as present the legislative climate in which works on Ulaanbaatar’s future development strategies have recently found themselves.Paweł Szczap
This is the second part of an inquiry into Ulaanbaatar’s winning 2040 General Development Plan Conception (GDPC). In this part of paper, I look into some of the plans and/or solutions proposed in Ulaanbaatar’s 2040 GDPC.Paweł Szczap
We want the Boym Institute to become a valuable platform of exchanging views, making valuable acquaintances and, above all, deepening knowledge. Therefore, we undertake the organization of many events: debates, lectures, and conferences.
Ms. Łucja Drabczak - A Polish woman born in Harbin, she spent her childhood in China. She returned to Poland at the age of 10. She is the author of the book 'China... Memories from my childhood'. She contacted us to convey special family memories related to leaving Manchuria in 1949.
We would like to inform, that Financial Intelligence has published interview for Balkan Development Support with Patrycja Pendrakowska.
Book review of "GDR International Development Policy Involvement. Doctrine and Strategies between Illusions and Reality 1960-1990, The example (South) Africa", written by Ulrich van der Heyden and published by Lit Verlag in 2013.Nicolas Levi
Interview with Nandan Unnikrishnan, who has served for many years as a correspondent for Indian media in Russia. Currently he is a research fellow at the Observer Research Foundation in Delhi. The interview was conducted during the Raisina Dialogue 2019 in Delhi.Krzysztof Zalewski
Book review of "Unveiling the North Korean economy", written by Kim Byung-yeon and published by Cambridge University Press in 2016.B. Tauris in 2017.Nicolas Levi
The Adam Institute invites you to join us for a new engaging course, tailored to participants from Poland, taught on ZOOM.
Interview with Michał Wójcik - Director of the Department of International Cooperation of the Ministry of Marine Economy and Inland Navigation (DWM MGMiŻŚ). In the Ministry, he is leading the Coordinating Secretariat for Maritime Issues , monitoring the cooperation of Central and Eastern European States with China.Krzysztof Zalewski
Interview with Uki Maroshek-Klarman - Academic Director of the Adam Institute for Democracy and Peace in Israel. Founder of "Betzavta" method, which was created with intention of streghtening people's participation in society and making conflicts easier to solve.Patrycja Pendrakowska
Book review of "Europe – North Korea. Between Humanitarianism And Business?", written by Myung-Kyu Park, Bernhard Seliger, Sung-Jo Park (Eds.) and published by Lit Verlag in 2010.Nicolas Levi
A short note and photo gallery from the chairman of the Board of the Boym Institute, who stays in Rwanda at the "Kigali Global Dialogue" conference.
The number of confirmed executions and frequent disappearances of politicians remind us that in North Korea the rules of social Darwinism apply. Any attempt to limit Kim Jong-un's power may be considered hostile and ruthless.Roman Husarski
As the awareness of the scale and pervasiveness of climate impacts on human societies keeps rising, so does the frequency with which the terms “climate refugees” and “climate migrants” are being used in the public discourse “to describe those who are being displaced due to adverse consequences related to climate change” (Atapattu, 2020).Dawid Juraszek
Democracy in Israel is in crisis. And if we don't educate for democracy, it just won't exist. It's that simple. The actual teaching of democracy, on the other hand, isn't so simple. It requires experience, theoretical and practical knowledge and the flexibility to adapt to our ever-changing reality.
We would like to inform, that Observer Research Foundation has published article of Krzysztof Zalewski - the Boym Institute Analyst, Chairman of the Board and Editor of the “Tydzień w Azji” weekly.Krzysztof Zalewski
The Chinese Influence Campaign can allegedly play a dangerous role at certain Central European universities, as stated in the article ‘Countering China’s Influence Campaigns at European Universities’, (...) However, the text does ignore Poland, the country with the largest number of universities and students in the region. And we argue, the situation is much more complex.Patrycja Pendrakowska
We cordially invite you to a workshop session “Liberalism vs authoritarianism: political ideas in Singapore and China”. The workshop is organized by Patrycja Pendrakowska and Maria Kądzielska at the Department of Philosophy, University of Warsaw on ZOOM.
We would like to inform, that Observer Research Foundation has published article of Patrycja Pendrakowska - the Boym Institute Analyst and President of the Board.Patrycja Pendrakowska