China Has Bought Brunei’s Silence in South China Sea Dispute

China’s takeover of the strategic South China Sea region is ‘steering the world toward war.’

In discussions about the South China Sea dispute, we often hear about China claiming nearly the entire resource-rich, strategic region. And we also often hear about rival claimants—nations such as Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines—who dispute China’s claims. International law says these smaller nations rightfully own the portions of the sea along their coasts, so they often cry foul of Beijing’s claims to their territory.

But there is one country with claims to part of the South China Sea that we no longer hear from in this context: Brunei.

Brunei lies on the northwest coast of the island of Borneo at the southern end of the South China Sea. Brunei can lawfully claim 200 nautical miles of the sea off its coast as its Exclusive Economic Zone (eez).

In previous decades, Brunei was clear about asserting its claims in the South China Sea. In the 1990s, its leadership launched a public objection after China had conducted unauthorized research off Brunei’s coasts. But more recently, Brunei has grown virtually silent about its claims.

In sharp contrast to the vocal governments in Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and elsewhere, Brunei has not openly contested China’s illegal claims that infringe on its eez.

Evidence indicates that Brunei’s reticence in this area is largely due to receiving billions of dollars in investments from China. “Total consolidated Chinese investment in Brunei is now estimated at around $6 billion and scheduled to rise,” the Asia Times recently reported.

For a nation as small as Brunei, this is a vast amount of money. And it is coming at a time when Brunei’s main economic lifeline, oil reserves, are dwindling.

Chinese investment in Brunei has helped build local infrastructure and a major oil refinery. China is also helping Brunei expand its manufacturing and improve its connectivity. China now also holds joint control of Brunei’s largest container terminal.

With these investments, China has essentially bought Brunei’s silence in the South China Sea dispute. Its government has even gone so far as to censor its own media from criticizing China.

Brunei is a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (asean), an organization established largely to unify smaller nations in the region to stand up to China’s influence. China’s sway over Brunei erodes asean unity and complicates the ability of other member nations to challenge Beijing.

Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry has said that China’s takeover of the strategic South China Sea is “steering the world toward war.” In the July 2016 Trumpet issue, he wrote:

Since Japan’s defeat in World War ii, America has protected this vital trade route and brought peace to this part of the world. Now the American military is retreating, and other great powers are coming in to fill the vacuum. … China is intimidating the nations of Southeast Asia into submission to its will. It is forcing these countries to do what it wants. Everything is headed in the direction of war.

Mr. Flurry’s understanding of the South China Sea dynamic is based on Bible prophecy.

In Deuteronomy 28:52, God warns the nations of Israel that if they reject Him, He will hand control over the world’s strategic sea gates to their enemies:

And he shall besiege thee in all thy gates, until thy high and fenced walls come down, wherein thou trustedst, throughout all thy land: and he shall besiege thee in all thy gates throughout all thy land, which the Lord thy God hath given thee.

Mr. Flurry explained that this warning in Deuteronomy is not for ancient peoples. “It is a prophecy for the modern-day descendants of Israel,” he wrote. “Two nations in particular represent Israel in this end time: America and Britain. … This prophecy and several others show that He will send foreign enemies to punish America and Britain!”

The fact that China has now essentially bought Brunei’s silence and compliance in the South China Sea, allowing Beijing’s ongoing takeover of the whole region, shows that the era of America ensuring peace in this part of the world is rapidly ending. It shows that this prophecy is now in the process of being fulfilled.

But Mr. Flurry made plain that this approaching war is closely linked to the best imaginable news. “All this prophesied destruction is what it will take for God to reach this world!” he wrote in that article. “After this, people will be ashamed—and they will get to know God! Ezekiel repeatedly talked about that inspiring conclusion (e.g. Ezekiel 6:7; 7:4; 11:10; 12:20; 13:9; 23:48-49; etc). Yes, there is a lot of bad news when you consider what it takes to get people to the point of knowing God. But ultimately, the outcome is spectacularly good news!”

To understand the details of these prophecies, and the profound hope that is tied to them, please request a free copy of Mr. Flurry’s book Ezekiel: The End-Time Prophet.