Four years ago this week, the Chinese Communist Party declared war on international order in the form of a blunt rejection.
On July 12, 2016, The Hague’s international arbitral tribunal, relying on the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea treaty (UNCLOS), issued a ruling supporting the Philippines’ claims that China had violated Filipino territory in the South China Sea by seizing islets and “sea features.” China had also plundered resources in the Philippines’ maritime Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Despite having signed the sea treaty (which meant accepting the arbitration process), the Chinese government callously ignored the verdict and disdained the court’s authority.
China’s blunt rejection of the decision stunned the Filipino government and alerted other nations on the Pacific Rim. The Beijing regime not only broke a major treaty it had ratified but also openly maligned legal procedures created to promote peaceful resolution of international disputes. Beijing’s thuggish rebuke sent the message that Chinese whim backed by China’s enormous military and economic power determined sovereignty in the South China Sea.
Reneging on treaties, spurning just verdicts and, of course, seizing territory without suffering severe consequences tells China’s leaders that its opponents are weak and lack the will to resist. Undermining, co-opting and ultimately dominating global diplomatic and economic institutions; public and private organizations; and methods of interaction is another CCP goal. Revealing weakness forwards this line of operation.
On July 13, 2020, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced a “strengthened” U.S. policy in the South China Sea that specifically aligns American policy with the tribunal’s decision. “Beijing’s claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea are completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying to control them,” Pompeo said.
For the wind up, read the entire column.
RELATED: The South China Morning Post comments on America’s new policy. Take it as another indicator the SCMP is becoming another Beijing mouthpiece.
VERY RELATED: A U.S. Navy photo taken July 2.