'We won't have to live in fear anymore': readers on the South China Sea ruling

We asked people living in east Asia what they think of the South China sea verdict


‘I worry that China will become more bellicose’

I applaud this decision. It tosses out China’s ludicrous claim over almost all of the disputed waters and recognises the Philippines’ sovereign right to administer its own exclusive economic zone in what we call the West Philippine Sea.

I worry, however, that China will become more bellicose in the wake of this decision and flex its military muscles more visibly, prompting the US to do the same, which could lead to heightened tensions in the region. I’m also concerned about Duterte’s seemingly pro-China stance and his desire to acquiesce to China’s demands for bilateral talks.

JP, Manila

‘Anyone can draw a line on a map and stake a claim’

This is a beautiful new world order from The Hague. It is a ruling for everyone on planet Earth. China should shake off its old self and join in to construct a truly better sustainable, longer lasting and peaceful world.

Anyone can draw a fanciful line on a distorted historical map that looks like Pangaea and stake a claim.

Anonymous, 58, Malaysia

‘It’s a victory for world justice and international law’

I welcome the South China Sea ruling. It means small countries like the Philippines and Vietnam who are often bullied by China can still believe in world justice and international law. We live in the 21st century, not in he Middle Ages when China thought it was the centre of the world. As part of a civilized world, we cannot accept a power who has acted in contradiction and has wanted to use force to impose the rule over the South China Sea.

Do not listen to what the Chinese government says. Do they really want peace, stability, prosperity for the region or do they want supremacy? Vietnam and the Philippines just want peace for their own prosperity and development. In short, the ruling means victory of international law over the outlaws, and honesty over dishonesty in the world of politics.

Anonymous, Vietnam

Workers chat near a map of South China Sea on display at a maritime defense educational facility in Nanjing in east China’s Jiangsu province.
Workers chat near a map of South China Sea on display at a maritime defense educational facility in Nanjing in east China’s Jiangsu province. Photograph: AP

‘It could affect the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’

For me, living in Cambodia, the big issue is how the Chinese claims will affect the development of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as a political entity. Some ASEAN members (including the Philippines and Vietnam) are directly involved, whereas others (Cambodia and Laos) have no direct interest in the ruling, but will experience strong pressure from Beijing to support its claims.

Jan Jaap Kleinrensink, 54, Phnom Penh

‘I’m really proud our small country has been able to challenge a country like China’

It means a lot, actually! We’ve been fighting this for a long time. It’s a big deal for a small country like the Philippines to challenge a big country like China and I’m really proud of this. This could also give countries like Vietnam and Taiwan, who are also having territory disputes with China, all the more reason not to back down now that the international court has backed the Philippines.

While I’m happy we won this case I’m also worried about our relations with China. There are plenty of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in China and I fear that they will be affected by this ruling. I’ve heard that trading has been affected as well; some parts of China have boycotted our banana exports because of this dispute. As China has refused to recognize the tribunal, the court decision might not completely mean a happy ending for us. I’d say yes to aggression, but this may lead to war, which I admit is something we cannot afford right now.

With all the little wars we have had to deal with in our country alone, being aggressive towards China is too big of a risk. We’re not powerful enough to do that as much as I hate to admit it. The people are divided; some want to negotiate with China, and some want them completely out of the picture. This would also cause some countries to take sides and that would not be pretty. The worst case scenario is that this entire dispute will spark a war. We don’t want that. The bottom line is that this ruling affects me in both good and bad ways. I’m just not sure which one has the bigger impact.

Anonymous, 22, Manila


‘Our main concern is how to protect our fishermen’

The Hague ruling is a milestone for our country especially for Filipino fishermen who were and still are being bullied by China in the West Philippine Sea. However, it is still early for us to rejoice knowing that China is not heeding the ruling. Our main concern now is how will the present Philippine government assert the country’s rights over the West Philippine Sea and its plans on how to protect our fishermen and the country’s maritime territories.

Hershey, 24, Manila

‘Hopefully south-east Asian countries won’t have to live in fear anymore’

Hopefully it means China won’t be able to exert their military influence in south-east Asia. Lots of Chinese fishing vessels had been fishing illegally throughout the area but most countries weren’t able to really put pressure on China because of their military presence in the South China Sea.

I hope that with this court ruling China will start to mellow and south-east Asian countries won’t have to live in fear of them anymore.

Lauw, 20, Indonesia

‘This will only further provoke China’

Personally, I feel uncomfortable rather than angered by the action of the Philippines. Unlike the absolute majority of my Chinese compatriots, I consider that the Philippines has some reasonable grounds for its claims. Nevertheless, bringing the case to the Court in Hague for arbitration at this time is a stupid move: the Chinese government has been putting up a nationalist rhetoric for so long while the absolute majority of Chinese people buy this rhetoric.

The Philippines and its allies must have already known that China would never accept this judgment under the current situation. On the contrary, in any short term, this action would only further provoke China and make China further victimize and isolate itself from the region and even from the rest of the world.

Oblaka, 26, Beijing

‘The nine-dash line has always been there’

This calls into question the integrity of China. Since I first saw a map of China in elementary school the nine-dash line has always been there. I can’t and won’t suddently accept it is not ours just because of some not-so-perfect international laws.

Shi Jian, China

‘Nobody seems to bother finding out the reasons for the ruling for themselves’

I live in the eastern province of China and have found, to my disappointment, that some of my friends or colleagues are deeply influenced by the government’s propaganda. There are some very aggressive posts on social networks like WeChat.

Nobody seems to bother finding out why the court ruled in favour of the Philippines or what the facts. Why did Beijing gave up its chance to defend itself in court? Why did Beijing fail to take a better approach to avoid what has become an even worse situation? People seem to have lost ther ability to think independently or are easily influenced by the government’s distortions, biased reports or brainwashing.

Tom, 29, Shandong

Protesters display placards in Makati, Manila hours before the Hague-based UN international arbitration tribunal announced its ruling on the South China Sea on Tuesday.
Protesters display placards in Makati, Manila hours before the Hague-based UN international arbitration tribunal announced its ruling on the South China Sea on Tuesday. Photograph: Bullit Marquez/AP

‘I expect an armed conflict in the next 10 years’

For me it is yet another step towards WWIII. For a few years the situation here has been sliding downhill, faster and faster. And I don’t see frankly how we can get out of this mess without an armed conflict in the next 10 years. The new leader of the Philippines is unpredictable and Japan is governed by a party who does whatever it wants.

The most worrying thing for me is that even the Chinese western-educated elite is blindly following what Beijing propaganda is saying, without any questioning or doubt. They are (a bit like Japan in the 80s) discovering their power and are not willing to lose face and give up any of it. I’m questioning whether I should stay here or move somewhere safer where my family won’t be threatened to fight a useless war.

Alex, 36, Japan

‘If China don’t back off they will force other countries to militarise’

I hope China realises it can’t bully everyone. Other countries in the region have coexisted peacefully for decades. In addition to their territorial ambitions, their disregard for fishery rights and other matters will only push countries to militarise. Just look at how they have pushed the reactionary changes in Japan.

Anonymous, 40, Singapore

‘The prospect of oil and gas has tempted many countries’

It is as I expected. China’s claim to the rocks and reefs so close to the Philippines is not justified, depriving local Filipinos of rich fishing ground. The reclamation work in the last couple of years has done a lot of damage to the delicate ecological environment, especially the coral reefs. The prospect of oil and natural gas has tempted countries around the South China Sea to grab any rock or reef they can lay their hands on and its not only China which is trying to do this. Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines are doing pretty much the same thing. But China’s position in respect to its claim looks stretched at best as most of them are very far away from Hainan, the nearest Chinese territory hospitable to people.

China should concede some of the islands to Vietnam and the Philippines in return for a more harmonious relationship. But in the present circumstances the Chinese government will not accept this ruling.

PC Ng, Hong Kong


Rachel Obordo and Guardian readers

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