VietNamNet would like to introduce the perspective of Nguyen Truong Giang, the former Vietnamese Ambassador to Brunei and former Director of the East Sea Institute at the Diplomatic Academy, who presented in a recent issue of the Digital Cafe Club his thoughts about China's strategic machinations in the East Sea (internationally known as South China Sea).

Nguyen Truong Giang,East Sea,China

Mr Nguyen Truong Giang

First, the benefits the East Sea can bring are economic ones – oil and gas national resources and gas hydrate. There is a huge volume of gas hydrate in Southeast Asia. This is a source of energy for the future, which can be used for many centuries, estimated for 800 years. China sees gas hydrate as an excellent alternative type of energy to replace oil and gas which is being depleted.

Vietnam is one of the countries which has a relatively high volume of gas hydrate, with reserves of 2,400 billion cubic meters.

Second, the East Sea is one of the four major fishing fields of Chinese fishermen.

Third, the East Sea is considered the lifeline of Chinese economy. Of China’s 27 transport routes, 17 are located in the East Sea. The East Sea helps connect China and the other 125 countries, and carries 75% of the oil and gas volume imported to the country.

In terms of national security, this is a natural sea wall. The East Sea is considered a military and defensive belt, a security barrier to prevent risks and intimidation from outside.

Geostrategically, China defines the East Sea as a backyard for Chinese naval exercise.

The East China Sea in eastern China is too shallow, while there is a tough opponent, Japan. Meanwhile, as for the East Sea, with the area of 3.4 million square kilometers, an average depth of 1,400 meters and many deep trenches, it is a great location for submarine operation.

To become a global hegemony, China needs to become a sea power. This can only be done in the East Sea, where there are small countries. Geostrategically, this is the only gateway through which China can go out to the world. Therefore, for China, the East Sea has a vital benefit.

How does China use the East Sea in its security and development strategy? 

To become a global hegemony, China needs to become a sea power. This can only be done in the East Sea, where there are small countries. Geostrategically, this is the only gateway through which China can go out to the world. Therefore, for China, the East Sea has a vital benefit.

 Documents of the Party Congress, the government’s agendas and official information from China all show that the country defines the East Sea as an important part and a starting point for the maritime Silk Road, the heart of the Belt and Road initiative. The initiative is part of the Chinese dream of making China prosperous.

The Chinese political community integrates the East Sea issue into its hundred-year goal, considering it the implementation of the Chinese dream. The country even considers the issue of sovereignty and interests on the sea as one of China's core interests, like Taiwan, Xinjiang and Tibet issues.

 

The frequency of China making claims for its sovereignty over the East Sea has been steadily increasing.

Heads of states rarely talk about sovereignty issues. It is competent agencies which talk about this. However, in 2016 alone, the Chinese President three times talked about this overseas. The unprecedented action shows China’s great interest in the East Sea.

In 2021, China will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Party's establishment. Along with big events to be organized on the occasion, China may take many significant actions, and the story will have relations to the situation in the East Sea.

China won’t exchange its core interests. It won’t make concessions and give up ambitions related to the East Sea. This is a very clear message.

How will the situation in the East Sea be in several decades? It will be hot sometimes and cold at other times, tense sometimes and in détente at others.

Chinese media

The Chinese press says countries like Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia are island robbers and pirates who pillage Chinese resources, therefore, China needs to claim back the resources.

Some newspapers cited six wars that China may be involved in. One of the six is the war in the East Sea to take back the islands that Chinese media say are ‘illegally occupied’.

What has China been doing since 1949?

1/ Making claims on sovereignty and sea issues

2/ Implementing administrative measures. Showing East Sea, Hoang Sa (Paracel Islands) and Truong Sa (Spratly Islands) on its map, naming islands, integrating Vietnam’s Hoang Sa and Truong Sa into Chinese territory and turning them into administrative units belonging to China.

3/ Imposing Chinese laws on the East Sea area, considering East Sea as its territory.

4/ Carrying out activities to control the East Sea in the field

5/ Using force. Since 1956, all the advances by China in the East Sea have been done with force. 

Nguyen Truong Giang