China has been telling the world that its rise will be peaceful because China has never been an aggressor state throughout its long history. As proof, the Chinese point out that it has never invaded another country in the last 2,000 years. Many people have echoed this narrative.
The historical record, however, belies this Chinese narrative. For over a thousand years, from 111 BC to 938 AD, China repeatedly invaded Vietnam. The tenacious Vietnamese would throw out the Chinese and after a while the Chinese would invade again. In the 15th century, China occupied Vietnam from 1407 to 1427.
Early in the Yuan dynasty, China invaded Japan twice, in 1274 and 1281. In both instances, the Chinese invaders were defeated with the help of the kamikaze, “divine winds” of typhoons that destroyed the ships of the Chinese invaders. Also, early in the Yuan dynasty, China invaded Java in 1293 after the King of Java refused to send a tributary mission to China. The King’s son-in-law, Wijaya, defeated the Chinese invaders and then founded the Majapahit empire.
During the Qing dynasty, China invaded Korea in 1636 and forced the Koreans to recognize the Qing emperors as their overlords and to pay tribute to them. The Koreans were also forced to provide supplies to Qing troops and were prohibited from building castles. Also, during the Qing dynasty, China invaded Myanmar four times between 1765 and 1769.
The Chinese dynasties ended in 1912 but the Chinese invasions of neighboring countries continued. China, under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), invaded and annexed Tibet in 1950. At least 40,000 well-armed Chinese troops rapidly overwhelmed a ragtag army of less than 10,000 poorly armed Tibetans. The Panchen Lama desperately appealed to the world for help but the United Nations, led by the United States, was fighting a war in the Korean peninsula and ignored the plea of the Tibetans.
China, under the CCP, invaded India in 1962 and seized the border region of Aksai Chin, an area the size of Switzerland. China also attempted to seize Arunachal Pradesh, India’s northeasternmost state, but failed. India’s humiliation in the 1962 Sino-Indian War led India to develop the atomic bomb and to become a nuclear-armed state.
China, under the CCP, seized the Crescent Group of the Paracels in 1974 from the South Vietnamese government in the Battle of the Paracels. In 1979, China invaded Vietnam to teach Vietnam a lesson. A year earlier, Vietnam’s army had ended the rule of the Chinese-backed murderous Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. During the month-long war, China captured several Vietnamese cities near their common border. China withdrew after declaring that it had achieved its purpose. In 1988, Chinese forces seized from Vietnam Johnson South Reef in the Spratlys, killing some 64 Vietnamese soldiers. In 2013, China seized from Malaysia Luconia Shoals, where Chinese Coast Guard vessels continue to maintain a year-round presence.
China seized from the Philippines Subi Reef in 1988, Mischief Reef in 1995, Scarborough Shoal in 2012, and Sandy Cay in 2017. Scarborough Shoal and Sandy Cay are high-tide geologic features constituting territories with 12 nautical mile territorial seas. The territorial sea around a single high-tide geologic feature is more than twice the area of Metro Manila.
The most brazen Chinese invasion, however, is not the occupation of land or geologic features but the current attempt by China to seize and control almost the entire South China Sea. Under its nine-dash line, China is claiming as its national territory 3 million square kilometers out of the 3.5 million square kilometers of the South China Sea. This will enlarge by about 24 percent the territory of China.
This claim of China includes the high seas of the South China Sea. The fish in the high seas belong to all mankind. The mineral resources in the seabed of the high seas beyond the extended continental shelf of coastal states also belong to all mankind. China is claiming all the fish, and all the mineral resources, in the high seas that belong to all mankind. Most condemnable of all, China is claiming huge areas of the maritime zones of five Asean coastal states. China is claiming from the Philippines a maritime area larger than the total land area of the Philippines.