National flags of China and the Philippines.

Thomas Peter | AFP | Getty Images

China called for “basic manners” and warned against “megaphone diplomacy” after Philippine Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin Jr. hit Beijing in an insulting tweet.

On Monday, Locsin said in a tweet to China that it should “come out” as the two countries were embroiled in a war of words over the South China Sea. The secretary was a vocal critic of China in President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration and is known for his occasional blunt remarks.

In several tweets in the days that followed, Locsin apologized to the Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, saying he was “provoked by the most recent gross territorial violation”. Meanwhile, Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque said the Philippine president had reminded officials that profanity had no place in diplomacy.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin responded to the Locsin outbreak in a statement Tuesday: “The facts have proven time and again that megaphone diplomacy can only undermine mutual trust rather than change reality.”

But Beijing also has a track record of insulting other countries.

Such aggressive tactics by Chinese diplomats have increasingly impacted social media platforms such as Twitter, which is blocked in the mainland, in recent years. Observers called this tactic “Wolf Warrior Diplomacy” after a series of hugely popular films in which Chinese fighters defeat opponents around the world.

Dispute over the South China Sea

China and the Philippines have for years contested overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea, a resource-rich waterway with a total area of ​​approximately 1.4 million square miles, on which trillions of dollars of world trade pass.

Beijing has shown itself to be more assertive in disputed waters over the past year, prompting Manila to protest the presence of Chinese ships in parts of the sea that are internationally recognized as belonging to the Philippines.

Beijing reiterated Tuesday that the Bajo de Masinloc – which it calls Huangyan Island – and its surrounding waters come under the jurisdiction of China.

Bajo de Masinloc, also known as Scarborough Shoal, is a chain of reefs in the South China Sea located approximately 120 nautical miles from the nearest Philippine coast and 470 nautical miles from the nearest coast of China.

China claims most of the South China Sea based on nine lines that demarcate Chinese territory on historical maps. In 2016, an international tribunal dismissed the so-called nine-dash line as legally unfounded – a decision that Beijing ignored.