US watches as Beijing forges ahead with S China Sea oilfield plans

China’s recently published Resource Development Strategic Action Plan (2014-2020) says the country plans to establish a large oilfield in the disputed South China Sea in the next six years capable of producing around ten million tonnes of oil a year, according to Duowei News, a media outlet run by overseas Chinese.

From the end of 2013 China has accelerated land reclamation projects in the area, with Fiery Cross Reef, which is also claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan, being expanded to 0.9 square kilometers as of Oct. 16, making it now the largest island in the disputed Spratlys. Estimates based on a satellite image taken on Nov. 17 suggest that the reef has now grown in area to 1.3 square km and that the reclaimed land is structured like a landing strip. Under previous administrations China had pushed for the shelving of disputes and the joint exploration of resources in the region by claimant nations out of diplomatic considerations, Duowei stated. Due to the land reclamation projects and moves to build airports as well as calls for bids to exploit oil resources by other claimants, however, the shelving of disputes is no longer on China’s agenda. Under Xi Jinping’s leadership, there has been an increased military presence in the region and moves that suggest China is moving forward with its plans to exploit resources. Continue reading