Mounting tensions between China and the US

China and the US are once again on a collision course as a new fishing regulation has been outlined by a Chinese island province of Hainan which requires all foreign vessels to obtain prior approval before entering the disputed waters of the South China Sea.

After brewing tensions over China's setting up its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) covering some parts of Japan's and South Korea's territorial waters, there was a narrow miss between Chinese first aircraft carrier Lioning and an American vessel again in the disputed waters in early December. While the US has described the Chinese move as "provocative and potentially dangerous," China has accused the US of unnecessarily fanning tensions and supported its move yesterday by upholding its thirty year old fisheries laws which has been "consistently implemented in a normal way and never caused any tension."

The official Xinuha news agency charged the US of "resorting to the old trick of divide and rule," and a commentary added that "First it stirs up tensions, disputes and even conflicts, then steps into pose as a mediator or judge in bid to maximise its own interests." It further commented that "Washington's accusations are unreasonable, as China's fishing regulations are in line with international practice and aimed at strengthening the protection of fishery resources and maritime environment.The United States itself has similar ones." The new regulations have already come into force since January 1, and will be administered by Hainan and will, obviously, lead to mounting tensions in the region due to American resistance.

The repeated escalation of tensions between the US and China are due to the latter's rising imperialistic assertions with regards to its maritime claims in the South China Sea, which is contested by many countries like Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, Myanmar and also India besides the US. America wants to maintain its predominance in the Asia-Pacific region against that of China when geo-politics is said to be moving towards the East.

The recurrence of such events appears due to an asymmetry in perception of the regional balance by both of them. Whereas China projects itself as the sole hegemon in the East and wishes to become a dominant global player by displacing the US, the US wishes to maintain its global predominance by uprooting any regional power which aspires to become a global power to challenge its (the US) hitherto unquestioned status. But both are wrong in this context as such repeated escalation of tensions between them will not serve the real interest of regional balance as well as peace and security neither in the East nor in the whole world. Instead, such ugly situations, which are marked by the use of less diplomatic language, may trigger an armed conflict between them only to destabilise the Asia-Pacific region and the entire world as well.

Dr. Sudhanshu Tripathi

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