Proposed China-US ‘new normal’ relations and the UNCLOS arbitration


WITH its new status as an economic superpower, China proposed “new normal” relations with the United States to the previous Obama administration, based on the following principles: 1) recognition of each other’s core interests; 2) no conflicts; 3) no threats or intimidation; and 4) mutual respect.

According to Ambassador Wu Hailong, the president of the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs, the United States rejected the fourth principle.

While it is up to China to determine what its core interests are, it is for the United States to decide whether to accept and respect China’s declaration of its core interests. It is clear that the United States does not accept China’s claim of sovereignty or of sovereign rights over such a vast area of the South China Sea covered by its nine-dash line claim. The United States has rejected China’s claim and protested China’s actions in allegedly converting seven artificial islands in the South China Sea into military bases.

In 2012, the Obama administration announced the United States’ pivot to Asia, subsequently refined as a policy of rebalancing in the Asia Pacific region. China’s commentators have perceived this as a policy of containment of China and maintaining US hegemony in the region. They state that this policy undermines China’s security and is the principal cause of regional instability.

The Obama administration justified its policy of rebalancing in the Asia Pacific region, on the need to be prepared in case of the emergence of an aggressive and revisionist China. Aside from the dispute with respect to the nature of the structures in the artificial islands, the United States has accused China of bullying its smaller neighbors.

Proposed China-US ‘new normal’ relations and the UNCLOS arbitration award