South China Sea | Definition, Map & Facts for Exam

South China Sea

The South China Sea

[Type] The South China Sea is a marginal sea of the West Pacific Ocean.

[Bordering Countries] The South China Sea is bordered by China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, and Vietnam.

[Location] The sea is bounded by the shores of South China in the north, the Indo-Chinese Peninsula in the west, islands of Taiwan and Philippines in the east, and Borneo, Sumatra, and Bangka Belitung Islands in the south.

It is connected to: 

  • The East China Sea in the north, via Taiwan Strait (or Formosa Strait between the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan),
  • Philippines Sea in the east by Luzon Strait (between Luzon island of the Philippines and Taiwan),
  • The Sulu Sea in the southeast by Mindoro (between Busuanga and Mindoro islands of Philippines) and Balabac (between Balbac island of Philippines and Balambangan and Banggi islands north of Borneo which are part of Sabah state of Malaysia) Straits,
  • Strait of Singapore in the southwest, and
  • The Java Sea in the south by the Karimata Strait (between Indonesian islands of Belitung and Borneo) and Bangka Strait (between Bangka and Sumatra islands of Indonesia)

[Geography] Major rivers that flow into the South China Sea include Mekong, Pampanga, etc.

Important islands located in the South China Sea are as follows:

  • Pratas Island;
  • Paracel Islands (or Xisha Islands or Hoang Sa Archipelago), disputed between China, Taiwan & Vietnam;
  • The Spratly Islands, disputed between China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Philippines, and Malaysia;
  • Macclesfield Bank, an elongated atoll of underwater reefs, located to the east of Paracel Islands, southwest of Pratas Island and north of Spratly Island, and disputed between China and Taiwan;
  • Scarborough Shoal (or Huangyan Island or Panatag Shoal), located between Macclesfield Bank & Luzon island and disputed between China, Taiwan, and the Philippines.

The Nine-dash line is a vaguely defined demarcation line used by China and Taiwan for their claims of a major part of the South China Sea.

Gulf of Tonkin (located off the coasts of Vietnam and South China), and the Natuna Sea (located around Natuna Regency extending from south of Riau island) are part of the South China Sea.

[Climate] Weather in the sea is tropical and largely controlled by monsoons. In summer, monsoonal winds blow predominantly from the southwest; in winter, winds blow from the northeast.

It is of tremendous economic and geostrategic importance, with one-third of the world’s maritime shipping passes through it each year. The Sea is considered a major source of natural resources for different territories.

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