APPRA and SCSTT are frequently mentioned by international and domestic media outlets, including Forbes, The Guardian, VOA, Financial Times, Bloomberg, Deutsche Welle, Focus Taiwan, i24 News, Izvestia, Southeast Asia Globe, and others. Here are a few excerpts of our international media coverage.
VOA on “Closer China Ties Seen Pressuring Brunei on Sensitive Maritime Claims”
[Brunei–China] ties have improved while the Bruneian economy slips because of declining world oil prices and diminishing supplies. Oil and gas make up 60 percent of Brunei’s economy.
China is propping up that economy now with investments that will make it easier to tap, process and transport fossil fuels, experts say. Economic concerns will take “priority” over political issues including sovereignty, said Jonathan Spangler, director of the South China Sea Think Tank in Taipei.
“I think that China has not so much been using like an aggressive approach with Brunei, but just using economic incentives,” Spangler said. “I don’t know if it will even need to tell Brunei what to do about its maritime claims.”
As recent signs of closer ties, Chinese contractors built a 2,680-meter-long sea bridge that’s due to open this month. China’s Hengyi Petrochemicals Co. offered $79 million worth of bonds last month on a Chinese stock exchange to fund a petrochemical plant in Brunei.
Beijing may later use its ties with Brunei to win favor with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Spangler said. That bloc includes Brunei as well as members such as Vietnam that resent Beijing’s maritime expansion. China has tapped Cambodia, Laos and the Philippines for similar support before.
“If you can control one of those members from the outside, then you can control the entire group,” he said.
VOA on “China, Southeast Asia Seek a Safer Disputed Sea with Plan for Joint Exercises”
“On its own, a joint exercise among claimants in disputed waters would mark an important development in regional relations,” said Jonathan Spangler, director of the South China Sea Think Tank in Taipei.
But improvement of broader relations would take longer, he said. “It all depends whether or not China and ASEAN can keep up the positive momentum,” Spangler said. “Because the underlying disputes have not been resolved yet, that may prove difficult in the long run.”
VOA on “China Upgrades Telecom Services on Disputed Islands”
The 4G upgrades show that China will step up an existing technological advantage in the dispute to help tiny populations of citizens who live there, possibly as incentives to stay at their isolated posts, analysts say.
“I imagine that those living there would want such services and also that the government would want to ensure that individuals living in such a strategically significant location were well provided for,” said Jonathan Spangler, director of the South China Sea Think Tank in Taipei.
A stable resident population would in turn advance China’s hold over the sea in a range of fields, analysts believe.
The stronger network might eventually help Chinese-run schools, hospitals, and other facilities “where internet connectivity is standard in many countries,” Spangler said. Also possibly on the list: tourism cruise ships and oil exploration vessels.
Deutsche Welle on “Is Chinese investment taking over the Mekong?”
Jonathan Spangler, director of the South China Sea Think Tank, told DW that Beijing can influence ASEAN decisions by controlling a few of its members. “This strategy has been particularly effective in relation to South China Sea issues, as ASEAN’s disunity continues to hinder its members from agreeing upon a meaningful plan for dispute management or resolution.”
Forbes on “China Expected To Make These Four Major Military Advances In 2018”
A government remote sensing institute in the southern province of Hainan intends to launch 10 satellites over the nearby seas from 2019 to 2021, the official Xinhua News Agency reported in December. Two will be able to analyze each pixel in an image to find objects or detect processes. Others can compose three-dimensional images of landscapes. These tools could effectively monitor what other countries are doing on many of the South China Sea’s 500 tiny islets and surrounding waters.
“If China is collecting data they don’t have to share with other countries, then that’s a strategic advantage,” says Jonathan Spangler, director of the South China Sea Think Tank in Taipei.
Xinhua doesn’t mention who will make the satellites, but per tradition the 11-year-old exclusive domestic operator China DBSat will probably get a sizable part in managing them.
VOA on “Southeast Asian Giants Team Up to Resist IS”
… Indonesia and the Philippines have overall strong ties plus a record for reaching maritime agreements.
They signed an agreement in 2014 after two decades of talks on formal boundaries around their exclusive economic zones in the Celebes Sea – a deal aimed at improving resource cooperation.
“There’s a lot of cross-border traffic there, and so that’s caused some problems, but as much as it’s caused some problems it’s also been the focus of some agreements that have been fairly promising in terms of maritime boundary delimitation,” said Jonathan Spangler, director of the Taipei-based South China Sea Think Tank.
Focus Taiwan News Channel on “Taiwan could play role in resolving S. China Sea dispute: expert”
September 8, 2017
The Republic of China (Taiwan) could play an important role in resolving the South China Sea dispute as it was the ROC that first claimed sovereignty over the region and it still has many historic documents on the issue, a visiting UK expert said on Friday.
“I think Taiwan could play a really important role in resolving the dispute. Because of course the claim really started with the ROC in the early 20th century,” said Bill Hayton, an associate fellow at Chatham House, an international policy institute based in London.
In addition, many of the historic archives are still stored in Taiwan, where political openness makes it easier to discuss sovereignty claims than in China or Vietnam, he noted.
He made the remarks on the sideline of a seminar organized by the South China Sea Think Tank (SCSTT) in Taipei on Friday. SCSTT is a Taipei-based non-profit organization that promotes dialogue, research, and education on South China Sea related issues.
In his lecture titled “The Modern Origins of China’s Claims in the South China Sea,” Hayton argued that the current tensions in the area can be traced back to the origins of China’s claims in the early 20th century. He presented evidence that China’s claim to islands in the South China Sea was made in 1909 and further expanded after 1933.
VOA on “Festering Maritime Hostilities Push China-Vietnam Relations to New Low”
September 4, 2017
Vietnamese officials also want to protect trade with China, said Jonathan Spangler, director of the South China Sea Think Tank in Taipei.
“Sino-Vietnamese relations will remain volatile as they have in the past, but both governments will be constrained by their key interests,” Spangler said.
“For Vietnam, the free flow of trade with China will remain a top priority, perhaps second only to domestic political stability,” he said. “For China, maintaining its influence in regional affairs and preventing any regional consensus that would threaten its interests will continue to take precedence.”
VOA on “China Reopens Hotly Disputed Fishing Spot to Philippine Boats”
August 28, 2017
“Even the most minimal gestures of goodwill toward other countries, such as allowing Philippine fishermen into Scarborough Shoal, are enough to appease critics or at least defer criticism for the time being,” said Jonathan Spangler, director of the South China Sea Think Tank in Taipei.
VOA on “Gritty Talks Ahead as China, ASEAN Agree to Avoid Mishaps in Disputed Sea”
August 7, 2017
“If and when a code of conduct is finalized, we can rest assured that it will be diluted to a point where it does not damage Chinese interests in the South China Sea,” said Jonathan Spangler, director of the South China Sea Think Tank in Taipei.
VOA on “Chinese Charm in Southeast Asia Shows Signs of Chafing”
July 12, 2017
“It is likely that the regional grouping (of Southeast Asian countries) will maintain a cautious approach in its relations with China and that any statements or agreements will be watered down so as to avoid upsetting Beijing,” said Jonathan Spangler, director of the South China Sea Think Tank in Taipei.
“Chinese policymakers know that now is as good a time as any to push forward with securitization of their maritime territorial claims,” he said.
VOA on “Vietnam Faces New Oil Dispute With China After Beijing Cuts Visit Short”
June 26, 2017
“Both countries know that they will have to continue to work towards finding a balance where they can both benefit economically and co-exist politically,” said Jonathan Spangler, director of the South China Sea Think Tank in Taipei.
VOA on “China, Normally Protective of a Disputed Sea, Gives India a Rare Nod”
June 16, 2017
“China has always had an opposition to foreign interference in its domestic affairs, of course, and also in regional affairs, and India, although it’s part of Asia, is perceived as an outside actor in terms of the South China Sea,” said Jonathan Spangler, director of the South China Sea Think Tank in Taipei.
“China and India have quite a complex relationship,” Spangler said. “They have their own territorial disputes along their land borders, and that’s been true for a long, long time.”
Izvestia Daily on “К Южно-Китайскому морю движется американский грозовой фронт”
June 9, 2017
“Увеличение активности в ЮКМ повышает риск непредвиденных инцидентов в море, но эти инциденты необязательно приведут к вооруженному конфликту. Несмотря на трения, связанные с рядом международных политических вопросов, двусторонние отношения между Китаем и США взаимовыгодны во многих других отношениях, — пояснил «Известиям» директор Тайваньского аналитического центра South China Sea Think Tank Джонатан Спэнглер.”
VOA on “Cautious Maritime Deal Expected Between China, Philippines”
May 8, 2017
“The Philippines seeks large-scale Chinese investments or aid in infrastructure projects and guarantees that Chinese vessels will not infringe on its fishing and resource extraction operations in its Philippine waters,” said Jonathan Spangler, director of the South China Sea Think Tank in Taipei.
“Because of the power imbalance between the two countries, negotiations will mostly be on Beijing’s terms, so it can be expected that any relevant commitments will be vague enough to avoid damaging Chinese interests in the future,” he said.
VOA on “Discovery of More Chinese Ships Adds Pressure on Normally Passive Malaysia”
April 17, 2017
“For Malaysia, which has sought to maintain friendly relations with China, publicly condemning Chinese actions would disrupt that delicate balance and could have serious economic and other repercussions,” said Jonathan Spangler, director of the South China Sea Think Tank in Taipei.
Forbes on “Japan Has Ambitious Plans To Be Asia’s Next Superpower, Thanks To China”
March 22, 2017
“For many decades, Japan has played an important role in providing development and humanitarian aid to countries throughout East and Southeast Asia, but it was long ‘hindered,’ so to speak, by its pacifist defense policy,” says Jonathan Spangler, director of the South China Sea Think Tank in Taipei. “It can now become more directly engaged in regional securitization efforts. For some, this is reassuring. For others, it is cause for concern.”
VOA on “China Angers Philippine President with Reported Plan to Build in Disputed Sea”
March 22, 2017
Officials in Beijing might argue that a monitoring station doesn’t violate the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea that it signed with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which is being chaired by the Philippines this year, said Jonathan Spangler, director of the South China Sea Think Tank in Taipei.
That accord only prohibits occupying so far uninhabited land features in the disputed sea,
“Building an environmental monitoring station on Scarborough Shoal could theoretically be done without inhabiting the feature, but that would not make the action seem any less provocative to rival claimants or other major stakeholders,” Spangler said.
VOA on “Japan Is Becoming Player in South China Sea Sovereignty Dispute”
March 21, 2017
“Like China and the U.S., Japan is trying to consolidate its role as a leader in the region,” said Jonathan Spangler, director of the Taipei-based South China Sea Think Tank. “Part of this effort involves demonstrating that it has the capacity and courage to operate in areas well beyond its own borders.”
Forbes on “China Is Pursuing This Quiet, Loyal Ally In Asia’s Big Maritime Dispute”
March 6, 2017
“Brunei’s interests in the South China Sea are primarily economic,” says Jonathan Spangler, director of the South China Sea Think Tank in Taipei. “It depends economically on resource extraction within its claimed exclusive economic zone, and at the same time maintains close economic ties with China. Although China’s nine-dash line claims overlap with Brunei’s EEZ claims, both governments understand that avoiding diplomatic or military confrontation over the issue is in their best interests.”
VOA on “Taiwan Risks Beijing Backlash Over South China Sea Patrols”
March 6, 2017
An informal China-Taiwan dialogue of eight years ended after Tsai took office in May on a public mandate to be more cautious toward Beijing. China had also “refrained from harassing” Taiwanese fishermen at that time, said Jonathan Spangler, director of the Taipei-based South China Sea Think Tank.
He added that contact with other countries at sea “could give Beijing reason to intervene in a way that would be detrimental to Taiwan’s interests.”
Southeast Asia Globe on “How ‘routine’ are the new US patrols in the South China Sea?”
February 21, 2017
Still, analysts agree that there is a dizzying degree of uncertainty within the Trump administration. Jonathan Spangler, director of the Taipei-based South China Sea Think Tank, pointed out that many senior members of Trump’s cabinets have made “off-the-cuff remarks that reflect their misinformed perspectives” on Asia-Pacific security issues. He said that secretary of defence James Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general, was the only official who seemed to have a clear grasp of the intricacies involved in regional politics.
China, Spangler added, seems to be biding its time amid confusion in Washington, issuing statements denouncing the US’ actions and waiting to see how far Trump will go to preserve his tough-talking persona.
“The reality is that disarray in Washington can only hurt US interests and weaken its global leadership role,” he said. “Beijing, in turn, may eventually benefit from this.”
VOA on “Vietnam Seeks Stronger China Ties Despite New Buildup on Disputed Islands”
February 20, 2017
The Vietnamese government knows that it “must avoid upsetting China” while staying open to defense ties with the United States, said Jonathan Spangler, director of the South China Sea Think Tank in Taipei.
“For Vietnam, regional stability is closely tied to national security,” Spangler said. “Vietnam, like other rival claimants, needs to balance the benefits of its economic ties with China and the political risks of not defending its sovereignty claims and thus appearing weak domestically.”
VOA on “Boom in Tourists Helping Stabilize China-Vietnam Relations”
February 10, 2017
Vietnam understands the risk of a pullback, said Jonathan Spangler, director of the Taipei-based South China Sea Think Tank.
“Beijing has been known to limit outbound tourism as a political tool, but the Vietnamese government understands that such risks are only a small part of its economic relations with China and broader diplomatic and political interests,” he said.
VOA on “Civilians Helping Governments Stake Claims in South China Sea”
December 26, 2016
“For the most part, the civilian populations on many of the features in the South China Sea are either working for or otherwise supported by their respective governments,” said Jonathan Spangler, director of the South China Sea Think Tank in Taipei.
“Tourism has been limited in the South China Sea for practical, economic and political reasons,” Spangler added. “Even so, both China and Vietnam have organized cruise ship tours to their occupied features, and some Philippine officials have advocated doing the same.”
VOA on “S. China Sea Dispute Hangs on Philippine Leadership of ASEAN”
December 14, 2016
ASEAN chairs since 2013 have made it priority to unify members or avoid upsetting China, said Jonathan Spangler, director of the South China Sea Think Tank in Taipei. The chair rotates to a new Southeast Asian country every year.
Malaysia last year maintained an “ASEAN-centric” approach, he said. Chairs this year from Laos and in 2014 from Myanmar also avoided the maritime disputes due to risks of disunity and upsetting their own ties with Beijing, he added, while Brunei as 2013 chair, took a characteristically “low-profile” stance on the maritime dispute.
“It is likely that the Philippines will advocate a leadership role for ASEAN in managing the South China Sea disputes, but it will not sacrifice ASEAN unity to achieve those aims,” Spangler said. “Only half of the ten-member regional grouping has South China Sea claims, so an iron-fisted ASEAN role is far less likely than one that cautiously balances the interests of all its members. For many countries, their relations with Beijing would be a greater priority.”
Bloomberg on “Taiwan Reasserts South China Sea Claims”
December 9, 2016
“Taiwan has long been trying to frame itself as a peacemaker in the South China Sea, but the issues of sovereignty are not yet resolved. Of course, that’s sort of the key fundamental issue.”
The wildcard here is the threat of a more hawkish US military under President Trump. “It could potentially embolden claimants in their securitization efforts, and it could also embolden the United States and other major stakeholders who sort of back up their policies with military action.”
Forbes on “Duterte’s Most Recent Move In South China Sea Will Strain China-Philippine Relations Again”
December 7, 2016
“For an action like designating the Scarborough Shoal as a marine sanctuary to have a deescalating effect on South China Sea tensions, it would need to have at least tacit approval from relevant claimants,” says Jonathan Spangler, director of the South China Sea Think Tank in Taipei. “Otherwise, it risks leading to escalation, regardless of whether Manila’s intentions are related to environmental conservation or not.”
VOA on “Philippine Marine Sanctuary in Disputed Sea Risks Upsetting China”
December 6, 2016
“Designating the Scarborough Shoal area as a marine sanctuary would be a renewed claim by the Philippines to sovereignty over that area,” said Jonathan Spangler, director of the South China Sea Think Tank in Taipei. “Any unilateral actions that imply sovereignty are likely to cause friction between rival claimants, even if they are framed as marine conservation efforts.”
China has not weighed in. The foreign ministry spokesman in Beijing said only that the Chinese claims to sovereignty over the shoal will not change. The marine sanctuary would need “at least tacit approval” from related claimants other than Manila to reduce South China Sea tensions, Spangler said.
Elsewhere in the South China Sea, Taiwan formed a national park nine years ago at Dongsha Atoll in the Pratas archipelago to regenerate coral. China claims the Pratas as well but has not overtly challenged Taiwan’s sanctuary.
The Guardian on “Trump’s phone call with Taiwan president risks China’s wrath”
December 3, 2016
“Obviously for Taiwan it’s a good sign as some Taiwanese politicians were a bit worried that the Trump administration would ignore Taiwan,” said Jonathan Spangler from the Taipei-based South China Sea Think Tank.
The call could also help boost Tsai’s ratings, which have plummeted in her first six months in office. “It shows that she does have the capacity and courage to lead Taiwan,” said Spangler.
The Guardian on “The new Hawaii? Surfers flock to Taiwan, an island nation that fears the sea”
November 26, 2016
Surfing is still new to Taiwan, an island of 23 million off the east coast of China. Fewer than 100 people make a living out of surfing.
A high rate of drowning deaths has helped create nationwide trepidation but analysts say the aversion to water has cultural and political roots going back to the island’s tempestuous relationship with China.
Jonathan Spangler, from the Asia-Pacific Policy Research Association in the Taiwanese capital, Taipei says: “In the education system here it’s taught that swimming in the ocean is dangerous, don’t go swimming.”
Dr Francis Hu, head of political science at Tunghai university, Taichung, explains that for decades, post-second world war Taiwan had also restricted access to the coastline for security reasons.
Canada Free Press on “Towards a More Constructive Engagement with China under a Trump Administration”
November 24, 2016
“China will likely find a business-minded leader like Trump to be easier to influence than a political and ideologically minded leader like Clinton,” Jonathan Spangler, director of the Taipei-based South China Sea Think Tank, has predicted.
VOA Learning English on “Taiwan to Hold Rescue Exercises in South China Sea”
November 21, 2016
Jonathan Spangler is director of the Taipei-based South China Sea Think Tank. He says Taiwan has been trying to position itself as a peacemaker in the South China Sea dispute for many years.
“Humanitarian and search-and-rescue operations near Itu Aba would be a logical next step in backing up that political rhetoric with action,” he said.
Taiwan launched efforts in 2015 to establish itself as a humanitarian player in the South China Sea. At that time, the government released a peace proposal intended to help resolve South China Sea disputes. It urged governments involved to put aside their “sovereignty disputes” and find ways to develop the sea’s resources together.
VOA on “Taiwan Plans Naval Exercise as Peace Mission for Disputed Sea”
November 21, 2016
“Taiwan has long been trying to frame itself as a regional peacemaker in the South China Sea dispute,” said Jonathan Spangler, director of the Taipei-based South China Sea Think Tank. “Humanitarian and search-and-rescue operations near Itu Aba would be a logical next step in backing up that political rhetoric with action.”
VOA on “Trump Expected to Take Tough but Brief Action in South China Sea”
November 14, 2016
“Details are scarce as to what Trump’s policy approach to the Asia Pacific might look like, and many of his off-the-cuff remarks have sent mixed signals about how the administration might proceed,” said Jonathan Spangler, director of the Taipei-based South China Sea Think Tank. “Had Clinton won the election, there’s little doubt that she would have continued to prioritize the Asia Pacific region.”
“China will likely find a business-minded leader like Trump to be easier to influence than a political and ideologically minded leader like Clinton,” Spangler forecast.
Forbes on “What’s Special About This Taiwan Military Drill In The Contested South China Sea”
November 10, 2016
The drill is to prep for humanitarian search-and-rescue work that backs up a longstanding mission of the coast guard on Taiping Island. The islet with a clinic and lodging is supposed to be a place where people from any country can go when in trouble, say because of a storm at sea. Taiwan wants the other claimants to remember its claim. But it also wants to be seen as an advocate of peaceful cooperation rather than aggression.
“Really the whole idea of turning it into a search and rescue hub is kind of just the next step in that whole approach to in the peace effort,” says Jonathan Spangler, director of Taipei-based South China Sea Think Tank.
VOA on “Arms Spending May Rise as Beijing Asserts Control in South China Sea”
July 15, 2016
Regional defense experts say the arbitration ruling may lead other South China Sea claimants to ramp up their defense spending. Vietnam, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines all claim portions of the waterway, which is rich in fish and believed to hold significant underwater mineral resources.
“As states squabble over sovereignty issues and increase spending to safeguard their own interests, it is the global defense industry that is the real beneficiary of the South China Sea disputes,” said Jonathan Spangler, director of the South China Sea Think Tank in Taipei.
Southeast Asia Globe on “US military build up in the Philippines ups the ante in South China Sea”
April 7, 2016
“China views itself as having suffered in the past from foreign incursions in its territory,” said Jonathan Spangler, director of the South China Sea Think Tank. “These memories are going to shape its policies and diplomatic interactions with other countries today.”
“From Beijing’s perspective,” Spangler added, “there is a fine line between the US lending its naval expertise to the region and something that feels much more akin to containment.”
Financial Times on “Taiwan pushes island credentials of South China Sea outpost”
March 24, 2016
Jonathan Spangler, director of the South China Sea Think Tank in Taipei, says the fight over Taiping’s status has much wider implications because it is the biggest natural feature in the Spratlys and the only one with a serious claim to be an island in international law.
He points out that while China has built a much bigger air base on reclaimed land at nearby Fiery Cross Reef, such man-made features cannot generate an exclusive economic zone.
“If Taiping is officially an island and none of China’s occupied features are considered islands by international law, it could throw the whole focus of the South China Sea disputes back to cross-Strait relations,” he says.