The fifth paper in the Maritime Strategy Series, by Dr. Christopher Yung and Patrick McNulty, is a groundbreaking data-driven look at how the six claimants of features in the South China Sea have advanced and defended their claims from 1995 to 2014. During several years of research conducted at the National Defense University, the authors constructed a custom-built database of open-source reporting on actions taken in the South China Sea by each claimant, classified them into a detailed typology of different tactics, and drew conclusions from the resulting data. Broadly speaking, the research concludes that China has been the most active player, leading the field in use of all tactics save legal measures, and especially so in military and paramilitary actions. But activities by other claimants including the Philippines and Taiwan are also of note, providing a richer picture of the disputes. These data provide one of the only public sources for numerical comparison of various claimants’ actions, and Yung and McNulty’s analysis thus provides a crucial basis for further study of this fraught maritime zone.
Dr. Christopher Yung is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University. At the time of writing, Patrick McNulty was a research analyst at the Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University.