China-Philippines Standoff: It Will Get Worse Before It Gets Better
The standoff between China and the Philippines over the Huangyan Island/ Scarborough Shoal (see the island marked 黄岩 on the Chinese map to the right) has continued to fester over the past few weeks. CFR’s Asia Unbound blog has a nice summary here of the latest. The bottom line: The Philippines has been calling for restraint in recent days, but the Chinese seems to be escalating the rhetoric.
On Monday, He Jia, an anchor on China’s state-run CCTV, mistakenly declared that “China has unquestionable sovereignty over the Philippines” rather than just over the disputed island. On Tuesday, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying warned a Philippine diplomat that China was fully prepared to do anything to respond to escalation. Deep-water drilling has begun near islands in the South China Sea and Chinese travel agencies have reportedly suspended tours to the Philippines.
The Chinese Embassy in the Philippines is warning Chinese nationals to stay indoors during expected anti-China protests this weekend and most ominously, the Chinese military has been making bellicose noises:
“We want to say that anyone’s attempt to take away China’s sovereignty over Huangyan Island will not be allowed by the Chinese government, people and armed forces,” read the article in the official PLA Daily newspaper.
Finally, CFR notes that the dispute has also included Chinese hacking attacks on Philippines government websites, as well as Filipino retaliatory hacking. This too is a front that could escalate since the Chinese government has shown no signs of trying to tamp down its own very nationalistic citizenry on this issue. Things are not yet really bad, but, ominously, they are not getting better either. The U.S. should be thinking again about its obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty. It is no longer a purely theoretical obligation.