Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: South China Sea from Philip's Encyclopedia

Part of the Pacific Ocean, surrounded by SE China, Indochina, the Malay Peninsula, Borneo, the Philippines, and Taiwan; connected to the East China Sea by the Formosa Strait. The world's largest sea, its chief arms are the Gulf of Tonkin and Gulf of Thailand. The Si, Red, Mekong, and Chao Phraya rivers flow into it. Area: 2.3 million sq km (848,000sq mi). Average depth: 1,140m (3,740ft).


Summary Article: South China Sea from Ocean
  • Pacific Ocean C2
  • Area 1.4 million square miles (3.7 million square km)
  • Maximum depth 16,457 ft (5,016 m)
  • Inflows Xi Jiang, Red, Tha Chin, Mekong rivers

The deep central basin of the South China Sea is surrounded for the most part by broad continental shelves. There are oil and natural gas fields in the Gulf of Tongking and the Vereker Banks in the north, and off Borneo and across the Sunda Shelf in the south. The South China Sea is the second busiest sea lane in the world, with at least 25 percent of the world’s crude oil passing through its waters. The South China Basin is punctuated by banks and reefs, which contain more than 200 tiny islands. Among these are the uninhabited Spratly Islands, whose ownership is disputed between China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines. The claims of the various countries are motivated by the presence of minerals, and it is estimated that vast oil reserves lie underneath the islands. The most southern part of the sea is underlain by the shallow Sunda Shelf, a land bridge that connected Borneo, Sumatra, and Java to the Asian mainland during the last ice age.

© 2008 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Related Credo Articles

Full text Article The South China Sea
Ocean

THE SOUTH CHINA SEA IS THE LARGEST body of water after the five oceans, and its productive waters account for more than eight percent of...

Full text Article South China Sea
Greenwood Encyclopedia of International Relations

Located within the circle of China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam, this shallow sea contains several disputed island chains and...

Full text Article Mischief Reef (1995)
The Politics of Maritime Power: A Survey

Mischief Reef is part of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, which is a contested territory among China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Viet Nam,...

See more from Credo