South China Sea

South China Sea
Mar de China Meridional - BM WMS 2004.jpg
Satellite image of the South China Sea
South China Sea is located in South China Sea
South China Sea
South China Sea
South China Sea is located in Southeast Asia
South China Sea
South China Sea
South China Sea is located in Asia
South China Sea
South China Sea
South China Sea.jpg
The northeastern portion of the South China Sea
Coordinates12°N 113°E / 12°N 113°E / 12; 113
Part ofPacific Ocean
River sources
Basin countries
Surface area3,500,000 square kilometres (1,400,000 sq mi)
IslandsList of islands in the South China Sea

The South China Sea is a marginal sea that is part of the Pacific Ocean, encompassing an area from the Karimata and Malacca straits to the Strait of Taiwan of around 3,500,000 square kilometres (1,400,000 sq mi). The sea carries tremendous strategic importance; one-third of the world's shipping passes through it, carrying over $3 trillion in trade each year,[1] it contains lucrative fisheries, which are crucial for the food security of millions in Southeast Asia. Huge oil and gas reserves are believed to lie beneath its seabed.[2]

According to International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) Limits of Oceans and Seas, 3rd edition (1953), it is located[3]

However, in its unapproved draft 4th edition (1986),[4] IHO proposed the Natuna Sea, thus the South China Sea southern boundary was shifted northward, from north of the Bangka Belitung Islands to north and northeast of Natuna Islands.[5]

The minute South China Sea Islands, collectively an archipelago, number in the hundreds. The sea and its mostly uninhabited islands are subject to competing claims of sovereignty by several countries. These claims are also reflected in the variety of names used for the islands and the sea.


South China Sea
Chinese name
Hanyu PinyinNán Hǎi
Literal meaningSouth Sea
Alternative Chinese name
Simplified Chinese南中国海
Traditional Chinese南中國海
Hanyu PinyinNán Zhōngguó Hǎi
Literal meaningSouth China Sea
Vietnamese name
VietnameseBiển Đông
Chữ Nôm
Literal meaningEast Sea
Thai name
[tʰā.lēː t͡ɕīːn tâ(ː)j]
(South China Sea)
RTGSThale Chin Tai
Japanese name
Kanji南支那海 or 南シナ海 (literally "South Shina Sea")
Malay name
MalayLaut Cina Selatan
(South China Sea)
Indonesian name
IndonesianLaut Cina Selatan /
Laut Tiongkok Selatan
(South China Sea)
Laut Natuna Utara
(North Natuna Sea)[6]
Filipino name
TagalogDagat Timog Tsina
(South China Sea)
Dagat Luzon
(Luzon Sea)
Portuguese name
PortugueseMar da China Meridional
(South China Sea)
Alternative English name
Alternative EnglishWest Philippine Sea
(Philippine official government use; Claimed Philippine EEZ only)[7]

South China Sea is the dominant term used in English for the sea, and the name in most European languages is equivalent. This name is a result of early European interest in the sea as a route from Europe and South Asia to the trading opportunities of China. In the sixteenth century Portuguese sailors called it the China Sea (Mare da China); later needs to differentiate it from nearby bodies of water led to calling it the South China Sea.[8] The International Hydrographic Organization refers to the sea as "South China Sea (Nan Hai)".[3]

The Yizhoushu, which was a chronicle of the Western Zhou dynasty (1046–771 BCE) gives the first Chinese name for the South China Sea as Nanfang Hai (Chinese: 南方海; pinyin: Nánfāng Hǎi; literally: 'Southern Sea'), claiming that barbarians from that sea gave tributes of hawksbill sea turtles to the Zhou rulers.[9] The Classic of Poetry, Zuo Zhuan, and Guoyu classics of the Spring and Autumn period (771–476 BCE) also referred to the sea, but by the name Nan Hai (Chinese: 南海; pinyin: Nán Hǎi; literally: 'South Sea') in reference to the State of Chu's expeditions there.[9] Nan Hai, the South Sea, was one of the Four Seas of Chinese literature. There are three other seas, one for each of the four cardinal directions.[10] During the Eastern Han dynasty (23–220 CE), China's rulers called the Sea Zhang Hai (Chinese: 漲海; pinyin: Zhǎng Hǎi; literally: 'distended sea').[9] Fei Hai (Chinese: 沸海; pinyin: Fèi Hǎi; literally: 'boil sea') became popular during the Southern and Northern Dynasties period. Usage of the current Chinese name, Nan Hai (South Sea), became gradually widespread during the Qing Dynasty.[11]

In Southeast Asia it was once called the Champa Sea or Sea of Cham, after the maritime kingdom of Champa that flourished there before the sixteenth century.[12] The majority of the sea came under Japanese naval control during World War II following the military acquisition of many surrounding South East Asian territories in 1941. Japan calls the sea Minami Shina Kai "South China Sea". This was written 南支那海 until 2004, when the Japanese Foreign Ministry and other departments switched the spelling to 南シナ海, which has become the standard usage in Japan.

In China, it is called the "South Sea", 南海 Nánhǎi, and in Vietnam the "East Sea", Biển Đông.[13][14][15] In Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, it was long called the "South China Sea" (Dagat Timog Tsina in Tagalog, Laut China Selatan in Malay), with the part within Philippine territorial waters often called the "Luzon Sea", Dagat Luzon, by the Philippines.[16] However, following an escalation of the Spratly Islands dispute in 2011, various Philippine government agencies started using the name "West Philippine Sea". A Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) spokesperson said that the sea to the east of the Philippines will continue to be called the Philippine Sea.[17]

In September 2012, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III signed Administrative Order No. 29, mandating that all government agencies use the name "West Philippine Sea" to refer to the parts of the South China Sea within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone, including the Luzon Sea as well as the waters around, within and adjacent to the Kalayaan Island Group and Bajo de Masinloc, and tasked the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) to use the name in official maps.[18][19]

In July 2017, to assert its sovereignty, Indonesia renamed the northern reaches of its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea as the "North Natuna Sea", which is located north of the Indonesian Natuna Islands, bordering the southern Vietnam exclusive economic zone, corresponding to the southern end of the South China Sea.[20] The "Natuna Sea" is located south of Natuna Island within Indonesian territorial waters.[21] Therefore, Indonesia has named two seas that are portions of the South China Sea; the Natuna Sea located between Natuna Islands and the Lingga and Tambelan Archipelagos, and the North Natuna Sea located between the Natuna Islands and Cape Cà Mau on the southern tip of the Mekong Delta in Vietnam.

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Suid-Chinese See
Avañe'ẽ: Para Ñemby Chína
azərbaycanca: Cənubi Çin dənizi
Bân-lâm-gú: Lâm Tiong-kok Hái
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Паўднёва-Кітайскае мора
brezhoneg: Mor Su Sina
Chavacano de Zamboanga: Mar de China
Esperanto: Sudĉina maro
Fiji Hindi: South China Sea
贛語: 南海
客家語/Hak-kâ-ngî: Nàm Chûng-koet Hói
한국어: 남중국해
hornjoserbsce: Južnochinske morjo
Bahasa Indonesia: Laut China Selatan
íslenska: Suður-Kínahaf
Lingua Franca Nova: Mar Xines Sude
македонски: Јужнокинеско Море
مازِرونی: چین جنوبی دریا
Bahasa Melayu: Laut China Selatan
Mìng-dĕ̤ng-ngṳ̄: Nàng Dṳ̆ng-guók Hāi
Nederlands: Zuid-Chinese Zee
日本語: 南シナ海
Nordfriisk: Süüdsjineesk Sia
norsk nynorsk: Sør-Kina-havet
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Janubiy Xitoy dengizi
Simple English: South China Sea
slovenčina: Juhočínske more
српски / srpski: Јужно кинеско море
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Južno kinesko more
Tiếng Việt: Biển Đông
文言: 南海
吴语: 南海
粵語: 南中國海
中文: 南海