China and the US Undercut International Law for Their Narrow Interests

Major powers tend to reject international law when rulings run counter to their interests insisting that the distant courts carry no jurisdiction. China rejected a Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling in July and clings to expansive claims in the South China Sea, including Scarborough Shoal near the Philippines. China’s response mirrored US rejection of a 1986 International Court of Justice ruling against US support for rebels in Nicaragua. “With these stands, both China and the United States weakened a crucial element of international law – consent and recognition by all parties,” writes journalist Humphrey Hawksley for YaleGlobal Online. Disregard for the rule of law weakens the legal system for all. Hawksley offers two recommendations for renewing respect for international law: intuitional overhaul so that the all parties recognize the courts, rejecting decisions only as last resort, and governments accepting the concept, taking a long-term view on balance of power even when rulings go against short-term strategic interests. Reforms may be too late as China organizes its own parallel systems for legal reviews and global governance, Hawksley notes, but international law, if respected, remains a mechanism for ensuring peace. – YaleGlobal

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