The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Chinese state media melt down over South China Sea ruling

Alleged artificial islands built by China in disputed waters in the South China Sea, west of Palawan, Philippines, as seen on May 11, 2015. (Pool photo by Ritchie B. Tongo via European Pressphoto Agency)

BEIJING — Chinese state media and nationalistic netizens want the world to know that they really, definitely, absolutely don't care about the Permanent Court of Arbitration's landmark ruling on the South China Sea.

How much do they not care?

They don't care enough to put out what may be the world's most awkward music video. The militaristic masterpiece, titled "South China Sea arbitration, who cares?" was posted Tuesday morning by the Beijing-based nationalistic outlet and Qing Wei Studios, a group with links to the Communist Youth League.

The video cuts between shots of Chinese warships and clips of young people showing how much they don't care about the case by saying "South China Sea, who cares?" while techno music blares in the background.

At one point, two young women in camouflage demonstrate their lack of interest by stabbing into the air with knives.

State media also showed their lack of interest in the ruling by opting not to explain how the panel ruled.

The official Xinhua News Agency was the first to comment on — and categorically reject — the award. Minutes before the findings were announced elsewhere, Xinhua broke the news that The Hague's "law-abusing tribunal" had issued an "ill-founded award," according to an unnamed source. It did not elaborate.

The People's Daily and Global Times later issued posts calling the ruling "null and void" and "ill-founded" but provided so few details that Chinese netizens were not sure what was being talking about. "What is the ruling?" was a common question in the comments section.

China's nightly newscast, Xinwen Lianbo, followed suit, opening the broadcast with an extended bit about President Xi Jinping's meetings with visiting dignitaries from the European Union, before addressing the South China Sea news. When it did mention the case, it emphasized that China would ignore the ruling, rather than explain the decision on the nine-dash line.

Some foreign media coverage was blocked from viewers in China.

In The Hague, where the arbitration court is based, Chinese students opted to show their lack of interest by spending three months drafting an open latter in anticipation of a ruling against China, according to a Xinhua report.

"We cannot believe that such a bizarre case was able to keep advancing in The Hague, capital of international law," a student named Peng Qinxuan told Xinhua.

"In this case, the arbitrators failed to see the wood for the trees. But we scholars of international law have the duty to present the truth," she said.

Another student, Wang Zhili, told the news agency that she was moved to write because of biased coverage in the Western media.

"In-depth articles with a neutral stance over the issue are really hard to find. That's why we decided to post the letter online," Wang added.

Back in China, the Global Times called the decision "trash paper" and the panel "shameless."

Xu Jing and Xu Yangjingjing contributed to this report.