Published on October 4th, 2016 | by Lidija Bojčić


South China Sea: a strategic importance for China

Even after the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague issued a historic decision in favor of the Philippines in July, the Chinese government still insists that its  Nine Dash Line sovereignty over the entire South China Sea is based on the maritime history through the centuries, and that Chinese demand is justified . The Chinese government claims that there is a lack of historical documents showing that China was the first country to discover, appointed islands and associated areas and through the history of continually developed and exercised jurisdiction over the South China Sea.

South China Sea Map

The Chinese government this claim was argumentative and long time so that the Chinese people truly convinced of the allegations. Nine Dash Line appeared on the Chinese charts for decades earlier, along with the stories of the Chinese national humiliation and imperialist seizure of Chinese territory by foreign powers.

The truth is doubtful and questionable. Apparently, there is written evidence that the first Chinese official to ever set foot on an island in the Spratly Islands was a Chinese naval officer in 1946, a year after Japan was defeated and lost control of the sea. He did so in the company of the crew of the American ship that consisted of Chinese sailors who were trained in Miami.

As for the story of Nine Dash Line, it began a decade ago through the work of the committee appointed by the Chinese government. China was not the first to be appointed by the islands; appointed commission is borrowed and translated names with British map and guide wheel. It is unclear how the Chinese government has translated all the names and convince the Chinese, but for now it is a source of national pride, but also national security too.

Despite this year’s Hague verdict which claims that there is no legal basis for China’s claims, and that the Chinese government has failed to produce evidence of his version of the facts, China’s national strategy does not allow Chinese people to recognize that what the government is doing in the South China Sea illegal under international maritime law (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea – UNCLOS).

Although China officially ratified UNCLOS in 1996, the Chinese government in 2006 filed a statement of UNCLOS in which he says:

“Does not accept any of the procedures provided for in Section 2 of Part XV of the Convention with respect to all the categories of disputes referred to in paragraph 1 (a), (b) and (c) of Article 298 of the Convention . “These provisions of the Convention refer to” Compulsory Procedures entailing Binding Decisions “issued by at least four venues: the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), an” arbitral tribunal “which may refer to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), and a “special arbitral tribunal.”

Although there is space available for the settlement of disputes in the context of UNCLOS action, China does not want to be bound by the mandatory procedures involved in the ICJ and the PCA. China wants to be able to choose which of the Statute of the contract that was signed voluntarily to comply with, and to be free to ignore those parts of the statutes that are “inconvenient” for China.

It happens that a country that is party to the agreement or convention does not wish to be bound to implement the rules. Such a Contracting State is not in accordance with the international legal order.

While China denies UNCLOS against the Philippines, specifically emphasizes and requires UNCLOS provisions in their claims against Japan. In 2009, China has applied to the Senkaku Islands (that is, as the Scarborough Shoal and Spratlys, believed to be rich in oil) and turned to UNCLOS rules in defining and presenting its continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles exclusive economic belt. There are international legal doctrine that supports the view that the action of individual states in one place can be used as an acknowledgment and negative relate to that country in other circumstances.

Increased thing in this situation is that China does not recognize the international rule of law which is itself a signatory. China wants to be able to choose which will be the provisions of international agreements voluntarily adhere to, and which will not.

The Chinese government has had a chance to change his behavior after the verdict of the Hague Tribunal in the case against the Philippines, but these are matters of national interest, even if this interest is based on dubious historical records. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that the Chinese government can not be changed without losing access to the geo-strategic depth.

The verdict of the Hague Tribunal in the arbitration proceedings between China and the Philippines will have a big impact in the Asia-Pacific region. China will continue to completely ignore the court ruling because the area of ​​the South China Sea passage to other sea areas in the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean.

By 2030, over the South China Sea will be held 55% of the turnover of world crude oil and 62% of the turnover of world trade. Therefore, the South China Sea is of strategic environmental and military importance for China, which wants to be a superpower. Through this area, China can control the Western Pacific, the Yellow Sea and the Malacca Strait.

China has mastered the lessons of history that all major powers and also the naval forces as the United States and Great Britain, in contrast to Germany and Russia, which were never naval force. For landlocked geography has its limitations, and the sea do not. Therefore, the South China Sea is crucial for China and its development into a superpower.

The further development of events can be developed in two directions. The region can unite in terms of trade, and may ignite a national passion for ownership of the area and cause greater instability.

Asia has three major economies: China, Japan and India, and in case of conflict of events could go completely out of control, unless these countries have developed management disputes.

Since China wants to be a global power, in its own interest to engage more than others in managing disputes. Any tension may threaten China’s economy and political status.

It is likely that China will seek to exploit differences between certain countries in ASEAN, of which half the member states involved in disputes over the South China Sea and will develop a relationship with each individual. Otherwise, China awaits confrontation with the United States.

South China Sea Territory Map














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