On November 29, 2013, six days after China’s Ministry of National Defense announced the establishment of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea, Hainan province quietly issued new regulations on fishing in the South China Sea. These regulations were announced on December 3 and came into force on January 1, 2014.
Both of these actions were unilateral and aimed at extending the legal basis for China’s claim to land features and maritime zones in the East and South China Seas. China’s actions challenge the sovereignty of neighboring states, and have the potential to raise tensions and risk triggering an armed incident.
Hainan province’s new fishing regulations require all foreign vessels that seek to fish or conduct surveys in waters claimed by China to obtain advance approval from the “relevant and responsible department” under the Cabinet.
Hainan province claims administrative responsibility over Hainan Island, the Xisha (Paracel) archipelago, Zhongsha (Macclesfield Bank) archipelago, the Nansha (Spratly) archipelago “and their dependent waters.” These dependent waters stretch approximately two million square kilometers or roughly 57 percent of the 3.6 million square kilometers enclosed in China’s nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea.