China’s skewed view of South China Sea historyBy Asia Sentinel Apr 25, 2012 11:25AM UTC
Lots of other mariners were there first, reports Asia Sentinel
The dispute between China and the Philippines over ownership of the rocks and reefs variously known as Scarborough Shoal/Panatag Shoal/Huangyan Island is at one level very petty. But at another it demonstrates what can best be described blatantly racist bravado on the part of Beijing.
Manila would do well to learn up some of its own pre-Spanish history so as to better expose the arrogance of a nation which regards other, non-Han people and their histories as non-existent or irrelevant. Han chauvinism is writ large in this tale, which should be a reminder to the Malay peoples whose lands border more than half the South China Sea – itself a name created by westerners and does no more than describe a sea south of China – that they may yet go the way of the Tibetans, Uighurs and Mongols and find themselves oppressed minorities in a Han empire.
Beijing’s aggressive stance is doubly unfortunate given the positive role that individual Chinese migrants and their descendants have played in the Philippines for several centuries. When China was closed, its entrepreneurial coastal people found opportunity in the Malay world. Is that era of fruitful interaction to be ended as an open China becomes a threatening China?
The Chinese claim to Scarborough Shoal (to use a relatively neutral word derived from a ship which sank there) is ridiculous on a whole number of grounds yet it persists in trying to enforce it in the correct belief that the Philippines is poor and weak and that ASEAN solidarity is non-existent – for which Malaysia is particularly to blame.
China claims to have “discovered” the island, included it in its territory and exercised control over it. The basis for this claim is simply a map dating from the time when China was under the thumb of a foreign dynasty – that of the Mongol Kublai Khan whose capital was in modern Mongolia. The fact that it is on a map is anyway meaningless in terms of ownership rights – though China often claims that the mere presence of Chinese traders in a place or the payment of taxes to be allowed to trade with China amounted to “tribute” and acceptance of Beijing’s hegemony.
The fact that China stated a claim to Scarborough Shoal in 1932 and again in 1947 is neither here nor there. It is even more outrageous than the actions of British seafarers in the 19th century going around the world planting the British flag and claiming it as theirs. In the case of Scarborough there was not even a planting of a flag and setting up of a permanent settlement. The fact is that Scarborough is uninhabitable and thus fails qualify as an island which would support a claim to surrounding sea.
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