One thing is certain. China doesn’t care about The Hague or what it’s about to say with regard to the country’s ongoing territorial dispute with the Philippines. It doesn’t matter if it would make China look bad. Beijing would readily throw out any ruling The Hague will release, especially if it puts the Philippines at an advantage.
The Philippines had sought arbitration from The Hague back in 2013. The country had served China with a Notification and Statement of Claim. Beijing decided to reject and return them, issuing a diplomatic note themselves, entitled “the Position of China on the South China Sea issues.”
Today, The Hague is expected to come up with a ruling soon. It is expected that the tribunal will side with the Philippines.
Before the ruling is even passed, China is already saying it doesn’t care. Xu Hong, the director general of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s department of treaty and law said, “Any ruling issued by an institution that lacks authority to do so, is naturally non-legally binding. And naturally, there’s also no issue over recognition or implementation of the ruling.”
At the same time, Xu believes that the Philippines’ use of a tribunal in pursuit of its territorial claim is in clear violation of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on four grounds.
First, China argues that issues regarding territorial sovereignty are beyond the scope of the convention. Second, China had already declared back in 2006 that it will not accept any arbitration with regard to territorial disputes. Third, China and the Philippines used to resolve their disputes through consultations and negotiations. This prevents either party from seeking arbitration. Lastly, the Philippines did not exchange views with China on the means of the territorial dispute before seeking arbitration.
At the same time, The Wall Street Journal reported that China is encouraging other countries in Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe to voice out preference for bilateral negotiations in public statements, as opposed to third-party arbitration.
Moreover, Xu also thinks that the Philippines’ arbitration against them is merely for show. He says, “The South China Sea arbitration case has become an orchestrated performance. As for the outcome of a performance, who would take it seriously?”