Nine–Dash Line

The nine-dash line—at various times also referred to as the ten-dash line and the eleven-dash line—refers to the undefined, vaguely located, demarcation line used by the Republic of China (ROC) and the People's Republic of China (PRC), for their claims of the major part of the South  China Sea. 

  • The contested area in the South China Sea includes the Paracel Islands, the Spratly  Islands, and various other areas including the Pratas Islands, the Macclesfield Bank and the Scarborough Shoal.  
  • The claim encompasses the area of Chinese land reclamation known as the "Great Wall of Sand". 
  • An early map showing a U-shaped eleven-dash line was published in the then-Republic of China on 1 December 1947. 
  • Two of the dashes in the Gulf of Tonkin were later removed at the behest of Chinese  Premier Zhou Enlai, reducing the total to nine.  
  • Chinese scholars asserted at the time that the version of the map with nine dashes represented the maximum extent of historical claims to the area. 
  • In 2010, the PRC published a new national map which incorporated the tenth dash.  Subsequent editions added a dash to the other end of the line, extending it into the East  China Sea. 
  • Despite having made the vague claim public in 1947, China has not (as of 2018) filed a  formal and specifically defined claim to the area within the dashes. 
  • China added a tenth dash to the east of Taiwan island in 2013 as a part of its official sovereignty claim to the disputed territories in the South China Sea. 
  • On 12 July 2016, an arbitral tribunal constituted under Annex VII to the 1982 United  Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea ruled that China has no legal basis to claim  "historic rights" within its nine-dash line in a case brought by the Philippines.  
  • The tribunal judged that there was no evidence that China had historically exercised exclusive control over the waters or resources within the nine-dash line.  
  • The ruling was rejected by both the PRC and ROC governments.

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Blog Post written by:
Anurag Trivedi
UPSC Mentor