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Territorial Disputes: The South China Sea: Home

This Research Guide provides links to primary documents, reports, periodical articles, and books on disputes and state claims in the South China Sea.

Territorial Disputes in the South China Sea

Rivalry in the South China Sea revolves primarily around control of key shipping routes as well as competition for strategic resources, such as oil and gas reserves.  New laws passed by the legislature of Hainan Province declaring China's sovereignty over hundreds of islands in the South China Sea, and China's recent placement of the nine-dash map on its new passports, have done much to inflame passions of parties claiming sovereignty in that geographic area.

The South China Sea has been plagued by an increasing number of claims and disputes among states with an interest in exercising control over natural resources and the shipping routes through which roughly one third of global trade is carried, and these disputes have served to compromise the geopolitical stability of the region.

South China Sea Islands




Oil and Gas Reserves

Nine-Dash Line (Nine-Dotted or U-Shaped Line)

This line first appeared in the "South Sea Islands Location Map” released by the Chinese government in February 1948.