South China Sea: China warns Australia must ‘cautiously behave’ in row over contested waterway

By Bill Birtles

Less than three weeks on since theInternational Court of Arbitration in the Hague dealt a devastating blowto the legal basis of China’s expansive claims in the contested South China Sea, Beijing appears to be claiming victory.

And with it, an increasingly aggressive posture towards Australia for calling on China to respect international law.

Over the weekend, China’s state media took delight in quoting American news reports that theUS strategy in response to the arbitrationruling was “failing”.

This belief, seemingly recognized in both Beijing and Washington, stems from a recent high level summit in which China managed to manipulate the outcome in its favour.

The meeting was the ASEAN summit in Laos, which presented the first chance for south-east Asian nations to respond since the international court ruling.

Four of the six nations that make overlapping claims in the South China Sea are members of ASEAN, while another member, Indonesia, has been involved in increasingly tense confrontations with Chinese fishermen on the sea.

But the joint statement concluding the meeting made no mention of the arbitration decision nor China.

Beijing has long been able to divide ASEAN and prevent the 10-nation bloc from presenting a united front on the South China Sea by ensuring countries reliant on China’s economic support, such as Cambodia, veto any moves that hurt China’s interests.

Foreign Ministry’s warnings to Australia

China, through its state-controlled media, then claimed a second diplomatic victory, this time over Australia.

Over the weekend, in an extraordinarily bitter attack, the Communist Party’s unofficial jingoistic tabloid Global Times penned a lead editorial denouncing Australia as a “paper cat” with an “inglorious history” that is often mocked by others.

Beijing says a joint statement issued by Australia, the US and Japan last week calling for China to abide by the Arbitration ruling was a failure because few other nations publicly backed that stance.

The strongly worded editorial follows a specific denouncement of Foreign Minister Julie Bishop two weeks ago by the Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang.

Comments she had made were singled out in a Dorothy Dixer question from a Chinese journalist, giving the Foreign Ministry spokesman an opportunity to warn Australia must “carefully talk and cautiously behave”.

Another sign of Chinese pressure since the court decision was seen through a small but well-organized protest in Melbourne from some members of the Chinese community, calling on Australia to back China’s rejection of the ruling.

“I think the editorials of Global Times are not exactly the Chinese Government’s position, but in a way it does reflect the displeasure of the Chinese Government”, said Shi Yinhong, an international relations professor at Renmin University.

“Australia’s stance on the arbitration along with Australia’s general attitude towards the United States and freedom of navigation exercises is [prompting] the Chinese Government and public opinion to look at whether Australia is really an ally of the United States in the South China Sea dispute,” he said.

Some online comments have even called for a Chinese tourism boycott of Australia.

While these voices may be restricted to China’s most zealous online patriots, it nonetheless reflects official attempts by Beijing to direct an increasing amount of pressure on Australia.

Courtesy: ABC News

You may also like...