China ignores international tribunal—as expected

By John Mecklin | July 12, 2016

Major media made much of an international tribunal's decision that China's vast territorial claims in the South China Sea have no legal basis. The Permanent Court of Arbitration's rejection of Beijing's broad assertions of sovereignty in the South China Sea was, the Washington Post asserted, "a major blow to Beijing that could further inflame tensions."

But Graham Allison, director of Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, has a different—and to my way of thinking, much more realistic—way of looking at the ruling: "It may seem un-American to ask whether China should do as we say, or, by contrast, as we do. But suppose someone were bold enough to pose that question. The first thing they would discover is that no permanent member of the UN Security Council has ever complied with a ruling by the [Permanent Court of Arbitration] on an issue involving the Law of the Sea." Allison's piece for The Diplomat explains well why the world should have expected China to ignore the ruling, citing Thucydides’ summary of the Melian mantra—“the strong do as they will; the weak suffer as they must”—to witty effect.

Publication Name: The Diplomat
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