China is not doubling down on the “nine-dash line” argument, which – as I wrote earlier – has never been pushed insistently through the official People’s Daily. The term does not appear in the Chinese Communist Party’s flagship newspaper today, but the South China Sea issue is of course there — and the language over yesterday’s decision by an international arbitration court is resolute and angry.
There are three articles on the arbitration verdict on the front page of today’s People’s Daily, including a formal statement from the Government of the People’s Republic of China that has apparently not yet been translated into English. It reiterates many of the same points, going through the “2,000-year history of China’s activities in the South China Sea” and how it has established its sovereignty “continuously, peacefully and effectively.” It stakes China’s claims with emphatic bullet points.
Next, at bottom left, comes yesterday’s statement, available in English, from the Foreign Ministry.
Finally, at bottom right, is a commentary penned by a “commentary writer from this newspaper” (本报评论员), which on the front page generally denotes an official position from the Central Committee of the CCP. The piece, “China’s Resolve Cannot Be Shaken in Protecting its Territorial Sovereignty and Rights and Interests in the South China Sea,” is a good illustration of the official animus over this decision under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
China’s Resolve Cannot Be Shaken in Protecting its Territorial Sovereignty and Rights and Interests in the South China Sea (translated by David Bandurski)
On July 12, 2016, the Philippines South China Sea arbitration case, in defiance of basic facts, wantonly trampling on international law and the basic principles of international relations, announced a so-called “arbitration ruling” that seriously damaged China’s territorial sovereignty and its rights and interests in the South China Sea. The Chinese government and the people of China resolutely oppose this, and will neither accept nor recognise it.
The people of China have lived and produced for generations in the South China Sea, and they have long ago become the masters of the South China Sea islands. Successions of Chinese governments have administered the islands through administrative exercises, military patrols, production and business, maritime salvage and other means, and China long ago established (确定) its unquestionable sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and the neighbouring sea area. For centuries, amidst the winds of change, even as the islands of the South China Sea for a time suffered harm by invaders, China’s resolve in protecting its territorial sovereignty and its rights and interests in the South China Sea has never been shaken.
For this the brave sons and daughters of China (中华) have made continuous and substantial sacrifices. Since ancient times, China has said: “The strong must not oppress the weak, and the rich must not bully the poor.” As for the territory that does not belong to us, we do not claim an inch of it. But for the territory that does belong to us, we will not give an inch. China will take every necessary measure to protect its territorial sovereignty and ensure that its rights and interests in the South China Sea are not violated, and all thoughts of intruding on China’s territorial sovereignty and its rights and interests in the South China Sea are delusions.
The Chinese people are a people who ardently love peace, and the blood of peace flows through our veins. As the largest nation bordering the South China Sea, China sets out from a general situation of peace and stability, and over many decades on the South China Sea question it has always maintained exceptional restraint, never taking the initiative in provoking dispute — nor has it ever taken any actions that might complicate or magnify the controversy. The Chinese side has adhered all along to the preservation of peace and stability in the South China Sea, continuing to resolve disputes through discussion and negotiation, continuing to control divisions through rules-based mechanisms, continuing to preserve freedom of navigation and flight in the South China Sea, continuing to achieve mutual benefit through cooperation. Through the efforts of various sides, the South China Sea region has left the shadow of the Cold War, maintaining long-term peace and stability, taking a path of booming development, and freedom of navigation and flight have been fully protected.
Still, with direct control and encouragement by external forces (外部势力), the government of Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III and the court of arbitration defied basic facts and departed from basic legal principles, acting with wilful disregard under the banner of principle and rule of law, under false government pretences and out of personal interest, seeking a twisted application of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea with the objective of denying China’s territorial sovereignty and its rights and interests in the South China Sea. As for this complete and utter political provocation, China of course will not accept it. This is a necessary act in preserving China’s territorial integrity and rights and interests in the South China Sea, and it is also about preserving the dignity and status of international law, in the interests of practicing justice in international law.
Many countries and organisations internationally, as well as many discerning people, have expressed support for China’s position. International legal experts have also come forward to express their concern over the abuse of this compulsory arbitration procedure, believing that the Philippine’s tribunal case on the South China Sea has damaged the integrity of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea as a mechanism for dispute settlement, damaged the international seas regime established by the Convention, and that it threatens the current international order.
To satisfy the needs of the moment, the government of Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III has damaged international law and harmed the rights and interests of China. The tribunal’s decision, as a “puppet” (提线木偶) of external forces, is a pointless farce, and it will be rejected by history and by the times.
Whether in the past, the present or the future, any conduct that purports to challenge China’s baseline will be like dropping stones on one’s own foot. The resolve of the Chinese people in protecting their territorial sovereignty and their rights and interests in the South China Sea cannot be shaken.