In this photo provided by U.S. Navy, the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76, front) and USS Nimitz (CVN 68, rear) Carrier Strike Groups sail together in formation, in the South China Sea, July 6, 2020. (ctto)

TAIPEI – U.S. curbs against Chinese officials and companies suspected of helping Beijing extend its reach in a disputed, resource-rich Asian sea will do little to reduce China’s maritime influence and could indirectly increase it, analysts believe. 

The government of outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday announced a ban on travel to the United States by officials in the military, the ruling Communist Party and major state-owned enterprises. Washington believes they have used coercion on countries with claims to the 3.5 million-square-kilometer South China Sea. 

In December the U.S. government placed 60 Chinese companies, including offshore oil giant CNOOC, on a trade blacklist that stops them from receiving certain types of American technology. Last week Washington barred American investors from holding shares in nine Chinese firms with suspected ties to The People’s Liberation Army, including the world’s third biggest smartphone developer, Xiaomi. 

These penalties, along with others that the Trump administration has used to stop Chinese maritime activities, will hardly dislodge Beijing from the disputed sea, scholars say. They say the targeted people and companies can keep drilling for oil, supplying the military and building infrastructure in the tropical waterway. 

China wouldn’t let them stop, said Wang Wei-chieh, Taiwan-based analyst and co-founder of the FBC2E International Affairs Facebook page.   

“Historically, CCP’s (Chinese Communist Party) policy toward sovereignty issues or territorial issues, they never step back from it, so they will definitely keep their focus on this region,” he said. “They won’t step back because of these economic sanctions.”  


FILE – An oil platform operated by China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) is seen in the sea off China’s southernmost Hainan province, March 23, 2018. (ctto)

The U.S. orders will have no material effect on either the Chinese government or the targeted companies that work in the South China Sea, the analysts say. 

“The South China Sea reclamation and building activities will fully engage some of these construction and engineering companies,” said Alan Chong, associate professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. “I think it’s a win.”  

Beijing claims about 90% of the South China Sea and cites historic usage records to back its position. China has used its technological and military superiority over the other claimants to develop islets in the sea, which stretches from its southern coasts to the island of Borneo.    

Officials from Beijing could be offering more aid and investment now to the other maritime claimants in case other countries side with the U.S. view that China has used coercion, some experts believe. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam contest Chinese claims to the sea that’s coveted for fuel and fisheries. (Continue Reading…)