South China Sea trade routes safe despite rows

Despite territorial stand-offs between China and other nations bordering the South China Sea, analysts say governments know better than to choke off the trade shipping routes that are the lifeblood of their economies. Analysts believe all nations involved, particularly China, will ensure that the diplomatic and military manoeuvrings do not jeopardise such an important economic lifeline. The Philippines, Vietnam and other regional powers believe China is the instigator in the fresh eruptions in the disputes, which have been going on for decades but have been managed without confrontation for much of the time. However, China would be careful to ensure its actions did not lead to a military conflict that would disrupt shipping lanes, because it had the most to lose.

A large fraction of the trade flowing through the South China Sea is destined to, or originating from, China. They need that for their economy.

Jayendu Krishna, analyst with industry consultancy firm Drewry Maritime Services

Asia’s most populous nation claims nearly all of the sea, even waters approaching the coasts of its neighbours. Vietnam’s trigger for fury was China’s deployment last month of an oil rig in waters near the Paracel islands. Anti-Chinese riots promptly broke out in the southeast Asian nation, leading to at least three deaths. The Philippines has been the most vocal critic in recent years, accusing China of a multitude of aggressive acts.