Anyone who follows geopolitical news knows that China is in the midst of a tense standoff with the US and its allies regarding Beijing’s land reclamation efforts in the South China Sea.
To recap, China is building artificial islands atop reefs in the Spratly archipelago. Although other countries have embarked on similar initiatives in the past, the scale of Beijing’s efforts is, according to the US, unparalleled.
As the following graphic from WSJ shows, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei, The Philippines, and Vietnam all have sovereign claims in the area:
China has constructed some 1,500 acres of sovereign territory in the Spratlys this year alone, leading its neighbors to cry foul and prompting the US to send surveillance aircraft to monitor the situation. Beijing views Washington’s interference as unacceptable (not to mention hypocritical) and has variously suggested that further intervention from the US could easily lead to a maritime “accident.”
Over the past two weeks, the tension has escalated, culminating in China’s move to place artillery on one of its new islands and break ground on two lighthouses which will be used to provide “international public services.”
If you thought the war of words around the "sand castles" couldn’t get any more contentious (and absurd) you’d be wrong because Philippine President Benigno Aquino has now compared China’s “construction efforts” to the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia.
“I’m an amateur student of history and I’m reminded of ... how Germany was testing the waters and what the response was by various other European powers,” Aquino said, in a speech in Japan.
(Aquino speaks in Tokyo)
“They tested the waters and they were ready to back down if, for instance, in that aspect, France said (to back down). But unfortunately, up to the annexation of the Sudetenland, Czechoslovakia, the annexation of the entire country of Czechoslovakia, nobody said stop. If somebody said stop to Hitler at that point in time, or to Germany at that time, would we have avoided World War II,” he added.
Needless to say, Beijing was not pleased with the reference. Here’s more via The People’s Daily:
China said on Wednesday that it was deeply shocked and dissatisfied with the Philippine president's remarks likening China to Nazi Germany, warning Manila to stop provoking Beijing on the South China Sea issue.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that the Philippines has tried to occupy Chinese islands for decades and has kept "colluding with countries outside the region to stir up trouble and sling mud at China".
"I once more seriously warn certain people in the Philippines to cast aside their illusions and repent, stop provocations and instigations, and return to the correct path of using bilateral channels to talk and resolve this dispute," she said.
During a speech in Japan on Wednesday, Philippine President Benigno Aquino compared China's actions to Nazi Germany's territorial expansion before the outbreak of World War II.
Meanwhile, President Obama stopped short of likening the PLA to the SS, opting instead for a characteristically colorful (and asinine) colloquialism:
"The truth is, is that China is going to be successful, it's big, it's powerful, its people are talented and they work hard and, and it may be that some of their claims are legitimate. But they shouldn't just try to establish that based on throwing elbows and pushing people out of the way."
It's worth noting (again) that when the US accuses China of using its size and relative power to "push people out of the way", Washington opens itself up to accusations of blatant hypocrisy. Indeed, as we mentioned when the South China Sea feud first began to simmer, using size, influence, and relative power to shape geopolitical outcomes is unspoken foreign policy in Washington.
In any event, Aquino's comments won't do anything to stabilize the region because after all, once the Nazi name-calling starts, all bets are off.