|Major General Luo Yuan is one of the most outspoken officers in the Chinese People's Liberation Army. He is described by Western media as "hawkish" for his ultranationalist and aggressive views. Photo courtesy of China Military Report
MANILA, Philippines - A hardline Chinese army general who wants Beijing to launch "decisive" military action over the Philippines' claim of Scarborough shoal has been calling for his government to establish a special administrative region similar to Hong Kong in the West Philippine Sea.
People's Liberation Army (PLA) Major General Luo Yuan has proposed that China station troops on islands in the Spratlys, send naval patrols, and mark its sovereignty with the national flag, according to a recent report published by the website of state-owned newspaper China Daily.
His proposal said Beijing should also encourage more Chinese fishermen, as well as the state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation and China National Petroleum Corporation to move to the area.
Luo, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee, said China should establish administrative, legal, economic, military and a media presence in the region to assert its claim on the disputed territory.
His proposal calls for a military solution as a back-up measure.
The Spratly islands and waters around them are being claimed whole or in part by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei.
Scarborough, or Panatag shoal, is a separate issue as it is within the Philippines' 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, according to the law of the sea.
Luo, one of the most outspoken PLA officers, has been described as by Western media as "hawkish" for his ultranationalist and aggressive views.
He could be trying to influence internal debates on foreign policy in the Chinese civilian government and China's Communist Party through public grandstanding and his rallying of popular support, according to southseaconversations, a blog that has been documenting the disputes over the Spratlys.
Luo has been repeatly quoted by Chinese media rattling his saber against the Philippines.
"Watch the bullying Philippines, China is giving peace its last chance," he said on news.ifeng.com.
"If Philippines dares provoke us again, the navy will attack with both fists," he said on the same website.
He is often the subject of posts in similar blogs such as the China Military Report.
Luo has been active in pushing for the military to break the Scarborough Shoal standoff, according to southseaconversations.
"What’s particularly interesting is that he has actually started invoking the public support he has received, to buttress his argument," it added.
Someone else pulling Luo's strings?
While PLA officers are subservient to the Chinese Communist Party's will, Luo may not be acting alone in openly pushing for China to fire the first shot over the Spratlys and Scarborough, according to southseaconversations.
"His level of access to the mass media is, as far as I can tell, unrivalled among any of his comrades, past or present. And while media sensationalism can explain the demand side of the equation, for Luo, a serving PLA officer, to get away with making regular public comments critical of the government means, at the very least, that he has backers in high positions within the military," the blogger revealed.
"This does not necessarily imply dissension, of course. There could be a consensus at the top of both the military and the party that it is beneficial to have a hardline attack dog reminding the world not to mess with the PRC. So far, however, the world has shown little sign of believing Luo’s bluster," it added.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino on Sunday dismissed the Chinese general's aggressive views, saying they may not have substance because Luo may not have a direct command in the Chinese military.