The Global Times, which is published by the Chinese government, released an editorial assailing Australia for having lent support to a recent ruling by an international court which found against China’s expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea. The article called for strikes on any Australian warships seeking to go on “freedom-of-navigation” activities in the disputed region.
Australia “is not even a “paper tiger,” according to the Global Times, which went on to say that Australia is only a “‘paper cat’ at best.” The paper said, that even though “Australia calls itself a principled country… when it needs to please Washington, it demonstrates willingness of doing anything in a show of allegiance.”
The Global Times said Australia’s position on the ruling was “delirious” and added that Australia has but an “inglorious history” which was “an offshore prison for the UK… established through uncivilised means, in a process filled with the tears of the aboriginals.”
“Australia has unexpectedly made itself a pioneer of hurting China’s interest with a fiercer attitude than countries directly involved in the South China Sea dispute. But this paper cat won’t last,” the Global Times said.
The Global Times warned:
“China must take revenge and let it know it’s wrong. Australia’s power means nothing compared to the security of China. If Australia steps into the South China Sea waters, it will be an ideal target for China to warn and strike.
“Earlier this year, the Commander of the US Seventh Fleet, Vice Admiral Joseph P Aucoin, said it would be in the “best interests” of the region if Australia was to send ships to within 12 miles of the disputed area. Australia has so far not sent any of its ships there.”
The Global Times takes note of the two countries’ strong economic ties, pointing out that China is Australia’s “its biggest trading partner.” makes the reaction to the recent ruling of “disturbing the South China Sea waters surprising to many.”
China refused to participate in the case overseen by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague but denounced the July 12 ruling in favor of the Philippines as a farce that had no legal basis and part of an anti-China plot hatched in Washington. Nationalist sentiments were stirred in China, while China’s increasingly confident military showed signs of seeking confrontation. For now, China has not shown signs of taking strong action while instead calling for a peaceful resolution through talks at the same time as promising to defend Chinese territory. Regardless, China continues its program of military bases on artificial islands it has dredged up at atolls and reefs in disputed areas. "We must make preparations for a long-term fight and take this as a turning point in our South China Sea military strategy," Li Jinming of the South China Sea Institute at China's Xiamen University wrote in the Chinese academic journal Southeast Asian Studies.
Elements of China’s military are seeking to turn words into action, however. According to a source cited by Reuters, "The People's Liberation Army is ready." The source warned, "We should go in and give them a bloody nose like Deng Xiaoping did to Vietnam in 1979," in a reference to China’s invasion of Vietnam for having forced Beijing’s ally -- the genocidal Khmer Rouge -- from power in neighboring Cambodia.
Another source told Reuters, "The United States will do what it has to do. We will do what we have to do," adding, "The entire military side has been hardened. It was a huge loss of face." When Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun was asked whether the PLA wants a more robust response to the court ruling, he repeated that the military will defend China's territory and maritime rights while dealing with any threats or challenges.
So far, it remains unclear just exactly what China’s military is contemplating. Their attention is focused on the creation of an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) for the South China Sea. The ADIZ would require international aircraft to identify themselves to Chinese authorities. Among the other possibilities contemplated by China can include putting missiles on bombers patrolling the South China Sea that are capable of hitting targets in the Philippines or Vietnam. Observers believe that China's announcement of regular air patrols over the region shows it wants to deny American air superiority afforded by aircraft carriers.
While any major action on China’s part is unlikely before September when Chinese leader Xi Jinping hosts the G20 Summit, provocative or inadvertent clashes between an emboldened Chinese military with the U.S. or other countries could escalate into a serious situation.
The United States has responded positively to China’s apparent reluctance to engage more forcefully with its neighbors. President Obama is sending U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice to China this week with a call for calm, and to persuade regional powers to refrain from actions that could stir up China. While China has been angered by freedom of navigation patrols by the U.S. Navy in the South China Sea, its forces have responded only by shadowing American warships and warning them. Some observers interpret this as a gambit intended to satisfy China’s nationalists while also exhibiting an unwillingness to goad the U.S. military unnecessarily.
While China may be wary that any unfortunate incident might overshadow the forthcoming G20 summit in Hangzhou this September, Chinese provocations might remain a possibility between the time of the summit and the November presidential election.
In an earlier Spero News podcast, veteran diplomat and analyst John Tkacik said that regardless of the ruling on the South China Sea. China's goals remain clear:
“What they want in the end, what they will establish, is full jurisdiction and control over the South China Sea under international law without any challenge.”
He went on to predict that China will prevail in the area through which hundreds of millions of dollars of trade passes, including the petroleum so vital to the economies of Japan and South Korea. Once that objective is accomplished, Tkacik said, China will then turn its attention to the North and control the seas around Japan as well.