China is directly challenging the norms that govern the global maritime commons in two ways
[ Page 69 ]
China is asserting its interests in ways that threaten the foundational norms that govern the global maritime commons. This trend is most evident in the South China Sea, where China’s policies and activities are challenging stability and security.
China is challenging these norms in two ways. First, it is challenging established provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which allows states to claim Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) and continental shelves. Instead, China bases its maritime jurisdictional rights on a historical a “nine-dashed line,” instead of an EEZ or a continental shelf.1 This view regard- ing how states may legitimately claim maritime resource rights increasingly is causing friction with its South China Sea neighbors.
Second, China is challenging the rights of navies to conduct operations, undertake exercises and gather intelligence in the EEZs of other states. Though China benefits substantially from the existing order, Beijing’s views about some key norms governing military activities throughout the global system diverge from those of the United States and other like-minded countries. Such Chinese activi- ties are both creating instability in the South China Sea and undermining international legal norms designed to suppress international instability and armed conflict.