In the Western media China is widely perceived to be engaged in a statesponsored ‘resource grab’ in developing countries. It is also involved in a high-profile dispute with Japan over a group of tiny uninhabited islands, the Diaoyu (in Chinese) or Senkaku (in Japanese) Islands, which are on the edge of the South China Sea. The Western media are full of reports about China's claims to territory in the South China Sea and the fact that if the claims were successful this might bring China access to the natural resources that might be in or under the sea. The Western media routinely refer to China's alleged ‘bullying behaviour’ in the South China Sea. Some commentators have suggested that a new ‘Peloponnesian War’ might begin with the disputes in this sea. The territory in dispute is of great historical and strategic significance, and it may well possess substantial natural resources. However, the resources of the South China Sea are dwarfed in every sense by those involved in the United Nations’ ‘revolutionary’ decision of 1982.
In 1982 the United Nations enacted a ‘revolutionary’ piece of legislation, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which allows countries to establish an ‘exclusive economic zone’ (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles from their coastline. China is a signatory to UNCLOS and the dispute over the South China Sea revolves primarily around the extent of the EEZ that is claimed by China compared with that of the countries with which it is in dispute.
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