Posts Tagged ‘China’
Two days after the poll, with unofficial results showing major gains for his opposition CNRP, Mr. Rainsy made his first post-election call on U.S. Ambassador William Todd. Mr. Hun Sen, whose ruling CPP was quick to claim another—if much diminished—victory, had his first two diplomatic meetings two days later with the ambassadors of Germany and China.
With no quick fix to the contested election in sight, and each side digging in on their respective claims of victory, both men are looking to shore up support from their main foreign allies, said Carl Thayer, a Southeast Asia expert at the Australian National Defense Force Academy in Canberra.
“First, Hun Sen will seek continued reassurances of Chinese support. Second, Hun Sen is sending a signal to his domestic and foreign critics that they can pressure him all they want over the conduct of the election but the CPP regime has China’s backing,” Mr. Thayer said.
Mr. Hun Sen used his meeting with Chinese Ambassador Bu Jianguo to insist-—contrary to claims by the opposition and some legal experts—that his party could still form the next government even if the CNRP tries to boycott the first meeting of the National Assembly.
And in Kandal province on Friday, in only his second public speech since the poll, the prime minister said other countries, namely China, would be happy to step in if Washington pulls its aid, as some U.S. lawmakers are proposing if it is finally decided that the elections were not free and fair.
“If you are brave enough, cut it [aid money] off,” Mr. Hun Sen said to the U.S. lawmakers who had called for the funding freeze, just before reminding them of the military trucks Beijing donated in 2010 when Washington canceled a similar shipment over human rights concerns.
China, which does not have general elections, was also one of the first countries to congratulate Mr. Hun Sen after the CPP declared victory. Bangladesh, Burma, Hungary and Vietnam have followed suit.
Mr. Rainsy, who has spent much of the past few years lobbying U.S. and European lawmakers, is looking West.
“Sam Rainsy will continue to seek support from the U.S. and European nations for his allegations that the elections were not free and fair. His visit with the U.S. ambassador is a signal that Sam Rainsy, too, has powerful external friends,” Mr. Thayer said. “The U.S., through [former Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton, has already warned Cambodia of leaning too much on China.”
Only a day after the elections, in Washington, the U.S. State Department expressed concern about reports of election-day irregularities and called for a “full and transparent” investigation.
Though a State Department spokeswoman said the U.S. was not expressly backing the opposition’s own call for an investigation, the government appeared to take it that way. The very next day, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement advising all diplomatic missions to stay out of Cambodia’ internal affairs and specifically not to support the opposition.
Since the election, Mr. Rainsy has been saying all the right things about China in the Chinese press, supporting its One China policy and its claims to islands in the South China Sea. On the campaign trail, however, the opposition leader picked up a good deal of popular support by spurning the sort of controversial mining and agri-business projects Beijing is heavily invested in here.
To protect those investments, and avoid the instability a political handover could bring, Mr. Thayer said Beijing will keep backing the CPP.
“Privately, China will be concerned at the swing to the opposition because it is likely to be critical of China. China will also be concerned over any instability that could affect Chinese residents or Chinese investments in China,” he said. “Privately, China will offer whatever support is necessary to assist its clients in the CPP.”
What China wants out of these elections more than anything else is the status quo, said Ian Story, a senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore. For the time being, he said, that still means backing Mr. Hun Sen.
“Since 1997, bilateral relations have strengthened considerably and China’s political, economic and strategic interests have been advanced under [Prime Minister] Hun Sen. Beijing will therefore have been satisfied with the outcome of the election as it provides continuity,” Mr. Story said.
“There is growing competition for influence between Washington and Beijing in Southeast Asia,” he added. “So long as Hun Sen remains in power, China will have the inside track in Cambodia.”
Mr. Hun Sen and Mr. Rainsy are both still claiming victory. The National Election Committee, though widely perceived as favoring the CPP, is not expected to release official results until the middle of the month.
With everything still to fight for, political analyst Lao Mong Hay agreed that there was nothing haphazard about the two countries Mr. Hun Sen and Mr. Rainsy chose to call on first. “They are looking for the respective support of these two powers,” he said.
While an ego-bruised Mr. Hun Sen turns to Beijing for reassurance, he said, Mr. Rainsy can thank Washington for keeping up the pressure that helped secure his return from abroad—where he was avoiding convictions widely believed to have been politically motivated—just ahead of the elections.
But Mr. Mong Hay said the post-election showdown will ultimately turn on domestic factors most, especially how and when Mr. Rainsy chooses to mobilize the millions of Cambodians who voted for the opposition and gave the CPP its toughest political fight in 20 years.
Whatever roles China and the U.S. may play, he said, “The biggest factor is his [Mr. Rainsy’s] support across the country—that the majority of people are against the ruling party.”
Chinese state media has quoted a Cambodian government official and a local analyst in a story defending China’s actions in a northwestern region inhabited by the Uighur ethnic group.
China has said that Islamic “religious extremists” are responsible for riots in Xinjiang province, in which police stations, a local government building and other properties were attacked last week in an area where Muslim Uighurs want independence from the Chinese state.
A report by state-owned news agency Xinhua on Monday said rioters killed a total of 24 people and police shot 11 rioters. “The police shot and killed 11 rioters at the scene and captured another four,” the report says.
The Xinhua report cites “experts” saying the Chinese authorities had “a responsibility to crack down on the recent attacks in Xinjiang and the international community should strengthen cooperation in the fight against terrorism.”
Among other international commentators in the article, Cambodian Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan was paraphrased by Xinhua saying he hoped for a peaceful solution. But in a quote, Mr. Siphan appeared to support Chinese government intervention. “Any violent activities should be ended,” Mr. Siphan was quoted as saying. “A strict law implementation must be applied.”
Mr. Siphan said Monday that under Cambodia’s Constitution, the country does not interfere with the domestic situations in sovereign states. “Our government never encourages any government to engage with violence,” he said. “We wish for a peaceful solution.”
The Xinhua article also quoted Sok Touch, deputy director of the International Relations Institute of Cambodia—a government-founded, but purportedly independent think tank. Mr. Touch, according to Xinhua, “said Islamic extremists attempted to separate the Xinjiang region from China through religion.”
Mr. Touch clarified Monday that his view was that the Uighur population of Xinjiang should be free to practice their religion and not be subject to discrimination.
Mr. Touch said that, in general, it was not a good idea for governments to try to quell unrest through force.
“The government [of any state] has the right to use armed forces to defend security, and I understand that it is not good to crack down,” he said explaining that though force may keep order temporarily, the tactic was unlikely to ensure long-term peace in a restive area.
Cambodia’s ties to China have grown stronger in recent years, leading to concerns that Cambodia’s diplomatic dealings are under the influence of its benefactor.
In 2009, Cambodia received widespread criticism after it deported 20 Uighur asylum seekers to China despite concerns over the treatment they would receive on return.
Cambodia and China signed on Monday eight cooperation documents during Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s official visit in China, according to Chinese News Agency Xinhua.
After the bilateral meeting between Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Chinese Premier H.E. Li Keqiang in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on Monday, eight deals were signed, said Xinhua.
They are the Memorandum of Understanding between the National Bank of Cambodia and the China Banking Regulatory Commission,the Agreement on Economic and Technical Cooperation between the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) and the Government of China (300 million Yuan), the Framework Agreement on a Concessional Loan Agreement Provided by China to Cambodia (Koh Thom Bridge Project) between the RGC and the Government of China (126 million Yuan), the Exchange of Notes on the Project of Vocational School on Agriculture in Kratie Province between the RGC and the Government of China, the Concessional Loan Agreement on the Staung River Basin Water Resources Development Project Phase I between the Ministry of Economy and Finance of Cambodia and the Export-Import Bank of China (329.75 million Yuan), the Concessional Loan Agreement on the Koh Thom Bridge Project between the Ministry of Economy and Finance of Cambodia and the Export-Import Bank of China (126 million Yuan), the Action Plan on the Implementation of the China-Cambodia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership of Cooperation between the Government of China and the RGC, and the Memorandum of Understanding on the 5 million tons Oil Refinery Project among China Development Bank, China Export & Credit Insurance Corporation, China Perfect Machinery Industry Corporation and Cambodia Petrochemical Company (US$1.67 Billion).
Yesterday the Cambodian delegation led by Hun Sen arrived in Beijing after attending the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2013 held in China’s Hainan province.
14-3-2013 BEIJING (AP) — Xi Jinping caps his rise to the helm of China at a time when calls are mounting for bold leadership to tackle faltering economic growth, unbridled corruption and a severely befouled environment that endanger his Communist Party’s legitimacy.
Xi was elevated to the presidency Thursday by the rubber-stamp national legislature, giving him the last of the three titles held by his predecessor, Hu Jintao. Xi already was China’s pre-eminent leader after being appointed head of the Communist Party and chairman of the military last November in a once-a-decade handover to a new group of leaders.
The final steps in the transition unfold over the next two days with the expected anointing of Li Keqiang, the party’s No. 2, as premier on Friday. The central bank governor and finance and other ministers will be appointed Saturday.
Xi and his team now steer a rising global power beset with many domestic challenges that will test their leadership. Chief among them are a sputtering economy that’s overly dominated by powerful state industries and mounting public anger over widespread corruption, a burgeoning income gap and social inequality.
An increasingly vocal Chinese public is expressing impatience with the government’s unfulfilled promises to curb abuses of power by local officials, better police the food supply and clean up the country’s polluted rivers, air and soil.
“What do ordinary people care about? Food safety, and smog if you are in a big city, and official corruption,” said the prominent Chinese author and social commentator Murong Xuecun, the pen name of author Hao Qun. “They just want to have a peaceful, stable and safe life. To have money and food, and live without worry of being tortured, or having their homes forcefully demolished.”
“The entire country is watching for Xi’s next step,” the writer said.
That sentiment was echoed by at least one National People’s Congress delegate as he filed out from the huge, red-carpeted cavern of Beijing’s Great Hall of the People after Thursday’s vote. Li Qinghe veered slightly from the ingratiating remarks that have come to be expected of deputies, saying that while he “resolutely endorsed” Xi’s selection as president, the position was vested with high expectations.
“I hope that he will pay more attention to problems affecting the people’s lives,” said Li, a petrochemical plant worker and delegate from the northeastern province of Heilongjiang. He cited as his concerns jobs for rural migrants, schools for their children and affordable medical care.
Xi’s accession marks only the second orderly transfer of power in more than six decades of Communist Party rule. He was the only candidate for president in Thursday’s ballot and won 2,952-1, with three abstaining in the tightly choreographed ritual the party calls an election.
After the result was announced, the 59-year-old Xi bowed to delegates and turned to his predecessor, Hu, seated on his right. The two shook hands and posed for photos.
A liberal-minded reformer and a close ally of Hu, Li Yuanchao, was named vice president in a break with the practice of recent years because he is not in the party’s seven-member ruling inner sanctum. The appointment to what has previously been a wholly ceremonial role is seen as a concession to Hu’s lingering influence. Li is known as a progressive, capable official, but in charge of personnel matters the past five years, he angered some party power-brokers by favoring officials in Hu’s camp.
Ahead of the votes on the government’s top slots, legislators approved a government restructuring plan that abolishes the Railways Ministry and combines two agencies that regulate newspapers and broadcasters into a super media regulator. It also merges the Health Ministry with the commission that oversees the much-disliked rules that limit many families to one child.
Early indications of Xi’s priorities came in a government policy program delivered during last week’s opening of the legislative session. It pledged to clean up the country’s environment, fight pervasive graft and official extravagance and improve welfare benefits for the poor.
The report, delivered by Premier Wen Jiaobao in his last speech before stepping down, promised to give private companies a fairer chance to compete, but did not say how Beijing would deal with big state companies controlling most of China’s industries that economists have warned need to be curbed in order to preserve future growth. Many experts fear the government will be too hamstrung by powerful interest groups, linked to state industries, to be able to make these changes. But few doubt the urgency of the reform that’s needed.
“Now most Chinese can still afford to keep their stomach full, so there isn’t any intense resistance,” said Murong Xuecun, the writer. “But if the economy enters a depression, it will be hard to say.”
Currently, both the Communist Party and the government enjoy little credibility with the public, said Zhang Ming, a China politics expert at prestigious Renmin University in Beijing.
“The way to regain credibility is to at least show some results, but at this point that can’t be seen, and I predict there won’t be any real results later,” Zhang said.
The son of a revolutionary veteran, Xi cuts an authoritative figure with a confidence and congeniality that was lacking in his predecessor, the aloof and stiff Hu. He quickly moved to court the military after taking over from Hu as head of the party’s Central Military Commission, making high-profile visits to naval, air force and infantry bases and meeting with nuclear missile commanders.
Xi has also sought to court other constituencies. He made a trip to the south to show he’s interested in economic reforms, repeatedly stated his staunch belief in party power to appeal to hard-liners, visited the poor to burnish his common-man credentials and espoused the “Chinese Dream” to tap into middle class aspirations.
But for Xi to consolidate his power within the party, he will come up against various interest groups, such as the sons and daughters of communist China’s founding fathers who want to keep benefiting from their connections, or those with links to banks and state industries who don’t want their privileged positions threatened.
Ideologically, there are those who believe China needs an even stronger, more authoritarian government that promotes more egalitarian economic and social policies, while others want a transition to a more democratic government.
10-3-2013 BEIJING (AP) — China announced plans Sunday to streamline government ministries, doing away with the powerful Railways Ministry and creating a super-agency to regulate the media and realigning other bureaucracies in a bid to boost efficiency.
The plan introduced to the rubber-stamp national legislature is being pushed by the newly installed Communist Party leadership and reflects its priorities to reduce waste and address quality of life issues for a more prosperous, demanding society.
Among the changes, the corruption-plagued Railways Ministry will be split, its regulatory responsibilities going to the Transport Ministry and its operations to a commercial entity. The food and drug agency will see a boost in authority to try to end the safety scandals that have been a source of public anger, and two censorship arms, one for broadcasters and one for print media, will be merged.
The restructuring, the seventh since China began market reforms 30 years ago, marks the latest periodic attempt to reduce government meddling in the economy and society. Despite the effort, the government’s role in the economy and the power of state companies have grown over the past decade, often to the detriment of private and foreign companies, which face a welter of industrial and other policies that have raised barriers to success.
This time, the streamlining plan includes guidelines to restrict and better define the central government’s responsibilities, limiting its issuing of permits for projects, the setting of standards and other policies that have slowed decision-making.
“Departments of the State Council are now focusing too much on micro issues. We should attend to our duties and must not meddle in what is not in our business,” Ma Kai, secretary-general of the State Council, or Cabinet, told the legislators. He said that overlapping government functions has often led to buck-passing.
Overall the realignment would do away with four agencies and reduce the number of ministry-level bodies by two to 25.
The public has been complaining about government inefficiency and for that reason “we should dare to push ahead with cracking the tough nut of structural reform,” the state-run Jinghua Daily quoted Wang Feng, an official in the Communist Party office involved in drafting the reform program.
Underscoring the government’s determination is the abolishing of the Railways Ministry. With deep ties to the military, the ministry has resisted previous rounds of reform and has continued to serve as both regulator and operator. Under the new plan, operations will be spun off into a newly created China Railway Corp., responsible for building railways and managing freight and passenger services. Safety, quality and other regulatory standards will be the purview of a state railway administration under the Ministry of Transport.
Another influential bureaucracy, the family planning commission, which oversees enforcement of the much disliked policies that limit most families to one child, will be merged with the Health Ministry in a sign the government may be rethinking its approach to family planning. The proposal called for “maintaining and perfecting family planning policies” and said the party would continue to set policy. Meanwhile, population research is being transferred to the economic planning agency, highlighting government concern about the effect an aging population and shrinking labor force may have on the economy.
In another bureaucratic boost, the government will pull together separate agencies involved in fisheries and other maritime law enforcement into one administration. The move appears aimed at better asserting China’s claims in disputed stretches of the East and South China seas and, if energetically pressed, could aggravate already high tensions with Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines.
The National Energy Administration, created five years ago to help oversee a pressing need for the fast-growing but resource-strapped economy, would be expanded to absorb a regulatory body that sets electric rates.
The food and drug administration is being elevated in status to ministry level to give it added powers in hopes of improving enforcement and ending the lax enforcement that has led to repeated scandals over toxic medicines and tainted foods from milk to meat.
In a separate report to the legislature, the head of the supreme court, Wang Shengjun, said Chinese courts had sentenced more than 20,000 people for making and selling adulterated milk powder, recycled cooking oil known as “gutter oil” and the steroid clenbuterol, which makes pigs produce leaner meat.
BEIJING (AP) — China’s missing leader-in-waiting, Xi Jinping, was mentioned Thursday in an official newspaper report, state media’s only reference to him since he dropped from sight 12 days ago, sparking rumors of illness.
The Guangxi Daily referred to Xi in its report on the death last week of 102-year-old former general Huang Rong. It said Xi, President Hu Jintao and other top officials had expressed their condolences “through various means,” but gave no other details.
Identical reports were carried on the websites of the Communist Party and the official China News Service.
Xi, China’s vice president, is due to take over as Communist Party head later this year and as president in the spring as part of sweeping transition to a new generation of leaders.
The government has offered no information on why he dropped from sight and canceled several public appearances, sparking rumors of a heart attack or stroke and raising questions about the stability of the succession process.
Given the runaway speculation, the silent approach is “even more reckless than controlling the message,” allowing the rumor mill to turn faster and faster, said Kellee Tsai, a political scientist at Johns Hopkins University in the U.S.
China’s top leaders live and work in isolation and only release information about leading personnel that has been carefully molded for positive effect.
Richard Rigby, a former Australian diplomat and China expert at the Australian National University, said that although the Communist Party has become more sensitive to public opinion on certain issues, such as nationalism and social unrest, “when it comes to the leadership, the old conspiratorial instincts of an underground party come to the fore.”
This tendency toward insularity has long been reinforced by the lack of a free press that might demand answers. But it is now under threat from China’s thriving blog and social media communities, especially the hugely popular Twitter-like service called Weibo.
How the government responds to the new technology will be one of the “defining issues for the new leadership,” said Harvard University China expert Anthony Saich.
So far it has responded in part by routinely blocking searches for Chinese leaders, including Xi.
The leader-in-waiting’s sudden disappearance on the eve of his ascension comes during a year full of unforeseen political developments that had already threatened hopes for a smooth party leadership transition.
In March, one of China’s most charismatic and ambitious politicians, Bo Xilai, fell from power and touched off a dramatic scandal that led to his wife’s conviction for murdering a British businessman.
Bo’s own case remains unsettled. That may be a sign that the leadership is divided over what to charge him with.
More recently, one of the president’s closest advisers was reassigned amid reports of his son’s death in March in a speeding Ferrari accompanied by two undressed women.
If Xi’s absence is indeed health-related, he would join some of his forebears among the ruling elite who vanished for health reasons with no explanation.
The party barred all discussion about the frequent absences of Politburo Standing Committee member Huang Ju, who died of illness in 2007. And then-Premier Li Peng also disappeared for several weeks in 1993 after what was believed to have been a heart attack.
Health issues are especially sensitive among top leaders because of the need for them to appear youthful and energetic. China’s overwhelmingly male leaders continue to dye their hair jet black well into their 70s and beyond, which helps to ward off accusations of frailty or being out of touch.
If Xi’s absence were to linger, it might also disrupt plans for the party congress, where Xi is to succeed Hu as party leader. The dates for the congress, held once every five years, were expected to be announced following a meeting of the 25-member Politburo this month, but it may have to be delayed if Xi remains out of action.
If he is permanently indisposed, it isn’t clear what would happen next, due to the opacity of the party’s functions and its failure to institutionalize the succession process.
Xi was picked five years ago to succeed Hu by an undefined formula. Before that, many observers had pegged Executive Vice Premier Li Keqiang as China’s next president. If Xi were unable to assume power, much attention would probably turn to Li, who is now set to take over from Premier Wen Jiabao as the party’s No. 3 ranking official, with chief responsibility for managing China’s economy, the world’s second-largest.
Yet Minxin Pei, a China politics expert at Claremont McKenna College in California, said Li would not automatically be next in line, at least not right away. A compromise candidate might rise and Li would be forced to wait until the next congress in 2017.
“Another battle would be fought,” Pei said. “With several strong contenders.”
9 August 2012 BEIJING (AP) — The political scandal surrounding one of China’s most high-profile politicians, Bo Xilai, is the biggest and messiest to strike the ruling Communist Party in years, exposing divisions among the nation’s top officials just ahead of a crucial leadership transition in the fall. As Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, was put on a one-day trial for murder Thursday, here’s a look at the leading characters in the drama.
— Bo Xilai: Bo was the Communist Party secretary of Chongqing, the western mega-city’s top official, and one of the country’s most prominent political figures. A former Commerce Minister and the son of one of the communist state’s founding fathers, Bo was already in the party’s 25-member Politburo and before the scandal was seen as a contender for the nine-member Standing Committee that runs China. Bo’s flamboyant personality made him a polarizing figure among elites. Rumors had also swirled about the Bo family’s wealth and the shenanigans of his Oxford-educated son, Guagua. Bo remains under a separate party investigation for unspecified wrongdoings.
— Gu Kailai: The official Xinhua News Agency quoted an indictment as saying she had a falling out with British businessman Neil Heywood over money and was worried it would threaten her and her son’s safety. Gu and a family aide, Zhang Xiaojun, are alleged to have poisoned Heywood together. She is said to have risen out of a trying childhood during nationwide upheaval to become a prominent lawyer and high-flying politician’s wife. She was skilled at turning on the charm when the going was smooth, yet quick to turn hostile when crossed. Like Bo, she is the child of a prominent Chinese politician.
— Bo Guagua: Educated in England and the United States, most recently at Harvard University. Guagua, who has appeared shirtless at parties on photos posted on the Internet, has said he attended social events as an Oxford University undergraduate to broaden his perspective. He denies accusations he received preferential treatment in admissions, that he was a poor student or that he drove a pricey sports car. Guagua is not believed to have returned to China since the scandal broke and his current whereabouts are unknown.
— Wang Lijun: Wang is Chongqing’s former police chief who was demoted in February and spent a night at the U.S. consulate in the city of Chengdu near Chongqing, apparently fearing for his life. He refused Bo’s demands that he return to Chongqing and was instead taken into custody by investigators from the State Security Ministry in Beijing. While in the consulate, Wang alleged that Gu was behind Heywood’s death, prompting the British government to ask China to launch a new investigation.
— Neil Heywood: A British business consultant and Bo family friend, his body was found in a secluded Chongqing hotel last November. Chinese authorities originally blamed his death on excess drinking or a heart attack and his body was cremated without an autopsy. Subsequently, an official Chinese statement said he had a longtime business relationship with Gu and her son, Guagua, but that had deteriorated over financial disputes. Although Bo has been named as a suspect in the killing, he reportedly sought to block a police investigation after Wang came to him with his suspicions.
— Zhang Xiaojun: Zhang has been referred to in state media reports as a Bo family aide, although no details have been given. He is charged alongside Gu with Heywood’s murder.
— Patrick Devillers. A French architect, he was detained at his residence in Cambodia in connection with the scandal but not extradited. Instead he chose to fly to China on his own, apparently in order to give evidence in Gu’s trial. Devillers had helped Bo rebuild the northeastern Chinese city of Dalian when Bo was the city’s mayor in the 1990s, The New York Times reported in April. Peter Giles Hall, a British businessman who had done business with Gu, says Devillers and Gu appeared to be romantically involved and he had seen him holding her hand.
AFP, 8/8/2012 JAKARTA – Indonesia warned Wednesday of a “risk of further tensions” between nations with overlapping claims to swathes of the South China Sea if a “collective and common approach” is not soon agreed.
Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) were split in their views on the maritime dispute during the Phnom Penh meeting of foreign ministers in July, and the bloc for the first time in its 45-year history failed to deliver a joint communique.
“This is an issue that demands ASEAN’s and China’s collective and common approach and action, otherwise the risk of further tensions are very much ahead of us,” Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa told reporters on the sidelines of ASEAN’s 45th anniversary celebrations.
“In the absence of a code of conduct, we may be risking more incidents in the future.”
Natalegawa toured the region after the ASEAN summit to push for progress on the long-stalled code of conduct, designed to reduce tensions over fishing, shipping rights and oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea.
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi will visit Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia from Thursday, and Natalegawa said he hoped to “compare notes on where we are on the South China Sea” with him.
China claims sovereignty over almost all of the resource-rich sea, which is home to vital shipping lanes, but the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have overlapping claims.
Vietnam is scheduled next year to appoint a secretary general to head ASEAN after the five-year tenure of Thailand’s Surin Pitsuwan comes to an end.
Vietnam frequently trades diplomatic barbs with China over oil exploration, fishing rights and the Spratly and Paracel Islands, which both countries claim as their own.
The United States accused China of raising tensions through a new military garrison in the South China Sea as it called on all sides to lower tensions in the hotly contested waters.
China announced last week that it was establishing the tiny city of Sansha and a garrison on an island in the disputed Paracel chain, infuriating Vietnam and the Philippines which have accused Beijing of intimidation.
“We are concerned by the increase in tensions in the South China Sea and are monitoring the situation closely,” US State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said in a statement, released on Friday.
“In particular, China’s upgrading of the administrative level of Sansha city and establishment of a new military garrison there covering disputed areas of the South China Sea run counter to collaborative diplomatic efforts to resolve differences and risk further escalating tensions in the region,” he said.
Ventrell also pointed to “confrontational rhetoric” and incidents at sea, saying: “The United States urges all parties to take steps to lower tensions.”
China says it controls much of the South China Sea, but Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, the Philippines and Vietnam all claim portions. Vietnam and the Philippines have accused China of stepping up harassment at sea.
The United States has rallied behind Southeast Asian nations, expanding military ties with the Philippines and Vietnam. President Barack Obama has decided to send Marines to Australia in a further show of US power in Asia.
The US Senate approved a resolution late Thursday that “strongly urges” all regional nations to exercise self-restraint and to refrain from permanently inhabiting points in the South China Sea until a code of conduct is reached.
The resolution, sponsored by senators from both major parties, declared that the United States was committed ”to assist the nations of Southeast Asia to remain strong and independent.”
During a 2010 visit to Vietnam, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that the United States had a national interest in freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, through which half of world cargo passes.
The State Department statement on Friday reiterated that the United States has an interest in stability and “unimpeded lawful commerce” in the South China Sea but that Washington does not take a position on rival claims.
China also has separate disputes with US ally Japan in the East China Sea, an issue discussed by Japanese Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto on a visit Friday to Washington.
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, addressing a joint news conference with Morimoto, voiced hope for further progress in a code of conduct on the South China Sea.
“The last thing we want is to have direct confrontation in the South China Sea with regards to jurisdictional issues,” Panetta said.
“Those should be resolved peacefully, and they should be resolved pursuant to a code of conduct. And the United States will do whatever we can to work with Japan and others to ensure that that is the approach we take,” he said.
Southeast Asian nations faced deep divisions last month during annual talks in Cambodia, preventing them from issuing a customary joint communique and holding up progress on reaching a code of conduct with China.
The code of conduct would aim to set rules to reduce the chances of a spat over fishing, shipping rights or oil and gas exploration tipping into an armed conflict.
Robert Manning, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and former US government strategist, said that China may have set up the garrison as a way to counter the recent US military focus on Asia.
“To be sure, China is well aware that its assertiveness is not well received in East Asia, and tends to lead smaller nations to tilt to the US to balance China,” Manning wrote in an essay released by his think tank.
“But Beijing seems to be calculating that despite the more robust US military posture in the region, China can throw its weight around and the US response will be limited to diplomatic reprimand,” he wrote.
A Han-Chinese map of China published by Shanghai Publishing House in 1904 reveals that China stretched as far south as Hainan Island, and that Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) Islands did not belong to China.
After holding it for 30 years, Dr. Mai Hong, former head of the Library of the Institute for the Study of Chinese and Demotic Scripts and Cultures, has decided to release the historical evidence.
Hong recently sat down with Tuoi Tre for an interview about the map:
How did you get this map?
I got this map when I administered a library of Chinese and Demotic Script books (now Institute for the Study of Chinese and Demotic Scripts and Cultures) in 1977. At that time, collecting maps was not our administrative function. However, to my surprise, an elderly man who often sold books to us showed up at our office one day and recommended I buy this map. I spent one month’s salary to purchase it without my family’s knowledge.
Is it a valuable map made a long time ago?
Yes, it is. It’s a color-coded paper map that has a carton-paper cover and can be opened like a book. Inside the map, there are more than 35 pieces – each measured at 20cm wide, 30cm long – stuck on canvas. Because I can read Han-Chinese, I’ve translated about 600 Han-Chinese words into Vietnamese that adequately represents the origin and date of the map.
According to the translation, the map was created across nearly two decades (1708 – 1904), from the Kangxi Emperor who ruled China from 1661 – 1722 to the Guangxu Emperor from 1875 to 1908. The emperors asked many clergymen and gifted astronomers and mathematicians to make this map.
More specifically, in 1708, King Kangxi recruited some western clergymen to draw the map of the Great Wall. In 1711, the King continued to ask the clergymen to survey lands in 13 provinces nationwide. After that, Chinese intellectuals and western clergymen worked together for nearly 200 years to finish this map. Among famous western clergymen helping King Kangxi with the map were Matteo Bicci from Italy, Joannes Adam Schall Von Bell from Germany, and Ferdinandus Verbiest from Belgium.
In 1904, Shanghai Publishing House printed this map and distributed it to all provinces of the Qing Dynasty, the last imperial dynasty of China ruling from 1644 to 1912. The introduction of the map was written by the director of a Chinese observatory.
What is some helpful historical data from this map?
In this map, the director of a Chinese observatory greatly appreciated achievements by western clergymen, who were at the time ahead of China in the field of astronomy and mathematics. As the map indicates, there are no photos, drawings or surveys of Truong Sa or Hoang Sa islands on the map. The Chinese themselves also admitted that Hainan Island was the end of their land to the south.
Why did you decide to release this map?
In my opinion, this map will provide some helpful evidence that helps Vietnam get more active in resolving disputes with China over the ownership of the two islands in the East Sea. This is also helpful data for local scholars or researchers who are studying the seas and the islands’ sovereignty.
According to Pham Hoang Quan, a local researcher on Han-Chinese and Demotic Scripts, the map, measuring 115cm long and 140cm wide, was printed on separate sheets and belonged to a group of large-scale maps.
Quan added that during the Ming and Qing dynasties, there were only 60 maps of this kind.
The map’s accuracy in terms of longitude and latitude is nearly on par with modern maps. This map was made by experts at the Observatory of the Qing Dynasty, so it can be considered official, he said.