China’s nine dashes surround most of the South China Sea, including the Spratly and Paracel Islands (China Ministry of Natural Resources)

China’s Ministry of Natural Resources has released its updated “China Standard Map,” and its new contours are creating a stir among neighbors in the South China Sea. 

Under its “nine-dash line” policy, China claims virtually all of the South China Sea as its own, including large swathes of the EEZs of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia. This historically-based claim is unique to China, and in 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague ruled that it is not consistent with international law. China has ignored the ruling. 

The “nine-dash line” has always been ambiguous, with large undefined gaps between the broad dashes. Some political observers in the Philippines have dismissed the updated 2023 edition as another propaganda device or a mere annoyance. But this year’s map is different, according to retired Philippine Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio. He told Philippine media that China is now describing these dashes as an “international border” in the South China Sea.

“Claiming the high seas, and exclusive economic zones of other coastal states, in the South China Sea as China’s national territory is not routine,” he told CNN Philippines.

The Philippines has lodged a formal complaint about the unilateral map with the Chinese embassy in Manila.  (Click here to read more…)