The situation in the South China Sea is nothing new at all. After the end of the Cold War, the South China Sea is predicted to become a new source of conflict in the Asian region. The SCS became like a small cold war involving different countries across continents.

The South China Sea (SCS) is one of the most challenging issues to be solved by the Indonesian nation in the 21st century. This is because SCS problems are strategic and also mulinasional.

SCS is said to be strategic due to its significant impact and considerable likelihood to occur. While it is said to be multilateral because the SCS problem has involved several countries. In addition to Indonesia, the United States, China, Taiwan and several ASEAN countries such as Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei Darussalam, and Malaysia have been indirectly involved in the issue.

Marine territories and islands in the SCS are strategic because they contain considerable natural resources such as natural gas, oil and other marine wealth. In addition, the waters of the South China Sea are also a crossing point for international shipping activities of ships. SCS is a cross-sea trade route connecting European, American, and Asian trade.

Subject Matter

The SCS dispute refers to the territorial areas of the sea and land in the Spratly and Paracel islands. Countries involved in SCS conflicts generally use historical and geographical basis in contesting ownership of marine areas and two clusters of islands in SCS territory.

For example, the Chinese state claimed the disputed territory based on China’s ownership of the sea area and two clusters of Paracel and Spratly islands since 2000 years ago, then the Chinese Government claimed to have issued a map detailing China’s sovereignty over the South China Sea or South China Sea in 1947, known as the “Nine-Dashed Line”.

China has also claimed settlements on the islands since earlier dynasties and has discovered ancient relics of crocks and ancient currency on the islands.

Basic of Thought

According to United Nations (UN) data, the world’s conflicts have increased significantly since 2010. Conflict of interest between countries is one of the causes of the increase in the number. One of the data listed by the United Nations is the conflict that occurred in the south china sea.

In order to dissect the conflict between countries that occurred in the south China Sea, the author uses the foundation of war thinking (hard power) and peace (soft power). War and peace are among the traditional issues of international relations studies. The theme still gets a fairly high attention and remains the main reading material in reviewing the problem of conflict between countries.

The concept of war (Hard power) and the concept of peace (soft power) have different characteristics although most people believe that the soft power approach will not be effective without being supported by the hard power approach behind it.

A country’s hard power resources consist of military power, population, natural resources, social stability and territorial coverage. While the soft power of a country rests on 3 resources of the country. The three resources include culture, political values and foreign policy. 

To understand soft power in the current global context, a methodological change is required. One of them is related about who the executor (agent). The model proposed in this paper emphasizes on the following soft power agents: State, NGOs, civil society, MNC and the network of soft power actors.

The first traditional actor of soft power was the state, which implemented the initiative through various state agencies. However, the state is no longer the only actor capable of building and mobilizing soft power. The global context requires governments to integrate through other agencies in their decision-making processes. NGOs, MNC, civil society and individuals have become significant agent elements.

Non Government Organization (NGO) can be interpreted as a professional independent entity with the main goal is to promote common goals at the national or international level. NGOs are often seen as strong agents and have legitimacy because of the priorities of the organization it has as well as the strength of the mass base as its foundation. Legitimacy is something that matters in soft power. Through NGOs we can gain objectivity and transparency.

Multi National Cooperation (MNC) is another source of strength in soft power. In many problems, sometimes private actors as well as a small country become stronger than a superpower. MNC has been shown to contribute to the spread of power such as: economic interdependence, transnational actors, nationalism in weak countries, the spread of technology, political change and modernization, urbanization, and improved communication in developing countries.

Problem Analysis

From the subject matter and the basic of thought above, it can be seen that the SCS problem if examined from the approach of war and peace is a multinational conflict caused by territorial disputes with a background of natural resources and geo-stratejik. So it invites superpowers like China and the United States to get involved.

If reviewed from the hard power paradigm of countries involved in the multinational conflict, then there are two groupings of countries. The first group is countries with military strength, population, natural resources, social stability and highly capable territorial areas such as the United States and China. While the other group is ASEAN countries coupled with Taiwan. Whereas if reviewed from the paradigm of soft power, which is an approach consisting of cultural determinants, political values and foreign policy, then all countries involved have opportunities and risks that can be said evenly.

In the study of war and peace, there is a concept developed by General Van Giap, namely politics (Soft power) is the continuity of the war (Hard power). On the contrary, the concept of Carl Van Clausewitz says that hard power is the continuity of politics (soft power).

Related to SCS, the author sees this phenomenon more towards the concept of Carl Van Clausewitz’s thinking that war (Hard power) is a resideu of politics (Soft power) that failed. Therefore, minor countries involved in SCS multinational conflicts will rationally choose Carl Van Clausewitz’s approach of promoting Soft power in solving problems. On the contrary, superpowers such as the United States and China have the option of whether to put forward a more hard power or political approach (Soft power).  The United States and China have a competitive advantage in military power, geographical area and population demographics.

When viewed from the analysis of strengths and weaknesses, the State of Indonesia, Taiwan and other ASEAN countries have the most likely way to act is by a Soft power approach. This approach is more rational to do considering the military strength, geography and demographics of these countries are less capable when compared to the United States and China.

Indonesia is more likely to secure its interests through its foreign policy, politics and culture. Through Soft Power agencies such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Tourism, MNC and civil society, Indonesia will be more likely to take a political approach.

Indonesia can take a political approach to minimize the threat through conditioning circumstances with related countries. Both in terms of economic cooperation with China in the field of retail and property and with the United States through business cooperation in the field of natural resources. In addition, the cooperation of NGOs and civil society such as TITA (Taiwan Indonesia Trade Association), and Voice of America / Indonesia is an efficient and effective way to contain the threat.


From the results of the analysis, it can be concluded that SCS problems can still be solved through a soft power approach. The position of Indonesia and ASEAN countries under superpowers such as the United States and China still has the opportunity to minimize and minimize threats through asymmetrical methods such as foreign policy, cultural politics. So that Indonesia and ASEAN countries are able to create a more favorable situation.

Carl Van Clausewitz says that “War is nothing but a duel in a large scale”. If one wants to allocate a little time to do research, then the phenomenon of conflict of interest that occurs will be solved by asymmetrical means without having to duel and cause fatalities.

Yudha Fernando, SE.,M.Si.,M.Kom.,CEH.,ECIH (Team Teaching Strategic Intelligence Studies-SKSG UI)