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South China Sea cannot be overturning, even when waves breaking and foaming

10:56, July 22, 2011

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By Li Hongmei

A marginal sea that is part of the Pacific Ocean and covers around 3,500,000 square kilometres (1,350,000 sq mi) has in recent weeks stolen the world gaze with the markedly rising tensions between the "claimants" - in particular, the ongoing squabbles between China and its neighbors, the Philippines and Vietnam.

U.S., who so cherishes its high-pitched announcement to "come back" to the region, an area it deems strategically critical and part of the "US interest", is fixing its eyes on the burning sea, and cannot help but wonder whether China and its ASEAN neighbors can quell the row and still befriend each other amid the simmering and occasionally escalating sea disputes.

The risk of conflict in the region ran high Wednesday when a group of Filipino lawmakers traveled to an island in the South China Sea planting a Philippine flag in disregard of warnings from Beijing to affirm "their country's claims" there. The rash move has trampled upon China's sovereignty.

But meanwhile, foreign ministers meet during a plenary session of the 44th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in Nusa Dua, in Indonesia's resort island of Bali July 19, 2011. China and Southeast Asian nations officially approved guidelines on conduct in the South China Sea on Thursday, one-page document intended to drive the process of making the 2002 Declaration of Conduct (DOC) of Parties in Asia's watery flashpoint more concrete.

ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan called the guidelines a "breakthrough", vital to regional stability and prosperity, as it takes nearly 10 years of negotiations for both sides to ink out an agreement on non-binding guidelines for the eventual implementation of a binding code of conduct governing activities in disputed waters and islands.

This is generally taken as a sign of progress in the dispute and, others might suppose it is designed to take the topic off the table before U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's scheduled arrival later on Thursday for the ASEAN Regional Forum.

Nevertheless, China's agreement concluded with ASEAN might put US under the illusion that China appears to have backed down and agreed to work multilaterally on resolving the South China Sea disputes, and a strong US stance helped.

But US should keep sane in thinking at the moment----It is just due to its blatant involvement and its self-love and self-importance syndrome, a legacy of Cold War, that complicates and poisons the situation. And it is U.S. that actually stokes tensions and emboldens China's neighbors in the region by constantly holding naval drills in the contested waters.

The U.S loves to be intoxicated by the fascination that for decades, keeping the peace in Asia has fallen to the United States, and loves to live with the dream of being a dominating power always.

Last month, Cui Tiankai, China's vice foreign minister, warned the US that "individual countries (in Southeast Asia) are playing with fire," and then added that he hoped the fire "doesn't reach the United States."

Indeed, heated rhetorics and minor incidents in the South China Sea need a cooling off period to build an environment agreeable to the sound development of the world's most robust region at the time. But the regional disputes can only be settled through the joint efforts of regional countries. US' meddling hand is of no help, but proves to stir up the sea so as to fish in troubled waters.

The articles in this column represent the author's views only. They do not represent opinions of People's Daily or People's Daily Online.

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About this column

Li Hongmei, editor and columnist of PD Online.


Li HongLi Hong

After 19 years working for China Daily and its website, Li Hong moved to english.people.com.cn in March 2009.

Li has been a reporter and column writer, mainly on China's economy and politics.

He was graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University, and once studied in University of Hawaii and the Poynter Institute in Florida.

Dai MinJohn
Dai Min

John Milligan-Whyte and Dai Min, the executive producers and co-hosts of the Collaboration of Civilizations television series adapted by the eight books they wrote in the America-China Partnership Book Series published in English and Mandarin in 2009-2010 that created the "New School of America-China Relations." They founded the America-China Partnership Foundation and Forum in 2008 and the Center for American-China Partnership in 2005, which was recognized in 2009 as "the first American think tank to combine and integrate American and Chinese perspectives providing a complete answer for America and China's success in the 21st century."