The entrance to the Department of History’s office in Sidney Smith Hall

Chris Chung

PhD Program


Areas of Interest:

• Late Imperial and Modern Chinese Notions of Sovereignty, Territory, and Nationalism
• History of the South China Sea Islands Dispute

Description of Research and Dissertation:

I am generally interested in how late imperial and modern Chinese notions of territory, history, identity, and the nation intersect and develop in the South China Sea islands dispute. The archipelagos involved are the Pratas, Paracel, and Spratly Islands, as well as Macclesfield Bank.

Specifically, my dissertation examines Chinese conceptions of sovereignty in maritime frontiers as they relate to the disputed South China Sea islands, and how and why these ideas have changed over time, from the Qing dynasty (1644-1912) to the present.

It further explores how various state and non-state actors have contributed to, received, and disturbed national visualizations of the islands, thereby nuancing the production of these narratives in China. These actors can range from fishermen, shipping firms, public and government organizations who forwarded nationalist petitions, geographers and news staff who provided counsel to Chinese governments, to international organizations such as the United Nations.

My research makes extensive use of relevant archival materials located in Taiwan, mainland China, and Hong Kong. These remain virtually unused in current scholarship on the islands dispute.


Chung, Chris. “Drawing the U-Shaped Line: China’s Claim in the South China Sea, 1946-1974.” Modern China 42:1 (2016): 38-72.

This journal article examines the creation, early usage, and meaning of China’s U-Shaped Line territorial claim in the South China Sea islands dispute. It analyzes relevant Republican Chinese archival files, many of which remain virtually unused by scholars who examine the dispute. It is developed from my Master’s thesis, "'Since Time Immemorial': China’s historical claim in the South China Sea," completed at the University of Calgary in November 2013. The journal article provides new interpretations of primary sources, corrects mistakes in my Master’s thesis, and covers recent developments in the South China Sea dispute that have occurred since 2013.


  • MA, History, University of Calgary, 2013
  • BA, History, University of Calgary, 2011
Image of PhD student Chris Chung