South China Sea Disputes: Chinese Historical Evidence Found Wanting – Analysis


In response to Bill Hayton’s commentary The Paracels: Historical Evidence Must Be Examined on Eurasia Review, Professor Li Dexia and Researcher Tan Keng Tat published their commentary South China Sea Disputes: China Has Evidence Of Historical Claims – Analysis.

These two authors asserted that to properly address Hayton’s issue would require a monograph and pointed to the Philippines’ 4000-page legal brief as an example. One would expect therefore that in that short commentary they would have selected only the strongest evidences from centuries of historical records to support their arguments. Let us look at some of these evidences (some of which were recycled in their Eurasia Review article Xisha (Paracel) Islands: The Inconvenient Truth).

2. Li and Tan quoted from the 13th century book ‘Chu Fan Chi’ which mentions the names ‘Chien-li chang-sha’ and ‘Wan-li shih-chuang’, and claimed that according to the book’s translators’ “[these two names] referred to the Paracels.” However, according to F. Hirth and W.W. Rockhill’s translation of ‘Chu Fan Chi’ (published by the Imperial Academy of Sciences in 1911) ‘Wan-li shih-tang’ is Maclesfield Banks and ‘Wan-li shih-chuang’ “is certainly the same” [i.e. Maclesfields Banks] (Hirth & Rockhill, p.185). Hirth & Rockhill did not identify ‘Chien[Tsien]-li chang-sha’ but simply referred to it as “«Thousand-li-banks», east of Hainan” (p. 283). Nowhere in the book ‘Chien[Tsien]-li chang-sha’ is referred to as the Paracels. Li & Tan are thus misquoting Hirsh and Rockhill in a manner that is academically objectionable.


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