Time for your weekly round-up of China links, starting with the latest developments in the South China Sea…
The Diplomat reported yesterday that the Philippines won a preliminary victory in its arbitration case against China on the South China Sea disputes: the Permanent Court of Arbitration has decided that it does have jurisdiction over the case, and will allow it to move forward to arguments. Predictably, China was not pleased — Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang called the court’s ruling “null and void” in a regular press conference on Friday.
“[T]he Philippines and the Arbitral Tribunal have abused relevant procedures, misrepresented the law and obstinately forced ahead with the arbitration, and as a result, have severely violated the legitimate rights that China enjoys as a State Party to the UNCLOS,” Lu said.
China has also lodged “solemn representations” with the Philippine ambassador to China over the case. “China’s stance of neither accepting nor participating in the international arbitration does not change and will not change,” Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin told the ambassador.
Meanwhile, the U.S. freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef in the South China Sea has generated a mountain of coverage. Here at The Diplomat, we’ve covered the op itself, China’s response, the reaction from other Asian governments, why we still don’t know if China even claims a territorial sea around Subi Reef, and how both China and the U.S. stand to benefit from the FONOP. If you still haven’t gotten enough South China Sea/FONOP coverage, check out this Q&A with some of the experts at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.
Next week, Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr, the commander of U.S. Pacific Command, is heading to Beijing and People’s Daily says the South China Sea disputes will feature prominently on the agenda.
Shockingly, the South China Sea FONOP was not the only thing that happened in China news this week – though it may seem like it. China held its hugely important fifth plenum, where top leaders discussed and finalized the 13th Five Year Plan to govern China’s economic and social policies from 2016 to 2020. I list the main takeaways here. Though the plenum communique didn’t mention a concrete growth target (other than a renewed pledge to double China’s 2010 GDP by 2020), Bloomberg reports that Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has pegged 6.53 percent annual growth as the minimum necessary level.
In an update to my previous piece on Nepal’s fuel shortage, Reuters reports that China and Nepal have signed a deal that will see the landlocked Himalayan country import fuel from China for the first time. Nepal Oil Corp and National United Oil Corp (PetroChina) signed a memorandum of understanding on the fuel supplies, with China also pledging to supply 1,000 tonnes of fuel as a grant.
Germany’s Angela Merkel just wrapped up her visit to China, and France’s Francois Hollande will be heading to China next week. To mark those occasions, the German and French ambassadors to China wrote a joint op-ed for People’s Daily arguing that their countries are China’s most important partners within the European Union. A hint of rivalry with the U.K., perhaps?
Xi Jinping himself will be traveling again next week: he’s slated to visit Vietnam and Singapore, according to Xinhua.
Finally, Freedom House released its annual Freedom on the Net report this week. China has never scored well, but this year it came in dead last – edging out Syria and Iran for the country with the least free internet. The country-specific report is here; most notably, China earned a ‘perfect’ 40 out of 40 (with 40 being the worst possible score) for violating internet user rights.