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Great Powers, Grand Strategies

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Great Powers, Grand Strategies

The New Game in the South China Sea

Naval Institute,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

China is getting aggressive, and the rest of the world is uncertain how to respond.

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  • Eye Opening
  • Overview


The South China Sea is a body of water that’s of little concern to most Westerners – but that could change. As this study explains, the South China Sea is both a crucial shipping lane and the stage for rising tensions between China and its neighbors. In particular, it’s a place for the high-stakes rivalry between Beijing and Washington to play out. If China and the United States ever go to war, the hostilities might begin in the South China Sea. This collection of essays makes no attempt to hide its bias. Many of the authors are former US military officers, and there are no pro-Chinese voices to be found – although, in fairness, it’s difficult to imagine a credible case for Beijing’s bullying approach in the South China Sea. This collection also suffers from another obvious shortcoming: its essays cover the same territory. While each contributor brings legitimate expertise and useful insight, readers will likely become weary of author after author making similar points. getAbstract recommends this elucidating book as a companion to other studies, such as Bill Hayton’s The South China Sea.


China Flexes Its Maritime Muscle

Fully seven countries stake some claim to the South China Sea: a maritime prize that could hide lucrative supplies of oil. China, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia all assert rights under international law. Their ardor for this stretch of water reflects both its symbolic significance and its actual importance. Goods worth $5 trillion travel through the South China Sea every year, underscoring its value to the world economy. The dispute over the South China Sea has far reaching repercussions. The competing claimants might couch their arguments in the language of maritime law, but make no mistake: The South China Sea is all about power.  

China, in particular, has staked its claim in the South China Sea in dramatic fashion. In 2015, the government told the world it had finished building seven artificial atolls in the Spratly archipelago. China transformed coral reefs into military installations with deep-water harbors and 3,000-meter runways extensive enough to accommodate any aircraft in China’s fleet. China has asserted control over the South China Sea for...

About the Author

Anders Corr holds a doctorate in government from Harvard University. He spent five years working in military intelligence, including at US Pacific Command Headquarters.

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