Ambassador Liu Xiaoming’s Q&A after his speech on the South China Sea at the Chatham House

July 30, 2016 / Chinese Embassy-UK

On 25 July 2016, following his keynote speech entitled “Let no fleeting clouds block our vision” at the Chatham House, H.E. Ambassador Liu Xiaoming answered questions from the audience on issues including the impact of the US presidential election on China-US relations, the nature of the South China Sea arbitration, the legal status of the dotted line in the South China Sea, negotiation on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, China’s construction on its islands and reefs, resource development in the South China Sea, the impact of the arbitration on China’s relationship with neighbouring countries, disputes between China and Japan over the Diaoyu Islands, China’s international influence, etc.

Question: We know that there is an important election in America. America’s role on the South China Sea issue is very significant, even though it has not ratified the UNCLOS. So what kind of opportunity or challenge do you see from Clinton presidency or Trump presidency for China-US relations and the issue of the South China Sea?

Ambassador Liu: I think it’s still too early for me to make predictions, but we have to be ready to deal with either of the two. Hillary Clinton was the Secretary of State, and she has visited China many times. We don’t know Donald Trump that well. I read some Western media report saying that China might be concerned about the Trump administration. I’m not that worried. I had been working on China-US relations for years and had followed six presidential elections. I think I understand the American election politics. We listen to what they are saying today, but we must pay more attention to what they are going to do after the election. I’m confident that whoever becomes US president will set store by the national interests of the United States, and will attach importance to the relationship with China. I am confident about that. I believe that China and the US have a broad relationship. We may have some differences, there maybe up and downs in the relationship, but I believe what unite China and the United States is more important than what divide us.

Question: Ambassador, thank you very much for your statement. You say that China is happy to negotiate on the South China Sea, and I think it will assist the negotiation if China could clarify the meaning of the dotted line, what is intended by the line, whether it is a claim for the rights of everything within the line, or it is the basis for China to generate for themselves maritime rights. It will be great for China to clarify it. And if I may ask another thing that the arbitration tribunal report also reviewed several fishing practice by Chinese fishermen including using the explosives in the South China Sea, one of the world’s richest fishing grounds. So would you tell us what kind of steps China will take to put an end to these actions?

Ambassador Liu: First I will say that China has long stood for resolving disputes through bilateral negotiations with our neighbouring countries on the basis of respect for historical facts and in accordance with the international law. It is not something that we put forward recently, and we are still behind the commitment. We do hope that the neighbouring countries and China will be engaged in diplomatic negotiations to find solutions content to both sides.

Regarding the dotted line, this is something inherited from history, so are our territorial sovereignty and maritime interests as well as historical rights. It is based on many facts that China has been the first to discover, to name, to explore these islands and areas, including development and jurisdiction on these islands, and also including the fishing activities by Chinese fishermen. So the dotted line has been recognized by the international community since it was announced in 1948. No country, I know you are shaking your head, but no country challenged the dotted line until the 1970s, when natural gas was found. Then some countries rushed into this area and illegally seized, invaded, occupied 42 islands or reefs, 29 by the Vietnamese, 8 by the Philippines, 5 by the Malaysians. China has sovereign rights over all these islands. They are part of the Nansha Islands. So I think the dotted line has been on the map, if you check your record, the maps published officially by a variety of authorities by the US, France even Britain. They all show the dotted line, which is regarded as showing respect for the Chinese sovereignty over this area. Read more…

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