Daily News Analysis

South China Sea  

2nd September, 2021 Geography


Disclaimer: Copyright infringement not intended.


  • From September 1, 2021, China’s new maritime rules designed to control the entry of foreign vessels in what Beijing calls “Chinese territorial waters” take effect.



  • The South China Sea is a marginal sea of the Western Pacific Ocean.
  • It is bounded in the north by the shores of South China (hence the name), in the west by the Indochinese Peninsula, in the east by the islands of Taiwan and northwestern Philippines (mainly Luzon, Mindoro and Palawan), and in the south by Borneo, eastern Sumatra and the Bangka Belitung Islands.
  • States and territories with borders on the sea (clockwise from north) include: the People's Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan), the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and Vietnam.
  • It communicates with the East China Sea via the Taiwan Strait; the Philippine Sea via the Luzon Strait; the Sulu Sea via the straits around Palawan; the Strait of Malacca via the Strait of Singapore; and the Java Sea via the Karimata and Bangka Strait.
  • The Gulf of Thailand and the Gulf of Tonkin are part of the South China Sea.
  • The shallow waters south of the Riau Islands are also known as the Natuna Sea.
  • The South China Sea is a region of tremendous economic and geostrategic importance.
  • One-third of the world's maritime shipping passes through it.
  • Huge oil and natural gas reserves are believed to lie beneath its seabed.
  • It also contain lucrative fisheries, which are crucial for the food security of millions in Southeast Asia.
  • The South China Sea Islands, collectively comprising several archipelago clusters of mostly small uninhabited islands, reefs/atolls and seamounts numbering in the hundreds, are subject to competing claims of sovereignty by several countries.
  • These claims are also reflected in the variety of names used for the islands and the sea.
  • Major rivers that flow into the South China Sea include the Pearl, Min, Jiulong, Red, Mekong, Rajang, Pahang, Agno, Pampanga, and Pasig Rivers.

Islands and seamounts

  • The South China Sea contains over 250 small islands, atolls, cays, shoals, reefs, and sandbars, most of which have no indigenous people, many of which are naturally under water at high tide, and some of which are permanently submerged. The features are:
  • The Spratly Islands
  • The Paracel Islands
  • Pratas Island and the Vereker Banks
  • The Macclesfield Bank
  • The Scarborough Shoal
  • The nine-dash line refers to the ill-defined demarcation line used by the People's Republic of China (China) for its claims of the major part of the South China Sea.