This chapter explores the origin of the South China Sea dispute in five sections. The first section provides a brief introduction of the South China Sea. Certainly, the South China Sea is an area that has a geographically defined location and boundary, but it is also an area falling nicely in the category of semi-enclosed sea as specified in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in the eyes of international legal scholars, an area enjoying the world’s richest biodiversity in the eyes of ecologists, an area supporting a vital artery of global trade in the eyes of economists, and an area that can potentially choke naval mobility between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific during wartime in the eyes of strategists. These key features of the South China Sea are simultaneously contentious issues intrinsically linked to the South China Sea dispute. Tackling these issues requires sophisticated knowledge of international maritime rules and governance, something that takes Chinese policy-makers years to gradually learn and internalize in their management of the dispute.