International Order, Language Games and the Emergence of Chinese “Sovereignty” Claims in the South China Sea, 1909-1947
What motivates China’s claims in the South China Sea? At the heart of ongoing sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea are the processes by which ideas about political authority and territoriality were transformed from the historical so-called Sinocentric world order into the modern, international legal order. Both the notions of "indisputable Chinese sovereignty" over the South China Sea and the region’s partition into nearby Southeast Asian claimant states' “exclusive economic zones” are a conceptual stretch from the historical status of the South China Sea. To move beyond nationalist debates, this paper situates the status of the South China Sea within the processes of international order transformation that first introduced question of how to literally and conceptually articulate the status of the South China Sea in European international legal terms in the years 1909-1947, with special attention to the concept of "sovereignty."