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


Ad Honorem
Jul 2009
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?
Well then I take it all back :D. And don't deal through a broker. Buy mutual funds directly. :)


Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
That's because those islands were ethnically, linguistically and religiously Greek for thousands of years.
There are plenty of uninhabited islands on the Aegean closer to mainland Turkey but occupied by Greece. For example:
Keros - Wikipedia

The problem isn't so much whether Chinese sources talked about having presence in these islands; there were plenty (one going as far back as the Eastern Han, but the further one goes, the less certain one can identify them), but rather, to what extent the mere knowledge of these islands and fishing activities constitute territory, and how many of these islands Chinese fishermen and government activities extended and whether China is the only state using it.
Wikipedia actually has a good introductory summary:
Spratly Islands - Wikipedia

I have not examined Vietnamese claims in detail, but it seems that it also engaged in activities on some of the Spratley islands since the Nguyen dynasty, and Vietnam have being trying to present these evidence.

Here are examples of Chinese fishing activity within the island chains of the South China Seas:

Pei Yuan's Guangzhou Ji 裴渊《广州记》written during the Jin dynasty: “珊瑚洲,在(东莞)县南五百里,昔有人于海中捕鱼,得珊瑚。”
"Coral land, it is 500 li south of the (Dongguan) county, there were people who goes into the sea to fish, and got coral."

The Song era Wu Jing Zongyao: "王师出戍...至九乳螺石(州)” "The royal force left the base and arrived at the nine breast snail rock (paracels).”

Zheng He regularly passed through the islands of the South China Seas and beyond, which was duly recorded and noted in maps, but this is during his great voyages so its nothing surprising; considering the Ming at the time even had a representative governor at Luzon and Northern Sumatra.

The Geng Lupu written in the early Qing mentioned 73 location names in the Spratley islands.

The Qianlong era source Quanzhou fu zhi 泉州府志mentioned the Qing vice general of Canton "mobilizing the Qiong prefecture, from Qiong ya, passing Tonggu, to the sevel land ocean (Paracels)...for three thousand li, personally inspected the peace and quietness of the region." “吴陛,……擢广东副将,调琼州。自琼崖,历铜鼓,经七洲洋(今西沙群岛海域)、四更沙,周遭三千里,躬目巡视,地方宁谧。”

These records suggest China have more presence in the Paracel, having irregular inspections there; whereas Chinese fisherman had regular activities in many of the Spratley islands, and their artifacts have even been found there.

The concept of territory is vague prior to modern international law. To my knowledge, the Spratleys and Paracels were only formerly pronounced as Qing territory in the border convention of 1887 with France; which is the first document that has modern legal affect, although this treatise only drew the boundary based on longitudinal lines.

In 1907, the Canonese navy sent 170 men and raised a flag there to demonstrate Qing sovereignty over the Paracels.

The collapse of the Qing government left the new ROC pre-occupied with more important affairs and the Spratley and Paracel would not enter the conversation until 1931, when France temporarily occupied some parts of the Spratley, based on the claim that Vietnam had first occupied it.

The controversy is whether Japan's defeat meant these islands revert back to China or to France/Vietnam.

Legality of the arbitration aside, the arbitration did not refute Chinese sovereignty to the islands of the South China Seas.

Of all the countries that claimed these islands, China and Vietnam has the strongest historical cases by far. Other than recorded historical activities dating back at least hundreds of years, there are also legal documents to back their cases.

Philippines didn't claim the area until 1978.

Malaysia didn't claim the islands until 1978.

Indonesia only claimed it in 1969.
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