The South China Sea is a marginal sea in the Pacific Ocean, stretching about 3,500,000 square kilometres (1,400,000 sq mi). The sea is located south of China, east of Vietnam and Cambodia, northwest of the Philippines, east of the Malay peninsula and Sumatra, and north of the Bangka–Belitung Islands and Borneo. Territorial disputes over control of the islands and water in South China Sea have arisen between China and surrounding South Asian countries including the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei. China claims sovereignty across the region and its resistence to handle international disputes have caused conflicts to arise between them and countries like Vietnam and the Philippines.
The South China Sea is home to many resources that are desired among many countries in South Asia such as an abundance of natural resources, fisheries, trade routes, and military bases, all of which are at stake in the increasingly frequent diplomatic standoffs. Among the half a billion people who live along the South China Sea coastline who heavily rely on international trade and oil imports. The need for resources has intensified economic competition in the region due to the rapid coastal urbanization in China. The South China Sea holds oil reserves of at least seven billion barrels and an estimated 900 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, which offers a great economic opportunity for smaller nations like Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
China's Foreign Minister, Wang Yi
Part of the problem is China cannot clarify its position because of its internal dispute between the foreign ministry and the military. The Chinese foreign ministry regularly issues statements saying China claims all islands and reefs in the South China Sea without claiming special rights in the waters, but Chinese behavior suggests it is claiming rights within the 9-Dash line. The 9-Dash line is a controversial dividing line used by China for its claim to territories and waters in the South China Sea.
There are several reasons why China wants to conquer the South China Sea:
- Secure Control Over the Maritime Territory
In ancient Asia, empires were characterized by undefined, unprotected, and often changing frontiers. Chinese empires did not carefully dedicate the lands that we or were no theirs. In its territorial disputes with neighboring countries like India, Burma, and Vietnam, Beijing always took the position that its land boundaries were never defined, demarcated, and delimited. In modern-day China, they are claiming that maritime boundaries were always clearly defined and delimited. This contradicts the early beliefs of Beijing that China's territories were not defined as they are currently claiming that their land is defined - and that the Spratly Islands is theirs. How will these conflicts be resolved? Will the multiple countries fighting over the South China Sea find a way to come to a equal solution?