A long-awaited ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague against China’s vast claims over the South China Sea has been met by a quick, resounding and complete rejection by China’s president, government and press.
In a short statement issued by state media, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime interests in the South China Sea will not be affected by the ruling
China’s hot-tempered Foreign Minister Wang Yi got more to the point, calling the whole case a “political farce” that was only worsening tensions and setting the stage for confrontation in the area.
About an hour after the ruling was announced, China’s Foreign Ministry published a pair of statements on its website that maintained China’s claims over the South China Sea and detailed why the Hague tribunal has no jurisdiction over the case.
In this first statement, China yet again tracked its claims to the area back 2,000 years when Chinese sailors first “discovered, named, and explored and exploited” the waters. It also based its claim on the infamous “nine-dash line,” which was first set down by the Republic of China government in 1947.
The Hague court has rejected both these justifications as having no legal basis, arguing that China historically never exercised “exclusive control” over the waters or their resources of the South China Sea and that China’s claim overlaps with several other countries’ 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone that is mandated by The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which China has signed.
Tht first statement ends by stating that China is firmly opposed to foreign “invasion” of the islands, but it “respects and upholds the freedom of navigation and overflight enjoyed by all states under international law in the South China Sea.”
In its second statement, the foreign ministry once again rejected the tribunal’s jurisdiction in this matter, arguing that the arbitration was unilaterally initiated by the Philippines, while China had taken no part. In its decision earlier today, the Hague court also responded to this argument stating:
In the event of a dispute as to whether a court or tribunal has jurisdiction, the matter shall be settled by decision of that court or tribunal.
[A]bsence of a party or failure of a party to defend its case shall not constitute a bar to the proceedings.
Chinese state media were quick to also reject the court’s decision. While various international publications reporting on the announcement have gone with headlines like: “China’s South China Sea Claims Dashed by Hague Court Ruling” and “China has no respect for international law, its neighbors, or marine life, a tribunal rules.” Chinese state media has gone with something a little different:
— People's Daily,China (@PDChina) July 12, 2016
Meanwhile state media commentaries following the decision have echoed a front-page editorial published by the People’s Daily yesterday, which argued that America is behind this whole thing, via Quartz:
China is not the one doing harm, but the victim. Looking at the law, it’s the behavior of the Philippines and some other countries disobeying international laws and UN charters that should be condemned. All illegal actions to invade another country’s territory should be forbidden.
As anyone can see, the United States is trying to form a gang, desperately pushing the South China Sea issue in order to make it a multilateral, international matter, with the delusion that China would face so-called diplomatic pressure.
The (upcoming) ruling disobeys international law, but why does the self-proclaimed “international jury” America still feign ignorance about that? Just like the famous American lawyer Bruce Fein said, the US’s South China Sea policy is a sign of its “dangerous imperial thinking,” which is hegemonism. The US talks a lot about international law, but history shows that the US plays it. The US would endorse a law if it is in its interest. If a law restricts its behavior, the US would demean it. It would legalize the illegal, and make the legal illegal.
China says it has a coalition of around 70 countries, such as Cambodia, Angola, Liberia, Madagascar, Papua New Guinea and Senegal, that will also reject the arbitration court’s decision, but they got one more unlikely ally after the decision when Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen rejected the tribunal’s ruling as well.