Home   »   Geography   »   South China Sea

South China Sea, Dispute, Map, Countries, Strategic Importance

South China Sea

The South China Sea is one of the busiest waterways in the world, serving as a vital trade and merchant shipping route. The South China Sea disputes are maritime and island claims between the region’s sovereign states. These disputes involve China, Brunei, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia, all of which are geopolitically located in the Indo-Pacific region.

Read about: Indian Ocean

South China Sea Countries

The South China Sea is a branch of the western Pacific Ocean in Southeast Asia. South of China, east and south of Vietnam, west of the Philippines, and north of Borneo are its neighbouring countries. Taiwan Strait connects it to the East China Sea, and Luzon Strait connects it to the Philippine Sea. From north to south, the countries are:

  • The People’s Republic of China
  • The Republic of China (Taiwan)
  • The Philippines
  • Malaysia
  • Brunei
  • Indonesia
  • Singapore
  • Vietnam

South China Sea Strategic Importance

Because of its location, this sea is extremely strategic because it connects the Indian and Pacific Oceans (Strait of Malacca). According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), it carries one-third of global shipping, carrying trillions of dollars in trade, making it a significant geopolitical water body.

Read about: Pacific Ocean

South China Sea Map

Here is a map of the South China Sea given below for a better understanding:

South China Sea
South China Sea Map

Read about: Indian Ocean Dipole

South China Sea Dispute

China’s Claim Over South China Sea

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, including the Paracel Islands. Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam all claim territory in the region, which is thought to contain valuable oil and gas deposits. It claims that a US warship entered the territorial waters of China’s Xisha (Paracel) island without permission from the Chinese government, accusing the US of “seriously violating China’s sovereignty” and “harming regional peace.”

China’s Assertion Over South China Sea

Since 2010, China has been converting uninhabited islets into artificial islets in order to bring them under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (examples would include Haven Reef, Johnson South Reef and Fiery Cross Reef). China has been modifying the physical land features of the reefs to alter their size and structure. It has also built airstrips on the islands of Parcel and Spratly.

Chinese fishing fleets are more interested in paramilitary work for the state than in commercial fishing. The US strongly condemns China’s construction of artificial islands and refers to it as erecting a “great wall of sand.”

South China Sea US’s Position

The United States has argued that such exercises are in accordance with international law and help defend the right of passage through the region in the face of competing claims by China and other governments.

It is consistent with the United States’ ongoing efforts to counter China’s assertion in SCS. The United States Navy recently sent an aircraft carrier group into the South China Sea.

Read More: India-China Border Dispute

Reasons for Dispute in the South China Sea

  • China, Taiwan, and Vietnam all claim the Paracel Islands.
  • China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, and the Philippines all claim the Spratly Islands.
  • The Philippines, China, and Taiwan all claim the Scarborough Shoal.

Read about: India Pakistan Border Dispute

South China Sea Other Issues

  • The South China Sea’s geographic scope is unknown.
  • Disagreement on dispute resolution mechanisms.
  • The undefined legal status of the Code of Conduct (COC) adds to the problem.
  • The various histories of distant, largely uninhabited sea archipelagos complicate and multifaceted the situation.

Read More: Ocean Deposits

South China Sea India’s Stand

India has maintained that it is not a party to the SCS dispute and that its presence in the SCS is to protect its own economic interests, particularly its energy security needs. However, China’s growing ability to decide and expand its role in the South China Sea has forced India to reconsider its position.

As part of the Act East Policy, India has begun internationalising disputes in the Indo-Pacific region in order to counter China’s threatening tactics in the South China Sea.

Furthermore, India is leveraging its Buddhist heritage to forge strong ties with the Southeast Asian region. India has also deployed its navy in the South China Sea with Vietnam to protect sea lanes of communication (SLOC), denying China any room for assertion. In addition, India is a member of the Quad initiative (India, the United States, Japan, and Australia) and the lynchpin of the Indo-Pacific narrative. China sees these initiatives as a containment strategy.

Read More: Ocean Waves

South China Sea UPSC

China has recently made headlines for unilaterally altering the situation on the ground in the South China Sea. It is expanding its presence in the SCS in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic. It agreed to the formation of two districts to administer the disputed Paracel and Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

Previously, Beijing had given new names to 25 islands or reefs and 55 undersea entities in the South China Sea in an attempt to reassert its sovereignty over the region. This article provides pertinent facts on the South China Sea dispute from the standpoint of the UPSC/ IAS Exam.

Read More: Ocean Currents

Other Indian Geography Topics

Seasons of India Mountains of India
Mangrove Forests in India Important Mountain Passes in India
Monsoon in India
Indus River System
Climate of India
Rivers of India
Tributaries of Ganga
National Parks in India
Important Dams in India
Wildlife Sanctuaries of India
Tiger Reserves in India
Northern Plains of India
Physiography of India
Important Lakes of India
Wetlands in India
Biodiversity in India
Natural Vegetation in India Earthquakes in India
Types of Soil in India
Ramsar Sites in India
Brahmaputra River System
Hydropower Plants in India
Nuclear Power Plants in India
Major Ports in India
Biosphere Reserves in India
Waterfalls in India

Other Fundamental Geography Topics

Solar System Types of Clouds
Structure of the Atmosphere Himalayan Ranges
Component of Environment
El Nino and La Nina
Coral Reef
Continental Drift Theory
Endogenic and Exogenic Forces
Indian Ocean Region
Pacific Ocean
Indian Ocean Dipole
Air Pollution
Environmental Impact Assessment
Tropical Cyclone
Western Disturbances
Types of Rocks

Sharing is caring!


What is the South China Sea?

The South China Sea is a small sea to the south of China. It is a part of the Pacific Ocean, spanning approximately 3,500,000 km2 from Singapore to the Strait of Taiwan. After the five oceans, it is the largest sea body. The South China Sea Islands, which form an archipelago, number in the hundreds.

What is the significance of South China Sea?

Some of the world's most important shipping lanes pass through the South China Sea. The main route to and from Pacific and Indian ocean ports is through the Strait of Malacca and the South China Sea. In general, oil and minerals migrate north, while food and manufactured goods migrate south.

Which country owns South China Sea?

China, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam all have territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Why China wants to control South China Sea?

Furthermore, he stated that China's maritime transportation requires sea routes. At least one-third of global maritime trade passes through the South China Sea. While vast oil and natural gas reserves are said to lie beneath its seafloor, it is also an important fishing ground for food security.

Why is China interested in Indian Ocean?

The Indian Ocean is a vital trading route for China's energy supplies and routes, making it a vulnerable theatre. The DoD's "Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China 2021" report identifies the top ten crude oil suppliers to Beijing.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *