China, technology and the Spratly Islands: The geopolitical impact of new technologies

Esmond Douglas Smith, Salve Regina University


This study examines how advanced technology creates an imperative for its use, thereby influencing human choices and national decisions. This technological imperative is seen in the case of the Spratly Islands, a vast area of tiny islands, atolls, and reefs in the South China Sea that is rich in oil and natural gas. Claimants of these islands include China, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Taiwan, several of which have established military outposts on the Spratlys. Military control of these islands could bring increased economic and political benefits. Thus, strategic and ethical issues are involved in this dispute. Geographic and historical arguments are further complicated by recently developed doctrines, embodied in the U.N. Law of the Sea, by which coastal states control economic zones within 200 miles of their territory. Advanced technology also provides to China the means of exerting increased power in the area. Because the Spratly Islands also abut the principal sea routes between Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, their control might permit a state to interdict these routes, exerting an overall hegemony in Southeast Asia. In short, expanding military and economic power raises further ethical and political concerns. Besides these issues, this study includes interviews with military experts from the area and an analysis of technological developments, military engagements, and the geopolitical implications of domination by one nation. These factors heighten the importance of the Spratly Islands as the new millennium dawns. This study concludes with an assessment of likely scenarios.

Subject Area

History|International law|International relations|History

Recommended Citation

Smith, Esmond Douglas, "China, technology and the Spratly Islands: The geopolitical impact of new technologies" (1994). Doctoral Dissertations. AAI9539594.