Dispute Continues Over South China Sea

Published on Author heardd16

China’s southeast Asian neighbors have long contested China’s claim over what China refers to as the South China Sea.  None contest this claim more boldly than the Philippines.  Manila’s confidence in the face of Chinese opposition is backed by two facts.  First, the Philippines has little to lose economically in terms of Chinese retaliation.  Second, the Philippines has support from the US military.  The 1.4-million-square-mile maritime region supports fisheries exploited by both nations, and holds an estimated 11 billion barrels of oil in subsurface reservoirs.


Tension between the two nations regarding the South China Sea has compounded.  On multiple occasions, the Philippines has fined and detained Chinese fishermen.  Two years ago, the Philippines filed for arbitration in the UN court on the basis that China’s claim over the South China Sea was inconsistent with UN Convention on Law of the Sea.  Although China has imposed economic sanctions on the Philippines, the Philippines’ economy does not suffer drastically from these sanctions as the Philippine economy relies primarily on the global service industry.



5 Responses to Dispute Continues Over South China Sea

  1. As a maritime country, the Philippines probably relies heavily on shipping. With U.S. naval backing, the Chinese sanctions probably do little to stop this shipping business. However, the Chinese exploitation of fisheries makes the dispute apparent.

  2. The South China Sea’s oil reservoirs are an important factor in this dispute. Although worldwide oil and gas prices are relatively low right now, when they inevitably rise the dispute over the South China Sea will intensify. It would be better for all parties if they could find a solution to this problem in the near future.

  3. Seems like both countries need to figure this out sooner rather than later. As Walker aptly stated, a major dispute is on the horizon as gas and oil prices will rise once again. As we’ve seen from the Middle East the past two decades, this might get ugly.

  4. This may be another one of those legacies of the sloppiness of Yalta. In any case it’s not recent; I spent an afternoon ($10?) doing research for a law-of-the-sea scholar when I was an undergrad, back when I could read Russian, going to old Soviet encyclopedias in the Harvard library system to see whether the maps in them showed the Paracel’s and Spratly’s as Chinese or Philippine or …

    This all fits a general pattern of expansionism by the Chinese, cf. the Senkaku Islands. Part is nationalism, part a vague hope for ocean floor resources (including offshore petroleum, though to my knowledge there’s nothing of immediate value), part for fisheries, part perhaps the navy looking for issues to justify bigger budgets. I’m not sure whether any of these would affect shipping channels.

    There are far better maps, showing specific claims.

  5. This definitely looks like an instance where the new, bolder China is “flexing it’s muscles” as Ambassador Chun said. Unfortunately I think that if China really wants these waters and the resources within, they will just take them. I feel like this is potentially another Ukraine situation. The U.S. will be put in a tough position where we don’t want to sit back and watch this happen, but at the same time do we really want to get involved in a dispute with China?