Why China is building islands in the South China Sea

Why China is building islands in the South China Sea

This is Fiery Cross island.
It’s a little more than one square mile in size and it’s
home to a Chinese military base.
There’s a 10,000 foot airstrip, an
advanced radar station, a missile defense
system, and about 200 troops.
But the strangest thing about Fiery Cross Island
is that two years ago,
it didn’t exist.
And neither did the six other Chinese
military bases that have been built on
man-made islands in the South China Sea.
If you look at this satellite image from
2014, you can see huge Chinese ships
collecting around remote reefs in the Spratly
Islands. An archipelago in the South China Sea.
In this image, these ships are
rapidly pumping sand and rock up onto the
They’re building islands.
And less than a year later, the Chinese had seaports
air bases and buildings on their new
islands and the world had taken notice.
We continue our look this morning on what
China does not want you to see the
superpower is reclaiming land in seven
spots in the South China Sea adding on
average more than three-and-a-half acres
everyday. With these islands times trying
to lay claim to one of the most
important areas of ocean in the world
the South China Sea.
The South China Sea
is incredibly rich in natural resources
11 billion barrels of oil, 190
trillion cubic feet of natural gas and
ten percent of the world’s fisheries.
Most importantly though, 30%
of the world’s shipping trade flows through
here to the booming population centers
and economic markets of Southeast Asia.
It’s an extremely important body of
water and right now five countries lay
claim to some part of it.
Now, most countries base their claim off the UN
Law of the Seas, which says a country’s
territorial waters extend 200 miles
off their shore. An area called the exclusive
economic zone, or EEZ.
Countries have exclusive rights to all the resources
and trade in there EEZ. It’s their
sovereign territory.
So for example, any oil that’s found within
200 miles off the coast of Vietnam
belongs exclusively to Vietnam.
But any area that isn’t in an EEZ is regarded as
international waters and it falls under
UN maritime law which means everybody
shares it.
Now, every country in the South
China Sea region uses this 200-mile EEZ
threshold to determine its claims.
All except China. China argued they have a
historical claim to the South China Sea
dating back to naval expeditions in the
15th century. And they mark it using a really
confusing border called the nine-dash line.
Following World War II, Japan who
had dominated the entire region, lost all
control of its surrounding seas. China
used the moment to claim the South
China Sea by drawing this imprecise
line on the map that encompassed ninety
percent of the South China Sea. It became
known as the nine-dash line.
When the UN established the 200-mile EEZ in 1973
China stuck to its own line, refusing to
clarify its boundaries and ignoring claims
by other countries. Now that brings us to
the Spratly Islands. It’s a remote barely
inhabited cluster of islands currently
claimed by China, Vietnam, the Philippines,
and Malaysia. The Spratlys are both
geographically and symbolically at the
heart of South China Sea.
That’s because any country that can
claim the Spratly islands can extend
their EEZs to include them and gain
exclusive rights to the surrounding
But it’s really hard to legitimately claim uninhabited piles of
sand so a few nations have built small
buildings and ports on their claimed
islands and even stuck a few people
there. But China believes all the Spratly
Islands belong to them which brings us
back to why they’re building islands there.
Installing military bases on
these new artificial islands took the
dispute to a whole new level
showing how China’s potentially willing
to defend its claims with force.
Now this is about when the United States
took notice. While the US has no claim in
the South China Sea, it is the world’s
lone superpower and uses its massive
Navy to defend international waters.
China sees the US presence in the area
as an encroachment in their backyard.
When a US destroyer ship sailed just 12
miles off the shore of one of China’s
man-made islands and the Spratlys
China sent out their own destroyer and a
patrol boat as a warning.
China is building these islands in order
to increase control around the
surrounding waters. Using a strategy that
they’ve deemed “The Cabbage Strategy”.
Where they surround a contested island with as many
ships as possible. In May of 2013
China sent several ships to Ayungin
shoal, which is just 105
nautical miles off the coast of the
Philippines, well within that 200 mile
EEZ. The Philippines has eight soldiers
stationed there. Like wrapping leaves
around a cabbage the Chinese sealed off
the Philippines access to Ayungin
Shoal with fishing boats, surveillance
ships, and navy destroyers creating
blockade so that the Filipinos can’t
receive shipments of food and supplies.
By building their own man-made Islands
China’s essentially building naval bases.
The more Islands they have the more ships
they can support and more territory they
can slowly take control of. And the
Chinese cautiously use the cabbage
strategy in the Spratly islands, taking
over contested territory but in small
steps avoiding the possibility of
igniting a bigger conflict. But the
disputes are intensifying. Countries are
now actively arresting trespassers in
waters that they claim and China could
go a step further. Since 2015 they’ve
threatened to declare an air
identification zone above the South
China Sea, declaring that all aircraft
that fly through it would need Chinese
permission. Now, publicly China insists
that their intentions are not
militaristic but their actions say
otherwise and it’s heightening tensions
in the region
Steve Bannon who sits on the US National
Security Council and who is one of
President Trump’s closest advisors is
almost certain that the US will go to
war in the South China Sea. “We’re going
to war in the South China Sea, I was a sailor
there, a naval officer, we’re going to war
the South China Sea in five to ten
years aren’t we?”
“there’s no doubt about it”
But for now the disputes remain only in
the legal and diplomatic realms that only
occasionally break into minor clashes. In
July 2016 the international court at the
Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines
who charged China with invading their
rightful territory in the South China Sea.
China dismissed the ruling and enforcement
of the law doesn’t seem likely. Even from
the US who released a vague statement urging
the two countries to “clarify their
claims” and “work together to resolve their
disputes” which is another way of saying
“we don’t really want to deal with this”.
In fact, as the conflict escalates and
international courts get involved, the
US is stuck in a tricky position. On
one hand, they do not want to risk
provoking a conflict with China. But on
the other they want China to stop
bullying their allies in the region.
Up until now the US has managed the
situation by continuing to patrol through the
South China Sea.
It’s also likely that the US would fly fighter
jets above the sea if China actually does
declare an air identification zone.
These are symbolic but effective ways of
keeping Chine in check while not
getting too involved in the details of
the conflict. So far the disputes in the
South China Sea have not become violent
but countries are starting to defend
their claims by increasing troop numbers,
weaponizing their territory and
provoking each other. It’s a complex
situation that will continue to gain
international attention for better or
for worse.

100 thoughts to “Why China is building islands in the South China Sea”

  1. China deeply scare of CIA Tsunami bomb. They don't want something happened in South China the same as happened in Japan 2011.

  2. Because China needs to protect her import of energy and export of products from being cut by US through blocking her ships from sailing out of her "front door".

  3. Be careful what you wish for VOX. Do humanity a favor, don't get the world into war. Besides, you have more to lose than the rest of the world because you are most wealthy nation. Asian countries will be semi destroyed too. And the rest of the world will lose a couple of decades of decent lives at least. God is not mocked, even if you spin well on your narratives about having your weapons stationed all over to other people's backyards. Remember, it is against the record of history that a nation remains at the hegemonic position forever. Roman Empire lasted 400 years, British Empire lasted 200 years, American Empire so far lasted 100 years. Maybe it will last another decade or two, but if history is any guide to understand the nature of human civilisational development, it is a given that all empires go through births, development, peaking, demise, and perhaps into another recycle. So, do not be unwise to destroy humanity for uncalled for reason, and certainly unjust cause.

  4. China is a slow learner that's why only now it conquer and build some island to colonize it….China copycat the British, American, France….etc on colonization ..

  5. The question is if the US does go to war can it win, it may not be the technological power it once was anymore, people still talk of how badly they lost in Africa, against guerilla fighter at that, and people remember Vietnam another lost war? And China is essentially the up and coming challenger to the US, without even knowing it – that will have advanced technologies within its arsenal – the question is not if China can beat the US but if China goes to war with the US too early within its technological development? And bear in mind what has continually be shown on Google maps in terms of China thought out UFO communities (expensive jet fighter and installations) – which appears to be advanced technologies or bases…

    Think about it..then ask yourself, in an evolving world where less economically developed countries are becoming super powers with huge economies, and full of resources, how long before the US falls and loses world wide influence and in terms of empirical power? It seem like there is a perception all players of games like Civilisation and Total War understand thoughrilly , that being when states become technologically advanced they will eventually take control; or there be a scenario where one state that had an opportunity to stay in power or shape the world then finds itself bullied into a corner because it has waited to long and groups of states relegate that state to the background. And most players cheat to keep their treasury fully, to fund the military effort – so most likely understand; but in the real world printing money infinitely without gaining confidence in your money make you really really poor; so in one sense maybe we should be impressed with the US treasury capabilities…

    Consider China, India, and eventually South America and Africa and Saudi Arabia – can you really see the US holding power over these states when they all begin building fighter jets, air craft carriers, and alternative advanced technologies …unless it leads integration? I think the US has a sceptical mind of who are its friends and foes personally, and seems like a strong but aging power…

    Personally though China does do itself any favours with a technological fire wall and displays of it military power, and imagine what the scenario would be if China now had Nuclear weapons? and bear in mind the Chinese are Engineers, and more now – they can replicate advanced technologies. And they forced assimilation of asian territories was not good PR either.. ~You know if you live by the sword you can complain when someone with a bigger sword come along…

  6. [Summary:]
    Other countries: According to the UN Law of the Seas, we can claim parts of the seas that are 200 miles off our country's shore. Are we cool with this?
    China: Oh you mean I can claim 90% of it?
    Other countries: What? No. I said only 200- –
    China: But I made these dashes on the map during the war, which means I have historical rights to the sea, so it's mine, right?
    Other countries: No because- – wait, what are you doing??
    China: Nothing. Nothing. I'm just sending out a few ships out to our claimed islands. (hehehe)
    Philippines: Uhmmm.. Why are you so close?
    China: shhhh.. we're definitely not closing you in with all our intimidating surveillance ships around your islands so you can't supply food there while we're building more naval bases around our islands to make more ships so there's nothing to worry about.. By the way! You are all gonna need air identification when flying above the Spratly Islands!
    Other countries: What? Why?
    China: Nothing. It's just a formality. No big deal. It's definitely not so that no one can see what we're up to.
    The Hague: Okay! We decided that the Spratly Islands belong to the Philippines because China is already so big and the Philippines are closer and are much smaller!
    China: What?! No! I dismiss that! That means nothing!
    Philippines: Uhmm.. America? Care to help your ally a little bit?
    US: Ehhh.. I don't know.. Can you two just talk it out or something? I mean I do want to protect you but China is a bit too much for me, but I'll check on them once in a while to see what they're up to.
    Philippines: Okay.
    years later
    Duterte (pres. of the Philippines): We're friends with China now! 😀
    Filipinos: Yayyyy!! So they finally gave us the Spratly Islands huh? About time! Good job, Pres. Duterte!
    Duterte: Islands? What islands?
    Philippines: 🤦

  7. What I don't understand is, disregarding to what country those islands belongs to, isn't it illegal to ruin natural resources? China is obviously doing it, what now UN? Dont you have grounds for that? 🤦‍♀️

  8. i can't wait for china to build islands everywhere and then my generation will have to pay the price for it.

  9. China is probably gonna build their military like Hitler and conquer small hongkong and the world. By thn Taiwan, hongkong, Macau, the US and all southeast asia will now bow down to china….and destroy the protesters

  10. It seems like there's no rule that can bind China. They bow to no one but themselves, so the world rule does not apply to them, or you can say they don't want to obey the rule.

    They're so smart you know, they're coming and blending among you for years, made thousands of offspring inside a country outside their own. In my country too, they're so many of them and one region in my country that used to known as a region of thousand mosques now known as region of thousand temples.

    Sometimes it's okay to be smart, to show the world that you're capable of doing everything. But you have to know too, that there're many people that suffer bcause of it.

  11. But Artificial Islands cannot claim any Territorial Sea or any maritime zone as I know. So China seems to be increasing their military presence to actually claim territory by using threat or use of force and that is against the Peaceful Uses of the High Seas in UNCLOS III. Can someone please clarify?

  12. America protected the Philippines because PH is allied by US but the PH president don't need Fakehelp by US anymore because if they truly help the Philippines why they let China building construction in our west Philippine sea? US already know that before PH know that China building construction in west PH sea

  13. Amazing construction feat when you see what they done in a year in a area known for typhoons etc and on a bit of coral in the middle of the sea
    This should be a warning to everyone
    Especially Asia as china’s behaviour resembles japan and Germany before world war 2 ….except China has thought this one out already and is acting to a long term plan and strategy

  14. China seems obssesed to be bigger in everything, no matter wrong or right how how they do, they keep going.

  15. So by building these bases, China violated Philippine Environmental laws and needs to pay $300 billion in damages to wildlife.

  16. China, y'all deserve Donald Trump. Take your favorite gambler, he'd perhaps be quite jealous of your own version of the American Vegas. Trump is easily jealous, y'all would find his jealousy highly entertaining. Trump's jealousy could even result in excellent Chinese television ratings. We'd even pay to watch China diligently showing Trump their own version of casinos, but, ya gotta promise to let Trump build a casino over there without actually following through. The unfulfilled promise with his jealousy would make even all of Russia take pause. Russia didn't even trust in Trump's casino abilities, they're just humoring his long track record of business failures.

  17. China is not the only one building islands in south china sea ,and not the first one either .why dont you mention others??

  18. 美国这个流氓国家,到处惹事生非。南海自古以来就是中国的领土,东南亚所有的国家都是认同承认的

  19. China building military island- you care (western).
    Israel taking Palestine land- you dnt care (western).
    So irony…

  20. Why? Because Vietnam, Philippines built man made islands in SCS first, and because Americans are not to be trusted to protect Chinese ships. Period.

  21. hit china first economicaly ,gather support with a military alliance with multiple nations including europe,then get tough.

  22. The main point they all ignore spetialy China is that the law of the sea states that artificial islands do not count for the exclusive zones, the islands are at best small forts guarding trade routes, China is trying to ensure its dominance of international trade

  23. China under Xi Jingping have ambition to control the world just like England, France, Japan before Second World War, because it is getting stronger in economy and military. China now want to create an Empire of China. But China are not aware that its plan will fail terribly, because the Holy Bible prophecies this event.

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