Chinese citizens took to the streets last week to protest KFC, Apple and McDonald’s following an international court ruling attempting to resolve a longstanding land dispute in the South China Sea between the Philippines and China. The Hague court’s landmark case ruled in favor of the Philippines, deciding that the area in dispute fell within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. So what does KFC, Apple and McDonald’s have to do with the Philippines and their exclusive economic zone exactly? Well, it all stems from China’s accusation that the United States has instigated and embroiled an already heated dispute over what is known as the Scarborough Shoal off the coast of the Philippines.
While the U.S. has stated that its bolstered presence in the region has only been to re-establish a balance of power between neighbors, the Chinese response to the U.S. and more recently, the Hague have been less than desirable. Chinese citizens are now protesting and demanding that U.S. companies like KFC and McDonald’s be immediately removed from the country, while simultaneously calling for the boycott of all imported Philippines products. The Chinese government was quick to comment on the situation, publicly denouncing the protests, referring to them as “jingoistic and ultimately a bad representation of national patriotism”, but while their public statements condemn the protests, China’s contradictory political maneuverings have long engaged in dissident behavior towards the West and their Southeast Asian neighbors.
While China’s political maneuverings this week are focused on the Philippines, they are not the only country whose borders have been encroached upon by the Chinese. Most of Southeast Asia including Japan has been disputing the territories that fall within what is known as China’s “Nine Dash Line”. A seemingly arbitrary line spanning across the entirety of the South China Sea, a line whose creation was solely determined by the Chinese government in 1947, but has still yet to be corroborated by the international community. China’s Nine Dash line challenges not only the geographic claims of it’s neighbors but in addition, it also challenges international maritime law, both of which serve to illustrate China’s consistent record of disregard and disrespect for both international law and the international community at large.
Despite China’s blatant disregard for the international community the question still remains, what exactly is driving the dispute? Why all the attention to a series of uninhabitable land masses in the middle of the South China sea? The Philippines has suggested that the region is rich in oil, giving better insight into China’s recent obsession with the area. Despite the apparent economic gain there is still no international consensus concerning the ownership of the area and the Hague court’s recent ruling ultimately calls into question China’s claims, inevitably having lasting implications for the other regional disputes in the South China Sea.
Not surprisingly though, China’s government officials were quick to denounce the Hague court rulings, explaining they would “not accept, not participate and not recognize” the legal proceedings of the court, referring to the arbitration and the court as an illegitimate tribunal whose findings are of no real consequence. It is clear that no matter whether China is silencing citizen protests or disregarding the legal claims of international neighbors, they consistently show their disdain for dissenting opinions, while stubbornly maintaining their own. The question plaguing the U.S. and the Philippines right now is to what lengths will China go to maintain control of the disputed regions within the nine dash line?
Over the weekend reports coming out of the the Philippines shed further light on China’s intentions concerning the dispute over the Scarborough Shoal. The Governor of Zambales in the Philippines, Amor Deloso told the Manila Bulletin Saturday that the Chinese military is currently present in the Sta. Cruz municipality of Zambales. He went on further to explain that they are inhabiting an area of 500 hectares previously sold to the Chinese, by former Governor Hermogenes Ebdane, Jr. and ever since the Hague ruling, a United States warship has been watching over the area in question. With an increased Chinese military presence now in and around the Philippines, it is clear how China intends to maintain control of the Scarborough Shoal. While the future of China’s “Nine Dash line” is unclear, what is clear is how they plan on maintaining their control of it. China’s increased presence and their unwavering dedication to disputing claims of the waters and land within the South China Sea implies a willingness to escalate if necessary. Whether it be through compromise or conflict, China seems poised to act accordingly, and with the United States in deep waters defending its interests in the region, it would seem that the Philippines may be in the center of a battle far greater than its squabble for the Scarborough Shoal.
by: Justin Blush July 25, 2016