Alexandria Mills, an 18-year-old blonde from Louisville, Ky., became the winner at the 50th anniversary celebration.
This year's pageant has been roiled by controversy, The Daily Telegraph reported.
For starters, the location was moved to Sanya on Hainan Island because the Vietnamese location originally selected was an ecologically sensitive area where local residents had been forcibly relocated.
With China as the host country, Taiwan was unable to compete since Beijing does not recognize it as an independent country. Then the Chinese in the audience gave Miss Japan the silent treatment, apparently protesting Japan's claim to the Diaoyu Islands, a group of uninhabited rocks coveted for fishing and mineral rights.
Finally, Mariann Birkedal, a 23-year-old university graduate from Norway who was thought to be a hot prospect for the crown, did not even get into the group of five finalists. Observers said that might be a response to this year's Nobel Peace Prize, awarded by the Norwegian committee to Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese dissident now in prison.