S China Sea ruling: Turning point in Chinese foreign policy?


China’s posture and reactions towards the Philippines versus China arbitration over the South China Sea dispute unsurprisingly reflected its prior positions: Non-participation, non-recognition, non-acceptance and non-compliance.

The tension and diplomatic jostling among various parties in the past few years have resulted in dramatic internationalisation of the South China Sea issue and compelled China to devote a lot of resources to deal with the negative impact on China’s interests.

The arbitration has significantly increased the salience of the South China Sea issue in China’s international relations and is likely to be a turning point in China’s foreign policy.

For decades, Beijing has had to ferociously contend with various players in its external relations over the so-called three “Ts” issues: Taiwan, Tibet and Trade.

It spared no efforts to defend the “One China” principle, counter endless human rights criticisms from the West, and deal with trade disputes with many developed countries.

However, in the past decade or so, China has managed to cope with these challenges. Taiwan’s independence, international pressure on human rights and trade-related disputes are certainly still major concerns for the Chinese foreign policy elites but no longer as threatening to China as they used to be.