US-China Competition in the South China Sea and International Law


  • Mubashra Shaheen Assistant Professor of Political Science, Higher Education Department, Punjab Government and PhD Scholar IR at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.


US, China, competition, South China Sea, UNCLOS


The conflict in the South China Sea (SCS) is a complex imbroglio,
spanning several territorial and maritime claims and involving two major
island groups, the Paracels and the Spratlys. It has become a major source
of geopolitical competition between the United States and China.
The overall objective of this study is to understand China’s policy of
land reclamation and its assertive behaviour in the South China Sea,
which lies between the western Pacific and the Indian Ocean. Over half of
global commerce passes through these waterways, which host a great deal
of marine life and hydrocarbon deposits. China’s landfilling and islandbuilding strategy in the South China Sea is motivated by its goal of
controlling all these riches as well as the routes through the SCS. This
would raise China to the pinnacle of world power status, thus allowing it
to threaten the dominance of the United States. The study also examines
China’s modernization plans and the United States’ quest for supremacy
through the lens of realists. While using the qualitative method of
analysis, the study examines China’s Nine-Dash Line claims and
Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs), UNCLOS, and US-China divergence
over international law considerations, and how tensions in the South
China Sea can be reduced.