All is fair in law and war, or is it? Examining the PRC's use of "lawfare" in the South China Sea disputes

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University of Guelph

International law has been regarded as a means of protecting state interests and punishing transgressors, but this does not always work well in practice. This thesis is concerned with the assertion by scholars that law has evolved into a more aggressive means to advance state objectives, also known as “lawfare”. The scholarship on lawfare also highlights the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as the world’s leading practitioners of lawfare. China’s attempts to garner international legitimacy for its “sovereignty rights” claims are promoted under its lawfare strategy most notably in the South China Sea. This thesis examines China’s lawfare to uphold its claims to the region. I argue that China is advancing its sovereignty claims to the South China Sea in three areas: its inconsistent interpretations of international law, maritime law enforcement in the region, and challenging the 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration case initiated by the Philippines.

South China Sea, Lawfare, China, International law, warfare, People's Liberation Army, law