China and the US are once again on a collision course due to new fishing regulations pertaining to the Chinese island province of Hainan which requires all foreign vessels to obtain prior approval before entering the disputed waters of the South China Sea. This follows tensions over China’s ADIZ which covers some parts of Japan’s and South Korea’s territorial waters. More tensions ensued over the narrow miss between China’s only aircraft carrier and an American vessel in early December of last year. While the US has described the above Chinese move as “provocative and potentially dangerous,” China has accused the US of unnecessarily fanning tensions and supported its move to uphold its thirty year old fisheries laws which have been “consistently implemented in a normal way and never caused any tension.”
The official Xinuha news agency charged the US of “resorting to the old trick of divide and rule,” and a commentary added that “First it stirs up tensions, disputes and even conflicts, then steps into pose as a mediator or judge in bid to maximise its own interests.” It further commented that “Washington’s accusations are unreasonable, as China’s fishing regulations are in line with international practice and aimed at strengthening the protection of fishery resources and maritime environment. The United States itself has similar ones.” As of January, the new regulations are already in force, and will be administered by Hainan.
The repeated escalation of tensions between the US and China are due to China’s rising imperialistic assertions regarding its maritime claims in the South China Sea which are contested by several regional countries and the US which wants to maintain its predominance in the Asia-Pacific region. The recurrence of such events appears due to asymmetry in perception of regional balance by both China and the United States. Whereas China projects itself as the sole hegemon in the East, thus elevating itself to become a dominant global player by displacing the US, the US wishes to maintain its global predominance by uprooting any regional power which aspires to become a global power to challenge its (the US) hitherto unquestioned status. Both are wrong and an escalation of tensions between them will not serve the interest of the region. Instead, these ugly tensions, marked by the use of undiplomatic language, may trigger an armed conflict between them unless cooler heads prevail.