Chinese authorities released a newly drawn map this month that claims ownership of nearly all of the South China Sea, an area larger than India, stretching from China’s shores thousands of kilometres to the territorial waters of the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Vietnam and Taiwan.
The English-language Global Times, which communicates policy of the Communist Party government, described it as a “normal exercise of sovereignty in accordance with the law.”
The Filipino secretary of defence sees it differently, calling the new map “control and occupation over the South China Sea.”
In an exclusive interview with CBC News, Gilberto Teodoro says the move “absolutely proves [China’s] intent of expanding and being more assertive.”
“If that’s not stopped, then the whole international rules-based order is in jeopardy.”
He says Chinese control over the South China Sea could imperil the freedom of movement for nations all over the world.
“For Canada … if sea lanes are blocked, then even your supply chains are going to suffer.”
Now boasting the world’s largest navy, China has been increasingly assertive about its many maritime and territorial claims.
A decades-long dispute over the South China Sea, and the Spratly Islands in particular, recently saw Chinese Coast Guard vessels block and nearly ram Philippine vessels attempting to resupply a small military outpost on the Second Thomas Shoal.
China insists it owns the teardrop-shaped atoll, a claim that prompted Manila to beach a rusting warship on the shoal in 1999. It has kept soldiers aboard since then to maintain its assertion of ownership.
The land is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, not China’s. In 2016, an international tribunal ruled overwhelmingly in the Philippines’ favour, determining that major elements of China’s claim were unlawful.
Beijing reacted by deeming the decision “null and void.”
Chinese authorities regularly harass Philippine boats, including with powerful water cannons. Beijing has insisted the Philippines abandon the beached ship. Manila has essentially responded “never.”
Canada’s Navy has two ships currently in the region, sailing through the areas China now claims in its latest map. Canada’s presence is intended to signal to Beijing that the South China Sea is an international waterway, through which ships of any nation may pass.
Teodoro welcomes the Canadian warships, one of which is on a port visit to his country. He says that while Canada is an ocean away, it has a direct stake here.
“If China’s claims are given credence … freedom of navigation and freedom of air traffic is jeopardized,” he said.
Much of Canada’s trade to and from the Indo-Pacific region must pass through the disputed area.
As China grows, allegiances shift
China’s claims to the South China Sea are not new, though the latest map reinforces and expands them.
“China’s position on the South China Sea is consistent and clear,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said after the map was released. “We hope relevant sides can stay objective and calm, and refrain from over-interpreting the issue.”
China is involved in a great power battle with the United States, which has long exerted outsize influence in the Pacific, following the Second World War. As the Americans move more military assets into the region, China is in the midst of a massive buildup of its own armed forces.
The stakes were laid out in a speech last week by the U.S. secretary of the Air Force.
While stressing that “war is not inevitable,” Frank Kendall warned “China has been reoptimizing its forces for great power competition and to prevail against the U.S. in the Western Pacific for over 20 years.”
“At present, it is very important to oppose taking sides, block confrontation and a new cold war,” Chinese Premier Li Qiang told ASEAN member states during their summit in September.
China has sought to counter American influence among its neighbours, and had modest success in the Philippines under the previous government led by president Rodrigo Duterte. Manila moved away from its long-standing alliance with the United States and China filled the void, investing in the country through its Belt and Road initiative, paying for infrastructure and gaining influence.
“There was expectation that rapprochement would mitigate Chinese assertiveness and coercion of the South China Sea,” said Renato de Castro, a distinguished professor at Manila’s De la Salle University. “But that never happened.”
So the new government under President Bongbong Marcos, facing ever more assertive claims and incidents at sea, has nudged Manila back towards Washington.
“China wanted, basically, simple subjugation,” said de Castro. “At the end of the day, China simply pushed the current administration into the waiting arms of the United States. So you have no one to blame but China.”
The Philippines has long focused its military on internal security, whether battling an Islamist insurgency or a vicious and bloody war against drug use. But now it faces a threat from China’s many claims on its territory and waterways.
“It’s an expansionist power at this point in time,” said de Castro.
In March 2023, China welcomed officials from the Philippines to discuss issues in the South China Sea. In a statement issued after the meeting, China said “the two sides had a candid and in-depth exchange of views … and agreed to exercise restraint.”
However, in the months since, there have been multiple incidents on the South China Sea with little sign China will back down, or that the Philippines will relinquish its ownership of disputed lands.
If China claims are left unchallenged, said de Castro, “this will deprive us of 85 per cent of our exclusive economic zone. And, of course the South China Sea acts as a buffer between us and China. So if China controls the South China Sea, there goes our buffer.”
If Taiwan invaded, Philippines key to response
Filipino soldiers routinely train with U.S. troops, and U.S. warships dock at ports in the Philippines. The Americans will also gain access to four new military bases as part of an expanded defence agreement analysts say is aimed at combating China.
Those bases include three on the main island of Luzon, which is close to Taiwan, and one in Palawan province in the South China Sea.
The U.S. maintains its largest forward-deployed naval presence in the Indo-Pacific, with some 70 ships and 27,000 soldiers and sailors.
Japan is the home port for the overwhelming majority of them, many in Okinawa, an island relatively close to Taiwan.
For the U.S., having greater access to the Philippines creates a line directly between Taiwan and mainland China. Some analysts have referred to this angled line as a “crescent of containment.”
Should China forcibly reunite Taiwan with the mainland, it could provoke a major battle between the U.S. and its allies. And the Philippines becomes key to that effort.
Teodoro notes that “the phrase often used by China is that we [Filipinos] are U.S. puppets that are being used to contain China … it is to me an insult, but if you use the word containment, do you not implicitly admit that you want to expand?”
Story from the Cyber Frontlines
Long ago, but not too far away, in one of my past lives, I used to manage the online operations for a bustling retail brand. It was a colorful, kid-friendly virtual wonderland known for its cheeky prints, chirpy characters, and evergreen joie de vivre. However, there was another side to this fun façade, an unseen realm perpetually under siege. Among the numerous safety protocols and countless lines of code, we fought an incessant cyber-war, forever alight with skirmishes and strategic defenses.
Armoring the Cyber Stronghold
Selecting the right platform is the cornerstone of any secure online presence. In our story, we opted for a reputable e-commerce platform with significant market presence and advanced inbuilt safety features. Reliable platforms usually mean fewer vulnerabilities. They also come with a dedicated security team that regularly rolls out updates and patches. During my years at the helm, I witnessed a flurry of urgent midnight updates, each one addressing newly discovered vulnerabilities. The vital lesson here is to ensure you install these patches promptly and regularly.
SSL certificates, though they may sound technical, are one of the easiest yet powerful security upgrades you can adopt. This encryption tool prevented potential interception of sensitive information between the user’s browser and our site—yet another bulwark to impede the progress of cyber invaders.
We cannot talk about fortifications without discussing the potential armor breaches. Unfortunately, human error, often in the form of weak password policies, is a recurrent kink in the armor. To counter these vulnerabilities, we maintained a robust password policy requiring a mix of alphanumeric and special characters. This policy, when paired with mandatory regular updates, significantly enhanced our safety measures.
Lastly, we utilized an assortment of digital security tools. Website firewalls, security plugins, scanner tools, and even the humble CAPTCHA contributed to presenting advanced cyber deterrence. Access to these tools depended on the chosen platform, a factor to consider when setting up a secure online presence.
Lessons from the Cyber Kingdoms
One of the many retail websites that have significantly benefitted from implementing robust website security measures is well-known children’s brand. Implementing thorough security protocols, up-to-date SSL certificates, and regular security audits resulted in a drastic reduction in data breach.
The same success was echoed in another kid’s e-commerce platform that faced attempted breaches. Here, strong password policies, combined with additional layers of verification, staved off any potential security breach. You can read more about their success story here.
Navigating the Cyber Seas
Merely having top-tier security systems is not enough. The rolling out of these measures confronts two significant barriers – technical difficulties and cost issues. However, these challenges are conquerable with effective planning and strategies.
To tackle technical difficulties, investing in a dedicated IT team and providing them with the necessary resources and training is crucial. This team, capable of handling any technical issue, can implement updates and fixes diligently, securing your website from potential breaches.
In addressing cost issues, consider it an investment. Remember that the potential harm a security breach can wreak ranges from financial losses to irreversible damages to reputation. Adopt a tiered implementation approach, starting with affordable solutions such as strong password policies, gradual enhancements to SSL certificates, and eventually a holistic security system.
Being prepared always makes a world of difference. In today’s world where the cyber realm goes hand in hand with our physical space, the same holds for the security of our digital strongholds.
An Unforgettable Lesson in Website Security
Let me share an anecdote about a time when one of my clients, a prominent retailer in the children’s fashion industry, faced a massive security issue that nearly brought their brand to its knees. It was a typical Tuesday afternoon when I received a frantic call from the client. Their online store had been hacked, and customer data was compromised. It was a nightmare situation, one that they never foresaw. This experience was a wake-up call, not just for them, but for me as well, about the importance of website security, especially in the realm of kids’ retail.
The Risks of Unsecured Kids’ Retail Sites
Children are an easy target for cybercriminals. Their innocence and lack of awareness make them vulnerable to scams, fraud, and identity theft. When a kids’ retail website does not prioritize security, it exposes its young users to a host of risks.
- Children’s Data Misuse: Personal details such as names, addresses, and even photos can be harvested and used for malicious purposes. This can range from creating fake profiles to conducting targeted scams.
- Consequences of a Security Breach: In a worst-case scenario, credit card information can be stolen resulting in financial loss. The breach can lead to legal implications, not to mention, a significant loss of customer trust and brand reputation.
Why is Security Essential for Kids’ Retail Sites?
As administrators, owners, or marketers of kids’ retail sites, it is our responsibility to ensure a safe online shopping experience for our young customers. Let’s explore a few reasons why website security should be non-negotiable.
- Protecting Users’ Sensitive Information: A secure website uses encryption to protect sensitive information, ensuring that even if data is intercepted, it cannot be read or misused.
- Maintaining Brand Reputation: A secure shopping environment builds customer trust. In contrast, a single security breach can cause irreversible damage to your brand’s reputation.
Prioritize Website Security
Understanding why website security is crucial for kids’ retail sites is the first step. The next, and arguably more important step, is to take action. It’s time to review your website security measures, identify any potential vulnerabilities, and fix them. Remember, when it comes to website security, prevention is always better than cure.
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Amid India-Canada row, Elon Musk accuses Canadian PM Justin Trudeau of ‘crushing free speech’; here’s why
Amid the ongoing India-Canada row, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has slammed the Justin Trudeau government in Canada for ‘crushing free speech’ in the country. His remark came in wake of a recent order of the Canada government which issued an order to make it compulsory for online streaming services to formally register with the government for ‘regulatory controls’.
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This is not the first time the Trudeau government is accused of acting against free speech. Last year, in February 2022, Trudeau had invoked emergency powers for the first time in country’s history to arm his government with more power to respond to the trucker protests, who were opposing the vaccine mandates at that time. Three days later he invoked the War Measures Act, the predecessor to the Emergencies Act, and sent troops into Quebec and other provinces. The crisis ended, but only after the separatist group killed the cabinet minister.
Meanwhile, Canadian PM has created an uproar since he alleged India’s role in the killing of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar. India, however, has outrightly rejected his claims, calling it ‘absurd’ and ‘motivated’.
Notably, Canada has yet to provide any public evidence to support the claim about the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar. India has suspended its visa services in Canada, following Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau’s allegations of Indian involvement in the killing. Canada is home to about 770,000 Sikhs, the highest population outside India’s Punjab.
Amid strained ties, India issued an advisory for its citizens and those who are travelling to Canada to exercise “utmost caution in view of growing anti-India activities and politically-condoned hate crimes and criminal violence” in the country.
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