What is very dangerous about the South China Sea issue, is, if there is a conflict between American and China within that region (trillion dollar trade routes, oil and nat gas reserves), apart from it morphing from a cold war (part 2) that may go hot very quickly than anything that occurred within the 50s and 60s. It would also ignite the proxy war in the Middle East to a full scale conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia . This is where Russia would step in and annihilate Saudi Arabia to protect Iran. Saudi Arabia has kept it’s standing with Western allies (despite it funding and allowing an Islamic medieval cult to kill so many Western people). So the pressing question is; Would America help Saudi Arabia? The answer is Yes. With 30% Saudi of oil flowing through to power American automobiles. WW3 will be a war over an antiquated resource that has it’s origins in decay and death: Oil.
Now that the international court has sided with the Philippines in relation to China’s proxy invasion and occupation of Filipino territory (Scarborough Shoal, Mischief Reef, Kalayaan Islands ). The continued Chinese occupation of the majority of the South China Sea and the shipping routes will galvanize China further into a war footing. So, if China begins to attack Filipino ships or planes in any military escalation. America will retaliate due to it’s Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines (1951). As mentioned, a new cold war could could eventuate into a full blown global conflict.
Map of Chinese bases and territorial claims of South China Sea, from Bloomberg.