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26th October 2022 (8 Topics)

China’s ‘nine-dash line’ puts economic interest at risk: Indonesia


Recently, the Chinese government said it has “overlapping claims” with Vietnam over maritime rights in parts of the East Sea, Indonesia showed concerns and rejected China’s offer for any negotiations and said that Jakarta’s economic interests are threatened by China’s Nine-Dash Line.


  • China currently claims ‘indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.
  • These nine-dash lines are not geographical boundaries but are interpreted by China to advance its claims. 
  • The line runs as far as 2,000km from the Chinese mainland to within a few hundred kilometers of the Philippines, Malaysia, and Vietnam.
  • The nine-dash line was originally an 11-dash line, and Chinese geographer Yang Huairen helped to draw it.
    • In 1947, Yang worked on the map introducing the 11-dash line and 286 bits of rock and turf in the South China Sea.
  • In 1952, the 11-dash line became the nine-dash line when in a moment of Communist camaraderie with Vietnam; Mao gave up China’s claims over the Gulf of Tonkin.

Countries' maritime Borders in the South China Sea:

  • Several countries bordering the South China Sea; are 
    • Peninsular Malaysia,
    • Thailand (via the Gulf of Thailand),
    • Philippines
    • Singapore,
    • East Malaysia
    • Brunei, and
    • Indonesia
    • Vietnam,
    • China,
    • Brunei, and
    • Taiwan

Why it is a significant location?

The South China Sea is a contested maritime area that is subject to claims of partial possession by five countries currently, namely the Philippines, Vietnam, China, Brunei, Taiwan, and Malaysia, which has remained unresolved for decades.

However, there is an interest in their claims:

  • For China: China claims most of the contested sea, reaching almost to the Philippines shores, and has built artificial islands with heavy military developments on them which worry the neighboring nations and it rejects the UN-backed international tribunal ruling as well.
  • The nine-dash line asserted by China violates the principle of Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ).

Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ)

  • It is a formula based on compromise and was recognized by the UN Conference on the Law of the Sea in 1976.
  • It covers an area beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea: it can extend to a maximum of 200 nautical miles from the baselines.
  • The EEZ includes the territorial sea which extends to 12 nautical miles. While the countries have sovereign rights over the territorial sea, the EEZ provides them the right to existing natural resources.
  • Activities allowed in EEZ are -
    • o   creation and use of artificial islands,
    • o   Installations and structures.
    • o   Marine scientific research and
    • o   The protection and preservation of the marine environment.
  • For Other Island Countries: The stalled negotiations between China and ASEAN made headway on the Code of Conduct as four of the ASEAN nations also made territorial claims on the disputed waters which adds to the problem with the already non-negotiable behavior of China.
  • The 9-dash line makes China exclusive rights to marine resources of the region and hence affects the economy of developing island countries like Indonesia.
  • For India: The South China Sea holds the major Oil trade route for countries in the Pacific and India affects if the economy of these counties gets impacted.


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