Ahead of key court ruling, Beijing in propaganda overdrive

The large airport on the artificial island on Fiery Cross Reef now for civilian use but may be used by all kinds of Chinese warplanes.

The large airport on the artificial island on Fiery Cross Reef now for civilian use but may be used by all kinds of Chinese warplanes. Photo from CCTV footage

As an international tribunal prepares to rule on Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, officials in Washington, Tokyo and Southeast Asia are on tenterhooks.

Yet, in the words of one senior Chinese official, Beijing does not care.

On July 12, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague will rule on a case brought by the Philippines against China over its territorial claims and actions across the disputed waters and vital global trade route.

Beijing claims some 90 percent of the South China Sea, and the Philippines is challenging it under a United Nations maritime convention.

“We do not know, we don’t care, in fact, when this arbitration decision will be made, because no matter what kind of decision this tribunal is going to make, we think it is totally wrong,” China’s ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, told Reuters at a recent lunch in London.

“It has no impact on China, on China’s sovereignty over these reefs, over the islands. And it will set a serious, wrong and bad example. We will not fight this case in court, but we will certainly fight for our sovereignty.”

Beijing’s plans to ignore the ruling would represent both a rejection of the international legal order and a direct challenge to the United States, which believes China is developing islands and reefs for military, as well as civilian purposes in a threat to stability.

It would also significantly raise the stakes over dispute, according to lawyers, diplomats and security experts.

How Washington handles the aftermath of the ruling is widely seen as a test of its credibility in a region where it has been the dominant security presence since World War Two against an increasingly assertive China.

China in turn sees this as a matter of defending its territorial and political sovereignty against the United States.

Other nations laying claim to disputed areas of the South China sea felt emboldened to challenge China because they felt they had the United States on their side, Liu said.

“They probably believe that they have America (behind them) and they can get a better deal with China. So I’m very suspicious of America’s motives.”

So while Beijing scoffs at the imminent decision, it is also making an international PR effort to get its view heard.

Beijing has organized meetings with diplomats and journalists and has expressed its views in a slew of editorials and academic papers around the world.

“Manila has no leg to stand on,” said one report in the China Daily’s inaugural New Zealand edition.

Asian and Western diplomats said their Chinese peers were raising the issue constantly, and at all levels.

“It’s relentless. We haven’t seen anything like this in years,” said one Asian-based Western envoy.

China says more than 40 countries back its position that such territorial disputes should be handled through bilateral discussions not international arbitration, although only a handful of countries have publicly voiced their support.

Both Chinese and Western analysts say the ruling is not just about the territorial claims in the South China sea, but speaks to broader Sino-U.S. tensions over China’s rise.

“This is about exposing Washington’s declining primacy,” said Zhang Baohui, a mainland security expert at Hong Kong’s Lingnan University. “China gains reputational power by showing the U.S. that it can’t dictate Chinese actions.”


The law under which the Philippines has made its claim is the UN’s Convention on the Law of the Sea, known as UNCLOS, which outlines what can be claimed from different geographic features such as islands and reefs. China is a signatory of the convention, one of the first international agreements it helped negotiate after joining the UN.

But Beijing says the issue is beyond the remit of UNCLOS and The Hague court because China has undisputable, historic rights and sovereignty over much of the South China Sea.

China’s claims are expressed on its maps as the so-called nine dash line, an ill-defined U-shaped demarcation drawn up after the defeat of Japan in World War II.

Manila’s case is based around 15 points that challenge the legality of China’s claims and its recent reclamations on seven disputed reefs in the fishing and energy rich region.

It also seeking support for the Philippines’ right to exploit is 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Sources close to Manila’s legal team said they are confident of favorable rulings on enough points to create significant pressure on China’s future moves in the waterway.

Many of Manila’s arguments in court last November were couched in arcane legal terms, but to drive home the point about the scale of China’s on-going building works, lawyers used a slide show.

Amsterdam’s sprawling Schiphol airport was shown fitting neatly into China’s new runways on Subi Reef.

“We knew the judges had all used Schiphol,” said one source close to Manila’s case. “We think they got the point.”


Ahead of the vote, the UK, Australia and Japan are among countries that have joined Washington in stressing the importance of freedom of navigation and respect for the rule of law.

U.S. officials have also been pressing Southeast Asian nations to forge a united front on the issue, with limited success so far.

Vietnam, which has made a submission to the panel not ruled out taking its own legal action, on Friday called for a “fair and objective” ruling from the tribunal.

The G7 and EU groupings have stated that ruling must be binding, despite China’s objections, while Vietnam gave a submission to the court supporting its jurisdiction.

Legal experts say that while the ruling is technically binding, no body exists to enforce UNCLOS rulings.

Concerns are growing among regional military and government officials that, regardless of the ruling, Beijing could launch fresh military action and re-building efforts to buttress its claims.

China may deploy fighter jets or missiles to its new facilities on the Spratlys, create an air exclusion zone or starting fresh reclamation work on shoals occupied within the Philippines, U.S. and regional military officials say.

Beijing says the reefs are Chinese territory and it is entitled to station “self-defense” equipment on its holdings as it sees fit to counter U.S. provocation.

In Washington, concern is particularly acute over whether China attempts to make permanent its sea-borne presence near the Scarborough Shoal, near the Philippines, by building on the reef.

Liu outlined various civilian developments completed and underway in the South China Sea. He said there were also military facilities being built, adding:

“I was asked why China is also building military facilities. You should ask the Americans. They made us feel threatened. It’s not we (who) are threatening the Americans. They are so close to us.”

The United States has been increasing its own military presence in the region where Malaysian, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan also have claims. France has also proposed to European countries that they take part in joint South China Sea patrols.

U.S. responses could include accelerated freedom-of-navigation patrols by U.S. warships and overflights by U.S. aircraft as well as increased defense aid to Southeast Asian countries, according to U.S. officials speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Liu said Beijing wanted to resolve the disputes through bilateral negotiations.

“We are not going to war with these countries, we do not want to have a fight with them,” he said. “But we still claim our sovereignty over these islands.”

(Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom and Matt Spetalnick in Washington.; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Alessandra Galloni.)

Source: Reuters “Ahead of key court ruling, Beijing in propaganda overdrive”


7 Comments on “Ahead of key court ruling, Beijing in propaganda overdrive”

  1. Lucas Duncan says:

    If any country is propagandizing against China, that country is America. Ashton Carter’s and some of his hawkish admirals like that ambitious Harris, is bent on distorting reality and truth. Let history speaks for itself. Let former American Ambassador to Japan elucidate :

    “In practice, as some in the region recall, long before the United States turned against them as part of its “pivot to Asia” in 2010, America had supported China’s claims in the Paracels and Spratlys. The U.S. Navy facilitated China’s replacement of Japan’s military presence
    in both island groups in 1945 because it considered that they were either part of Taiwan, as Japan had declared, or – in the words of the Cairo Declaration – among other “territories Japan [had] stolen from the Chinese” to “be restored to the Republic of China.” From 1969 to 1971, the United States operated a radar station in the Spratlys at Taiping Island, under the flag of the Republic of China..

    Neither the Paracels nor the Spratlys ever mattered to the United States at all (except as hazards to navigation) until they became symbols of Washington’s determination to curtail the rise of China’s power along its periphery. No country with claims to the Spratlys interferes with shipping or peacetime naval transit in the South China Sea. Nor does any party in the region have an interest in threatening commerce transiting it. The South China Sea is every littoral nation’s jugular. China and the other countries on the South China Sea have a far greater stake in assuring freedom of navigation in and through it than the United States does.”

    Former Ambassador Chas Freeman further stated how this SCS territory was returned in 1945 from Japan to China per Japan surrender agreement at the end of of WWII:

    “In 1945, in accordance with the Cairo and Potsdam Declarations and with American help, the armed forces of the Republic of China government at Nanjing accepted the surrender of the
    Japanese garrisons in Taiwan, including the Paracel and Spratly Islands.Nanjing then declared both archipelagoes to be part of Guangdong Province. In 1946 it established garrisons on both Woody (now Yongxing /??) Island in the Paracels and Taiping Island in the Spratlys.”

    If these doesn’t highlight Obama’s Administration’s sheer hypocrisy, let the following info from wikipaedia demonstrate further in the matter of America vs Nicaragua (1986) :

    “…The ICJ ruled in favor of Nicaragua and against the United States and awarded eparations to Nicaragua. The ICJ held that the U.S. had violated international law by supporting the contras in their rebellion against the Nicaraguan government and by mining Nicaragua’s harbors. The United States refused to participate in the proceedings after the Court rejected its argument that the ICJ lacked jurisdiction to hear the case. The U.S. later blocked enforcement of the judgment by the United Nations Security Council and thereby prevented Nicaragua from obtaining any actual compensation.The Nicaraguan government finally withdrew the complaint from the court in September 1992 (under the later, post-FSLN, government of Violeta Chamorro), following a repeal of the law requiring the country to seek compensation….”

    Just replace USA for China, Nicaragua for the Philippines, and Rodrigo Duarte for Violeta Chamorro and you can see truly what a hypocrite Obama and his Administration has been.

    Ironic how it is forgotten that the world supported and accepted China’s sovereignty over the South China Seas at the end of WWII. In fact the Japanese Surrender agreement and subsequent treaties spelled out specifically the handing back to China the South China Sea territory taken by Japan; returned after Japan lost to the Aliied powers which includes China; while the Chinese major contribution in that defeat of Japan was foremost in the combined victory there.

    In fact the US Navy and State dept helped in this transfer. Including using Navy personnel and ships to transport and help man (while flying a Chinese flag) SCS islands returned to China. And it was the State dept helped draft the China Japan peace treaties for the SCS return to China.

    I don’t think you can say Mr Xi and his Cabinet are propagandizing in their defence of their territories in the South China Sea.


    • Steve says:

      This article clearly proves that the US are masters in the art of sabotage and propaganda. As I mentioned they are Rattlers, Sneaks and Snakes.


  2. Andre L says:


    Is Tiananmen Tremendous Achievements blog an American anti China blog masquerading as an activist blog? Is it also paid to ferret out military relevant information from Chinese blogs, magazines, news broadcast medias, newspapers, etc. for English speaking American anti China war planners?

    It certainly walks and talks like an American anti China propaganda mouthpiece.


    • chankaiyee2 says:

      That is Reuters’ report not my views. I have to allow people to know people’s views different from mine. As I have made clear the source, there should no be misunderstanding.

      As for propaganda, Western politicians and media regard it as bad, but one has to make propaganda to enable people to know the truth when others like Western media including Reuters are telling lies.

      Anyway, thank you for your comments.


  3. Steve says:

    No doubt the US are Masters in the Art of Sabotaging the peaceful rise of China and negotiations with the SCS littoral states. The Rattlers are effective in being divisive and slanderous with its propaganda on china being a big bully. My concern are the support of US allies as in UK, EU, Australia and even France proposal of European nations to take part in joint patrols of the SCS.

    I believe that China and the Philippines should meet ‘halfway’ and develop a sound foundation to reduce the tensions and disputes. And if China and the Philippines can come down to earth for a secured and peaceful relationship, there will be harmony in the SCS.


  4. Fre Okin says:

    America is governed by thick rhino skinned politicians with no sense of shame and they turned around and try to shame China. China should not be bothered by the PCA verdict since the case should never be heard in the first place as PCA really don’t have jurisdiction Before the land aspect ie the islands, shoals, reefs sovereignty is settled first.

    In dealing with the West, US in particular, China should learn to have a very thick skin and ignore superficial reputation damage which will be forgotten in a few weeks, then it’s back to business as usual.


  5. Machine says:

    It’s not China that’s creating propaganda, but the Americans. America has not signed UNCLOS but wants China to abide by it? This is hypocrisy. Where are the “international community” to condemn America’s overthrow and annexation of the Hawaii, Guam, and here’s some more

    “While the Pentagon and US State Department continue to issue forth missives and warnings to China about its activities in staking territorial claims to disputed islands in the South China Sea, Washington has its own sordid history of retaining control of islands claimed by other nations.

    Navassa Island is a small 5.2 square kilometer outcropping in the Caribbean Sea between Haiti and Cuba. In 1857, US President James Buchanan unilaterally annexed the island to the United States. Before the American Civil War, the island had previously been the virtual private domain of the Navassa Phosphate Company of Baltimore, which sent African-American contract workers (the American Union’s quaint term for slaves) to Navassa where they worked to mine phosphate-rich guano. In 1889, the workers rebelled against their horrible working conditions and killed five of their white bosses.

    The US Navy quelled the rebellion and returned eighteen of the workers to stand trial for murder. In 1890, the US Supreme Court ruled the Guano Islands Act of 1856, which provided the legal framework for the annexation of Navassa by the United States, constitutional. The high court also upheld death sentences for three of the eighteen arrested black miners from Navassa. The United States also ignored nearby Haiti, which had laid claim to Navassa before the American unilateral annexation.”

    Source: South China Sea Hypocrisy: Washington’s Imperialistic Hold on Tiny Islands