The expanse of saltwater that Beijing considers its ‘lake’ is actually the seventh-largest sea in the world, the sovereignty of which is disputed by a number of states: China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and Brunei. Over $5 trillion (€4tn) of global trade passes through this marine area of 3.5 million square kilometres. Its waters are fundamental to shipping routes, and many resources apparently lie beneath its seabed. It is, of course, the South China Sea, and it is at the centre of an epic territorial dispute in that part of Asia. In addition to the shipping routes, the undersea resources and its role as one of the world’s topfive fishing zones, the South China Sea also underpins nationalisms that are necessary to the unity of countries still in search of their own position within the Asian geopolitical landscape. And beyond Asian countries, the territorial dispute has also attracted the attention of the United States.

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