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China Rewrites History
by James Dunnigan
September 7, 2014

The growing Chinese aggression in the South China Sea and adjacent waters is based, according to the Chinese, on their interpretations of history. The Chinese claim just about every uninhabited islet and reef in the region, despite older and more substantial (recognized by international agreements) claims by nations that are closer to the disputed areas. China has ordered its scholars to dig up any historical evidence for early Chinese presence on rocks, reefs and uninhabited islands in the South China Sea. What the Chinese historians have come up with is often vague, hearsay or subject to wide interpretation. In effect, China wants to reverse centuries of recent claims and practices to justify its aggression in the South China Sea. This Chinese effort has one major flaw; it ignores the fact that for thousands of year the Chinese imperial government (which lasted until 1910) disregarded seaward expansion or exploration. The current Chinese government has ordered this history rewritten and reinterpreted and has made it clear that all contradictory opinions by foreign scholars are false. Meanwhile tangible Chinese pressure comes mainly in the form of intimidation by their growing fleet of warships and patrol boats. Actual force (usually bumping into “trespassing” fishing boats or other commercial ships) is usually done by Chinese non-military ships, under orders from nearby Chinese warships or warplanes. New tactics and procedures have to be worked out to counter these Chinese methods.

Filipino fishermen report increased Chinese patrol activity within the Philippines EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone, waters 380 kilometers from the coast) in the South China Sea. Filipinos have been fishing reefs and other shallow waters within the EEZ for centuries, long before there was a Philippine state and without interference from Chinese fishermen. That’s because fishing boats with refrigeration, a 20th century invention, only recently made it possible for Chinese fishermen to scour the entire South China Sea for fish to catch, refrigerate and carry back to China. Filipino fishermen also report China constructing concrete structures on some of these reefs, apparently to make possible the establishment of military bases. China says this is within their rights and no one is trying to stop them with force. The victims of all this aggression are waiting on the United States to take the lead in confronting China. The U.S. has declined so far. The Philippines regularly protests the growing number of Chinese warships and coast guard vessels making “sovereignty patrols" within the Filipino EEZ. China rejects such complaints as without merit because China owns the South China Sea and to the Chinese that is settled law.

Filipino marines stationed on a World War II era landing ship (the BRP Sierra Madre deliberately grounded on Second Thomas Reef in 1999 to provide a place for an observation team) report at least three instances in the last month in which a UAV, apparently Chinese, was spotted circling them. China is known to be equipping its warships with UAVs. In 2013 Chinese patrol ships came within nine kilometers of the LST, which China insists is there illegally. The Philippines warns China that it will resist any attempts to use force against the grounded ship.



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