Twenty years ago, on November 4, 2002, when China and the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) signed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (SCS) Develop friendship and cooperation among stakeholders to promote “21st-century-oriented partnerships of friendship and mutual trust”. This partnership is critical in promoting the blue economy in South Carolina. According to the World Bank, the blue economy is “the sustainable use of marine resources for economic growth, livelihoods and employment while maintaining the health of marine ecosystems.”
Under the DOC, States parties will promote a “peaceful, friendly and harmonious environment” in the SCS by refraining from conducting unilateral activities that may complicate or escalate ongoing conflicts. agreed to make greater efforts to They also agreed to refrain from “behaviours that currently inhabit uninhabited islands, reefs, shallow waters, bays, and other features” and to deal with existing differences in a constructive manner. decided to “intensify efforts to seek ways to build trust and confidence among themselves in the spirit of cooperation and understanding” through the following measures:
- Engage in dialogue and exchange of views between defense and military officials as appropriate.
- Ensure fair and humane treatment of all people in danger or suffering.
- Voluntarily notify other Parties concerned of impending joint/joint military exercises; and
- Voluntarily exchange relevant information
Pending a “comprehensive and lasting resolution of the dispute”, all parties committed to seek practical cooperation in the following functional areas:
- Marine environmental protection;
- marine science research;
- Safety of navigation and communications at sea;
- search and rescue operations; and
- Fighting international crime, including but not limited to illegal drug trafficking, maritime piracy and armed robbery, illegal arms trafficking, and international terrorism
These aforementioned functional areas are undoubtedly essential to fostering China-ASEAN partnerships for the Blue Economy in the South China Sea. The United Nations (UN) argues that the blue economy “consists of a series of economic sectors and associated policies that together determine whether the use of marine resources is sustainable”. The DOC has identified functional areas where China and ASEAN members can work together to build a blue economy in the South China Sea.
In 2005, China and ASEAN established a working group to implement the DOC. The working group also drafted the SCS Code of Conduct (COC) and elevated the status of the DOC. But Beijing wanted to implement the DOC first, rather than concluding her COC, so China rejected it in 2010. In 2011, China and ASEAN adopted guidelines for implementing the DOC.
However, the parties, especially the advocates, have been forced to scramble through unilateral patrols, development of military facilities, upgrades of civilian infrastructure, land reclamation operations, and even new occupations of land features in the case of Scarborough Shoal conducted by China. 2012, ten years after the DOC was signed. DOCs are also legally flawed because they are not binding. Therefore, the accounting stakeholder for violating the DOC was a very big challenge. Additionally, the DOC contains many exemplary maternity statements that are not strictly adhered to in the field.
The DOC was a landmark agreement in the SCS and China-ASEAN relations as Parties committed to upholding the “obligation to cooperate” in the SCS in anticipation of economic and political benefits. However, the DOC has inherent limitations in managing SCS disputes due to its unclear geographic scope, ambiguous legal nature, and ambiguous implementation mechanisms. Parties may even impose these restrictions on themselves in their own national interest. More importantly, China and ASEAN member states signed the DOC not to actually resolve territorial or maritime jurisdiction disputes, but primarily to build trust essential to avoid armed conflict in the South China Sea. to build the .
Moreover, the overall security dynamics of China-Southeast Asia relations have inherent strategic contradictions that affect not only the implementation of the DOC, but also the overall management of the SCS conflict. China and ASEAN faced many obstacles in implementing the DOC as the parties acted unilaterally. Such actions contradicted multilateral initiatives and were driven by domestic considerations. China’s assertiveness to defend its sovereignty position in the SCS also posed major challenges to the implementation of the DOC.
Nevertheless, the DOC paved the way, set the tone and framed the negotiations on the COC. In fact, the idea of adopting a COC was inspired by ASEAN’s declaration in 1992 requiring all parties to exercise the necessary restraint to create a conducive environment for the final resolution of SCS disputes. It started when it was announced. After China occupied Mischief Reef in 1995, the Philippines stepped in in 1996 and the COC was formally recognized by ASEAN. Discussions on the COC took time, and in 2002 ASEAN agreed to water it down and become a DOC with China.
As the 2012 Scarborough Shoal standoff raised regional security concerns over China’s maritime power, ASEAN member states urged Beijing to discuss and negotiate a new COC, and the Philippines encouraged ASEAN to urged unity. In 2014, China and ASEAN initiated COC discussions and agreed to adopt the COC Single Draft Negotiating Text (SDNT) on 3 August 2018. Finally agreed with the COC’s final conclusions “in accordance with international law, in particular the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).” SDNT has reaffirmed the principle of “obligation to cooperate” mandated by UNCLOS and DOC.
However, the SDNT failed to elaborate on the “obligation of States Parties to UNCLOS to comply immediately with awards issued through arbitration procedures established under Annex VII.” The SDNT also had unresolved issues regarding geographic scope, the nature of the activities covered, dispute resolution, and obligations to cooperate. Role of Third Parties and Legal Status of COCs. However, through SDNT, China has announced that she is ready to adopt her COC within three years. This meant that the COC would be signed by the end of 2022. Due to her COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, members of China and ASEAN apparently missed the deadline after his two readings.
The current status of COC negotiations is part of the DOC upgrade after 20 years. To implement the DOC bilaterally and assist in COC negotiations, the Philippines and China have established a Bilateral Consultative Mechanism (BCM) at the SCS.
The BCM is the official mechanism for bilateral consultations between China and the Philippines to discuss various issues of the SCS that affect Philippine-China relations. The BCM aims not only to promote confidence-building measures, but also to pursue preventive diplomacy towards the development of a blue economy in the SCS. As mandated by the DOC, the Philippines and China have agreed to pursue BCM in order to strengthen friendly relations and to manage their differences peacefully even if they do not ultimately resolve their differences regarding the SCS dispute. did.
The BCM will not only improve bilateral relations that were undermined by the 2012 Scarborough Shoal confrontation and the international arbitration case, but will also work to ease the overall security tensions of the SCS between Manila and Beijing. has served as an important communication channel for However, BCM has some built-in limitations. It merely provides a consultation mechanism to rebuild trust and promote mutual trust between the two countries. BCM does not provide a platform for formal negotiations, but it can provide some steps towards this end. In fact, BCM is the confidence-building measure (CBM) that the Philippines and China really need to promote cooperation by promoting mutual understanding as required by the DOC.
So far, the Philippines and China have been established through a BCM working group that seeks to promote practical cooperation in the South China Sea. 1) Working Group on Political Security, Fisheries Cooperation. 2) Working Group on Marine Scientific Research and Marine Environmental Protection. They also formed the Joint Philippine-China Intergovernmental Steering Committee on Oil and Gas Development Cooperation. Recently, the Philippines and China have sought cooperation in coordinating search and rescue operations, disaster response, and maritime law enforcement.
In other words, 20 years after the adoption of the DOC, the Philippines and China have come a long way to promote cooperation amid existing territorial and maritime jurisdiction disputes in the South China Sea through the BCM. The BCM is an exemplary bilateral effort to support multilateral initiatives to peacefully manage the many issues of SCS in pursuit of partnerships for a blue economy in this important waterway. The administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has many lessons to learn from these experiences. Especially in the context of President Xi Jinping’s intention to support friendly consultations with China under his third term and to resolve their differences on the SCS peacefully and constructively.
*Speech at the “Symposium on Building Partnerships for the Blue Economy” held in Haikou, Hainan Province, China on November 27, 2022. An earlier version of this speech was also delivered at the 20th International Workshop.th “South China Sea Action Declaration Day” hosted by Taiwan Center for Security Studies and National Taiwan Normal University on November 25, 2022 in Taipei, Taiwan.
This lecture is largely based on Rommel C. Banlaoi’s “Cooperation in Conflicts in the South China Sea” published in the Journal of Chinese Studies, Vol. 15, 2021, pp. 7-30.read the original article https://www.chinesestudiesjournal.org/volumes/volume-15-2021/cooperation-amid-conflict-in-the-south-china-sea-theoretical-perspective.
**Dr. Rommel C. Banlaoi is a Filipino political scientist, international studies expert, and national security advocate. He was named Deputy National Security Advisor in July 2022, but has returned to regular schoolwork as an independent academic. He is President of the Philippine Institute for Information Security Studies (PSISS), President of the Philippine Institute of Peace, Violence and Terrorism Studies (PIPVTR), and a board member of the China-Southeast Asia Studies Center for Southern China. Sea (CSARC). He is also a member of the National Asian Research Bureau (NBR) and the International Expert Panel of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation’s Maritime Awareness Project (MAP). He is President of the Philippine Association for Chinese Studies (PACS), Member of the Board of Directors of the World Association for Chinese Studies (WACS), Adjunct Research Professor at the National South China Sea Research Institute (NISCSS), and Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS).