Sunday, April 19, 2015

Fewer Chinese back military action over South China Sea

Fewer Chinese back military action over South China Sea

By Camille Diola


MANILA, Philippines — There is significantly more support for a compromise and third-party arbitration to settle long-standing disputes over the East and South China Seas among urban Chinese residents, a recent survey indicated.

In a study released by Pert USAsia Centre, researcher Andrew Chubb surveyed 1,413 adult residents of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Changsha and Chengdu.

Chubb said that of the ten policy options presented to respondents, the official government position of joint development to end sea disputes received only 30 to 31-percent approval.

The communist government option of sending in troops to deal with the maritime row, meanwhile, receive only 41 to 46-percent support.

In contrast, making a compromise with rival claimants such as the Philippines and Vietnam through negotiation attracted around 57-percent approval.

The possibility of a United Nations arbitration, meanwhile, got the support of more than 60 percent of the respondents, the researcher noted.

"This suggests that despite routine appearance of belligerent commentary online, most urban Chinese residents are cautious about the prospect of military action over the islands, and in principle at least, orpen to the idea of a compromise," Chubb said.

Near consensus

While most will back bilateral compromise and arbitration, the respondents were nearly unanimous in agreeing that the maritime features rightly belong to China.

"This implies that while many respondents do believe China is in the right, such views do not automatically eliminate the possibility of their accepting a compromise," Chubb noted.

Meanwhile, the Chinese urban middle class are the most inclined to advocate the use of military force and to oppose a compromise.

"Consistent with some theories of middle-class politics, respondents' views appear to change significantly once their income reaches a certain threshold of material well being," Chubb said.

He also pointed out that the Chinese middle class continues to expand alongside the country's economic rise.

"This is a trend in public opinion that if confirmed in subsequent research, would warrant some concern from both Chinese and foreign governments," he said.

The surveys were conducted in March 2013, and a change in public opinion the past months could have occurred.

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