The Emperor Is Wearing No Clothes

Beyond Hydrocarbons in the South China Sea
  • Author:
  • Tabitha Grace Mallory
  • Publisher: Asia Foundation of Canada, John H. McArthur Fellowship
  • Date: 2022
Beyond Hydrocarbons in the South China Sea

The South China Sea (SCS) brings together an assortment of the complex energy and climate change challenges we all face around the world, underscoring the importance of transitioning away from our overdependence on fossil fuels. Energy sources have security implications as well, and much of the attention and conflict in the SCS has centred on the oil and gas in the seabed. Beyond hydrocarbons, the SCS also has the highest level of marine biodiversity in the world, the myriad benefits of which likely far outweigh the oil and gas interests. This “cost-benefit thought experiment” uses an integrative complexity lens to disaggregate the impetus behind offshore oil and gas drilling in the SCS, arguing that these motivations can be satisfied in other ways. With oil being a causal mechanism in up to half of all interstate wars in the past 50 years, the maps of SCS hydrocarbon resources are literal and figurative maps of death, and the report offers a comprehensive prototype map of the SCS marine biodiversity instead. Time and effort would be better spent working on protecting, studying and managing the SCS living marine resources, making for a more truly Pacific 21st century.