Resources and Additional Info on Escalation and the South China Sea

Chinese fishing boats in the South China Sea in 2020. Image Source here.

South China Sea Background Information
Are Maritime Law Enforcement Forces Destabilizing Asia?” A nifty graphic-based review of incidents in the South China Sea from 2010 to 2020 that documents the type of ships involved and the eventual outcomes of each incident.

China’s Maritime Militia and Fishing Fleets.” Excellent review of how the Chinese fishing fleet has been mobilized to act as an auxiliary arm of the People’s Liberation Army Navy.

China’s Maritime Disputes.” A historically-informed perspective that charts a timeline of major incidents involving China’s maritime boundaries since 1895.

Uncertain Prospects: South China Sea Code of Conduct Negotiations.” An analysis of previous attempts to write and enforce a ‘code of conduct’ governing behavior in the South China Sea.

Freedom of Navigation in the South China Sea: A Practical Guide.” An interesting set of visuals outlining what makes something an island or not and the legal aspects behind the ability to sail through certain areas or not.

A video of a Chinese Coastguard vessel using a water cannon against a Vietnamese vessel and ramming it.

Theories of Escalation
Arms and Influence. Schelling’s 1966 book remains a classic of international relations and armed conflict theory.

Domestic Political Audiences and the Escalation of International Disputes.” An academic article that articulates a novel theory of how escalation during international crises interacts with domestic politics. Interestingly, however, the proposal that democracies might be punished more for backing down in crises compared to autocracies has had a hard time finding empirical support.

Peacemakers or Iron Ladies? A Cross National Study of Gender and International Conflict” An academic article that uses historical evidence to argue that female leaders may be more likely to escalate conflict to maintain their status in elite politics.

First Things First: The Pressing Danger of Crisis Instability in U.S.-China Relations.” An academic article that outlines how crisis instability could be particularly acute in US-China disputes, especially since both sides possess considerable nuclear arsenals.

Similar Hotspots and Crises, Past and Present
Potential Conflict in Strait of Hormuz: Imbalanced Forces and Guerilla Warfare.” A discussion of how the Iranian navy might act during a war based on its past grey zone activities and capabilities.

India-China clash: An extraordinary escalation ‘with rocks and clubs.'” News story about the 2020 clashes along the Indo-Chinese border.

Is China Escalating Tensions with Japan in the East China Sea?” A 2020 analysis of a dispute between China and Japan over a set of islands in the East China Sea.

Russian Fighter Jet Buzzes USS Donald Cook in the Black Sea.” News story about a 2021 incident between the US and Russia that includes video as well as several links to stories on other recent incidents as well.

International Crisis Behavior Dataset (version 13). A massive collection of data about 482 international crises, including interesting written accounts of each crisis as well as many other variables for each crisis. They have an online viewer that you can use.

More on “Gray Zone” Conflict
Gaining Competitive Advantage in the Gray Zone.” A hefty 200+ page review of the various options that state have for responding to Gray Zone conflict.

Grey Zone Operations and the Maritime Domain.” An Australian perspective on Grey Zone operations with an interesting link to the UNCLOS guidelines.

Whispers from Wargames about the Gray Zone.” How simulated war games have revealed that gray zone actions may be quite effective at obtaining policy goals even if they may not be traditionally successful in the operational sense.