Daniel Yergin’s ‘New Map’ Explains Why South China Sea Is A Flashpoint


Book reviews are the literary equivalent of visiting a buffet line that features 30 different dishes, but only being allowed to fill one small soup bowl, with no second helpings. There’s no good way to reduce a 200-, 300-, or 400-page book down to 800 or 1,000 words and do it justice. For that reason, rather than try to condense all of Daniel Yergin’s new (430-page!) book The New Map: Energy, Climate, and the Clash of Nations into a single soup bowl, I will heartily recommend the book for its focus on a single topic: the South China Sea.

Yergin does a better job of explaining the history and importance of the South China Sea than anything I’ve read and he does so by tracing it a map drawn 84 years ago by a “cartographic combatant.”

Yergin’s multi-chapter focus on the “world’s most critical waterway” makes sense because the South China Sea is in the news almost every day. Last week, China accused the U.S. of disguising the identity of military aircraft it operates over the disputed waterway. The South China Morning Post reported that U.S. Air Force planes are, according to a Chinese official, impersonating “the transponder code of civilian aircraft from other countries.” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin also said, “We urge the US to immediately stop such dangerous provocations, to avoid accidents from happening in the sea and air.”