Is World coming together against China in South China Sea?

New DelhiWritten By: Gravitas deskUpdated: Mar 29, 2021, 11:59 PM IST

File image: Chinese President Xi Jinping Photograph:(Reuters)

Story highlights

Some of the world's leading democracies are coming together in alliances against China.

The year was 2013. China was dragged to the Permanent Court of Arbitration. It faced a charge of threatening maritime entitlements and the status of features in the South China Sea. It was simply about breaking the law of the high seas.

The verdict came in 2016 and China was found guilty.

The court declared that China's 'nine-dash line' and its claim to historic rights in the South China Sea are both invalid under International Law.

It's been five years but after rejecting the ruling, China has continued to violate the law. It has built seven artificial islands in the South China Sea.

It is challenging maritime sovereignty of several countries. It violates the UNCLOS or the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

China has become a menace in waters that host traffic worth $3.4 billion in annual trade.

Some of the world's leading democracies are coming together in alliances against China.

And then there are smaller but perhaps, more important stakeholders in the South China Sea. They are coming together to press China and call out its maritime militia.

The president of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte recently expressed his concerns to the Chinese ambassador.

Duterte's spokesperson said, "The president said we are really concerned. Any country will be concerned with that number of ships."

The Philippines is protesting what it calls China's 'swarming and threatening presence' at the Whitsun Reef. The Whitsun Reef is claimed by China, the Philippines and Vietnam.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea under its nine-dash line. Now, China has reportedly moored over 200 vessels at the Whitsun Reef. All of these vehicles are within Manila's 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone.

Manila claims that these vehicles are being manned by the Chinese maritime militia. And if that's not a provocation enough, reports says China has also begun construction activities on one of its artificial islands.

It is being called a 'prelude to occupation'. This artificial island is also within the Philippines' EEZ. 

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While the Philippines called out Chinese aggressiveness at the Whitsun Reef, Vietnam was not far behind. Hanoi calls the reef- Da Ba Dau.

On 25th of March, it called on China to stop this violation and respect Vietnam's sovereignty.

Vietnam sent its coastguard vessels near the disputed area.

It said that the coastgard was 'exercising its duties as regulated by laws'.

The Philippines has deployed its air force.

China clearly is being challenged at sea. Things are not too comfortable in the mainland either.

Its crimes like the Uyghur genocide are being called out. The UK and the EU have already asked for access to Xinjiang. The UN is the latest to join the queue. The world body says that it is holding serious negotiations with China and that it wants unfettered access to Xinjiang.

"For us, it's important for the mission to take place, to be a mission that has unlimited access to what the human rights high commission want to visit. And this, of course, is the reason why a serious negotiation is at the present moment that taking place," said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

In February, the UN's Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet called for a thorough assessment of the situation in Xinjiang. She cited reports of arbitrary detention, ill-treatment, sexual violence and forced labour. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, Bachelet's visit is being negotiated.

Where does all of this leave China?

The countries Beijing tried to silence with its vaccine diplomacy are now calling China out. Its aggressive posturing is being challenged. The world bodies China tried to bribe are now highlighting the genocide in Xinjiang.

Is the world finally coming together to make China pay?