The South China Sea disputes have become wrapped in myth and misunderstanding. On this page I will link to some information and documents that will, I hope, make things clearer.
The origin of the ‘U-shaped line’
How did the Republic of China come to draw a line around almost all of the South China Sea and claim it as its own territory in 1947? The simple answer is that it’s based on a series of misunderstandings about history and maps. It’s important to remember that the Republic of China did not survey the sea before it published the map of the ‘U-shaped line’ but simply copied existing British maps. That (combined with a poor understanding of Southeast Asian history and at least one mistranslation) resulted in the drawing of the line. The story is told in Chapter 2 of my book but I’ve prepared a presentation that outlines the story – and also the origins of the other countries’ claims too.
- You can download a 14MB pdf version of the presentation here.
- You can watch a version of the presentation that I gave at the University of the Philippines in April 2014 here…
Oil, gas and politics in the South China Sea
How has politics affected the exploitation of oil and gas in the South China Sea – and vice versa? This presentation – originally given to the London branch of the Southeast Asia Petroleum Exploration Society (SEAPEX) in November 2014 – should help clarify some of the issues. There is a much fuller explanation in Chapter 5 of the book.
- You can download a 9MB pdf version of the presentation here.
Names of the features in the South China Sea
The US State Department has helpfully put together a list of the different names for the reefs, islands and other features in the South China Sea.
Chinese newspaper articles
So much of the writing on the history of the South China Sea disputes is based on poor evidence. My article on this can be read here. In the interests of promoting proper debate about the evidence I’m posting some of the sources here.
Editions of the Hong Kong magazines Ming Pao Monthly and Seventies Monthly from 1974 provided much of the historical background for Dieter Heinzig’s 1976 paper ‘Disputed islands in the South China Sea’ and Marwyn Samuels’ 1982 book ‘Contest for the South China Sea’. You can download scans of the magazine articles here:
- No. 101 May 1974 pp2-8 Teng Szü-yu “Nan-chung kuo-hai chu-tao-yü ti chu-ch’üan wen-ti” (The issue of the sovereignty of the various islands of the South Sea)
- No. 101 May 1974 pp9-20 Yeh Han-ming and Wu Jui-ch’ing “Ts’ung-li-shih ts’ai-chi chi-yü-t’u k’an nan-hai chu-tao ti chu-ch’üan kuei-shu wen-t’i” (The issue of the restoration of sovereignty over the islands of the Southern Sea from an examination of historical records and maps)
- March 1974 pp38-50 Ch’i Hsin “Nan-hai chu-tao ti chu-ch’üan yü hsi-sha ch’ün-tao chi-chu” (Sovereignty over the islands of the Southern Sea and the war in the Paracels)