THE GEOPOLITICS OF POWER: UNDERSTANDING CHINA’S MILITARIZATION OF THE SOUTH CHINA SEA
Burch, Evelyn Jo
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The South China Sea (SCS) has become an international focal point in recent years largely due to China’s reclamation and militarization of island features in contested waters. Many pundits, journalists, analysts, and researchers distill the motivation behind China’s activities, and the broader SCS international disputes, down to control of and access to resources—primarily fisheries and hydrocarbon reserves—and shipping routes. Most scholars and experts on the region agree that these factors play an important role; however, many also point to broader motivations for China’s staunch defense of its “national sovereignty.” Nonetheless, a key element is often lacking in many of the most thorough analyses of the SCS conflicts: the geographic perspective. A wide range of publicly-available spatial data makes such an assessment possible. This thesis examines the existing body of scholarly work on the SCS, its significance, and causes of conflict; assesses the main hypotheses for China’s militarization of contested features in the SCS geographically; and ultimately places each hypothesis within the broader framework of China’s practical and strategic considerations.