The South China Sea ranks high on any list of the world’s geopolitical hotspots. But though the region has been volatile for centuries, the last two decades have witnessed a subtle shift in the underlying drivers of conflict.
Over at The National Interest, I've written an article examining a significant change in the contours of the dispute. I argue that
[i]n the past, violence in the South China Sea was orchestrated from capitals far away. Today, though, a confrontation is far more likely to erupt unexpectedly on the frontlines, and these frontlines are multiplying across the breadth of the Sea. More than ever before, fishermen and coast guards from different states are motivated to venture deep into the heart of disputed areas. There, they are increasingly likely to bump prows with either foreign competitors or antagonistic coast guards. The outcome in either case could be disastrous.