As South China Sea Ruling Nears, China Ramps Up Propaganda

There are just days before the world hears the ruling by an international tribunal on the Philippine’s case against power-nation China over the hot-button issue of the South China Sea.

China, in the past, has made blatant – and often belligerent –  statements saying it does not care about the results of the hearing and will ignore the decisions made by The Hague. For a country that claims it does not care, China’s recent behavior proves otherwise. The nation’s notorious propaganda efforts have been put into full swing.

The Chinese government has deployed propaganda methods including official pronouncements and press editorials. As CNBC puts it, “[China] has stepped up rhetoric on all fronts to push its side of the story.”

A recent report by state-run news agency Xinhua told of a call between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and United States Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday. The report added that during the call Mr. Wang reiterated to Mr. Kerry that China rejects The Hague’s jurisdiction over the territorial disputes.

The State Department confirms the call, Reuters reports.

Another instance of China “not caring” was when former foreign affairs official Dai Bingguo elaborated on the issue – using similar arguments – in Washington D.C. on Tuesday.

Beijing also arranged several meetings with diplomats and journalists, as well as lobbying individual countries for its favor. The comical thing about this last part is that some of the countries China lobbied do not even have any relevance in the matter of territorial claims in the South China Sea – including Belarus and Pakistan.

Despite China’s public stance of ambivalence, if The Hague were to rule in favor of the Philippines, China would have much to lose. The South China Sea not only boasts a set of islands and coral reefs set in waters rich in fish and potential oil and gas reserves, but the region sees over $5 trillion worth of global trades pass through its waters each year.

So, this facade of its “whatever” attitude toward the results of the hearing is just that – a facade. CNBC writes that at the heart of it all is Beijing’s worry it would be perceived in a negative light if the decision does not go China’s way.  

Bonnie Glaser, Center for Strategic and International Studies’ director of the China Power Project spoke to this, telling CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Wednesday, “The Chinese do care very much, particularly the possibility that their nine-dash line claim could be ruled inconsistent with the (United Nations) Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).”

“The fact that the Chinese are trying to rally support from every country that they can regardless of how far afield or how small, demonstrates that the Chinese do care about their reputation and image,” she added.

The Philippines, contesting China’s overreach of territorial claims in the South China Sea, sought out international justice with The Hague. The island nation is making its argument using the UNCLOS as its platform, of which China is a signatory. The Philippines contends that China’s actions are invalid under international law, however China is countering, saying it has a historic right to the area which predates the UN convention.