Update, August 2, 2021: Over the last few years, many countries have clarified their positions on the July 2016 South China Sea arbitration ruling and the validity of China’s maritime claims. Based on these developments, AMTI has updated its tracker of official public stances on the arbitration. As a result, we have identified 8 governments that have publicly called for the ruling to be respected, 34 that have issued generally positive statements noting the verdict but have stopped short of calling for the parties to abide by it, and 8 that have publicly rejected it.
What this exercise shows is that shifts have been relatively minor since the tracker’s last major update five years ago. Only two countries, Germany and the United Kingdom, evolved from positively acknowledging the ruling to explicitly calling for it to be respected. Two others, Russia and Syria, moved from neutral statements to rejecting it. And one country, Indonesia, shifted from neutral to vaguely positive. Everyone else remains exactly where they were a month after the ruling was issued. And for most countries, that means studiously silent.
Post-Arbitration Support Tracker
An interactive map of the July 2016 outcome is available here. How many countries recognize the decision as legally binding on both parties and call for it to be respected will determine its ultimate value, as international pressure is the only enforcement mechanism. AMTI has scoured publicly available, official statements to determine the real positions taken by countries. It is useful to compare this evolving list with the public positions of countries before the ruling.
Pre-Arbitration Support Tracker
Chinese officials and state media before the ruling had trumpeted the number of countries voicing support for Beijing’s position that the tribunal lacked jurisdiction in the case and the ruling was therefore invalid. On the eve of the ruling, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed that number had climbed to more than 60, but had not provided a list of the countries or, in most cases, evidence for their support. AMTI identified 65 countries that appeared to be included in China’s list of supporters before the verdict. Of those, 31 had publicly confirmed their support. In contrast, 41 countries had said that the arbitral award would be legally binding and had called on both China and the Philippines to respect it.
Support for China’s position ahead of the ruling was defined as an explicit public statement that 1) the arbitral tribunal lacked jurisdiction or legitimacy; 2) the right of states to choose their own method of dispute resolution should be respected (and therefore compulsory dispute mechanisms such as the tribunal are invalid); or 3) the right of states to exempt certain types of disputes from compulsory settlement as provided for by article 298 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea should be respected (which China claims invalidates the arbitral proceedings because they actually touched upon boundary delimitation, from which it has exempted itself).
AMTI will endeavor to keep this list constantly updated. If you believe we have overlooked or misinterpreted the statements of any countries, please email AMTI@csis.org.