The communiqué released at the conclusion of the Group of Seven (G7) Summit on June 8 in Germany "strongly oppose[d] the use of intimidation, coercion or force, as well as any unilateral actions that seek to change the status quo, such as large-scale land reclamation." It called for the "free and unimpeded lawful use of the world's oceans."
Although the communiqué didn't single out China, it is apparent that it was referring to the country's land reclamation projects in the South China Sea.
It is necessary, and even helpful, for leaders of major countries to hold closed-door meetings on matters concerning the well-being of the international community. However, if such meetings impinge upon other countries' sovereign interests, they are in clear contradiction of their very raison d'etre. The G7 Summit dealt with the South China Sea issue in the absence of China or any other claimants in the area. The real purpose was therefore not to helpfully address the issue but to smear China.
Prior to the 1970s, Southeast Asian countries such as Viet Nam and the Philippines did not challenge China's sovereignty over islands in the South China Sea. With the discovery of rich oil and gas resources there, these countries started to encroach upon South China Sea islands and reefs by building infrastructure facilities such as runways for military planes on them. Ever since the United States announced its "pivot to Asia" strategy in 2010, the Philippines has upped its activities on the landmasses with U.S. encouragement, augmenting military surveillance and telecommunications equipment to monitor the South China Sea.
Since 2014, China has carried out construction projects on islets and reefs falling within its range of sovereignty. The underlying purpose is to safeguard the integrity of these landmasses and provide better services in terms of maritime search and rescue, navigation, civil aviation, and meteorological studies.
For a long time, the United States and Japan have remained non-committal in their stance toward Southeast Asian countries' occupation of islets and reefs in the South China Sea and their military construction activities. In some cases, they have even offered support to the aforementioned countries, while at the same time condemning China's construction projects.
The United States and Japan are the main architects behind the push to criticize China at the G7 Summit. The military path at present being pursued by the Japanese Government has long caused consternation and worry in China and overseas. Japan was no doubt only too happy to see attention being deflected to China at the G7 Summit.
The United States has also been stoking tensions over the South China Sea issue by accusing China of blocking its freedom of navigation in the area. Recently, the superpower has even sent a surveillance plane to fly across China's territorial air space over the South China Sea. It is reported to be preparing to sail its naval vessels within the 12-nautical-mile territorial limit around China's islets and reefs, to invite Japanese military planes and naval vessels to patrol the South China Sea together and to sell weapons to Viet Nam and the Philippines in order to deter China.
At this year's G7 Summit, member countries possessing no stake in the South China Sea issue nonetheless acceded to the demands of the United States and Japan. This has only served to satisfy the interests of the two countries and to dredge up memories for the Chinese of the coordinated invasion of their country by Western powers over a century ago. The communiqué published after the summit revealed an intention to play havoc with the South China Sea issue. This was not the original intention of member states other than perhaps the United States and Japan.
Look at the mainstream media in the United States and Japan, and you will find media speculation on whether or not the two countries may go to war with China abounds. In early June, a CNN reporter put the question to Chinese Ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai. When reporting on the issue, the Chinese media, however, focus on how to safeguard peace and prevent war in the South China Sea. This difference in coverage speaks volumes about the contrasting mentalities concerning the issue.
Copyedited by Eric Daly