Most of the younger commanders were born after the Communist Party took power in China in 1949. Like Xi and other incoming political leaders, some of the generals moving up are members of the “red nobility,” or children of revolutionary heroes. These “princelings” were born into privilege and experienced the hardship of Mao Zedong’s 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, but they mostly know China as a rising power and economic titan over the past 30 years.
And unlike the older generation, most of the younger commanders have no combat experience. China’s last major conflict was a brief 29-day border war with Vietnam in 1979.
Little is known about what most of these new military leaders think. Only a few speak or write openly, and most never give interviews. But their worldview will largely determine whether China’s growing military power raises alarm in the region and beyond, and whether a future confrontation with its neighbors, or the United States, is inevitable.
China does not make its total military spending public, but experts around the world have estimated that it has risen from about $20 billion in 2002 to at least $120 billion last year. That is still just a fraction of U.S. military spending, but some analysts expect China to surpass the United States in total military spending by 2035.
The political leanings of the military’s new leaders might also determine whether the army continues to be the main support pillar for the Communist Party. Since being called in to suppress a popular pro-democracy uprising in Tiananmen Square in 1989, the PLA has worked to bolster the People’s Armed Police as a separate entity with riot control and domestic security capabilities, so the regular army can largely stick to its more pressing job of modernizing and becoming a professional force, instead of being used again as a tool of internal control.
“The military and the armed police should have their separate roles,” Maj. Gen. Luo Yuan said in a rare interview. “The armed police should control internal affairs, and the military should focus on defense.”
Dennis Blasko, a former U.S. military intelligence officer and former military attache in Beijing, said that after 1989, “the PLA understands that they hurt their reputation with the people and don’t want to go through that again.”
Officially, Chinese commanders are all committed to the doctrine they call “peaceful development,” meaning a China focused on improving the welfare of its own people and uninterested in meddling in the affairs of its neighbors. Current and retired officers, Chinese journalists and analysts stressed in interviews that China’s military leaders are all Communist Party stalwarts who value continuity and consensus decision-making above all.
“In China, the Communist Party is the only ruling party. So the policies implemented by each generation will show a lot of continuity,” said Luo, a member of the China Society of Military Science.
But, Luo said, “the new leaders will have different experiences, different qualities and different personalities than the last generation of leaders, and that will definitely affect their working style.” Among other attributes, the commanders born in the 1950s are more educated — many have advanced degrees — and most spent time working in the Chinese countryside during the Cultural Revolution, which means they understand “the grass roots,” Luo said.
Some outside analysts are concerned that the younger officers may be eager to prove their mettle.
"There’s real antagonism toward the U.S.,” said Dean Cheng, an analyst of China’s military with the Heritage Foundation in Washington. “The scary thing is, as you have this group of officers who think the U.S. is out to get them, they’ve also seen their military improve.”
Cheng added: “We are potentially looking at a military that is more self-confident, arguably more arrogant, and being pushed by a political leadership somewhat eager to show how much it has improved. . . . All you need is somebody doing something stupid.”
Others agreed that the real problem might come from something unintended, not calculated. For example, with more maritime forces operating in the South China and East China seas, Blasko said, “I am increasingly worried about something happening that leads to greater escalation.”
As important as the new commanders’ world outlook is their view on the need for reform of China’s hidebound Leninist political system. While much of their thinking remains a mystery, a few have given occasional hints of their beliefs.
Liu Yuan, a princeling son of Mao-era leader Liu Shaoqi, warned in a speech in January that corruption had become so deeply entrenched that it threatened the party and the military.
“I’d rather risk losing my position than refrain from fighting corruption to the end,” he told several hundred assembled officers. In a preface he wrote in 2010 to a book by a scholar friend, Liu accused past and current Chinese leaders of “betrayal” and urged China to embrace a form of “new democracy.”
Gen. Liu Yazhou, political commissar of the National Defense University and considered a princeling because of his famous father-in-law, Li Xiannian, raised eyebrows with a provocative 2010 essay in a Hong Kong magazine in which he seemed to advocate more democracy.
“If a system fails to let its citizens breathe freely and release their creativity to the maximum extent . . . it is certain to perish,” Liu wrote.
Those words might in another context be considered seditious. But Liu in the summer was promoted to full general — by Hu Jintao, who had been elevating his loyalists to the commission.
Ban urges ‘amicable’ end to Philippines, China sea dispute
3:24 am | Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013
UNITED NATIONS—UN leader Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday called for an “amicable” settlement to a mounting West Philippine Sea territorial dispute between China and other Asian nations.
Asked about the Philippines decision to refer the case to a UN tribunal, Ban told reporters he has been following the dispute “carefully”.
“It is important for those countries in the region to resolve all these issues through dialogue in a peaceful and amicable way,” he said.
The United Nations is ready “to provide technical and professional assistance, but primarily all these issues should be resolved by the parties concerned,” the UN leader added, carefully avoiding backing any country involved.
China, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan all have overlapping claims to the territory.
The Philippine government announced Tuesday that it would ask an arbitration panel under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea — a 1982 treaty signed by both countries — to rule on China’s claims.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said, “The Philippines has exhausted almost all political and diplomatic avenues for a peaceful negotiated settlement of its maritime dispute with China.”
Over the past two years the Philippines and Vietnam have complained at China’s increasing assertiveness in enforcing its claims, particularly in areas believed rich in oil and natural gas reserves.
China has said the rival claims should be settled through negotiations.
The Philippines has taken China to a United Nations arbitration tribunal to challenge Beijing’s claim to most of the South China Sea (which the Philippines refers to as the West Philippine Sea) and compel it to respect the Philippines’ right to its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and stop Chinese incursions into areas in the disputed waters claimed by the Philippines.
The Philippines initiated the compulsory proceedings against China as provided for under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), and asked the UN to declare the Chinese “nine-dash line” outlining its claim to most of the South China Sea, including waters and islands close to its neighbors, as invalid and illegal.
It demands that China “desist from unlawful activities that violate the sovereign rights and jurisdiction of the Philippines under the 1982 Unclos.”
“The Philippines has taken the step of bringing China before the Arbitral Tribunal… in order to achieve a peaceful and durable solution to the dispute over the West Philippine Sea,” Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario told a press briefing Tuesday.
“The Philippines has exhausted almost all political and diplomatic avenues for a peaceful negotiated settlement of its maritime dispute with China… we hope that the arbitral proceedings shall bring this dispute to a durable solution,” he said.
Del Rosario did not take questions. The Department of Foreign Affairs instead issued a question-and-answer statement to reporters.
Allies not involved
The DFA said the move was a decision of the Philippines alone. It said its major allies, the United States and Japan, had nothing to do with the legal action.
It said the action was “in defense of our national territory and maritime domain.”
In a “notification and statement of claim” filed before the UN, the Philippine government said the arbitration was not seeking to declare who owns which islands in the disputed waters.
“The Philippines does not seek in this arbitration a determination of which party enjoys sovereignty over the islands claimed by both of them. Nor does it request a delimitation of any maritime boundaries,” the government said.
In its submission, the Philippines asked the UN to compel China to respect the Philippines’ rights to exclusively explore and exploit resources within its EEZ and continental shelf as declared under Unclos, citing recent Chinese actions that constituted an excessive exercise of sovereignty over disputed territories.
It asked the UN to declare that the Philippines is entitled, as provided for by Unclos, to “12 nautical miles of territorial sea, 200 nautical miles of EEZ and established boundaries of its continental shelf from the baselines.”
The Philippines ratified the 1982 convention in 1984 and China in 1996, but the two countries have conflicting interpretations of its provisions, especially on the scope of exclusive economic zones.
“China’s nine-dash line claim encompasses practically the entire West Philippine Sea. We must challenge the unlawful claim of China… in order to protect our national territory and maritime domain,” the DFA said in a statement.
“We hope that the arbitral tribunal will issue an award in accordance with international law that will direct China to respect our sovereign rights and jurisdiction over our EEZ, continental shelf, contiguous zone and territorial sea over the West Philippine Sea, and to desist from undertaking unlawful acts that violate our rights,” it said.
Beijing envoy summoned
Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing was summoned at 1 p.m. to the DFA on Tuesday where she was handed a note verbale furnishing China with a copy of the Philippines’ “notification and statement of claim” before the UN.
In the document, the DFA told China that it had decided to seek arbitral proceedings “to clearly establish sovereign rights and jurisdiction of the Philippines over its maritime entitlements in the West Philippine Sea.”
The Chinese Embassy in Manila promptly restated Beijing’s claim to the contested waters and insisted on its position that claimants settle the dispute through negotiations.
In a statement, it said that Ma, on receiving the note verbale, had “reiterated the principled position of the Chinese side, and stressed that China has indisputable sovereignty over the islands in South China Sea and its adjacent waters,” the embassy said in a statement.
“The Chinese side strongly holds the disputes on South China Sea should be settled by parties concerned through negotiations,” it said.
China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea overlap those of the Philippines as well as Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan.
Over the past two years, the Philippines and Vietnam have complained at China’s increasing assertiveness in enforcing those claims, particularly around areas believed to be rich in oil and natural gas reserves.
The Philippines earlier protested a string of incidents involving China in the West Philippine Sea, including sea patrols, oil exploration, military exercises and the establishment of a Chinese administrative unit to govern all of the disputed Spratly Islands.
It has filed at least 15 protests against China for incursions into the disputed waters, Del Rosario has said.
Through the compulsory arbitration, the Philippine government is asking the UN to declare that China had prevented the Philippines from exploiting resources within its EEZ and continental shelf. Instead, China has itself used these resources, violating international law, the government said.
The action also asks the world body to declare that China has violated the Philippines’ right to freely navigate the disputed waters.
The Philippines also hopes the UN will prompt China to “bring its domestic legislation into conformity with its obligations under Unclos.”
The Philippines has a standing protest against a maritime policing law of China’s Hainan province which has allowed its police to intercept, board and inspect foreign vessels sailing into the West Philippine Sea.
The legal action also asks the UN to compel China to stop preventing Philippine vessels from exploring and exploiting Scarborough Shoal—a formation much closer to the Philippines’ coast than to China’s shores that was the site of a standoff between the two countries last year—and Johnson Reef, which are both known to be rich in oil, mineral and marine resources.
It also asks the UN to declare that Mischief Reef and McKennan Reef within the disputed waters as submerged features of the Philippine continental shelf and thus should not be occupied by China.
Finally, it asks the UN to bar Chinese occupation and construction activities on submerged features within the West Philippine Sea.
From 3 to 4 years
The arbitration will be held at an overseas location to be agreed by the two parties.
According to Unclos provisions on arbitration, the adversarial parties would be entitled to nominate their representatives to the five-member arbitration panel, to be “drawn up and maintained” by the UN secretary general.
The Philippines has appointed Judge Rudiger Wolfrum, a German international law expert and justice at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, as a member of the panel.
Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza will serve as the Philippines’ counsel in the proceedings. With a report from AFP
Say what you want about Benigno Aquino, but the Philippine president has some brass.
First he arrested predecessor Gloria Arroyo on corruption charges and ousted her Supreme Court chief justice. Then he took on the powerful Catholic Church, shepherding free-contraception laws that enraged the Vatican. Next he ran afoul of the local tycoons by backing higher taxes on cigarettes and alcohol. By tackling these issues along with economic reforms, Aquino’s country is on the way toward an investment-grade credit rating.
Now Aquino is taking on an immeasurably bigger target: China. The Philippines will challenge China’s maritime claims before a United Nations-endorsed tribunal. This isn’t going over well in China, and it’s sure to raise tensions as Asia vies for oil, gas and fisheries resources and a ruling on competing views of history in contested waters.
Much of it really is an argument over China’s controversial “nine-dash” map. First published in the late 1940s, the map extends China’s territorial claims as much as 800 miles from Hainan Island to the equatorial waters off the coast of Borneo. China says the map proves its “indisputable sovereignty” over more than 100 islands, atolls and reefs that form the Paracel and Spratly Islands. The rest of Asia disagrees.
This dispute represents something more for political scientists, such as Ian Bremmer. As leaders and investors alike try to navigate a world they no longer understand, they are turning to Bremmer, the president of Eurasia Group in New York, and his ilk for perspective. And when Bremmer considers the biggest threats in the year ahead, East Asian brinkmanship is near the top of the list.
“At risk here is the decades-long pattern of East Asia as a zone where positive-sum commerce and economics trumps zero-sum geopolitical tension,” Bremmer says.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta are right to worry about military conflict. The intensifying spat over a group of tiny islands that Japan calls Senkaku and China calls Diaoyu is the most dangerous flash point.
Strains rose last year after Japan effectively nationalized the islands. At first, it was just about fishing rights and coast guard vessels squaring off. From April to December, there was a disturbing trend: Tokyo’s Self-Defense Force scrambled fighter jets 160 times against Chinese aircraft approaching Japanese airspace. That’s the highest number of aerial contacts since Japan began releasing such data and is a significant proxy for escalating tensions.
Markets seem convinced that pragmatism will rule the day. China needs rapid growth to ensure the Communist Party’s grip on power, and Shinzo Abe, Japan’s new prime minister, aims to revive his nation’s moribund economy. The primacy of commerce, the conventional wisdom says, will prevail. This sunny view ignores how nationalism clouds Asia’s judgment.
China doesn’t deserve all the blame. Japan, too, has a disproportionate number of territorial quarrels --- with Russia, South Korea and Taiwan. Abe, a nationalist, wants to alter Japan’s pacifist constitution. But China’s assertiveness and fast-growing military apparatus, which now includes an aircraft carrier, is generating concern throughout the region as well as the U.S.
Asia has never been closer economically, yet it’s growing further apart diplomatically. It lacks a credible forum where disagreements can be aired, a void that strengthens China’s hand. China has been adept at using its economic leverage over tiny nations such as Cambodia and Laos to block multilateral talks or actions. This forces the U.S. into the uncomfortable position of balancing competing economic and security priorities with a fast-rising rival.
By resorting to international law, Aquino is taking a positive step. The way to address and resolve the dispute is through diplomacy, not with navy ships or hot tempers that risk turning minor confrontations into something much bigger.
Yet this is only the beginning. Last year marked a turning point as an economically dominant China shifted from charm- offensive mode to political and military assertiveness. This is playing out against the backdrop of the ascension of Xi Jinping as China’s leader, and what that will bring in 2013 and beyond.
Confronted by a daunting list of domestic challenges, Xi will focus on consolidating domestic power. It is farfetched to think he would yield ground on diplomatic issues if it risks an internal backlash.
“If Beijing faces a foreign policy test, Xi will have a strong incentive to demonstrate his foreign-policy mettle and avoid being seen as capitulating to outside interests,” Bremmer says. “That dynamic suggests less chance of compromise from Asia’s emerging strategic powerhouse and heightened risk throughout the region.”
Tests could come from many places -- a new Japanese government anxious to flex its muscles; U.S. President Barack Obama’s pivot to Asia; provocations from North Korea that put the onus on China, Pyongyang’s crucial supporter; or nations like the Philippines taking diplomatic frustrations to the UN.
Aquino is the first Asian leader willing to call China’s bluff and risk economic retaliation. How he navigates this showdown will be instructive for others when their turn comes.
(The Philippine Star) | Updated February 20, 2013 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - China has rejected and returned yesterday the Notification and Statement of Claim of the Philippine government to initiate arbitral proceedings against its nine-dash-line claim in the West Philippine Sea, but the process will proceed despite Beijing’s latest action.
Sources said Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing was at the Department of Foreign Affairs yesterday to meet with officials of the DFA-Asia Pacific Affairs desk and inform them that China was returning the note and accompanying notice on arbitration.
Ma reportedly told the DFA that the Chinese government would not accept international proceedings over the dispute.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei also announced that Ma met with DFA officials and returned the note and accompanying notice.
According to Hong, Ma said China considered both the note and notice of arbitration as having “serious mistakes both in fact and law.”
China hopes that the Philippine side would uphold its commitment, not take any move that may complicate or expand the issue, and respond positively to suggestions of China regarding establishing of a consultation mechanism on maritime issues and reopen trust measures between the two countries.
Beijing also urged Manila to return to the right track, meaning bilateral negotiations to resolve the dispute.
In a statement, the DFA said China’s action “will not interfere with the process of arbitration initiated by the Philippines on January 22, 2013.”
“The arbitration will proceed under Annex VII of UNCLOS and the 5-member arbitration panel will be formed with or without China,” it said. under Annex VII of UNCLOS and the 5-member arbitration panel will be formed with or without China,” it said.
Ma reiterated China’s often stated position that it has indisputable sovereignty over the entire South China Sea encompassed by its nine-dash line claim.
“This excessive claim is the core issue of the Philippines’ arbitration case against China,” the DFA said. “The Philippines remains committed to arbitration which is a friendly, peaceful and durable form of dispute settlement that should be welcomed by all.”
The DFA summoned Ma last Jan. 22 and DFA Assistant Secretary for Asia-Pacific Affairs Teresa Lazaro handed her a note verbale.
The diplomatic note contained the Notification and Statement of Claim that challenges before the Arbitral Tribunal the validity of China’s nine-dash line claim and to desist from unlawful activities that violate the sovereign rights and jurisdiction of the Philippines under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario said the Notification initiates the arbitral proceedings under Article 287 and Annex VII of UNCLOS.
The Chinese embassy maintained that disputes in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) should be settled through direct negotiations by the parties concerned.
Del Rosario said the initiation of arbitral proceedings against China on the nine-dash line is part of President Aquino’s policy for a peaceful and rules-based resolution of disputes in the West Philippine Sea in accordance with UNCLOS.
China’s nine-dash line claim virtually lays claim on the entire West Philippine Sea, which the Philippines believes must be challenged in order to protect its national territory and maritime domain.
The Philippines formally invited China last April to bring their claim before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) for a legal and lasting solution to the territorial dispute.
However, China rejected the Philippine invitation. In raising an argument to evade the ITLOS, China viewed the submission of maritime dispute to international arbitration as a “weird” thing in international affairs.
PH to press UN case on disputed sea despite China rejection
By Tarra Quismundo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
5:38 am | Thursday, February 21st, 2013
MANILA, Philippines—The arbitration proceedings that the Philippines has initiated before the United Nations (UN) against China to nullify the latter’s “excessive” claims in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) will not stop despite Beijing’s rejection of the legal action, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
However, the enforcement of any decision of the UN arbitral tribunal, three or four years down the road, will be “another question,” said DFA spokesman Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez.
“The arbitration will proceed under Annex VII of Unclos (UN Convention on the Law of the Sea) and the five-member arbitration panel will be formed with or without China,” Hernandez said.
“Even if one party does not join or participate, the process will continue until a decision is made,” he said.
Article 9 of Unclos’ Annex VII, which stipulates the mechanics of arbitration, states that the “absence of a party or failure of a party to defend its case shall not constitute a bar to the proceedings.”
On Jan. 22, the Philippines went to the UN to challenge Beijing’s claim to most of the South China Sea (which the Philippines refers to as the West Philippine Sea) and compel it to respect the Philippines’ right to its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and stop Chinese incursions into areas in the disputed waters claimed by the Philippines.
The Philippines initiated the compulsory proceedings against China as provided for under the Unclos, and asked the UN to declare the Chinese “nine-dash line” outlining its claim to most of the South China Sea, including waters and islands close to its neighbors, as invalid and illegal.
Formalizing earlier Chinese statements rejecting the Philippines’ arbitration bid, Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing on Tuesday returned the Philippines’ Notification and Statement of Claim through a note verbale handed to the DFA.—With Michael Lim Ubac