2012-06-04 — (from China Daily and by Zhang Haizhou)–I was labeled as a ”traitor” by some random netizens when I tweeted on my Sina Weibo, apopular Chinese micro-blogging website, about a month ago, predicting de-escalation over thedispute over Huangyan Island in South China Sea between China and the Philippines.
It was at a time when the dispute reached its hottest peak, and some lectured me that Chinesetroops should ”fight to get the island back at any cost”.
I received another lecture, a different and much more sensible one, in Singapore this weekend.
Contrary to expectations, South China Sea disputes were not among the hottest issues at thisyear’s Asia Security Summit, which took place from Friday to Sunday.
The issue was not listed among the themes of any of the five plenary sessions, which includedUnited States Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s highly watched speech on the US rebalancetoward the Asia Pacific, protecting maritime freedom, deterrence and regional stability, newforms of warfare and emerging risks to global and Asia-Pacific security.
Yes, it was inevitably raised and discussed during some of these sessions and in IndonesianPresident Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s keynote speech to the summit. It was also a topic ofone of the five special sessions, which were off the record and for delegates only.
No saber-rattling rhetoric was heard over the past three days. Attendants at the summit choseto be rational and handled the discussions about the issue quite cautiously.
De-escalating, as Singaporean Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen mentioned several times in thefinal session, is the key word this time.
There was some speculation that the Chinese delegation, headed by Lieutenant General RenHaiquan, vice-president of the PLA’s Academy of Military Sciences in Beijing, would be”besieged” during the summit for the Huangyan Island dispute, which began in April.
But the atmosphere was actually ”much better than expected”, according to Ren, who said thebroad consensus reached those attending was ”dialogue is better than confrontation; talks arebetter than fighting”.
The message from Ren, who didn’t wear his military uniform when meeting reporters on thesidelines of the summit, highlights the Chinese army’s coolheaded restraint toward South ChinaSea disputes.
“The rewards of a win-win strategic mindset are always substantially better - and more durable -than a win-lose one,” as Susilo said on Friday night to open the summit.
“This win-win strategic culture will become ever more necessary in dealing with flash points thatare still found in parts of our region. The South China Sea comes prominently to mind,” he said.
“Even without waiting for resolution of territorial disputes, we can still find ways to transform thepotential conflicts in the South China Sea into potential cooperation,” he added.