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As China Meets the Southern Sea Frontier: Ocean Identity in the Making, 1902-1937

Ulises Granados
Pacific Affairs
Vol. 78, No. 3 (Fall, 2005), pp. 443-461
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40023725
Page Count: 19
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As China Meets the Southern Sea Frontier: Ocean Identity in the Making, 1902-1937
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Abstract

A study of China's defense of its "maritime frontier" in the period from 1902 to 1937, including the establishment of self-recognized sovereignty rights over the South China Sea archipelagos, provides a good illustration of how the country has dealt with relevant issues of international politics during the twentieth century. The article intends to show that throughout the period between the fall of the Qing dynasty, the consolidation of power of Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist government, and up to just before the Pacific War, the idea of a maritime frontier, as applied to the South China Sea, was deeply subordinated to the political needs arising from the power struggle within China and to the precarious position of the country vis-a-vis world powers. Therefore, the protection of rights over the Spratly and Paracel Islands was not a priority of the Chinese government's foreign policy agenda during the first three decades of the republic. However, in contrast to the probable involvement of Sun Yat-sen in a scheme with Japanese nationals in the early 1920s, intended to yield rights for economic exploitation in the Southern China littorals and islands, the Nanjing government's defense of the maritime frontier in Guangdong province since 1928 marked the first precedent in China's self-definition as a modern oceanic nation-state pursuing her own maritime-territorial rights against world powers that had interests in the region.

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