Today the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague issued its long-awaited ruling on the case of the Republic of the Philippines against the People’s Republic of China. As expected, the international court ruled in favor of the Philippines. As expected, the Chinese deemed it a “farce” and continued to ignore its implications – and I say “continued” because they didn’t even send representation to the court during the case’s three years of proceedings.
If this means anything, it means that it is definitely time for memes.
If you’re not up on your Southeast Asian international relations (which is understandable), the “nine-dash line” represents China’s territorial claim to virtually all of the waters of the South China Sea. It’s based on – ahem – “history”. This is in gross violation of international law, which, under the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea, recognizes more legitimate (though still mutually conflicting) claims to these waters by the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam. There are plentiful natural resources for exploitation, and it is a major thoroughfare for international shipping, so the stakes of ownership are pretty high.
Within this claimed maritime territory, China has been fishing, sending its coast guard on patrol, and building islands atop reefs and fortifying them. This isn’t new, either – China forcibly ejected Vietnamese forces from the Paracel Islands back in the 1970s. But in the last decade the pace has noticeably picked up.
Despite the many claimants in opposition to China, it is difficult to get the Southeast Asian states to agree on much of anything, let alone antagonizing their great neighbor to the north. So it was noteworthy that the Philippines stepped up to the plate and brought the arbitration case in 2013 – but all too predictable that not a single co-litigant would accompany them. However, since the case was brought, the PI elected a new president, Rodrigo Duterte, who sees things a bit differently than his predecessor Benigno Aquino, so it’s an open question how this victory he’s been handed less than two weeks into his administration will be followed up on.
So that’s the situation in a nutshell. Also, this:
So really, despite the day’s fun, we’re really right back where we started. Cue the next crisis.