The International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea has ruled on the case that the Philippines brought in 2013, challenging China’s claims and behavior in the South China Sea. International lawyers and the policy commentariat has judged the ruling as a sweeping victory for the Philippines and a significant loss for China, which refused to acknowledge the tribunal’s jurisdiction or to take part in the proceedings.
The question going forward is how China will respond. Will it double down on the aggressive and coercive activities of the past six years, behavior that has put most of its East Asian neighbors on guard?
Will it continue to interpret the Law of the Sea in self-serving ways that very few countries accept? Or, might China recognize that its South China Sea strategy has been an utter failure and that its best response is to take a more restrained and neighborly approach?