Current Research


South China Sea Schools of Thought: Four Perspectives on the Future of the Maritime Territorial Disputes

As the South China Sea has become a major focal point of diplomatic and scholarly interest, various schools of thought attempting to provide overarching narratives that explain the maritime territorial disputes have emerged. This book identifies four distinct schools of thought that view the South China Sea (1) as a flashpoint, (2) as hyperbole, (3) as a metaphor, or (4) as an opportunity. It further details the advantages, including the rationales and motivations, of each identified perspective as well as its disadvantages and shortcomings. It then argues that perspectives incorporating balanced understandings of these schools of thought most accurately describe the current situation in and future prospects for the South China Sea.

Keywords: armed conflict; Asia-Pacific regional security; GDELT; geopolitics; international relations; maritime territorial disputes; South China Sea

South China Sea Event Timeline: 1970–2009

The South China Sea Event Timeline aims to become the world’s most accurate and comprehensive chronological reference about the history of the South China Sea maritime territorial disputes. From major incidents at sea to meetings and statements of world leaders, events of all types are included in the event timeline, the complete volumes of which span over a century of history in the region. Today, the event timeline is one of the few indispensable sources of information to date for policymakers, researchers, students, the media, and others interested in the disputes.

The South China Sea Think Tank (SCSTT) is an affiliated program of the Asia-Pacific Policy Research Association (APPRA), an independent, non-profit organization promoting dialogue, research, and education about policies in the Asia-Pacific region.

By purchasing the printed or digital versions of the South China Sea Event Timeline, you are supporting the aims of these institutions as they endeavor to facilitate constructive dialogue and exchange, produce high-quality research, and promote education in the Asia-Pacific region and around the world.


Beijing’s New Propaganda Machine: An Analysis of South China Morning Post News Coverage since its Acquisition by Alibaba Group

In early 2016, the Hong Kong-based SCMP Group, the owner of the South China Morning Post (SCMP), was acquired by Alibaba Group. Since then, a series of incidents involving the periodical have raised questions about its connections to the Chinese government and the level of editorial influence that Beijing now exerts over its published content. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the SCMP, under its new corporate ownership, has begun to publish both more positive and less negative news coverage of the Chinese government and mainland China in general. This study uses empirical evidence from the Global Database of Events, Language, and Tone (GDELT) to assess the changes in SCMP news coverage of Beijing before and after it was acquired. The results indicate that there was a seven-month period of decreased news coverage of Beijing beginning immediately around the time of the acquisition. As for changes in tone, before the acquisition, the tone of SCMP news coverage about Beijing was increasingly negative. Since the acquisition, however, the news outlet’s coverage of Beijing has been increasingly positive. Furthermore, disaggregation and further analysis of the tone values into positive and negative scores reveals that the tone of SCMP news coverage about Beijing has changed because of decreasing negative coverage after the acquisition while positive coverage has remained relatively steady. The article concludes that, given the changing nature of its coverage, readers should assume that editorial control has been influenced by the change in ownership and should be more hesitant to trust its content in the aftermath of the acquisition.

Keywords: Alibaba Group; Chinese government; editorial control; GDELT; media bias; propaganda; South China Morning Post; state-run media

Taiwanese Media, Partisan Bias, and News Coverage of the DPP and KMT

Consumers of news media in Taiwan regularly reflect on the partisan bias of individual news sources. Media outlets are generally classified as favoring either the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) or Kuomintang (KMT), and casual observation of the periodicals’ histories, ownership, and content can understandably suggest an underlying partisan influence. Despite the general consensus among the public that media bias exists, no academic studies to date have sought to investigate the issue using empirical evidence derived from the news coverage of the media in question. This study uses datasets extracted from the Global Database of Events, Language, and Tone (GDELT) to analyze the tone of selected news sources’ coverage about the DPP and KMT from March 2015 to August 2018. The results reveal that Taiwanese news sources differ in their coverage of the two political parties, that some perceived left-leaning media outlets portray the DPP more positively, and that some perceived right-leaning media outlets portray the KMT more positively. The findings also quantify and compare the extent of each publication’s partisan bias, suggesting that some may favor a certain party or coalition more than others news sources in the same camp. Because time-series data is used in the analyses, changes in the tone of news coverage during the time period of consideration are also briefly explored. The article concludes with a discussion of the implications of partisan media in Taiwan and internationally and suggests that raising awareness of potential biases can serve to lessen their negative impacts on the public.

Keywords: Democratic Progressive Party; GDELT; Global Knowledge Graph; Kuomintang; media bias; Taiwan

South China Sea Tensions: Fact-checking Assertions about Past and Present Trends and Volatility Using GDELT Event Data

Researchers, policymakers, and media analysts regularly comment on changes in South China Sea tensions. These claims focus on escalation and deescalation over various time periods in the past, present, and future. Yet virtually all of these assertions draw upon simple assumptions or incomplete evidence and almost invariably lack any basis in solid, quantifiable evidence. This article first reviews academic, policymaker, and media statements about past and present trends and volatility in South China Sea tensions. Using time-series event data from the Global Database of Events, Language, and Tone (GDELT), monthly average tensions are then computed and visualized based on Goldstein values on a conflict–cooperation spectrum in the GDELT 1.0 Event Database. By comparing these data with claims made by others, it fact-checks the validity of those assertions that continue to influence public understanding about past and present trends and volatility in South China Sea tensions. The findings confirm that those non-evidence-based claims about tensions are misleading and thus detrimental to discussions about the South China Sea – even when they are accurate simply by coincidence. The article then concludes by arguing that researchers, policymakers, and media analysts alike can use publicly available time-series event data to engage in informed dialogue about the maritime territorial disputes.

Keywords: GDELT, maritime territorial disputes, South China Sea, tensions, time-series event data

Taiwan’s Contributions to Global Welfare in the 21st Century

Taiwan faces immense challenges in terms of its diplomatic status, national defense, and trade relations that are beyond the typical domestic and foreign policy concerns of most countries. Yet even in the face of such obstacles, Taiwan continues to make remarkable contributions to global wellbeing and prosperity. Taiwan’s demonstrated capacity to benefit people and countries around the world is often overlooked. The constant efforts of powerful actors on the global stage to constrain its overseas engagement serves only as an impediment to both recognition of its contributions and future efforts to create a better world not only for its own citizens but also those of other countries. This article examines the ways in which the Taiwanese government, economy, society, and institutions have contributed to improving global welfare in the twenty-first century. It begins with a brief overview of Taiwan’s unique political context and the corresponding challenges it must endeavor to overcome on a daily basis. It then explores the country’s impacts on five broad aspects of global welfare: democracy and political order, human wellbeing, regional peace and security, scientific and technological advancement, and economic development and prosperity. Following this, the article takes a closer look at the lingering challenges that Taiwan faces, the role of domestic involvement, and policy recommendations for other countries that may enable them to become effect multipliers for Taiwan’s contributions to the world.

Keywords: Chinese political influence, democratic governance, human rights, international development, responsible stakeholder, Taiwan’s diplomatic status

Note: Titles and abstracts of the current research projects above are tentative and not for citation or distribution.