Study: Testimony before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Committee Hearing on China’s Maritime Disputes in the East and South China Seas


Peter A. Dutton
Professor and Director
China Maritime Studies Institute
U.S. Naval War College

This testimony reflects the personal views of the author and not the official views of the U.S. Navy or any other entity of the U.S. Government.

Questions presented: What are the origins of China’s territorial claims in the East and South China Seas. Upon what historical, geographic, or other bases does China justify them? What is China’s strategy for promoting its “9-dash line” claim? How does China address skepticism to this claim and how sustainable is this strategy? What impact will the Philippines’ initiation of South China Sea boundary arbitration proceedings have on the outlook for the resolution of other maritime boundary disputes in the region? What is the impact of China’s decision not to participate in the proceedings? How will the maritime boundary dispute in East Asia be resolved, if at all? What avenues have the greatest promise to yield an enduring solution? Discuss possible roles for international institutions, such as the United Nations (UN), and regional institutions, such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). What should be the role of the US in achieving resolution and ensuring the resolution endures?

The Origin of China’s Maritime Claims in the East and South China Seas. China’s maritime claims in the East and South China Seas flow from several overarching interests and objectives.1 These include enhancing China’s sense of national security, acquiring control over the region’s living and non-living maritime resources, and restoring China’s place of pre-eminence in the East Asian regional order. Thus, China’s maritime claims serve important security, economic, and external political objectives. Additionally, consolidating Chinese state power over the offshore islands and regional seas serves the Communist Party’s interest in maintaining internal political credibility by delivering to the Chinese people what they believe is rightfully their own.


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