CHINA’S rampant colonialism isn’t restricted to land. Its imperialistic ambitions extend to the South China Sea, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. The global distraction over Covid-19 has emboldened it. While China continues its monopolisation of the Sea, neighbouring ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries are at risk of losing not only their maritime rights but their sovereignty too. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) view places such as Singapore and Malaysia, with their sizeable ethnic Chinese populations, as satellite states, ultimately China’s property. Their aggressive behaviour in the Sea is part of their long game to control all that they claim is theirs.
The Spratly Islands are in the southern part of this vast Sea. Their strategic importance and rich fishing grounds make them a desirable bit of property, and they are claimed by several countries. Further north lie the Paracel Islands, with lucrative fishing potential and gas and oil reserves. Vietnam lays historical claim to them. China, asserting ownership, has militarised both island groups.
The ASEAN countries, especially Vietnam and the Philippines, have long protested about China’s colonisation of the Spratly and Paracel Islands. In 2016, an international arbitration in The Hague ruled that China’s claim to most of the Sea conflicts with the Law of the Sea Convention. Yet China has ignored this resolution, noisily flexing its muscles over the Sea.
Two years ago a Philippine newspaper exposed China’s building of military bases on the Spratly Islands. In April, Vietnam protested that China had created two administrative districts on both the Paracel and Spratly islands. These island fortresses help China solidify its domination of the Sea, extending their control over maritime traffic and trade, and degrading the sovereignty of their neighbours.
Last month a Chinese coastguard ship sank a Vietnamese fishing boat near the Paracel Islands. Their excuse was that the ship had strayed into its waters and refused to leave. This isn’t the first time Chinese ships have deliberately destroyed what the CCP consider interlopers into their territory, having sunk a Philippine fishing boat last April. In December Indonesia protested against Chinese coastguard vessels and fishermen entering their waters.
But China is deaf to any complaints, having recently escalated its bullying tactics by issuing a fishing ban on the South China Sea for the next four months. China claims that this is to rejuvenate fishing stocks, but Vietnam and the Philippines rightly say this is China’s way of asserting power and control over the area.
In response, Vietnamese fishermen staged a protest. China retaliated by telling them they had ‘no right’ to do so, which sums up the arrogant attitude of the CCP. Vietnamese and Philippine fisherman urged their governments to stand up to China. But given that the Philippines is now indebted to China via the notorious Belt and Road Initiative, not even a murmur was raised by Rodrigo Duterte’s government.
So far only the US has robustly called out China on its sabre-rattling in the Sea, putting its words into actions too. Last week the US Navy sent two warships to the Sea to protect a commercial Malaysian ship after Chinese vessels harassed it. China also recently threatened a Philippine navy ship.
It’s not war that China wants but total economic and territorial domination by stealth, intimidation and bullying. The CCP are unafraid of any country, even the US. Given the West’s mainly weak responses to Chinese imperialistic ambitions, who can blame them?
Last August Britain, Germany and France issued a joint statement, feebly condemning China’s colonial ambitions in the Sea and urging co-operation between the ASEAN member states and China. So far, China has ignored the bleatings of the toothless E3 and carried on playing its long game in the Sea.
China gets away with its destructive colonialism because far too many countries are, through the Belt and Road Initiative, economically indebted to them. Economic servitude weakens and silences any protests. That China’s lengthy occupation of Tibet has been ignored for decades by the West should have been a warning sign that our decrepit governments have long kowtowed to the CCP’s own political narrative.
For decades the Western Left, goaded by the USSR and Islamists, lambasted the US for its supposed paternalism and imperialism. It is any wonder that President Donald Trump sought to lessen America’s unappreciated role as the world’s policeman? That, and the collapse of the USSR, created a global power vacuum and China has taken full advantage of it. While the West navel-gazes, held hostage by the Left’s perverse obsession with identity politics, China is conquering us all.
If the 20th century was America’s, the 21st will be China’s. And it won’t be as pleasant. China is not a kind and paternalistic soft power but a brutal and murderous one which tolerates no dissent. Western governments which claim to love freedom and democracy should hang their heads in shame for selling us out to the CCP. They have broken the social contract and the rest of us will suffer for it.
When the pandemic finally dissipates, the power hegemony will have shifted from the West to China, with only a pared-back America left to protect us. This will be our brave new world and we had better be ready.