It is unpersuasive for China to claim sovereignty over the sea, including an exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, or to draw baselines around the entities in “Four Sha”. Some features that might be considered rocks or similar structures, and are submerged during high tide may have been occupied or are located within the exclusive economic zone of neighboring coastal states. So, China's recent announcements in no way reinforce its baseless sovereignty claims in the East Sea. In essence, the “Four Sha” strategy is just an extension of the nine-dash line map that China often draws on the East Sea to suggest ownership of the area. But there are many major legal loopholes in Beijing’s claim.
Self-isolating, destabilizing strategy
With the world battling COVID-19, Beijing has taken advantage of the pandemic to assert its domination of structures and waters in the East Sea. Its actions are destabilizing the region and undermining negotiations for a Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC). It is also tarnishing China’s image.
Observers say that China’s attempts to create a new reality in the East Sea reveals a lack of respect for international law and the legitimate claims of its neighbors in the region.
By violating international law, China is undermining its reputation. As one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, China should contribute responsibly to resolving East Sea disputes on the basis of international law and ensuring peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. Unfortunately, this seems too much to ask, and world is still waiting for a show of goodwill from China.