5 trillion dollars of trade goes through the South China Sea every year. Not to mention there’s a fortune in natural resources like oil, gas, and fishing. And China is claiming pretty much all of it. Which doesn’t really make all the other countries with claims too happy about it. So the Philippines took China to International court.
On July 12, the international tribunal in the Hague ruled against China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. Not only did the Hague rule against China’s claims, it also said China violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights.
So how has China taken it? In stages. Starting with…
Stage 1: Denial
And poor, poor Foreign Minister Wang Yi refused to believe it: “The Chinese people will never accept this arbitration case with far-fetched procedures and law application, and full of loopholes in evidence and fact-finding. All of the people upholding justice internationally will not agree with it.”
Well, can you blame Wang Yi? Those islands in the South China Sea have been a part of China’s sacred territory since ancient times, according to…claims the Hague rejected. But saying goodbye is never easy. And it wasn’t long before the Chinese regime moved on to…
Stage 2: Anger
By launching a three-day military drill in disputed waters! And when a Filipino fishing boat tried to sail into what the Hague tribunal ruled as the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone, the Chinese Coast Guard was there to stop them. Which they did. Because they wanted to catch the fishes, not feed the fishes.
So after anger, what comes next?
Stage 3: Bargaining
Okay, so the Philippines and China haven’t been getting on lately. In fact, the last Filipino president may have kinda called the Chinese regime Nazis. And sure, the Chinese regime is pretty mad at the Philippines for taking this whole thing to an international court. But that doesn’t mean there can’t be bilateral talks, right?
According to the Philippines, Chinese Foreign Wang Yi said if “the Philippines was willing to resume talks, manage divisions and improve relations, China would meet it halfway.” And by “halfway,” China meant that as a per-condition, the Philippines wouldn’t be allowed to even mention that whole international UN tribunal thing they just won. Unsurprisingly, the Philippines refused.
So with bargaining out the window, it was hard to stave off…
Stage 4: Depression
It feels like everyone’s ganging up on China now. Like when Australia’s Foreign Minister said, “Australia will continue to exercise our international law rights to freedom of navigation and overflight, and support the right of others to do so.” China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lu Kang was hurt: “Honestly speaking, I’m a bit shocked at Foreign Minister Bishop’s comments. We have said many times that we hope some countries, including Australia, can respect the just attitudes of most member countries in the international community, do not treat the illegal result from an illegal arbitration court as international law.”
But this is something China is going to have to deal with. It’s a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and some are saying that means it needs to play by the rules of the International tribunal. Which means it might be time for…
Stage 5: Acceptance.
Chinese authorities have not reached this stage yet.
And they may never. Because they know even if they refuse to back down, the US and the international community don’t want to start a war. That is, China will probably keep making territorial claims, even though such claims are technically more illegal than before. The US Navy will keep sailing on through like “What are you going to do about it?” and China will be like, “What are YOU going to do about it?”
So what do you think of China’s response to the South China Sea tribunal ruling? Leave your comments below.