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The South China Sea (SCS) has long been regarded as a major source of tension and instability in the region. Over the years, numerous attempts to manage the SCS, prevent regional confrontation, and foster cooperation among concerned states have been recorded, but no promising results have been observed. Since 2009, an upsurge in tension has sparked concern that the area may become a flashpoint with the potential for global consequences. This Article examines the underlying issues surrounding the intensified competition in the SCS, and analyzes the implications of the ongoing tension for Chinese interests in the region. Part II explains the significance of the SCS’s natural resources, strategic position, and international navigation routes, while also providing a portrait of the competing claims to SCS resources. Part III illustrates the intensified competition triggered by the continental shelf submissions of some claimants, unilateral actions, maritime conflicts in disputed areas, and the involvement of non-regional states. Part IV conducts a preliminary examination of the legal value of China’s maritime boundary— commonly referred to as the U-Shaped Line—based on its evolution and Chinese legislation. Finally, Part V concludes that as the largest state bordering the SCS, and core party to the dispute, it is vital for China to define its claims based on international law, by bringing its claims into conformity with the United Nations Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), in order to serve its long term national interests.



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