News·2 min read

South China Sea conflict: The root of the issue

south china sea
Jul 26, 2017

The Story

China’s been getting into some serious

water fights

What are the South and East China Seas?

Who owns what?

Depends who you ask. Countries including China, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam

claim parts

of the “Paracel” and “Spratly” islands in the South China Sea. In the East China Sea, China and Japan both claim a

group of islands

Why does everyone want a piece?

Because both seas have serious trade and oil swag. Think: important shipping routes and potentially

big oil and gas reserves

How long has everyone been fighting?

The fight between China and Japan over the East China Sea’s been going on for

more than 100 years

, while the South China Sea has become a BF international D in

recent years

What's the latest?

China’s been playing SimCity in the South China Sea. Over the past year and a half, it’s built thousands of acres of artificial islands complete with helipads, airstrips,

military facilities


a movie theater

. And China’s not the first to dabble in South China Sea real estate --

Vietnam, Taiwan, and the Philippines

I don't live in Asia. Why do I care?

Because it could not only start a conflict between China and the neighbors, but also

between China and the US

. The US has a major stake in the trade that goes down in the region. And it really doesn’t want China calling the shots, controlling trade routes, and startin’ somethin’ with the US’s Asian allies. Cue

Former US Sec of State Kerry

telling China to pump the brakes back in 2015. And the

US monitoring

China’s island-building via surveillance planes. To which China has said ‘not America’s business.’ America disagreed. When President Trump first took office, he seemed to want to

cool things down

. Maybe because China is friendly with North Korea--and the US needs help responding to the country's

nuclear activities

. But in July, Trump said 'nvm' and let the US military travel through the contested waters more freely than

when Obama was in charge


This territorial beef could turn into a (literal) watershed moment for the region. It has the potential to start a conflict that would

rock Asia

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