By Wang Qi, Sina English
Although China has claimed its jurisdiction over Huangyan Island since as early as Song Dynasty according to historical records, the "jurisdiction claim" was confined merely to "declaration" which has never involved real actions to claim the territory.
In fact, the island lies so far away from the Chinese mainland with tough conditions that it is actually a desert island. Besides, because of infighting between the Communist Party and Kuomintang in China since the middle period of last century, neither the mainland nor Taiwan had exercised jurisdiction over the island. The situation continued until 1992 when the Philippines suddenly jumped to the front claiming sovereignty over the island, which inevitably incurred strong rejection from China and has put the two sides into disputes ever since. When it comes to island sovereignty, international laws have quite a few yardsticks to define the belonging of an island. First, which country first discovered the island, named it and developed it? Second, which country takes effective occupation and has long-term and exclusive control of the island? In this sense, effective administration and inhabitation on the island can also be counted. Third, whether the island is on the continental shelf of a certain country or on its extension? What is noteworthy is that stipulations taken into account when weighing up the situation cannot be used to compromise other countries' territorial sovereignty
The standards suggest China has indisputable sovereignty over Huangyan Island; nonetheless, China fails to meet the requirement of "long-term and exlusive administration." But given that neighboring countries, the Philippines included, does not meet the requirement either, China is the only country with the most sufficient evidence for its sovereignty claim. However, a clear judgment of the disputes entails not just the historical evidence and international laws. Rather, it also requires a comprehensive consideration of the interaction between concrete disputes and general state policies and principles of the countries concerned.
More importantly, a sound judgment is based upon a precise command over the current situation.
And only in this way can a wise decision be made, which will not only has a strategic height but involves substantive steps.
Currently, the main part of Huangyan Island is under China's actual control while the surrounding waters under the Philippines'. It seems disputes will remain there in years to come, and both sides have no intention to exhaust all the means at their disposal. Still, time and situation would favor China more.