The South China Sea in the Broader Context of the Global Geostrategic Challenge
Lloyd Skinner ,
University of Melbourne, AU
Lloyd is currently studying a Bachelor of Arts with a focus on Australian history and Mandarin at the University of Melbourne. Having served as an Officer in the Royal Australian Navy, he developed an interest in counter-terrorism, military policy in the Asia-Pacific, and the confluence between climate change and defense policy. In his spare time, Lloyd enjoys a variety of physical activity including weight training, running, cricket, and has an avid passion for Romanticist literature and poetry.
The South China Sea (SCS) is a critical conjuncture for global trade with $3.37 trillion of seaborne trade transiting the body of water (China Power, 2017). Its status as a significant geostrategic and geopolitical flashpoint in the Asia Pacific is also widely acknowledged, with China conducting a belligerent militarisation and territorial expansion that is in contravention with international law. However, the SCS ought not be regarded as the ‘be all and end all’ when understanding the rise of China and its strategic objectives in the region. Commonly, Western media commentary equates escalation in the SCS with the climaxing of bilateral US-China tensions, drawing parallels between Chinese actions in the region and the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) expansionist ambitions, and moreover sensationalises the area’s importance for maritime trade and the global economy. Instead, Chinese actions in the SCS should be examined side-to-side with its actual military capabilities, capacities and wider geostrategic objectives. Further, to conduct a more comprehensive analysis of the strategic challenge posed by the SCS and Chinese objectives in the region, the multitude of internal disputes and tensions within the CCP. Additionally, other points of confrontation between the West and China such as in Eurasia and the East China Sea should be considered.