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Home Database The Seventh International Conference on SCS
The Seventh International Conference on SCS

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Mr. Bill Hayton, Associate Fellow, Chatham House (the Royal Institute for International Affairs), London, UK

There has been a rapid expansion of published writing on the South China Sea disputes but relatively little exploration of the disputes’ historic roots. Recent archival research has unearthed evidence that casts doubt over much of the received wisdom about the emergence of territorial claims there in the first half of the 20th century. A close examination of the sources and references of many of the standard works on the disputes suggests that they are unreliable bases from which to draw reliable conclusions. A dependence on Chinese official sources and Chinese newspaper articles published long after the events they describe has led authors to mistake a number of tendentious assertions as historical fact. Most of the accounts rely on a relatively small number of works published in the 1970s and 1980s. These reflect the state of knowledge about the issues at those times. The consequence is that contemporary debates about the disputes are being framed by the parameters set 40 years ago.

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South China Sea Studies

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