China will not swallow bitter pill of humiliation
Updated: 2016-07-05 07:23
A formation of the Nanhai Fleet of China's Navy finished a three-day patrol of the Nansha islands in the South China Sea on Jan 25, 2014. [Photo/Xinhua]
China's announcement on Sunday that it will hold military drills around the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea in the coming week has naturally drawn a lot of media attention, given an arbitration tribunal in The Hague is due to deliver its ruling in the Philippines' case on July 12. The ruling is widely anticipated to go against China.
Despite China rightly rejecting the arbitration case on the grounds that the court has no jurisdiction, the Philippines and its main ally the United States have pushed to internationalize the issue.
They see the upcoming ruling as a chance not only to invalidate China's territorial claims in the South China Sea, but also an opportunity to reinforce their portrayal of the country as an outcast from a rules-based international community.
However, they have underestimated China's determination to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity. The days have long passed when the country was seen as the "sick man of East Asia", whose fate was at the mercy of a few Western powers.
It is naive to expect China to swallow the bitter pill of humiliation from this orchestrated attempt to run roughshod over it, and for it to sit idle while its interests are infringed and national security threatened.
So it is reasonable to interpret the planned drills as reflecting the country's preparedness for a long-term fight to safeguard its sovereignty. It has to plan for the worst.
China, as a peace-loving country, has been doing everything it can to avert a storm. It has been the last to start construction on its own reefs and islands. It has appealed to the other claimants in the region to shelve their differences and seek joint development. It has exercised the utmost restraint when the US Navy sent warships through its territorial waters in the name of freedom of navigation.
Yet its goodwill has not been reciprocated; its sincerity has been disregarded; and its restraint has been taken as a sign of weakness.
As the Chinese proverb goes: "The tree wants to remain quiet, but the wind won't stop".
The arbitration ruling is expected to further complicate the situation in the South China Sea and usher in more uncertainties. The US and its allies have already threatened to conduct joint patrols in addition to taking other steps to militarize the region.
Peace is never a one-sided wish, and preserving it in the South China Sea cannot be dependent on China sacrificing its legitimate rights.