The South China Sea (SCS) is one of the classical example of a non-volcanic passive margin situated within three tectonic plates of the Eurasian, Indo-Australian and Philippine Sea plate. The development of SCS resulted from interaction of various types of plate boundaries, and complex tectonic assemblage of micro blocks and accretionary prisms. Numerous models were proposed for the formation of SCS, yet none can fully satisfy different aspects of tectonic forces. Temporal and geographical reconstruction of Cretaceous and Cenozoic magmatism with the isochrones of major basins was conducted. Our reconstruction indicated the SE margin of Asia had gone through two crustal thinning events. The sites for rifting development are controlled by localized thermal weakening of magmatism. NW–SE extension setting during Late Cretaceous revealed by magmatism distribution and sedimentary basins allow us to allocate the retreated subduction of Pacific plate to the cause of first crustal thinning event. A magmatic gap between 75 and 65 Ma prior to the initiation of first basin rifting suggested a significant modification of geodynamic setting occurred. The Tainan basin, Pearl River Mouth basin, and Liyue basins started to develop since 65 Ma where the youngest Late Cretaceous magmatism concentrated. Sporadic bimodal volcanism between 65 and 40 Ma indicates further continental extension prior to the opening of SCS. The E–W extension of Malay basin and West Natuna began since late Eocene followed by N–S rifting of SCS as Neotethys subducted. The SCS ridge developed between Pearl River Mouth basin and Liyue basin where 40 Ma volcanic activities concentrated. The interaction of two continental stretching events by Pacific followed by Neotethys subduction with localized magmatic thermal weakening is the cause for the non-volcanic nature of SCS.
- Basin development
- South China Sea
- Tectonic reconstruction
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)