Key observations:

  • Strong nationalistic sentiments in social media posts and comments can be observed
  • State-controlled online media posts (including its comments) demonstrate China’s strong and united attitude to refuse the decisions by the UN tribunal
  • In defending China’s sovereignity, national groups and the state media will launch more heated comments within China’s social media landscape in the coming days and weeks
  • Still, it remains to been seen how effectively the Chinese government and its media will build up domestic public support via social media

On July 12th, 2016 the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled in favor of the Republic of Philippines regarding its maritime entitlements in the South China Sea. Most notably, it also stated that China’s nine-dash line in the South China Sea is not valid under international law.

On China’s social media, public discussions regarding the South China Sea have been going on for some time now. Here is an overview of some trendy topics based on Weibo’s hashtags*:

South China Sea Arbitration hashtag gains over 1 billion views - Think Asa Group
South China Sea Arbitration hashtag gains over one billion views after one day

More and more discussions occur as South China Sea ruling sparks wide interest among Weibo users - Think Asia Group
More and more discussions occur as South China Sea ruling sparks wide interest among Weibo users

China’s state media do not agree with the Court’s decision

Most prominent recent reactions regarding the Court’s ruling have been posted by the state media.

The People’s Daily has launched a strong message that it does not agree with the Court’s decision: “Not matter what you have decided, China has the following attitude”. The attached picture says in bold Chinese characters: “(We) do not accept, do not take part, do not acknowledge, do not implement!” This post has been so far “liked” over 100.000 times on Weibo.*

China vs Philippines 3

On WeChat, the People’s Daily launched a similiar message by adding a “Who cares!” in the headline.


On Twitter, the People’s Daily claims that the Court’s ruling is a US-led conspiracy against China.

China vs Philippines 2

China’s news agency Xinhua and broadcaster CCTV both refer to the statement of the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

China vs Philippines

China vs Philippines 1

Chinese netizens point out China’s strength and toughness

Several netizens recall the “toughness” of China’s foreign minister Wang Yi when he berated a Canadian reporter during a state visit in Canada in June 2016. Wang’s anger was interpreted as China’s growing tough stance against foreign criticism. By linking this “incident” with the Court’s South China Sea decision, the netizens want to emphasize China’s strenght and toughness by not agreeing with any foreign interventions.

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Another user shows the historical match results between the football matches China and Philippines. This polemic post wants to signal China’s superiority over the Philippines. It is ironic though that China is no great football nation.

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This post refers to a statement given by a former Chinese official that the South China Sea ruling is just a “waste paper”.

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Another post pays homage to a Chinese cartoon that was released earlier by the People’s Daily. The cartoon explained to the Chinese audience that other nations such as the US and the Pilippinnes have no right to interfere with China’s historical claims in the South China Sea.

China vs Philippines 9

*Editor’s note: As this topic becomes viral, the social media statistics are growing at a high rate. An update will be provided frequently.

Last updated on July 13th, 2016