theSkimm's Guide to

THE SOUTH AND EAST CHINA SEA CONFLICTS

THE STORY

China’s been getting into some serious water fights with its neighbors. Welcome to the South and East China Sea disputes.

WHAT ARE THE SOUTH AND EAST CHINA SEAS?

Seas that are -- yup -- south and east of China. They’re both part of the Pacific Ocean. And they both contain islands that have started big-time feuds between Asian countries.

WHO OWNS WHAT?

Depends who you ask. Countries including China, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam claim parts of the “Paracel” and “Spratly” islands in the South China Sea. In the East China Sea, China and Japan both claim a group of islands. Japan calls them the “Senkaku” islands and China calls them the “Diaoyu” islands. Translation: Asia, we have a problem.

WHY DOES EVERYONE WANT A PIECE?

Because both seas have serious trade and oil swag. Think: important shipping routes and potentially big oil and gas reserves. So whoever says ‘mine’ gets to control a major trade route and tap that oil.

HOW LONG HAS EVERYONE BEEN FIGHTING?

The fight between China and Japan over the East China Sea’s been going on for more than 100 years, while the South China Sea has become a BF international D in recent years.

WHAT’S THE LATEST?

China’s been playing SimCity in the South China Sea. Over the past year and a half, it’s built 2,000 acres of artificial islands complete with helipads, airstrips, and military facilities. China’s not the first to dabble in South China Sea real estate -- Vietnam, Taiwan, and the Philippines have all built on islands in the past. But China’s latest moves make that all look like Legos. This kind of flexing shows that China is really set on marking its territory.

I DON’T LIVE IN ASIA. WHY DO I CARE?

Because it could not only start a conflict between China and the neighbors, but also between China and the US. The US has a major stake in the trade that goes down in the region. And it really doesn’t want China calling the shots, controlling trade routes, and startin’ somethin’ with the US’s Asian allies. Cue US Sec of State Kerry telling China to pump the brakes. And the US monitoring China’s island-building via surveillance planes. To which China has said ‘not America’s business.’ America would agree to disagree.

theSKIMM

This territorial beef could turn into a (literal) watershed moment for the region. It has the potential to start a conflict that would rock Asia and beyond. Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping is paying his first visit to President Obama in DC next month. Wonder what they’ll talk about.