Okinotorishima-ization: South China Sea arbitration case enters middle game

Two disputed geographic features in the South China Sea that are the focus of island-building by the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Fiery Cross and South Johnson Reef, were both originally endowed with natural pre-existing rocks protruding above the waterline at high tide.  That’s big news.

This state of affairs was pointed out by Bill Hayton, author of the highly-regarded The South China Sea: The Struggle for Power in Asia on his Twitter feed.

What’s even bigger news is that the Philippines has already admitted the fact, in its “Notification and Statement of Claim in the West Philippine Sea” delivered to the Chinese embassy in January 2013.

And the Philippine government might be kicking itself for making so generous an admission in its filing with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) Arbitration Commission seeking a ruling to invalidate the PRC’s notorious Nine-Dash-Line.

By conventional UNCLOS interpretation, an uninhabitable rock only gets a 12 mile territorial limit, not a 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone.

Fiery Cross Reef

Fiery Cross Reef

Both Fiery Cross and South Johnson Reef — two of the seven or eight South China Sea formations that are the focus of PRC island-building efforts — have miniscule, uninhabitable “rocks” that stick above water at high tide.  As will become clear, I’ve put “rocks” in quotation marks for a reason.

Perhaps the Philippines’ lawyers may have thought it was no big deal to concede that a few dots on the map were genuine above-surface features, especially since they had been surveyed and their existence was a matter of public record.

The big game, after all, is undersea resources, not uninhabitable rocks.  And if the Nine-Dash-Line is invalidated, the Philippine claim to fisheries, oil, and gas — especially the strategically and fiscally vital hydrocarbon trove at Reed Bank, an underwater feature with an estimated 16 trillion cubic feet in gas reserves —inside its presumed EEZ will be strongly supported.

But there is a shadow over the Philippines’ prospects.

Okinotorishima.

Until the Fiery Cross project builds out, Okinotorishima stands as the biggest island-building project in the Western Pacific.

By Japan.  Over 1000 miles south of Tokyo.

Over three decades, Japan has poured a reported $600 million dollars into forestalling the erosion of a couple of rocks no bigger than a studio bedroom at high tide.

Okinotorishima

Okinotorishima

Uninhabitable rocks.  Entitled only to a 12 nautical mile territorial sea, right?

Wrong.

Islands and rocks are addressed in one section of the UNCLOS treaty, Article 121, Regime of Islands.  Unfortunately, Article 121 is something of a syntactical train wreck and was reportedly a candidate for amendment or partial deletion during the original drafting process.  It created a useful loophole for Japan to protect the strategic value of its sizable investment in Okinotorishima.

Here’s the explanation from the Japanese think tank originally charged with formulating the Okinotoroshima gambit:

China (asserts) “Okinotori-shima is a rock, not an island, and the EEZ which is measured by a rock as the base point should not be recognized,” and has continued to conduct its marine survey activities inside that EEZ.

The “Regime of Island,” UNCLOS Part VIII, Article 121, by which China makes the definition of island the basis of its claim, is stipulated as follows.  (Article 121 is quoted in its entirety below.–PL)

  1. An island is a naturally formed area of land, surrounded by water, which is above water at high tide.
  2. Except as provided for in paragraph 3, the territorial sea, the contiguous zone, the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf of an island are determined in accordance with the provisions of this Convention applicable to other land territory.
  3. Rocks which cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own shall have no exclusive economic zone or continental shelf.

The government of Japan claims that the status of Okinotori-shima from the viewpoint of international law is an island in accordance with the provision of paragraph 1 above, while the basis China claims is in accordance with the provision of paragraph 3, and thus Okinotori-shima is made of rocks and not considered an island. The view of the Japanese government is that paragraph 3 provides the qualification not of island but rocks, and therefore, it is not related to the provision of paragraph 1. However, in order to be more persuasive to other countries regarding the status of Okinotori-shima as an island, Japan must clarify compatibility with the paragraph 1 as well as not contravene paragraph 3. The preservation of Okinotori-shima as an island is an agenda urgently required for Japan

So, Okinotorishima isn’t “rocks”; it’s “an island”, or at the very least it’s “not definitely rocks” according to the public declaration of the Japanese government and a lot of careful parsing by Japanese academics.  And by the Japanese government’s interpretation of Article 121, only uninhabited “rocks” can’t have EEZs.  Uninhabited “islands” can.  So Okinotorishima is entitled to a 200 mile EEZ.

And no one can say them nay.

And the way to make it more “islandy” is through … island building.

Is UNCLOS going to sort this out?

No.  Without revision of Article 121, UNCLOS can’t even clarify the terms under dispute, let alone adjudicate them.

A PRC scholar remarked:

Since there exists no official or authoritative clarification with regard to the application and interpretation of Article 121, paragraph 3, of the UNCLOS, and there are no institutional apparatuses established for reviewing, monitoring and supervising how well State parties observe their duties under the Convention, coastal States are exercising extensive powers to claim larger sea areas by applying or interpreting Article 121(3) in accordance with their national maritime interests.

So, perhaps the correct understanding of PRC activities on the two above-high-tide features of Fiery Cross and South Johnson Reef is not “building the great wall of sand”; it is “Okinotorishima-izing.”

And, if one draws a 200 nautical mile Okinotorishima-worthy radius around South Johnson Reef, the circle passes through the heart of the Reed Bank seamount.

So it appears that a ruling invalidating the Nine Dash Line may not signal the end game in the South China Sea, with the PRC retreating in disorder as the Philippines advances to claim its undersea patrimony.

Instead, the PRC might swallow its consistent objections to the Okinotorishima precedent to assert 200-mile EEZs around some or all of its holdings.  If it does, the PRC claim will overlap with the EEZ asserted by the Philippines based on its continental shelf.

Here’s what is supposed to happen in an EEZ dispute, according to the Philippines’ most forceful advocate, Judge Antonio Carpio:

Under UNCLOS, states that opt out of compulsory arbitration in maritime delimitation of sea boundaries cannot opt out of compulsory conciliation. While the report of the conciliation commission is non-binding, it will have persuasive authority as the equitable boundary delimitation under international law.

With the United States not even a member of UNCLOS regime and Japan is one of the biggest offenders against the spirit of UNCLOS on island issues with its Okinotoroshima gambit, it looks like Beijing might deem itself possessed of adequate grounds to declare itself unswayed by any “persuasive authority” wielded by the conciliation commission.

Worst case, the PRC sends its HYSY 981 rig and an escorting flotilla chugging into the Reed Bank area in exercise of its purported EEZ rights, and the US, Australian, and Japanese military forces, instead of protecting lawful Philippine activities from PRC harassment, finds themselves trying to balk a well-protected and defiant PRC drilling operation.

Next-to-worse case, the PRC declares its withdrawal from UNCLOS, a threat to the reach and credibility of the UNCLOS system that the PRC has perhaps already communicated to UNCLOS and presumably weighs on the minds of the arbitration commissioners in the Nine-Dash-Line case.

Standing up to the PRC has evoked considerable patriotic sentiment and pride in the Philippines.  However, the awareness that the resort to lawfare may not yield a sharp, cathartic victory and instead turn into a long, bitter struggle between a vengeful PRC and the Philippines (and its allies) seems to be sinking in.

A noteworthy development was the notification in March 2015 by the Philippine Department of Energy directing the designed Philippine concessionaire for Reed Bank, Forum Energy, to suspend activities since the area was “disputed.  Both President Beningo Aquino III and Forum’s chairman, megatycoon Manuel V. Pangilinan, have declared their willingness to conduct joint development of Reed Bank with the PRC.

Since the PRC is unlikely to be swayed by these blandishments now that the Philippines initiated the Nine-Dash-Line arbitration process, it is possible that the audience for Aquino and Pangilinan’s declarations is Philippine business people who are getting cold feet and need some assurance that the government has left its China options open in case defying the PRC does not turn into a strategic and economic bonanza.

In a recent op-ed, Richard Javad Heydarian, the leading defender of the Philippine strategy in the Western media, endeavored to manage expectations if the Philippines does not prevail in the arbitration case…or prevails and the PRC disregards the ruling:

One of the most fundamental limitations of the Tribunal is that it can’t exercise jurisdiction on the question of ownership and sovereignty claims in the South China Sea. At best, it can question the validity of China’s sweeping Nine-Dashed-Line claims as well as the admissibility of its artificially-created islands.

Both China and the Philippines have expressed reservations with subjecting their territorial claims to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which is the body that can actually adjudicate on sovereignty claims. In short, international law as a mechanism to directly resolve sovereignty-related disputes is out of question.

Although, it seems many Filipinos have misunderstood — partly because of the overly upbeat pronouncements of the Philippine government and the shortcoming of the media — the ongoing arbitration at The Hague as one that involves direct adjudication of territorial claims.

Heydarian’s proposed remedy—beefing up the Philippine military and strategic posture to face down China and strengthen Manila’s position for a prolonged struggle—would seem to be exactly the kind of grinding, escalating crisis with a supersized regional antagonist that the UNCLOS lawfare gambit was intended to avoid.  And it’s an indication that the Philippines’ struggle with the PRC is probably still far from its endgame.

Peter Lee runs the China Matters blog. He writes on the intersection of US policy with Asian and world affairs.

(Copyright 2015 Asia Times Holdings Limited, a duly registered Hong Kong company. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)



Categories: Asia Times News & Features, China, Southeast Asia

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  • Alex Wijaya

    Somehow I have the feeling that a country named Philippine will cease to exist in 2025.

  • Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha

    Like the world famous “Rock of Gibraltar” do not underestimate the importance of rock formations in oceans.

  • China Lee

    There seems to be a misunderstanding of the word “jurisdiction.” Some think that UNCLOS can assert jurisdiction on its own. This is not the case.

    UNCLOS is a few old men sitting around a desk. They will eventually write a few paragraphs on a piece of paper. These old men representing UNCLOS have no ability to assert jurisdiction.

    Jurisdiction implies the power to decide an issue.

    The Chinese PLA Navy has hundreds of warships, thousands of fighter jets, 75 submarines, and tens of thousands of missiles to prove its jurisdiction over the South China Sea.

    I hope this explanation clarifies the issue of jurisdiction.

  • Jose Rizal

    Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!!! Stop please my face hurts.

  • deliaruhe

    I can’t blame China for experiencing the need to establish some kind of defensive line in the South China Sea. The US has a very bad habit of parking its military right up to your back door and pretending it bears no ill will toward you. Just review the recent history of Ukraine.

    But China needs to develop a little diplomatic finesse and start seriously investigating what it can do to ease tensions with Washington’s “allies” in the region.

    The issue of Japan and its Okorowhatever is an interesting story and may suggest any number of solutions.

  • Filmar

    LOL nice try. Only brainwashed Chinese could possibly think this. We will see if the UN feel they have jurisdiction on the matter. It will be decided by the end of the year. 🙂 Then it wont matter what China thinks, they will now have to face most of the world. HA HA HA HA. Oh yeah and compared to the USA military China is still a little bug which can be squashed. HA HA HA HA.

  • Filmar

    Depending on Chinas actions I would say that would be China, much like the former USSR

  • Filmar

    China may have to learn the same lesson Germany did back in they day….USA is not interested in appeasement, they already learned that lesson.

  • China Lee

    UNCLOS/ITLOS was unable to bring about the release of a single ship. The idea that UNCLOS/ITLOS can tell China to do anything is inherently ludicrous. For your information, Russia told ITLOS to go take a hike.
    ———-
    Source: http://opiniojuris.org/2013/11/25/itlos-orders-russia-release-arctic-sunrise-greenpeace-protestors/

    “ITLOS Orders Russia to Release ARCTIC SUNRISE and its Greenpeace Protestors
    Nov 25, 2013 – The case is the Arctic Sunrise (Kingdom of the Netherlands v. … are both party to the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).”
    ———-
    Source: http://nationalinterest.org/feature/the-philippines-massive-lawfare-blunder-the-south-china-sea-11837

    “Dec 11, 2014 – Although the ITLOS ordered Russia to release the activists and return the ship within 30 days of its judgment, Russia ignored the order and waited nearly a year before finally releasing the seized Dutch vessel.”

  • Oldertimer

    Relearn the lesson of “The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire”.

  • Filmar

    Relearn the lesson of… The fall of the USSR….China is next.

  • Ur Septim

    Somehow I have the feeling that a person name Alex Wijaya doesn’t have a brain. Learn the history of the Philippines. They had been invaded and colonized, yet they are still here.

  • Ur Septim

    Lol, idiot over the internet ALERT!

  • The USA D-r(s) have an open claim on earth. They consider themselves “excepted” from any laws that govern humanity – they call it – “American Exceptionalism”

  • Ken5745

    This is the Timeline of the History of the Spratlys since 1937:

    1 In July 1937 Japan invaded China. (Taiwan and the Pescadores were already ceded in perpetuity to Japan under the terms of the one-sided Shimonoseki Treaty of 1895.)

    2 In 1938, France, which had colonized Indochina, invaded the Spratlys.

    3 In 1939 Japan colonized the Spratlys and tossed out the French.

    4 France, which was not at war with Japan, protested. Japan replied that in a war with China, Japan could annex the Spratlys, which belong to China, not France.

    5 In 1941 Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and the US delcared war on Japan. China was an ally of the US against Japan in the Pacific War.

    6 Japan lost the Pacific War and declared Unconditional Surrender in Sept 1945. According to the Cairo Conference of 1943 and Potsdam Declaration of 1945, Japan must return all Chinese territories Japan annexed by ‘violence and greed’.

    7 In 1946 the Philippines was granted its independence by the United States and it made no claims of any island in the South China Sea.

    8 At the Sept 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty (SFPT) the PRC and ROC were not invited to attend, though China bore the heaviest losses to life (approx 25 million) and properties and was an ally of the United States in the Pacific War.

    9 Article 2 of the SFPT stated:

    (b) Japan renounces all right, title and claim to Formosa and the Pescadores.
    (f) Japan renounces all right, title and claim to the Spratly Islands and to the Paracel Islands.

    10 At the SFPT, the Spratlys were not handed to the Philippines, though the short-lived ‘State of Vietnam’ in the South tried to claim them but that was not recognized by China and North Vietnam, which backed China’s claims on the Spratlys.

    11 In April 1952 Japan signed a Peace Treaty with the Republic of China. Taiwan (Formosa) and Penghu (the Pescadores) as well as the Spratley Islands and the Paracel Islands were returned to China. (The 1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki was abrogated and became null & void.)

    12 On 4 Sept 1958, the PRC declared the breadth of its territorial sea should be 12nm, and this applied to all of its territories, including the Spratly and Paracel Islands. Mr Pham Van Dong, the Prime Minister of North Vietnam agreed and acknowledged that with a letter to Premier Zhou Enlai.

    13 In 1958, the Philippines still did not make any claim on any island in the South China Sea. But on 11 June 1978 President Ferdinand Marcos suddenly annexed 8 features in the Spratlys and renamed them the Kalayaan islands by issuing a presidential decree. That was illegal.

    14 The nine dash lines are not a claim of sovereignty. They were first drawn by Taiwan to demarcate the maritime boundaries of the coastal states in the South China Sea. Even if the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) rules them to be void, it means little as the PCA has no jurisdiction on the question of sovereignty and cannot rule that the Philippines own islands in the South China Sea, which she does not, from the evidence in the above Timeline.

    15 All members of Unclos, including China and the Philippines, cannot claim sovereignty in the Open Seas. They can only claim a 12 nm territorial water and a 200 nm EEZ in accordance with the provisions of Unclos.

    16 The “Regime of Island,” UNCLOS Part VIII, Article 121, states when the 200 nm EEZ applies to an island. This EEZ is halved if the island is situated opposite the coast of another nation in accordance with Article 15 on ‘Delimitation of the territorial sea between States with opposite or adjacent coasts’ .

    17 The above Timeline shows, without a doubt, that the Philippines has no legitimate claims in the South China Sea. Naming the South China Sea as the West Philippine Sea or stranding a ship in a reef in the South China Sea or annexing them using a presidential decree will not change the facts.

  • Usa

    Cowards dare not really squash a PLA bug but boasting is it nature.

  • Usa

    What is your weight? Fool hundreds pounds gray-back?

  • too_funny

    China is a bigger bug that Vietnam, Iraq, Afaghanistan, etc. The Philippines is a tiny bug hiding under Uncle Sam’s groin.

  • too_funny

    Somehow I have the feeling that you forgot the Philippine will be squashed by the groin of Uncle Sam for hiding there.

  • Oliver Sarmiento
  • Filmar

    Your still just a bug, make a move and the world will squash you…..waiting…..

  • Filmar

    This time, Japan gets to keep you as a trophy….

  • Peterman

    Don’t forget that during the Chinese Civil War, the communist ragtag rebels had annihilated the US supported, armed, and trained Nationalist army which was numerically superior.

    Then before the Chinese communists had time to lay down their arms, they had to march into North Korea in Winter with their straw sandals, side arms, and a handful of rice, with no supply logistics or air support, to beat back the best army in the world. The US had mechanized and air transports, and were able to retreat faster than the advancing communist foot soldiers, who had to hide during the daytime from US airforce bombing.

    Then Communist China supported Vietnam in its fight against the US. During the early stages, many Chinese advisors and soldiers fought inside Vietnam. While the Soviet Union provided arms to Vietnam, China provided food, and most importantly, secure supply routes. The US eventually had to leave. The fact that China helped Vietnam is not even strange, as one of the most famous freedom fighters in Vietnam fighting against early French colonizers was actually Chinese – the famous Black Flag brigand General Liu Yongfu.

    There is therefore zero chance that US will want war with China. The voters of America maybe stupid and never fails to elect liars, morons, and imbeciles, but the people who benefit from the global hegemon are not stupid. They will rather achieve their objectives by other means, not by uncontrollable and unpredictable raw violence against someone they cannot beat, with the certainty that America, including these people and institutions of privilege, and the world will suffer in a such a war, not just China. Why do you think Nixon had to fly across the Pacific to visit Mao and not the other way around? And it happened at a time when China was in the middle of a devastating Cultural Revolution which decimated the senior members of the Communist Party and the senior officials of the government.

    As for those pitiful American so-called ‘allies’, they’re but client states told to bark and harass by their global hegemonic master. This is very clever and economical shadow warfare conducted by the US. They hardly need to lift a finger to get the Chinese all a flustered. The word ‘allies’ is a lie repeated so many times by our trusted free press it has become the indisputable truth. But has anyone seen Japanese and South Korean army bases in California and New York? Has any Okinawan soldier raped any Americans on American soil and walked free? Has any US presidential candidates or dissidents of America visited the president of the Philippines to receive his seal of approval? These so-called allies are not totally independent and do not have complete sovereignty. There is a certain line they simply cannot cross or they will incur the wrath of their master.

  • Peterman

    The first Law of Economics relates to ownership. You cannot trade anything that you do not own, and you do not own anything that you cannot defend or hide. China Lee is very wise.

    Caveat: There is no First Law of Economics. I made it up. But this Law applies to all living systems.

  • Filmar

    What a bunch of BS. I doubt there will be any war. China will eat humble pie. China clearly understands it has no hope of winning a war with he USA let alone the USA plus most of the world. The best part is China can be destroyed without firing a shot….it is called sanctions. Game over for China.

  • Peterman

    I would like to know which part is BS. I’m willing to be open minded.

    On the other hand, even tiny Cuba survived decades of US global embargo. China survived one from 1949 until early 1980. There are going to be people who want to be ignorant and refuse to learn the facts. There is such a thing as history which can be researched. But facts can be confusing to people who have been swallowing lies since birth and do not have the faculties to think independently and critically.

    China poses a real threat to the US hegemon not because of its weapons, but because it has the economic critical mass to buckle the pillar of US empire which is the Dollar hegomony. Take away the Dollar and the hegemon will fall. The economies of US and China currently are so intricately linked together that sanctions will hurt the US as much as it hurts China. Pin pricks are allowed; no open warfare. Give some credit to the powers behind the empire. They did not build this global empire because they’re stupid.

  • Usa

    Don’t think the Jap dare lift this trophy again or it will totally submerged into the pacific oceans.

  • kaddy

    We can wait for the time that PRC will collapse on its massive weight, heavy burdens of a monolithic system, ethnic issues, and rigor of world politics. Communism will collapse in PRC as it collapse in Russia and eastern Europe. Democracy is PRC’s worst enemy.

  • Filmar

    Sure just like last time….

  • Ken5745

    You may to wait till Hell freezes over. When Deng said that it was not the color of the cat that counted but whether it could catch mice the communist ideology went out of the windows. Now in China to be rich is glorious. China’s foreign reserves are about US$3.7 trillion. Collapse? What collapse? Google Mena Lee Grebin to see her ominous visions for America instead.

  • Usa

    Dumb don’t think. Japanese are not dumb.

  • anon

    China itself must learn the lesson of the fall of wilhelmine germany.

  • anon

    Interesting… so ww2 never happened, only the Chinese civil war…the rest is uninspired chest thumping with no basis in fact. This is war at sea and air, not war on the mainland.

    Since when are Japan, South Korea, and Australia pitiful? Add India to that list soon.

  • Peterman

    Sorry if I sounded like I was chest-thumping. I was trying to put forward the point that there would be no war between China and the US, based on the three most recent encounters between the two countries on the opposite side of the battle-field.

    I also wish to illustrate the point that huge advantages in hi-tech and weapons may kill a lot of people but do not win wars. Otherwise Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and ISIS would be easy jobs for Uncle Sam.

    China did not send their soldiers to other countries thousands of miles from home to devaste other people’s homes and occupy their lands, hopefully they will not do so in the future.

    If the US can’t handle Afghanistan, what is the chance of them winning a war against a nuclear power like China? If the US has to spend a trillion dollars for a stalemate in Afghanistan, how much will they spend in a war against China? The US has a lot of politicians who talk crazy, but it’s owned and run by people who are very smart, and they will send their dogs to harass China, but there will be no war.

    Did I say China was going to crush the US? I don’t think so and I don’t think they can. But I’m pretty sure they will be able to defend their homeland sufficiently, at least no worse than the Afghans.

    As for the adjective ‘pitiful’ I used for some of the so-called ‘allies’ of the US, it is not meant to describe their military capabilities. I tried to expose the lie of the relationship to be not as equal allies but more as between a mighty master and his pitiful minions. China used to have foreign soldiers from many countries roaming its streets and countryside, killing, pillaging, and raping its people with impunity. There were places in China with signs that said ‘Chinese and dogs not allowed’. The China in those days was pitiful and pathetic. Today, there are no foreign soldiers in China unless invited for short visits as friends and colleaques, not as colonial masters.

    Interestingly, China happens to be the top trading country with all these US ‘allies’. Why would any of them want to go to war against China when they’re making so much money doing business with China? They will follow their master’s orders but there will be no war, just a lot of barking and posturing.

    Did I chest-thump? Hmmm… Maybe to some people standing up against a global hegemon is chest-thumping. Cuba and Iran must be really thumping their chests now.

  • roborat2000

    Your military analysis is completely off the mark. First of all China has not waged war with the US nor with anyone. A recent review of China’s capability to wage war has found it completely lagging compared to the likes of any western country. It’s military command structure is in disarray and coordination within branches of its military is non existent.
    Cuba survived the US embargo? You might want to go there and check how they have kept with the times.

  • roborat2000

    The problem is, your warships and planes and missiles are all made in China. Granted, some of them could actually work.

  • roborat2000

    Well if you’re in favour of countries breaking international laws then enjoy living there where your human rights are continuously violated and your labour laws completely denied. Which is why it’s the best place for Apple to make their phones! Imagine all the Chinese making phones 16 hours a day without over time pay. Awesome.

  • roborat2000

    In China, I can see some are getting filthy rich. I see a revolution coming. A communist government cannot share power with those that hold the money. Power always follows wealth.

  • Peterman

    I have made an observation from history to predict that there would be no war between China and the US. It is not based on military analysis. I’m not as knowledgeable in this matter as ‘China Lee’ and many learned respondents such as yourself at this site.

    War will only happen when one side believes it can win and the cost will be reasonable, not when both sides believe both will lose. There will be no winners in open warfare between China and US, except maybe some weapons manufacturers, and I believe no one will be crazy enough to try it. I actually have a lot of faith in the smart rulers of America (as oppose to its stupid voters and imbecilic politicians). What we witness now in the news is strategic manuevering, which is low temperature conflicts by any means other than open hostility. This kind of posturing if conducted with restrain may actually prevent war.

    You’re right that China has not waged war with anyone for a long time, and you say it like it’s a bad thing. The last three open conflicts involving China were with India, Soviet Union, and Vietnam. They were all short border demonstrations. They showed that despite China’s political isolation, economic weakness, and backwardness in weapons technology in those days, it was fully prepared and able to defend its borders. China has since settled its land border disputes with Russia and Vietnam, and has been mostly managing to maintain calm with India.

    Let me also say this about China that most people don’t know, it is that the country has spent the most part of the last two thousand and five hundred years under foreign invasions and foreign rules. For example, the last dynasty of China was Qing, which was Manchurian. Ethnically and culturally, they’re very different from central Chinese. After ruling China for 260 years, they have become Chinese, and China have absorbed many things Manchurian. For example, the Chinese lady’s long dress called the Cheongsam is developed from Qipao, which means ‘Flag-Robes’, ‘Flag’ representing the tribes of the Manchurians, and therefore meaning Manchurian. The ‘Chinese pigtail’ or ‘queue’ seen on many Western caricatures of Chinese men in the nineteenth and early twentieth century was decidedly non-Chinese, but was a Manchurian fashion imposed on the Chinese on pain of death.

    Before the Qing, there was the Yuan dynasty, a part of the Mongolian Empire with the famous Kublai Khan, and before that, the Jin (ancestor of the Manchurians) and the Liao (Khitans). The Khitans were later mistaken to be Chinese by the English who called China Cathay (derived from Khitan). The Tibetans had overrun the Western part of China and took its capital at one point during the Tang dynasty, and let’s not forget the Uighurs, who started showing up in China coming from central Asia from as early as the 4th century. They later brought the Islamic religion to China, inter-married with the Chinese and converted others, creating a new ethnicity called Hui (which in Chinese is the same word as ‘ui’ in Uighur). Hui is basically ethnic Chinese that follows Islam (sort of like Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs; same ethnic people following different religions). In China, Islam is popularly called ‘Hui Religion’ in reference to the Hui and Uighurs.

    After the fall of the Han dynasty, from the early 4th century, the northern part of China was basically ruled by foreign peoples for a couple of hundred years, the most prominent being the Xianbei, with some tribes being variously described as having red hair and green eyes. Tang dynasty followed (one of the greatest Chinese dynasty, which culture and customs are still being maintained by the Japanese). Tang itself was of foreign nature, its greatest emperor being all foreign on his mother’s side of the family.

    China and what is considered Chineseness after millenia of foreign rule is not based on its military might, but based on the strong and resilient nature of its people and culture, assimilating foreign influences but not losing what is considered Chinese, a characteristic not unlike that of America.

    As for Cuba surviving the US global embargo; yes, they have survived and they will now build their country on their own terms and with dignity. No one can tell if they will succeed, and they will only have themselves to blame if they don’t, but they will not be a dog of their neighboring giant, the global hegemon, unlike many ‘pitiful’ allies pretending to be equal among peers while groveling for their master’s crumbs.

    As an aside, my family has its share of diehard rednecks (sorry if I offend) who believe that W Bush is god, and Bibi should get the Peace Nobel (not that I disagree, given that many Peace Nobels have been given to warmongers and mass-murderers). Visits to Cuba and Iran have changed their views to these countries if not their overall political inclinations. Iran is now the country with the friendliest people and Cuba has the loveliest, notwithstanding portrayals in the otherwise by the Western Free Press. We’re talking frequent visits to Cuba and Iran just about every other year since then besides the regular pilgrimages to Israel and Jerusalem, and the current developments in Cuba and Iran only bring sighs that the beautiful innocence will soon be gone for the sake of economic growth. In that sense alone, Cuba has survived, and with dignity.

    I believe the home of the brave also has many people of courage and principle who will not bend their knees to bullies wielding god-like weapons, but would rather starve or die on their feet and with dignity. There will unfortunately be those who feel free to be dogs and minions, doing their master’s dirty work and fighting for their master’s scraps convincing themselves there is no shame to be slaves. America, after all, is a free country.

  • Frank Discus

    You are right. That’s actually the reasoning of Mussolini, Hitler and the Empire of Japan back then. People never learn their history. Chinese communist leaders may now bask in their new-found strength, in the end, its the millions of innocent chinese that will suffer the consequence.