Zhang Feng’s South China Sea Policy Suggestions

In the Chinese edition of the Financial Times, suggestions for Chinese policy from Zhang Feng  张锋   who is a researcher in the international relations department of the Australian National University.  Zhang’s discussion, written for a Chinese audience, examines how how mistrust arising from the South China Sea dispute is harming China politically and economically and what China might do about it — including accepting the unhappy fact that the issue is already internationalized.

Zhang argues that China’s economic one belt one road project has suffered badly because of South China Sea tensions, China’s imports from (and with it influence) on ASEAN member states has declined the past two years.   In 2014, Chinese imports from ASEAN increase only by 4.4%, fell by 6.5% during 2015 and during the first nine months of 2016 fell again by 5.3%.  Distrust sowed by the South China Sea dispute has severely harmed Chinese relations with ASEAN. As researcher Li Guoqiang of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences has said, China needs to study the fundamental problem: because of this dispute, there is no strong desire among the public in the various ASEAN countries to increase their cooperation with China.

正如中国社会科学院边疆所李国强研究员所说的,中国应该研究这些消极反应的深层根源:是因为这些国家本身就缺少与中国合作的内部需求,还是因为南海争端让它们在政治和安全层面有所顾忌?学术界的研究应该避免对中国与东盟整体经贸发展进行大而化之的叙述,而应深入到具体东盟国家,探究这些国家对“一带一路”的需求所在。如此,方能对症下药,有针对性地推进“海丝”合作。

其实,中国与东盟的经贸关系不容盲目乐观。中国是东盟最大的贸易伙伴,但值得注意的是,中国对东盟的贸易顺差正在逐渐增长之中,并在2015年达到了784亿美元。也就是说,中国对东盟的出口额越来越超过进口额。2014年,中国从东盟的进口只增加了4.4%,2015年反而下降了6.5%,2016年前九个月又减少了5.3%。

In this difficult situation, Chinese investment in southeast Asia is particularly important.  US investment in SE Asian countries exceeds the combined investments of China, South Korean and Japan in the region.

While China has made progress in relations with Malaysia, Indonesia is much more important strategically and improving and building confidence in Indonesia – China relations has to be a priority.

但从战略角度而言,国内普遍认为印尼对中国的重要性要超过马来西亚,与印尼搞战略性的港口项目对中国的意义更大,但这需要在政治和安全层面加强与印尼的关系,塑造两国之间的政治互信。

In the quiet interval before the new Trump Administration has defined its policy for the area, China should take the initiative in rebuilding trust with ASEAN which has been damaged by South China Sea tensions.

不管怎么样,中国应该主动引导南海局势的发展,抓住目前局势缓和的有利时机,争取在特朗普新政府政策出台前能有所作为,占据一些战略主动,加大美国出台强硬政策的难度,为推进“一带一路”创造更好的周边环境。

A good initiative would be cooperation on environment and fisheries matters. China should avoid stationing offensive weapons on the coral islands it has been building on and consider something like the transforming the area into a peaceful cooperation zone.

就现在争议比较大的南沙的一些岛礁而言,这些岛礁应该成为海洋科学研究、环境保护与生态旅游的海洋保护园区,而不是军事化、巡航甚至对抗的对象。中国需要抑制把已经建好的南沙七个岛礁军事化的冲动,特别是抑制部署进攻性武器的冲动,而把更多的精力放在建设民用设施上。有学者提出,可以围绕相关岛礁设立“和平公园”,值得研究。

The US – China interplay in the region has been complicated by the US determination to maintain full sea access in the area so that it will have maritime capability to intervene at will in the affairs of the countries of the region while China wants to gain some control of the sea in the region.

中美争的是海洋战略的主动权:中国要在海洋权益的基础之上扩展海上影响力,并在南海实现一定程度的控制权;美国则不希望其长期以来在南海畅通无阻的军事介入权受到中国的限制。

China should work to build a south seas system that the surrounding countries can accept. The south sea issue has already become multi-regionalized, multilateralized and internationalized. What China needs to  do is to find a way to take the initiative within this trend and not try to oppose this trend.

从更深层次讲,2009年以来这一轮的南海争端已经演变为一个地区秩序的问题,而秩序问题必然是一个多边的问题。目前南海地区缺乏一个塑造秩序的多边机制,中国应努力营造一个可以让周边国家接受的致力于塑造南海秩序的机制,而不是徒然忧惧于多边化和地区化带来的复杂性。南海问题已经多边化、地区化和国际化,现在的要务是如何在这一大趋势下抓住战略主动,而不是去回避或否认这一趋势。这需要相当的战略勇气和能力。

 

“一带一路”与中国在南海的战略平衡

张锋:中国应抓住目前南海局势缓和的有利时机,争取在特朗普新政府政策出台前能有所作为,占据一些战略主动。
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按照中国政府的规划,“21世纪海上丝绸之路”(以下简称“海丝”)经过南海向西到印度洋和地中海,向南到南太平洋。它的目的是要贯通欧洲和亚太经济圈,但重点是面向东南亚国家。显然,南海是扼守海上丝绸之路的要冲。南海是否风平浪静,关系到推进“海丝”的进程和速度。

从地缘战略的角度来看,南海是扼守西太平洋和印度洋的“咽喉”,是战略地位愈发重要的印度-太平洋地区国际航道的交汇区。南海也是印太经济圈的“心脏”,每年全球货运的一半和所有海运的三分之一要通过南海的四大海峡:马六甲、巽他、龙目及望加锡海峡。从印度洋经过南海运到东亚的原油总量,是经过苏伊士运河的三倍和巴拿马运河的15倍。中国原油进口的80%、韩国能源进口的三分之二、日本能源进口的60%需要经过南海。

所以,南海在“海丝”战略中无疑具有核心地位。南海的和平与稳定是推进“海丝”的必要保障。南海领土主权和海洋权益争端的持续僵持甚至恶化是推进“海丝”的一个不容忽视的障碍。反观陆上的“丝绸之路经济带”,似乎很难找出一块区域,能有南海在“海丝”中的这样关键的战略地位。也许只有几大经济走廊,特别是中巴经济走廊和孟中印缅经济走廊,加在一起,才能与南海在“海丝”中的地位相媲美。而“一带”与“一路”相比,作为“一路”的“海丝”,要比“一带”在中国整体战略中的重要性更高。

“海丝”建设难以与南海争端相隔离

现在的问题是,“一带一路”的倡议是在2013年正式提出的,“一带一路”愿景与行动规划的文件是在2015年3月发布的。而这两年正是2009年以来的最新一轮南海争端的高峰期。中国政府的立场是“海丝”侧重经济与人文合作,原则上不涉及争议问题。但实际上,把“海丝”建设与南海争端完全隔离开来很难做到。

 

Read the rest of the original Financial Times Chinese edition article at the URL above.

 

 

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