The International Crisis Group, a think tank, released a comprehensive report on the China South Sea. China claims virtually all of the waters with its 9-line map. At stake are fishing and purported vast energy reserves. Several nations claim rights to the same area, resulting in ongoing spats.


  • China refuses to clarify its territorial claims on the South China Sea
  • It’s behaving aggressively with neighbors, while building up its military
  • While voicing a willingness to compromise, actual behavior is aggressive and suggests enforcement of the entire jurisdiction.
  • China’s inability to speak with one voice is a risk, as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the PLA, Energy Companies, local governments and more, could all pose disruptions.


  • Foreign ministry, behind close doors, has begun to say their claims are limited to the island features and their territorial waters, within the 9-dashed line.

At Stake:

A U.S. geological survey in 1993-1994 suggested 28 billion barrels of oil within the entire sea, whereas some Chinese estimates have claimed around 105 billion barrels of oil within the Spratlys and Paracels, but both of these figures remain unproven due to the lack of exploratory drilling. Estimated reserves will likely change as further exploration continues. Natural gas may be more abundant. There have been various estimates but proven reserves have already been found. In 2006, the Canadian company Husky Energy working with the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) announced a find of proven natural gas reserves of 4 to 6 trillion cubic feet. U.S. Energy Information Administration, “South China Sea”, www.eia.gov.