South China Sea 

The Battle for Territory and Resources

Competing Claims

There are ongoing and competing claims of sovereignty to the SCS from Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Taiwan and China.


However, there are no maritime boundary agreements between the claimant states. Two island groups, the Paracels and the Spratlys, are contested by different states. The Paracels are contested in their entirety between Vietnam and China, while the Spratlys islands are contested in parts or in sum by China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei. 


China does not acknowledge diplomatic efforts made by other claimants and has made the most assertive and expansive territorial claims over the SCS. 


9 Dashes 



Beijing’s current territorial claims over the SCS stem from the 1951 and the Allied peace treaty negotiations with Japan. Yet the scope of China’s claims to maritime rights or jurisdiction are ambiguous. Key to the ambiguity behind its maritime claims is the “nine-dashed line” (jiuduanxian) that has appeared on Chinese maps of the region since the 1930s, yet it has never been defined what type of international legal claim the line depicts. China’s assertions to the SCS amount to nearly 80% of the maritime domain. The southernmost part of this area, the James Shoal, is about 50 miles off the coast of the Malaysian state of Sarawak, and 1,120 miles south of the Chinese mainland.