Never underestimate Chinese engineering. First the Great Wall, then the Grand Canal, and now the Great Wall of Sand.
China is rapidly augmenting features in the South China Sea (SCS) on industrial scale—hundreds of acres (more than 4 square km)—that even its neighbors combined cannot match. “Features,” is the key word here, because many were previously small rocks or reefs not legally considered “islands.” Then China used some of the world’s largest dredgers to build up some of the most pristine coral reefs above water with hundreds of tons of sand, coral cuttings, and concrete. U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Harry Harris aptly terms China’s creation a “Great Wall of Sand.”
But it’s what China is constructing atop its reclamation that most concerns its neighbors and the United States: militarily relevant facilities, including runways that could allow Beijing to exert increasing influence over the contested SCS.