China Seas, Part 2: South China Sea

Encompassing an area of around 1.4 million square miles, the South China Sea is bounded in the north by Southern China, in the west by Vietnam and the Indochinese Peninsula (including Malaysia and Singapore), in the east by Taiwan and the northwestern Philippines, and in the south by Brunei and parts of Indonesia (including the islands of Borneo and eastern Sumatra). It also borders the East China Sea via the Taiwan Strait, the Philippine Sea via the Luzon Strait, the Sulu Sea via the straits around Palawan, the Java Sea via the Karimata Strait, and the Strait of Malacca via the Singapore Strait.

Like the East China Sea, the South China Sea is also a region of tremendous economic and  geostrategic importance, as 1/3 of the world’s maritime shipping passes through it, carrying over $3 trillion in trade each year. The seabed here is also believed to hold enormous oil and natural gas reserves. Additionally, the sea contains important fisheries which are crucial for the food security of millions in Southeast Asia. And also like some of the islands in the East China Sea, a number of the South China Sea Islands, including the Spratly and Paracel Islands (collectively comprised of several archipelago clusters of hundreds of small uninhabited islands, islets, reefs, atolls, and seamounts), are subject to competing claims of sovereignty by several countries, including Indonesia, The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore, and Brunei.

The sea is also known as the West Philippine Sea in The Philippines and as the East Sea in Vietnam. In Indonesia, to assert sovereignty over its exclusive economic zone, parts of it are referred to as the North Natuna Sea.

  • Viewed: from Hong Kong, Macau, Xiamen, Hainan, Singapore

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