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People's Daily Online>>Opinion

Public will increasingly swaying diplomatic policies

By Xu Ming (Global Times)

13:26, March 02, 2012

A US soldier looks at a guided missile destroyer to participate the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Train CARAT in the Sulu Sea June 28th, 2011.(Photo: news.cn)

Two statements over China's stance on the South China Sea issue, both correct but with different tones, have sparked completely different reactions from the public.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Wednesday that the core of the South China Sea dispute is about sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and the demarcation of territorial waters in South China Sea.

He added that no country, China included, has ever claimed sovereignty over the whole of the South China Sea. It caused much criticism from Chinese netizens, saying it shows a weakened stance on China's territorial sovereignty.

The next day, the same spokesman stated that China has unquestionable sovereignty over Xisha Islands and its nearby sea areas and the remarks won enormous applause from the netizens, even though there was no conflict between the two statements and the second just merely sounded slightly tougher.

The contrast shows how the public is exerting more pressure on diplomacy. This is increasingly felt in every country.

Governments like to divert public attention from domestic problems or win popularity by showing a tough stance internationally. This trick is often used by politicians ahead of general elections.

Neighboring sea disputes are a good example of this factor. The Philippines and Vietnam have tended to show hawkish stances to woo the public. This has periodically disrupted normal diplomacy between countries, and made peaceful solutions more difficult to come by.

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