South China Sea

  • What Does China Want in the South China Sea? (2/5/2018) - On January 25, 2018, I gave an interview to the Inquiry program of the BBC World Service on China’s claims to the South China Sea. The program also features interviews from three other experts on the economic, strategic and diplomatic aspects of the South China Sea disputes. Listen to it here.
  • China’s Policy Towards Southeast Asia During Xi Jinping’s Second Term (1/7/2018) - No major change is likely to occur in China’s policy towards Southeast Asia in Xi’s second term, but the perceived policy success during his first term and a new confidence are likely to generate a new push to achieve even greater gains. Read China’s Policy Towards Southeast Asia during Xi Jinping’s Second Term (EAI Bulletin Nov … Continue reading
  • The Paradox at the Heart of the South China Sea Ruling (7/28/2016) - On July 12, an arbitration tribunal at The Hague delivered what is widely regarded as a landmark ruling on the maritime territorial dispute between the Philippines and China. Among many breathtaking findings, the tribunal declared China’s so-called “nine-dash line” invalid. It also concluded that none of the Spratly Islands — not even Itu Aba (Taiping … Continue reading
  • Breathtaking but counterproductive: the South China Sea arbitration award (7/14/2016) - From: The Strategist  Anthony Bergin wrote here on The Strategist that The Hague award in The Philippines v China arbitration case is a heavy defeat for Beijing. The award is breathtaking in its overwhelming support for the Philippines’s position, and comes as a surprise to many seasoned international maritime law experts. I’ll just raise two … Continue reading
  • China’s Claims in the South China Sea Rejected (7/13/2016) - On Tuesday in the Hague, the Permanent Court of Arbitration rejected China’s claims that a scattering of rocks and reefs in the contested South China Sea qualify as Exclusive Economic Zones for China. The court found in favor of the Philippines’ lawsuit that argued against China’s claims. We asked contributors to this ChinaFile Conversation for … Continue reading
  • The Fight Inside China Over the South China Sea (6/23/2016) - With a decision from an international ad hoc tribunal tasked with reviewing China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea looming, regional tensions are running high. A key problem is that no nation involved in the current round of tension — not even China itself — has a crystal-clear view of what exactly Beijing is … Continue reading
  • A War of Words Over the South China Sea (6/12/2016) - Beginning earlier this year, four-star Admiral Harry Harris, the U.S. Navy’s top commander in the Pacific, has spoken out in speeches, interviews, private meetings, and testimony to Congress urging that the U.S. take more aggressive action against what he characterizes as China’s push for hegemony in Asia. In early June, Chinese Admiral Sun Jianguo gave … Continue reading
  • Freedom of Navigation in the South China Sea: A Modus Vivendi between the US and China? (5/10/2016) - Since last year, the United States has made freedom of navigation a central issue in the seemingly escalating tensions now roiling the South China Sea. On October 27, 2015, the USS Larsen, a guided-missile destroyer of the US navy, sailed within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef, one of the seven reefs currently being constructed … Continue reading
  • Why Is China Building New Islands in the South China Sea? (5/7/2016) - In late 2013, Chinese policymakers decided to pursue unprecedented building projects in seven reefs in the Spratly Islands chain of the South China Sea. By the beginning of 2016, all of the seven features — Fiery Cross Reef, Subi Reef, Mischief Reef, Gaven Reef, Johnson South Reef, Hughes Reef, and Cuarteron Reef — have been … Continue reading
  • The Origins of China’s Island Construction in the South China Sea (5/5/2016) - Among all the policies China has adopted toward the South China Sea in recent years, the most significant and consequential is undoubtedly its determination to turn reefs and shoals into formidable islands in the Spratly Islands chain. Beijing’s land reclamation and island construction activities have become the central focus of South China Sea tensions since … Continue reading
  • Beijing ‘Doesn’t Want a Fight (2/3/2016) - On Jan. 30, the U.S. Navy sent a warship within 12 nautical miles of a disputed islands in the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. China, which claims broad rights over much of the South China Sea, has called it an incursion into its territory, a needless provocation, and an attempt at causing trouble … Continue reading
  • How Close Was the Latest Close Call in the South China Sea? (2/2/2016) - From ChinaFile China claims the sailing of a U.S. Navy warship on Saturday into what it calls its territory was needless provocation and an attempt at causing trouble amongst China’s neighbors. What precedent is there for these close calls in disputed maritime territories to escalate? How close was this close call? Had things in fact … Continue reading
  • 2016: A Tough Year for China in the South China Sea (8/30/2015) - Beijing is likely to face several challenges in its policy towards the South China Sea, from US military patrols to a possible new stance from Taiwan. South China Sea tension has been at the centre of AsiaPacific regional politics since 2009. However, since 2015, a new set of strategic dynamics has dominated regional tensions. In … Continue reading
  • Beijing’s Master Plan for the South China Sea (6/23/2015) - In late 2013, Beijing started taking a very different approach to sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea — although few outside China noticed the change. Instead of directly confronting the other regional claimant states, Beijing began the rapid consolidation of, and construction on, the maritime features already under its control. And it did so … Continue reading
  • Should Beijing Establish an Air Defense Identification Zone Over the South China Sea? (6/4/2015) - In November 2013, Beijing surprised everyone — both inside and outside China — by declaring an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea. An ADIZ extends a country’s airspace, allowing it more time to respond to foreign, and possibly hostile, aircraft. Almost all analysts inside China, including many affiliated with the Ministry … Continue reading
  • How can confrontation in the South China Sea be prevented? Interview by the German Marshall Fund of the United States at the 2015 Stockholm China Forum in Guangzhou (5/22/2015) - The 15th Stockholm China Forum was held in Guangzhou, China on May 22-23, 2015. At the forum, senior members of the policy, intellectual, business, and media communities in the United States, Europe, and China engaged in nuanced discussions on the most urgent Asia policy issues facing the transatlantic community, including: strategic competition in the Asia … Continue reading
  • Provoking Beijing in the South China Sea Will Only Backfire on Washington (5/21/2015) - Bizarrely, the United States military is trying to assert freedom of navigation by dispatching U.S. ships to sail within 12 nautical miles of China-controlled territories in the South China Sea, and by flying military aircraft over those territories. On May 16, during his visit to Beijing, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly claimed that … Continue reading
  • “Assessing China’s South China Sea Policy, 2009-2015,” East Asian Policy, Vol. 8, No. 3 (July/September 2016), pp. 100-109. Tags: South China Sea
  • “South China Sea Arbitration Award: Breathtaking (but Counterproductive),” Asian Politics & Policy, Vol. 9, No. 1 (January 2017), pp. 134-136. Tags: South China Sea
  • “2016: A Tough Year for China in the South China Sea,” EAI Bulletin, Vol. 18, No. 1 (March 2016), p.3. Tags: South China Sea


Feng Zhang is a Senior Lecturer at the Australian National University’s Department of International Relations, Deputy Director (Higher Degree by Research) of the ANU’s Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, and a member of the executive committee of the Australian Centre on China in the World based at the ANU. His research focuses on Chinese foreign policy, Asia-Pacific security, and international relations theory. He is also Adjunct Professor at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies in China.

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