March 02nd, 2012 | Global Times Public will increasingly swaying diplomatic policies
Two statements over China’s stance on the South China Sea issue, both correct but with different tones, have sparked completely different reactions from the public.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Wednesday that the core of the South China Sea dispute is about sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and the demarcation of territorial waters in South China Sea.
He added that no country, China included, has ever claimed sovereignty over the whole of the South China Sea. It caused much criticism from Chinese netizens, saying it shows a weakened stance on China’s territorial sovereignty.
The next day, the same spokesman stated that China has unquestionable sovereignty over Xisha Islands and its nearby sea areas and the remarks won enormous applause from the netizens, even though there was no conflict between the two statements and the second just merely sounded slightly tougher.
The contrast shows how the public is exerting more pressure on diplomacy. This is increasingly felt in every country.
Governments like to divert public attention from domestic problems or win popularity by showing a tough stance internationally. This trick is often used by politicians ahead of general elections.
Neighboring sea disputes are a good example of this factor. The Philippines and Vietnam have tended to show hawkish stances to woo the public. This has periodically disrupted normal diplomacy between countries, and made peaceful solutions more difficult to come by.
Every government has to consider its people’s will and bow to it in some circumstances. China faces the same problem and the Chinese government is paying growing attention to public will in many aspects, diplomacy included.
But China uses less public will to press other countries and does not seek to present a hard stance to win people over, despite paying the price of occasional fierce criticism.
China cherishes a peaceful development environment and friendship with neighboring countries. It is reluctant to aggravate the situation. More importantly, China is clear that the best way to solve problems is to address them head on.
If different countries compete with each other as to who is the toughest, the situation will soon reach an impasse to nobody’s gain.
By Xu Ming