Friday, May 31, 2013


"Nine dashes, five judges, two contestants. It sounds like a reality television show. In fact, it is the rather obscure – but very important – beginning of a process to delineate fiercely disputed Asian maritime borders according to the rule of law, rather than the law of the jungle. The nine dashes belong to China. They mark what Beijing says is its historical claim to most of the South China Sea, a vast waterway that borders several other Asian countries. The five judges have been chosen to sit on a tribunal that will determine the validity of that claim under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The two contestants are the Philippines, which brought the case, and China, whose nine-dash line is being challenged. Strictly speaking, there is only one contestant, since Beijing, though a signatory of Unclos, has not deigned to recognise the process. Asian countries, particularly the not inconsiderable number that have maritime disputes of their own with China, are watching the case with intense interest. Few, though, have dared say much in public for fear of offending Beijing. Whether you judge it plucky or rash, the Philippines has gone out on a limb. Manila’s hope is to put its bilateral dispute with Beijing over the ownership of waters and islands close to the Philippine coast to international arbitration. There is an air of desperation about its gambit, which suggests it sees no possible progress through dialogue. Professor Jerome Cohen, an authority on Chinese and international law at New York University School of Law, says the Philippine “bombshell” has shocked Beijing with its audacity. The case, launched in January, will take perhaps four years to chug through the Unclos system. It has potentially huge implications for a region riddled with explosive territorial disputes, including that between Japan and China over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. The Philippines has asked Unclos to adjudicate on the validity of the nine-dash line, produced by China in 1947 to illustrate what it said was its longstanding jurisdiction over almost all the South China Sea. That claim overlaps with the Philippines’ 200 mile economic exclusion zone extending from its coastline".
David Pilling, "Plucky or rash, the Philippines is right to challenge China." The Financial Times. 29 May 2013,
"Some 27 years ago, Chinese leaders took a hard look at their country and didn’t like what they saw. China was just emerging from the Cultural Revolution. It was desperately poor, deliberately isolated from the world economy, and opposed to nearly every international institution. Under Deng Xiaoping, as Mr. Zheng explains, China’s leaders reversed course and decided "to embrace globalization rather than detach themselves from it." Seven U.S. presidents of both parties recognized this strategic shift and worked to integrate China as a full member of the international system. Since 1978, the United States has also encouraged China’s economic development through market reforms. Our policy has succeeded remarkably well: the dragon emerged and joined the world. Today, from the United Nations to the World Trade Organization, from agreements on ozone depletion to pacts on nuclear weapons, China is a player at the table. And China has experienced exceptional economic growth. Whether in commodities, clothing, computers, or capital markets, China’s presence is felt every day. China is big, it is growing, and it will influence the world in the years ahead. For the United States and the world, the essential question is – how will China use its influence? To answer that question, it is time to take our policy beyond opening doors to China’s membership into the international system: We need to urge China to become a responsible stakeholder in that system. China has a responsibility to strengthen the international system that has enabled its success. In doing so, China could achieve the objective identified by Mr. Zheng: "to transcend the traditional ways for great powers to emerge."
Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, "Whither China: From Membership to Responsibility?" Remarks to National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, 21 September 2005 in
The endeavor of the Philippines to hold the Peoples Republic to the norms of International concourse is an important one. If the PRC does indeed abide by an adverse ruling concerning its claims to islands in the South China Seas, that would indeed be an important marker that Peking could indeed be 'a responsible stakeholder'. In the past half dozen years or so, Peking has been giving the strongest impression possible that it does not in the least care for the opinion of the International Community and in particular its neighbors in the Orient. Almost all of whom it has fraught and difficult relations as it relates to borders and Islands claims. Per contra to the one-eyed Amitai Etzioni, China has conspicuously chosen not: "work out these differences with one nation at a time." 1 Unless of course the type of belligerent military and naval actions that Peking has engaged in recent years qualify as trying to 'work out' its disputes with its neighbors. On a normative basis the answer is an objective 'no'. The very same answer to the query set-out by then Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick in 2005 concerning China as 'responsible stakeholder'.
1. Amitai Etzioni, "Is China a responsible stakeholder?" International Affairs. (May 2011), pp. 552-553.


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