How strong are China's claims to the South China Sea?

Nov 2014
377
ph
#1
How strong exactly are China's claims to the South China Sea on a historical basis, I mean its claims may seem excessive at face value, but then if you look at a map, you wonder why Greece has basically the entire Agean Basin, instead of Turkey and Greece dividing the Agean in half. And how strong are the claims by Vietnam and the Philippines? The Spratlys may be located right next to the Philippines, but then the Philippines did not really settle it until after WW2, and there are Chinese maps which included the Spratlys and Paracels going back to the Song dynasty.
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,248
#3
if you look at a map, you wonder why Greece has basically the entire Agean Basin, instead of Turkey and Greece dividing the Agean in half.
History. Plenty of it to look into.

The islands have been Greek, inhabited by Greeks, since prehistoric time. The same historic conditions actually applied for most of Turkey's Mediterranean coastline, AND its Black Sea coastline.

Except in 1923 there was a forced expulsion of all "Greeks" (more properly Orthodox Christians) from mainland Turkey, with a complementing expulsion of "Turks" (i.e. Muslims) from Greece.
Population exchange between Greece and Turkey - Wikipedia

The islands were not part of that however.

Now, you wouldn't be arguing that Chinese by the millions have been inhabiting these islands in the South China Sea since prehistoric times, would you?

The Aegean situation is rather a counter-argument to Chinese claims on that space.
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,248
#4
How strong exactly are China's claims to the South China Sea on a historical basis
Well, they have already been established to be non-existant:
https://pca-cpa.org/wp-content/uplo...H-CN-20160712-Press-Release-No-11-English.pdf

The Tribunal also noted that, although 2 Chinese navigators and fishermen, as well as those of other States, had historically made use of the islands in the South China Sea, there was no evidence that China had historically exercised exclusive control over the waters or their resources. The Tribunal concluded that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line’.
 
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Feb 2011
6,379
#6
You have to get the information straight from the horse's mouth, that's not what the Arbitration said, the media tend to twist what they said. The Arbitration (which have no legal authority) mostly demoted the islands into rocks, so even if any one country have legal authority in the islands, they don't have authority to own all the resources surrounding those lands. But in this case China was already advocating for 'joint development' and never claimed all resources within the 9-dash line anyways. As for issues of sovereignty, the Arbitration mostly rejected Philippine accusations regarding China:

The following are the points that the arbitration did NOT award the Philippines, and you can see most of these have to do with sovereignty.

1) Philippines claimed "China's maritime entitlements in the South China Sea, like those of the Philippines, may not extend beyond those permitted by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea".

^The arbitration did NOT award the Philippines on that point

2) Philippines claimed "China's claims to sovereign rights and jurisdiction, and to "historic rights", with respect to the maritime areas of the South China Sea encompassed by the so-called "nine-dash line" are contrary to the Convention and without lawful effect to the extent that they exceed the geographic and substantive limits of China's maritime entitlements under UNCLOS"

^the arbitration did NOT award the Philippines on that point

5) Philippines claimed" Mischief Reef and Thomas Shoal are part of the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of the Philippines"

^The arbitration did NOT award the Philippines on that point

8) Philippines claimed "China has unlawfully interfered with the enjoyment and exercise of the sovereign rights of the Philippines with respect to the living and non-living resources of its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf"

^The arbitration did NOT award the Philippines on that point

9) Philippines claimed "China has unlawfully failed to prevent its nationals and vessels from exploiting the living resources in the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines"

^The arbitration did NOT award the Philippines on that point

12) Philippines claimed "China's occupation and construction acitivities on Mischief Reef violate the provisions of the Convention concerning artifical islands, installations, and structures, violate China's duties to protect and preserve the marine environment und rthe Convention, and constitue unlawful acts of attempted appropriation in violation of the Convention"

^The arbitration did NOT award the Philippines on that point

14) Philippines claimed "Since the commencement of this arbitration in January 2013, China has unlawfully aggravated and extended the dispute by, among other things, interfering with the Philippines' right of navigation in the waters at, and adjacent to Second Thomas Shoal, preventing the rotation and resupply of Philippine personnel stationed at Second Thomas Shoal, and endangering the health and well-being of Philippine personnel stationed at Second Thomas Shoal"

^The arbitration did NOT award the Philippines on that point.

Source: "Arbitration between the Republic of the Philippines and the People's Republic of China"
https://www.scribd.com/document/287742193/Press-Release-No-7-Eng

Also, China's claims on the South China Sea came from 1887 convention with Vietnam/France, in which case shortly thereafter both sides interpret the treaty differently on whether the islands in the South China Sea belonged to Vietnam or China. That's why Vietnam has a pretty big claim too, because Vietnam and China's claims use some of the same sources. It's also why the French claim it as well, the basis being that when Vietnam got its independence, that independence didn't include the Spratly Islands. The claims don't simply rest on discovery or usage as the media would have you believe.

Phillipines have the absolute worst claim because their boundaries were clearly defined in the Treaty of Paris, and it clearly demarked the Spratly Islands as outside of Phillipine territory. Only after WW2 did they "buy" the islands at the cost of 1 Peso from Thomas Cloma who claimed to have "discovered" them. Prior to that, Thomas Cloma claimed the islands to be his own personal country, calling it "Freedomland", and took down the ROC flag planted at one of those islands (so he clearly knew he wasn't discovering anything). So at this point it's a toss-up between Vietnam and PRC/ROC, I haven't went into the nitty gritty details of the 1887 convention to figure out what it says.
 
Last edited:
Jul 2009
9,756
#7
Arbitration is usually a euphemism for "the stronger party wins." If you have a dispute with your brokerage house, don't go to arbitration.

If the claim to the South China sea is "between Vietnam and China," it seems clear on whom to bet. In that case, the Law of the Sea is on the side of the greater navy.

Not that control of the SCS will be uncontested. China can deny control to other navies, but those can deny control to China. The Chinese keep on building ships and that sea is relatively small, but the USN has technological advantages and there is no comparison in doctrine or operational experience. In a future diplomatic dispute, it would not be a surprise to see joint naval exercises in the SCS with India, Japan and the US.
 
Feb 2011
6,379
#8
If that's true then it would be the Philippines who refused to be part of the Arbitration, not China. Philippines was the one who proposed the Arbitration, whereas China proposed bilateral negotiation.
 
Jul 2009
9,756
#9
If that's true then it would be the Philippines who refused to be part of the Arbitration, not China. Philippines was the one who proposed the Arbitration, whereas China proposed bilateral negotiation.
So the Philippines took the arbitration bait - perhaps hoping fair play would prevail - and the stronger party won all the major points. Have you ever gone to arbitration with a brokerage house? ;)
 
Feb 2011
6,379
#10
China didn't "win" any of the major points, it couldn't have because China didn't even participate. The arbitration simply refused to back Philippine's proposals on sovereignty, that doesn't automatically mean it backs those of China's. China rejected the Arbitration before it even began, and proposed bilateral negotiation as opposed to Arbitration. So who's baiting?
 
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