China is most known these days for its American cowboy Manifest Destiny-style expansionism in its neighboring seas, particularly in the Southeast Asia Sea (sign the petition to change the name to the Southeast Asia Sea: https://www.change.org/p/change-the-name-south-china-sea-to-southeast-asia-sea). Everyone knows the extent at which China is attempting to expand, including China’s construction of islands with airstrips, attacking of Vietnamese fisherman, and their placing of the “nine-dash line” on new Chinese passports and on every single published map (even to revised ancient maps!). What most do not know is that China has been disputing territory since 1949, when the Chinese Communist Party took control, with a total of twenty-three disputes.
This link provides an interactive map of Asia’s current territorial dispute: (http://www.scmp.com/infographics/article/1379601/chinas-territorial-disputes-who-owns-what?utm_source=edm&utm_medium=edm&utm_content=20131214&utm_campaign=scmp_today)
China has more nations bordering its territory than any other country. The 14 nations are: India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russia, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Bhutan and Nepal. The total amount of land territory that has/is in dispute equals more than 234,159 km2 or roughly the size of Romania, so it is no wonder that China is willing to enter armed conflict to seize this massive amount of land. The size of the Southeast Asian Sea is roughly 3.5 million km², larger than the size of India and is resource rich, particularly in crude oil.
Suggestions from the Past
For researchers and politicians, China poses a problem because the country is a nondemocracy and has acted unilaterally to obtain more territory in the past; however, Beijing has usually offered a compromise to their neighbors after the initial dispute. What we may see in the Southeast Asia Sea is a China that tries to bargain with the nations bordering this body of water. I would hope that these countries would not appease China in any way. In addition, if island building in the middle of international waters is a legitimate method to gain territory then we seriously need to reconsider rewriting the international law books because as of right now, China is breaching international law.
China’s territorial disputes – 中国领土争端 (zhōngguó lǐngtǔ zhēngduān)
I highly suggest this scholarly-written work, it is one of the best resources on the issue that is also largely overlooked: M. Taylor Fravel, Regime Insecurity and International Cooperation: Explaining China’s Compromises in Territorial Disputes, International Security, Vol. 30, No. 2 (Fall 2005) (http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1162/016228805775124534)