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Hypocrisy in the South China Sea

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HAIKOU, CHINA – There is a big difference between reasoning and rationalization. Reasoning is the use of facts and logic to derive a conclusion regarding a given issue. Rationalization is the use of reasoning to justify a preconceived conclusion. Many countries have rationalized their positions regarding their claims and actions in the South China Sea. Indeed there are no “innocents” — only degrees of rationalization.

For its policies and actions in the South China Sea, China has been accused of being aggressive; bullying other claimants; violating the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) as well as international law and norms; militarizing the features it occupies; threatening freedom of navigation; damaging the environment and causing ASEAN disunity.

But China argues that what it calls the Nansha (the Spratlys) and their “adjacent waters” have been under its sovereignty since “time immemorial.” According to China’s rationalized perspective, the former Western colonies have been stealing its fish and oil and gas in collaboration with outside Western companies and powers.

Moreover, to China, other claimants like the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam have committed similar transgressions. Indeed, in the 1970s and ’80s while the United States, Japan and Australia remained silent, they occupied features there that China considered its sovereign territory. They then altered the features by adding to them, built structures, ports and airstrips, and allowed access for their militaries. In China’s view they appropriated the largest and most useful features under spurious claims leaving only the dregs and submerged features.

In China’s rationalization of its more recent actions, it suffered by previously being relatively non-aggressive. When China tried to “catch up” by building on some of the only remaining unoccupied and low-tide features, the other claimants accused it of not exercising “self-restraint” and thus violating the 2002 DOC. But to China,........

© The Japan Times