Scarborough Shoal: China’s Perspective

SUN TZU, “THE ART OF WAR”: • Know your antagonist and know yourself, And you will be able to attain victory

Historical Basis
According to an official website of China: • “China is the first country to discover and name Huangyan Island, incorporate it into its territory, and exercised jurisdiction over it” ( • “Huangyan Island was first discovered and drawn into China’s map in China’s Yuan Dynasty (12711368 AD)” • “In 1279, Chinese astronomer Guo Shoujing performed a survey of the seas around China for Kublai Khan, and Huangyan Island was chosen as the point in the South China Sea”

Historical Basis (2)
• “China has been developing and exploiting Huangyan island for a long time” • “Huangyan island and its surrounding waters are a traditional fishing place for Chinese fishermen. Since ancient time, the Chinese fishermen have been fishing in Huangyan island and its surrounding waters”

Legal Basis
• “In January 1935, the Map Verification Committee of China, which consisted of representatives from Ministry of Interior Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Education and Navy, declared sovereignty over 132 islands, reefs and shoals” • “Huangyan Island, which was called ‘Scarborough Shoal’ at the time, was included as a part of Zhongsha Islands and included in the territory of China”

Legal Basis (2)
• “In October 1947, Chinese government announced the new name list of South China Sea islands and Scarborough Shoal was renamed as Minzhu (or Democratic) Reef” • “In 1983, the China Board on Geographic Names...decided to use Huangyan Island as the standard name of the island and Minzhu (or Democratic) Reef as alternative name”

Legal Basis (3)
• “All the official maps published by Chinese governments of different periods marked Huangyan Island as Chinese territory • “Huangyan Island has been consistently under administration of China’s Guangdong Province first and Hainan Province later” • “China has noted that the Huangyan Island is Chinese territory in all its declarations concerning the sovereignty of the South China Sea islands” • “All of these happened long before UNCLOS came into force in 1994”

Legal Basis (4)
• “The Chinese government had sent teams of scientists to investigate Huangyan Island over the years” • October 1977 & June 1978: researchers from the South China Sea Institute of Oceanology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences went there to do research • April 1985: the South China Sea branch of the State Oceanic Administration organized a comprehensive expedition to Huangyan Island

Legal Basis (5)
• 1994: a South China Sea scientific expedition went there to investigate it and built a onemeter-high concrete monument on the island • 1994, 1995 and 1997: China gave permission to radio amateurs to go to the island and broadcast from there

China’s Position on South China Sea
Foreign Ministry spokesman, February 2012: • “Neither China nor any other country lays claim to the entire South China Sea” Letter to UN Secretary-General from China’s UN Mission, May 2009: • “China has indisputable sovereignty over the islands in the South China Sea and the adjacent waters, and enjoys sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the relevant waters as well as the seabed and subsoil thereof (see attached map)”

China’s Map with Nine-Dash-Line

China’s Criticism of PH Claim
• “The Philippine territory was determined by a series of international treaties, and none of these stated that Huangyan island belongs to the Philippines” • “The Treaty of Paris (1898), the Treaty of Washington (1900) and the US – UK Convention (1930) clearly defined that 118 degrees East longitude is the western limit of Philippine territory. The Huangyan Island is outside this limit”

China’s Criticism of PH Claim (2)
• “The 1935 Philippine Constitution, the US-Philippines Treaty of General Relations and the Mutual Defense Treaty, the 1961 Republic Act No. 3046 setting the baselines of the Philippine territorial sea and the 1968 Republic Act No. 5446 amending the territorial sea baselines have reaffirmed the legal effects of the three treaties and explicitly recognized that the Philippine territory does not include the Huangyan Island” • “The above facts fully prove that Huangyan Island is outside the scope of Philippine territory and does not belong to the Philippines”

China’s Criticism of PH Claim (3)
• “Until 1997, the Philippines has never raised an objection about China’s jurisdiction and development of Huangyan Island, and even repeatedly stated that it was outside Philippine territory” • “The maps published by the Philippines in 1981 and 1984 also did not incorporate Huangyan Island” (including the latest official map, according to Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying) • “The Philippine Ambassador to Germany indicated clearly in his letter to a Germany radio amateur on February 5, 1990 that the Huangyan Island was not within the Philippine territorial sovereignty according to the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority of the Philippines”

China’s Criticism of PH Claim (4)
• “The documents sent by the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority of the Philippines to the American Amateur Radio Association on October 18, 1994 and November 18, 1994 have also confirmed respectively that the Philippine territorial limits and sovereignty were stipulated in Article 3 of the 1898 Treaty of Paris and Huangyan Island was located outside the boundary of Philippine territory”

China’s Criticism of PH Claim (5)
• “It is the basic principle of the international maritime law that land dominates the sea. UNCLOS allows coastal states to claim a 200-nautical-mile EEZ, but coastal states have no right to harm the inherent territory and sovereignty of other countries” • “Any attempt to use UNCLOS to change the territorial sovereignty of a country is a violation of the principles of international law, including UNCLOS” • “The maritime jurisdiction of the Philippines should not infringe upon the territorial sovereignty of China over the Huangyan Island”

Weakness of China’s Position
• China’s historical claim does not necessarily constitute a “historical title” to Scarborough Shoal (also, debatable basis of historical claim) • Even if the Treaty of Paris & other treaties did not include Scarborough Shoal as Philippine territory, it does not follow that the shoal belongs to China • China still has to prove that it exercised “effective occupation and jurisdiction” over it during a long, continuous period of time

Weakness of China’s Position (2)
China’s claim in the 9-dash-line map • conflicts with UNCLOS • exceeds what is permitted under UNCLOS • intersects and overlaps with the exclusive economic zones of the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and Vietnam

Possible Solutions
• Diplomatic vs legal solution, bilateral vs multilateral solution, unilateral vs joint development • China’s proposal: Bilateral talks, Deng Xiaoping’s idea of “shelving sovereignty and engaging in joint exploration and development,” concept on “joint fishing zone” or “joint maritime zone” (eg. Gulf of Tonkin)

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