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Joint development in the South China Sea has been suggested as a solution to the Spratly Islands disputes since the 1980s. China was one of the earliest proponents of ‘setting aside the dispute and pursuing joint development’. The South China Sea Workshops on Managing Potential Conflicts in the South China Sea discussed joint development but ran into a number of obstacles, notably because of longstanding sensitivities over sovereignty issues and conflicting maritime claims. Consequently, the Workshops sought to focus on less contentious issues such as cooperation on marine biodiversity and the safety of navigation. Through this non- confrontational, non-binding and incremental approach, the Workshops were instrumental in building trust and confidence among the claimants and in getting them to consider co-operative measures in areas of common interest.