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Beijing scoffs at a South China Sea ruling, as China’s netizens mock the Philippines as a “banana seller”

AP Photo/Ritchie B. Tongo
A photo taken from a military plane shows Mischief Reef, in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
By Heather Timmons, Zheping Huang
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Beijing is refusing to recognize an international court ruling Tuesday (July 12) that declared much of its activity in the South China Sea illegal and environmentally destructive. Instead, an editorial in a state-sponsored newspaper strikes out at the US, and pledges not to vacate areas now internationally recognized as territory of the Philippines.

China “neither accepts nor recognizes” the tribunal’s decision, the foreign ministry said in a lengthy statement. The arbitration is “out of bad faith,” it claims:

It aims not to resolve the relevant disputes between China and the Philippines, or to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea, but to deny China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea… China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea shall under no circumstances be affected by those awards. China opposes and will never accept any claim or action based on those awards.

Ahead of the ruling, Chinese president Xi Jinping told visiting European Council president Donald Tusk and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker that he would reject the tribunal’s action.

An editorial in the state mouthpiece People’s Daily went further. The decision is a “farce” backed by a US-led conspiracy, the editor-in-chief of the paper wrote. Washington has “taken sides from the very beginning,” colluded with its allies, and manipulated the tribunal, he wrote. He ends with a vague threat:

The U.S. motives are apparent to the world, especially to the Chinese people. The current China is nothing like the country it was one hundred years ago. Any act that tries to violate China’s territorial sovereignty will fail.

Meanwhile the subject is tonight’s big discussion topic for China’s netizens. “South China Sea arbitration” is the top trending topic on Sina Weibo, with 360 million views at about 9pm in Beijing.


China’s nationalistic state-run tabloid Global Times started a campaign asking Weibo users to sign up under a post against the ruling and “express Chinese people’s voice to the international community.” The post has garnered more than 21,000 comments so far, with many signing their name simply “Chinese people.”

‘The arbitration is an empty paper,” one blogger wrote under that post. “We just think of it as a bunch of idiots talking to themselves.”

Another said: “South China Sea, Diaoyu [Senkaku] Islands, and Taiwan—they all belong to China.” Others are calling for “starting a war” or “boycotting the Philippines.”

A popular online cartoon calls the Philippines a “banana seller” (the country exports a lot of bananas to China), who gets slapped in face by his “father,” China. The plot plays out like this:

The Philippines: The South China Sea is not China’s.

China: (Staring with wisdom.) Oh? Really?

The Philippines: (I’m panicking.)

China: How dare you! A banana seller dares to rob the South China Sea from your father!

Hours before the ruling, defense ministry chief spokesman Yang Yujun pledged that China’s military “will resolutely protect the country’s national sovereignty, security and maritime rights and interests, and will address threats and challenges.” 

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