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Important arguments on the South China sea tensions

South China Sea tensions stem from the ‘nine-dash line’

By Demetri Sevastopulo in Manila

The South China Sea territorial disputes between China and its neighbours can be partly traced to an internal map published by the Republic of China government in 1947 that included an “eleven-dash line” enclosing much of the waters. China did not explain the significance of the line at the time. It was adopted by the People’s Republic of China government after the Communists came to power two years later. Then, in 1953, China unveiled a new map with a “nine-dash line” that covered a slightly smaller area of the South China Sea, losing two dashes that ran through the Gulf of Tonkin between China and Vietnam.

The US remained silent on the “nine-dash line” until February 2014 when Daniel Russel, a top state department official, said China should clarify its meaning.


*Trefor Moss, 12 September, 2013:
Diaoyu/Senkaku islands … administered from Taiwan long before Japan annexed them.

China arguably has a decent case regarding Scarborough Shoal. Here’s one important element of the case: China publicised its claim in 1948, and it took the Philippines five decades to object and counter with a claim of its own. Prima facie, that strengthens China’s claim quite substantially.


*On the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA):

From wikipedia:
The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) is an intergovernmental organization located at The Hague in the Netherlands. The PCA is not a court, but rather an organiser of arbitral tribunals to resolve conflicts between member states, international organizations, or private parties. It should not be confused with the International Court of Justice which is the primary judicial branch of the United Nations, while the PCA is not a UN agency.

The court was established in 1899 by the first Hague Peace Conference. The Peace Palace was built for the Court in 1913 with funds from American steel magnate Andrew Carnegie.

Unlike the judges from the International Court of Justice who are paid by the UN, members of the PCA are paid from that same income the PCA earns.



*South China Morning Post, 14 July, 2016:

The Permanent Court of Arbitration rents space in the same building as the UN’s International Court of Justice, but the two organisations are not related.



*Members of «the court»:

Most of them come from countries unfriendly towards China – and most of these countries are characterized by heavy American news domination:



*One person wrote on the lawsuit process:

… an American-initiated, American-paid, American staffed lawsuit to a private, self-appointed, fee-for-service corporations (with no connection to the United Nations) that is not a real court.


*Many «international courts» are dominated by American and Western lawyers. Here is one of the reasons:

From Yale Law School guide (2012):
This guide provides information regarding some of the courts outside of the U.S.—international tribunals and intergovernmental courts, as well as national courts—where current law students and graduates may find temporary positions, paid and unpaid:




Huffington Post on UNCLOS: China, the Philippines and the Rule of Law

The threshold question really is whether the PRC can be bound by UNCLOS courts and tribunals, including its arbitral panels. The PRC ratified UNCLOS in 1996, but in 2006 the Chinese government filed a statement with UNCLOS saying that it “does not accept any of the procedures provided for in Section 2 of Part XV of the Convention with respect to all the categories of disputes referred to in paragraph 1 (a), (b), and (c) of Article 298 of the Convention.” These provisions of the Convention refer to “Compulsory Procedures Entailing Binding Decisions” issued by at least four venues: the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea, the International Court of Justice, an “arbitral tribunal” which may refer to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), and a “special arbitral tribunal.”

While there are venues available for the resolutions of disputes under the UNCLOS regime, the PRC does not wish to be bound by its compulsory processes — the ICJ and PCA included.

The PRC knew this day would come. Its 2006 statement effectively served as a “reservation” against any binding outcome of UNCLOS’s grievance procedure in the future.


  1. Rhan
    July 15th, 2016 at 09:35 | #1

    I still could not understand how China could make a claim that just a few step away from where I stay. If this not because of greed or try to bully us, I don’t know what it is.

  2. N.M.Cheung
    July 15th, 2016 at 10:24 | #2

    Western media seem to be happy that it dealt a crushing defeat on China, but as usual they are wrong as it was a useless piece of paper, and if U.S. wants to use it as a pretext for intervention, then good luck to her. Philippine may get a sense of victory, but it’s pyrrhic victory with no meaning except more U.S. bases and some income for comfort women serving U.S. sailors. Okinawa didn’t care for their base and I doubt Philippine will enjoy it any more. The one effect I see that the arbitration did is force China and Xi into corner and prevent possible compromise, China probably would have settle for status quo and joint development for resources, but now with nationalist fervor I doubt they can accept this compromise for a while. The islands building will continue if not accelerate. U.S. carrier groups will parade across South China Sea with spy planes attesting the freedom of navigation. U.S. has wasted trillions of dollars in the Middle East, a few extra hundred billion to show off the flag might not mean much except causing more delay to infrastructure building at home.

  3. alanking
    July 16th, 2016 at 13:54 | #4

    “I still could not understand how China could make a claim that just a few step away from where I stay. If this not because of greed or try to bully us, I don’t know what it is.”

    Idk, this sounds exactly like Palin’s “I can see Russian from my house!”.

    Fact is when it comes to sovereignty, distance is not really much of a factor. If you doubt this, I suggest reading this link on Quora:

    My personal view is that while whatever the West and Japan is doing (lets drop all pretenses that they are not involved in this matter), it’s probably best for China to give in some, just to continue to have “peaceful development” for a few more decades. Fact is China is doing so well and improving so fast in just a few decades that if it continues, in a couple more decades, she would leave all other nations in the dust. No need to quibble then….

  4. Rhan
    July 16th, 2016 at 18:19 | #5

    “distance is not really much of a factor.” – in most cases , it is, except those due to colonial power.

    “whatever the West and Japan is doing” – that’s exactly the problem, we are not the West and Japan, thus all this reasoning about what the US, the West, the Japs did is to me not relevant.

    to most Malaysian, even the “Chinese”, we are still scratching our head how a country so far away could make a claim on the sea that so close to us. Of course the only option left to us is US, the West and Japan. Do we really have a choice? The same apply to all the claimant I guess.

  5. alanking
    July 16th, 2016 at 22:24 | #6

    I think thats exactly the point, if these smaller countries do not negotiate directly and instead rely on other “big brothers”, i.e the west and japan, i think they will make no progress at best, and suffer the consequences of war at worst. Just my 2c.

  6. wwww1234
    July 17th, 2016 at 15:41 | #7

    chinese move to Malasia because no one was utilizing the land.

    Malasian were ever off coast fisherman as there was no need to, and they never developed the skill nor fishing boats for that purpose. So they never frequented the islets/islands.
    Why did Mongolia had vast land tract bordering China, with so little population?
    The land was never permanently settled and was used for their migrating herds vvery transiently and temporarily on an annual basis , which was their livelyhood.

    The Southsea has been the livelyhood of Chinese fisherman since time immemorial.

  7. N.M.Cheung
    July 17th, 2016 at 15:41 | #8

    China was probably going to give some and share South China Sea with Philippine and Vietnam, but Aquino put a wrench in it by going the arbitration route. I very much doubt that Duarte can now compromise and Xi cannot give an inch either. I very much doubt U.S. will risk war with China for those bases in Philippine. It will be status quo as before.

  8. July 18th, 2016 at 10:04 | #9

    Those who talked about distance is missing the whole idea sovereignty. Sovereignty is based on initial discovery, initial occupation, initial naming etc. Greenland is part of Denmark, the Channel Islands are part of UK, the Canary Islands are part of Spain, Christmas Island part of Australia. Itbayat island is around 200km from Taiwan but is over 350km from Luzon. Why isn’t China disputing it? The reason is simple, China does not consider that islands chain its territory.

    Sabah and Sarawak are also very far from Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia has no reason claiming them with a straight face. Sabah is closer to the Philippines and was leased from the Sulawasi Sultanate, whose current Sultan is a citizen of Philippines. Now that Philippines want it back, should Malaysia give it up?


  9. ltlee1
    July 26th, 2016 at 09:39 | #11

    The National Interest has an article entitled “China’s Big South China Sea Dilemma.” It generated so far 291 comments. Sixty-two were so far deleted.

    In response to a comment, I wrote the following:
    “Good point.
    China actually have two independent claims from two independent political entities. The 9 dash line claim of the PRC and the 11 dash line of the ROC. The PCA rejected the 9 dash line. But the 11 dash line is still unblemished. (img.chinatimes.com/newsphoto/2…)

    Hence China has no dilemma at all. It will continue to defend the 11 dash line claim. The PCA ruling does not change anything.”

    I don’t think my comment violates the code per the publication. Yet it was deleted. The intriguing question is why.

    What is the angle “The National Interest”? What has prompted the publication delete 21% of its readers’ comment?

    In some sense, almost all MSM report the PCA erroneously. The fact is the PCA rejected PRC’s 11 dash line claim. But the ROC’s 11 dash line is remain intact. Given that China, at present, consists of two independent political entities with two independent claims, it simply is wrong to say PCA rejected China’s claim.

  10. Rhan
    July 30th, 2016 at 20:46 | #12

    Wow, suddenly some of you sound exactly like the West, initial discovery, initial occupation, initial naming, never frequent the island? China is 1800km away while we are 80 km, and now if there are Malaysian fisherman cross the 80km and China can chase us away?

    I guess the ethnic Malay do not have a civilization and recording system of history as good as the Chinese. however I believe they did move around this Malay Archipelago more frequent than any Chinese. Chinese habit is essentially “land”, not sea and island, unlike the Malay, just because Chinese note down something doesn’t mean almost the entire South Sea belong to them. Don’t sound like Francia Light and Stamfort Raffles please.

    Wrt Sabah, you have to ask the British and Sabah leaders, why they prefer Federation instead of Sulu/Philippines. This prove a point that no matter who own Sabah, it has nothing to do with China, similar to the many island/islet in Sount China Sea.

  11. July 31st, 2016 at 09:39 | #13

    You are again missing the whole point by putting double standard on China. Is China so special that a different standard is applied? You also chose to ignore why Philippines controlled Itbayat island while it is much closer to Taiwan. What is your position on this?

    China is not sounding like the West, but rather playing by modern rule of sovereignty. Same as Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia etc. Please remember that modern Malaysia is a creation of British colonialism. Sabah used to belong to Sultanate of Sulawasi, Sarawak used to belong to Sultanate of Brunei. Malaysia would not give up these two states short of a war. Would Thailand give up its three Malay Muslim majority states in the South?

    If you go through the condition of the treaties Philippines has signed you will realized that its territory is limited to 118 degrees east. China’s claim is all based on its longer historical legacy and the 11 dash line of 1947. So how can you ask with a straight face any Chinese leader to ignore this and make up law as they like? And this is what exactly Philippines has done, a particular leader decide because an island is close to it and make a claim disregarding all treaties ever signed. This is nothing but hooliganism!

    Greenland, Canary Islands, Channel Island, St. Pierre etc. are but a few of the examples and it involved tacit agreement of two or more sovereign states. My point is very clear, unless you are willing to challenge all these examples one shouldn’t play ignorance and imply China’s claim is unreasonable. Your logic seems to be that because a land is closer to your house it belongs to you.

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