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The 16th Cross-Strait Forum on the South China Sea held in Haikou

2019-01-01 15:18:46       source:NISCSS

On 27-28 December 2018, the 16th Cross-Strait Forum on the South China Sea, co-organized by the National Institute for South China Sea Studies and Taiwan Chengchi University, was held in Haikou. The one-and-half-day program covered a variety of topics such as “assessment of the current South China Sea situation”, “regional rule making”, “maritime security challenge and management”, “China-US relationship and its impacts on the South China Sea”, and “Cross-Strait relations and potential cooperation”. More than 80 scholars and experts from universities, research institutes and government agencies as well as media representatives from both sides of the Taiwan Straits attended the forum.


NISCSS President Wu Shicun, Mr. Liu Fu-Kuo, Director of the Center for Taiwan Security Studies of Taiwan Chengchi University and Mr. Zhang Yefei, Deputy Division Director of the Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China delivered remarks at the opening ceremony of the forum.


In his speech, President Wu Shicun pointed out that the South China Sea has been witnessing two parallel trends in the year of 2018. One the one hand, China and other claimant states have made great efforts in setting aside the disputes and mitigating their differences. China and ASEAN states have made noticeable progress in the on-going consultation and negotiations of the South China Sea Code of Conduct (COC) , and maritime security cooperation. The China-Philippines relations have been improved, while bilateral cooperation on oil and gas development has also seen big breakthrough. On the other hand, the China-US military competition continues to dominate the geopolitical arena. The presence of the United States and its allies such as Japan and Australia shows a tendency of becoming normalized.


It is projected that the situation of South China Sea in the coming year of 2019 would not significantly deviate from the general tendency of improvement. However, the military rivalry among regional and extraregional parties, as well as the dynamism over the development of regional order would continue dominating the regional situation. This trend would manifest in five aspects. Firstly, the divergences on some substantial issues among parties involved in drafting the COC are likely to stand out as the negotiation goes further; Secondly, claimants such as Vietnam may take advantage of the window opportunity for unilateral actions before the conclusion of the COC negotiation; Thirdly, effective regional maritime cooperation is likely to be plagued by factors such as the negative legacy of the South China Arbitration and the US Freedom of Navigation Operation Programs (FONOPs); Fourthly, the military activities of the United States, Japan and Australia would further intensify; Finally, it is possible for the Tsai Administration in Taipei to soften its stance in its South China Sea claims in exchange for Washington’s support for the administration’s propagated Independent Movement. That said, China has seen increasing capacity in shaping the South China Sea situation with the progress of COC negotiations, civilian facilities construction on the Nansha islands, as well as strengthened cooperation with ASEAN countries in both traditional and non-traditional fields.


Liu Fu-Kuo believed that the current situation in the South China Sea is largely stable, though the US FONOPs raises tensions in the region from time to time. The Arbitration decision would continue to influence the interactions among relevant parties as well as development of regional dynamics in a negative way. Meanwhile, the results of the latest elections in Taiwan have shown that it is in the common interests of both sides of the Taiwan Straits to resume and enhance cross-strait exchanges and communication, and to explore potential areas for cooperation in the South China Sea.


Initiated in 2002, the Cross-Strait Forum on the South China Sea has been held alternately in Hainan and Taiwan for 15 years. It serves as an institutionalized mechanism to facilitate exchanges and cooperation among experts and scholars specializing in South China Sea studies across the Straits.