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Editor’s Note: This piece by Hannah Ng and Tiffany Meier is based on an interview with CSP Senior Fellow Grant Newsham.

China sees international ruling on maritime disputes as “scrap paper,” according to Grant Newsham, a retired Marine colonel and senior research fellow at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies.

He referenced a complaint launched by the Philippines against China in 2013 at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, seeking a judgment on its right to use the waters around the South China Sea islands and reefs it controls.

The PCA dismissed China’s South China Sea claims outright in 2016, emphasizing that China intruded on Philippine sovereignty through operations such as island-building in Manila’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

“And you get a decision, and you have this international body rule on it. And everyone agrees that they will be bound by the jurisdiction. But when it comes to China, that Permanent Court of Arbitration decision was made, [but] the Chinese declared that it is no more than a piece of scrap paper, they weren’t going to follow it,” Newsham told “China in Focus” on NTD, the sister media outlet of The Epoch Times.

Since the ruling, the communist regime reportedly has continued to fortify and militarily bolster its holdings in the South China Sea.

Use ‘Considerable Strength’ to Subdue China

Since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) does not appreciate and observe international law and ruling, Newsham suggested that it should be “dealt with from a position of strength and considerable strength to the point that it’s not worth it for them to take you on.”

“And it’s not just to say who could win a fight in the South China Sea. But this is a much broader sort of struggle, and you can apply economic pressure, financial pressure, and even propaganda, psychological pressure in this fight,” he said.

“And you are best advised to really spread the battlefield and use every tool you have at your resources and make it so that it’s not worth it for China to do what it is doing in the South China Sea,” he added.

He said that it is a simple strategy, but making it work is challenging.

US-China Conflict

In the event of a U.S.-China conflict, and the battlefield is limited to the South China Sea, “the Chinese would have some advantages in terms of ships and ground-based and air-launched anti-ship missiles,” Newsham said.

“But you expand it to the whole globe, where China stands to lose all of its international trade, everything goes overseas, it becomes an agrarian society once again, then we would have an advantage for now.

“And I’m not entirely sure who would come out on top; both sides would suffer an awful lot of inconvenience, to put it mildly. So I’d like to think, though, that the free people fighting for their lives for interest generally have an advantage over aggressive totalitarian expansionist regimes,” he said.

To avoid such a military conflict, Newsham said that the United States must have the “military might, but also that you have got your economic, your financial, and your political house in order, and that you are not giving the other side an advantage that is not warranted, not deserved, that he’s using to actually strengthen himself. … America’s economic and financial aid and investment in China is so self-defeating,” he said.

“And then politically, the United States has got to realize that it is one nation; it’s not warring tribes. And I wish that the people who are trying to present it as a collection of these warring tribes, ones that are resentful of each other, would stop doing what they’re doing. It’s just going to kill us if we don’t. You cannot survive as a country like this.”

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