Defining a Territorial Sea: China’s South China Sea Policy in the 1950s and its 1958 Declaration on the

Territorial Sea
Outline of a Research Proposal

Ian Lamont January 26, 2004

Harvard DCE/SSCI E-100B Graduate Research Methods and Scholarly Writing in Social Sciences: History and Government Professors Joe and Doug Bond

“Painted on the walls of Yunghsing’s houses are huge inscriptions: ‘The islands are our homes! Build up the Sishas!’ Every evening I would sit with groups eagerly listening to the radio which brought news of the Great Leap Forward in industrial and agricultural development all over our country, from the tropical south to the cold northwest. The ocean-girt Sishas live the same life, are part of the same great effort.” Cheng Wen-kuang1 “Mao frankly admitted that he—not Chiang Kai-shek—triggered the crisis over Quemoy and Matsu. ‘A few shots’ he modestly called his adventure. It was not that he wanted a real war. ‘I just did not expect,’ he confessed, ‘that it would kick up such a storm.’” Ross Terrill2 I. Introduction Thirty years ago this month a watershed event occurred in the South China Sea: For the first time since its revolutionary beginnings, The People’s Republic of China (hereafter China, or the PRC) used military force to seize disputed territory in the region from a neighbor.3 While the use of force was a new tactic, China’s claim to the area was not. In fact, almost since its inception in 1949, the PRC had vocally and regularly declared to the world that it viewed numerous islets and reefs in the South China Sea and surrounding waters to be its sovereign territory. The claims culminated in the September 1958 “Declaration on the Territorial Sea” which is now a crucial part of China’s argument. My general research question asks, “What are the issues that contributed to China’s South China Sea policies in the 1950s?” There are several specific questions that I would like to address as well, chief among them identifying the factors that led to the 1958 declaration. At first glance, debates over China’s actions in the 1950s may seem to be of interest mainly to scholars of Marxist dogma or historians studying the development of Chinese

Wen-kuang Cheng, “Life Comes To China’s Tropic Isles,” China Reconstructs ([North American ed.] Beijing, China: China Reconstructs, March 1959) p. 34 2 Ross Terrill, Mao: A Biography (New York: Harper and Row, 1980) p. 280 3 The location of the battle was the Paracels Archipelago, a group of 15 islets and reefs located roughly 400 kilometers east of Da Nang in Vietnam and 350 kilometers south of China’s Hainan island. South Vietnamese troops were driven from several outposts in the Paracels group — with a heavy loss of life — by Chinese forces following a surprise attack on January 19 and 20,


society under Communist rule. However, this particular study also has great relevance to current geopolitical situation in East and Southeast Asia, and throws some light onto why this area has become so important to the nations that have overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea. The South China Sea has enormous strategic value, more so now than 50 years ago. This has much to do with the rise of a world economy dependent upon oil, and the race to find, exploit, and deliver oil to markets all over the world. The South China Sea has become a linchpin in this international competition. Major shipping routes (including the most direct route from the oil fields of the Middle East to Japan) pass through it, and oil has been found in several locations in the South China Sea.4 China’s need to develop new petroleum resources cannot be understated. Simply put, if China wants to maintain a high level of economic growth, the exploitation of new energy sources will be crucial.5 When did China determine force would be necessary to safeguard South China Sea oil resources? While the answer to this question is beyond the scope of my research, there is evidence suggesting a connection between oil resources and China’s first military strike in the South China Sea three decades ago. China’s forceful eviction of South Vietnamese forces from the Paracels in 1974 came not long after the government in Saigon awarded oil contracts to North American firms to drill in the Spratlys.6 The Vietnamese government also says that another battle with Chinese forces in the Spratlys in 1988 (which resulted in Vietnamese forces partially withdrawing from the area) were centered around Vietnamese-held islands that had the “most potential for oil and gas” compared to islands held by other nations.7 As for the decade under study, oil was not a factor in the competing South China Sea claims. In Asia, offshore oilrigs were operating in Dutch Indonesia as early as 1957, but the relatively high cost of offshore-produced oil and technological limitations relating to exploration and exploitation meant that oilmen didn’t start poking around the Paracels and Spratlys until the late 1960s.8 For China in the 1950s, the South China Sea territorial claims (inherited from the hated Nationalist government it had only recently driven to Taiwan) were important for several economic, military, and political reasons, including shipping, fishing, guano deposits (used for fertilizer), its rivalry with Taiwan, its desire to limit the influence of the United States in the region, and as a domestic propaganda tool.

Catley and Keliat describe some of these oil discoveries, as well as suspected deposits, in the Spratlys in the South China Sea. Bob Catley and Makmur Keliat, Spratlys: The Dispute in the South China Sea (Brookfield, Vt.: Ashgate, 1997) pp. 45-48, 50. 5 Catley and Keliat, pp. 49-51 6 Oil did flow in limited quantities from several plots. Marwyn S. Samuels, Contest for the South China Sea (New York: Methuen, 1982), p. 99 7 Catley and Keliat, p. 46 8 Samuels, p. 155


In the following pages, I will discuss several aspects of my general research question, starting with a brief review of the pertinent literature (section II), followed by a discussion of the gaps in existing research (section III). In section IV, I will operationalize relevant terms, participants, place names, and concepts. In section V, I will describe my specific research question, concerning the 1958 Declaration on the Territorial Sea, and the variables that potentially influenced its drafting and release. Lastly, in section VI, I will delve into the methodology I intend to use to measure these variables. While the 1958 declaration may now seem irrelevant, in the light of subsequent military, geopolitical, economic and legal developments, the document is still an important element in China’s current strategy to advance its claims in the South China Sea and assert its control over this important region. II. Literature Summary/Research Overview The literature that directly addresses China’s policies in the South China Sea 1950s is sparse. Samuels (1982) has done a thorough job of examining China’s historical claims to the area, and suggests Beijing’s declarations of territorial ownership in the late 1950s were tied to the Taiwan Strait crisis and possibly Vietnamese deployments in the area following the departure of the French colonial government from Vietnam. However, he does not offer evidence to support these assertions. Additional clues that may help explain what made Beijing act in the way it did can be found in the literature on other variables that influenced China at the time. I have identified the following broad variables as likely factors that influenced China’s South China Sea policies from 1950-1959: I. The PRC’s foreign policy: ideological factors; objectives and rivalry regarding Taiwan; the influence of Mao Zedong and other high-ranking CCP officials; conflicts with Vietnam (and the French colonial administration); the relationship with Moscow and the USSR’s aims; conflict with the United States. II. Domestic issues. III. Military capabilities. IV. The development of international treaties and laws concerning territory in South China Sea. There is a large amount of literature covering these broad variables and some (but not all) subsets of these variables. I will describe those studies which I believe have particular relevance to my research question. Bong (2002) provides a general overview of international relations theories in the context of disputed East Asian territories. He looks at three groups of policy behavior models in territorial disputes: ideational, realist, and domestic. Ideational is divided into three subsets: “historical animosity stemming from the Japanese imperialist past”; a skepticism 4

toward international law owing to the poor treatment of Asian countries by Western powers in colonial times; and a traditional worldview in which China is and always has been at the center. The realist view of territorial disputes reflects military-strategic goals to secure sovereign territory. The domestic view has two subsets: one which measures foreign policy behavior against the level of democracy in a state; and the other which looks at the domestic platforms of political leaders and certain personality characteristics. Huth (1996) expands upon the domestic view in his examination of how territorial disputes develop. He suggests that the factors in making territorial policy are leaders’ attempts to enhance domestic legitimacy and public support for the regime, as a way to appeal to nationalist sentiment. I believe that Communist ideology played an important role in China’s South China Sea policy in the 1950s. Some research has been undertaken in this area: Armstrong (1977) suggests that Communist ideology strongly influenced Chinese foreign policy in the 1960s. His thesis: building a “united front” would not only defeat China’s enemies, but encourage the other members of the front to shift leftward. Guillermaz (1976) gives a structured, chronological approach to the early history of the People’s Republic of China, paying close attention to the nitty-gritty bureaucratic and political details of party ideology and doctrine; defense; foreign policy; domestic policy; economics and population; and culture and other general issues. On the other hand, Gurtov and Hwang (1980) discount the influence of Communist ideology on foreign policy in the 1950s. Instead, the authors attempt to make a connection between China’s reactions to external threats at times of domestic political weakness. For instance, they believe China’s involvement in the Korean War was prompted by what it perceived to be an urgent external threat and the domestic need to mobilize production following the Chinese Civil War. As for the Taiwan Strait crisis later in the decade, the authors dismiss the possibility that it was military adventurism prompted by domestic instability, and instead suggest Beijing overestimated the combined threat of the U.S./Taiwan alliance. Beyond foreign policy and domestic issues, one broad influence that I believe had a significant impact on China’s South China Sea policies in the 1950s concerns China’s military capabilities. Deficiencies of the People’s Liberation Army can help explain why the leadership in Beijing was unable to back up their strongly worded territorial claims with force. Shambaugh’s (2003) history of the PLA describes important developments in the Chinese military in the 1950s, including information relating to PLA leadership, organization and budgets. He makes some interesting correlations between defense spending and external issues (the Korean War and flare-ups in the Taiwan Strait) as well as internal issues, such as the Great Leap Forward. He also examines significant military restructuring that took place in the mid- to late-1950s.


Another broad variable that relates to China’s South China Sea policy are Beijing’s use of international treaties and maritime law to further its territorial claims. In September 1958, Beijing issued a “Declaration on the Territorial Sea” which would form the basis for all subsequent claims over the islands of the South China Sea. Samuels (1982) notes that according to the claim, if the straight baseline method were used to calculate 12-mile territorial limits around the islands and reefs, and contiguous areas in between, it would “effectively enclose the entire core of the South China Sea within China’s territorial sea.”9 Samuels also delves into China’s participation in the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea in the 1970s (shortly after the People’s Republic of China joined the United Nations) and its relevance to China’s goals of strengthening its southern frontier, projecting its power in the region, and limiting the power of neighbors and the two superpowers. While this conference took place in a time period after the period under study, I suspect that China many years before then planned its readmittance to international organizations and plotted its strategies with its South China Sea territorial claims in mind. After all, China’s 1958 declaration appeared just five months after the UN’s Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone was drafted in Geneva.10 In summary, my research question can draw upon research in several broad areas. There is a great deal of literature on international relations, foreign policy, and related influences, including several studies that focus on East Asia, Southeast Asia, and the South China Sea. Several researchers have also explored Communist ideology and its influence on foreign policy. Domestic issues and their impact on foreign policy are also covered, as are military issues specific to the PRC. Lastly, the role of international treaties, international organizations, and maritime law vis-à-vis China and the South China Sea have been adequately explored. III. Gaps in the Research Despite the existence of the aforementioned research, there are three crucial areas relating to my research question that are either not addressed or only partially explained by the available literature. They are the military and ideological rivalries between the Nationalists on Taiwan and the Communists in mainland China; China’s attitudes toward South Vietnam — which inherited territorial claims in the Paracels from the French colonial government — versus attitudes toward its ideological allies in Communist North Vietnam; and the sharp shift domestically toward a more radical Communist ideology in the late 1950s, and its effect on cadres who had responsibility for deciding and implementing foreign policies as well as strategies opposing Taiwan.

Samuels, p. 87 The convention did not come into effect until September 1964 (China was not a signatory) and was later superceded by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. “Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone, 1958” United Nations website. Available at


I should note that these gaps are apparent in English-language studies. There may well be a great deal of research on these subjects in Chinese, Vietnamese, and perhaps French. I plan to examine some foreign-language research, keeping in mind that scholars in China, Vietnam, and (until the early 1990s) Taiwan have not been free to publish research which might undermine their own government’s stance on sensitive territorial claims. Indeed, Catley and Keliat (1997) note it is not unusual for scholars to “endorse their respective governments’ positions” on territorial claims in the Spratlys while criticizing other claimants’ reasoning.11 Furthermore, they note that overseas Chinese are apt to support Chinese claims, despite other reservations they may have about the government in Beijing.12 Fortunately, primary sources and other sources of information may counter some of the shortcomings in the scholarly literature. For instance, China and Taiwan went to great lengths in the 1950s to legitimize to their own populations and the world via state media outlets and official government statements the merits of their respective political systems and the ideological failings of the other side. It may be easy to dismiss such statements as shrill propaganda, exaggerated bragging, and ranting put-downs, typical of the Cold War mentality of the time, yet I think it is possible to glean from such sources not only a sense of the intense rivalry and mutual hatred between China and Taiwan but also the specific issues that divided the two sides. As for the PRC/Taiwan military rivalry, which manifested itself throughout the decade in small and large battles along the coast of central and southern China, there are several potential primary sources to examine. For instance, the Western press was on hand for the 1958 Taiwan Strait Crisis (but reported on the battle from Taiwan, which could have created bias in the coverage). Furthermore, I am quite certain military appraisals of the 1958 Taiwan Strait Crisis were produced by the PLA, Taiwan’s military, and the U.S. military. Military archives in China may be difficult to access (but not impossible, as evidenced by Shambaugh’s work). Taiwan’s military archives may be more accessible, but the language barrier and inconvenience of flying to Taiwan to view them is a deterrent. That leaves American appraisals of the situation, which, judging by the huge military presence in East Asia at the time, must have been extensive. I am counting having access to these American archives — even if they are still classified, it may be possible to file an application under the Freedom of Information Act to view them. Primary sources relating to the three-way relationship between China, South Vietnam, and North Vietnam in the late 1950s (after France’s withdrawal) could present a problem. Samuels (1982) noted that state media outlets and government officials in Beijing and Saigon expressed official views regarding their conflicting South China Sea territorial claims, but North Vietnam’s stance on the issue at this point in time is unclear. North
11 12

Catley and Keliat, p. 17 Catley and Keliat, p. 17


Vietnam did not occupy any of the islands in the South China Sea, and it certainly would have been awkward for Hanoi to lay claim to territory that its ideological ally and powerful neighbor (the PRC) said in no uncertain terms was Chinese territory. Lastly, primary sources on the shift toward radicalism in Chinese political circles and society in the late 1950s — and its affect on foreign and South China Sea policies — may be the most difficult gap to fill in. The late 50s was a terrible period in modern Chinese history. In 1956, the “Hundred Flowers” campaign13 resulted in the purge of hundreds of thousands of intellectuals and party members critical of Mao and his policies. Two years later, Mao’s call for renewed struggle resulted in the “Great Leap Forward,” a disastrous three-year plan to rapidly create an industrial economy in the Chinese countryside. Some of the literature describing this era — such as Terrill’s biography of Mao Zedong (1980) and Han’s biography of Zhou Enlai (1994) — rely on official speeches by both men, and a few details of visits to foreign capitals, summaries of participation in conferences, etc. This concentration on public statements in this period glosses over the tremendous shift taking place in China at the time, and the huge impact it had on domestic policy, foreign policy, and government personnel responsible for implementing policy.14 It was in 1958 — not long after the start of the Great Leap Forward — that three significant events related to China’s foreign policy occurred: the stepping down of the moderate Zhou Enlai from the PRC Foreign Ministry; the August 1958 assault on Taiwan-held Jinmen; and the formal release of the PRC’s Declaration on the Territorial Sea. The documents I would be most interested in seeing are the minutes of Foreign Ministry meetings following the departure of Zhou, and the early drafts of the 1958 declaration. I assume they exist, but are almost certainly classified. IV. Operationalization 1951 San Francisco Peace Conference: This gathering brought together fifty two states to clarify the legal issues relating to Japan’s surrender in 1945, including territorial claims. This conference was also an early Cold War diplomatic sparring ground between Communist and non-Communist states. 1958 Taiwan Strait Crisis: The military confrontation initiated by the PLA against Nationalist-held Jinmen off the coast of Fujian province in August 1958. Baseline concept: This concept, used to determine the maritime boundary of coastal country, has evolved over the decades. As of 1958, it was based on the “archipelagic principle.” Samuels describes the original concept thusly: “Using straight baselines to

Named after Mao Zedong’s call to let 100 flowers bloom. Originally intended to encourage intellectual discussion and discourse over the China’s direction, it turned into a purge after criticism was directed at the Chinese Communist Party and government policies. 14 Neither Terrill nor Han Suyin (Zhou’s biographer) spend much time discussing Chen Yi, Zhou’s successor as Foreign Minister in 1958.


connect the outermost points of the outermost islands, rocks and reefs of an archipelago, a special regime would be established equivalent to the territorial regime of continental states. The waters within the archipelagic regime, sometimes extending hundreds of miles to sea, would constitute ‘internal waters’ much like lakes or rivers of any continental state, and the territorial sea of the new regime would extend outwards from the straight baselines.”15 Bohai Sea: An large bay of the Yellow Sea bounded by Shandong province, coastal Hebei province, and Liaoning province in Manchuria. Chen Yi: PRC Foreign Minister from 1958 to 1966. Spelled Chen I according to an older Romanization system. China: The People’s Republic of China (PRC). This definition includes mainland China, the island of Hainan, and several smaller coastal islands controlled by the PRC government and military. This definition does not include territories claimed by the PRC but not occupied by its government or military, such as Taiwan, islands off the coast of China occupied by Taiwan’s military, and islands in the South China Sea. Chinese Civil War: The military and political conflict that took place from the 1920s and the late 1940s in China between the Communist and Nationalist parties. The former defeated the latter on the mainland and Hainan island, but the Nationalists were able to survive by withdrawing to Taiwan. Military confrontations between the two sides persisted in and around the Taiwan Strait in the 1950s and 1960s. Chinese Communist Party: (CCP) The political party that has controlled China and its government administration from the end of 1949. China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea: In the early 1950s, China stated claim to the Paracels and Spratlys groups, Pratas Island, and Macclesfield Bank. In the 1958 declaration, the territory was specified according to the straight baseline method at the 12mile limit from the islands in these groups. All national maps published in China thereafter have represented this territory as an extended lasso stretching from Guangdong province. Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone: An international agreement negotiated under the auspices of the United Nations from February to April 1958, and entered into international law in 1964. The convention describes rules and codes of conduct for calculating, declaring, and managing maritime territory.


Samuels, p. 125


Declaration on the Territorial Sea: A document released by the PRC on September 4, 1958 formally titled “Declaration of the Government of the People’s Republic of China on the Territorial Sea.” The declaration described what China viewed as its maritime territory around mainland China, Taiwan, and the South China Sea, and warned foreign aircraft, military vessels, and the United States not to intrude in these areas. See section V for the English translation. Great Leap Forward: A CCP campaign from 1958-1961 to rapidly industrialize China via massive public works projects and creation of small factories in the countryside. The shift of resources away from agriculture caused widespread famine — estimates range between 20 and 30 million deaths between 1958 and 1962. Jiang Jieshi: The Mandarin name of Chiang Kai-shek. Also known as Jiang Zhongzheng. A leading military man and Nationalist politician who was China’s leader from the late 1920s until he, his army, and government were driven to Taiwan by Communist forces in the late 40s. From 1945 (the year Japan was defeated in World War II) until his death in 1975 he ruled Taiwan. Jinmen: Also known as Kinmen, or Quemoy. A small, heavily fortified island group off the coast of Fujian province (opposite the port of Xiamen) controlled by the Taiwan government. Mao Zedong: The Chairman of the CCP and China’s leader from 1949 until his death in 1976. Also known as Chairman Mao. Spelled Mao Tse-t’ung according to an older Romanization system. Mazu: Also known as Matsu. A small, heavily fortified island group off the coast of Fujian province controlled by the Taiwan government. Mazu is located north of Jinmen. Nationalists: The Nationalist Party of China, also known as the Republicans. In Chinese, Guomindang (GMD) or Kuomintang (KMT). From the teens until 1949 the Nationalists dominated China; after 1945 (the year Japan was defeated), the Nationalists dominated Taiwan until democratic reforms in the late 1980s. North Vietnam: The Communist state (located north of the 17th parallel) created by the division of Vietnam in 1954. Paracels Group: An archipelago roughly 400 kilometers east of central Vietnam and about 350 km. southeast of China’s Hainan island. There are no native inhabitants of these islands, although some have been occupied by the military forces of Vietnam, China, France, and Japan in the 20th century. Known as the Xisha, Sisha, or Hsisha islands in Mandarin.


People’s Liberation Army of the People’s Republic of China: (PLA) This is the formal name of China’s military, including ground forces as well as air and naval units. Pescadores: A Taiwan-controlled archipelago located in the middle of the Taiwan Strait. Known as Penghu in Mandarin. Pratas Island: An island in the South China Sea, located about 350 kilometers southeast of Hong Kong. Known as Dongsha or Tungsha in Mandarin. South China Sea: A subarea of the western Pacific Ocean which is bounded by the Malay peninsula to the west, Borneo to the south, the Philippines to the east, and China’s southeast coast and Taiwan to the north and northeast. This area includes numerous island groups including the Spratlys, Paracels, Macclesfield Bank, Pratas island. The Pescadores, Jinmen and Mazu in the Taiwan Strait are not included in this definition. South Vietnam: The non-Communist state (located south of the 17th parallel) created by the division of Vietnam in 1954. Spratlys Group: An archipelago midway between Vietnam and the Philippines. The military forces of Malaysia, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, France, Japan, and the Philippines have intermittently occupied some of the islands in the group since the 1930s. Known as the Nansha islands in Mandarin. Taiwan: A large, semitropical island located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. Taiwan has remained independent of Chinese Communist control. The government of Taiwan (which, until the late 1980s, was controlled solely by the Nationalist political party) also has administrative and military control of the Pescadores in the Taiwan Strait and the Jinmen and Mazu island groups off the coast of the PRC’s Fujian province. Taiwan is considered the northern boundary of the South China Sea. United States: The nation commonly known as the U.S. or America. Vietnam: The territory comprising North and South Vietnam created by the withdrawal of the French colonial government in the mid-1950s. Zhou Enlai: Premier of the PRC from 1949-1976 and Foreign Minister from 1949 to 1958. Also a senior figure in the CCP. Spelled Chou Enlai according to an older Romanization system. V. Specific Research Question


Among the broad set of influences and developments concerning China’s South China Sea policies in the 1950s, there is a narrow set of questions that I would like to explore in more detail. They concern the PRC’s Declaration on the Territorial Sea:
DECLARATION OF THE GOVERNMENT OF THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA ON THE TERRITORIAL SEA (Approved by the 100th Session of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on 4th September, 1958) The People’s Republic of China hereby announces: (1) This width of the territorial sea of the People’s Republic of China is twelve national miles. This provision applies to all Territories of the People’s Republic of China, including the mainland China and offshore islands, Taiwan (separated from the mainland and offshore islands by high seas) and its surrounding islands, the Penghu Archipelago, the Dongsha Islands, the Xisha islands, the Zhongsha Islands, the Nansha Islands and other islands belonging to China. (2) The straight lines linking each basic point at the mainland’s coasts and offshore outlying islands are regarded as base lines of the territorial sea of the mainland China and offshore islands. The waters extending twelve nautical miles away from the base lines are China’s territorial sea. The waters inside the base lines, including Bohai Bay and Giongzhou Strait, are China’s inland sea. The islands inside the base lines, including Dongyin Island, Gaodeng Island, Mazu Inland, Baiquan Island, Niaoqin Island, Big and Small Jinmen Islands, Dadam Island, Erdan Island and Dongding Island, are China’s inland sea islands. (3) Without the permit of the government of the People’s Republic of China, all foreign aircrafts and military vessels shall not be allowed to enter China’s territorial sea and the sky above the territorial sea. Any foreign vessel sailing in China’s territorial sea must comply with the relevant orders of the government of the People’s Republic of China. (4) The above provisions (2) and (3) also apply to Taiwan and its surrounding islands, the Penghu Islands, the Dongsha Islands, the Xisha Islands, the Zhongsha Islands, the Nansha Islands and other islands belonging to China. Taiwan and Penghu are still occupied with force by the USA. This is an illegality violating the People’s Republic of China’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. Taiwan and Penghu are waiting for recapture. The People’s Republic of China has rights to take all appropriate measures to recapture these places in due course. It is China’s internal affairs which should not be interfered by any foreign country.16

A few assumptions can be made about this document. One, even if it was drafted by China’s Foreign Ministry, it had the stamp of approval of the Chinese Communist Party leadership and the National People’s Congress. Two, it directly links the South China Sea claims with the Taiwan dispute. Three, even though it ostensibly addresses “internal affairs” (i.e., the dispute with Taiwan and maintaining China’s own territorial integrity) it also puts forward foreign and military policy goals, accusing the U.S. of occupying

“Declaration Of The Government Of The People’s Republic Of China On The Territorial Sea” Hong Kong Constitutional Law Sourcebook. Available at


Taiwan and the Pescadores and warning foreign military forces not to intrude upon China’s maritime territory and airspace. My specific research question is as follows: “What are the factors that contributed to the drafting and release of the PRC’s 1958 Declaration on the Territorial Sea?” In terms of exploring the development of this declaration, it would be ideal to examine all of the variables which played a part in its drafting. However, it may only be practical to examine a few of them. Of the four broad categories listed in section II of this proposal, I would opt to put aside domestic and military issues, and concentrate on foreign policy issues and international treaties and their individual and collective influence on the development of the 1958 declaration. The specific variables I would like to analyze are: i. China’s South China Sea territorial claims ii. China’s initiation of the 1958 Taiwan Strait Crisis iii. U.S. political and military support for Taiwan during the 1958 Taiwan Strait Crisis iv. China’s (a) short-term goals and (b) long-term goals vis-à-vis U.S. policy in East Asia v. China’s (a) short-term goals and (b) long-term goals vis-à-vis U.S. policy in Southeast Asia vi. The trilateral relationship between China, North Vietnam and South Vietnam visà-vis their respective territorial claims in the South China Sea vii. The UN Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone VI. Methodology a. The Direct Approach One way to measure these variables’ respective influence would be to ask individual questions about related theories, events, and players from this period. The questions might include the following: Aside from reaffirming China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, was the 1958 declaration related to the PRC assault on the Taiwan-held island of Jinmen in the previous month? If yes, was the declaration intended to distract US and Taiwan strategists, keep them guessing about the PLA’s next moves, or induce them to deploy forces away from the south China coast, to the South China Sea?


If no, why did the 1958 declaration mention Taiwan and the U.S. occupation, and presence of foreign military aircraft and vessels? Did the 1958 declaration immediately create problems for U.S. military strategists and policymakers regarding a) Taiwan b) Wider U.S. military, political, and economic goals in East Asia; and c) Wider U.S. military, political, and economic goals in Southeast Asia? If yes, what were they? If no, why not? What short-term effects did China hope the declaration would have on a) Taiwan b) The United States c) South Vietnam d) Other individual states e) The U.N. f) Worldwide opinion? Were these hopes realized (i.e., did a-f react in the way China hoped?) What long-term effects did China hope the declaration would have on a) Taiwan b) The United States c) South Vietnam d) Other individual states e) The U.N. f) Worldwide opinion? Were these hopes realized (i.e., did a-f react in the way China hoped?) Note that the above questions collectively form a potential starting point. However, for each one, individual answers would likely lead to more questions, and some answers could influence the way other questions are constructed. I have therefore concluded that this approach, while direct, is too complex. There are simply too many questions and possibilities to consider, and the paths of logic indicated by the answers would rapidly extend in multiple directions. The design of such a study, and an analysis of the results, would prove problematic. b. The Counterfactual Approach


Another way of examining these questions would be to employ counterfactuals. Applying “what if” scenarios according to the idiographic method described by Tetlock and Belkin (1996) would be an effective way of isolating and testing variables. In brief, idiographic case study counterfactuals focus on conceivable causes that, if removed or altered, could cause a different outcome in the situation under study. To see how this works, take the following hypothetical counterfactual: “Would Bob Dole have been elected president if Ross Perot had not participated in the 1996 election?” Far from being an idle exercise by barstool analysts, asking this type of question allows us to remove an important variable that affected the results of the election and focus on other major variables, such as the platforms of the remaining candidates, their performance in the debates, voting patterns of regional, demographic, and political constituencies, etc. This question also meets Tetlock and Belkin’s standards for creating (or judging) counterfactuals: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Well-specified antecedents and consequents Cotenability Consistency with historical fact (also known as the “minimal rewrite rule”) Consistency with historical theory Consistency with well-established statistical generalizations Projectability17

For my specific research question, using a similar counterfactual approach — combined with the direct method of questioning described earlier — would enable me to measure the influence of variables i-vii, thereby revealing a lot about this relatively obscure chapter of the Cold War. Where would be a good place to start with counterfactuals? The text of the PRC’s 1958 declaration holds the answer. In the document, there are clear references to the United State’s support of Taiwan, and the incursion of foreign military aircraft and naval vessels into what China defines as its maritime territory. I believe these references must be analyzed in the context of the 1958 Taiwan Strait Crisis, which had started just one month before the declaration was released. The Taiwan Strait Crisis involved at least three of the variables described above (ii; iii; and iv) and possibly two others (i, if the South China Sea elements of the declaration were intended as some sort of military distraction or flanking maneuver; and v, if one considers the United States’ goals relating to the South China Sea as also relating to U.S. goals in Southeast Asia). What if the crisis were subtracted from history, via a counterfactual question? That question could be:

Philip E. Tetlock and Aaron Belkin, Counterfactual Thought Experiments in World Politics: Logical, Methodological, and Psychological Perspectives. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996) p. 3


A) “If the PRC didn’t attack Jinmen in August of 1958, would it have issued the Declaration on the Territorial Sea in September of 1958?” Counterfactual question A removes the 1958 Taiwan Strait Crisis from consideration, but has two limitations. First, in terms of addressing the influence of the crisis, it does not discern the individual influences of variables ii and iii. Since U.S. support of Taiwan during the crisis (iii) was a dependent variable of the PRC’s initiation of the crisis (ii), the influence of iii can removed while leaving ii intact, but not vice versa. Therefore, a modified version of A, aimed at removing the influence of iii, can be phrased as follows: A [modified] “If the U.S. did not provide support to Taiwan during the 1958 Taiwan Strait Crisis, would the PRC have issued the Declaration of the Territorial Sea in September of 1958?” A second limitation relating to counterfactual question A is it does not adequately isolate i (China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea). The 1958 declaration defines a great deal of maritime territory, from the Spratly islands in the south, to Taiwan and the Pescadores off the south-central coast of mainland China, to the Bohai Sea in the north. Therefore, a counterfactual that removes not only the Taiwan Strait Crisis, but also the PRC’s maritime claims outside of the South China Sea, might throw some additional light onto the variables that contributed to the 1958 declaration. That counterfactual question could be phrased as follows: B) “If the PRC hadn’t attacked Jinmen in August of 1958, would the PRC government have felt it necessary to issue some kind of public declaration explaining its South China Sea territorial claims?” To answer this question would not only require examination of China’s earlier claims regarding the South China Sea (such as those made during the San Francisco Peace Conference seven years earlier) but also previously unarticulated aspects of the South China Sea claims. The South China Sea claims expressed in the 1958 declaration were not much different than those expressed by the PRC in 1951, with a few notable exceptions: The 1958 declaration included references to baselines and a 12-mile limit. These details were new to China’s claim, and their presence in the declaration is no coincidence. Just five months before the Declaration on the Territorial Sea was released, in April of 1958, the Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone, a United Nations agreement that addressed maritime territorial claims, was drafted in Geneva.18 China did not participate in the conference, and was not a signatory when it entered into force in 1964. However, the timing of the release of China’s declaration, the similar language in the titles of both documents, and the references in the earlier document to the twelve-mile

This agreement was superceded by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. United Nations website.


baseline limit on maritime territorial claims19 indicates that the UN convention not only served as a partial template for China’s 1958 declaration, but also enabled China to formally and precisely identify its maritime territorial claims according to international standards. The convention’s extension of national maritime territory to 12 miles from the previous maritime standard of three miles would have been regarded by officials in Beijing as a boon to China, effectively adding thousands of square miles of coastal seas to its national territory. Furthermore, China’s interpretation of the limit according to the baseline concept enabled China to claim large swathes of ocean beyond the 12 mile limit, but lying between the mainland and remote islands, such as those in the South China Sea.20 At this point, it would be necessary to compare the two documents, to precisely identify what concepts and language the PRC borrowed from the UN convention. Afterwards, an appropriate counterfactual question could be posed, to confirm and analyze the influence of the UN document: C) “Had the UN not discussed or released a draft version of the Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone in April of 1958, would China have released the Declaration on the Territorial Sea in September of 1958, or felt it necessary to issue some kind of public declaration explaining its South China Sea territorial claims?” While this question would help isolate the influence of the UN convention, it doesn’t address the influence of the 1958 Taiwan Strait Crisis. Therefore, it would be necessary to refine this counterfactual question as follows: C [modified]. “Had the UN not discussed or released a draft version of the Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone in April of 1958, and China had not attacked Jinmen in the summer of 1958, would China have released the Declaration on the Territorial Sea in September of 1958 or felt it necessary to issue some kind of public declaration explaining its South China Sea territorial claims?” In terms the variables described in section V relating to U.S. goals in Southeast Asia and the trilateral relationship involving China, North Vietnam and South Vietnam, a fair deal of direct questioning and research may be more effective at determining their influence on the PRC’s 1958 Declaration on the Territorial Sea. The reason for this is the complexity of the competing territorial claims of China, Taiwan, South Vietnam, and North Vietnam;

Samuels provides an interesting summary of the introduction of the straight baseline concept as it relates to archipelagic territory at the 1958 convention in Geneva, and how the concept could be used to determine a state’s “internal waters.” Even though the concept was rejected at the insistence of the U.S. and USSR (which were against concepts that might restrict their navies passing through straits and other maritime territories), archipelagic countries such as the Philippines and Indonesia have implemented this concept into their own definitions of their national territory. Samuels, pp. 125-126. 20 Samuels, p. 120


the unknown aspects of China’s attitude and goals regarding North and South Vietnam; and the complexity of U.S. goals in Southeast Asia, involving its growing military and political influence in the region, and its desire to contain Communist expansion. My strategy for measuring these influences would be to first ask a series of preliminary direct questions, aimed at eliciting information necessary to answer the broader questions relating to variables v and vi: 1. What were the United States’ goals in Southeast Asia as of 1958, specifically in Vietnam? 2. What did China believe the United States’ goals were in Southeast Asia at this time; specifically in Vietnam? 3. How did China believe the 1958 declaration would affect U.S. naval and air operations in a. The South China Sea b. Vietnam 4. How did South Vietnam’s and China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea overlap, as of September 1958? 5. As of September 1958, how did China believe South Vietnam’s control of contested South China Sea territory would impact China’s economic and military goals? 6. As of September 1958, what were North Vietnam’s territorial claims in the South China Sea? 7. As of September 1958, how did North Vietnam’s territorial claims overlap with China’s, it at all? 8. If there was overlap, how did North Vietnam and China, as ideological allies, resolve these differences? Once these preliminary questions are answered, I could then proceed to determine the influence of variables v and vi using more direct questions: D) In the short term, did China believe the declaration would force the U.S. to deploy forces to the South China Sea, to either i. Protect Taiwan forces based in the South China Sea ii. Ward off a flank attack by the PRC against Taiwan from the South China Sea 18

iii. Prevent PLA units from seizing and occupying (and therefore controlling) South China Sea territory E) If the answer to Di, Dii, or Diii is yes, did China believe a U.S. deployment in the South China Sea would result in a reduced commitment to helping Taiwan during the 1958 Taiwan Strait Crisis (therefore resulting in a Taiwan withdrawal from Jinmen, or some other outcome benefiting the PRC) because i. The U.S. military would be forced to move resources from Jinmen and/or Taiwan to the South China Sea ii. The cost of maintaining military forces in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea would be too great iii. It would be unacceptable to U.S. leaders in terms of domestic and international criticism. F) Did China consider the effects the 1958 declaration would have on South Vietnam’s current military and economic activities in the South China Sea? i. If yes, what were the anticipated effects? ii. If yes, did Vietnam react in the way China had anticipated? G. Did China discuss the contents of the 1958 declaration with North Vietnam prior to the declaration’s release? i. If yes, a) what was North Vietnam’s reaction; and b) did North Vietnam ask for changes in the text of the document? ii. If no, how did China believe North Vietnam would react to the declaration? In summary, counterfactual questions A, B, and C; as well as direct questions D, E, F, and G; plus the preliminary direct questions 1-8; and the subquestions for all of the above would serve to measure the influence of variables i-vii and answer my specific research question, “What are the factors that contributed to the drafting and release of the PRC’s 1958 Declaration on the Territorial Sea?” Bibliography Ajzen, Icek; and Fishbein, Martin. Understanding Attitudes and Predicting Social Behavior. New York: Pearson Education, 1997. Armstrong, J. D. Revolutionary Diplomacy: Chinese Foreign Policy and the United Front Doctrine. Berkeley: University Of California Press, 1977.


Bong, Youngshik Daniel. “Flashpoints at Sea? Legitimization Strategy and East Asian Island Disputes (Japan, China, Russia, Korea)” (Doctoral Dissertation) University of Pennsylvania, 2002 Catley, Bob; Keliat, Makmur (eds.). Spratlys: The Dispute in the South China Sea. Brookfield, Vt.: Ashgate, 1997 Charney, Jonathan I. “Central East Asian Maritime Boundaries and the Law of the Sea” The American Journal of International Law, Vol. 89, No. 4. (Oct., 1995), pp. 724-749. Cheng, Wen-kuang. “Life Comes To China’s Tropic Isles,” China Reconstructs (North American ed.). Beijing, China: China Reconstructs, March 1959. Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone, 1958. United Nations Website. Declaration Of The Government Of The People's Republic Of China On The Territorial Sea. Hong Kong Constitutional Law Sourcebook. Dougherty, James E.; and Pfaltzgraff, Robert L. Contending Theories of International Relations: A Comprehensive Survey. New York: Longman, 1997. Guillermaz, Jacques. The Chinese Communist Party in Power, 1949-1976. Boulder: Westview Press, 1976. Gurtov, Melvin; and Hwang, Byong-Moo. China under Threat: The Politics of Strategy and Diplomacy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980. Han, Suyin. Eldest Son: Zhou Enlai and the Making of Modern China, 1896-1976. New York: Kodansha International, 1994. Heinzig, Dieter. Disputed Islands in the South China Sea. Wiesbaden: Institute of Asian Affairs in Hamburg, 1976. Huth, Paul K. Standing Your Ground: Territorial Disputes and International Conflict. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996. Samuels, Marwyn S. Contest for the South China Sea. New York: Methuen, 1982. Shambaugh, David. Modernizing China’s Military: Progress, Problems, and Prospects. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.


Tetlock, Philip E.; Belkin, Aaron (eds.) Counterfactual Thought Experiments in World Politics: Logical, Methodological, and Psychological Perspectives. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996. Terrill, Ross. Mao: A Biography. New York, Harper and Row, 1980. Wu, Samuel S. G.; Bueno de Mesquita, Bruce. “Assessing the Dispute in the South China Sea: A Model of China’s Security Decision Making” International Studies Quarterly, Vol. 38, No. 3. (Sep., 1994), pp. 379-403.


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