sixth plenary

Relax, The PLA Says China Will Not “Recklessly” Use Force In The South China Sea

Newly built lighthouses allegedly for "navigation purposes"

China’s Central Military Commission (CMC) has assured the public that it will not “recklessly” use force in the region amid growing tensions in the area. CMC Vice-Chairman Fan Changlong said China “will never recklessly resort to the use of force,” even on issues regarding sovereignty. Fan made the comments at the Sixth Xiangshan Forum, a semi-official gathering over Asia-Pacific security issues.

Fan went on to explain that China would continue to resolve disputes through friendly consultation, saying the country “has done its utmost to avoid unexpected conflicts”.

The comments come following the construction of two lighthouses in the South China Sea. Construction of the lighthouses has been hotly contested by the Philippines and United States, who argue such land reclamation projects could be used by the Chinese government as military bases.

The Huayang Reef and Chigua Reef constructions, both of which house Chinese garrisons, “will not affect freedom of navigation in the South China Sea,” said Fan, who added that the Chinese lighthouses “have already begun to provide navigation services to all nations.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said China will continue to build other facilities in the area. “Countries alongside the South China Sea and vessels sailing through the waters will receive better service,” said Liu.

As reported in China Daily, other Chinese experts have weighed in on how China could better develop relationships with its regional rivals.

Yan Xuetong, Dean of the Institute of Modern International Relations at Tsinghua University, suggested that “cooperation could even be started when trust is absent” in some parts of the Asia-Pacific region.

“Don’t make the absence of trust an excuse for non-co-operation … We could embark on preventive co-operation first,” he said, referring to a prior agreement to avoid conflicts or accidents from developing between them.

On September 3, China commemorated the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II with a military parade featuring tens of thousands of Chinese soldiers and vehicles. At the time, Chinese President Xi Jinping said, “In the interest of peace, China will remain committed to peaceful development. We Chinese love peace. No matter how much stronger it may become, China will never seek hegemony or expansion.”

On the same day, five Chinese warships were seen in the Bering Strait off the coast of Alaska. According to Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis, it marked the first time the United States had seen Chinese navy ships in the Bering Sea.

At 2.3 million soldiers, China’s army is the largest in the world but perhaps not for long. During the September 3 parade, President Xi announced plans to reduce the army by some 300,000 soldiers.

Charles Liu

The Nanfang's Senior Editor