South China Sea Simulation: Part 1

As promised in my last post, here is another report on what happened during my recently-completed spring semester. Two weeks ago my class on contemporary Asia participated in a simulation I created on the South China Sea dispute. Students prepared for the simulation with one of my authentic writing assignments:


You are Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. in the U.S. Department of State. The President’s senior advisers on the National Security Council (NSC) seek information on conflicts around the world that may affect U.S. foreign policy interests. Your task is to write a policy memo to the NSC that is no longer than three pages. The memo must identity which country has the best claim under international law to territory in the South China Sea and explain why that claim is the best. The territories are:

  • Second Thomas Shoal/Ayungin in Reed Bank, Mischief Reef, Subi Reef, and Scarborough Shoal in the Spratly Islands, and
  • Woody Island and Triton Island in the Paracel Islands.

In my next post, I’ll describe how the simulation worked.