China Arbitration Loser but Geopolitical WinnerPosted: July 20, 2016
Late at night of Jul 12 when the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague (PCA) issued its arbitration ruling, Hindustan Times published a report titled “If China defies tribunal without tangible loss, Beijing will be the winner”, saying “Though it lost on all legal fronts in the judgment of the international tribunal over its South China Sea claim, China may yet emerge geopolitically the winner.
“The reason: if Beijing suffers no material damage from defying the tribunal’s judgment, the lesson for Southeast Asia will be that the continent’s unipolar moment has arrived – and China is atop the pole.”
China indeed suffers no material damage not even intangible damage in reputation as only the US, Japan and Australia have urged China to respect the arbitrary ruling.
Even ASEAN has failed to issue a statement to urge China to respect the ruling though ASEAN leaders said in the joint statement of their summit with US President Obama that they “(s)hared commitment to peaceful resolution of disputes, including full respect for legal and diplomatic processes”, in which legal processes certainly include PCA ruling. (See paragraph 7 of the joint statement and Channel News Asia’s report titled “ASEAN to keep mum on South China Sea ruling: Diplomats” at http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/asean-to-keep-mum-on/2956764.html.)
EU has failed to issue a statement either to urge China to respect the ruling. A recent key summit between Asian and European leaders in Mongolia ended without direct mention of South China Sea dispute in its closing statement. (See Reuters’ report “EU’s silence on South China Sea ruling highlights inner discord” at http://www.reuters.com/article/us-southchinasea-ruling-eu-idUSKCN0ZU1DE
As a result, China has suffered no material damage in either economy or reputation from rejecting the ruling.
The US, however, is a big loser as it has a confidence crisis in Southeast Asia after the ruling. Before the ruling, the US had conducted busy diplomacy to win other Asian nations’ support for the US in urging China to submit to US pressure to respect the ruling.
In the face of China’s show of muscle and strong will to fight a war to safeguard its sovereignty and interests in disregard of the ruling, the US has been shocked and unable to take any counter actions. It fails to help the Philippines enforce the ruling. It sends two aircraft carrier battle groups to the South China Sea and says it will intensify its freedom of navigation operations there.
However, its warships have not come within 12 miles of China’s artificial islands, the areas China claims to be its territorial waters though the ruling has rejected China’s claim. The US sent its CNO Adm. John Richardson to visit China July 17-20 after the ruling but according to a report published by US Pacific Command, Adm. Richardson stresses cooperation with China instead of urging China to respect the ruling. (See the report titled “Chiefs of US and Chinese Navies Agree on Need for Cooperation” at
Chinese government’s mouthpiece Xinhua, however, says in its report on the meeting between Richardson and Chinese navy commander Wu Shengli that Adm. Richardson was told by Wu that China would never sacrifice its sovereignty and interests in the South China Sea as those are China’s “core interest” and concern the foundation of the Party’s governance, the country’s security and stability and the Chinese nation’s basic interests.
He was told by Wu that China would not recede over territorial sovereignty or fear any military provocation, that the Chinese navy is fully prepared to cope with military provocation and that China would never stop its construction of its artificial islands.
China’s official military forum mil.huanqiu.com even posted the above photo of Wu pointing his finger with anger during his meeting with Richardson.
China is conducting live-ammunition military drills in and near the South China Sea. It has even begun regular combat patrol with the strategic bombers, fighter jets, reconnaissance aircrafts, aerial tankers, etc. of its air force, which is obviously a stance of defiance much more serious than the establishment of an air defense identification zone.
ASEAN members have been scared by China’s threat of war and disappointed at US failure to stand up against China. No ASEAN members dare to urge China to respect the ruling, not even the Philippines. Philippine President Duterte called for restraint and plans to send a former president friendly to China to ask China to conduct negotiations to resolve the disputes.
As a result just as Hindustan Times said, “the continent’s unipolar moment has arrived – and China is atop the pole.”
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Hindustan Times’ report, full text of which can be viewed at http://www.hindustantimes.com/analysis/if-china-defies-tribunal-without-tangible-loss-beijing-will-be-the-winner/story-3idpqUsleMRjs8QmeoWZCI.html