Chinese Navy Conducts South China Sea Drills Amid Heightened Tensions
According to the WeChat account of China’s Southern Theater Command, the People’s Liberation Army forces carried out routine naval and air patrols in the South China Sea from January 3-4, 2023. The drills aimed to safeguard national sovereignty and maritime rights as the troops maintained high readiness against any attempts to stir trouble in the region. The exercises come as the situation in the contested waters shows signs of escalating tensions.
This follows concerning rhetoric by the Philippines over the disputed Ren’ai Reef. Philippine military spokesperson Arsenio Andolong stated the government is considering building permanent civilian structures on the feature China claims as its territory.
In response, China emphasized its sovereignty over Ren’ai Reef and opposed any unilateral moves to construct facilities that would violate the reef’s uninhabited status under a past ASEAN agreement with China, Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. Chinese authorities warned they will firmly respond to defend China’s rights.
Earlier in December 2023, the Southern Theater Command accused a U.S. warship of illegally entering waters near Ren’ai Reef without China’s permission, saying such reckless South China Sea meddling jeopardizes regional stability.
Shanghai to New York Sea Freight Rates Rise by 56% Within One Month
As of January 1, 2024, the price of shipping a standard container from Shanghai to New York has surged to $4,857, marking an increase of nearly 38% to 56% compared to December 2023.
Chinese national economic media outlets are attributing this sharp rise to the heightened tensions in the Red Sea, pointing out that the prolonged disruptions along the crucial “Asia-Europe route,” have compelled Maersk, the international shipping giant, to suspend all freight routes passing through the Red Sea. Consequently, rerouting through the Cape of Good Hope has significantly extended sailing distances, leading to a substantial surge in transportation costs.
However, according to Caixin’s data, from January to November 2023, the China-Europe Railway Express operated a total of 16,145 trains, facilitating the transportation of more than 1.7 million containers. This represents a noteworthy 19% increase compared to the entire year of 2022, providing crucial support to China’s foreign trade expansion.
Chinese Ambassador: Current Red Sea Tensions Reflect Spillover Effects of Gaza Conflict
On January 3rd, China’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Geng Shuang, expressed deep concern during an urgent Security Council meeting regarding the escalating attacks and seizures of commercial vessels in the Red Sea.
Geng Shuang has underscored the vital role of the Red Sea as a crucial channel for global cargo and energy transport. Highlighted the safeguarding of the unhindered passage of commercial vessels and ensuring their safety not only contributes to regional peace and stability but also upholds the integrity of global supply chains and the international trade order. These efforts align with the shared interests of the international community.
However, Geng Shuang also emphasized that the current tensions in the Red Sea are a manifestation of the spillover effects from the Gaza conflict. Urgent measures, such as achieving a ceasefire and alleviating the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, are crucial in preventing further escalation in the Red Sea and averting the entanglement of other Middle Eastern regions in conflicts and turmoil.
Geng Shuang reassured, “China stands ready to work collaboratively with all stakeholders to tirelessly promote the de-escalation of tensions in the Red Sea, advance the political resolution of the Yemen issue, secure a lasting ceasefire in Gaza, and ensure long-term stability in the wider Middle East region.”