The “nine-dash line,” , which featured on a controversial map from 1947, is the foundation for China’s claims of the borders of the South China Sea.
“The Geopolitical Chessboard: China ’s List of Countries in Conflict”
In reaction to Iran’s attacks on Kuwaiti ships, President Ronald Reagan decided to reflag almost a dozen Kuwaiti tankers in 1987, in a bold move to defend freedom of navigation in international waters and safeguard Kuwait’s oil exports. This decision was made among growing concerns over China’s Claims of borders, as it aimed to send a strong message that the United States would not tolerate any threats to the stability of the region. Despite fears that this action might escalate tensions and lead to a full-blown conflict, Reagan stood firm in his resolve, and the Iranian military eventually ceased their provocations, realizing the consequences of their actions. However, China’s claims of borders, which had long been a source of conflict in the area, continued to simmer in the background as a geopolitical issue. The already delicate balance of power in the area became even more difficult due to the disputed territory and competing claims between China and its neighboring nations.
The United States should take a page from Reagan’s playbook and think about reflagging some of the rocks, reefs, and atolls that China erroneously claims as its own, in what has become a contentious issue known as “China’s Claims of borders.” By doing so, the U.S. would not only address China’s ongoing efforts to undermine freedom of navigation and the general liberal order but also make a powerful statement in support of international laws and standards.
China’s Claims of borders in the South China Sea have been a subject of intense debate and controversy. The basis for these claims lies in the infamous “nine-dash line,” a contentious map that first emerged in 1947. However, historians have raised doubts about the legitimacy of this map, as it lacks any mention of such territorial assertions in earlier Chinese cartography. In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration delivered a significant blow to China’s claims in the South China Sea. The court ruled that China’s claims were unjustified under international law, further undermining the credibility of China’s territorial assertions. In light of these factors, it becomes clear that China’s Claims of borders in the South China Sea lack a solid foundation and fail to withstand historical scrutiny and legal examination.
“United States’ Response to China’s Control in the South China Sea”
Despite the international judgment, China’s Claims of borders have led to nearly two decades of militarization and control over various rocks and reefs in the South China Sea. This has resulted in the denial of access to the rightful owners of these properties, as China has transformed them into man-made islands equipped with military facilities. The recent interference with the Philippines’ resupply operations serves as clear evidence of China’s actions, which have only escalated tensions in the region.
In light of the circumstances, the United States should consider establishing lease agreements with its regional allies to “reflag” the reefs and atolls in the region in order to counter China’s Claims of borders. Instead of a land grab, this would be a planned move to deter Chinese invasion. The current U.S. legal position supports the 2016 Hague tribunal decision, which deals with China’s claims of borders. However, it is important to consider potential grounds for reconsideration, such as the potential illegality of some maritime conflicts and the necessity to stop China from persistently invading neighboring countries.
The unwillingness of regional states to offer leases is one potential obstacle in implementing this concept However, China’s aggressive activities, particularly its assertive stance on China ’s claims of borders have caused alliances to change and old rivalries to be reexamined. For resupply missions, the United States might send armed convoys or troops with regional allies to show support. Another way to help the defense ministries in the Philippines, Vietnam, and Indonesia is through temporary leases. A temporary lease would ultimately enable the U.S. to participate in negotiations, raise the cost of Chinese aggression, and represent the international rejection of China’s sovereignty claims.