Kiel Seapower Fireside Chat: The South China Sea - History as Problem, History as Solution

On April 16, 2018, the ISPK Center for Asia-Pacific Strategy and Security was honored to welcome Bill Hayton as the speaker at the 2nd Kiel Seapower Fireside Chat. Mr Hayton is an Associate Fellow with the Asia Programme of Chatham House in 2015 and the author of 'The South China Sea: the struggle for power in Asia' (Yale, 2014) and 'Vietnam: rising dragon' (Yale, 2010). He is a noted Southeast Asia correspondent for the BBC, and his written work has appeared in The Economist, the South China Morning Post, The Diplomat, and the National Interest, among others.

Mr. Hayton's talk titled “The South China Sea - History as Problem, History as Solution” drew from ongoing research on the historic rights claim made by China in the South China Sea. Mr. Hayton expressed skepticism towards the notion of a continuous or historical Chinese presence in that sea area, and provided evidence of a striking lack of geographic knowledge of most uninhabited South China Sea land features on the part of various Chinese administrations during much of the 19th and 20th century, showing that many of the respective features were depicted wrongly (or not at all) on early Chinese maps, that several non-existent features can be found on those maps, and that many Chinese names on the early maps appear to be derived by way of phonetic transkription from Western names rather than being original Chinese designations.

After the presentation, a group of fourty invited guests from the naval forces, academic institutions, public administration, and industry engaged in a lively discussion with the speaker during an extended Q&A session.


The Institute for Security Policy at Kiel University (ISPK) provides research, analysis and commentary on conflicts and strategic issues. ISPK is committed to furthering the security policy discourse in Germany and abroad by way of focused, interdisciplinary, policy-oriented research.