China is reclaiming and rebuilding the islands in the South China Sea and turning them into habitable islands with facilities for commerce and human industry. Its fishing boats and coast guards are in the waters in the South China Sea. And it is being accused of being an assertive and aggressive power when its fishing boats are being arrested and towed away by little countries making counter claims to the islands in the South China Sea. Who are the aggressive and assertive countries? Who are the countries that are arresting fishing boats from other countries and blowing them up?
What is inexplicable is that China, being a super power, could easily chase away all the small little patrol boats of the Asean countries that are threatening the Chinese fishing boats, arresting them if needed to, including arresting the patrol boats, instead of allowing Chinese fishing boats to be detained and blown into piece and Chinese fishermen arrested.
Does China believe in the 9 dashed lines and that its fishing boats are fishing in Chinese waters? If so, then China must enforce and protect their safety from foreign patrol boats. By not doing so, China is indirectly saying that the Chinese fishing boats are fishing in other country’s waters and therefore illegal and rightly detained by other countries. If they are in Chinese waters and they could be arrested and Chinese coast guards could not do anything about it, it is a sign of weakness, unable to protect its own fishing boats and fishermen.
China has two options, enforces its claim over the islands if it really believes they belong to China and protect its fishing boats and fishermen. If it does not believe so, or believes that the waters are disputed seas, then it should keep its fishing boats out of the disputed areas. This is only the right and respectable thing to do. Allowing its fishing boats to fish in disputed water is debatable. Unable to protect its fishing fleet makes China look hopeless and weak as a super power. In both instances China is looking very bad to the world.
What does China really believes? It is either right or wrong, the claimed South China Sea region is either Chinese territories or it is not. If yes, make sure the competing claimants know and to protect their fishing boats. If not, do not cause trouble by allowing its fishing boats into the area and to be arrested and blown apart.
What are the Chinese leaders thinking? China must not be wishy washy and invite trouble and ill repute to itself without a clear position and a clear policy to deal with the other Asean states or to allow its fishing boats to be harassed and arrested like illegal fishing boats committing a crime in other country’s territorial waters. China must not only act tough but also be clear and must respect other country’s territorial waters if it wants others to respect its territorial waters.
Anyone, China or Asean states making claims in the South China Sea would have to safeguard their claims legally and by force if necessary. The Vietnamese, Indonesians, the Malaysians and the Philippines are doing so, sending out their naval vessels to enforce their claims. China too must do so if it is serious in its claims and arrest vessels in the disputed areas when others are also doing the same. Failure to do so is not only a sign of weakness but weakening its claims by default, an act or acknowledgement that the disputed area does not belong to China.