Why China’s island building is so foreboding


Over the past six months, China has gotten a little bit bigger. China’s expansion, which has amounted to less than two square miles of new land, is making waves not for how big it is, but where it is.

Chinese engineers, with the help of barges and dredging machines, have been enlarging tiny reefs, sand spits, and islets in the South China Sea that Beijing claims as its own. China is busy building harbor facilities and airstrips on these new islands, ostensibly with civil purposes, but with a decidedly military bent.

Meanwhile, China’s neighbors are anything but pleased. For many, the land reclamation amounts to someone else building in their front yard, on territory they consider their own.

In 2009, China published the so-called “nine dash line”: a line on a map submitted to the United Nations that demarcated Chinese territory in the South China Sea. China bases this claim on historical maps and statements going back as far as the third century A.D.

All in all, the nine-dash line claims 1.35 million square miles, approximately 90 percent, of the South China Sea as Chinese territory. Much of this territorial grab, in addition to claiming what were previously international waters, conflicts with competing territorial claims from Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Brunei.

Read more: http://theweek.com/articles/550343/why-chinas-island-building-foreboding