• President Xi must cool down what he stirred up


    FOR understandable reasons, I am completely dependent on international media coverage of The Hague tribunal decision in the dispute between the Philippines and China, and its reverberations.

    On this landmark ruling, the superficiality of broadcast media as a news medium was totally exposed. International and local TV networks could not provide adequate coverage and analysis of the event. They were dumb in the sense of having nothing to say.

    Print media was king

    In this landmark event, print media was king. The wire agencies—principally Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters—delivered continuous reports and analysis of what was happening.

    Once again, the internet showed why it is an indispensable channel of communications as the conduit of the websites of top media organizations. For a change, Facebook was irrelevant.

    For my own commentary on the arbitral decision, I have relied mainly on the wire agencies, and the New York Times, The Economist and The Washington Post, and our own reportage here at The Manila Times on what was happening on our end.

    Their combined reportage and analysis enable me to say with some confidence the following:

    1. There is no immediate danger of conflict being triggered by the arbitral decision, especially a big showdown between China and the US.

    2. Regardless of the resounding rebuke it received from The Hague Court, China will not pull out of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

    3. While there is no enforcement mechanism for the arbitral ruling, it carries tremendous weight in the international community.

    4. President Xi Jin-Ping is in a fix at home because of the ruling. He led china to claim that the South China Sea is a Chinese lake.

    5. Sentiment has grown in the US Congress for more US defense of Philippine interests in the Scarborough Shoal.

    6. China is caught in a predicament by the arbitral decision. This setback has come at a time when its rise as a global power is widely recognized. But now its prestige has been undermined.

    7. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) was useless in the case. China has prevented the association from issuing the simplest statement on the case, because it has Laos and Cambodia in its pocket.

    The Economist’s view

    I want to call attention to two articles in this week’s issue of The Economist.

    The first article commented: “The judgment could change the politics of the South China Sea and, in the long run, force China to choose what sort of country it wants to be—one that supports rules-based global regimes, or one that challenges them in pursuit of great-power status.

    “The Hague tribunal comprehensively rejected China’s view of things, ruling that only claims consistent with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) were valid.

    “It is likely that China will set up an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the South China Sea, like the one it declared over the East China Sea in 2013 after a spat with Japan over islands there. America’s military aircraft ignore this, and would do the same if a southern one were imposed.”

    A no-less-worrying possibility is that China might start building on Scarborough Shoal, where the court case began.

    “In the short term, there are reasons China might be cautious. It is hosting an annual meeting of G20 leaders in September. It is spending lavishly on preparations. The last thing it wants is for countries to boycott the event or spoil it with recriminations over its response to the verdict.”

    In the second article, “Come back from the brink, Beijing,” the magazine urges China to moderate its reaction to the tribunal ruling. It wrote: “The ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague is firm, clear and everything China did not want it to be. The judges said that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) should determine how the waters of the South China Sea are divided among countries, not China’s ill-explained “nine-dash line” which implies the sea is Chinese.

    For China, this is a humiliation. Its leaders have called the proceedings illegal. Its huge recent live-fire exercises in the South China Sea imply that it may be planning a tough response. This could involve imposing an “Air Defence Identification Zone” of the kind it has already declared over the East China Sea. Or China might start building on the Scarborough Shoal, which it wrested from the Philippines in 2012 after a standoff between the two countries’ patrol boats.

    That would be hugely provocative.

    “There is a better way,” said the magazine. “China could climb down and, in effect, quietly recognise the court’s ruling. That would mean ceasing its island-building, letting other countries fish where UNCLOS allows and putting a stop to poaching by its own fishermen…

    “It would be in China’s interests to secure peace in its region by sitting down with the Philippines, Vietnam and other South-East Asian neighbours and trying to resolve differences. Right now those countries, and America, should avoid action that will needlessly enrage China, and instead give it a chance to walk back from the edge.”
    Double down or cool down

    The Washington Post sounded a similar message in a major analysis: “China’s dilemma: Double down or cool down” written by Ben Dooley. He reported:

    “An international tribunal ruling against Beijing’s extensive claims in the South China Sea is the Asian giant’s biggest diplomatic setback in years, leaving it facing a difficult choice between pragmatism and nationalism, analysts say.

    “Beijing has unleashed a deluge of vitriol against the ruling, but at the same time the permanent UN Security Council member is trying to position itself as a key player in the global community… .

    “Its wrath was undercut by the fact that by boycotting the proceedings, insisting that the tribunal had no jurisdiction, Beijing had repeatedly rejected the opportunity to defend its position, analysts said.”

    Yanmei Xie, a China analyst for the International Crisis Group, said its ambitions for a bigger place on the global diplomatic stage put it in a quandary.

    “China is at a point where it wants to participate more in the shaping of international institutions and in some cases has taken up a role as a leader,” she told AFP.

    “This really will be the first true test of Xi Jinping’s leadership because he’s ridden the tiger of nationalist sentiment and wrapped himself in the flag I think very successfully,” said Euan Graham, of Australia’s Lowy Institute think tank.

    “But at the same time, China does take its membership of the United Nations and the Security Council very seriously,” he said, adding “it’s not easy to reject an approved tribunal that is drawing on a United Nations treaty.”

    Hu Xingdou, a foreign policy expert at Beijing University of Technology, said a military reaction to the ruling was unlikely.

    “It would lead to the interruption of China’s modernisation and lead China to become more and more closed,” he said.

    “Ultimately, he said, China’s response “must not be too exaggerated, and must not be too outraged.”

    I also relied a lot on the reports of The New York Times. Acknowledgments must wait for another column.



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    1. Well you just read all biases of Western media. How about their government? Are these Western Opinion Writers and others really true to their conscience when these Western powers ganged-up and destroyed small countries which happened to be not on their side?

    2. Mariano Patalinjug on

      Yonkers, New York
      16 July 2016

      I compliment Yen Makabenta for this column of his, “President Xi must cool down what he stirred up,” in the Manila Times of July 16 in which he shares reports as well as analyses of such well-known mass media as AP, Agence France-Press, Reuters, New York Times, The Economist, and The Washington Post on The July 12 Ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague on the territorial-dispute case which the Philippines lodged against China in 2013, which was not only unanimously in favor of the Philippines, but moreover concluded that China’s “Nine-Dash Line” had no basis in International Law.

      Where the civilized nations of the world would expect a country with pretensions to being CIVILIZED like China to honor and obey the PCA ruling, arrogantly China instead has reacted like a badly wounded Bully, angrily twisting in the wind and writhing both in pain and fury! And worse because it is a signatory like the Philippines to UNCLOS of 1982.

      China happens to aspire to be a major player on the world stage, now that it is the second wealthiest nation in the world, and all set to put its ambitious “Maritime Silk Road” in place, after it set up the AIIB with an initial capitalization of $100 billion, in obvious competition with the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank.

      China thus cannot afford to continue to be a bully who behaves by the Law of the Jungle, with its mantra of “Might makes Right! It has to behave in a responsible and CIVILIZED manner, in synch with a “RULES-BASED” international order. Deliberately refusing to do so,China risks being condemned by the world community as a Pariah,or worse,even as a Rogue State.


      • Joshua Schneider on

        Could not agree with you more.. Would just like to think of a way that is to the benefit of the Philippine and the other Asian Rim countries.

    3. Joshua Schneider on

      Cui Tiankai who is the Chinese Ambassador to the United States has hit the the nail on the head. This whole mess began with the Obama/Clinton Pivot to Asia.
      As the Pivot was in name only, I can only imagine what the world must think of the country that has in a few years destabilized, Egypt, Iraq, Turkey, lost a ambassador in Libya and lied to the family of the victims about a nonsense video. From the first act of handed the stolen “overcharge” button to Russian Minister Lavrov and calling it a reset button (does the US State Dept not have anyone who could have translated this for her) it has just gotten worse and the body count is in the hundreds of thousands now. I will leave the immigration mess to someone else.
      I have just touched on the larger mistakes of the Obama/Hillary duo. For the following reason, something stinks to high heaven in the Philippines. From a government official making 3 trips to Taiwan (anybody know what he accomplished?) To a very wealthy and influential businessman who has been constantly telling the government to slow down and think this out. (Guess he has not figured out how to game the system if the Philippines does make a deal with China) We have been dancing around the issue of of starting to utilize the technology that China can bring to the table, and the money it can bring to the Philippines.
      I understand pride, but the unrestrained greed that is preventing the Philippines from moving forward because of a few individuals are waiting to get into a position to game the system is quite frankly beyond my comprehension. DU30, I hope sees this and will brush aside the empty promises of the Obama administration and make a deal with China that will benefit all in the South China Sea.

      So that being said lets talk about the real issue here and not the bright shiny objects politician keep waving in our faces.


      Does China really think that when Obama mentions a Red Line that it will be enforced.

    4. francis liew on

      First of all the Permanent Arbitration Court (PCA) is not a Court but an organisation set up in 1899 by the Hague Peace Conference. It and has nothing to do with the UN which was set up in 1945, much less the International Court of Justice (ICC) which was only set up in 1998 The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) is based in Hamburg and was set up in 1994. The dispute between China and the Philippine was adjudicated by the PCA. It has no UN authority nor sponsorship. Although it calls itself an international body, it is not a Court. Hence the judgment of the PCA is not binding internationally. Normally in any arbitration, two parties must agree to the arbitration but not in the case of the PCA. Any organisation or country can take the case to the PCA without the opposing party consent provided you pay a hefty fee for the adjudication. For the Philippines it was 1400 million pesos, a large sum of money for a poor country without any means of enforcement. As to why the previous Philippine administration carry out this step, we can only judge that it was poorly advised by its own justice department or the US had interfered in a nefarious way. The end result is a large sum of money had been lost. China image had been sullied by those who do not know the difference between PCA, ICC and ITLOS and more important, the Philippines is no where nearer to solving its dispute with China over fishing and economics rights in the West Philippine Sea.

      • PCA is set up under the 1907 Hague Convention.

        Which China signed.

        Arbitration by PCA is one of the dispute resolution of UNCLOS.

        Which China signed.

        Why China’s leaders chose not to show up, perhaps they got bad advice from their lawyers. If one party can prevent a case just hiding in the sand and refusing to show up, what is the purpose of the law?

        China’s own legal system has cases where one side did not show up. As recently as last month, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection proposed to hold trials for fugitive officials accused of corruption without the accused being present.

        Google “Runaway officials to be tried in absentia” and you will find the relvant article in both People’s Daily and Global Times.

    5. What are the odds that China will withdraw , zero. What is the possibility that there will be an armed conflict China and US. 90 percent. US will not let China take that trade route because it is against their economic interest . It appears that China is acting like a bully and definitely has expansionist interest like that of Germany in WW 2. Their military is becoming the dominant force in the region. Expect the worst .

    6. ernie del rosario on

      Given this eye-opener, then the Duterte non-confrontational stand seems to “fit” (so far). Had Noynoy been still the President at this time, the situation could have been many times more precarious given his kindergarten-like way of governing the country. Salamat naman. President XJP will be the key to resolving this problem peacefully. Continuous prayers is the order of the day.

      • Tama ka po, dapat hindi nag eklamo ang kindergaten panot. Buti pa si Duterte ok lng pamigay lahat ng islands na yan-Kasi Peaceful po siya