Territorial disputes occur in the South China Sea, which is a major hot spot in East Asia and to a large degree also globally. Due to its fundamental importance for global maritime transport, its natural resources and its strategic location, the South China Sea has become an area of interest for the world’s greatest powers. Although the importance of the South China Sea cannot be overestimated, territorial disputes affecting it have remained unsettled since the end of World War II. Since its establishment, People’s Republic of China has sustained its territorial claims to a major part of the South China Sea and, since the 1970s, it has been making active attempts to impose its jurisdiction over the region. This is accompanied by China challenging and ignoring international legal regulations in an unprecedented manner. For China, achieving domination in the South China Sea is a means of proving its superpower status. It is also one of many elements of China’s rivalry with the US for supremacy in East Asia. As a consequence, China is provoking not only the region’s states but most importantly the US and its allies to action. For these states, curbing China’s attempts is tantamount to defending both international law and their credibility as the guarantors of the international order. Since the beginning of the 2010s, the dispute has been mounting in proportion to the deepening political and economic rivalry between Beijing and Washington. At present, the COVID-19 pandemic is lending this conflict a new dynamic.