Evolving Disputes, Expanding Options
Edited by Truong T. Tran, John B. Welfield and Thuy T. Le
John B. Welfield and Le Thuy Trang
Interstate conflict, in the view of one-third of the global decision-makers and experts assembled to compile the World Economic Forum 2015 Global Risks Report, was the most probable serious danger facing the East Asia-Pacific region over the coming decade.1 A Pew Research Center global opinion poll conducted in the spring of 2014 found that people in eight of the 11 Asian countries surveyed expressed fears about possible military conflict over territorial disputes involving the People’s Republic of China and its neighbors. In China itself, more than six in every ten citizens expressed similar concerns. Two-thirds of Americans in 2014 also feared that intensifying territorial disputes between China and its neighbors could spark an armed conflict.2 Although the World Economic Forum 2017 Global Risks Report considered such conflict as a decreasing risk in terms of likelihood and impact,3 majorities in China, Japan and several other East Asian nations remained concerned about territorial tensions and the strategic drama being played out between the United States and China on land and at sea across the region had begun to fuel fears that the “Pacific century” might be shattered by a new Pacific war.4 For better or for worse, Southeast Asia, the region which has given birth to the most vigorous efforts to construct a regional security architecture designed to ensure long-term peace and stability in Asia and the wider Pacific Basin, is today confronted by a series of intractable problems that may well constitute the greatest tests it has faced since the end of the Cold War. Much has been said about the significance of the South China Sea for the security and development of the Indo-Pacific. This sea offers the shortest route from the Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean. About half of the world’s commerce, half of global liquefied natural gas and a third of global crude oil transit through this body of water each year.5 Two-fifths of the world’s tuna are born in the South China Sea, contributing to a multibillion-dollar fisheries industry.6 These statistics, oft-cited, are just a few indicators of the South China Sea’s importance to the region and the world at large. A durable regional security system that can deliver lasting stability and prosperity for the Indo-Pacific cannot be constructed in the absence of a smoothly functioning regional maritime order in this critical area. Yet this body of water, blessed with so many valuable resources and crisscrossed by a network of vital sea-lanes, has become the home to some of the most intractable territorial disputes in Asia and a stage for intensifying great power strategic competition. The longstanding territorial and maritime disputes simmering in the South China Sea and the machinations of great powers have been slowing down the momentum for regional cooperation and frustrating attempts to forge a robust and mutually beneficial security architecture. There is also another troubling dimension of very great significance. While the tempo of regional cooperation has slackened, the rate at which the South China Sea marine environment is deteriorating has accelerated. Forty percent of the South China Sea’s fish stocks have already been exhausted and, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, most fish resources in the western part of the South China Sea have been exploited or overexploited.7 Meanwhile, 70 percent of the South China Sea’s coral reefs are reported to be in poor or only fair condition.8 Put simply, while the challenges to the South China Sea marine environment are growing, the capacity of regional mechanisms to effectively address those challenges has been undermined or severely constrained.
Edited by Ray Yep, June Wang and Thomas Johnson
Ray Yep, June Wang and Thomas Johnson
Urban China has undergone seismic change in its physical and socioeconomic landscape over the last four decades. Urban life in Mao’s China was simply an extension of the regime’s faith in the superiority of teleological planning, and Chinese cities were given a central role in the socialist industrialization programme. All aspects of urban existence were organized along the imperative of production. Urban architectural landscapes were characterized by buildings of monotonous design and prosaic outlook. The ethos of egalitarianism inherent in Soviet practices and the functionality logic of Le Corbusier’s modernist principles of design determined the allocation of space. Scarcity was permanent, with the rationing system effectively restricting personal consumption to subsistence level, lest excessive personal indulgence misappropriate resources for unproductive purposes and thus decelerate the pace of the industrialization programme. Urban life was in general highly organized, disciplined and mundane, with expression of individuality severely circumscribed by politics and material conditions. Yet most urban dwellers probably felt blessed with their ‘privilege’ of residing in the cities, aware as they were of the deprivation and desperation of the Chinese peasantry. The concomitant operation of centralized control over employment through the work unit system (danwei) and the unified job allocation arrangement, and the effective regulation of personal movement through the residential permit system (hukou), powerfully sustained the impermeability of the rural-urban divide.
Hong Kong’s planning in 1979 was at first a response to the implementation of the reform and opening-up policy in China, adjusting Hong Kong’s economic structure from manufacturing industry to the enhancement of entrepôt trade and financial activities. China and Britain began talks on the return of Hong Kong’s sovereignty to China in 1997 in the early 1980s. As Britain’s hope for the right to rule in exchange for sovereignty did not come to fruition, the colonial government promptly cancelled plans to build a new airport and opted instead to expand Kai Tak Airport to address short-term needs. Hong Kong’s economy plunged following the democracy movement incidents in May and June of 1989. The government launched the 100 billion Hong Kong dollar Airport Core Programme to boost the economy. With a sizeable transportation network, the city was able to expand considerably.
Urban planning and development are important elements in enhancing the competitiveness of Hong Kong. In the 1990s, West Kowloon and South East Kowloon were the focus areas to alleviate congestion in Central and Tsim Sha Tsui. North West and North East New Territories were given development priority. Great importance was attached to the living quality of residents. Consideration was given to population density, green space ratio, air quality, and the protection of traditional agricultural practices and the natural environment. As an economic powerhouse in southern China, Hong Kong has to take into account the needs of neighbouring regions in the expansion of its urban territory and trade activities. Transport facilities for sea and land networks and a boundary control point connecting Hong Kong to eastern Guangdong Province will be added to strengthen ties between Hong Kong and the Mainland. This represented a major change in Hong Kong’s development strategy after its return to China.
In 1843, the British colonial government in Hong Kong designated the northern coast of Hong Kong Island as the City of Victoria. Hindered by natural resource shortages and a poor natural environment, the government had to make use of new construction techniques and infrastructure to solve daily life problems, which included housing, transport facilities, water supply, law and order and public hygiene. The city was managed with two completely differently strategies. The Central District was mainly modelled on what was practised in the West. Commercial activities and trade were conducted in a systematic manner, and the enactment and strict enforcement of laws were key to the implementation of policies. However, the densely populated area of Sheung Wan, located in the western part of the city and inhabited by the Chinese community, was blighted by poor housing and hygiene conditions as well as high crime rates.
Under the Convention for the Extension of Hong Kong Territory signed in 1898, the land north of Boundary Street and south of the Shenzhen River was leased for a period of 99 years. Long-term urban planning in New Kowloon was implemented to manage rapid population growth and land use. The establishment of the Town Planning Committee in 1922 and promulgation of the Town Planning Ordinance in 1939 enabled the formulation of the long-term development of Hong Kong as Britain’s bridgehead in the Asia-Pacific region. The various proposals by three governors – Clementi, Peel and Northcote – since the late 1920s, which included the extension of land leases without reaching agreement with China and the purchase of the New Territories for 20 million pounds sterling, reflected Britain’s anxiety on the return of Hong Kong’s sovereignty to China in 1997. Faced with a choice between politics and economic interests, Britain chose national prestige over economic development.