International law

This photo taken on 6 October 2022 shows a cargo ship loaded with vehicles berthing at Yantai Port in China's eastern Shandong province. (AFP)

From rule taker to rule shaper: The importance of UNCLOS to China

China’s ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) not only helped Beijing to adapt to contemporary global ocean governance, but also reinforced the importance for China to develop a maritime strategy to safeguard its maritime rights and interests. For instance despite China’s rejection of the 2016 arbitral tribunal ruling of the Philippines’ case against China in the case of the South China Sea, it still refers to UNCLOS (rather than simply dismisses it) to explain its decision. It can be expected that UNCLOS can be a tool of political contestation in the great power competition between Beijing and Washington.
A view shows the State Historical Museum (C), St Basil's Cathedral (R) and one of the Stalin-era skyscrapers in downtown Moscow on 11 July 2022. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP)

No more Mongol-Russian style empire: Thoughts on the war in Ukraine

Chinese academic Deng Xize notes that the Mongol and Russian empires were very similar in origin and nature, but the conditions that allowed their rise and spread no longer exist today, leading to their inevitable decline. The global reaction to the war in Ukraine in fact shows that such empires will no longer be tolerated.
This aerial photo taken on 30 May 2022 shows the local fishing village of Neian in Xiyu Township on the Penghu islands. In the sleepy fishing towns on the Penghu islands, many locals are sanguine despite the frequent - and noisy - reminders of the military threat by neighbouring China. (Sam Yeh/AFP)

China-US war of words: Is Taiwan Strait international waters?

China has recently begun a campaign to say that the Taiwan Strait cannot be considered “international waters” based on the UNCLOS. Zaobao’s associate editor Han Yong Hong sees this as Beijing's way to assert its jurisdiction over the Taiwan Strait and that it is ready to boost and expand its scope of military actions over the area.
A family looks at the Forbidden City closed due to Covid-19 outbreak in Beijing on 17 May 2022. (Wang Zhao/AFP)

China's response to Ukraine war calls its values into question

Hong Kong businessman and political figure Lew Mon-hung notes that China used to have a strong sense of right and wrong, with values of righteousness and morality. However, looking at China’s reaction to the war in Ukraine, it seems that these values have been abandoned. And this can only lead to a shift in the progress that China has made over the past 40 years.
A group of naval vessels from China and Russia sails during joint military drills in the Sea of Japan, in this still image taken from video released on 18 October 2021. Video released 18 October 2021. (Russian Defence Ministry/Handout via Reuters)

Would cross-strait reunification threaten Japan's maritime oil routes?

Researcher Chen Hongbin says that Japan's reason for opposing cross-strait reunification, that China could sever Japanese maritime oil routes by firing from eastern Taiwan, is unfounded. China already has the capability to attack Japan's oil tankers anyway, even without reunification; but most importantly, any maritime security issue in the vicinity would pose a greater threat to China.
 A Philippine flag flutters from BRP Sierra Madre, a dilapidated Philippine Navy ship that has been aground since 1999 and became a Philippine military detachment on the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, part of the Spratly Islands, in the South China Sea, 29 March 2014. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)

This might be the way to solve the South China Sea disputes

Given that the historical evidence of physical acts of administration on the disputed rocks and reefs suggests that, with some important exceptions, the current occupiers of each feature have the best claim to sovereignty over it, Southeast Asian states have an interest in recognising each other’s de facto occupation of specific features and then presenting a united position to China. In tandem, NGOs can play a useful role by forming a "track two tribunal" to collect rival pieces of evidence, test the claimants’ legal arguments, and present the likely outcomes of any future international court hearing.
A vendor pushes a bicycle loaded with brushes and brooms for sale along a street in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on 10 February 2022. (Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP)

How will Cambodia manage the ASEAN chairmanship and China relations?

Though small, Cambodia is a state with agency, says Cambodian researcher Chheang Vannarith. The country has shown that it can stand up for what it believes in at key moments, such as when it decided to co-sponsor the UNGA resolution demanding Russia to withdraw its forces from Ukraine. As ASEAN chair for 2022, it seeks to bridge differences, and even if it has the image of being dominated by close friend China, this does not mean that it will do its every bidding.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (centre right) speaks with Dato Erywan Pehin Yusof, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Brunei (centre) in Liverpool, northwest England on 12 December 2021, at the ASEAN-G7 Foreign Ministers' Meeting. (Olivier Douliery/AFP)

ASEAN and the G7: Same bed, different dreams

ISEAS researcher Joanne Lin notes that the G7 is courting ASEAN in a bid to increase its profile in the Indo-Pacific. And while both groups share some common ground on issues such as the South China Sea and supply chains, they also diverge in significant ways on other issues such as supporting values of democracy and human rights, which stems as much from differences within ASEAN as the fact that expressing such views draws the ire of China.
Chinese coast guard personnel on duty, 2 May 2020. (Xinhua)

Indonesian academic: China’s new coast guard law escalatory and without legal basis

A new Chinese law, which gives its coast guard legal cover to fire on foreign vessels in contested waters, is worrying. Indonesian academic Aristyo Rizka Darmawan feels that countries seeking peace and stability in the South China Sea should do something about it.