Dr Gerhard Will from the Berlin-based German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) has warned that China will find it difficult to realise its so-called “China dream” because the scheme contradicts its basic interests in the region.

Will granted an interview to radio The Voice of Vietnam (VOV) on the sidelines of a recent international workshop in Danang city, casting light on the Chinese ambition in the East Sea. Following are excerpts from the interview

Q: What are major solutions you think for defusing East Sea tensions?

A : I think it is a combined approach. We need to strengthen international law, better manage natural resources and then build up security architecture in the East Sea.

Q : The Philippines has sued China to an international court but China did not accept the lawsuit. What would Vietnam do if China also refuses a possible class-action suit?

A : The Philippines just asked for clarification of some terms of international law and said this could be done in the court. China always says they do not care about this, they do not accept this.

The Chinese embassy in Berlin every four weeks phone me, asking about the case, because the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) is located in Hamburg where I live.

So I think whether China accepts it or not does not matter. It is important to strengthen international law by clarifying some terms and issues, and this could be done without the consent of China.

Q: What and how should Vietnam do if it wants to follow the Philippines case?

A : I think Vietnam should do the same as the Philippines did. If you read the Philippines statement, it is very long and based on excellent knowledge of law.

I am not a lawyer, but I learnt that the Philippines case was based on international law; they have good expertise in international law. That’s why China is nervous, because they fear they do not have sufficient legal evidence at the international tribunal.

Q : What are your comments on China’s recent actions?

A : Well, if you read the report by the international crisis group, they identify different Chinese actors in the case, such as the Foreign Minister, the big oil company [CNOOC] and the State councilor.

These activities by these Chinese actors are not always well coordinated. For example, when the State Councilor came to Vietnam for some negotiations, other Chinese actors deployed another oil rig to the area.

Chinese interests are very contradictory. On the one hand, they put forward a territorial claim of the nine-dash line, and on the other hand they want to carry out its ‘peaceful rise’ scheme closely linked to the neighbourhood and economic relations with Southeast Asia.

These two things do not go together yet. I think President Xi Jinping always speaks about the “China dream”, but here the dream is not clear. China should clarify its dream or it would become a nightmare.

China cannot become a military power and at the same time become an economic power. They must be aware that any economic rise is based on regional and global economic relations. This means when they become an economic power, they cannot have any territorial conflict with their neighbours.

It is interesting that China says they want oil, gas in the East Sea, but they have so far not carried out any exploitation activity in the region yet. China has spent a lot of money building up its air and navy forces, and with this money you could buy oil for the whole world.

So this consideration of China is not based on economic logics. I think this is a big problem that China should address and figure out what their real interests are in the region. This decision has not been made yet. It’s just a dream.

Q : How do you evaluate the role of ASEAN and other international organisations in resolving the dispute in the East Sea?

A : ASEAN has played a bigger role than before, and I think some progress has been made at the recent ASEAN summit in Myanmar in comparison with the summit in Cambodia two or three years ago. The dispute has been mentioned, and ASEAN has a stronger voice in it.

But as I said ASEAN should build security architecture to regulate peace and security in the region.-VNA