Saturday, July 07, 2012

The Chinese art of inflexible diplomacy

PLA Navy sailors walk in step
The Chinese stick to alleged historical claims to justify their inability to compromise on the South China Sea disputes. Expect the same about their claims over Taiwan 

If the position of Chinese officials and academics on China’s claims in the South China Sea is any indication of how a resurgent Beijing intends to handle diplomacy, Taiwanese should be happy that political talks with Taipei have not begun — at least not in official settings. 

A packed conference organized last week by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on the intensifying disputes in the South China Sea showed, in no uncertain terms, that vague historical claims, rather than international law, are Beijing’s tool of choice on what it regards as its core interests. 

Judging by the number of Chinese academics and journalists who showed up at the two-day event, there’s no doubt that the Chinese have every intention of hammering the message home wherever they can. On the first day of the conference, this writer shared a table with Chinese correspondents from every major Chinese media outlet, including the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-run People’s Daily and China News Service. Nearly half of the people in attendance were Chinese and almost every panel had a Chinese academic presenting Beijing’s claim. This was in sharp contrast to the not-distant past and a sign of China’s emergence as a political force to be reckoned with; politicos in Washington told me that a few years ago, one was hard pressed to find any Chinese at such conferences. 

My op-ed, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

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