“If and when a code of conduct is finalized, we can rest assured that it will be diluted to a point where it does not damage Chinese interests in the South China Sea,” said Jonathan Spangler, director of the South China Sea Think Tank in Taipei.

https://www.voanews.com/a/asean-south-china-sea/3974373.html

From interview transcript:

China’s leadership understands that giving the appearance of diplomatic progress and goodwill towards its neighbors is in the country’s national interest. These actions help it to justify its position and divert attention away from its militarization of the maritime area. Even the slowest of movement in negotiations with ASEAN and the most minimal gestures of goodwill towards other countries – such as allowing Philippine fishermen into Scarborough Shoal – are enough to appease critics or at least defer criticism for the time being.

For Beijing, the best progress is slow progress, and it will continue to pursue this approach in future negotiations with ASEAN and rival claimants. If and when a Code of Conduct is finalized, we can rest assured that it will be diluted to a point where it does not damage Chinese interests in the South China Sea.