China’s Strategy: Divide And Rule

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (JGL) – Chinese rulers must be firm believers of the teaching of King Philip II of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great, who was credited for coining the phrase: divide and rule (divide et impera), which is manner of gaining and maintaining power by breaking up larger concentrations of power into pieces that individually have less power than the one implementing the strategy.

If not, how else can you explain why China is taking its time to face the Philippines before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in The Hague, Netherlands?

ITLOS, the multi-lateral body to settle competing maritime claims, is never a favored option of China to come to terms with the Philippines over its huge claim to the  Philippine Western Sea (South China Sea) because there is a likelihood that China could lose.

Isn’t China trying to re-write the rules in the middle of the game?

Knowing that the Philippines is like the diminutive Biblical David, China, the giant neighbor like Goliath, is in the words of Obama “throwing elbows” to its neighbors so they will submit to one-sided bilateral negotiations.

China does not even want to take chances with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) as a whole, to represent the claimant neighbors like the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam and Malaysia from one end, to settle the dispute with China on the other end thru the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC).

Isn’t China also guilty of forum shopping?

The villainous Machiavelli identifies a similar application to military strategy, in his  Book VI of The Art of War (Dell’arte della guerra), that a Captain should endeavor with every art to divide the forces of the enemy, either by making him suspicious of his men in whom he trusted, or by giving him cause that he has to separate his forces, and, because of this, become weaker.

If China does not want to face the Philippines before ITLOS, why didn’t it withdraw its signature from United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea  (UNCLOS) like it did in the Rome Statute?

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (often referred to as the International Criminal Court Statute or the Rome Statute) is the treaty that established the International Criminal Court (ICC). It was adopted at a diplomatic conference in Rome on July 17, 1998 and it entered into force on July 1, 2002. As of January 6, 2015, 123 states, including the Philippines, are party to the statute. Among other things, the statute establishes the court’s functions, jurisdiction and structure.


As of May 2015, 123 states are parties to the Statute of the Court, including all the countries of South America, nearly all of Europe, most of Oceania and roughly half of Africa. A further 31 countries have signed but not ratified the Rome Statute. The law of treaties obliges these states to refrain from “acts which would defeat the object and purpose” of the treaty until they declare they do not intend to become a party to the treaty.

Three signatory states—Israel, Sudan and the United States—have informed the UN Secretary General that they no longer intend to become states parties and, as such, have no legal obligations arising from their former representatives’ signature of the Statute. Forty one United Nations member states have neither signed nor acceded to the Rome Statute; some of them, including China and India, are critical of the Court. Ukraine, a non-ratifying signatory, has accepted the Court’s jurisdiction for a limited period in 2013-2014.

China wants to have a cake and eat it too.

Insisting that the Philippines comes to a negotiating table with China is like the Philippines entering into a lion’s den, where the Philippines is defenseless.

If China cannot let the Philippines join a bilateral discussion, why can’t it face the Philippines before an international body, where the Philippines has a chance to make its case?

If China believes that its nine-dash-line has legal basis, then the ITLOS is the right forum for China to prove its case, not the bilateral arrangement that may not be binding to other claimants.

The bilateral arrangement between the Philippines and China will be akin to an arranged marriage that is not recognized by other countries.

While arranged secret marriage maybe recognized in China, such marriage is not recognized in other countries, like the Philippines, which recognizes autonomous marriage.

If the Philippines loses its case before ITLOS, the Philippines has an option to withdraw its signature from UNCLOS since UNCLOS cannot protect the interest of Third World countries, like the Philippines.

Then, the Philippines can cut off its diplomatic relations with China, which will be allowed by UNCLOS to exploit the natural resources, including the vast maritime territories that used to be owned by the Filipinos.

Then, Chinese imported products should be banned in the Philippines while the Philippines encourages entries of products from other countries. (


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