Few can deny that China has had a particularly challenging year. In an effort to augment its sovereignty claims over what it considers as its national “blue soil,” China has inadvertently encouraged a growing number of nations to coalesce against it. One could argue that China has overplayed its hand, unleashing a dangerous strategic dynamic that threatens the whole region.
Throughout the early years of this decade, China rapidly and inexorably altered the maritime status quo in East Asia, wresting control of Philippine-claimed Scarborough Shoal and deploying a giant oil rig into Vietnamese-claimed waters in the South China Sea. In possession of cutting-edge technology, and confidently overseeing decades of relentless military modernization as well as paramilitary mobilization, China has transformed a whole host of contested low-tide elevations (LTEs), atolls, shoals and rocks into full-fledged islands. Within twenty months, it has reclaimed seventeen times more land than the other claimants combined over the past four decades.