Checking China’s military build-up in the South China Sea


China intends to ignore the Obama administration’s demand that it halt its military base-building in the South China Sea. It is time for Washington to face a new reality: Either it leads the way to a new “armed peace” in this region, or China will soon commence a war for domination.

First, it is important to understand why China will continue to ignore Washington, as it has rebuffed nearly 20 years of regional diplomacy seeking to avoid conflict over this crucial maritime region, now used annually by 40 percent of the world’s merchant ships.

Simply put, for China’s Communist Party leadership, control of the South China Sea is essential to protect Hainan Island as a base from which it intends to project global military and space power, and which it views as essential to ensuring the survival of its political dictatorship.

Already, Hainan Island has become a base for projecting nuclear power from China’s growing fleet of nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines. In the late 1990s, China started building a new underground base there to protect these submarines. Hainan will also host one or two aircraft carrier and large amphibious assault ship groups. These can be used to protect the submarines and to project Chinese military influence to the Middle East and beyond.