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South China Sea dispute: Beijing sees plot to contain rise

BEIJING (The Straits Times/ANN) - China's anxieties are exposed in its propanda campaign over the ruling. This is part of a special report on the South China Sea issue ahead of The Hague ruling.

China believes the arbitration tribunal has no jurisdiction over the case and thus the ruling has no legal binding effect on its South China Sea territorial claims.

The reasons: China had exempted itself from arbitration on matters involving national sovereignty and China and the Philippines had earlier agreed to use direct negotiations, not third-party mechanisms, to resolve their sea disputes.

Dai Bingguo, a former state councillor in charge of foreign affairs, said at a forum in the United States last Tuesday that the ruling would be "nothing but a piece of useless paper" to China.

The Chinese government also views the case as a plot by the US and its allies to hurt China's national sovereignty and sully its image as a country that respects international law, in a bid to contain its rise.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in a phone call with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday, labelled the case "a farce that should be stopped".

Despite its rhetoric, China's propaganda campaign exposes its anxieties over the ruling. The key factor for China is what the Philippines does. China's response may be subdued if Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte agrees to set aside the ruling and resume bilateral talks.

The worst-case scenario is the declaration of a Chinese air defence zone over the South China Sea, or at least an escalation in China's military deployment and exercises.

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