In this excerpt from “Asia’s Cauldron: The South China Sea And The End Of A Stable Pacific,” author Robert D. Kaplan, chief geopolitical analyst for Stratfor and former member of the Pentagon’s Defence Policy Board, explains how the region’s unique geography fosters aggression.
The South China Sea functions as the throat of the Western Pacific and Indian oceans — the mass of connective economic tissue where global sea routes coalesce.
Here is the heart of Eurasia’s navigable rimland, punctuated by the Malacca, Sunda, Lombok, and Makassar straits.
More than half of the world’s annual merchant fleet tonnage passes through these choke points, and a third of all maritime traffic worldwide.
The oil transported through the Malacca Strait from the Indian Ocean, en route to East Asia through the South China Sea, is triple the amount that passes through the Suez Canal and fifteen times the amount that transits the Panama Canal.
Roughly two thirds of South Korea’s energy supplies, nearly 60 per cent of Japan’s and Taiwan’s energy supplies, and 80 per cent of China’s crude oil imports come through the South China Sea.Whereas in the Persian Gulf only energy is transported, in the South China Sea you have energy, finished goods, and unfinished goods.