Speaking Of Asia: Does the PLA tail wag the China dog?

Chinese activity around Natunas raises wider questions about military's behaviour

In January 2016, at a conference on South-east Asia organised in Yangon by a European think-tank, the South China Sea issue figured prominently in several panels. A top Indonesian diplomat insisted that his country was not a party to the dispute, and that China had assured Jakarta it had no overlapping claims with it.

When I intervened to say that senior Chinese military officials, on the other hand, had told me in categoric terms that in their view, Indonesia was sitting on 50,000 sq km of their exclusive economic zone (EEZ), thereby effectively making Indonesia a claimant state in the dispute, it was met with incredulity.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 17, 2020, with the headline 'Does the PLA tail wag the China dog?'. Subscribe