“Sphere of influence” thinking is out-of-date, Chinese Ambassador says

An article by Cui Tiankai, China’s ambassador to the U.S., published Wednesday in Bloomberg is an attempt to prevent the South China Sea issue from becoming the dominant theme in next week’s Strategic and Economic Dialogue between China and the United States which is to be held this time in Beijing.

“A pressing task is to understand the facts and China’s intentions correctly so as to avoid real danger and consequences as a result of misinterpretation and miscalculation,”

Cui writes.  While reiterating China’s complaint that the move to arbitration by the Philippines (under the guiding hand of the U.S.) lacks legitimacy, because such a court has no jurisdiction to decide issues of territorial sovereignty, he also points out the total hypocrisy of the United States in trying to use the UN Law of the Sea Convention (which the U.S. still refuses to sign), as a tool against China’s actions while at the same time flouting its own self-proclaimed “freedom of navigation” doctrine which permits the U.S. Navy the sole right to travel uncontested in every sea on the globe.

Cui also notes that China’s policy in the region is NOT some sort of Monroe Doctrine, as it has often been characterized in the U.S. press.

“China believes that the concept of sphere of influence is out-of-date in the 21st century,” Cui writes. “China consistently strives for regional cooperation, and we respect America’s traditional presence and legitimate interests in the Asia-Pacific region. The reality is not that China is trying to drive anyone out, but that there are attempts to deny China’s legitimate and expanding interests in its own region.”

He also underlines China’s willingness to resolve the disputes through diplomatic dialogue and that the countries in the region are working toward creating a Code of Conduct to avoid any conflict while territorial claims are being negotiated.

Ambassador Cui also underlined the many issues which the U.S. and China have in common and have to deal with cooperatively. The Chinese Foreign Ministry also held a press conference on June 1 delineating the many issues, economic, political, and social, which they have to deal with together and which should comprise the bulk of the discussions in next week’s discussion. As this will be the last S&ED meeting on Obama’s watch, there is some concern that this will be an opportunity for a last-ditch thrust at confronting China on the territorial issue.

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