China Balks At Pentagon’s Report Warning Of Aggressive Behavior In South China Sea

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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China’s Foreign Ministry says a U.S. report is defying the facts and painting an unfair picture of China’s military involvement in the South China Sea.

According to a statement released on Sunday, the Chinese think the Americans are hopelessly stuck framing the world in Cold War terms.

The U.S. report, released last Friday by the Department of Defense, looks at China’s naval modernization with a specific focus on overreaching activity in the South China Sea, noting that Beijing “uses a progression of small, incremental steps to increase its effective control over disputed territories and avoid escalation to military conflict.” One particular example highlighted is the employment of Chinese Coast Guard vessels for “low-intensity” coercion in all disputed areas, as opposed to full military escalation. The report argues that China’s goal is complete acceptance of all territorial claims, which span to 90 percent of the South China Sea. (RELATED: Congress Raises Alarm As Obama Ignores Chinese Expansion In South China Sea)

For China’s Foreign Ministry, this assessment is beyond the pale and threatens bilateral relations between the two powers.

“It is hoped that the American side would abandon the cold-war mentality, view China’s military development with objectiveness and reason instead of prejudices … and make tangible moves to ensure the sound and steady development of state-to-state and military-to-military relations between China and the US,” the statement noted.

Aside from vessel activity, China has been busy constructing artificial islands in the South China Sea, a move which has the U.S. and other countries nearby worried. China claims that the purpose of the artificial islands is to aid maritime search and rescue. The Jidong Development Group is also proposing additional islands to promote tourism. Other countries aren’t buying those explanations, given that satellite photos indicate what looks like the construction of a 10,000-foot-long runway for military aircraft. (RELATED: Forget About Reefs, China Wants To Build Floating Islands For Military Activities)

Despite assurances that “China unswervingly follows the path of peaceful development,” not all are convinced by such proclamations.

As Michael Mazza, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote in a 2013 op-ed, “American leaders cannot trust Chinese leaders because the latter’s long-term designs are difficult to discern and clouded in secrecy.”

The lack of a free press and an entirely closed political system ensure that “foreign observers can never be sure that Chinese pronouncements on foreign policy, strategy, and intentions are genuine.”

Based on a U.S.-China Security Perceptions Survey conducted in 2013, 52 percent of Americans view China as a major threat, and the feeling is mutual. A total of 63 percent of Chinese think of America as the greatest threat to their country.

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