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How Oil Drives The South China Sea Conflict

How Oil Drives The South China Sea Conflict

South China Sea

While it’s no secret that China has been intensifying its building frenzy, including military installations on islands, reefs and inlets in the heavily disputed South China Sea, it is also becoming increasingly clear that Beijing is not afraid to draw a line in the sand over these mostly dubious claims.

Late last week, while downplaying his country’s geopolitical ambitions, China’s foreign minister Wang Yi still couldn’t resist plugging the party line.

“Beijing’s resolve to protect the peace and the stability of the South China Sea cannot be shaken,” Wang said, adding that the problems in the region are due to “foreign forces” which “have sent fully armed warships and fighters to the South China Sea to flaunt their military might.”

His reference to so-called foreign forces include increased freedom of navigation voyages by the U.S. Navy in the South China Sea, which is for all intent and purposes, an U.N.-mandated international waterway. Lately, Australia and even the U.K. have started to challenge Beijing’s claims in the troubled water way. China, which has over-lapping territorial claims in the South China Sea with the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei, claims nearly 90 percent of the sea in what is commonly referred to as its nine-dash line.

(Click to enlarge)

Figure 1: China’s Nine Dash Line in South China Sea, Source: US Central Intelligence Agency Related: UK Gas Crisis: Out Of The Frying Pan Into The Fire

Taking a step back from the constant rhetoric and even at times sabre rattling over the matter, it’s fair to ask why would the world’s newest super power and second largest economy be willing to jeopardize its reputation and standing with not only its neighbors in the Asia-Pacific region, but also its image before an increasingly alarmed and watching international community? The answer, as is often the case in geopolitical power plays, is oil, and likely, plenty of it.

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