Growing tensions between US and China serve no one


Although not a very grave situation up until now, the recurrence of tensions between China and the U.S. every now and then does not bode well, not only for these two powers but also for Asia-Pacific region as well as the whole world. 

Unfortunately, both China and the U.S. are once again on the collision course as a new fishing regulation outlined by the Chinese island province of Hainan requires all foreign vessels to obtain prior approval before entering the disputed waters of the South China Sea. At the same time, there are brewing tensions over setting up an Air Defense Identification Zone by China covering some parts of Japan’s and South Korea’s territorial waters in the same disputed waters last November, and then there was a narrow miss between the Chinese first aircraft carrier Liaoning and an American vessel again in these very disputed waters in early December of last year. 

While the U.S. has described the above Chinese move as “provocative and potentially dangerous,” China has accused the U.S. of unnecessarily fanning tensions. The official Xinuha news agency charged the U.S. of “resorting to the old trick of divide and rule,” and a commentary added that “First it stirs up tensions, disputes and even conflicts, then steps into pose as a mediator or judge in bid to maximise its own interests.” It further commented that “Washington’s accusations are unreasonable, as China’s fishing regulations are in line with international practice and aimed at strengthening the protection of fishery resources and maritime environment. The United States itself has similar ones.” The new regulations have already come into force since Jan. 1 and will, obviously, lead to mounting tensions in the region due to the American resistance.

The repeated escalation of tensions between the U.S. and China are due to latter’s rising imperialistic assertions as regards its maritime claims in the South China Sea, which is contested by many countries like Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Myanmar and also India, besides the U.S., which wants to maintain its predominance in the Asia-Pacific region. 

The recurrence of such events appears due to asymmetry in perception of regional balance by both of them. Whereas China projects itself as the sole hegemon in the East to elevate to becoming a dominant global player by displacing the U.S., the U.S. wishes to maintain its global predominance by uprooting any regional power that aspires to become a global power to challenge its status. But both are wrong in this context, as such repeated escalation of tensions between them will not serve the real interest of regional balance as well as peace and security, either in the East or in the whole world. 

It would be better if both these powers give away their respective policies of undue intervention and quest for predominance.

From Sudhanshu Tripathi, associate professor, political science, Munishwar Dutt Post Graduate College Pratapgarh, Pratapgarh, India 

Gov. Christie can’t run NJ

Gov. Chris Christie has always stood tall and proclaimed he is the responsible person in state government. I guess that works unless he can blame his underlings and throw them to the wolves, ending their careers. 

I am not sure that Christie is the guy to run a country if he can’t run his own state. Assistants do not normally make calls to disrupt a bridge and cause a traffic jam as punishment to a political opponent unless the big guy says so. Come on Christie, fess up — we know you are capable of that heinous act and we know you ordered it.

From Norm Stewart, Aventura, Fla.

Seafood industry abroad treats workers poorly

In the discussion about tuna in school lunches (“Tuna firms spar over school lunch access,” Jan. 8), it is important to recognize that there are two companies not mentioned that stand to benefit hugely from the proposed changes to U.S. procurement law: Thai Union Manufacturing and Unicord Corp. Thai Union Manufacturing is the sole supplier of tuna for the “Chicken of the Sea” brand, while Unicord supplies tuna for the Bumble Bee brand. 

A recent study by Finnwatch, an nongovernmental organization based in Finland, reported on illegal exploitation of migrant workers, mostly from Burma, at both Thai Union and Unicord facilities processing tuna. The abuses they found included forced labor and human trafficking, child labor, debt bondage and wage theft, among others. 

FinnWatch’s findings corroborate what U.S. government officials and activists have long known: Thailand’s seafood export industry has been built on the back of atrocious treatment of workers from Burma, Cambodia and Laos. 

We documented the abuse of children processing shrimp in Thailand for Narong Seafood, a Wal-mart supplier, in 2012. In fact, reports uncovering worker exploitation in this sector abound. The U.S. Department of Labor has listed shrimp from Thailand on its list of goods that the U.S. government is prohibited from purchasing. The Thai government is also facing possible downgrade to Tier 3 on the U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons ranking this year for its failure to enforce laws that would combat trafficking in Thailand’s seafood industry. 

While the Obama administration is making an effort to ensure that U.S. government supply chains are not tainted by goods produced with forced and trafficked labor, unfortunately the regulations exempt goods commonly found in grocery stores, such as canned tuna. 

Before opening our schools up to tuna from companies like Thai Union and Unicord, Congress must ensure that, at a minimum, companies selling goods to the U.S. government from places where there is a high risk of human trafficking, like Thailand, implement robust human rights due diligence requirements and that victims have access to remedy. 

From Brian Campbell, International Labor Rights Forum, Washington, D.C.


— This post has been corrected from a previous version.