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Current Affairs

China’s new maritime law

Date: 03 September 2021 Tags: International Organizations


 To control the entry of foreign vessels in South China Sea and surrounding areas, China has introduced new maritime rules.



China considers South China Sea and the surrounding regions as Chinese territorial waters and wants to regulate foreign presence.



  • The rules will have implications on military as well as commercial traffic in South China Sea, East China Sea as well as Strait of Taiwan.

  • The region is already tensed due to China’s expansionism and the new rules will further enhance existing tension with the US and its neighbours.

  • Foreign vessels will need to adhere to Chinese supervision when moving through these areas after the law comes into effect.

  • Vessels carrying radioactive materials, oil, chemicals, petroleum gas and other hazardous materials will have to report immediately after entering Chinese territorial waters.

  • The name of goods carried by ship and also the total weight has to be reported. In addition, the ships’ name, next port of call, call sign and estimated time will also have to be reported.



  • The South China Sea has great economic importance globally. Countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei share border with Sea.

  • The one third of global shipping passes through these waters. The areas have some of the best fishing grounds in the world.

  • The South China Sea is the route for India’s trade with ASEAN, Japan and South Korea. More than 50% of India’s trade passes through Malacca strait and South China Sea.

  • India is also involved in petroleum exploration in this region, particularly near the coast of Vietnam.



  • China claims the whole South China Sea as its territory under the nine-dash line map. The neighbors and US do not agree to this position.

  • US has been sending its military vessels including Aircraft carriers to these waters to contest Chinese hegemony.


International position

  • The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) governs international maritime activities. India, China and many countries are signatories. US is not.

  • The law says that states have the right to implement territorial rights up to 12 nautical miles into the sea. 



  • US is unlikely to abide by the new rule framed by China. It considers free passage as bedrock of international cooperation, which China is not adhering to.

  • UNCLOS says that innocent passage has to be provided through territorial waters, which China is now violating. The reaction of other signatories has to be seen.