Introduction: Strategic Challenges and Escalating Power Rivalry in the South China Sea

The South China Sea (SCS) dispute is regarded as the most complex and challenging ocean-related regional conflict in East Asia. The security in the SCS is a concern for both the regional countries (for example, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei) and extra-regional countries (for example, the United States (US), Russia, Australia, India, and Japan), among others, due to their strategic and economic interests in this region. While many contend that competition and disputes over the region are principally concerned with its natural resources, others argue that the essence of the dispute is oriented toward China’s expanding power and challenge to the status quo position of the US and its hegemonic power, though China has moved against other states in the region to enhance its own strategic position overall, amplifying existing tensions over the region’s riches and bring states closer to conflict. China, often characterized as a revisionist power, however, is not the only state to project its intentions to defend its interests in the region. Among other states, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam also exhibit provocative pursuits and competing interests, potentially imperilling prospects for peace and dispute resolution as well as raising concerns about the increase of military confrontation between states.

State policies, driven in part by revisionist behaviour, have been formulated and implemented not only to support major geographic claims and politico-military positions but also to contain the growing military and economic power – notably that of China – and interests of competing states in the region.

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