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A Game with Many Players and No Resolution: Maritime Politics in the South China Sea

China
Conflict
Governance
International Relations
Critical Theory
Dana Silvina Trif
Babeş-Bolyai University
Dana Silvina Trif
Babeş-Bolyai University

Abstract

How does a Great Game narrative complicate the security situation in the South China Sea? The disputes over maritime features in the South China Sea have become even more entrenched following the 2016 Decision of an Arbitral Tribunal created under Annex VII UNCLOS. The Peoples' Republic of China has in the meantime openly acknowledged its historic claims to most of the islands in the SCS and, by extension, a large swathe of marine territory. This hardened stance has intensified hegemonic competition in the region in what appears to be a classic situation of great power rivalry over resources. The question of ownership at the heart of these ongoing disputes has broader political relevance. A report published in September 2014 by the Directorate-General for External Policies of the European Parliament identified the total amount of nautical miles that could be claimed under UNCLOS EEZ rules to approximately 29% of the Earth surface, equal to that of emerged land. These objective circumstances are nevertheless doubled up by the subjective interpretations of all the SCS stakeholders. This paper argues that a survey of major post-Award positions of these key players shows the discursive limits of a great game approach to politics. A securitization approach is also normatively necessary in order to reframe the issue and resolve the current deadlock of political negotiations.