A Chinese fishing vessel has been sunk but Argentina is not to blame for the hostile response
A Chinese fishing trawler holding 32 crew members sailed towards Argentine waters last week. The Argentinian response? To shoot and sink the ship. This violence may initially seem highly disproportionate to the act but Argentina’s move is more than just an unnecessary knee-jerk reaction. Violence is often recourse to protection and this case is no different.
The relationship between China and Argentina has been far from plain sailing. Contention over illegal fishing in Argentinian waters was also seen in 2012. It is likely that the Chinese wanted to exploit Argentinian waters to support their lucrative fishing trade, as China yields more produce from fishing than any other single country. The overfishing of their own resources probably increased this desire. The motive of last week’s incident was almost certainly owed to this need.
Progress towards a better relationship between the two nations has only begun in recent years. During a visit to Argentina in July 2014, in which a number of financial arrangements were agreed, President Xi Jinping praised the relationship between Argentina and China. He was also supported by head of the Chamber of Deputies, Julian Dominguez, who claimed that they had planned 10 years of connections between the two countries. Although this was promising, it is possible that the decision of the Chinese fishing vessel to head for Argentinian waters may have caused a step back in the repairing of relations between the two nations.
Illegal fishing in Argentine waters is a sensitive point for Argentina, as they imposed regulations over trading waters in 1982. Although, unlike China, Argentina does not have a heavy dependence on the fishing industry, the protection of waters is a matter of principle for Argentina as it is a form of prevention against exploitation.
In this instance, the Chinese were being deliberately aggressive and, like their trawler, their assertion of innocence and shock does not hold water. The Chinese are currently pressing for an investigation into the incident. In doing so, they proclaim their innocence and suggest that Argentina’s actions were unprovoked and unfair.
However, Argentina only defended what, in the eyes of the law, is rightfully theirs and took action to stop trespassers. In addition, not only were Argentina’s concerns related to the protection of its waters but also the safety of the passengers on board. It was reported that the Chinese were sailing dangerously and the coastguard was concerned for the safety of those on board. Following the sinking of the ship, all 32 members of the crew were saved, either by the coastguard or other Chinese vessels sailing nearby.
Moreover, the actions of the Chinese were not only dangerous for the crew members but threatening to the Argentinians, as they ignored calls and warning shots. Evidently, Argentina’s response was not unexpected but rather necessitated by the behaviour of the Chinese. The victims of this event therefore, are not the Chinese, as it may first appear. Rather, it is the Argentinians who were only defending themselves and trying to stop illegal and dangerous trespassing.
This incident shows that a country which may initially seem as an aggressor could actually be the innocent party. In the case of Argentina, violence was provoked in defence of national interests. Moreover, the supposed victim acted in a defiant manner, ignoring warnings and acting recklessly.
Violence itself is not a good solution to problems and is frequently disapproved of on the international stage. However, the provocation of violence should also be condemned. Those who act illegally should not be seen as innocent victims.