Preface – Solving Disputes for Regional Cooperation and Development in the South China Sea


I have been involved in South China Sea studies for more than 20 years, since I initiated the establishment of a centre for South China Sea studies in Hainan province in the early 1990s. In 1992 the initial research team began to conduct basic research by making field trips, collecting materials and recruiting and training junior researchers. Based on the preliminary achievements, the Centre for South China Sea Studies was formally established in 1996, and was the predecessor of the current National Institute for South China Sea Studies. Since then, South China Sea studies in China have boomed, and will continue to do so in the future. The year 2012 thus marked the twentieth anniversary of South China Sea studies being carried out in Hainan, China.

Accompanying this anniversary of systematic studies on the South China Sea in China gives the completion of this book project and its publication extra value in terms of its significance as well as its academic interest. As the reader will see, the book aims at discussing South China Sea issues from a Chinese perspective in respect of history, law, international politics, economy, diplomacy and geostrategy. It intends not only to explain China’s official position on the sovereignty and maritime disputes in the South China Sea, but also to analyse the related factors influencing the origin and developments of these disputes. It further assesses the complexity and internationalisation of the long-term struggle over the South China Sea and China’s efforts towards resolution of the disputes. The purpose of the monograph is to help readers better understand a Chinese perspective on the complex South China Sea disputes, including competition over sovereignty of the islets, the islands regime and its impact on maritime delimitation, overlapping maritime claims and how the adjacent states can cooperate to develop the resources in the South China Sea.

It is hoped that the book can serve to balance different views and perspectives concerning the South China Sea issue and territorial disputes. Readers who are interested in these issues generally have access to the existing literature written by Western scholars who might not fully understand China’s perspective and which sometimes contains biased and distorted views, while most of the literature on China’s policy and perspective on the South China Sea is written in the Chinese language. This book aims to fill this gap in the existing English-language literature.

Looking at the current situation in the South China Sea, tensions have been escalating, especially between China and the Philippines and between China and Vietnam. To maintain peace and security in the region there is an urgent need for a mechanism for conflict management and dispute settlement. The book looks into this aspect and suggests means and ways of regional cooperation for the South China Sea. It is hoped that the book can serve as a useful reference for politicians and government officials to deal with South China Sea issues and disputes.