In what is likely a new bid to reinforce and even expand China’s sweeping territorial claims in the South China Sea, a group of Chinese scholars recently published a “New Map of the People’s Republic of China.”
The alleged political national map, reportedly first published in April 1951 but only “discovered” through a recent national archival investigation, could give new clarity to the precise extent of China’s official claims in the disputed waters.
Instead of dotted lines, as reflected in China’s U-shaped Nine-Dash Line claim to nearly all of the South China Sea, the newly discovered map provides a solid “continuous national boundary line and administrative region line.”
The Chinese researchers claim that through analysis of historical maps, the 1951 solid-line map “proves” beyond dispute that the “U-boundary line is the border of China’s territorial sea” in the South China Sea.
They also claim that the solid administrative line overlaying the U-boundary “definitely indicated that the sovereignty of the sea” enclosed within the U-boundary “belonged to China.”
The study, edited by the Guanghua and Geosciences Club and published by SDX Joint Publishing Company, has not been formally endorsed by the Chinese government.
While supposedly found and analyzed by reputable independent scholars, there are questions on whether the “discovery” was influenced by the government considering how tightly the state controls the academy under President Xi Jinping.
Indeed, many experts believe that it’s Beijing’s latest effort to recover from a humiliating legal defeat in 2016, when an arbitration body at The Hague constituted under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) struck down much of China’s claims in adjacent waters in a ruling that favored the Philippines.
Beijing rejected the verdict as “a piece of scrap paper” and “null and void” in its view. Officially, the government adopted a “three no’s” policy of non-participation (in the arbitration proceedings), non-recognition (of the legitimacy of the court), and non-compliance (with the verdict).
Yet China has since quietly readjusted the premise of its claims by providing alternative legal doctrines to the overruled Nine-Dash Line map. Last year, China began to introduce a new quasi-legal doctrine in the South China Sea.
According to the new “Four Sha” doctrine, China lays sovereign claims over the Pratas, Paracels and Spratly group of islands, as well as the Macclesfield Bank area (known in Chinese as Dongsha, Xisha, Nansha, and Zhongsha respectively).
Instead of treating them as a collection of disputed land features, each group of islands or land features is treated as an integrated archipelagic body with its own maritime boundaries, sovereign land with a corresponding title to claim an exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The new doctrine was advanced by Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials during a closed-door meeting with US State Department officials in Washington last August, according to news reports and Pentagon sources.
But legal experts such as Hofstra University professor Julian Ku and Harvard legal scholar Chris Mirasola note, “these new Chinese legal justifications are no more lawful than China’s nine-dash line claim.”
The Four Sha doctrine predictably failed to gain much traction as it stood in stark contrast to modern international law, the 2016 arbitration award and the interpretation of neighboring states and international community.
The “new map” should thus be understood as yet another attempt to present old wine in a new bottle. According to the paper’s authors, the 1951 map presents “the continuous line” of a claim, which was “recognized by the international community in the corresponding historical period.”
They also claim that it provides “appropriate descriptions and drawing-methods for the sea boundary in [the] historical period,” ensuring the “certainty of the integrity, continuity and border of China’s seas.”
The academics argue that the new map should serve as the basis of China’s claims in the area, since it “more vividly, accurately, completely and scientifically” characterizes and proves Beijing’s sovereignty in adjacent waters.
The problem, however, is that there is little evidence as to the international community’s recognition of China’s claims in that era.
After all, the 1950s saw Taiwan occupying China’s seat in the United Nations, while a highly isolated Maoist mainland China waged an ideological war against the West and its smaller neighbors.
More crucially, throughout the Cold War nations negotiated throughout multiple rounds a new international doctrine to govern claims and rights in global waters, culminating in the UNCLOS.
Since then, most countries have signed up to or ratified the UNCLOS, turning it into the primary reference point for addressing maritime territorial disputes.
“In international law a map cannot be used to assert sovereignty over territory unless it is appended to a treaty,” Carlyle Thayer, a security expert, wrote in an April 24 memo.
“China’s 1951 map has no legal standing.… Discovery does not confer the right to sovereignty.” He wrote that if China adopted the map it could lead to physical confrontations between the Chinese navy and coast guard and regional states and would be an “incendiary and retrograde step.”
The arbitral tribunal at The Hague ruled specifically that China’s doctrine of “historic rights,” which serves as the basis of U-boundary claims, was “incompatible” with contemporary international law under UNCLOS.
In the tribunal’s final assessment, “there was no evidence that China had historically exercised exclusive control over the waters or their resources.”
The arbitral tribunal’s ruling, in accordance with Article 296 as well as Article 11 of Annex VII of the UNCLOS, was “final” and “binding.”
That hasn’t discouraged Beijing from forwarding alternative legal regimes to justify its de facto occupation – and attempted domination – of various disputed land features and resources in the South China Sea.
Despite the academic authors’ overzealous claims, the “new map” is unlikely to gain much international traction.
If Beijing moves to back the academics’ assertions, it could inflame already boiling tensions with smaller Southeast Asian claimants, which have opposed China’s expanding military footprint and extensive reclamation activities.
What is clearer is that China is still determined to provide quasi-legal cover for its rising domination of the South China Sea.
Give them another two or three years and the Chinese will suddenly "discover" another map which shows that Okinawa and Japan’s maritime regions have belonged to China since "ancient times". And after that, they’ll be arguing that Zheng He’s expedition to the Indian Ocean justifies the claim that the Indian Ocean is now one of China’s "core national interests"…
" an arbitration body at The Hague constituted under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) struck down much of China’s claims"
The author should know that arbitration is an agreement by two parties to a disagreement to allow a third party to decide the issue. China was not a party to this arbitration, so the "arbitration body" was operating outside its legal jurisdiction in a strictly political move. Also, it would have been appropriate to have noted that the US, which was instrumental in these maneuvers, has not ratified the UNCLOS.
Correct. More fake news. This is not "China’s ‘new’ map" it is a map some scholar’s found in a library and has not been issued by China.
1) Whether or not the US ratified UNCLOS has nothing to do with the PCA ruling in 2016 for the Philippines and striking down Chinese all Chinese claims. The US was not a party nor an American judge resided over the matter. 2) China was invited but refused to participate at this PCA and opted to only issueing numerous published opinions, unofficial written defenses, cyber intelligence gathrings and disbursements… outside to Court – which were taken into consideration by the ruling! 3) Signer of 1982 UNCLOS, China fully, knows and ratifies the legal jurisdiction of PCA: with or without both parties present and ruling is final and binding! Read the UNCLOS and PCA by-laws and stop using Chinese self-promotion " that arbitration is an agreement by two parties to a disagreement to allow a third party to decide the issue:.
Hai Nguyen Wrong. The UNCLOS expressly does not provide dispute mechanism over sovereign claim and yet the ad hoc tribunal purported to rule on China’s claim of sovereignty of the relevant area. It is a legally void ruling.
Its’ the work of Mossad and CIA.
The arbitral tribunal’s rule on the South China Sea Case is flawed, biased and absurd. It lacks due process of law. The whole case proceeded with only one-side opinions. The arbitral tribunal did not follow the procedures set up in UNCLOS and violate the articles in UNCLOS. The tribunal expands it authority to make a ‘law’ and does not respect the earlier precedent also. The case was based on “assumptions” that ends up with a unlogic, ridiculous rule. The author of this article and other so-called professors mentioned in this article have their positions on this issue. What are the world’s responses to the SCS arbitration? The fact is, according to AMTI CSIS (a US Think Tank), there are only 7 states (United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Vietnam, and Philippines) that recognize the rules. Before the ruling, there were 41 countries publicly supporting Arbitral Proceedings as Binding; however, after the ruling, only 7 states recognize the rule. Why? Because international societies know the SCS arbitration does not follow the procedures set up in UNCLOS and violate the articles in UNCLOS, the tribunal expands its authority to make a ‘law’ and does not respect the earlier precedent. There is no sense for them to recognize this kind of rules.
China’s belligerence is getting so very tiring
Indeed it is but this is nothing compared to the loan sharking debt imperialism they practise where they offer loans to poor countries who default on them and the Chinese take out long term leases on their territory. Myanmar, Cambodia, Pakistan, Maldives etc etc.
Simon Chiu You are wrong. The issue in the Tribunal was the EEZ. The Philippines knows fully well that sovereignty won’t be ruled upon in the first place based on UNCLOS provisions.
The UNCLOS just stated that the nine-dash line holds no significant weight when discussing China’s sovereignty over the land features at the SCS. It’s just an arbitrary line made by some random chinese "scholar", and does not mean that China owned any of these land features. The SCS arbitration procedure followed the rules set by the UNCLOS that was ratified by the two states, thus there was an approved ruling at the end of the arbitration.
Any map "made in China" is a domesitc document. How can it be binding on the international community? I have seen various maps drawn by Chinese people which showed almost all Asia was included as China. Now I found only one here: https://schrodinger-excidium.deviantart.com/art/Greater-China-future-map-2025-635375201, which shows: Kazakhstan, Myanmar, Nepal, Mongolia, Malaysia to be the territory of China. Will the international community be bound by such a domestic document?
Justin Dela Torre Gimena The so-called Arbitral Tribunal does not have the jurisdiction on land issues. The SCS Arbitration Award of July 12, 2016 specifically says in the Introduction No. 5 that: "The Convention, however, does not address the sovereignty of states over land territory. Accordingly, this Tribunal has not been asked to, and does not purport to, make any ruling as to which state enjoys sovereignty over land territory in the South China Sea, in particular with respect to the disputes concerning sovereignty over the Spratly Islands or Scarborough Shoal. None of the Tribunal’s decisions on this Award are dependent on a finding of sovereignty, nor should anything in this Award be understood to imply a view with respect to questions of land sovereignty."
Hai Nguyen the U.S. had everything to do with this ruling. They fronted the roughly $24 million to initiate the "arbitration" tribunal (essentially paying $24 million to five judges for the verdict they wanted…no conflict of interests there). The arbitration tribunal procedures are supposed to have the two countries first agree to arbitration by the tribunal and each pay half of the costs. In this case a third party paid the entire sum and used its political clout to ensure that the arbitration tribunal agreed proceed with the case. The arbitration tribunal had never before "arbitrated" a dispute without consent of both parties as it has no means of enforcing a supposedly "binding" decision. For example, in 2000 Hawaii initiated the arbitration tribunal to rule on Hawaii’s sovereignty claims. As the U.S. government refused to take part, the court claimed that they could not "arbitrate" on this case and ended the proceedings. So the entire legal proceedings on this decision were suspect and the body acted in a manner it had never done before and in a manner it was not designed to do.
Lastly, international treaties which are signed often have disputed clauses by the members who sign them. This is normal practice. China signed UNCLOS but it expressly stipulated, as is normal in international law, that UNCLOS will not affect its 9-dash line claims filed with the U.N. in 1946; if they were to lose their acknowledged claim to the 9-dash line, they would never have signed it. Additionally, UNCLOS cannot determine sovereignty claims so the manner in which this is reported by the western media is also ridiculous.
Richard Javan Heydarian,
In not disclosing the full historical facts you are being deceitful in your misrepresentation in legal effect or terms.
Check the following comments of mine with records with the United Nations Library.
The French in the Chinese-Vietnamese Boundary Convention 1887 excluded the Paracels and Spratleys from Vietnam. But in 1932, under a more imperialistic and different party in Government France declared the South China Sea ‘terra nullis’ and in 1933 seized the Paracels and Spratleys. China and Japan protested. Japan was then in occupation of Chinese Taiwan. Japan forcefully in 1938 seized the Paracels and Spratleys from the French and incorporated them into Taiwan. But Japan lost in WW2. Under Article 2 of the Treaty of Peace which Japan signed in San Francisco on 8/9/51 (the San Francisco Treaty), Japan renounced all right, title, and claim to Taiwan (Formosa) and Penghu (the Pescadores) as well as the Paracels and Spratleys.
Under the Treaty of Taipeh in 28/4/52 the above Japanese occupied territories were released to the Republic of China (that is China under Kuomintang control as distinct from the Mainland under Communist control) or Taiwan as it is now known. And this is the obvious blatant omission by you – not divulging the fact that China whether Communist or Democratic both claim the same ‘9 dotted Lines’ in the South China Sea. The 11-dash line was filed with the U.N. with no objections by the Republic of China (Taiwan) in 1946 and this was reduced to the 9-dash line by Communist during the U.S.-Vietnam War. The false impression given by the U.S. is that it is only a containment of the excesses of Communist China in the South China Sea! Two Chinas, one Communist and one Democratic (and a U.S. ally) cannot be both wrong!
And on 14/9/58 Vietnam’s Premier Pham Van Dong in a written communique to China’s Premier Chou En-Lai confirmed that Vietnam has no claim to the Paracels and Spratleys.
Now the other major claimant in relation to the Paracels and Spratleys is the Philippines. When Spain ceded Philippines to the U.S. after losing in the Spanish-American War under the Treaty of Paris 1898 it did not include the Paracels and Spratleys. When the U.S. granted Philippines independence under Treaty Of Manila on 4/7/46, it limited Phillipines territory to east of Longitude 116.9 only. Then out of the blue the Philippine claimed that they ‘discovered’ the Paracels and Spratleys in the 1960’s!
Philippines territory was bound by the treaty of Paris.Period
Unclos having nothing to do with the sovernighty,go to court of justice and see what Philippines can achieve
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