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On the morning of April 9, 2019, “South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative” Website Launch and South China Sea Situations Report Press Conference was held by Peking University Institute of Ocean Research at Overseas Exchange Center. The conference, which was moderated by Wang Lei, Vice Dean of Institute of Ocean Research, drew more than 100 experts, scholars in the relevant fields, journalists from home and abroad and entrepreneur representatives. During the conference, the purpose, plans and organizations of the Initiative were elaborated in detail. And the very first report,South China Sea Situations: Retrospect & Prospect, was released, which showed Chinese expert team’s latest views on the key issues such as the militarization of South China Sea, consultations of South China Sea Code of Conduct (COC) and cooperation of resource exploration and development.
Advisory Board are answering questions from the media
The platform,South China Sea Strategic Situations Probing Initiative (SCSPI), is founded at a critical point where South China Sea is undergoing profound changes. Currently, all of the parties involved in the South China Sea disputes have now come to understand the significance of “shelving differences” and communication through dialogue. Under the “dual-track approach”, tensions over the waters are easing progressively. However, the root cause of the South China Sea disputes has not been entirely settled: claimants still hold different opinions about the sovereignty over islands and the delimitation of waters, and the contention over the exploitation of space and resources is becoming increasingly fierce; the competition between Chinese and US maritime strategies has come to the fore, and the South China Sea has become a major field of such contentions. Countries outside the region, such as Japan, Australia and the UK, are paying more attention to the waters with a stronger presence, which further complicates the situation. Now the future of the South China Sea holds more strategic relevance in today’s world, because it not only concerns the safety and prosperity of Southeast Asia and the future of China-US relations, but could influence the strategic bearing of the entire Asia-Pacific region as well.
To continue the push for a more desirable situation in the South China Sea, we should first gather all the trends and news about the waters from an objective perspective and accurately observe the area within the parameters of its military, political, economic and environmental contexts. With a view to maintaining and promoting the peace, stability and prosperity of the South China Sea, Peking University Institute of Ocean Research has launched SCSPI. The Initiative aims to integrate intellectual resources and open source information worldwide and keep track of important actions and major policy changes of key stakeholders and other parties involved. It will provide professional data services and analysis reports to parties concerned, helping them keep competition under control, and with a view to seek partnerships.
The Initiative, which is led by Hu Bo, Director of Peking University Center for Maritime Strategy Studies, has drawn active participation from more than 50 experts and scholars from home and abroad, including Wu Shicun(President of National Institute for South China Sea Studies), Professor Zhu Feng(Director of Collaborative Innovation Center of South China Sea Studies, Nanjing University), Major General Yao Yunzhu(Senior Advisor of the China Association of Military Science), Rear Admiral Zhao Dengping(Senior Advisor of China International Institute for Strategic Society), and Professor Li Ming(Law School of Peking University) as Advisory Board members. In the future, more experts are planned to be invited to the Initiative.
SCSPI sincerely invites experts and scholars, research institutes and other organizations from across the world to join us. We would also appreciate individuals, companies, institutions and international organizations willingness to share data and information with us, in accordance with the relevant laws of corresponding countries and international law.
During the conference, the very first report, South China Sea Situations: Retrospect & Prospect, was released with both English and Chinese versions, which believes that, since 2018, the situations of the South China Sea, in general, have continued to ease. Disputes have been well under control, and no major crisis has broken out among the claimants. With the dual-track approach, relevant parties have accelerated consultations on the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea and proactively implemented maritime pragmatic cooperation and crisis management.
The Report finally suggests that: On the one hand, it is imperative that China and the US enhance the quality of dialogue on maritime strategies and policies to ease the intensified geopolitical and strategic competition; on the other, extraregional powers, including Japan, Australia and the UK, should shoulder the responsibility to ease the tensions over the waters, as their choices would make all the difference for the strategic competition in the South China Sea to be under control. As for the future situations, the Report puts that: Firstly, small moves of some claimants such as Vietnam, Philippines and Malaysia should be watched closely, although, in general, they go with the “dual-track approach”; Secondly, it will become more difficult to push for substantial progress in COC negotiations; Thirdly, cooperation with bilateral participation would become a major approach, as joint development and maritime pragmatic cooperation are now at an impasse.
In the end, Director of the SCS Probing Initiative, authors of the Report, and representatives of the Advisory Board, Hu Bo, Liu Lin, Tang Pei, Zhao Dengping, Wang Jimin and Li Hongyun accepted interviews from the media, and elaborated their unique views on the issues such as the outlook, influencing factors, COC negotiations and geopolitical competition in South China Sea.