Volume 5, Number 2, 2020, 25 – 33

ASEAN’s Dilemma: China and Its South China Sea’s Stance


Martin Sviatko, PhD.
CamEd Business School, Cambodia
Email: [email protected]


Received: September 2020
Revised: November 2020
Accepted: December 2020


This research paper attempts to analyze the ongoing territorial disputes between China and various ASEAN countries occurring in the South China Sea, and it highlights detrimental effects of these disputes on the political and military stability of the ASEAN region. The paper contends that China’s military excursion into the southern part of the South China Sea, which occurred earlier this year, appears to be in symbiosis with its increased economic influence over the ASEAN region. Although numerous political and military threats have directly contributed to the creation of ASEAN, the unparalleled economic rise of China spanning the past four decades in general, and China’s remodeling into the single largest trading partner of ASEAN over the past decade in particular, have presented ASEAN with both a unique security challenge as well as an inescapable economic dilemma: How to defend the regional bloc’s territorial integrity without upsetting its strategic economic partner? The paper also indicates that China’s assertive behavior with regard to the South China Sea territorial disputes will only intensify in the post-pandemic environment, emboldened by the enormous economic ties it has constructed with its Southeast Asian partners. Lastly, the paper argues that ASEAN’s sole prospect of defending its territorial integrity in the South China Sea depends on the ability of its member states to find a unified stance over this issue. This, however, will not be feasible without seeking a deeper integration among ASEAN countries. The paper relies primarily on historical, comparative political, economic, and military analysis.

Keywords: ASEAN, China, South China Sea, Political stability, Economic influence, Territorial disputes.

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Sviatko, M. (2020). ASEAN’s dilemma: China and its south China sea’s stance. JAFESS, 5(2), 25 – 33.

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