China has recently demonstrated a willingness to be creative in its territorial disputes with other countries, for instance with its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) or oil drilling in disputed waters near Vietnam. Should Beijing manage to get a cross-Strait political agreement signed, then Taiwan could add another useful dimension to its territorial claims. Legally, the “eleven-dash line” claimed by the Republic of China (ROC) in Taiwan was the basis for China’s “nine-dash line.” After the end of the World War II, China, then governed by the ROC regime, took possession of the Paracel Islands and Itu Aba in the South China Sea. Following the occupation, the ROC regime issued in 1947 a broad “eleven-dash line” in the South China Sea demarking its maritime territory in an official map. In 1949, following its defeat by the Communists in the Chinese Civil War, the ROC regime fled to Taiwan, and subsequently lost the Paracel Islands to France in 1950. It has, however, retained Itu Aba.
The Chinese Communist regime, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), actually inherited most of China’s sovereign claims from the ROC, including territorial claims in the South China Sea, and developed its “nine-dash line” from the ROC’s “eleven-dash line.” However, this transfer has not been legally completed, because the ROC regime still exists in Taiwan and no relevant agreement has been signed by the ROC and the PRC. A political agreement between Taipei and Beijing would complete this transfer, and given China greater legitimacy in establishing its historical claim to the “nine-dash line.” In addition to the South China Sea, various ROC documents could supply Beijing with material to raise new territorial claims.