The long-standing disputes over territory and maritime resources in the South China Sea (SCS) have rapidly escalated in recent years, due to a spiral of actions and reactions by claimant states. At the core of the problem is China’s expansive claim, as expressed – however ambiguously – by its so-called 9-dash line map which is said to encompass 90 percent of this ocean. 

While the significance of the line to China’s claim itself is not clear, China has in words and in deeds begun unilaterally exercising jurisdiction within this area, which overlaps with the claims of the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei, and impinges on the interests of other user states and private entities.

“Weighing the Rebalance” is a Wilson Center initiative that brings a series of experts to Washington to analyze the Chinese and American roles in the Asia-Pacific from the viewpoints of countries whose futures will be shaped by Sino-U.S. competition and cooperation in the region. This paper was presented at the third event of the series: “The Philippines, Vietnam, and Territorial Disputes in the South China Sea” on June 3, 2014.