Two scholars have responded to my call for supporters of Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea to provide verifiable evidence in support of their arguments. However the response of Dr Li Dexia and Tan Keng Tat (http://www.rsis.edu.sg/rsis-publication/rsis/co14165) shows just how difficult this task is likely to be. They are unable to prove any Chinese claim to any specific island made before 1909, and none of their assertions contain verifiable evidence. Some are demonstrably untrue.
Where is the proof that any pre-modern Chinese officials laid any claim to any feature in the South China Sea? There is no evidence that Zheng He or any of the other Ming Dynasty admirals did so. The same is true of the Mongol expeditionary forces a century before. Some 500 years ago seafarers generally sailed around the edges of the Sea to avoid the dangers of uncharted reefs that lay at its centre. If the authors know of documents or other evidence that prove otherwise, this is the time to make the exact references public.
There are certainly old Chinese texts mentioning “islands” but they are vague in the extreme, unconnected to specific pieces of land and provide no proof of discovery or claim. Some are reports of accounts given by foreigners arriving in China, others refer to mystical places near the entrance to the underworld and others are copies of European maps.