Crisis Ahead: South China Sea Geopolitical Tensions

Zara Toksoz
Zara Toksöz
In cooperation with

Of all the world’s conflict zones, the Indo-Pacific Region is overlooked. The risks of escalation are real. The South China Sea, rich in oil, gas and other resources, is also one of the most crucial transport routes for global trade, but lately, it is turning into the preface of a battleground. Regional states find themselves in the hotspot of the power struggle between an increasingly assertive China and the U.S. With these rising tensions, how can we sustain peace and security in the region? Tonight, we will discuss the interests and acts of regional actors.

In the South China Sea, China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei claim parts of this strategically important, resource-intensive body of water. In addition, the Netherlands and its Western allies have a strong interest in the Indo-Pacific region and deploy battleships to secure these. The U.S. alone utilizes 66 military bases in the Indo-Pacific region. With China involved, there is a lot at stake.
Is Europe playing its role accordingly? What motivates the actions of China and the U.S.? And what about the 5.9 billion people living in the Indo-Pacific, do they get a say in this geopolitical game of chess?

About the speakers
Frans Paul van der Putten is an independent analyst of China and geopolitics, and former head, and co-founder of the Clingendael China Centre. His area of expertise is the geopolitical role of China. He is the author of De Wederopstanding van China: Van prooi tot wereldmacht (The Resurrection of China: A geopolitical history of China from 1840), and was in 2015 one of the founding editors of Silk Road Headlines, a weekly newsletter on China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Benedetta Girardi is a strategic analyst at HCSS and principal researcher for the HCSS ‘Europe in the Indo-Pacific Hub’. Her primary research interests regard the geopolitics and geoeconomics of the Indo-Pacific, European defence and security policy, and the interactions and ties between Europe, China, and the United States.

Niels Woudstra is a retired captain from the Royal Netherlands Navy. After his operational career he was associate professor at the Netherlands Defence Academy and deputy military representative to the European Union and NATO.

Anoma van der Veere is a foreign correspondent in Japan for NOS and NRC. Van der Veere is a PhD graduate of the Osaka School of International Public Policy. He currently holds a position as Senior Researcher at the Leiden Asia Centre.


Frans Paul van der Putten Expert on China and geopolitics
Benedetta GirardiResearcher on geopolitics and geoeconomics of the Indo-Pacific, HCSS
Anoma van der VeereForeign correspondent in Japan for NOS and NRC
Niels WoudstraRetired captain, former Deputy Military Representative to EU and NATO