Respect for international law, neighbours would go a long way

The remark by Ms Fu Ying, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, National People's Congress of China, that all the reefs and shoals put together amount to only a small percentage of the South China Sea illustrates why there is growing unease with China's intentions across much of the Indo-Pacific region ("Disorder or the reconstruction of order?"; July 28).

The issue is not merely about the size of China's artificial constructs in the disputed waters, but where they are situated and what they represent.

China was not the only country in Asia to be "humiliated" by imperialism.

No civilised nation wants a return to colonialism.

The United Nations was formed to herald a new system of international law and order, where all sovereign states are given a voice.

Countries which suffered much under hegemony and which claim to uphold UN security principles should not make the same mistake as those they resent by coercing weaker nations with their growing might.

The Chinese people certainly have the wherewithal to ride on their country's rise in a more interdependent globalised world as enlightened peace-loving internationalists, without playing the victim with a siege mentality, or indulging in blind chauvinism and revanchism over international waters.

More sincerity, empathy and respect for international law, including for the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and its neighbours can go a long way towards winning friends and influencing people.

Toh Cheng Seong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 05, 2016, with the headline 'Respect for international law, neighbours would go a long way'. Print Edition | Subscribe