Document Type



Master of Arts (MA)


Asian Studies

First Advisor's Name

Thomas Breslin

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Steven Heine

Third Advisor's Name

Paul Kowert


China, Philippines, South China Sea, Scarborough shoal, neorealist, ASEAN, international law, bilateral, nationalism, dispute

Date of Defense



The South China Sea is a sea with strategically important shipping lanes, an abundance of maritime resources, and potentially large amounts of oil and gas deposits. Because of the significance of the sea, China has claimed almost all of it, which has caused the Association of Southeast Asian Nation members (ASEAN) whose countries surround the sea (Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines) to take a stance against the encroachment. The most important non-Chinese claimant in the dispute is the Philippines, which shares a mutual defense treaty with the United States. The dispute has been analyzed from a bilateral perspective between China and the Philippines. A theoretical analysis of the dispute has been conducted through a Neorealist paradigm. How the two countries define international law and engage in diplomatic and military policies has also been closely examined. China has not sought foreign intervention whether from a nation or international organization, while the Philippines has preferred as much multilateralism as possible. A recent Scarborough Shoal dispute between the two countries has changed the dynamic of the dispute, and in examining the event and its outcome an inevitable conclusion of military action has been reached.





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