China's foreign ministry said on Tuesday that it was "extremely concerned" after leaders of Southeast Asian countries expressed disapproval about land reclamation and navigational freedom in the disputed South China Sea.
The statement is completely disingenuous. The Chinese know full well what they are doing, the numerous objections to it and could care less. None of the objections is new and China has been roundly condemned for the actions by international leaders.
China's reclamation work in the South China Sea is just the latest source of tension with some of its smaller neighbors, several of whom have competing territorial claims in the waters.
The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) denounced the reclamation work and said it "eroded trust and confidence and may undermine peace, security and stability in the South China Sea".
This message has been consistent for many months and years now.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei saying that China was "extremely concerned" rings hollow. China could care less - it has a plan. It also has plenty of reasons at home.
Specifically, China's antiquated communist system of governance is an increasingly sore point with a connected, digital population. Citizens of China are starting to realize that the only thing communism does it funnel heir hard earned money into the hands of a few powerful elite.
The communist party knows this too and is looking for ways to distract and unify the country behind this archaic system. A textbook way to do this is through diversionary way, which China seems destined to partake in. A small skirmish around nationalist ideals, such as ownership of rocks in the middle of the ocean, is a good way to accomplish this.
The stakes are small and the political gains large.
China's belligerent attitude, like that of Russia, has no place in world politics in the 21st century. Countries compete in much more nuanced ways and increasingly cooperate. Realist, zero sum game, paradigms look old and outdated. Just like communism itself.