China Just Got A Stunning Smackdown: Here's What You Need To Know

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China seas red

The Short of It:

An international tribunal shut down China in a ruling yesterday that invalidated their claims to disputed waters in the South China Sea.

First, let's debrief.

Who's in on the fight for territory and why do they really care?

China, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and other countries have laid claim to the disputed waters in the area. The reason why they care: whatever else could make countries get their boxers in a twist, but oil, power and shipping routes? The South China Sea is an area off of the Pacific that sees major shipping routes. It also has a vast history of international interest specifically with Europe where the sea was seen as gold for its route to trading opportunities with China. You might remember Hillary Clinton's appeal to China in 2010 to resolve the territorial dispute during her time as US Secretary of State.

That brings us to...

The Longer Version of It:

China bringing you back to your days on the playground, with the populous country taking on the role of the one kid whose parents never taught him how to share toys.

The dispute over claims to the South China Sea goes way back. Opposing countries have squabbled over territory in the South China Sea for centuries, but strain amongst the countries in the pocket of the area have only escalated in recent years. With several countries staking their claim over the watered region, the turf war is considered to be Asia's greatest point of conflict with the most potential for peril. China, who has become more aggressive with their claim by marking out what they see as theirs with a "nine-dash line" which overlaps nearly every country in the area, continues to up the ante. They've also built man-made islands which have destroyed the ecosystems in the region.

In 2013, the Philippines decided they'd had enough and initiated a lawsuit against China use of the "nine-dash line" to an international court. As their defense, China declared that they were entitled to the area because fishermen from their country had been fishing in the waters of the Soutch China Sea for centuries and thus they have been entitled to the waters, islands and resources. Yesterday, the tribunal stood behind the Philippines, saying that China had "no legal basis" to claim historical rights over the region. The court also laid into the country for the artificial islands they had created saying that it had caused "severe harm to the coral reef environment."

You might think all is said and done with, but no. After the ruling China rejected the courts decision, calling it "ill-founded" and Taiwan followed suit. For the U.S., officials have danced around taking sides on the territorial dispute but has continued to stress the importance of international freedom of passage to the countries in the region.

The Takeaway:

You can take the kid out of kindergarten, but you can't take the kindergarten out of the government. But, you already knew that.

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