The Philippines national flag flies aboard the Sierra Madre, which was run aground by the country’s navy on the disputed Second Thomas Shoal. Photo: Erik de Castro/Reuters
China has maintained its hawkish stance on the South China Sea claims after the The Hague tribunal announced its ruling on July 12 (Beijing time). As expected by many parties previously, China refused to accept or recognize the ruling by the international arbitration court.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague gave a ruling stating that China has no legal basis for its claim over the nine dash line. The court judged that there was no evidence that China had historically exercised exclusive control over the waters or resources within the nine-dash line, and said no land formations in the South China Sea-whoever controls them-are big enough to warrant exclusive maritime zones beyond 12 miles. Although the verdict also denied claims of other parties including the Philippines, it is still interpreted as quite unfavorable to China.
Chinese state-run media have not publicized the final verdict text till now, while its English and non-official Chinese translations began to circulate on China’s social media platforms several minutes after release. The response by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs of “no acceptance and no recognition” means the government would not acquire the ruling in any form.
Yesterday morning, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang made a clear statement on the issue, indicating that “from the very beginning, we (Chinese government) don’t recognize or accept (the arrangement), and would not get involved with the illegal arbitration court in any proceedings, or accept from it any form of materials.” Despite that, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded immediately. Within 50 minutes after the ruling announcement, the official website of foreign ministry published a statement of over 1,300 characters, restating Chinese governments’ “double NO” stance.
The statement said the arbitration on South China Sea proposed by the Philippines does not intend to resolve disputes but aims to deny China’s rights and interests in the waters of the South China Sea. The statement also criticized The Hague arbitration court for going against regular practices of international arbitration and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea which advocates peacefully resolving disputes. “It seriously damages the integrity and authority of the Convention and violates China’s legal rights as a sovereign country and signatory of the Convention. It is unfair and against the law”, wrote the statement.
Remarks made by China’s national leaders on the same day reaffirmed the attitudes expressed by the official statement. China’s president Xi Jinping met officials of the European Council and said that under no circumstances China’s claims on South China Sea waters would be affected by the arbitration case, and that China would not accept any proposals or actions deriving from the verdict.
On Tuesday afternoon, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang restated during his meeting with European officials that the Chinese government would not acknowledge the so-called “ruling” and hopes Europe could remain objective and neutral. Besides, Chinese officials have always blamed outside parties for instigating the arbitration.
This April during the “two sessions”, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a CNN interview that “some parties have obviously plotted and politically manipulated Philippines’ strong-headed action. Now, someone is raising the devil and another one is making a show of force.” Despite this attitude, China has been over the past couple of days using the strategy of “carrot and stick” in an effort to get rid of bad influence the arbitration can have on Chinese diplomacy.
Three days prior to the final ruling, China performed military exercises in the disputed waters and warned if the arbitration court ruled against China, it will “increase regional tension and devastate regional peace.”
If the Philippine government suspends international arbitration on the South China Sea disputes, Beijing would agree to negotiate with Manila on issues including joint development and scientific research cooperation, wrote China’s state-run English newspaper China Daily on the day of military exercise. Although the remarks failed to impress Chinese mainlanders, the Financial Times said, “the strategy is a time-tested one for China — using its economic might to cajole, threaten and outright buy cooperation from its neighbors on internationally recognized territorial claims. It underlines the difficulty for Washington in convincing countries in the region to present a united front to Beijing.”
(The article is translated by Rebecca Lin.)