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SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT PEKING UNIVERSITY

After Philippines v China: The South China Sea Dispute and the Politics of International Law in the Trump Era


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Richard Collins, Lecturer in International Law, Sutherland School of Law, University College Dublin

15:00 to 16:30pm  2017/03/15 Wednesday

Room 134, Leo KoGuan Building, School of Government

Abstract

In the case of the the Philippines v China the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) delivered a sobering but not necessarily surprising or unfair decision on the merits of the claims brought by the Philippines as to certain entitlements arising from the various maritime features (islands, rocks, reefs, etc.) of the South China Sea. However, in making its ruling and in reconfirming its jurisdiction to do so, the Hague tribunal has faced unrelenting criticism from Beijing, with China continuing to not only assert the validity of its claim over the islands, rocks and waters of the South China Sea, but also resolute in its rejection of the jurisdiction of the tribunal to make any such award against it.

The presentation takes a critical look at the ruling on the basis of international law, but also places it in a strategic political context. Whilst it finds that the PCA was broadly correct to rule on the merits in the way that it did, it recognises nonetheless that the jurisdictional question was far from clear from an international legal, as well as a global-strategic perspective. From the latter perspective, in particular, one may doubt that the ruling will indeed contribute to the achievement of the Rule of Law in the region and, if anything, has appeared to further stoke tensions locally and in US-China relations. Given the more conciliatory tone of the Philippines of late, as well as the seemingly more defiant stance of newly-elected US President Trump, there is potential for the South China Sea to become both a flashpoint and a catalyst for a new pivot in global geo-politics. The presentation will consider these risks, but also take a more optimistic consideration of a potentially more positive move forward that would seek to reengage regional multilateralism, working through ASEAN to find a negotiated form of local cooperation and co-existence whilst continuing to respect the rules of international law.

 

Biography

Richard joined the School of Law in January 2015. He was previously a lecturer at the School of Law, University of Sheffield, where he completed his PhD in 2011 looking at the institutional structure of the international legal order. Since September 2016, Richard is also Vice-Principal for Internationalisation in the College of Social Sciences and Law. Richard's primary research interests are in the fields of international law and jurisprudence, but he also has broader interests in political theory, legal history, the law of the sea and international organisations. He has held visiting research positions at the Amsterdam Center for International Law (ACIL), University of Amsterdam and the Centre of Excellence in Global Governance Research and Erik Castrén Institute of International Law and Human Rights, University of Helsinki.  Richard currently convenes and teaches Public International Law and the International Law of the Sea at undergraduate level, and co-teaches (with the School of Philosophy) an undergraduate module in Philosophy of Law.

 


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