After over a year’s preparation, the Philippine government has submitted 4,000 pages of evidence to an international tribunal, challenging China’s legitimate claim to the South China Sea within the nine-dash line and declaring its “sovereignty” over some isles including the Ren’ai Reef.
The Chinese government and scholars have rebuked Manila’s attempt to seek international arbitration on this issue, and most of these criticisms can hold water.
But China needs to be more aware of the real challenge imposed by Manila. It is trying to push forward the case, though an illegitimate basis, to reverse its disadvantaged position. If the international tribunal accepts the case, Manila will be encouraged to hype up the “legitimacy” and “rationality” of such an attempt. China’s stand and claim will be put at a disadvantage if Manila gets such an endorsement from the international tribunal.
Whether international arbitration should be employed over the South China Sea dispute is not only an issue concerning the applicability of international laws, but represents the political bout between both nations.
Manila’s ultimate purpose is greater than acquiring a favorable verdict from the international tribunal, and China should also realize that its countermeasures must be more varied besides arguing in terms of international laws, otherwise China might lose ground in the future.