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China resorts to amicable settlement in sea disputes —political scientist

China has transformed from being a revolutionary state to a nation that believes in cooperation, proven by its concessions and compromises rather than use of force in recent territorial disputes, a political scientist said Tuesday.

During a forum in Quezon City, Robin Michael Garcia said China’s behavior in territorial conflicts is indicative of how it really thinks.

“Territorial disputes, not just international trade, really give us a good material to study as a specimen over how a country really thinks because territorial disputes lie at the heart of a country because it talks about sovereignty,” he said.

Citing a 2008 study by international relations expert Taylor Fravel, Garcia said China has compromised and offered concessions in 17 out of 23 unique territorial conflicts between 1949 and 2005.

Some of the instances where China did not use force were in its conflicts with North Korea, Mongolia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

However, Garcia underscored that China’s behavior varies in every conflict. Fravel’s study only focused on frontier disputes, which question the delimitation of the land frontier between two states.

“Majority of frontier disputes were the ones that were settled amicably. There are varying behaviors of China so we really need to understand why that behavior varies,” Garcia said.

Garcia said countries have three options when involved in a territorial conflict: escalation or the use of force; compromise or “the transfer of control of some or all of the contested land to the opposing side;” and delay.

The political scientist also said material strength, which is defined by a country’s land, military, and economic resources, does not automatically translate into an intention to subjugate “weaker” countries or those with fewer resources.

“I think the Philippines needs to correctly understand China’s intentions. Why? So that we may not be subservient for fear of retaliation or be overly confident and therefore lead to miscalculation and war in the region,” he added.

Garcia said the Philippines will be able to create better foreign policies once it correctly understands China’s intentions.

In 2016, the Philippines won a landmark case against China that invalidated Beijing’s claims over parts of the West Philippine Sea. —LDF, GMA News