Reflections on the Compatibility of China’s Practices in the Arctic Ocean and the South China Sea: A Focus on Historic Maritime Claims

Ms Yuanyuan Ren1

1The University Of Wisconsin Law School, Madison, United States

This paper examines the compatibility of China’s positions and practices in the Arctic Ocean and the South China Sea (SCS), particularly with respect to the application and interpretation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). A special focus is placed on historic maritime claims that are interconnected with several controversial issues such as the freedom of navigation and the implementation of archipelagic regime in the two maritime areas. In the SCS, a central controversial issue is China’s “historic rights” claims over the maritime features and waters within the so-called “nine-dash line.” In the Arctic, Canada and Russia have long asserted sovereignty over some Arctic waters on the basis of “historic titles.” Since China has repeatedly expressed its respect for the Arctic states’ sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdictions in the Arctic, it is interesting to explore China’s approach to Arctic historic claims. This paper argues that China’s practices in the Arctic Ocean and the SCS have been largely compatible. However, this does not mean that these practices are all in accordance with international law. It concludes with a discussion of the limitations of China’s approach to the law of the sea in the two maritime areas.


Yuanyuan Ren

S.J.D. candidate at the University of Wisconsin Law School, the United States. I received my PhD in international law from Fudan University Law School (2012) and LL.M. from the University of Wisconsin Law School (2014). I served as an assistant professor at the Polar Strategic Studies Division of Polar Research Institute of China from 2012 to 2013 and was a Fox International Fellow at Yale University from 2010 to 2011. My research areas include Polar law and policy, WTO law and China’s treatment of international law.

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