Understanding the South China Sea Dispute

The South China Sea has long been rich in natural resources and trade between people. It is estimated that more than $5 trillion in global trade flows through the region each year, while explorations have discovered abundant natural gas and hydrocarbon reserves. China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, and Taiwan all lay claim to overlapping territories among the sea’s vast stretch of islands, rocks, and archipelagos, leading to tensions that threaten peace and prosperity.

This site dives below the surface and features a distillation of the region’s complex history into distinct milestones, an interactive Presence in the Spratlys map, and an expert Q&A section. Our editors also regularly update the site with Latest Developments and the Analysis related to the South China Sea. Competing historical accounts and sovereignty claims lie squarely in the middle of the dispute. If you have any questions, suggestions, or comments please contact us at editor@chinausfocus.com.

South China Sea Timeline

The South China Sea Timeline, divided into Historical and Recent time periods, identifies significant moments in history related to the South China Sea from 221 BC to 2016 AD. These milestones do not represent every historical event or archaeological finding, all of which continue to be debated among historians and scholars. Instead, the timeline provides a broad window into the ways in which the South China Sea has been traveled and considered throughout history.

Ask the Experts

How did the South China Sea disputes escalate to their current state? What courses for international cooperation exist moving forward? We go to the experts for their perspectives.

Latest Developments