What Beijing Could Do Next After the South China Sea Ruling
Few should be surprised by the unanimous ruling this week against China by a tribunal of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), a Hague-based international judicial entity constituted under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Even Beijing was expecting this outcome. When the Philippines brought the case against China in early 2013, Beijing refused to take part in the proceedings on the ground that the court has no jurisdiction over the dispute in the South China Sea. Immediately, after the release of the tribunal’s ruling, the Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a detailed rebuttal of the ruling, an indication that Chinese leaders had anticipated an unfavorable verdict.
Given the belligerent response from China, including a recent military exercise in the South China Sea, it is clear that Beijing will not abide by the ruling and cease and desist. In determining how to blunt the impact of the ruling and avoid further loss of its credibility, China will weigh a combination of factors in crafting a response. The most critical ones are the domestic political considerations of its top leadership and the possible response by the United States.