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Beijing’s legal alchemy Print E-mail

China is not reclaiming land, it is building artificial islands as forward staging bases for its military

By Carlyle A. Thayer 

June 29, 2015

Ever since last year when satellite imagery confirmed that China was constructing artificial islands in the South China Sea, journalists, security specialists and even government officials uncritically have adopted terminology that obfuscates rather than clarifies the issues at stake. No term has been so abused as “land reclamation” both in its everyday usage and legal meaning.

A commentary written by Chinese academic Shen Dingli argues that there is no prohibition in international law about land reclamation. He cites the examples of Shanghai city, Japan’s Kansai International Airport, Hong Kong and Dubai. None of these examples are comparable to what it taking place in the South China Sea.

Let’s be clear: China is not reclaiming land in the South China Sea in order to improve conditions on a land feature – an island – that has deteriorated due the impact of the environment or human use. China is dredging sand from the seabed and coral reefs to create artificial islands. China misleadingly states it is reclaiming land on islands over which it has sovereignty. This is not the case. China is building artificial structures on low tide elevations (submerged features at high tide) and rocks. China cannot claim sovereignty over these features. These features are not entitled to maritime zones or airspace.

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Economic sanctions hurt everyone Print E-mail

Blocking trade does not only damage Russia’s economy. The Ukraine crisis should be solved by diplomacy

By Eckhard Cordes

June 29, 2015

The conflict over the future of Ukraine has become a major focus for the German business community’s Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations. The committee has organized many talks and conferences in Ukraine, Russia and Germany over the past 18 months of this ongoing crisis. It has become clear that the conflict did not begin in Kiev or in Crimea. It is the consequence of a profound loss of trust between Russia and the West that began over ten years ago. Both sides have grounds to self-critically examine the causes of that breakdown.

When the European Union enlarged by ten countries in 2004, expanding its borders to meet the western border of Russia, Moscow accepted it. The new proximity would generate immense opportunities that were obvious for both sides. The EU’s new eastern border was not intended to be a dividing line. Instead, it was to become more and more permeable for people and goods.

We experienced a phase of annual two-digit trade growth and constant growth in investment. The people of the EU, Russia and the neighboring countries in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia all benefited. At the end of 2003, a joint EU-Russian task force presented a concept for creating a common European economic region at a summit in Rome. Since then, the concept is waiting to be implemented.

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The post-Wall party town Print E-mail

Berlin has become a playground for millions of visitors from around the world. But remnants of its darker past are still visible

By Alison Smale

June 29, 2015

Berlin – in many ways, it is fitting that Berlin played host to the UEFA Champions League final at the beginning of June – even with no German team participating. Not only is Germany the current holder of the World Cup. Not only was the national celebration of the victorious team held in Berlin, at the Brandenburg Gate. But it was Germany’s, and Berlin’s, hospitality and happiness at hosting the 2006 World Cup which decisively put the newly imagined capital of reunited Germany on the tourist map.

Berlin is the most visited urban tourist destination in Germany. Foreign visitors totaled some 4.5 million last year. Foreign overnight stays have increased from 7.45 million in 2009 to some 12.5 million last year. On any given weekend, a multitude of languages is heard as young people from all over roam Berlin in search of its legendary techno, or simply a good time. The lack of a “Sperrstunde,’’ or closing time, in many bars has long given Berliners a reputation as night owls. Now the rest of the world joins in!

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