An international tribunal, Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), has ruled against Chinese claims to rights in the South China Sea, backing a case brought by the Philippine, declaring that there was no evidence that China had historically exercised exclusive control over the waters or resources.
The tribunal ruling in a sweeping decision on July 12, obviously under strenuous US pressure tactics, that China has no legal basis for claim has further aggravated the seething regional dispute with its large-scale land reclamation and construction of artificial islands that destroyed coral reefs and the natural condition of the disputed areas.
The tribunal also found that China had interfered with Philippine petroleum exploration at Reed Bank, tried to stop fishing by Philippine vessels within the country’s exclusive economic zone and failed to prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone at Mischief Reef and Second Thomas Shoal.
Ruling on a variety of disputes the Philippines asked the tribunal to settle between it and China, the five-member panel unanimously concluded that China had violated its obligations to refrain from aggravating the dispute while the settlement process was ongoing.
The Philippines, which sought the arbitration ruling, welcomed the decision, and China rejected it outright. “The Philippines strongly affirms its respect for this milestone decision as an important contribution to ongoing efforts in addressing disputes in the South China Sea,” Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay said in Manila. He pledged to pursue a peaceful resolution of his country’s territorial disputes with China.
The ruling is binding on both countries under a UN treaty that both have signed, but there is no policing agency or mechanism to enforce it. The tribunal said that any historic rights to resources that China may have had were wiped out if they are incompatible with exclusive economic zones established under a UN treaty.
It also criticized China for building a large artificial island on Mischief Reef, saying it caused “permanent irreparable harm” to the coral reef ecosystem and permanently destroyed evidence of the natural conditions of the feature.
China called the ruling “ill-founded” and says it will not be bound by it. China claims almost all of the South China Sea, including reefs and islands also claimed by others.
The ruling came from an arbitration tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which both countries have signed. The ruling is binding but the Permanent Court of Arbitration has no powers of enforcement. The US sent an aircraft carrier and fighter jets to the region ahead of the ruling. Meanwhile, the Chinese Navy has been carrying out exercises near the disputed Paracel islands.
Philippe Sands, a lawyer for the Philippines in the case, said it was a “clear and unanimous judgment that upholds the rule of law and the rights claimed by the Philippines”. He called it a “definitive ruling on which all states can place reliance”.
However, the China said that “as the panel has no jurisdiction, its decision is naturally null and void”. In a statement, the Chinese foreign ministry said China was the first to have discovered and exploited the South China Sea islands and relevant waters, “thus establishing territorial sovereignty and relevant rights and interests”.
The tribunal was ruling on seven of 15 points brought by the Philippines. Among the key findings were: Fishermen from the Philippines and China both had fishing rights around the disputed Scarborough Shoal area, and China had interfered by restricting access; China had “destroyed evidence of the natural condition of features in the South China Sea” that formed part of the dispute; Transient use of features above water did not constitute inhabitation – one of the key conditions for claiming land rights of 200.
There were no celebrations, hardly even a smile in Philippines.. And there’s a reason for that. This is not the same government that first brought this case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration three and a half years ago, in the aftermath of a standoff at Scarborough Shoal. Two weeks ago, Rodrigo Duterte was sworn in as Philippine president. All the indications are that he is more willing to seek accommodation with the Chinese than his predecessor, Benigno Aquino. Here in Manila, many believe that the new president may have sought promises of Chinese investment, in return for a quiet, dignified response.
As already declared, China quickly responded saying it does not accept or acknowledge the tribunal or the ruling. China has long maintained that the tribunal did not have jurisdiction over the dispute. China drafted its nine-dash line to demarcate its claims to virtually the entire South China Sea. Manila brought the case because China’s claims infringe upon its own 200-mile exclusive economic zone.
China, which boycotted the case, summoned its demobilized sailors and officers for training drills in exercises that apparently started just days ago. The People’s Liberation Army Daily newspaper said on social media that Chinese navy reserves have been called up to perform “functional tasks.” The post followed online rumors that reservists in central Chinese provinces were called up for an unspecified mission from July 10-22.
The dispute centers on waters through which an estimated $5 trillion in global trade passes through each year and are home to rich fishing stocks and a potential wealth of oil, gas and other resources. The ruling comes as the USA has ramped up its military presence in the region. However a new Philippine leader who appears friendlier to Beijing could also influence the aftermath of the ruling.
China has argued that the tribunal has no jurisdiction and says it won’t accept the ruling. It has insisted that bilateral talks between Beijing and other claimants is the only way to address the dispute.
In the Philippines, interestingly, more than 100 left-wing activists marched to the Chinese Consulate in metropolitan Manila, yelling, “Philippine territory is ours, China get out.” They called their campaign to push China out of the South China Sea, “CHexit” or “China exit now.”
Vietnam, meanwhile, accused Chinese vessels of sinking a Vietnamese fishing boat in disputed waters. Nguyen Thanh Hung, a local fisheries executive in the central province of Quang Ngai, said two Chinese vessels chased and sank the Vietnamese boat around midday Saturday as it was fishing near the Paracel islands. The five fishermen were rescued by another trawler around seven hours later.
Findings of the tribunal are binding on the parties, including China. But the court — without police or military forces or a system of sanctions at its disposal — can’t enforce its ruling, so its potential impact remains unclear.
World was looking forward to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruling on July 12 over a case between the Philippines and China over the South China Sea. The case was filed by the Philippines back in 2013 under Annex VII of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the primary treaty governing international maritime law—both countries are party to the treaty.
The ruling was expected to determine who will write the navigation rules for South China Sea, and therefore, control trade in the region, China or Philippines’s close ally, the USA. That’s why both China and the USA (with its Asia pivot program) stepped up their presence in the area ahead of the ruling.
Many experts concede it really does matter who controls South China Sea trade, considering that 60% of this commerce goes to China, the US in essence presently controls commerce to China. This means that it is very easy to rationalize what China is doing, they argue. In the 1930’s it was the USA, France, England and the Netherlands which controlled all the commerce passing through the South China Sea.
It was this control that allowed the USA to impose an economic and oil embargo on Japan. This economic aggression led to Japan’s attack on the USA. The aggression against Vietnam was part of the overall plan to keep Vietnam as a colony and in turn retain control of maritime traffic in this part of the world, i.e., China’s backyard.
The US has militarized this area from the Philippines to Korea and added a couple of carriers which in air power alone is 10x what China has done in those islets. What China is trying to do is to gain control of its own commerce or to be better able to defend against any US aggression — and this makes perfect sense. For China it is an existentialist endeavor; for the USA, it is trying to keep world hegemony
It is argued that China and its neighbors should use American power to ease rather than escalate the on-going disputes in the region. “China and its neighbors should see and use American power as backing for peaceful efforts to resolve their disputes, not as an excuse for deferring or avoiding settlement of their differences.
The issues of the South China Sea are too trivial to be allowed to spark armed conflict or trans-Pacific confrontation. The rebalancing of US global strategy toward the Indo-Pacific known as the “pivot” is welcome by Americans ad allies as “timely and appropriate”. But it should lower military tensions between the nations of the Indo-Pacific and thus between China and the USA, not lock these tensions in, still less escalate them. US diplomat Chas W. Freeman says that all disputes are solvable, if those enmeshed in them are willing to make the effort to imagine and pursue solutions to them. The parties need urgently to get on with this. And they deserve American encouragement to do so.
A debate is taking place around who is right and who is wrong and who will benefit from the tribunal ruling. If modern trade is viewed within the traditional mercantile system, where trade is a vehicle of exploration, it benefits only those who control South China Sea trade. But if the trade is viewed within the modern global system where trade is a vehicle of economic growth and prosperity for all parties involved, it doesn’t matter who controls South China Sea trade.
Therefore, China and other regional powers should consider the second option for peace and prosperity for the region, while USA which is not at all linked to the region should help promote peace and tranquility in the region without using the remaining pro-US nations in Asia Pacific against China which is a key financier of US capitalists. While USA opposes and even obstructs development of socialism anywhere in the world by misusing the international financial institutions like World Bank and IMF, China, still claiming to be a communist country, goes all the way out to subsidize US capitalism.
Standing up to China: Czech mayor sets a high bar
A Czech mayor’s refusal to endorse Beijing’s One China policy potentially sets a high bar as Western powers grapple with how to respond to allegations of excessive use of violence by police against Hong Kong protesters and the implications of leaked documents detailing a brutal crackdown in China’s north-western province of Xinjiang.
Prague mayor Zdenek Hrib rejected a sister city agreement between the Czech capital and Beijing in late October because it included a clause endorsing the One China policy, which implicitly recognizes China’s sovereignty over Taiwan, as well as Hong Kong and Tibet.
Mr. Hrib argued that the agreement was a cultural arrangement and not designed to address foreign policy issues that were the prerogative of the national government.
The mayor’s stance has since taken on added significance against the backdrop of US President Donald J. Trump’s signing of legislation that allows for the sanctioning of Hong Kong officials, embarrassing Communist party leaks that document repression in Xinjiang, the election of a new Sri Lankan government that intends to adopt a tougher policy towards China, and simmering anti-Chinese sentiment in Central Asia and beyond.
Mr. Hrib’s rejection was in fact a reflection of anti-Chinese sentiment in the Czech Republic as well as opposition to the pro-China policy adopted by Czech president Milos Zeman.
To be sure, Mr. Hrib, a 38-year old medical doctor who interned in Taiwan, was shouldering little political or economic risk given Czech public anger at China’s failure to fulfil promises of significant investment in the country.
On the contrary, Mr. Hrib, since becoming mayor in mid-2018, appears to have made it his pastime to put Mr. Zeman on the spot by poking a finger at China.
Mr. Hrib visited Taiwan in the first six months of his mayorship, flew the Tibetan flag over Prague’s city hall, and rejected a request by the Chinese ambassador at a meeting with foreign diplomats to send Taiwanese representatives out of the room.
Beijing’s cancellation of a tour of China by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra in response to Mr. Hrib’s provocations forced Mr. Zeman to describe the Chinese retaliation as “excessive” and his foreign minister, Tomas Petricek, to declare that “diplomacy is not conducted with threats.”
Perhaps more importantly, M. Hrib was taking a stand based on principles and values rather than interests. In doing so, he was challenging the new normal of world leaders flagrantly ignoring international law to operate on the principle of might is right.
“Our conscience is not for sale,” said Michaela Krausova, a leading member of the governing Pirate Party of the Prague city council. Ms. Krausova and Mr. Hrib’s party was founded to shake up Czech politics with its insistence on the safeguarding of civil liberties and political accountability and transparency.
While couched in terms of principle, Mr. Hrib’s stand strokes with newly installed Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s intention to wrest back control from China of the island’s strategic Hambantota port that serves key shipping lanes between Europe and Asia.
Hambantota became a symbol of what some critics have charged is Chinese debt trap diplomacy after Sri Lanka was forced to hand over the port to China in 2017 on a 99-year lease because the government was unable to repay loans taken to build it.
“I believe that the Sri Lankan government must have control of all strategically important projects like Hambantota. The next generation will curse our generation for giving away precious assets otherwise,” Mr. Rajapaksa said.
Fears of a debt trap coupled with the crackdown on Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang, which targets not only Uighurs, but also groups that trace their roots to Central Asian countries, have fuelled anti-Chinese sentiment in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan.
“Given that China is likely to continue to expand its presence, further irritating local publics, the temptation of opposition groups to exploit such anger will only grow. If that happens…the anti-Chinese demonstrations that have taken place to date will be only the prelude to a situation that could easily spiral out of control, ethnicizing politics in these countries still further,” said Central Asia scholar Paul Goble.
Beyond Xinjiang, anti-Chinese sentiment in Central Asia is fuelled by some of the same drivers that inform Czech attitudes towards China.
The shared drivers include unfulfilled promises, idle incomplete Chinese-funded infrastructure projects, widespread corruption associated with Chinese funding, and the influx of Chinese labour and materials at the expense of the local work force and manufacturers.
Beyond Xinjiang, Central Asians worry about potential debt traps. The Washington-based Center for Global Development listed last year two Central Asian nations, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, as risking China-related “debt distress.”
Warned China and Central Asia scholar Ayjaz Wani: “Chinese principles in Central Asia are hegemonic. China has always interacted with Central Asian states without regarding their cultural identities, but according to its own vested interests… However, the ongoing anti-China sentiments may be coming to a tipping point.”
Old wine in new bottles: Chinese containment policy in South Asia
A lot of discussion in international relations scholarship is concentrated upon how US maximizing its security presence in the Asia-Pacific region. It is trying to contain, growing Chinese Influence to protect its national interest.It was described by former US President Barack Obama as a pivot Asia policy. But in the case of South Asia, United States is strengthening its ties with India to boost it as a force to contain Chinese emerging influence. It was termed by John J Mearsheimer as buck-passing in which a world superpower will give power and authority to another state to try to contain the influence of an emerging world hegemon. The Indo-US nuclear deal and former President Barack Obama’s remarks about the inclusion of India inthe United Nations Security council demonstrates that the United States is helping India to rise as the regional hegemon. India considers itself as an important actor at international level.It is increasing its political clout internationally but in South Asia, it can face a new kind of isolation. This is evident from the three recent events that occurred in a span of only 10 days in the first half of October
On 07th October Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan visited China with high-level delegation. He met there with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other important officials, it was his third visit to China since he came into power. During the meeting, both leaders, Imran Khan and Xi Jinping, discussed strengthening bilateral relations which are already at a higher level in terms of military and economic partnership. China is already working on a project to invest more than $50 billion under the name of China Pakistan Economic corridor let alone the cooperation on strategic and political issues. During the course of the visit, officials from both sides discussed Free Trade agreement which will be helpful in solving the problem of trade deficit for Pakistan. Total trade volume between China and Pakistan is around $15 billion in which Chinese export to Pakistan is of 13 billion. This Free Trade Agreement will open up about 90% of the Chinese market to Pakistan and will reduce trade deficit. During his meeting with Imran Khan, Xi Jinping accepted Kashmir as a disputed region and asked both parties to solve it through peaceful means.
All this happened just a few days before the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to India.Although both countries have made some progress on economy-related issues, no concrete efforts have been made to solve more radical issues like Indo-China border dispute in the northern Himalayan region. However more astonishing for India was that Xi Jinping visited Nepal after India. Nepal is a landlocked country crammed between two South Asia giants India and China. India is present on three sides of Nepal and considers it as its backyard. Both countries did have very solid relations and 60% of total Nepalese trade is done with India. In 2015 when Nepal adopted new constitution, relations between both countries soured. Although it was the internal matter of Nepal, India put an unofficial blockade for Nepal, which stopped all the supplies including food and medicine. Blockade continued for more than two months and it created a severe crisis because Nepal was already damaged by a strong earthquake in early 2015 in which more than 9000 people died. This blocked proved decisive in changing behavior of Nepalese leadership though they were complaining of Indian hegemonic role for many years. Nepal turned toward China for their needs. China also responded in a very positive way. Besides reconstructing earthquake effected areas, China also provided 1.03 million liters of fuel. In 2017 Nepal signed China’s Belt and Road initiative and pledged to construct a railway line which will connect China with Nepal directly. This initiated a new beginning in China-Nepal relations.
When Xi Jinping arrived at Katmandu, China by this time was thelargest foreign direct investor in Nepal.It was the first visit by any Chinese president in the last 23 years.During the course of his visit, 18 agreements were signed between Nepal and China, including a railway link between China and Nepal.
These three important tours in less than ten days present the new geopolitical reality of the region. Although the Chinese president visited India but this visit was sandwiched between Imran Khan’s visit to China and Xi Jinping’s visit to Nepal. Pakistan is an arch-rival of India in South Asia and Nepal which historically remained in the Indian sphere of influence, is slowly slipping away from it.it clearly demonstrates containment policy by China in which China is progressively growing its influence in South Asian states. The Story does not end with Pakistan and Nepal but other South Asian states like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka now also have very strong ties with China.it represents in a new normal situation in which South Asian region is no longer dominated by India. Though India is showing to the world that it is solely protecting peace and stability in the region but reality has changed In fact South Asian states consider it as dominating power evident from its relation with Pakistan and blockade of Nepal. With growing Chinese influence in South Asia containment of India is now very much a reality.
How Australia is becoming China’s Australia
If it were not for China, Australia’s population inroad scheme would take a serious hit. Out of more than 0.7 million international students, more than 30% Chinese are pursuing degrees in universities. Australia lives along the values of the Western culture, but when it comes to its economy, rather dishonourably; it has had to lean towards the East. Chinese consumerism compensates for a healthy Australian economy and while it stands stronger on its democratic values, Australia, now faces a paradoxical relationship with the Asian hegemon. For instance, it is quietly ignoring the protests in Hong Kong. During recent elections, the Australian Prime Minister was mocked on WeChat; his funny nuances were subject to ridicule in the Chinese social media.
Now, Australia is facing the task. It is fighting a battle to save its identity against a consumer band, governed by communist policies. China’s message is clear; an interference of any sort is not welcome, else the consequences are going to be economical. Emancipated Chinese students in Australia have been protesting against the government backlash in Hong Kong. Resultantly, back home in China, apartments were raided and their parents taught the lesson of conformity. A lesson of nationalism that has blossomed outside its territories. Australia is swallowing up the hypocrisy. On its own land, it cannot protect the values of freedom and democracy.
Wang LiQiang or as he would like to be known as “William”, took to the Australian authorities for his involvement in spying activities. In his own admission, William was conducting intelligence operations and most significantly, assassinations on Australian soil. William is only one among high profile spies that have been operating in Australia. Ironically, his testament sufficiently reflects the Australian attitude towards Chinese interference, which has essentially been negligent and non-conversational. Notably, William’s particular mention about operating a system of political donation will nevertheless disturb Australian administrators. They will realize that it is only about time when China will explicitly begin to reassert its influence. The police did not find Wang Li Qiang; instead, he volunteered to surrender. Especially, coming from a senior Chinese operative, the message could not be clearer.
On the outset, China and Australia maintain a well-documented “good relationship”. However, administrative hierarchies in Canberra are also accused of implying a very positive attitude towards presenting and defending bilateral ties. As much as economic interests have motivated the Australian behaviour of non-acceptance, politicians do not shy away from painting an over simplified picture of Chinese problems that are realistically, complex in nature. As Prime Minister Scott Morrison handled the allegations of a Chinese backed ring that was trying to plot a spy in the parliament; the government has tried too hard to overlook the obvious. Mr. Morrison urged his citizens to not draw anxious conclusions, instead; he suggested that Australia would need to be vigilant from the threats that it faced more broadly. The substitutability of discourse that is apparent in Australian politics, marks a rather gifted trade-off for China and its actions. Andrew Hastie, parliamentary head of intelligence and security, claimed that such incidents did not surprise him. As more evidences would suggest, Chinese interference was knocking at the doors.
In terms of China, there are two faces of Australian political rhetoric. One that is motivated by the larger interests in the administrative chairs of governance, overlooking the infiltration for personal benefits. Secondly, the critiques emanating from opposition politicians and the likes of intelligence chiefs, for instance ASIO’s former Directorate General, Duncan Lewis, warned that China would take over Australia in a matter of time. Elsewhere in the borders of the communist giant, two Australian MP’s were denied travel entry, citing largely undetermined reasons. With a population of merely 25 million inhabitants, 1.8 million Chinese students have migrated to Australia for education. The dragon is marching towards the continent, in a first, the troops are ready on site.
A visible shift in US policy in South Asia
It seems a shift in the US policy in South Asia, especially toward Pakistan. The US was among the first...
Why Wealthy Countries Must Step Up Their Contribution to Fight Global Poverty
Member countries of the International Development Association (IDA), a part of the World Bank Group, are meeting shortly to discuss...
ADB Approves $300 Million to Reform Pakistan’s Energy Sector
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) today approved a $300 million policy-based loan that will help the Government of Pakistan to...
BRICS countries deem a single crypto currency
Speaking on the sidelines of the BRICS summit, which took place in Brazil in mid-November, President of the Russian Direct...
Afghanistan will Need Continued International Support after Political Settlement
Afghanistan will need continued financial support from the international community following a potential political settlement, says a new World Bank...
Renewable Energy Ambition in NDCs Must Double by 2030
Countries are being urged to significantly raise renewable energy ambition and adopt targets to transform the global energy system in...
Why finance is at the heart of Chile’s crisis
The outsized role of unfettered finance in Chile has only worsened inequality that led to recent uprisings In September this...
Europe3 days ago
Is North Macedonia good enough for NATO but not good for the EU? How to salvage the relations
Newsdesk2 days ago
Bringing solar-powered water sanitation systems to Ethiopia
South Asia3 days ago
India’s Harebrained Nuclear Behaviour
Middle East2 days ago
Arab Spring and Third Wave of Democratisation: The case of Egypt
Europe3 days ago
The Prisoner of Geography: Orbán’s perception of geographical pragmatism
Defense2 days ago
India and the SCO: A Vision for Expanding New Delhi’s Engagement
Reports3 days ago
Italian Cities Can Make Doing Business Easier By Learning From Each Other
Intelligence3 days ago
The Failures of 737 Max: Political consequences in the making