The South China Sea is currently in the midst of one of the most important territorial disputes in the past decade. The Spratly archipelago, located to the west of the Philippines, are being disputed between many countries, including China. There are 100 islands in total, and Taiwan, Vietnam and China claim them all for themselves while Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei make partial claims. Of those island, 45 are occupied by Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam and especially China. Each country has expanded in different manners. Malaysia only occupies a few islands near it's own shores. Taiwan occupies the largest island in the reef, but wants to be seen as a non-aggressor and is currently building a search and rescue center. Vietnam, on the other hand, has built islands and has militarized them. The country is not afraid to get into a war with China, and has done so many times before. The Philippines has not been in heated relationships with Beijing, with the exception of Ayungin reef. The reef, located to the north of the islands, is home to a ship called the Sierra Madre. The ship was purposefully shipwrecked, and is home to 8 Filipino troops who protect the disputed reef. Finally, China has grown and dredged multiple islands, and has fully militarized most of them. This is a cause of concern for the US. There are multiple reasons for this.
There are multiple reasons as to why China wants to control this area. Firstly, it is very important economically. 5 trillion dollars worth of goods are shipped through the route every year. On top of that, some of the largest oil and gas reserves lie underneath the sea. Finally, the area is home to lucrative fisheries. Secondly, it has to do with protecting China's coastline. And finally, it is Xi Jingping's vision to grow China to one of the world's foremost superpowers, and he believes that this sea is a step in asserting control over the region.