China recently issued a white paper to reiterate its stance on the South China Sea issue. In the document entitled China Adheres to the Position of Settling Through Negotiation the Relevant Disputes Between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea, China stressed that it endeavors to achieve win-win outcomes through mutually beneficial cooperation and is committed to making the South China Sea a sea of peace, cooperation and friendship.
“China abides by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and is committed to upholding and promoting international rule of law. It respects and acts in accordance with international law,” the paper stressed.
“While firmly safeguarding its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, China adheres to the position of settling disputes through negotiation and consultation and managing differences through rules and mechanisms,” it added.
The white paper came soon after the delivery of the so-called award of the South China Sea arbitration unilaterally filed by the Philippines’ Aquino III administration.
Peace and stability in the South China Sea is crucial for the security and economic growth of China and its neighboring countries, but the arbitration has posed a severe threat to regional peace. China’s non-acceptance and non-recognition of the so-called award embodies its firm resolution to safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea.
For years, China has devoted its utmost efforts to peace and stability in the waters. For instance, by consolidating traditional friendship and cooperation with ASEAN countries, China has laid a political foundation for such peace and stability.
As a peace-loving nation, China pursues a foreign policy of neighborly friendship characterized by amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness.
China’s initiatives on the South China Sea issue also reveal its sincere dedication to resolving the disputes. After proposing to “shelve difference and seek joint development” in the 20th century, China has also put forward a “dual-track approach” with a series of initiatives and measures to promote maritime cooperation in recent years.
China is also willing to implement the Declaration on the Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea and facilitate discussions of a code of conduct in the South China Sea.
China and ASEAN members are all coastal countries in the South China Sea whose common interests far outweigh their differences. As long as both sides frankly communicate with and meet each other halfway, they will be able to safeguard peace and stability in the region.
Countries outside the region should respect the efforts made by China and ASEAN countries to maintain peace in the waters through independent efforts, self-determination and constructive action.
China staunchly supports the freedom of navigation and flight in the South China Sea in order to highlight the great value of regional peace and stability.
The ancient Maritime Silk Road linked China with the rest of the world. Six hundred years ago, Chinese navigator Zheng He traveled great distances from the South China Sea to Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean in order to conduct friendly exchanges and fair trade.
Nowadays, 40 percent of China’s trade goods and 80 percent of its imported energy sources pass through the South China Sea. This does not only concern China’s interests, but also affects the common interests of the international community.
As a beneficiary of freedom of navigation and security in the South China Sea, China is naturally a guardian of its peace and stability. China highly values the security of the unimpeded international waterway in the South China Sea, always respects and safeguards the freedom of navigation and flight to which all countries are entitled by international law, and actively participates in international mechanisms, including those to combat piracy and maritime crime.
Under joint efforts of China and ASEAN countries, both the seagoing vessels and aircraft of all countries have never been deprived of freedom of navigation and flight. International navigation routes in the South China Sea are safe and clear and trade activity in the region is booming.
China is devoted to peacefully resolving relevant disputes in the South China Sea through negotiation and consultation in a bid to provide fundamental assurances of regional peace and stability. China always believes that negotiation and consultation between concerned parties on the basis of friendly cooperation is the most direct, effective and common way to settle international disputes, a fact that history has repeatedly proven.
Though the journey may be long and tough, each step we take will bring us closer to our destination. The disputes in the South China Sea will only be temporary if we adopt a long-term perspective, because peace and development are the ultimate goal of all sides.
Countries that have a stake in these issues should not be blinded by temporary setbacks. Instead, we should proceed with confidence and peacefully, resolve relevant disputes and disagreements through negotiation and consultation so as to jointly safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea region.
Author: Zhong Sheng