The South China Sea is among the most volatile flashpoints in contemporary international relations as littoral claimants dispute ownership over a number of small islands and geographic features spread across more than three million square kilometers. This study examines the dispute using the general morphological analysis (GMA) methodology employing eight factors of analysis: Chinese political stability, cross-strait relations, Chinese economic stability, ASEAN cohesion, extra-regional actor involvement (diplomacy & power projection capabilities), ASEAN sentiment towards China, and island building programs. These produced 65,536 distinct outcomes in a cross-consistency matrix (CCM) which exist on a spectrum of possibility from incompatible with reality to plausible. Three plausible scenarios were chosen for foresight analysis which project contemporary trends into the near-to-mid term future envisioning Chinese dominion over the South China Sea, the effect of political unrest in China on the dispute, and dispute stagnation. After the analysis of hundreds of different combinations from the CCM which remained after auditing for analytical noise and plausibility, this research found that much of the foresight produced scenarios which were similar to the ‘dispute stagnation’ scenario. This highlights the present realities of the dispute wherein all parties have entrenched into their political and physical positions with little alternative outside of direct confrontation, an outcome which though possible is unappealing to claimants due to the secondary effects which it would bring.
Zachary Lavengood, Charles University, Czech Republic
About the Presenter(s)
Zachary Lavengood is a PhD candidate at Charles University's Institute of International Studies. His research focuses on Arctic and Eurasian geopolitics, global poverty and development, and world-systems analysis.
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