Chinese practice and policy are at odds with UNCLOS agreement
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In theory, the 1982 UNCLOS Treaty leveled the playing field and created an unambiguous set of rules for all countries to abide by. While the convention represents a major step forward in codifying many of the historical practices that had evolved into international law and crafted practical guidelines designed to promote equitable commerce, the contemporary practice does not yet mirror the theory.
China’s national defense policy declares, “China . . . defends and administers its land borders and seas under its jurisdiction, safeguards the country’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, and secures both its lands and sea borders strictly in accordance with treaties and agreements it has signed with neighboring countries, and the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea.”12 In reality, however, Chinese practice with regard to innocent passage, exclusive economic zones, and sovereignty claims over what China calls “Historic Waters” is largely inconsistent with UNCLOS.