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The Jerusalem Post Publishes Ambassador Zhan Yongxin's Article Entitled "Why Does China Reject the South China Sea Arbitration Award"
2016/07/18

On July 17th, The Jerusalem Post, Israel's largest-cirtulation English newspaper published Ambassador Zhan Yongxin's Article Entitled " Why Does China Reject the South China Sea's Arbitration Award". The full text is as follows: 

 

On July 12th, 2016, an Arbitral Tribunal, put together on a temporary basis, issued a so-called award on the South China Sea arbitration. The Chinese Government immediately made its stance clear that China is firmly opposed to that and has reiterated its stance consistently and clearly: China does not accept and participate in the arbitration and does not recognize the award. If you have read my article “Let the Facts Arbitrate” on May 24th, you will see how China’s stance is justified to such a political farce under a legal cloak. For a better understanding, I think two points need to be added here.

First, China’s stance is not merely an instinctive reaction to a total denial of China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea. It has a legal basis.

Although the relevant disputes were deliberately packaged as mere issues concerning the interpretation or application of UNCLOS, the subject-matter of the arbitration is in essence an issue of territorial sovereignty, which, however, goes beyond the scope of the UNCLOS.

The unilateral initiation of arbitration infringes upon China's right as a state party to UNCLOS to independently choose methods of dispute settlement. As early as in 2006, China has already excluded, through a declaration pursuant to Article 298 of UNCLOS, disputes concerning maritime delimitation, inter alia, from the application of arbitration and other compulsory procedures.

Second, China’s stance is also logical and reasonable.

Over the past years, China and the Philippines reached consensus on how to address the dispute. The two sides have issued joint statements and news releases on multiple occasions and both signed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), in which both sides have pledged to settle disputes through friendly negotiations and consultations. The Philippines may forget that the Pacta sunt servanda (“agreements must be kept”) is one of the core principles in international relations, while China will never. As a responsible country, China values its credibility and firmly supports the existing international system.

The fact is that South China Sea issue is not insoluble. States have many ways of resolving disputes peacefully at their disposal. Third-party dispute settlement is obviously not the best one. As a matter of fact, through direct consultations and negotiations, China has solved border issues with twelve land neighbors, accounting for 90% of China’s total land borders. Above cases give China an enormous impetus to consistently strive for the solution of disputes by way of negotiation, not unilateral steps .

Francis Bacon said:”One foul judgment does more hurt than many foul examples. For these do but corrupt the stream, the other corrupt the fountain”. Although the Arbitration amounts to nothing more than a piece of paper, however, the out-of-bad-faith dramatization and political manipulation that ensued have undermined the authority and sanctity of UNCLOS. Its negative impact on international rule of law should not to be underestimated.

The existence of differences is nothing to be afraid of, neither is the complexity of the issues. As long as the relevant countries have the goodwill and engage in friendly consultations and negotiations on an equal footing, they can enhance mutual trust, expand common understanding and gradually and properly settle their territorial and maritime delimitation disputes. The same is true with the South China Sea issue.

China has noted the latest statements by the new government of the Philippines, including its readiness to re-open consultation and dialogue. China hopes that the goodwill of the new Philippine government for improving relations with China will be accompanied with real actions.

A famous Chinese Poem said, “We should not be afraid of the clouds blocking our view, because we already are at the highest elevation.” It means that only by adopting a strategic vision and minimizing distractions can one understand where the trend is moving. Over the years, the South China Sea has seen colonial invasion and illegal occupation. However, no matter how the tide comes and goes, China will continue to develop friendly relations with its neighbors, uphold peace and stability in this region, and remain firm in its strategic determination to pursue peaceful development.

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