By Wu Liming
A good news recently from Singapore said that China and ASEAN countries have arrived at a Single Draft Negotiating Text (SDNT) of theCode of Conduct in the South China Sea. This is a clear message to the world that China and ASEAN countries have the ability to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea and have the wisdom to arrive at a set of regional rules of conduct that all stakeholders will observe.
The SDNT marks a major progress in the South China Sea Code of Conduct consultations between China and ASEAN. China's State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi used a metaphor to illustrate the breakthrough: one can say that China and ASEAN countries are building a house together. In the past, there were 11 designs from the 11 countries on how this house would look like. Now, they have laid a good groundwork for a single design for this house and have also put in place the fundamentals, like the supporting pillars, of this house.
As early as 2002, China and other South China Sea countries signed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. After a series of twists and turns, the framework for South China Sea Code of Conduct was officially adopted in Manila, the Philippines, in August last year, and became a part of the South China Sea Code of Conduct consultations. The Single Draft Negotiating Text shows that all parties have agreed on the basic consultation text, technically ensuring a major step forward.
In recent years, some states and forces outside of the region have often stirred trouble with the purpose to create bad waves in this peaceful region. Undoubtedly, these moves run counter to the trend of pursuing peace and development in the Asia-Pacific region, and China and ASEAN’s common aspirations for win-win cooperation. The Single Draft Negotiating Text also shows that consultations can be accelerated as long as relevant countries remove external interference and unite as one.
Starting from the meeting, the South China Sea has taken more solid steps to become an area of peace and cooperation. Today, China’s most advanced marine rescue vessel has been on duty on the Nansha Islands to provide timely maritime rescue services for ships from various countries. In the future, China will gradually provide international public services such as scientific research and meteorology services to regional countries. Moreover, China and ASEAN will hold joint maritime exercises this October to respond to security challenges and safeguard regional stability more powerfully.
It is a fact that there are disputes on some issues between the countries surrounding the South China Sea. However, they are capable to properly resolve the disputes through consultations, and they do not welcome states outside of the region to make indiscreet remarks or criticisms.
In fact, external forces will not stir up the waves of the South China Sea as long as countries in the region maintain their own strength and get away from outside interference. As long as China and ASEAN continue to work together and move in the same direction, the South China Sea will remain a sea of peace and cooperation.