South China Sea in Data

Since the ruling of South China Sea came out, this has become the most discussed international issue this week. Seems like every country connected with South China Sea wants a piece of it. Here’s how different country defines their own mare clausum from Bloomberg.

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The reason of this situation is of course for resources, like gas reserves, oil reserves, fishing and trade. So how much are we talking about here? Bloomberg has given a rough idea.

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The South China Sea has long been one of the world’s most coveted waterways. Seven different countries—counting Taiwan, which is itself claimed by China—assert sovereignty over overlapping portions of its waters. The last time waxing and waning tension spilled over into serious conflict was in 1988, when Vietnam lost over 70 lives in a skirmish with China in the Spratly archipelago. But the stakes of any potential relapse into violence are higher than ever now that America is involved.

Chinese maps feature a “nine-dash line” encircling almost all of the sea inside its borders. Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and the Philippines all contest parts of that area, as does Taiwan, whose claims in the sea mirror China’s. In addition, although Indonesia is not a party to any of the disputes over tiny islands, rocks and reefs, it says the nine-dash line cuts through the “exclusive economic zone” granted to it by the UN Law of the Sea. Like those of other countries, its fishermen complain about Chinese incursions. And every government in the region takes an interest in the sea’s purported hydrocarbon riches. In 2013 the Philippines filed a case with the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, asking the tribunal to reject China’s claim. On July 12th 2016 the court released a summary of its ruling saying that there was “no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line’”.

China has said it will ignore the PCA’s ruling, denying that the court has any jurisdiction over what it sees as an issue of sovereignty. But the United States will not allow China to do so unmolested. Although America is formally neutral on the territorial disputes between the littoral states, it says it has a national interest in maintaining freedom of navigation in the sea, through which one-third of the world’s maritime trade passes. China accuses America of stoking discord between it and its neighbours, and of encouraging them to defy it, while America and most South-East Asian countries see China as the main source of tension. Despite an agreement with the Association of South-East Asian Nations in 2002 to avoid provocations, in the past three years China has been engaged in a frenetic building spree, creating seven artificial islands on top of disputed rocks and reefs. Many assume they will one day become military bases.

The United States has already angered China by sending warships close to Chinese-claimed features in the sea on “freedom-of-navigation operations”. Currently, two American aircraft-carrier groups are stationed in the region, apparently to deter China from taking any provocative steps now the PCA’s decision has gone against it. China, for its part, has been staging naval drills near the Paracel islands to the north of the sea. Further escalation could be likely if China does more than ignore the ruling, and starts building on yet another contested shoal, or declares an Air Defence Identification Zone over a sea it seems to regard as a Chinese lake. (http://www.economist.com/)

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As for the major events happened in the past few years, FT.com has put together a detail timeline. (http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/aa32a224-480e-11e6-8d68-72e9211e86ab.html#axzz4ESngEPiG)

“1947 The Republic of China publishes the first map including the “nine-dash line” looping around almost the entirety of the South China Sea and claiming waters adjacent to Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, for the government of Chiang Kai-shek.

October 2011 US secretary of state Hillary Clinton coins the term “pivot” to describe the US foreign policy shift towards a focus on Asia.

February 2012 Hong Lei, China’s foreign minister, states that “no country including China has claimed sovereignty over the entire South China Sea”, apparently moderating the nine-dash line claim.

March 2012 China detains 21 Vietnamese fishermen in the Paracel Islands, alleging they had been fishing in Chinese waters illegally.

April 2012 The Philippine navy discovers Chinese fishing vessels in a lagoon off Scarborough Shoal, finding large amounts of what it describes as illegally harvested coral and other sea life. The US and Philippines hold a joint military exercise during the ensuing stand-off.

June 2012 Vietnam passes a new maritime law claiming sovereignty over the Spratly and Paracel Islands; China raises the administrative status of the disputed islands to the prefecture level.

September 2012 Philippine president Benigno Aquino announces the country’s western maritime territory has been renamed the West Philippine Sea.

December 2012 China submits claims to the East China Sea to the UN following the purchase of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands by Japan’s government.

January 2013 The Philippines formally initiates arbitration of China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea under the UN convention on the law of the sea with the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea at The Hague. China refuses to participate in the arbitration.

April 2013 Vietnam state media report that a cruise ship of Chinese tourists has embarked on a journey to the Paracel Islands.

November 2013 China announces an air defence identification zone in the East China Sea surrounding the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, claiming the right to monitor and intercept aircraft it finds within the zone. The US flies two jets through the airspace shortly afterwards.

December 2013 The USS Cowpens is forced to use emergency evasive manoeuvres to avoid a collision with a People’s Liberation Army ship while observing China’s aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, on its first voyage in the South China Sea.

January 2014 China’s southern province of Hainan introduces rules requiring non-Chinese fishing crews to acquire permits before entering much of the South China Sea to fish.

April 2014 Satellite photos show Chinese vessels dredging sand to build the submerged Mischief Reef into an island. US president Barack Obama visits Manila to sign the 10-year US-Philippines Enhanced Defence Co-operation Agreement, which provides for US troop and ship rotations in the Philippines.

May 2014 China moves an oil rig owned by the China National Petroleum Corporation near the Paracel Islands, prompting anti-Chinese protests to erupt in Vietnam that damage businesses with ties to China. Chinese ships fend off Vietnamese ships sent to the area, and ultimately removes the rig from the area in July.

August 2014 A Chinese fighter jet intercepts a US Navy surveillance aircraft.

September 2014 The US and Philippines conduct a joint military exercise near Scarborough Shoal.

October 2014 People’s Liberation Army Navy admiral Wu Shengli is reported by Taiwan intelligence to have visited five of the Spratly Islands occupied by China to observe reclamation work there.

November 2015 China’s foreign ministry asserts that the Philippines has breached a 2002 code of conduct agreed upon by it and Asean nations. Arguments commence against China’s claims to the South China Sea in China’s absence at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

February 2016 Satellite imagery shows China expanding Tree Island and North Island in the Paracels.

May 2016 Pentagon reports an “unsafe” interception by Chinese jets of a US surveillance aircraft over the South China Sea; President Obama visits Vietnam and lifts a 50-year arms embargo.

June 2016 A brief show of unity from Asean countries collapses as a statement expressing “serious concerns” over developments in the South China Sea is abruptly retracted. The Indonesian navy says it has fired warning shots at Chinese fishing boats operating in the Natuna Sea, part of Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone.

July 2016 China ratchets up its media campaign to discredit the validity of any ruling from the Philippines case after the tribunal says it will announce its ruling on July 12. Newly inaugurated Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte says his country might be willing to enter new talks with Beijing after the ruling.


Further reading:

Bloomberg: Dynamic Economies Face Off in the South China Sea

The Economist: Daily Chart – The South China Sea


Posted by: chloezhaoD&N

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