China flaunts muscle to show coronavirus left might intact — analyst

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com
China flaunts muscle to show coronavirus left might intact â analyst
This file photo taken on April 21, 2017, shows an aerial image, from a Philippine airforce plane, of Subi Reef in the South China Sea and claimed by China.
AFP / Ted Aljibe, File

MANILA, Philippines — China's recent establishment of new facilities in the South China Sea might be Beijing's way to show the rest of the world that its might was not crippled by the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, an analyst has said.

“What we can say for certain is that China clearly wants to demonstrate that it is unimpeded by the pandemic,” said Nguyen Hung Son, director-general of the Institute for the South China Sea under the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam.

If any, what Beijing did not plan was to announce the new establishments this early, but was forced to do so to salvage its tarnished global image caused by the alleged concealment and rapid spread of COVID-19 from Wuhan province.

“Although the pandemic might have pushed them to announce it earlier and the anchoring of the search and rescue vessels in the Fiery Cross (Reef) is also probably recurring Chinese activities. And they planned to do that,” Nguyen said.

Just last month, China announced the establishment of the districts of Nansha (Spratly Islands) and Xisha (Paracel Islands), which would fall under the jurisdiction of its self-declared Sansha City. The Philippines protested the move.

A month before that, state-funded Chinese Academy of Sciences launched research stations on Fiery Cross (Kagitingan) and Subi Reefs in the Spratlys, which are also being claimed by the Philippines.

On top of trying to rebuild its damaged reputation from COVID-19, Nguyen further noted Beijing is speeding up building activities in contested waters as a show of force ahead of the 100th founding anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party next year.

ASEAN stand

China has butted heads with smaller countries in Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, over its all-encompassing claims in South China Sea, which many observers see as a violation of international law.

In July 2016, the Philippines secured a historic victory on this front when the country won a ruling from the Permanent Court of Arbitration that gave the country jurisdiction over some islands in the West Philippine Sea, an area in the South China Sea that falls within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

But the international ruling was not recognized by China which persisted to construct new facilities in the area. Nguyen reiterated that as one body, the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) need to counter China by fostering a more “rules-based” approach in navigation. 

“ASEAN needs to encourage and promote the trend relying more on the law of the sea to set and maintain the rules-based order on the South China Sea,” Nguyen said.





As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: February 28, 2022 - 10:29am

The United States Navy's Nimitz-class nuclear powered supercarrier USS John C. Stennis continues underway in the South China Sea.

The US Pacific Command just reported that it has received "cargo" from support ship USNS Rainier in the disputed waters.

February 28, 2022 - 10:29am

Around 68 foreign vessels were near Julian Felipe Reef and 39 near Union Banks on February 17, satellite image show.

Liz Derr, CEO of the geospatial data provider Simularity, says this at a Stratebase ADR-hosted conference.

In March 2021, over 200 Chinese vessels were sighted near the reef.  — report from News5/Marianne Enriquez

November 22, 2021 - 3:54pm

President Rodrigo Duterte condemns the latest flare-up in the disputed South China Sea after Chinese coastguard ships fired water cannon at Filipino boats. 

"We abhor the recent event in the Ayungin Shoal and view with grave concern other similar developments," Duterte tells the meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China, using the Filipino name for the shoal. 

"This does not speak well of the relations between our nations and our partnership." — AFP

November 22, 2021 - 8:41am

The European Union expresses "strong opposition" against China's unilateral actions in the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea.

This statement comes after Chinese coast guard ships blocked and water cannoned Philippine boats transporting supplies to military personnel stationed at Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal.

"In this context, the European Union recalls the Arbitration Award rendered under UNCLOS on 12 July 2016, which found that Second Thomas Shoal lies within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and continental shelf," the EU says in a statement.

July 14, 2021 - 8:49am

Geospatial imagery and analysis firm Simularity stands behind its report on ships dumping raw sewage in the West Philippine Sea, adding a stock photo used in its presentation was not used in its analysis.

"We welcome the news that Philippine agencies are validating our research and results. It is all reproducible, based on publicly available sources, well understood algorithms, and the approach and interpretation are validated by readily available scientific papers, links to which you can find in our report," it says.

July 13, 2021 - 2:44pm

The Department of Environemnt and Natural Resources says it will coordinate with the Philippine Coast Guard and the Department of National Defense "on the authenticity of the allegation" that Chinese ships have been dumping raw waste in areas of the West Philippine Sea, which satellite imaging firm Simularity said has been causing damage to coral reefs in the Spratlys.

"After that, we will be seeking for the attention of the Chinese government through our Department of Foreign Affairs," Undersecretary Benny Antiporda, DENR spokesperson, says.

"We will also validate if indeed these are Chinese vessels," he also says.

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