East Asia’s rapid economic and military development has captured global attention. Analysis of news coverage demonstrates that regional economies and tensions have been growing in tandem. The South China Sea has historically been of particular interest because of the number of conflicting claims on the islands and sea-lanes it encompasses. Of note, these conflicts have never escalated to a full-scale regional war. Direct extrapolation suggests that previous restraint in military interactions implies the nations involved do not consider the potential benefits sufficient to justify an upset to the balance of power. However, contemporary changes in economic and security conditions complicate the issue.