chapter  13
China’s national interests and the law of the sea
Are they reconcilable? 1
ByStein Tønnesson
Pages 29

China's interest is more difficult to define in the southern half of the South China Sea, simply because it does not control any of the Spratly Islands. China might seek to maximize the zone around the Spratlys in the same way as around the Paracels, in the hope of gaining control of these islands in the future. A more realistic prospect would be to persuade the other claimants to establish a regional joint management zone. The Chinese leaders must acquire the courage to make substantial compromises, notably by recognizing the sovereign rights of other claimant states in their exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and on their continental shelf. These zones would then remain disputed, while the rest of the southern half of the sea could be divided among the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam. China may also seek a role for its energy companies in exploring for oil and gas through joint ventures on the continental shelf of its neighbouring countries.