Chinese military officials speaking to Reuters under condition of anonymity say they are hoping to encourage Beijing to allow them to give a “bloody nose” to Vietnam, the Philippines, and other states claiming territory in the South China Sea, where China claims most of the resource-rich waters.
The report comes as the Global Times, a state-run nationalist newspaper, derides Australia for supporting rival claims in the region as a “paper cat” with no stake in the dispute.
“We should go in and give them a bloody nose like Deng Xiaoping did to Vietnam in 1979,” a “source with ties to the military” in China told Reuters, suggesting that China should respond to losing an international law case at the Hague with military action.
China is claiming parts of the South China Sea that belong to Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Taiwan, a well as maritime territory belonging to Indonesia. Due to China’s consistent attacks on Filipino fishermen in the Spratly and Paracel Islands, as well as continued military development of artificial islands there, the Philippines filed a suit against China at the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague. The court handed down a decisive victory for the Philippines in July, which the Chinese government has vowed to ignore.
“It was a huge loss of face,” the military source told Reuters about the Hague case, suggesting that military action against the parties China deems responsible, notably the United States, should be a viable option. “The United States will do what it has to do. We will do what we have to do,” he adds.
Not that the military is explicitly looking for a confrontation with America yet, as it appears to be aware that such a venture would not go well for China. “Our navy cannot take on the Americans. We do not have that level of technology yet. The only people who would suffer would be ordinary Chinese,” he said.
The reaction against the Philippines for the Hague loss has been mild compared to that against America and Japan, especially in Chinese media. Chinese media claims a Japanese former Hague judge was behind the ruling against China and has called both the governments of Japan and the United States “eunuchs.” Spurring into action by state-controlled media, Chinese citizens have begun smashing their American iPhones and protesting in front of the American fast food chain KFC, accusing its patrons of being traitors to China.
Australia has also grown in stature as an anti-Chinese villain, despite being much closer to the South China Sea than either America or Japan. “Australia is a unique country with an inglorious history,” an article in the Global Times this week rails. “This country was established through uncivilized means, in a process filled with the tears of the aboriginals.”
“China must take revenge and let it know it’s wrong. Australia’s power means nothing compared to the security of China. If Australia steps into the South China Sea waters, it will be an ideal target for China to warn and strike,” the article continued.
In contrast, Chinese outlets have called for “cooperation” with the member nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which contains most of the nations with disputes in the region. “What’s certain is that the US will adopt more offshore approaches to continue to create an atmosphere to set China in a passive position and offset China’s efforts in building new regional order and pushing forward regional cooperation,” the People’s Daily warns in an article seeking more dialogue with ASEAN.