A word on China’s South China Sea shoal visit

by Chris Zappone

China’s Navy has travelled to the James Shoal, 50km from Malaysia in the South China Sea, the southernmost claim by China in that body of water. China had planted a monument on the shoal in 2010, declaring it Chinese territory. The AP report said it’s 1800km from China.

The four-ship task force is headed next to the Pacific Ocean for deep-sea exercises via the Bashi Channel separating Taiwan and the Philippines, Xinhua said.

This action is against a backdrop of increasing tensions in the region. But the line I find most intriguing is this:

Sailors gathered on the ship’s helicopter deck declared their loyalty to the ruling Communist Party and vowed to “struggle arduously to realize the dream of a powerful nation,” Xinhua said.

Just to put it in context, let’s imagine how strange this would sound if another nation’s Navy did the same thing….e.g. The US Navy travels to a disputed shoal, whereupon arrival, US sailors declared loyalty to the Republican Party.

The oddness of action suggests – and suggests is a key word – that it’s intended to send a message back to China, that the new leadership has the full support and confidence of the PLA Navy. That in turn, shows how unsettled the power of the Communist Party in general and its new leaders are. Otherwise, why drag internal politics 1800ks from the people who it mosts affects? Needing to go international to show loyalty conveys the sense the loyalty may not be so assured.

Closer to China, the week, a Chinese boat fired flares at a Vietnamese fishing boat, setting the cabin ablaze.