Greg Baker | AFP | Getty Images
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea — a vast tract of water through which a huge chunk of global shipping passes. The Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam have competing claims to parts of the sea, which is believed to harbor significant oil and gas deposits.
Control of the region is valuable because more than $5 trillion worth of global trade passes through the South China Sea each year, and China has been accused of ramping up tensions over control in recent years by building artificial islands on reefs, on which it has added airstrips and other military-style installations.
State-run broadcaster CCTV’s also dedicated an entire multimedia section on its English website devoted to the issue, including explainer videos, expert interviews and commentaries.
At the heart of it all is Beijing’s worry that it would be perceived negatively should The Hague rules in favor of the Philippines claims, even though China insists it does not care about the decision, sometimes even stressing this point belligerently.
“The Chinese do care very much, particularly the possibility that their nine-dash line claim could be ruled inconsistent with the (United Nations) Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),” Bonnie Glaser, Center for Strategic and International Studies’ director of the China Power Project told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Wednesday.
“The fact that the Chinese are trying to rally support from every country that they can regardless of how far afield or how small, demonstrates that the Chinese do care about their reputation and image,” she added.