What’s in a Name? Imagined Territories and Sea Names in the South China Sea Conflict

Lupita Wijaya


This study investigates news coverage of the South China Sea conflict from the perspective of three major Southeast Asian disputants: Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia. Three selected newspapers (Saigon Times Daily, Philippine Daily Inquirer, and Jakarta Post) are used to identify and compare different geographic names from 2013 to 2018, with a sample of 1,737 news articles. Using the lens of mediatized conflict and national interest frames, selective names illustrate the news media acting as an engine of language and legitimization in the conflict by consciously preferring local geographic terms. Results show that these local names emerge significantly in the topic coverage and become an early indicator of how conflict is constituted by news media. This study helps capture this nuanced process via the contested names in the course of producing representations of boundaries and the social construction of borders and identities.


mediatized conflict, South China Sea, conflict, national interest frames, name, identity

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