PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Daily Archives: 18/01/2022

A virtual crisis in the South China Sea

Students at the Institute of World Politics recently completed a matrix game exploring geopolitical tensions in the South China Sea:

The stand-alone game was held by IWP adjunct professor Aaron Danis, with invaluable assistance from Professor Wayne Hugar, a China military expert and colleague of Prof. Danis at National Intelligence University, where Prof. Danis works in his day job.

Prof. Danis commented: “I use games in my IWP courses, and I have wanted to try this one on the South China Sea (SCS) for a while.  It required that the players do some read-ahead and research over the winter break, with unbelievable support and guidance from Wayne who has participated in such games in the Department of Defense and deployed to the SCS during his previous US Navy career.”

The two-month (four-turn) crisis scenario postulated that China had just moved sand dredgers and coast guard vessels to the contested (with the Philippines) Scarborough Shoal, threatening to turn it into an artificial island or military outpost.  “This is a real possibility,” said Prof. Hugar, “as China has had de facto control of the shoal since 2012 and could literally do this at any time.”  This threatened act to “change the facts on the ground” forced players into negotiations with allies and adversaries, while maneuvering military and non-military assets in the region.  This action occurred against the background of the annual Philippine-U.S.-Australia Balikatan military exercise in Luzon.  The Chinese simultaneously threatened Vietnamese fishing fleets using its People’s Maritime Militia and launched a global propaganda offensive.

The virtual nature of the game, brought on by bad weather and COVID restrictions, gave students a feel for the real-world difficulties of coordinating within their assigned country teams, let alone between countries thousands of miles away.  The U.S. Army War College gaming center let IWP borrow its virtual version of this game, which would normally be played in person on a board at IWP. The game was originally designed by an active-duty UK Army officer.

As suggested above, the original version of the game was designed by Tom Mouat, and can be found here at PAXsims.

%d bloggers like this: