The South China Sea: Troubled Waters

Dec 27, 2012- Bordered by ten nations and including some of the world's most important shipping lanes and fisheries, the South China Sea is a vital region. Critically important mineral resources, including oil, are thought to be there in large quantities as well. The Chinese have long laid claim to nearly the entire South China Sea. That claim is contested by many nations and in some instances the conflict has turned violent. This summer the United States entered the fray.

In July, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "The United States has a national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia's maritime commons, and respect for international law in the South China Sea." This comment, made at a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' (ASEAN) regional forum held in Hanoi, triggered a vigorous response from Chinese authorities.

Chinese authorities argue that they and other nations in the region can work out their differences on a bilateral, nation to nation basis. They say that the U.S. is intruding into the discussion and attempting to make rights and use of the South China Sea an international issue. As Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi put it, "What will be the consequences to if this issue is turned into an international or multilateral one? It will only make matters worse and the resolution more difficult."

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This new documentary from the USC U.S.-China Institute looks at the issue and includes interviews with distinguished Chinese and American specialists including Shen Dingli (Center for American Studies, Fudan University), Xie Tao (Beijing Foreign Studies University), Bonnie Glaser (Center for Strategic and International Studies), Daniel Lynch (USC). USCI senior fellow Mike Chinoy reports the story. USCI multimedia editor Craig Stubing handled the camerawork and editing. We look forward to your comments. Please send them to us at


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