Stories

Why it matters: U.S.-China standoff over South China Sea

China's militarization of the South China Sea was at the top of Defense Secretary James Mattis' agenda on his trip to Beijing this week, and Chinese state media reports President Xi Jinping told him China will not give up "any inch of territory passed down from ancestors."

Data: Center Strategic and International Studies' Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative; Map: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Why it matters: The sea is a critical component of China's plan to build a military proportional to its economic power. Beijing has no intention of giving up its claim, while the U.S. has no intention of accepting it.