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Get to know China’s air defense zone

"The Chinese have a right to defend themselves against air," a rough, incorrect translation reads.

“The Chinese have a right to defend themselves against air,” a rough, incorrect translation reads.

One of the biggest Asia-related news items in recent weeks is China’s establishment of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea. Yes, China beat you to it.

As you already know, ADIZ stipulates that all aircraft passing through the zone must file flight plans with China or face the threat of “defensive emergency measures.” Most outside of China, including the U.S. and Japan, did not necessarily welcome the zone–even going so far as to denigrate the ADIZ as a major challenge to freedom of navigation and a threat to stability in East Asia. What these critics fail to acknowledge, however, is the legal side of China’s new ADIZ: the proclamation of which fully supports the international legal order built by the U.S. and its allies. As Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun pointed out previously, the ADIZ is an example of Chinese adherence to international law. Since there are no international agreements today that govern any aspect of an ADIZ, announcing one is perfectly legal. In fact, China is setting an important precedent: where there is no law, whatever a country does becomes completely legal.

Whereas spokesman Yang referenced only the United Nations Charter as an example of an international agreement the new Chinese ADIZ upholds, this ADIZ actually upholds a large number of other Chinese international law agreements, simply by having nothing to do with those treaties at all, whatsoever. These agreements include the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women as well as the Convention against Discrimination in Education. Not only is China upholding international law, it is doing so creatively, using completely unrelated but also technically legal air zones to advance the cause of women and to equalize education. Whatever military posturing and strife may occur over the new ADIZ, women and children have made away like bandits.

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