Regional Security in the South China Sea

What are its ramifications for Chinese national security?

  • Nicholas Alexander Gilbert Scott Queen's Undergraduate Student
Keywords: China, UNCLOS, ASEAN, South China Sea, Resource Wars, Security Studies, Natural Resources, Regional Security


This article seeks to explore regional security (in accordance with Buzan's definition in People, States, and Fear, 2008) in the South China Sea with a focus on China. In particular, this article analyzes the implications UNCLOS exclusive economic zones (EEZs) have had regional stability, manifest in the claims to resources ASEAN states have made under the protection of UNCLOS. Oil reserves in the South China Sea are contested because of UNCLOS EEZ regulations, making it difficult for the Chinese to legitimate their claims under international law; this jeopardizes Chinese resource security, leaving them vulnerable due to their dependency on foreign oil. This article finds that despite the complications of UNCLOS for Chinese resource claims, it can be expected that China will cooperate with ASEAN (and the U.S.) in order to maintain regional security; an outbreak of conflict would damage Chinese economic security far more than their current need for resources.