Using Data to Decipher China’s South China Sea Strategy
The westernmost extent of the Pacific Ocean (South China Sea) has experienced growing conflict in recent years due to overlapping maritime claims between Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Taiwan and China. Despite growing coverage in the news media, among think tanks and great attention from policy makers and politicians, there is a dearth of high-quality social science research on the escalating crisis. In particular, scholarly research on this topic has not taken advantage of the big data revolution. The South China Sea Data Initiative is  creating new, systematic dataset documenting conflict in the South China sea over the past decade, using a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods, and  collecting new public opinion data via surveys from seven countries around the South China Sea. The results will help inform policymakers about the opportunities and perils in the region as the US faces growing PRC expansionism and assertiveness in the region and questions about America’s role in Asia.
Renard Sexton is a political scientist who studies conflict and development, especially in Southeast Asia, Afghanistan and Latin America. He serves as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Emory University. His current work focuses on aid and insurgency, natural resources, and international competition in the South China Sea. His scholarly work has been published in top political science journals, such as the American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science and Journal of Politics. His policy work and commentary have been published by the Washington Post, New York Times, FiveThirtyEight, the Guardian, and Foreign Policy, as well as by the International Crisis Group and the UN. He completed his PhD in Politics at New York University, and did postdoctoral fellowships at Princeton and the International Crisis Group.