THE Chinese referred to Southeast Asia (SEA) in ancient times as Nanyang, or the “southern seas.” In some ways, this name can be traced to the same logic that gave SEA the name Suvarnadvipa, or “land of gold” for the South Asians: they are rooted in the commercial relations of SEA with both neighboring giants.

Trade between SEA and China was always done through the now-contentious South China Sea (SCS) — renamed West Philippine Sea (WPS) by Filipinos for nationalistic reasons. Russell Fifield makes an interesting point when he said: “It should be stressed that… [Nanyang] reflected the roles of the sea-minded people who used them and focused on seas with their adjacent lands rather than on lands with their adjacent seas.”

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