OUP accepted manuscript
National Science Review
Radiometric dates of key rock units indicate that a remnant Late Mesozoic ocean of the Huatung Basin is still preserved today east of the South China Sea (SCS). We integrate regional geology with a Cretaceous oceanic basement in the vicinity of the Huatung Basin to reconstruct the Huatung Plate east of the Eurasian continent. Results of geophysical investigations, four expeditions of deep-sea drilling and a renaissance of regional geology allow us to propose a hypothesis that the mechanism
... the mechanism responsible for the SCS opening was raised from strike-slip fault on the east. The hypothesis suggests that the SCS opening could highly relate to the strike-slip faults inherited from Late Mesozoic structures onshore-offshore the SE Cathaysia Block to develop rhombic-shaped extensional basins en echelon on the thinned Eurasian continental crust in the Early Cenozoic. It was followed by sinistral strike-slip movements along the boundary between the Eurasian Plate and the Huatung Plate driven by oblique subduction of the Huatung Plate to the northwest coupled with slab-pull force by southward subduction of the Proto-SCS to open up the triangle-shaped oceanic East Sub-basin in the Early Oligocene (33/34 Ma). The spreading ridge then propagated southwestward in the step-over segment between the Zhongnan-Lile and the Red River strike-slip fault systems to open the triangle-shaped oceanic Southwest Sub-basin by 23 Ma. The plate boundary fault was subsequently converted into the Manila Trench when the Eocene Sierra Madre arc of the Huatung Plate had moved from the south to its present latitude by the Middle Miocene.