Incidents in the South China Sea: Exploring the Chinese Perspective of the Disputes

Open Access
Black, Benjamin Daniel
Area of Honors:
Asian Studies
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Dr. Gretchen G Casper, Thesis Supervisor
  • Jessamyn Reich Abel, Honors Advisor
  • South China Sea
  • Political Science
  • International Affairs
  • Asian Studies
  • International Politics
  • China
  • Maritime Dispute
  • Hegemony
Incidents in the South China Sea have increased in frequency over the past decade, leading to an increased need for an informed policy response. Despite the prevalence of the South China Sea disputes in policymaking and scholarly discourse, empirical work to understand the driving forces behind China's actions in the region has not been undertaken with a Chinese perspective, leaving policymakers without crucial information and an incomplete understanding of Chinese actions in the region. International Maritime Law is understood to be the framework for peace in the region, but this paper suggests that the Law of the Sea has ceased to be effective because China has ceased to abide by it. Furthermore, alternative avenues to peace and stability must include the Chinese perspective and a better understanding of the reasons for increased Chinese action and incidents in the region. This paper seeks to analyze the driving forces behind China’s actions in two models. First, through an original coding of two Chinese-language newspapers from 1970-2015 to test for the presence of nationalistic terms. A second model employs a wide range of hegemony indicators to test for China’s level of regional hegemony and its relationship to incidents from 1970-2015. My findings point to an over-use of nationalism to describe Chinese actions and a clear conclusion that China’s regional hegemony is driving its increased action in the South China Sea.