China’s aggressive reaction to the strong rebuke meted out by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague has only strengthened fears among its neighbours and the international community about it intentions and its indifference to international norms and behaviour….writes Dr Alex Abraham
China’s obstinate stand on dismissing the order on South China Sea dispute passed by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague is unbecoming of a country which aspires to be a global power. The position and prestige of a global player comes with utmost responsibility and accountability. The Chinese reaction to the arbitration order projects the country as undeserving of being an influential power in the international community.
China’s aggressive reaction to the strong rebuke meted out by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague has only strengthened fears among its neighbours and the international community about it intentions and its indifference to international norms and behaviour.
The Hague court’s ruling has been categorical in telling China that its behaviour in the contentious South China Sea was uncalled for and illegal. The court said China had no legal rights over the islands it claimed to have suzerainty over. The court said the Chinese claims over the Sea were illegal and untenable.
An international tribunal in The Hague delivered a sweeping rebuke on Tuesday of China’s behaviour in the South China Sea, including its construction of artificial islands, and found that its expansive claim to sovereignty over the waters had no legal basis.
Passing judgement on being petitioned by the Philippines, the tribunal was equivocal in rejecting China’s much touted argument that it enjoyed “historic rights“ over the South China Sea. China has been in dispute with neighbouring countries of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam for years now. China has been openly threatening these less powerful countries and flexing its military muscle time and again. It has got into fracas with Japan several times over some islands in the Sea.
The Chinese government and its massive propaganda machine in the form of its media and think tanks have been arguing for a just and equitable international order while threatening smaller neighbours and telling the world in general that it must pay obeisance to travel though the South China Sea. China has also been for instance aggressive towards countries claiming equal rights in utilising the Indian Ocean saying that it was named after the subcontinent. China has been doing this in the South China Sea, bulling the smaller and bigger neighbours in submitting to its diktats.
The tribunal said China had violated the international law and vitiated the maritime environment in the region by endangering the lives and properties of citizens of neighbouring countries legitimately harvesting the resources of the Sea. The tribunal’s advice to China was to respect an open, rules-based order for global maritime commons. In other words, stop being a bully.
China’s actions and reactions before and after the tribunal order speak volumes of its attitude and behaviour which contradicts its own claims of being a responsible power. Its threat and deployment of military assets in the waters of South China Sea is highly irresponsible and only shows its cavalier attitude towards peace and stability in the region. China’s actions project itself more as a rogue nation much like North Korea than a responsible economic and military power in the region.
China must instead contemplate on the tribunal order and accept its findings in humility. It should not be treated as a defeat for China and should pave the way for a better and more positive relationship with its immediate neighbours which is hugely in its own strategic interest. A more balanced approach on the South China Sea could also help quell discomfort among its own “friends“ and “allies“ about its true intentions. It will also help in fostering better relationship with its neighbours and promote Chinese national interest more robustly. China must consider the tribunal order as a gateway to an equitable and just international order which it has been seeking for decades now. The ball is in China’s court.