It is most confusing for this state of affairs when the country continues to declare at every opportunioy that it has peaceful intentions and wants to co-exist peacefully with everyone, especially its neighbours.
The Economist: “FOR an emerging power that makes much of the peacefulness of its rise, China is engaged in what looks suspiciously like aggression on an alarming number of fronts. India says Chinese soldiers have set up camp 19km (12 miles) on its side of the “line of actual control” (LAC) that separates Ladakh in its state of Jammu & Kashmir from China, in the absence of an agreed border. Japan reports that Chinese maritime surveillance vessels are every day circling the disputed Senkaku or Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea. And on April 26th China demanded that the Philippines “withdraw all its nationals and facilities” from a number of islands and reefs in the South China Sea, where they have been, in some cases, for decades. In all these cases China can with some justification claim it is responding to provocation. That, however, is scant comfort to its increasingly anxious neighbours.
Of the three territorial disputes it is the rekindling of the one with India that comes most as a surprise. Two long sectors of the border are contested. In the east, China briefly occupied part of what is now the state of Arunachal Pradesh, south of Tibet, in a bloody punitive war in 1962. In the west, the Aksai Chin, a high plateau the size of Switzerland, is occupied by China but claimed by India as part of Ladakh. In both sectors, patrols from each side often stray into what the other sees as its territory. They do not, however, pitch tents, as China’s soldiers have in this incursion. It is the most serious confrontation on either end of the border since 1986. After that stand-off, the two countries agreed to set the quarrel to one side, in an endless negotiation on the demarcation of the LAC, as they concentrated on building trade and other ties. A drive a decade ago to reach a political settlement soon ran into the sand. But neither side has an interest in forcing the issue.
Now above all, when China is embroiled in the other disputes, and the region is tense because of North Korea’s erratic bellicosity, it seems incomprehensible that China should want to resurrect yet another squabble. China of course denies it has done anything of the kind, insisting its soldiers are on its side of the LAC. It may, however, feel provoked. Ajai Shukla, an Indian defence analyst, has pointed out that the Indian army has been undertaking what he calls its “third surge towards the Sino-Indian border”. The previous two were in the late 1950s—leading to the 1962 war—and in 1986, leading to the present stalemate. Now, once again, says Mr Shukla, India has been “thickening” its presence in Arunachal Pradesh and in Aksai Chin, with more soldiers, weaponry and infrastructure.
So China may feel India is exploiting both the inexperience of its new leaders who took over last November, and the pressure China is under on other fronts. It may harbour similar suspicions about Japan and its “provocations” over what China calls the Diaoyu islands. Its patrols near the islands were prompted by Japan’s ignoring its warnings not to “nationalise” three of the islands by buying them from their private owner last September.
More recently—in late April—ten Japanese boats carrying about 80 right-wing activists sailed towards the islands. And members of the cabinet of Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, angered China by visiting the Yasukuni shrine—where high-ranking war criminals are among the enshrined war-dead. Part of China’s response was to reiterate that the Diaoyus are one of its “core interests”—the issues, like Taiwan and Tibet, over which it might go to war. In a joint communiqué signed by Barack Obama in 2009, America and China promised to respect each other’s core interests.
The demand directed at the Philippines, that it withdraw from disputed islands, was also a reaction—to the Philippines’ taking its dispute with China to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea. China rightly points out that, although the law of the sea sets rules about the waters and exclusive economic zones around islands, it says nothing about sovereignty over them.
On that question, China seems intent on imposing its own view. In addition to verbal attacks on the Philippines, it this week started tourist cruises around the Paracel archipelago (Xisha in Chinese). This is still claimed by Vietnam, which was evicted by China from the islands in 1974. China’s rows with the Philippines and Vietnam have been the most active of its many disputes in the sea. But in late March it also antagonised Brunei and Malaysia, by sending a naval flotilla where those two nations have claims, at the southern tip of China’s expansive “nine-dashed line”, a vague cartographic claim dating from the 1930s.
Individually, China’s actions can be seen as pragmatic reactions to different pressures. But, taken together, they bring two dangers. First, they make China seem embarked on a concerted campaign to establish new “facts on the ground” (or water) to strengthen its position in future negotiations or conflicts. More likely, they show almost the opposite: that China’s foreign-policy chiefs lack the clout to impose a co-ordinated, calibrated response to coincidental provocations. Rather than picking off its adversaries one by one, China is taking them all on at once. The impression of an aggressive rising power is hard to shake off.”
via Banyan: Thunder out of China | The Economist.