China's Policy towards Territorial Disputes: The Case of the South China Sea Islands

China's Policy towards Territorial Disputes: The Case of the South China Sea Islands

China's Policy towards Territorial Disputes: The Case of the South China Sea Islands

China's Policy towards Territorial Disputes: The Case of the South China Sea Islands

Synopsis

Considers the influence of China's campaign for economic modernisation on its foreign policy and argues that such influence works within the framework of Beijing's perception of its wider geopolitical concerns.

Excerpt

With the founding of the People's Republic (PRC) in 1949, one of the most important historical legacies inherited by the new government was the relatively ill-defined boundaries of China. It has been noted that “(t)he traditional frontiers” of the Chinese empire “were often not lines but zones of intermixture between Chinese settlements and the customary habitats of nomadic peoples owing a vague allegiance to the Chinese emperor.” (1) Even taking into account the boundary treaties and treaties of cession of territories that foreign powers had imposed during the nineteenth century, China's boundaries were far from well-defined when the Communist Party assumed power. The status of the boundaries was made even more uncertain by the decision of the new Chinese government to reserve for itself the right to “recognize, abrogate, revise, or renegotiate” those treaties and agreements concluded between the Nationalist Chinese government and foreign governments. (2) In practice, as the territorial disputes during the 1950s and the early 1960s revealed, China adopted a similar approach towards those “unequal treaties” signed between Qing (Ching) China and foreign powers in the nineteenth century, although this position was not explicitly stated until 1963. (3)

Despite a number of boundary agreements that were signed in the early 1960s, disputes over many parts of China's boundaries have remained unsettled. In fact, since 1949, China has quarrelled with nearly every one of its neighbours over disputed territories. The significance of territorial disputes for China's relations with its neighbours has been underlined by the major military operations that it has undertaken in disputed territories: over the Sino-Indian border

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