The long-running Chinese complaint about U.S. activities in the South China Sea, which are proving inconvenient to Chinese activities in that disputed region, runs on through the pages of the state-run Xinhua news agency. Defense Ministry Spokesman Yang Yujun claims China was “greatly concerned about the United States’ push to ‘militarize'” the area.
The proximate example of “militarization” cited by Yujun consisted of Admiral Harry B. Harris of the U.S. Pacific Command flying over the region in an airplane, from which he might have caught a glimpse of those militarized airfields and gun emplacements China has been building.
Yang folded this into China’s constant complaint about American surveillance flights supposedly increasing tensions in the region, because China might shoot one of them down someday. This would seem incongruous with China’s loud insistence that it’s only building up those disputed islands to “safeguard navigation security in the region” and protect the environment.
The Chinese are also sore about Admiral Harris making “irresponsible comments” on the situation in the South China Sea, which Xinhua describes as follows: “The Defense Department website quoted Harris as saying China wants to change the status quo in the South China Sea to suit its narrow interests. He also accused China of land reclamation that has destroyed the surrounding underwater environment and island building without meaningful diplomatic efforts toward dispute resolution or arbitration.”
In fact, Harris said the South China Sea was “front and center in the tug-of-war between the majority of regional nations that want to maintain the status quo and China that wants to change it to suit its narrow self-interest.” And he quoted Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken, comparing what China is doing with those islands to what Russia did with Crimea.
He also said China was responsible for “the most rapid rate of permanent loss of coral reef area in human history,” and warned “China’s destructive activities will result in the permanent loss of coral reef in one of the most important reef systems in the Pacific.”
Harris had previously described China’s island-building project as “creating a Great Wall of sand,” which is a great line. If anything, Xinhua is soft-pedaling the remarks they are complaining about.
On the other hand, Xinhua quotes Defense Ministry spokesman Yang, slamming Harris for not “saying a single word on activities by the Philippines and other countries to carry out large-scale construction projects and military deployment for years on islands they stole from China,” when in fact the admiral did call for all claimants to halt all land-reclamation projects.
China portrays Pacific Rim democracy as the United States building up a sinister coalition to back some unspecified future aggression against the lovable Communist tyranny. But Harris noted that China’s neighbors are building stronger relationships with each other and America, not because of any “sudden U.S. effort to increase stability and security within the region,” but because of “China’s conspicuous failure to do the same.”
“We advise the U.S. side to stop making such comments, which are true hypocrisy under a shell of justness,” Yang complained. Maybe the Chinese could stop dumping sand and concrete mix on those coral reefs for awhile, while they nurse their injured feelings.