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From Land to Water: Fixing Fluid Frontiers and the Limits of Sovereign Authority in the South China / Eastern Sea

China’s Encounters on the South
and Southwest
Reforging the Fiery Frontier Over Two Millennia
Edited by
James A. Anderson
John K. Whitmore
 | 
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List of Figures, Maps and Tables
List of Contributors
Introduction: “The Fiery Frontier and the Dong World” 1
James A. Anderson and John K. Whitmore
 
Shifting the Southern Frontier
1 Where to Draw the Line? The Chinese Southern Frontier in the Fifth
and Sixth Centuries59
Catherine Churchman
2 Constructing Local Narratives: Spirits, Dreams, and Prophecies in the
Medieval Red River Delta78
Liam C. Kelley
3 Man and Mongols: theDali and Đi Vit Kingdoms in the Face of the
Northern Invasions106
James A. Anderson
4 Yunnan’s Muslim Heritage135
Michael C. Brose
5 Gunsmoke: The Ming Invasion of Đi Vit and the Role of Firearms
in Forging the Southern Frontier156
Kenneth M. Swope
6 A State Agent at Odds with the State: Lin Xiyuan and the Ming
Recovery of the Four Dong169
Kathlene Baldanza
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 
Shaping the Southern Frontier
7 Imperial Ideal Compromised: Northern and Southern Courts Across
the New Frontier in the Early Yuan Era193
Sun Laichen
8 Northern Relations for Đi Vit: China Policy in the Age of Lê Thánh
Tông (r. 1460–1497)232
John K. Whitmore
9 Projecting Legitimacy in Ming Native Domains259
Joseph Dennis
10 Royal Refuge and Heterodoxy: The Vietnamese Mc Clan in Great
Qing’s Southern Frontier, 1677–1730273
Alexander Ong
11 The Rule of Ritual: Crimes and Justice in Qing-Vietnamese Relations
During the Qianlong Period (1736–1796)288
Jaymin Kim
12 Volatile Allies: Two Cases of Powerbrokers in the Nineteenth-Century
Vietnamese-Chinese Borderlands322
Bradley C. Davis
13 Depicting Life in the Twentieth-Century Sino-Tibetan Borderlands:
Local Histories and Modernities in the Career and Photography of
Zhuang Xueben (1909–1984)339
Amy Holmes-Tagchungdarpa
14 From Land to Water: Fixing Fluid Frontiers and The Politics of Lines
in the South China/Eastern Sea370
Kenneth MacLean
15 Asymmetric Structure and Culture in China’s Relations with Its
Southern Neighbors395
Brantly Womack
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370 
 
From Land to Water: Fixing Fluid Frontiers and the
Politics of Lines in the South China / Eastern Sea
Kenneth MacLean
Diferent political entities have redrawn the Sino-Vietnamese frontier, includ-
ing its maritime limits, more than a half-dozen times since the late nineteenth
century. These entities – the Qing Empire, the French Third Republic, the Re-
public of China, Imperial Japan, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, the Re-
public of Vietnam, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (), and the People’s
Republic of China () – have used a combination of tactics ranging from
bilateral treaties to military force in order to advance their respective interests
in the borderlands. This essay examines present-day conicts between the 
and the  over their maritime frontier with a focus on the historical, legal,
and scientic basis for their competing territorial claims and the identity poli-
tics that inform them. Conicts related to China’s southern frontier are not
new as the other chapters in this collection demonstrate; they date back more
than two thousand years. Nonetheless, a signicant change has occurred. Nei-
ther the  nor the  has, until quite recently, made concerted eforts to
establish permanent sovereign control over large parts of the South China Sea,
which Vietnamese speakers call the Eastern Sea. Both countries, traditionally
thought of as land-based empires, now recognize that their natural security is
directly linked to their ability to x this previously uid frontier in ways that
serve their strategic political and economic needs.
Terrestrial frontiers, like maritime ones, can be uid as well; however, they
are diferently so. Diferent kinds of boundary lines produce diferent kinds of
territorial efects ofshore. These efects, since they often overlap with one an-
other, justify conicting claims to the same territory. To understand why this is
the case, it is necessary to engage with the technical disputes regarding the
placement of these lines in the “South China / Eastern Sea.” Importantly, the
lines political entities historically used to demarcate where sovereign state
spaces end and non-state spaces begin in the “South China / Eastern Sea” did
Witness the sixteenth century events in Guangxi; see Baldanza in this volume.
©   , , | ./_
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not replace those which came before. Instead, diferent boundary lines have
continued to coexist, though not on equal terms since they framed the territo-
rial claims of what are now the  and the  in ways one or both sides
found objectionable. Bilateral agreements have resolved some of these dis-
putes. Others, however, remain unresolved (See Table 14.1). In both cases, the
terms of these (dis-)agreements have sustained acrimonious debates among
Vietnamese speakers and their Chinese counterparts about the reasons for and
signicance of these changes to Vietnam’s “geo-body,” Thongchai Winichakul’s
term for those spaces that evoke the “nation” regardless of whether or not they
fall within a state’s current territorial boundaries.
Since Vietnamese idiomatically dene their country as a combination of
“land and water” (đt nưc), the competing representations of Vietnam’s “geo-
body” shed light on a number of issues. In this essay, I focus on the problems
that follow from the extension of land-based forms of sovereignty and jurisdic-
tion out into maritime spaces. These problems, I argue, help explain why past
eforts to resolve the disputes over which country “owns” which parts of the
“South China / Eastern Sea” have failed to achieve their intended results. In-
stead, diferent forms of violence have waxed and waned as the countries
involved have sought to perform their sovereignty ofshore – most often by
Thongchai Winichakul, Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-Body of a Nation (Honolulu:
University of Hawai’i Press, Honolulu, 1997), 17.
 . Maritime lines
Year Name Parties involved Type
1887 Constans Agreement Third Republic France
Qing Dynasty
1948 U-Shaped Line Republic of China Unilateral
1973 Square Neutral Zone Democratic Republic of 
People’s Republic of China
1982 11-Point Line Socialist Republic of  Unilateral
1996 Hainan Line People’s Republic of China Unilateral
2000 21-Point Line Socialist Republic of 
People’s Republic of China
2009 Continental Shelf Submission
Socialist Republic of  Unilateral
2009 Continental Shelf
Submission (south)
Socialist Republic of 
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colonizing diferent features (i.e. rocks, islets, and islands as well as reefs, cays
and atolls). These geographic features provide natural reference points against
which their maritime claims are projected ofshore, unlike the border markers
on land that can be easily relocated. I will provide details on these acts of “car-
tographic aggression” below, but before doing so it is necessary to foreground
the signicance of this maritime region.
The “South China / Eastern Sea” is one of the world’s largest bodies of water
after the ve oceans, covering approximately 3.5 million square kilometers.
It is also the world’s fourth most productive shery, and it possesses substantial
deposits of natural gas and oil. In addition, the region is one of the busiest
maritime zones in the world. Approximately half the goods sent globally by
sea pass through the “South China / Eastern Sea” en route to their nal destina-
tion. The sheer scale of these economic activities connect the region in ways
the mountainous land borders do not; they additionally explain why neighbor-
ing states, the  and the  among them, employ a range of legal and extra-
legal methods to assert their claims to the same features. Doing so is problem-
atic, however, as nearly all two hundred named natural landforms – the
highest of which is 3.8 meters (barely more than 10 feet) above sea level – are
underwater at high tide.
When these particularities are taken into account, the arcane debates over
the accuracy and legitimacy of the lines that delimit the “South China / Eastern
Sea” assume a diferent signicance. They do so because of what they reveal
about: 1) the legal complications that follow from the extension of land-based
forms of sovereignty and jurisdiction on a graduated basis; 2) the impact these
lines have upon the ongoing normalization of Sino-Vietnamese relations; and
3) the re-emergence of “patriotism” as a salient term of protest in response to
the competing depictions of the geo-bodies of both countries. All three con-
cerns, which I develop below, were readily apparent during the 2009 shing
ban when I began research on this topic, and all remain salient today.
The Fishing Ban
During the early morning hours of August 1st a fast moving tropical storm
prompted the Chinese Maritime Afairs Department on Hainan Island to issue
Greg Austin, China’s Ocean Frontier: International Law, Military Force, and National Development
(Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1998), 331.
Nguyn Hng Tho, “Maritime Delimitation and Fishery Cooperation in the Tonkin Gulf,
Ocean Development and International Law, 36 (2005): 26.
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an emergency warning to all vessels in the vicinity to seek safe harbor until the
strong winds and sixteen foot-high swells subsided. The emergency warning,
the second in less than a week, provided little solace for Nguyn Tn L, cap-
tain of g 95031-, and his crew from central Vietnam. Deteriorating weath-
er conditions forced them to seek shelter among the more than thirty islets,
sandbanks, and reefs that constitute the Amphitrite group of the Paracel Is-
lands. Unfortunately, August 1st was the nal day of the ban, which the 
had imposed unilaterally upon all forms of commercial shing in waters north
of twelve degrees north latitude two-and-half months earlier. Since the ban
was still in efect, a Chinese naval patrol boat seized control of the Vietnamese
vessel and towed it to the Chinese military base on Woody Island, the largest of
the Paracel Islands. Once there, the Vietnamese shermen were charged with
violating China’s territorial sovereignty and held until their family members
could raise funds to pay the ne needed to secure their release.
The incident was not an isolated one (indeed such events continue to this
day). During the summer of 2009, Chinese naval patrol boats had impounded
at least four Vietnamese vessels while the ban was in efect and pursued doz-
ens more, often over considerable distances. The state-controlled media of the
, which closely chronicled the dispute, regularly featured statements from
high-ranking Vietnamese ocials denouncing the ban as a violation of their
country’s territorial sovereignty. More than one hundred articles followed, fea-
turing diferent types of “evidence” that purported to demonstrate the depth of
Vietnam’s historic claims as well as its legal rights under the terms of the Unit-
ed Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. These articles were further aug-
Zheng He, the famed explorer, plotted its location on the map during the Ming dynasty. During
the Qing dynasty, the Guangdong navy mapped most of the Paracel Islands and erected a stele
on the island. Since then, various states have controlled the island: France, Japan, the Republic
of Vietnam, and the . Both Taiwan and Vietnam still claim the island. William Callahan,
“Sharing Sovereignty: Security and Spatiality in the South China Sea,” in Contingent States:
Greater China and Transnational Relations (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004),
Claimant states met every year since 2009 to discuss how to prevent future incidents from
escalating into serious conicts. Nevertheless, Chinese law enforcement agencies took aggres-
sive actions against Vietnamese ships conducting oil surveys in disputed waters between
March and June of 2011. Diplomatic eforts difused the crisis, and both sides agreed: to resolve
their disputes through negotiations; to oppose third-party intervention [especially the United
States]; and to use the media to prevent extreme nationalism from destabilizing the situation.
Incidents continue to occur, however. See, Li Mingjiang, Chinese Debates of South China Sea
Policy: Implications for Future Developments (Singapore: S. Rajaratnam School of International
Studies, 2012); International Crisis Group, Stirring Up the South China Sea (Brussels:
International Crisis Group, 2012).
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374 
mented by a vast body of commentary, most of it posted online, concerning
the shing ban, including the contentious question of who rightfully owns the
approximately 650 reefs, atolls, cays, rocks, islets, and islands, named and un-
named, that constitute the Paracel and Spratly Archipelagoes.
This was not the rst time such a measure had been put in place. The 
had imposed similar bans on parts of the “South China / Eastern Sea” since
1995 as a conservation measure to stem the decline in yields caused by over-
shing and environmental degradation. The bans were for this reason timed to
coincide with the annual shift in trade winds that precedes the start of the
southwest monsoon – an event that reorients the migration routes taken by
yellow-n and big-eye tuna, which move freely across diferent maritime
Nonetheless, the 2009 ban was both the largest to date – it afected approxi-
mately 128,000 square kilometers – and the most rigorously enforced to that
point with eight naval patrol boats dispatched to the region, insisting on their
control of the sea (and indeed of the air over it as well). Since I was in Vietnam
at the time, I used the opportunity to visit Đà Nng, Qung Ngãi, and Nhà Trang
where I spoke with dozens of temporarily unemployed sherman, many of
whom rely upon tuna for their livelihoods. “If I don’t catch sh I will starve,”
complained Tin Dũng, a thirty-four year-old deckhand from Đà Nng, who
was forced to seek construction work in the city as a consequence of the ban.
The boat he previously sailed with, Dũng explained, had narrowly escaped a
patrol boat earlier that month. “We can’t sh when running away and the price
of fuel is so high that it is almost too expensive for us even to bother.” So the
captain, he explained, decided to use the time to repair his boat and lines rath-
er than risk bankruptcy, as did thousands of others whose vessels were simi-
larly idled by the ban. Nearly everyone I spoke to voiced similar frustrations,
but not all of them were directed solely at the  Government or its naval
patrols. Many also expressed anger, confusion, and bitterness over what they
perceived to be the contradictory response of their own government. “Every
inch of soil, each meter of water are the blood and bones of our people!,” fumed
one tuna boat captain over his inability to sh in what he had been taught was
Vietnamese territory.
Not surprisingly, some high-ranking ocials – most notably Lê Dũng,
spokesman for the  Ministry of Foreign Afairs – vigorously defended the
right of all Vietnamese to sh in and around the Paracel and Spratly Archipela-
goes on the grounds that the ban violated the country’s sovereign authority in
T. Brook, Mr. Seldon’s Map of China: Decoding the Secrets of a Vanished Cartographer (New York:
Bloomsbury Press, 2013), 3–9.
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these areas, a view he asserted was supported by international law. Other
branches of the  Party/state, however, played a more equivocal role in the
dispute. Chu Tin Vĩnh, head of the Agency for Aquatic Resource Management
and Protection, a sub-unit of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Develop-
ment, for example, rearmed the government’s public position, but adopted a
far more pragmatic stance. His agency issued an ocial letter to local authori-
ties that also contained a map indicating which parts of the “South China /
Eastern Sea” Vietnamese shermen should avoid while the ban was in efect
since the country’s marine police lacked the resources to provide armed es-
corts for deep-water boats. Vietnamese vessels were instead encouraged to
travel in groups of ve to seven and to sh in close proximity to one of the ap-
proximately twenty islands occupied by Vietnam’s armed forces or the oil and
gas blocks in the Nam Côn Sơn basin where dozens of ofshore platforms and
production rigs are located.
By contrast, the Tng cc , a military intelligence agency, which is housed
within the Ministry of Defense and reports directly to the General Secretary of
the Communist Party and the other members of the Politburo, adopted a
sharply diferent approach. Founded in 1995, the agency investigates individu-
als and organizations inside Vietnam and abroad that engage in activities per-
ceived to threaten the Party or the state of Vietnam. Its operatives reportedly
coordinated eforts to suppress popular demonstrations against the shing
ban and to arrest more than a half-dozen intellectuals who expressed their
concerns regarding China’s conduct in the region on their personal blogs – a
move that was part of a broader crackdown on freedom of speech that took
place during 2009 and continues today.
The conicting responses taken to this particular territorial dispute suggest
why it is misleading to regard the Vietnamese Party/state as a unied and co-
herent entity that thinks or acts like a person. Diferent segments of the Party/
state serve quite diferent constituencies, and this has led them to dene what
constitutes a threat to the country’s national security in antithetical ways. Sev-
eral factors have contributed to this unexpected outcome. Among them, the
normalization of Sino-Vietnamese relations, a complicated and still ongoing
process that secretly began in 1991. While the “normalization” process privi-
Công Văn s 358 ca cc trưng Cc Khai thác và bo v ngun li thy sn v lnh cm đáng
bt cá ca Trung Quc  vùng bin Đông [Ocial Dispatch No. 358 from the Head of the
Aquatic Resource, Management, and Protection Agency regarding China’s Fishing Ban in the
Eastern Sea], issued 7 May 2009.
Shawn Crispin, “Chinese Shadow over Vietnamese Repression,” Asia Times Online
(12 September 2009),12Ad04.html.
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376 
leged the restoration of economic and trade relationships between the two
countries, the resolution of their frontier territorial disputes, which date back
to the late nineteenth century, was an explicit precondition to continued prog-
ress in this as well as other areas.
Ocial eforts to delimit their shared land and maritime boundaries, how-
ever, have proven to be far more complicated and contentious than anticipat-
ed. Attempts to resolve the natural status of irredenta – geographic areas
claimed by one state, but under the real or imagined sovereign authority of
another – are particularly dicult here as these disagreements inevitably ref-
erence diferent moments in Sino-Vietnamese historical relations, as seen ear-
lier in this volume. This relationship stretches back in time more than two
millennia – long before either entity existed in any identiable political or
even cultural sense – and includes multiple episodes of direct and indirect
colonization and outright war in addition to more recent revolutionary and
socialist forms of solidarity. For these reasons, territorial disputes inform a
wide array of identity practices, not all of which converge with ocially autho-
rized ones. These practices, which I discuss at the end of the essay, are further
complicated by international law.
Liquefying Sovereignty
The Third  Conference on the Convention of the Law of the Sea (
) entered into legal force in 1994.   was a concerted attempt to
standardize the diverse and frequently conicting regimes governing diferent
forms of economic activity in maritime regions, but especially sheries and
ofshore energy development made possible by technological advances in
deep-water oil and gas extraction. One efect of this agreement was the exten-
sion of land-based models of sovereignty, sovereign rights, and other forms of
jurisdiction into the sea for distances up to 350 nautical miles. The legal demar-
cation of these zones was, however, crucially dependent upon the location of a
coastal state’s maritime baseline. Prior to  , cartographers used
rhumb lines, geodesics, parallel trace, arc tangents, and acres of great circles to
quietly expand their territorial claims farther into the sea. After  ,
10 Brantly Womack, China and Vietnam: The Politics of Asymmetry (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2006), 212–237.
11 Ken MacLean, “In Search of Kilometer Zero: Digital Archives, Technological Revisionism,
and the Sino-Vietnamese Border,” Comparative Studies in Society and History, 50, 4 (2008):
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signatories were required to use the same method – a series of short straight
line segments parallel to the contours of the tidal low water mark – to x their
baselines, which could not, except under special circumstances, be greater
than three nautical miles ofshore (See Table 14.2).
While this new requirement helped standardize the territorial limits of the
other maritime zones since they and the rights aforded to them were calcu-
lated in relation to the baseline,   produced a number of unintended
efects. Most relevant here, it dramatically increased the number of instances
where two or more states found themselves in conict due to overlapping mar-
itime claims – a problem that occurred every time the distance separating
their Exclusive Economic Zones was less than a combined total of four hun-
dred nautical miles.
In the context of the “South China / Eastern Sea,”   dramatically
reshaped the geo-bodies of several littoral states. The Philippines, for example,
now possessed sovereign rights and jurisdiction over maritime territories that
were more than three times the country’s total land holdings. Since  
had similar (if less pronounced) efects upon Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam,
and China, conicting claims to the same maritime territories were inevitable.
Inter-state competition among diferent  states and with China over the
real and imagined resources these territories contained has helped militarize
the “South China / Eastern Sea” and sustain low-intensity conicts in a number
of contested areas – often under the guise of eradicating piracy, which has
steadily worsened in recent years as well. These conicts regularly result in fa-
talities, and security experts remain concerned that large-scale armed conicts
 . Graduated sovereignty and jurisdiction in maritime regions
Category Distance in
nautical miles
De jure authority
Internal Waters    (baseline) Sovereign
Territorial Waters    Semi-sovereign
Contiguous Zones    Jurisdiction (customs, scal, sanitary, and
immigration laws)
Exclusive Economic Zones    Sovereign rights over exploration
and use of marine resources and control
of shipping
Continental Shelf   Sovereign rights under seabed
(oil, gas, minerals)
International Waters  200 Principle of Mare liberum
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378 
are still possible despite various bilateral agreements and the establishment of
a “Code of Conduct” between the  and the Association of Southeast Asian
Nations () in 2002, which forbids the further seizure of currently unin-
habited features. However the Code has done little to resolve these tensions or,
for that matter, prevent further construction and militarization, as the agree-
ment lacks meaningful enforcement provisions.
As one sign of this, nearly all the coastal states that border the “South China
/ Eastern Sea” routinely employ “sovereignty-producing” practices to establish
de facto forms of sovereignty and jurisdiction over diferent parts of the mari-
time region in addition to de jure ones. The  and the  have both issued
rival exploration concessions to diferent foreign energy companies seeking oil
and gas deposits in and around the Spratly Archipelago even though neither
state has the undisputed sovereign right to enter into such agreements. This
outcome is made possible by another “sovereignty-producing” practice – the
state-sponsored occupation of natural features, including some that are par-
tially or wholly submerged during high tide. Occupation is most often accom-
plished directly through the construction of military facilities, which permit a
state to establish a permanent presence on a given landform. Indirect forms
are also used to demonstrate that a feature is “occupied,” either by dispatching
soldiers to it at regular intervals on a daily basis, anchoring ships over it, or vi-
sually monitoring it from a directly occupied one nearby. Where in prior cen-
turies the states of Vietnam and China had rarely involved themselves directly
in these waters, except perhaps to handle what they termed piracy, such tac-
tics have now enabled the former to occupy six islands, seventeen reefs, and
three banks in the Spratly Archipelago, while the latter has secured nine reefs
in the same area as well as all the features located in the Paracel Archipelago.
Efort to resolve these disputes is further complicated by the fact that the
ontological status of many of these features is not clear. Following nine years of
negotiations,   was only able to adopt a single provision concerning
islands. While Article 121 sets out a three-part denition of an “island,” it
did not address the legal status of insular formations. For this reason, it re-
mains uncertain which formations are “islands” and thus entitled to their own
12 Callahan, “Sharing Sovereignty: Security and Spatiality in the South China Sea.”
13 Michael Richardson, Energy and Geopolitics in the South China Sea, Implications for
 and its Dialogue Partners – Discussion Forum (Singapore: Institute of Southeast
Asian Studies, 2009).
14 On piracy, see Kim in this volume, G.E. Dutton, The Tây Sơn Uprising (Honolulu, : Uni-
versity of Hawai’i Press, 2006), 219–27, and N. Cooke, Li Tana, & J.A. Anderson, eds., The
Tongking Gulf Through History (Philadelphia, : University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011).
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territorial sea (12 nm), contiguous zone (24 nm), and Exclusive Economic Zone
(200 nm). Moreover, this problem can only be addressed after the dispute
over sovereignty is fully resolved and the formations properly delimited.
These pre-requisites, however, have not prevented all the coastal states in
the region (with the exception of Brunei) from proclaiming the various fea-
tures they currently occupy to be “islands.” It is on this basis that the Vietnam-
ese Ministry of Foreign Afairs rejected China’s self-declared right to impose a
temporary shing ban on all waters north of 12 degrees north latitude. The
Ministry not only regards Vietnam to be the rightful owner of the entire Para-
cel Archipelago, but its ocial spokesmen also maintain that its features meet
the legal denition of “islands” and thus generate their own zones of graduated
sovereignty and jurisdiction. For this reason, Ministry ocials argued, the Chi-
nese seizure of Vietnamese shing boats violated Vietnam’s sovereignty since
the vessels were less than twelve nautical miles from the nearest “island” and
thus well within Vietnam’s territorial waters.
Vietnamese claims to ownership draw upon a fascinating array of materials
that date back to the Hng Đc Map of the Đi Vit ruler Lê Thánh Tông, which
was prepared between 1460 and 1490 and re-edited in the seventeenth century,
while Chinese ones date back to the eleventh. These claims are made more
complicated by the fact that Chinese forces seized Woody Island, the Paracel
Archipelago’s largest feature, in 1956, immediately after the French completed
its military withdrawal from the region and, following a erce naval battle with
the Vietnamese in 1974, took control of all the remaining islets, sandbanks, and
reefs. While the Vietnamese government has not abandoned its claims to the
Paracels, its submissions to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of
the Continental Shelf in early 2009 have further confused matters. Its request
to have Vietnam’s extended continental shelf recognized on techno-scientic
grounds is procedurally possible only if the disputed features occupied by Chi-
nese forces since 1974 are ocially classied as “rocks” rather than “islands,” as
the latter generate their own zones of graduated sovereignty and jurisdiction
and would thus render the submissions moot. In short, there is no place in the
“South China / Eastern Sea” where the extended continental shelf of one coast-
al state (if recognized) would be unafected by the zones of graduated sover-
eignty and jurisdiction aforded to a neighboring one or its islands under
15 Marius Gjetnes, “The Spratlys: Are They Rocks or Islands?,Ocean Development & Interna-
tional Law, 32 (2001): 191–204.
16 See Whitmore in this volume and idem., “Cartography of Vietnam,” in The History of Car-
tography, vol. 2, part 2, ed. J.B. Harley and D. Woodward (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 1995), 481–87.
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380 
international law. Consequently, the ’s current eforts to obtain  recogni-
tion of its extended continental shelf may inadvertently undermine its own
arguments regarding who rightfully owns the Paracel and Spratly Archipela-
Continental Shelf
The shing ban was not simply a conservation measure; it was also a pointed
message. Articles 76 and 77 of   permit a coastal state to extend its
Exclusive Economic Zone from its current 200 nautical mile limit out to 350
nautical miles provided certain geological and geo-morphological conditions
are met and no overlapping claims to the “Extended Continental Shelf ” exist.
Although   went into efect in 1994, the  Commission on the Lim-
its of the Continental Shelf required ve more years to standardize the submis-
sion process. Coastal states that had ratied the Convention on the Law of the
Sea prior to this date were then given a ten-year period in which to prepare
their submissions. This made 13 May 2009 the deadline for the initial round of
submissions that, if accepted, would grant sovereign rights to the coastal state
to explore and to exploit any natural resources found in the seabed and subsoil
of its extended continental shelf, as well as to control international shipping
through it. The Commission received fty-one (partial) submissions prior to
the deadline, including two from the . The rst was a joint submission pre-
pared in conjunction with Malaysia concerning their claims to the southern
part of the “South China /Eastern Sea” (6 May). Brunei was also invited to par-
ticipate, but politely declined. The second, led the following day, concerned
Vietnamese claims to the northern part of this Sea (7 May).
The  immediately protested both submissions in a note verbale to the
United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. The text
stated that China possessed not only “indisputable sovereignty” over all the
Paracel and Spratly Archipelagoes, but “enjoys sovereign rights and jurisdic-
tion over the relevant waters as well as the seabed and subsoil thereof.” These
claims prompted the  and Malaysia to respond in kind, reiterating in sepa-
rate statements that their submissions to the Commission “constitute[d]
17 Division for Ocean Afairs and the Law of the Sea, accessed May 30, 2011, http://www.
18 Notes Verbales /12/2009 (13 April 2009) and /17/2009 (7 May 2009) China.
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legitimate undertakings” as parties to  . However, the content of
the Vietnamese note verbale was considerably more forceful in its rejection of
the Chinese counter-claim and the attached map, which the Vietnamese dele-
gates to the United Nations denounced the following day as having “no legal,
historical, or factual basis” and was, as a consequence, completely “null and
Nguyn Bá Cn, the former Prime Minister for the defunct Republic of Viet-
nam and now abroad, raised similar objections. He submitted a separate dos-
sier to the  Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf the very next
day (9 May). Not surprisingly, the dossier, co-signed by 246 diferent overseas
Vietnamese organizations based in the United States, Europe, and Australia,
rejected Chinese maritime claims; but it also challenged the legitimacy of the
two studies the  submitted. According to the co-signers of the dossier, more
than eighty diferent countries, including France, Great Britain, the United
States, and the Republic of China (i.e. Taiwan), which maintains its own claims
to diferent features in the “South China / Eastern Sea,” had recognized the
Republic of Vietnam as a legitimate state. Despite this recognition and the -
led multi-national efort to defend the Republic of Vietnam’s sovereignty, their
country had been the “victim of an armed invasion,” and, the co-signers con-
tinued, the “policy of discrimination and mistreatment” its former citizens ex-
perienced after the Second Indochina War (1959–1975) was akin to a “territory
under colonial domination” by the .
For these reasons, the diasporic Vietnamese co-signers expressed their con-
cerns regarding the adequacy and completeness of the two reports the 
submitted to the  Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. Spe-
cically, they feared that the  would fail either to le a submission or, alter-
natively, to meet the deadline and thus forfeit any future claims to an extended
continental shelf. As evidence, the co-signers cited the three territorial agree-
ments the Communist Parties of Vietnam and China had reached in secret in
1999 and 2000 concerning their land border, the delimitation of the Gulf of
Tonkin, and the shared shing rights therein. These agreements, which the
co-signers rejected as illegal since the legal existence of the Republic of Viet-
19 See: Notes 86/–2009 (8 May 2009) Vietnam;  24/09 (20 May 2009) Malaysia; 240
–2009 (18 August 2009) Vietnam;  41/09 (21 August 2009) Malaysia, respectively.
20 Note 86/–2009.
21 “Thư Ng ca Th Tưng VNCH Nguyn Bá Cn V Vic Đ Np H Sơ Đăng Ký Thm Lc
Đa,” May 3, 2009, accessed, 18 August, 2014,
22 Ramses Amer, “Assessing Sino-Vietnamese Relations through the Management of Con-
tentious Issues,Contemporary Southeast Asia, 26, 2 (2004): 320–345.
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382 
nam had never been ocially nullied, they claimed transferred a signicant
– though still not precisely known – amount of Vietnamese territory to China.
In doing so, they argued, the Communist Party of Vietnam demonstrated that
it was either unable or unwilling to protect the territorial integrity of the “na-
tion” from Chinese expansionism. Hence their request that the Secretary Gen-
eral of the United Nations take steps to safeguard the “legitimate interests and
rights” on behalf of the “People of South Vietnam.”
While the legal basis for these claims is questionable, Nguyn Bá Cn’s sub-
mission, which was prepared at considerable expense with the help of techni-
cal experts, is nonetheless signicant. First, it reveals how the territorial
disputes have enabled some politically-engaged Vietnamese to separate the
“nation” from the “state” by dissolving the hyphen that is presumed to link
them, yet retain a culturally authentic position from which to mount their
critiques by claiming true patriots must take action to protect the country’s
geo-body from further losses. Such criticisms, which are diferent from ocial-
ly-sponsored forms of maritime nationalism, are articulated most often online,
but they also increasingly nd expression oine inside Vietnam where open
dissent has taken a number of diferent forms: large student-organized pro-
tests outside the Chinese Embassy and Consulate; anonymous roadside ban-
ners; and the backs of individuals in four cities who wore T-shirts urging fellow
patriots to keep the country green and secure by canceling a controversial
Chinese-managed bauxite mine in the Central Highlands and by declaring the
Paracel and Spratly Archipelagoes to be Vietnamese territory. (The organizers
behind the T-shirt protest were detained for more than a week as a conse-
quence of their actions.) Second, the diasporic submission highlights as well
an issue where its views actually coincide with the very state it rejects – name-
ly, their shared concern over the status of the U-shaped line, which Chinese
delegates attached to its note verbale to the United Nations. The text and the
map that accompanied it provided the rst ocial statement on the signi-
cance of this line since it rst appeared on Chinese maps more than sixty years
ago, a topic to which I turn next.
23 Republic of Vietnam, “Executive Summary,” May 11, 2009, accessed May 15, 2011, http:// This charge of ‘lost territory’ echoes that laid against
Mc Đăng Dung of the sixteenth century; see K. Baldanza, ‘The Ambiguous Border: Early
Modern Sino-Vietnamese Relations,’ Ph.D. dissertation (University of Pennsylvania, 2010),
and in this volume.
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The U-Shaped Line
The demarcation of the Sino-Vietnamese land border was completed on New
Year’s Day, 2009. The process, which required more than a decade to carry out,
was celebrated in the state-managed press in both countries as a “diplomatic
milestone” since the year also marked the thirtieth anniversary of the 1979 bor-
der war – a brief, but bloody conict that left tens of thousands dead and
wounded on both sides of the border in less than a month. However, neither
government has released an ocial map of this new land border. By contrast,
ocial maps of the Gulf of Tonkin are readily available, even though the de-
limitation, similarly carried out in secret, ceded two-thirds of the contested
territory (6,500 square kilometers of water) claimed by the two countries to
The previous boundary had been set in 1887 as part of the French-Chinese
Constans Agreement and helped establish where French-administered Tonkin
ended in cartographic terms and the Qing Empire began. Towards this end, a
red line bisecting the Gulf at 105 degrees and 43 minutes east of the Paris me-
ridian south to 21 degrees and 23 minutes north latitude was drawn on the new
maps. Unfortunately, the agreement failed to provide a precise denition of
the line’s signicance. The French version generally referred to the line as an
international boundary; however, the Chinese one merely described it as a
form of “geographic shorthand” to conveniently assign ownership of the is-
lands found in the gulf, a practice common at the time. Since the Constans
Agreement did not specify which translation was to be given precedence, the
legal status of the meridian line remained uncertain, but largely uncontested
until the 1930s when territorial disputes over the “South China / Eastern Sea”
again emerged as a genuine transnational concern.
The 2000 agreement resolved some of the ambiguities of the 1887 treaty and
established rules for the temporary co-management of shing within a com-
mon zone covering 33,500 square kilometers. The result, according to govern-
ment ocials and their legal scholars on both sides, was the equitable and
proportional division of the Gulf, with 53.23% apportioned to Vietnam and
46.77% to China. However, the agreement failed to resolve several outstanding
issues – among them, the national status of the waters outside the joint shing
24 Article 3(2) of Treaty of Tientsin between France and China concerning the Delimitation
of the Franco-Chinese Frontier (9 June 1885), with ratications exchanged (28 November
25 Zou Keyuan, “Maritime Boundary Delimitation in the Gulf of Tonkin,” Ocean Develop-
ment & International Law, 30 (1999): 239.
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384 
area but inside the U-shaped line that appeared to enclose them. This line was
the rst major extension of China’s southern frontier in over half a millenni-
um, since the Mongols had moved into Dali (now Yunnan) and the Ming brief-
ly took Đi Vit (northern Vietnam).
For the past six decades, the  has declined to explain whether it regards
the U-shaped line to be part of the country’s “historical waters” – an ill-dened
legal category which permits states that have ratied  to extend their
territorial control beyond the limits of the maritime zones dened in it under
certain circumstances. The ’s silence on this matter ended abruptly in early
May of 2009 when delegates from the country’s Permanent Mission to the
United Nations led a formal objection regarding Vietnam’s submissions to the
Committee on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. This note verbale, referenc-
ing the map that accompanied it, declared that everything within and under
the U-shaped line, including the contents of its sub-soils, was national territo-
ry. The declaration prompted an immediate response. Vietnamese Ministry of
Foreign Afairs spokesman Lê Dũng declared the line to be “worthless because
of the lack of legal, historical, and practical foundation” at a press conference
in Hà Ni the following day – a view the country’s delegates to the United Na-
tions reiterated in slightly more diplomatic language through their own note
verbale, also issued on May 8th, challenging China’s position on the matter.
These sharply conicting views on the status of this line can be read in a
number of ways. Nearly all of them, however, are informed by the key tropes
around which state-sponsored forms of nationalism in both countries are or-
ganized. In China, this commonly takes one of two inter-related themes: 1) its
national humiliation, arising from the territorial losses to France, Britain, and
other imperial powers during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; and,
more recently, 2) the country’s return to its rightful place in the world. In
Vietnam, by contrast, the ocial emphasis continues to be primarily upon the
nation’s “unbroken tradition of resistance to foreign aggressors,” particularly
the Chinese.
These narratives quite obviously dene the relationship between each “na-
tion” and its respective geo-bodies in profoundly diferent ways. These same
26 On Yunnan, see Anderson and Brose in this volume; on Đi Vit, see Swope in this vol-
27 No. 86/2009 (8 May 2009).
28 William Callahan, “The Cartography of National Humiliation and the Emergence of Chi-
na’s Geobody,” Public Culture, 21, 1 (2009): 141–173.
29 Patricia Pelley, “The History of Resistance and the Resistance to History in Post-Colonial
Constructions of the Past,” in K.W. Taylor & J.K. Whitmore, eds., Essays in Vietnamese Pasts
(Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995), 232–245.
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narratives also highlight why the territorial disputes involving the two states
have been so dicult to resolve. The competing narratives of the “nation” lay
claim to the same maritime spaces, though not always for the same reasons.
Moreover, the claims produce an afective excess that cannot be fully con-
tained by legal procedures or scientic studies. Real and imagined pasts, as
well as proposed futures concerning how the material resources in these spac-
es will be used, continually threaten to overwhelm the present. This is a par-
ticularly salient problem here since the  Commission on the Limits of the
Continental Shelf is not empowered to resolve questions of sovereignty. Its
staf can only evaluate the technical merits of the submission, which means
diferent kinds of historical “evidence” remain crucial to both state and non-
state actors who seek to bolster the political legitimacy of their territorial
claims at home and abroad.
The legal status of such evidence remains unclear, however. The generic
concept of “historic rights,” although present in international law, is derived
from a more specic one, “historic bays,” which refers to comparatively small
bodies of water, “over which a coastal nation has traditionally asserted and
maintained dominion with the acquiescence of foreign nations.” But it is
not immediately apparent how the latter concept might apply in the context of
the “South China/ Eastern Sea,” one of the world’s largest bodies of water after
its oceans. A third term, “historic waters,” emerged during the 1950s as part of
the negotiations related to  I (1958). But again, scholars were not able
to resolve the qualifying criteria or legal status of such waters at the time, as the
concept, if formalized, would permit coastal states to establish rights to mari-
time areas in ways that were at odds with those specied in  . In-
deed, the concept of “historic waters” was so controversial that delegates to the
Third  Conference opted to drop it from the agenda entirely. Despite these
legal uncertainties, the governments of both China and Vietnam regularly use
the generic concept of “historic rights” to buttress their legal and techno-scien-
tic arguments, most often by emphasizing the length of time each state (and
its predecessors) has exercised actual authority over a particular area and the
attitude of other states to such claims. While the earliest forms of such “evi-
dence” date back to the eleventh and fteenth centuries respectively for China
and Vietnam, the U-Shaped line has a much more recent origin.
Most accounts of the U-shaped line, also known as the “dotted” or “dashed”
line,” begin with ocial maps the Republic of China published in 1947. How-
30 Black’s Law Dictionary, 6th Edition (St. Paul, : West Publishing Co., 1990), 730.
31 Zou Keyuan, “Historic Rights in International Law and in China’s Practice,” Ocean Devel-
opment & International Law, 32 (2001): 149–151.
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386 
ever, a number of earlier versions exist. The rst known line appeared in a 1914
map prepared by Hu Jinjie, a well-known cartographer. His personal draw-
ings served as the basis for a series of other privately published maps during
the 1920s and 1930s. These maps, when taken together, reveal that the U-shaped
line has moved steadily southwards from the Paracels to the Spratlys and then
to James Shoal at four degrees north latitude, 112 degrees east longitude. Inter-
estingly, the line’s movement coincided with the emergence of a new genre of
Chinese cartography on the eve of the First World War. These “national hu-
miliation” maps, as they came to be known, detailed China’s territorial losses
over time, often in bright color. In doing so, the volumes that contained them
(such as Gu/Jia Yijun’s textbook Geography of China’s National Humiliation
(Zhongguo guochi dili)) graphically depicted the political, economic, and cul-
tural anxieties caused by the transformation of the Qing Empire into the
Republic of China. The result was an apparent paradox, as the diferent car-
tographic genres presented two radically diferent versions of the country’s
geo-body – one set depicted an expanding China, the other a contracting one.
Vietnamese Positions
The U-shaped line took on new signicance in late 1947 when the Ministry of
Interior for the Republic of China renamed all the islands in “South China /
Eastern Sea” and placed them under the supervision of the Hainan Special Ad-
ministrative District, linked to that southern Chinese island. Two months later,
the Ministry released the Atlas of Administrative Areas of the Republic of China,
which included the rst ocial map of the U-shaped line available to the gen-
eral public. The  promptly adopted this map and the territorial claims it
made visible. During 2009, while in Vietnam, I showed the map to an infor-
mant, Phong, who promptly dismissed the U-shaped line as “a cow’s tongue
long enough to lick Malaysia” (như cái lưi ca con bò kéo dài đn tn Malaysia).
This view was not his alone; the phrase is widely used among Vietnamese
speakers, both inside and outside the country. So too are the critiques they
mount against it. My conversations with diferent Vietnamese over the past
32 Han Zhenhua, ed., Woguo nanhai zhudao shiliao huibian (A Compilation of Historical
Materials on China’s South China Sea Islands) (Beijing: Oriental Press, 1988), 355.
33 As cited in William A. Callahan, “The Cartography of National Humiliation and the Emer-
gence of China’s Geobody” in Public Culture 21 (1).
34 Li Jinming & Li Dexia, “The Dotted Line on the Chinese Map of the South China Sea:
A Note,Ocean Development & International Law, 34 (2003): 287–295.
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   
several years regarding the various territorial disputes often show a sophisti-
cated awareness of the problems associated with the U-shaped line. This is due
in part to increased access to the Internet, which has made it much easier for
Vietnamese-speakers concerned about what they perceive to be Chinese ex-
pansionism to become amateur experts by reading and writing about the vast
array of historical, legal, and scientic materials now posted online.
Much of this purported “evidence” is of uncertain veracity. However, a grow-
ing percentage of it originates from ocial sources, such as the Ministry of
Foreign Afairs of the , which published an electronic version of its hand-
book on maritime law and the relevance of this work towards the territorial
dispute during the 2009 shing ban. Trn Công Trc, a legal scholar who had
participated in sensitive negotiations with China as a member of the Vietnam-
ese Government’s Border Committee (1995–2004), granted a number of inter-
views attacking the shing ban and dismissing the legitimacy of the U-shaped
line. Extensive coverage that summer was also given to Lý Sơn Island, located
thirty kilometers of the coast of Qung Ngãi Province in the center of the
country, where a museum dedicated to documenting Vietnam’s purported sov-
ereignty over the Paracel and Spratly Archipelagoes now stands. The island is
not only home to many of the sherman detained for violating China’s ban; its
residents also host an annual festival celebrating the “Squads of Heroes,” local
men who conducted salvage operations among these features from the 14th
century onwards and became, under the Nguyn dynasty in the 19th century, a
proto-naval force. For the rst time ever, a series of conferences on the mari-
time disputes were held in Hà Ni and Ho Chi Minh City during 2009, 2010,
2011, and 2012 – all of which received signicant international and domestic
press coverage.
Regardless of the precise source of their information, many of my everyday
interlocutors were aware that the shape and extent of the line had changed
signicantly over time. The dashes, they noted, also lacked precise coordinates,
with the notable exception being the southernmost one at four degrees north
latitude. For these reasons, several Vietnamese with more specialized knowl-
edge said the U-shaped line was a form of geographic shorthand, not unlike the
controversial red line found in the 1887 Constans Agreement. But such claims,
they continued, were now irrelevant because international law does not per-
mit states to extend their territorial waters beyond the three nautical mile
limit. Interestingly, a number of Chinese scholars have expressed similar con-
cerns over the U-shaped line; however, these concerns have done little to dis-
suade those ocials who set China’s foreign policy, as evidenced by the
35 B Ngoi Giao, S Tay Pháp Lý Cho Ngưi Đi Bin (Hà Ni:  Chính Tr Quc Gia, 2002).
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388 
country’s bellicose response to the extended continental shelf submissions
Vietnam and Malaysia led with the United Nations.
Since the late nineteenth century, the political entities now known as the 
and the  have issued more than a half-dozen lines concerning their respec-
tive claims to diferent parts of the waters that separate them. Several of these
lines were the result of bilateral negotiations, but others were enacted unilater-
ally, often through force. Other  states (especially Malaysia and the Phil-
ippines) have rejected the validity of these lines as well, including the baselines
that serve as the foundation for the zones of graduated sovereignty and juris-
diction that follow from them. But just as the land frontier between China and
its southern neighbors has proven to be surprisingly elastic, so has the water
frontier of to its east. The Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands in the “Sea of Japan / East
China Sea,” which the  claims as its own, have become another potential
ashpoint for violent conict. In fact,  actions in the region and Japan’s re-
sponses to them over the past several years have damaged bilateral relations to
the point that some security experts now call for a crisis management initiative
between Tokyo and Beijing. The maritime disputes among the Government
of South Korea, the , and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the
Yellow Sea, which are worsening, exhibit similar patterns. In each instance,
historical, scientic, and legal “evidence” posted on the Internet plays a key
role in shaping popular opinion at home and framing the issues for interna-
tional views.
Despite the growth of maritime nationalism, which is a world-wide phe-
nomenon, progress on such territorial disputes increasingly revolves around a
single issue: the extent to which a state has the right to regulate foreign ships,
including military ones, travelling outside its territorial waters but within its
Exclusive Economic Zone ().  articles 58 and 87 rearm customary
“navigational rights and freedoms,” which the United States and approximately
140 of the current 157 signatories argue permits traditional naval activities (e.g.
scientic surveys, military exercises, and surveillance) in addition to commer-
36 Peter Kien-Hong Yu, “The Chinese (Broken) U-Shaped Line in the South China Sea: Points,
Lines, and Zones,” Contemporary Southeast Asia, 25, 3 (2003): 405–430.
37 Sheila Smith, “Japan and the East China Sea Dispute,” Orbis, Summer (2012): 371–390.
38 Michael McDevitt and Catherine Lea, “The Yellow and East China Seas.”  Analysis
& Solutions Maritime Asia Project Conference Report, May (2012): 1–80.
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   
cial travel between ports. The  and remaining signatories maintain to vary-
ing degrees that states possess the legal right to restrict these freedoms where
they perceive such activities to impinge upon their sovereignty and security.
This disagreement has serious implications at a number of levels. At the re-
gional level, serious violent conict may obligate the United States to take di-
rect military action as a consequence of the mutual defense treaties it has
signed with South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines. Such action
may further reduce the willingness of the  to comply with international
norms and rules on other issues as well as the likelihood that the United States
will become a party to . Finally, geo-political tensions elsewhere may
lead to increased acceptance of the Government of the ’s position on the
. Given that s cover one-third of all the world’s oceans, such a shift
would have a tremendous impact globally on seaborne trade, oil and gas explo-
ration, scientic surveys, overseas military bases and installations, and yover
Due to the stakes, it is not surprising that attempts to negotiate an equitable
and just solution to the territorial disputes in the “South China / Eastern Sea”
have failed. A tense standof involving Chinese and Filipino naval forces over
the Scarborough Reef and the rich shing grounds that surround it in April of
2012 is the latest in the growing number of incidents that have nearly turned
violent. The following month the  announced that its navy would again
enforce the annual shing ban (June 1-August 31), which it did again in 2013.
Several claimant states, the  among them, immediately led formal pro-
tests, indicating that they would not honor the ban, which has heightened
fears that the security situation could deteriorate even further. Current ef-
forts led by some  member states to create a regional code of conduct
with the  so as to prevent future conict, although welcome, is likely to be
downgraded from a legally binding document to a political statement.
39 Ben Dolven, Shirley Kan, and Mark Manyin, “Maritime Territorial Disputes in East Asia:
Issues for Congress,” Congressional Research Service January (2013), 13–25; Bonnie Glaser,
Armed Clash in the South China Sea, Contingency Planning Memorandum No. 14 (New
York: Council on Foreign Relations, 2012).
40 Ronald O’Rourke, “Maritime Territorial and Exclusive Economic Zone () Disputes
Involving China: Issues for Congress,Congressional Research Service, May (2013), 28, 31,
41 International Crisis Group, Stirring Up the South China Sea, 5–7; Li, Chinese Debates of
South China Sea Policy, 10–13.
42 Ian Storey, Slipping Away? A South China Sea Code of Conduct Eludes Diplomatic Eforts
(Washington D.C.: Center for New American Security, 2013).
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390 
The reasons for the ongoing tensions are complex, especially in the case of
Vietnam and China where the attempt to normalize bilateral relations has ex-
acerbated old anxieties as well as created new ones. Normative maps that
depict the nation’s geo-body as it was or as it should be have proven to be par-
ticularly potent in this regard since they also claim to reveal essential “truths”
about the nature of Sino-Vietnamese relations. Hence the crucial role diferent
forms of historical “evidence” play in augmenting and sometimes supplanting
international legal frameworks and techno-scientic studies, particularly
where neither is fully able to resolve overlapping disputes over the same terri-
Such “evidence,” as I have pointed out, increasingly plays another role as
well. In recent years, ocial eforts to reduce lingering tensions between the
two states (in part through the demarcation of their shared land and maritime
boundaries) have contributed to the re-emergence of patriotic discourse dis-
tinct from ocially sponsored national ones. For these individuals, patriotism
ofers an attractive alternative to maritime nationalism, which is closely asso-
ciated with the Party/state, as well as to rights-based discourse, which is
vulnerable to accusations that it is Western in origin and thus culturally inap-
propriate. Patriotism, by contrast, predates both and is seen by those who use
it to ofer an authentically Vietnamese (or Chinese) position from which to
mount moral critiques of the Party/state, particularly where its policies are be-
lieved to undermine the nation’s territorial integrity and security. This develop-
ment, which in Vietnam links northerners and southerners as well as members
of the diaspora, is a relatively recent one. For this reason, it remains prema-
ture to draw any hard conclusions concerning the impact post-Cold War pa-
triotism has had upon Vietnam’s internal afairs or its bilateral relations with
China. While the Vietnamese Ministry of the Interior has encouraged such
sentiments in relation to the Paracel and Spratly Archipelagoes, security o-
cials have arrested and imprisoned several dozen bloggers and cyber-dissidents
over the past decade for posting essays critical of the government’s (non-) ac-
tions with regard to China’s military and economic expansion.
Close attention to these debates and the role diferent lines play in sustain-
ing them provides a novel means to explore how maps draw all these issues
together not only spatially but historically as well. China’s southern frontier
has been the site of tension as its limits have intermittently expanded and
43 Nhung Bui, ‘War/Peace Journalism Approach in Vietnamese Online Media Coverage of
the South China Sea Dispute,’ M.A. Thesis (Örebero University, 2012).
44 See Reporters Without Borders, Annual Overviews (2002–2012). Currently (mid–2013),
35 such individuals are in jail, the second highest number in the world after China.
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   
contracted over time for more than two millennia. At present, these limits are
once again expanding. This time in an asymmetric, concerted, and unprece-
dented fashion into the sea, which has provided the impetus for diferent poli-
ties, societies, and individuals to take extra-legal as well as legal action to dene
China’s maritime frontier from both sides in ways conducive to their own inter-
ests. This dynamic, as the other contributions to this volume clearly indicate, is
not new. These northern states (now the ) have acted to establish them-
selves in ever more southern and southwestern locales, and the latter’s inhabit-
ants as well as those farther south have engaged the newly created frontier
situations in ways intended to make changing conditions more favorable to
themselves. First with the Qin-Han expansion, then the Mongol-Ming re-for-
mation, and now the maritime extension, where a diverse array of local, na-
tional, regional, and international actors are presently contesting one another’s
authority to x this uid frontier.
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Contentious Issues.Contemporary Southeast Asia 26, 2 (2004): 320–345.
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Callahan, William. “The Cartography of National Humiliation and the Emergence of
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Full-text available
In 1992 ASEAN publicly addressed the South China Sea dispute in a standalone statement for the first time. Southeast Asian foreign ministers have been dealing with this conflict ever since, and the pattern of the speech act in 1992 runs through all their statements up until today. The ASEAN Foreign Ministers´s Meeting (AMM) in July 2012, though, proved to be a turning point. Aware of the loss of face caused by the failure of the meeting due to a lack of consensus among the ASEAN-10, the Association intensified its verbal and actual dispute management. Since 2014 ASEAN is in the process of securitizing the South China Sea dispute as a threat to regional security and stability, yet it avoids adjectives such as “existential”, “profound” or “severe”. ASEAN is also aware of the negative impacts of a failure of its dispute management on ASEAN´s regional centrality, which would lead to a further internationalization and militarization of the SCS dispute. A key finding of this contribution is that the speech acts of the AMM, the core institution in the securitization process, and the ASEAN Summit vary considerably, while the speech acts of the AMM and the ARF overlap. Despite certain limitations, a speech act analysis, based on the Constructivist Copenhagen School, has proved highly useful, as it reveals the narrative behind ASEAN´s policies in the South China Sea. Such an approach reveals that statements made by ASEAN – as well as those made by the government of Vietnam – are both discursively and practically (in terms of actual policies) in line with each other. Any new policy promoted by ASEAN will have been previously developed and tested in the Association´s discourse.
Full-text available
The conflicts shaping territorial claims and counter-claims to overlapping areas of the South China Sea threatens to significantly damage Sino-Vietnamese relations, destabilize regional security arrangements, and alter the geopolitical status quo. The governments of both countries routinely invoke historical documents, commission scientific studies, and cite legal principles to justify their competing claims in the maritime region and the resources contained therein. The role different types of energy infrastructure play in the state-level disputes have received little attention, however. This essay addresses this oversight. In it, I foreground the complex ways not yet built infrastructure affect Sino-Vietnamese relations as well as our theoretical understanding of “the state”, especially with regard to Vietnam. Not yet built infrastructure refers to more than the assemblage of things that will be built in the future to power the economy, such as oil rigs, natural gas pipelines, and refineries. The concept also includes the ideological positions that presuppose the materialization of blueprint plans in physical form, i.e., the broader goals such infrastructure is meant to achieve. Towards this end, the article focuses on how state actors and their proxies conceptualize the likely impacts not yet built infrastructure will have upon their respective interests once construction is completed. The case study highlights how the need for energy security strengthens national security at some moments, weakens it at others, and both at still others.
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The issue of the Gulf of Tonkin is one of the unresolved boundary issues between China and Vietnam. While China and Vietnam took different positions on and viewpoints regarding the principles and standards for the maritime delimitation of the Gulf of Tonkin, they agreed to seek an equitable solution. This article attempts to explore and assess the legal issues relating to the boundary delimitation of the Gulf of Tonkin within the context of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
This article analyses the relationship between China and Vietnam since 1975 with a focus on developments since full normalization of relations in late 1991. The study encompasses the major developments in the relationship, i.e. the deterioration of relations that took place during the late 1970s, the period of continued conflict and tension in the 1980s, the process of normalization of relations between China and Vietnam in the late 1980s and early 1990s; and, the developments since full normalization relations. In analyzing the deterioration of relations, the continued conflict situation as well as the normalization process the following issues are discussed and assessed: differing perceptions of the Soviet Union, relations to and influence in Cambodia, the ethnic Chinese in Vietnam, and territorial disputes. The analysis of the period following full normalization of relations focuses on the expansion of relations as well as on the impact and management of contentious issues, in particular the territorial disputes between the two countries. The article concludes with an evaluation of the progress made, lessons learned, and the remaining challenges in managing disputes in Sino-Vietnamese relations.
The Tây So'n uprising (1771-1802) was a cataclysmic event that profoundly altered the eighteenth-century Vietnamese political and social landscape. This groundbreaking book offers a new look at an important and controversial era. George Dutton follows three brothers from the hamlet of Tây So'n as they led a heterogeneous military force that ousted ruling families in both halves of the divided Vietnamese territories and eventually toppled the 350-year-old Lè dynasty. Supplementing Vietnamese primary sources with extensive use of archival European missionary accounts, he explores the dynamics of an event that affected every region of the country and every level of society. Tracing the manner in which the Tây So'n leaders transformed an inchoate uprising into a new political regime, Dutton challenges common depictions of the Tây So'n brothers as visionaries or revolutionaries. Instead, he reveals them as political opportunists whose worldview remained constrained by their provincial origins and the exigencies of ongoing warfare and political struggles.
In 1947, the then-Chinese government produced The Location Map of the South China Sea Islands (Nanhai zhudao weizhi tu, in Chinese). A discontinuous dotted line was on this map. This contribution looks at both the history of the creation of the dotted line and the opinions that have been expressed concerning the juridical status of the dotted line. Special attention is given to the historic title assertion.­
This article analyses the positive and negative aspects of the Chinese U-shaped line (maritime boundary) in the South China Sea as well as certain points of interest that are more ambivalent. Positive aspects of the line include the observation that the line is not an attempt by both Taipei and Beijing to absorb international boundaries within a national framework. Negative aspects of the line include the burden it creates on the Chinese navy. It also addresses questions such as the nature of the relationship between the U-shaped line and Chinese Communist Exclusive Economic Zones, arguing that the non-contradictory relationship must be seen as a form of double insurance that both Taipei and Beijing are investing in.
In June 2004 China and Vietnam ratified both a maritime boundary agreement for the Tonkin Gulf (Beibu Gulf) and a fisheries cooperation agreement for the Gulf. These agreements end years of negotiation and debate regarding the rights of the respective states to the ocean areas and resources in the Gulf.
Maps are an important site of the production and consumption of the national image. This essay examines modern Chinese maps to show how the very material borders between foreign and domestic space are the outgrowth of the symbolic workings of historical geography and the conventions of Chinese cartography. These maps do much more than celebrate the extent of Chinese sovereignty; they also mourn the loss of national territories through a cartography of national humiliation. The goal of this essay is to shift our attention from the diplomatic issues of international borders to examine what Chinese maps of China can tell us about the Chinese people's hopes and fears, not only in the past or present, but for the future. This essay has two general aims: to demonstrate how China's current national maps have emerged through the creative tension of unbounded imperial domain and bounded sovereign territory, and to show how the cartography of national humiliation informs the biopolitics of the geobody. China's often unique experience, the essay concludes, can show us how cartography is an important site of struggle for other peoples as well.
Maritime Territorial Disputes in East Asia: Issues for Congress
  • Ben Dolven
  • Shirley Kan
  • Mark Manyin
Ben Dolven, Shirley Kan, and Mark Manyin, "Maritime Territorial Disputes in East Asia: Issues for Congress," Congressional Research Service January (2013), 13-25;