With Asia becoming the powerhouse of the re-surging world economy, the waters of South China Sea have become a flashpoint in the world geopolitics. With the Chinese economy growing at unprecedented rates and challenging the pre existing global power equations, this sea has been the hotbed of discussions at many international and national forums. China, which wishes a unipolar Asia and a multi polar world, has many stakes in these waters. It has unilaterally drawn a 9 dotted line in the South China Sea, where she wants her exclusive control.
While majority of the Chinese trade passes through the South China Sea towards major oceans through many important straits such as the Sunda, Lombok and Malacca, China lacks any control of these straits. These straits are currently controlled by USA, its allies and partners which can deny China its access anytime. These are the major arteries of the growing Chinese economy, which currently lie in the hands of USA and its allies, which China needs a control of.
Conspicuously, the People’s Republic of China’s Navy has built upon major operational capabilities for its operations in these contested waters of South China Sea, but the Chinese navy is constrained by the First Island Chain that inhibits the Chinese power projection and puts restrain on the security of the Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC). This First Island Chain comprises of the Japanese archipelago, Northern Philippines, Borneo and Taiwan which is currently dominated by the United States keeping a check on the Chinese aggression. China perceives the First Island Chain as the area it must secure and disable from American presence to assert itself in the region.
Next, economics too plays an important part in the Chinese policy making. The South China Sea region is one of the most fertile waters for fishing. With a density of nearly 7.5 tons of catch per square KM of area, fishing remains an important activity for China as well as other littoral states of the region. The energy perspective also holds ground as the South China Sea is purported to be the 2nd Persian Gulf with vast energy reserves which can possible fuel the hungry Chinese economy.
That is why South China Sea holds an important place in the Chinese policy formulation and a uni polar Asia would be ensured only if China rules these troubled waters of South China Sea.