A dramatic change is taking place in the South China Sea where, since the beginning of this year, Beijing has created at least five new islands by dredging rock and sand and pumping it into reefs to form new land. By doing so, the Chinese are sending a blunt message to its neighbors and the U.S.: Keep out.
As a BBC News special report notes, China’s island building is aimed at addressing what it views as a serious strategic deficit:
In 2012 the Communist Party reclassified the South China Sea as a “core national interest”, placing it alongside such sensitive issues as Taiwan and Tibet. It means China is prepared to fight to defend it.
This is confirmed by Prof Yan Xuetong of Beijing’s Tsinghua University— a pro-government academic well known for presenting the Communist Party’s view to the outside world.
China’s land grab at sea is primarily directed at its main strategic rival, the United States. As the U.S. Pacific Fleet continues to sail regularly through the South Chinese Sea, the Chinese Navy has become more assertive. Last December, it dispatched its new aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, to shadow the U.S. Navy cruiser, USS Cowpens. A Chinese amphibious assault ship approached and ordered it to leave the area. The commander of the Cowpens refused, saying he was sailing in “international waters.”
According to the BBC, China appears to be preparing to build an airbase based on one of these new islands — Johnson South Reef (photo above) — with a concrete runway long enough for fighter jets to take off and land:
In 1823, US President James Monroe outlined what was later to become known as the “Monroe Doctrine.”
It identified the Western hemisphere as America’s backyard, and nowhere more so than the Caribbean Sea. Old European colonial powers were told to keep out.
Today China is doing something very similar in the East and South China seas.
Everything inside the so-called “first island chain”— which stretches north in a curving line from the coast of Borneo, past Taiwan to southern Japan— is, in Beijing’s opinion, China’s backyard. Beijing’s ambition is to dominate this sea-space and, ultimately, to deny access to the only other naval power in the world that can prevent China from doing so.
Full article: China Is Mass-Producing Islands To Extend Its Strategic Borders (io9)