From my perspective, China’s policy towards the South China Sea consists of two parts. On the one hand, as China claims that the Spratly (Nanshu) Islands have been a part of Chinese territory since ancient times, the South China Sea relates to the defense of China’s territorial integrity and to the security of China’s southern flank. China is duty-bound to defend its territorial sovereignty and its maritime rights and interests there. On the other hand, China wants to maintain good-neighborly relations with Southeast Asian countries. In view of the existing disputes in the Spratlys, China has sought to adopt a conciliatory and flexible attitude, which includes “shelving the disputes and working for joint development” and the peaceful settlement of these disputes in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
PacNet #17 – China Versus South China Sea Security
April 24, 1998