"Imperialism will not last long because it always does evil things. It persists in grooming and supporting reactionaries in all countries who are against the people, it has forcibly seized many colonies and semi-colonies and many military bases, and it threatens the peace with atomic war. Thus, forced by imperialism to do so, more than 90 per cent of the people of the world are rising or will rise up in struggle against it. Yet imperialism is still alive, still running amuck in Asia, Africa and Latin America." Chairman Mao
China's Cabbage Strategy vs. the Philippines
China is currently in disputes with several of its neighbors, and the Chinese have become decidedly more willing to wield a heavy stick. There is a growing sense that they have been waiting a long time to flex their muscles and that that time has finally arrived. “Nothing in China happens overnight,” Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt, the director of Asia-Pacific programs at the United States Institute of Peace, said. “Any move you see was planned and prepared for years, if not more. So obviously this maritime issue is very important to China.”
It is also very important to the United States, as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made clear at a gathering of the Association of Southeast Nations (Asean) in Hanoi in July 2010. Clinton declared that freedom of navigation in the South China Sea was a “national interest” of the United States, and that “legitimate claims to maritime space in the South China Sea should be derived solely from legitimate claims to land features,” which could be taken to mean that China’s nine-dash line was illegitimate. The Chinese foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, chafed visibly, left the meeting for an hour and returned only to launch into a long, vituperative speech about the danger of cooperation with outside powers.
President Obama and his representatives have reiterated America’s interest in the region ever since. The Americans pointedly refuse to take sides in the sovereignty disputes. But China’s behavior as it becomes more powerful, along with freedom of navigation and control over South China Sea shipping lanes, will be among the major global political issues of the 21st century. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, of the $5.3 trillion in global trade that transits the South China Sea each year, $1.2 trillion of it touches U.S. ports — and so American foreign policy has begun to shift accordingly.
In a major speech in Singapore last year, Leon Panetta, then the secretary of defense, described the coming pivot in U.S. strategy in precise terms: “While the U.S. will remain a global force for security and stability, we will of necessity rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region.” He referred to the United States as a “Pacific nation,” with a capital “P” and no irony, and then announced a series of changes — most notably that the roughly 50-50 balance of U.S. naval forces between the Pacific and the Atlantic would become 60-40 Pacific by 2020. Given the size of the U.S. Navy, this is enormously significant.
In June of last year, the United States helped broker an agreement for both China’s and the Philippines’s ships to leave Scarborough Shoal peacefully, but China never left. They eventually blocked access to the shoal and filled in a nest of boats around it to ward off foreign fishermen.
“Since [the standoff], we have begun to take measures to seal and control the areas around the Huangyan Island,” Maj. Gen. Zhang Zhaozhong, of China’s People’s Liberation Army, said in a television interview in May, using the Chinese term for Scarborough. (That there are three different names for the same set of uninhabitable rocks tells you much of what you need to know about the region.) He described a “cabbage strategy,” which entails surrounding a contested area with so many boats — fishermen, fishing administration ships, marine surveillance ships, navy warships — that “the island is thus wrapped layer by layer like a cabbage.” FROM NYT
There can be no question that the cabbage strategy is in effect now at Ayungin and has been at least since May. General Zhang, in his interview several months ago, listed Ren’ai Shoal (the Chinese name for Ayungin) in the P.L.A.’s “series of achievements” in the South China Sea. He had already put it in the win column, even though eight Filipino marines still live there. He also seemed to take some pleasure in the strategy.
Of taking territory from the Philippines, he said: “We should do more such things in the future. For those small islands, only a few troopers are able to station on each of them, but there is no food or even drinking water there. If we carry out the cabbage strategy, you will not be able to send food and drinking water onto the islands. Without the supply for one or two weeks, the troopers stationed there will leave the islands on their own. Once they have left, they will never be able to come back.”
MANILA, Philippines—China has a sovereign right to establish a maritime air defense zone over another region as it did in the East China Sea, the Chinese envoy to the Philippines said.
The United States and key Asian allies have not honored the East China Sea zone, which was announced November 23 and is seen primarily as a bid to bolster China’s claim over uninhabited Japanese-controlled islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. The Philippines is locked in another territorial dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
When asked to comment about concerns that China might set up a similar zone over the West Philippine Sea, Ambassador Ma Keqing said in a news conference late Monday that it was the Chinese government’s right to decide “where and when to set up the new air identification zone.”
She added she could not say at this time if China would do so.
Ma said that the East China Sea zone’s designation should not spark concerns.
“This will not hinder any normal freedom of flights within this area if they’ve notified the Chinese authorities,” Ma said.
The US ambassador to Manila, Philip Goldberg, described China’s move as dangerous.
“We do not believe that this is a move intended to build confidence or, in any other way, improve the situation,” Goldberg told reporters.
Instead, China’s new zone “will create tension and the possibility of miscalculations and that’s never good.”
While the US has not recognized the Chinese imposition, it has advised its carriers to comply to be safe.
“We can’t, with commercial aircraft, take chances, as I mentioned, of miscalculation, so we have recommended to our commercial airlines that they give such notification,” Goldberg said.
Philippine aviation official John Andrews said Tuesday Filipino carriers have been notified of China’s air defense zone but says it is up to them whether to comply with Chinese requirements for passing aircraft to identify themselves and submit details of their flights.
The Philippines has said the zone infringes on the freedom to fly in international airspace and compromises the safety of civil aviation.
China has said that all aircraft entering the zone of international waters between China, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan must notify Chinese authorities beforehand and that it would take unspecified defensive measures against those that don’t comply.
China has been locked over increasingly-tense disputes over potentially oil- and gas-rich territories in the West Philippine Sea with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
MANILA - Manila protested on Tuesday against Beijing's blockade of civilian supply ships in disputed waters of the South China Sea, saying China's latest actions "constitute a clear and urgent threat to the rights and interests of the Philippines."
China's coast guard ships had driven away two Philippine vessels which had tried to approach a shoal in the South China Sea on Sunday, sparking the latest flare-up in a long-running territorial dispute.
The Department of Foreign Affairs summoned China's charge d' affaires Sun Xiangyang on Tuesday to hand over a strongly worded protest over the incident in the waters around the Second Thomas Shoal, which the Philippines refers to as the Ayungin Shoal.
In a statement, the foreign ministry "urged China to desist from any further interference with the efforts of the Philippines to undertake rotation and resupply operations at the Ayungin Shoal."
"Ayungin Shoal is part of the continental shelf of the Philippines and (it) is therefore entitled to exercise sovereignty rights and jurisdiction in the area without the permission of other states," the foreign ministry said.
The shoal, known in China as the Ren'ai reef.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said the Chinese patrol ships warned the Philippine vessels, carrying construction materials, not to intrude further into the waters around the reef and they left the area.
China's claim over islands, reefs and atolls that form the Spratlys, a group of 250 uninhabitable islets spread over 165,000 square miles, has set it directly against Vietnam and the Philippines, while Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia also lay claim to parts.
Who can help the Philippines?
China has been troubling its neighbors lately, and that makes it easier for President Obama to court Asian nations.By Zachary Keck, TheDiplomat.com
International relations scholars of the Realist persuasion have long held that when faced with a security threat, states balance against it in two ways. The first way is through internal balancing; that is, by strengthening one’s own capabilities. This is the preferred balancing mechanism for states, according to realists, as it doesn’t force states to rely on allies’ goodwill in meeting their commitments, and doesn’t risk the state being dragged into others’ fights.
However, oftentimes the power disparity between a rising state and its adversaries means that internal balancing alone will not suffice in countering it. In these instances, realists contend, states will seek to align with third parties who also view the powerful state as a threat.
Although the social sciences are nowhere near as exact as the natural ones, East Asia over the past few months have largely followed this pattern, especially with regards to the Philippines and Japan—the two states who have been engaged in the most prolonged and intense maritime standoffs with China in recent years.
Thus, after wrangling with China in the Scarborough Shoal last year, the Philippines unveiled a US$1.8 billion military modernization plan that is heavy on weapons acquisition. Similarly, shortly after taking office in December, Shinzo Abe’s administration asked for two increases in in defense spending in January alone, even though Tokyo hadn’t raised military spending since 2002.
He has also sought to redefine the Japanese Self Defense Forces considerably, allowing them to undertake a far more expansive array of operations than in the past. Notably, one change Abe has been advocating particularly hard for is allowing the SDF to come to the aid of allied nations under the banner of self-defence.
But ultimately neither of these countries can unilaterally compete with China’s military power over the long-run. This is already true of the Philippines, given that in 2011 Beijing’s GDP was over 30 times as large as Manila’s economic output. Not surprisingly, Manila has decided to augment its own military build-up with an aggressive campaign to bring just about anyone to its side, from ASEAN and the U.S., to international courts, Russia and now Japan.