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Peter Yan – China is not an aggressor

Peter Yan – China is not an aggressor




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Peter Yan

“I like Philosophy, History, etc. Hate Hegemony. Hate it. I believe in Equality for all, peace and harmony. All are equal, non are more equal than others!” – Peter Yan

Why does China have border disputes with almost every neighboring country?

“When all these disputes are put together, it is quite obvious that China is not an aggressor. It is actually a victim, which has actually shown “great restraint”, as this author of this aptly named article Who Is the Biggest Aggressor in the South China Sea? answered his own question.”

B) Japan

Japan’s dispute with China involves what the Chinese called “DiaoYu” islands and the Japanese called “Senkaku” islands.

The dispute involve arguments both pre- and post WWII. So, let me discuss them separately.


First of all, let there be no doubt that it was China that discovered these island first – Senkaku Islands – Wikipedia:

China claims the discovery and ownership of the islands from the 14th century, while Japan had ownership of the islands from 1895 until its surrender at the end of World War II”.

What did Japan claim to have done in 1895 to own these island?

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Se…, “On 14 January 1895, during the First Sino-Japanese War, Japan incorporated the islands under the administration of Okinawa, stating that i) it had conducted surveys since 1884 and ii) that the islands were terra nullius, with there being no evidence to suggest that they had been under the Qing empire’s control”.

However, both of these arguments are disingenuous, as pointed out in this New York article https://kristof.blogs.nytimes.co…. As I promised before, these are Japanese documents thatproved the case for China


Han-yi ShawDiaoyu Island is recorded under Kavalan, Taiwan in Revised Gazetteer of Fujian Province (1871).

Source: https://www.google.com/search?tb…

Below I shall quote a few paragraphs from that article:

This is the official Japanese position: “From 1885 on, our government conducted on-site surveys time and again, which confirmed that the islands were uninhabited and there were no signs of control by the Qing Empire.”

Here are some rebuttals from the Japanese government itself: “Following the first on-site survey, in 1885, the Japanese foreign minister wrote, “Chinese newspapers have been reporting rumors of our intention of occupying islands belonging to China located next to Taiwan.… At this time, if we were to publicly place national markers, this must necessarily invite China’s suspicion.…”

In November 1885, the Okinawa governor confirmed “since this matter is not unrelated to China, if problems do arise I would be in grave repentance for my responsibility”.

Surveys of the islands are incomplete” wrote the new Okinawa governor in January of 1892. He requested that a naval ship Kaimon be sent to survey the islands, but ultimately a combination of miscommunication and bad weather made it impossible for the survey to take place.

Japan Diplomatic Records Office.Letter dated May 12, 1894 affirming that the Meiji government did not repeatedly investigate the disputed islands.

Source: https://www.google.com/search?tb…

The article went on to say:

“Ever since the islands were investigated by Okinawa police agencies back in 1885, there have been no subsequent field surveys conducted,” the Okinawa governor wrote in 1894.

After a number of Chinese defeats in the Sino-Japanese War, a report from Japan’s Home Ministry said “this matter involved negotiations with China… but the situation today is greatly different from back then.” The Meiji government, following a cabinet decision in early 1895, promptly incorporated the islands.

Negotiations with China never took place and this decision was passed during the Sino-Japanese War. It was never made public.

In his biography Koga Tatsushiro, the first Japanese citizen to lease the islands from the Meiji government, attributed Japan’s possession of the islands to “the gallant military victory of our Imperial forces.”

Collectively, these official documents leave no doubt that the Meiji government did not base its occupation of the islands following “on-site surveys time and again,” but instead annexed them as booty of war. This is the inconvenient truth that the Japanese government has conveniently evaded.


As part of its surrender, Japan executed the Potsdam Declaration, which mandated that “Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku, and such minor islands as we determine” as has been announced in the Cairo Declaration in 1943.”

Please note that the “disputed” islands were not on the list of sovereignty land that Japan was allowed to keep. Furthermore, if Japan were to be given more land, all three signatory countries of China, US and England have to all agree first. That is the meaning of the word “we” in the sentence.

Obviously, China never agreed. So, how come there is dispute and China cannot get is islands back?

In two simple words “US intervened”. It intervened on behalf of Japan at the expense of China for its own strategic reasons.

If you like to know the details of that intervention, please visit https://www.quora.com/Why-does-J…. I have detailed explanation there. It is way too long for discussion here.

C) Philippines

When US left as Philippines’ colonial master in 1947, none of the islands in dispute between China and the Philippines were included in the sovereign land returned to the Philippines. Like I said before, US did not get the disputed islands when it incorporated the Philippines as its colony and, therefore, not returned to the Philippines.

Again, it is a Philippines journalist who made the case for Chinahttp://www.philstar.com/opinion/….

Essentially, she made the following points:

1) In three treaties (Treaty of Paris of 1898, Treaty of Washington of 1900, and Convention between U. S. and Britain of 1930), the boundaries of the Philippines were deemed to lie east of East Meridian 118. All the disputed islands, including Scarborough Shoal, lie east of its boundariesThey did not belong to the Philippines. This is really that simple.

2) That definition of the boundaries was incorporated into the Philippines’ 1935 Constitution.

The following map shows the Treaty Boundaries of the Philippines, as accepted internationally in 1946.

3) This 1935 was later unilaterally “modified”, in 1973, as she stated “The problem began when the 1973 Constitution during Marcos time deleted the boundaries of Philippine national territory defined in the 1935 Constitution to comply with the Treaty of Paris.

4) Regarding the US role in any potential future conflict, she wrote: “Will the US to come to the aid of the Philippines under the mutual defense treaty if Scarborough Shoal is occupied by a foreign power? The US said it does not apply in a South China Sea conflict as the Spratlys are not part of the “metropolitan territory” of the Philippines”

Why do the Philippines continue to shout? Under U. S.’s “anyone but China in South China Sea” policy, US continues to publicly support Philippines. This despite the fact that it was US that took Chinese soldiers to recover all the islands “in dispute” with all of its neighbors right after WWII in 1946.

Again, if you like to know the details of this, please visit Peter Yan’s answer to How does the Chinese government view Vietnam and the Philippines in the South China Sea dispute?

What did Philippines do after “modifying” its Constitution to get Scarborough Shoal and other previously non-Philippine islands?

Like Japan, it claimed Terra Nullis. It feignied ignorance of Chinese sovereignty over these islands and claimed Terra Nullis without even claiming to have done a survey (both are requirements under Terra Nullis claim) before incorporating them into its own territory.

D) Vietnam

Like the Philippines, when France, Vietnam’s colonial master, left as its colonial master, none of the disputed island were returned to Vietnam’s as part of its sovereignty land.

France, in fact, not only knew that the islands did not belong to Vietnam, it actually acknowledge Chinese ownership of these island back in 1884-1885 time period when China lost Sino-French War – Wikipedia

The French recognition of Chinese ownership of both the Paracel and Spratly archipelagos was recorded in Battle of the Paracel Islands – Wikipedia.

China first asserted sovereignty in the modern sense to the South China Sea’s islands when it formally objected to France’s efforts to incorporate them into French Indochina during the Sino-French War (1884–1885). Initially, France recognized Qing China’s sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly archipelagos, in exchange for Chinese recognition of Vietnam as a French territory. Chinese maps since then have consistently shown China’s claims, first as a solid and then as a dashed line. In 1932, one year after the Japanese Empire invaded northeast China, France formally claimed both the Paracel and Spratly Islands. China and Japan both protested”.

Please note that the Chinese line claiming South China Sea was first drawn around 1884, a full 110 years before UNCLOS came into force. Since internal laws generally do not apply retroactively to events that predated their own existence, UNCLOS, in theory, should not have been applied to the Chinese dotted lines, although the Chinese position is a more generous one as it agrees to give this international law due considerations in its negotiations with its neighbors.

In additionally, Battle of the Paracel Islands – Wikipedia, states

the current Vietnamese regime, North Vietnam (which came to being in 1954), actually acknowledged Chinese sovereignty over these islands: (three separate times).

Again, the following are from Vietnamese sources:

1) According to Battle of the Paracel Islands – Wikipedia “In 1956 North Vietnam formally accepted that the Paracel and Spratly islands were historically Chinese”.

2) On p 45 of the Book “China’s War with Vietnam, 1979: Issues, Decisions, and Implications”, it is written “according to Vietnamese data, the Xisha Islands (Paracel) and Nansha Islands (Spratly) are historically part of Chinese territoryspoken in June 1956 by Vietnamese Vice Foreign Minister Ung Van Khien to Li Zhimin, Charge d’Affaires of Chinese Embassy in Vietnam


Source: By Vietnam Government – collected by “Nansha Islands of China: Spratly Islands maps photos news history“[1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/…

Below is the translation of the first part of the document as presented in Spratly Islands dispute – Wikipedia

Dear Comrade Prime Minister,

We solemnly inform you that the Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam acknowledges and supports the declaration dated September 4th, 1958 by the Government of the People’s Republic of China regarding the decision on the breadth of China’s territorial sea”.

The Declaration dated September 4th, 1958 mentioned in this written document referred to the Chinese Declaration on Territorial Waters” “which specifically stated that the Paracel (Xisha) and Spratly (Nansha)_ islands were Chinese territories”. (p 274 “Beijing’s Power and China’s Borders: Twenty Neighbors in Asia (Northeast Asia Seminars): Bruce Elleman, Stephen Kotkin, Clive Schofield: 9780765627643: Amazon.com: Books). The Chinese spokesperson was its then premier Zhou Enlai, the “Comrade Prime Minister” referred to in the Vietnamese letter.

Yet, despite all these acknowledgments, it was Vietnam which is the most aggressive in its behavior in the South China Sea, as it grabbed most islands it had long renounced!


When all these disputes are put together, it is quite obvious that China is not an aggressor. It is actually a victim, which has actually shown “great restrain”, as this author of this aptly named article Who Is the Biggest Aggressor in the South China Sea? answered his own question.

Except for Japan, itself an imperialist invader, China, India, the Philippines and Vietnam were ALL victims of colonialism and imperialism in the past. After WWII, the world agreed that colonialism was to be abolished. These four countries all wanted to be free from colonialism and, indeed, were all able to become independent.

If you do not like colonialism, you should not act like colonial masters by grabbing territories that are obviously not yours, based on your own records and as executed by your previous colonial masters.

If you do not like colonialism, you should not feel at ease with keeping colonial loot, especially should not try to grab land by means even your colonial master deemed to be unlawful.

Today China is accused of being an aggressor for wanting to have nothing more than its own land back or to not be grabbed. Its smaller neighbors can do so as they feel emboldened by the perceived/anticipated support of the current lone hegemony in the world.

However, I feel we need to ask this question: How long exactly did past empires last in history?

Where are the past empires now?

Roman Empire? Austrian-Hungarian Empire? Mongolian Empire? Ottoman Empire? British Empire? Etc etc?

Chinese civilization has existed for thousands of years and has outlasted all of them. It will last for thousands of years more and will continue to outlast whichever empires it encounters now and in the future.

That reality of history is hard to beat!

So, Mr. Wagh, I hope you continue to have faith in Chinese culture and its people, even as China continues to go through a rather rough stretch of its long history.

[Update on August 14th, 2017]

In response to several comments in this, and other posts such as Peter Yan’s answer to Who is correct in the India-China standoff over the road-building in Bhutan? What is the potential outcome?, I like to clarify the very basic principle that China has used in all of its international treaties historically:

China complies with International Treaties it has signed and agreed to. China has does not abide by treaties signed by other parties that violated her sovereignty rights without her agreement.

This very basic principle informs all actions and reason why China has disputes with others. Over the last two centuries, China was extremely weak, and poor, made worse by imperial/colonial invasions and stuffing of opium down the throats of her people in the name of “free trade”. The result is that China was forced to sign some what she deems to be “unequal” treaties, even as she did not sign some others.

However, the colonial/imperial powers of the past tried to force even the terms of treaties that China did not sign onto her. Today, this trend continues. That is the core issue causing the various disputes involving China and her neighbors. With western media biased against China, but in control of most of the media of the world, China is fighting an uphill battle. However, this is a battle she must fight. She refused to become vassal state, like some of her territorial adversaries, in order to maintain the dignity of the country and pride of her people!

In the dispute with Japan, for example, China follows Potsdam Declaration, which she signed with US and UK immediately after WWII. China refused to follow the terms of San Francisco Conference of 1951, from which she was excluded by its organizer, US. This treaty was signed as if Potsdam Declaration never existed. It removed what wert internationally recognized as Chinese territories in the interim between the signing of Potsdam Declaration and the San Francisco Conference. This is the root cause of her disputes with her neighbors in South China Sea and in East China Sea.

China agrees to negotiate with her neighbors on sea disputes while taking UNESCO into consideration. However, since international laws do not apply to events that preceded the laws existence, full force of UNESCO should not be applied, especially given that UNESCO does not have jurisdiction over sovereignty issues. That is why she did not recognize the proceedings, and the rulings, especially of the obviously-biased panel from the non-court, administrative-in-nature only organization known as PCA. PCA rulings are not enforceable by UN.

In the case of Tibet, Simla Accord was never signed by China and its forceful execution basically by imperial mandate was not recognized by China. India’s invasion of the then internationally recognized Chinese Tibetan territory was beyond what even its imperial master did not do. China refused to recognize its legitimacy.

In the current issue involving Doklam in the Himalayas, China followed the same principle as stated before. She complies with the treaty of 1890 since she actually signed it. China expects India to stay out of this current dispute, as it is a matter matter between China and Bhutan only. Yet, India chose to cause trouble my manipulating its tiny neighbor, while simultaneously hoping its big brother would somehow intervene on its behalf. India used to a proud country. Now, it is turning in another vassal state, losing dignity for want of a piece of land that does not belong to her.

If all the countries do what China does and follow international treaties, especially by the one in superpower position, the world will not be as chaotic as it is now.

China, even during its “century of humiliation” complied with all the treaties she actually signed. As if the stuffing of opium down the throats of her people was not enough, the imperial powers stabbed China over and over again by demanding war reparation. By the end of Qing Dynasty, the war reparation China had to pay were so heavy that they literally caused the country to be on the brink of bankruptcy. Yet China complied fully with all the treaties, signed under “duress”, to use a modern term, and paid the reparation.

By contrast, in the name of forging peace and forgiving of past ills, China forgave war reparation from Japan after WWII, twice (once from PRC and once ROC), only to have a militaristic Japan bite China back in return for its magnanimity.

Today, China is a UN-supporting, sovereign-equality promoting, member of the world community. She expects hegemonic power to behave better. Yet, not only does the the lynching of China continue, she is even simultaneously accused of being a revanchist! How ridiculous is that? That is why the world will need a better order than the one with rules written by western imperial hegemony to truly have “equality of all” be applied worldwide.

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