Monday, December 03, 2012

What's Mandarin for "Avast, ye scurvy dogs"..?

Fallows has been doing some spadework on geopolitics in the South China Sea and the People's Republic of China/Hainan Island People's Congress' latest statements regarding what they see as their rights in the littoral they consider their "near abroad".

And this "abroad" is at least to my eye pretty broad:
Look at the size of the East-is-Red line on the map above: I don't see any real way that historical claim, international, or maritime law could be twisted to support that reach of "territorial waters". That seems to me to be a hell of an over-reach.

Much as I don't agree with the commonly-heard U.S. conservative trope that places the PRC in the military cross-hairs as "our next enemy" this announcement does seem to me to be an unpleasant sort of geopolitical overreach from the Hainan government and makes me wonder what the hell the PRC was thinking to let this leak out. If "hard cases make bad law" then "making broad statements potentially applicable to nearly-impossible-to-enforce-maritime-territorial-claims makes dangerous foreign policy".

IF taken to the territorial extreme this claim would seem to give any ambitious, aggressive, or just-plain-batshit-crazy PLAN commander a ready made casus belli.
Mind you, there does seem to be a strong strain of opinion that this announcement is NOT intended to genuinely apply to the areas around the Spratley Islands, for example, that while notionally under Hainan Island's "adminstration" are well outside the PRC's 12 or even it's 200-mile limit. The linked article above says conclusively:
"...the actions outlined above are all concern with Chinese territory or territorial waters – not the much larger maritime areas that press accounts have suggested."
In other words, using the map above to conclude that the PRC is saying it has the right to "...inspect, detain or expel foreign ships illegally entering waters..." less than 50 miles off the coast of Brunei, say, would be taking counsel from fear.

But I am watching to see what, if any, further explication of this statement comes from Hainan. Interesting times, perhaps?


Leon said...

I suspect there's no direct translation as the Chinese would probably say something akin to "prepare to be buggered you pasty running-dog imperialist lackeys.

It could also be released purely for internal consumption. The government continues to direct attention away from domestic problems with jingoism. Wonder who they learned that from?

FDChief said...

It does sound as if this is at least in part an effort at international geopolitics by someone in Hainan. The crux of the biscuit, for me, anyway, is how extensive the actual reach of this policy is. If it is, as the author of the second article implies, purely local then there is really nothing new to see here. The PRC authorities in SE China are just warning their neighbors not to make trouble in their home waters as the Chinese and Korean demonstrators did to the Japanese in the Straits recently or the Filipinos and Taiwanese have done in the Spratleys.

But the one scary possibility is that the PRC doesn't walk this back and it remains as a possible operational document for the PLAN in the distant regions of the South China Sea. THAT could be a game changer depending on how aggro the PLAN wants to be.

Just something to keep an eye on...