Although the results of the South China Sea arbitration were released more than a week ago, activity in the area is by and large quiet. China continues construction on the islands, two airports conducted test flights on the Nansha Islands and the Chinese air force performed combat patrols over the Huangyan Islands.
Yesterday, eight "legislators" from Taiwan arrived on the Taiping Island to make a pledge of sovereignty. Both sides appear to have some kind of objective. All this, and the U.S., Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam have not produced any strong backlash; these arbitration results have not had any practical results. China is calling it just "a piece of paper," and apparently they aren't wrong.
The U.S. and Japan still have some dirty tricks. Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Australia to gather support from top Australian leadership regarding the arbitration results. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe desires to discuss this topic during the ASEM Summit (Asia-Europe Meeting), but many countries are dodging his request.
Vietnam and the Philippines have made several statements regarding how the West is treating this as if it is winning a big treasure. The Vietnamese government’s official website published a statement denying that the Vietnamese prime minister offered Prime Minister Li Keqiang his support during a meeting. Furthermore, [Vietnam] declared that it "respects China's position on the South China Sea and is willing to promote bilateral negotiations." Vietnam officials have complained that the statement is "inaccurate." The Philippine foreign minister expressed that China had proposed that [the two countries] have a dialogue about the South China Sea, but the Philippines does not agree that this ruling shouldn’t be the foundation of the dialogue.
The positions of Vietnam and the Philippines don’t come as a surprise, nor is [the position] very provocative. They are especially not successful in increasing the amount of pressure they are placing on China regarding the South China Sea.
Other countries besides the U.S. and Japan are listening to the declarations that an overwhelming majority of officials in Washington are just "blurting out." After Biden’s trip to Australia, the Australians are more or less supporting the U.S. and Japan.
Foreign nations are vigorously meddling in the affairs of the South China Sea, which is rather abnormal. The reason America is involved is because it has hegemonic ambitions, and Japan because it must always make Chinese expansion difficult. Most other countries have no interest exerting their strength wading in the South China Sea's muddied waters.
The court’s decision obviously makes Vietnam and the Philippines very happy. Hanoi and Manila, however, have made it clear that the arbitration results are simply not practical. Even if they cannot admit that it is "a piece of paper," they also know that the U.S. and Japan are dominating this game in order to grab themselves a piece of the cake. They also equally understand that the U.S. and Japan are probably using them as tools. They have real interests and desire to resolve their disputes with China through peaceful negotiations.
Washington has declared that this operation will have narrow expenses, but ultimately it will find itself in an economic bubble. If [Washington] wants something real to come of this, it is going to have to go beyond mere haggling and spend money. As far as expenses go, I’m afraid Washington cannot rely on Tokyo.
The U.S. general election is slowly reaching a climax. Will President Obama take the risk with China in the South China Sea showdown? Probably not. Trump's leadership style exceeds what is normal [for the situation], but after all is said and done, he is just an out of place "big mouth." President Obama is fooling America into believing that using this paper arbitration will not cheat others; in fact, it is really just cheating his own country. Recklessness in the South China Sea will lead to confrontation with China, giving way to an earthquake in the whole Asia-Pacific region and proving that Obama is the “toy" version of Trump.
China believes that the United States can hold a rational baseline. After all, democracy will not cross the line of what is just. Certainly, in order to guard against unknown circumstances, it is believed that China will take necessary steps to prepare.
With these so-called arbitration results, the South China Sea will likely become a unique game of Sino-American relations. By the time the new U.S. president is elected, U.S. muscle flexing in the South China Sea will most likely increase and Sino-American competition will perhaps be more impressive to watch. Nevertheless, that has nothing to do with this so-called arbitration. It will be more about the difference in two countries’ relations from their previous history of entanglement and collision.