FIRING LINE: China, a bully that lies about it

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By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

China, under Xi Jinping, is such a fake when she stands on the stage of world diplomacy. Last week, Xi addressed the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit and assured that Beijing would not resort to bullying its smaller neighbors in the region over maritime disputes, particularly in the South China Sea.

Our former Supreme Court associate justice, Antonio Carpio, made an educated call of Xi’s remarks as “doublespeak.” I beg to be less than tempered and state that the Chinese president just lied through his teeth. And so did Xi’s new ambassador to Washington, Qi Gang, who said China does not seek to overturn the existing international system.

What do you call last November 16’s display by Chinese Coast Guard ships, blocking and using water cannons on small Filipino civilian boats out to deliver supplies and provisions to the BRP Sierra Madre on Ayungin Shoal, which is well within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ)?

It was only after the incident attracted international condemnation that China pledged not to interfere with the resupply mission. But even then, the second resupply mission by the same civilian vessels was harassed by the Chinese Coast Guard, which sent a small rubber boat with three passengers to take video footage of the delivery.

Aren’t these proof of bullying? And the Philippines does not stand alone in this predicament. Was it not bullying interference by the Chinese Coast Guard that prevented Vietnam from exploiting its oil and gas within its EEZ? The same story of harassment by China’s Coast Guard holds true for Malaysian oil and gas companies drilling within its own EEZ.

China did it to them and sabotaged the same exploration of the Philippines when the Chinese Coast Guard harassed the Philippine commission ship surveying Reed Bank in the past.

Xi and Qi have kept repeating their lies that China is not undermining the existing international system. But their actions speak louder, beginning with their refusal to honor the Arbitral Tribunal ruling favoring the Philippines and discrediting their encompassing nine-dash line claims across the South China Sea.

And contrary to international law and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), China had the shameless gall to pass a law that authorizes its Coast Guard to use armed force to implement its nine-dash line maritime territorial claims. That is institutionalized bullying and a precursor for war against other claimant-countries whose EEZs and extended continental shelf are well within the South China Sea.

If Xi and Qi speak the truth, China should agree to UNCLOS and submit to a basic multilateral treaty designed to regulate the use of the seas. China should make itself a party to a treaty settling overlapping maritime claims in the South China Sea if it genuinely wants to fall in line with the existing international system and, more importantly, maintain peace in a shared region we all call our home.  

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