According to some sources, China has become more emboldened in its activities in the South China Sea region. Pentagon reports claim that the reclamation of land mass by China in the area has grown dramatically in recent months, as it attempts to gain control of the artificial islands in the South China Sea. It is also suggested by the United States military organization that the Beijing authorities have overseen an aggressive patrolling of the waters from Chinese forces, with the aim of advancing its territorial claims to the region.
China accelerates South China Sea land accumulation
According to Pentagon reports, China has already accrued nearly 3,000 acres of land mass across a string of islands in the South China Sea. The region in question is often referred to as the Spratlys, and the amount of land reclaimed by China in the region has increased by nearly 50 percent since May. At this time, it was believed by the Pentagon that Beijing had already claimed around 2,000 acres of the South China Sea region.
There are concerns among the United States authorities that the South China Sea Islands will be utilized by China for military purposes in the future, and there is a fear that this could lead to significant instability in the region. Naturally this is something to be avoided at the best of times, but it is also notable that the South China Sea is one of the most important commercial shipping routes on the planet.
In general terms, this area has been considered one of international waters, but it is clear that China is now laying down a claim of dominance over the region. This is a policy that the United States is unlikely to be acquiescent with, as illustrated by its relatively aggressive stance in the region. But the chances of conflict between the United States, China and the allies of both the nations continues to grow at the same rate.
This latest report follows a high-profile visit to Washington by Chinese President Xi Jinping, with the aim of improving diplomatic relations between the two superpowers. There is no doubting the fact that the United States and China are the two most significant nations on the planet at present, occupying the first and second slots in terms of GDP by nation. It has been interesting to note in recent days that that United States stock market took something of a nosedive on perceived weaknesses in China, and there are now inextricable links between the two countries’ economies.
Meanwhile, despite the politically favourable relationship between the United States and China, and the fact that the two have been drawn together magnetically by economic issues, it is increasingly predicted that the two superpowers will come to blows in the foreseeable future. It seems that there is an intrinsic rivalry between China and the United States, and that it is inevitable at some point that this will begin to become somewhat strained.
The rate of growth of the South China Sea Islands from China’s development activity has accelerated considerably, according to the report, as the US military institution continues to monitor Chinese activity in the region. This study, entitled “The Asia-Pacific Maritime Security Strategy”, clearly runs contrary to previous claims made by China. The Chinese government had stated earlier in August that it had completely ceased reclamation operations in the South China Sea, but US officials were sceptical at the time regarding whether this state of affairs would remain permanent.
As US concern grows regarding the South China Sea region, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington stated that China had completely ceased any form of reclamation in the South China Sea region. Zhu Haiquan had spoken on behalf of the Chinese government, and suggested that the facilities being constructed on the South China Sea Islands are simply being produced for the general well-being of the public.
While the United States authorities have yet to directly question the role of China in the South China Sea, there is understandable concern among the government regarding the direction of Chinese policy in the region. It was notable that a Pentagon spokesmen recently challenged Beijing to elaborate on its plans in the region, while also explicitly refusing to directly contradict previous Chinese claims about reclamation having ended.
It is clear, if Pentagon reports are to be believed, that China has greatly expanded its activities in the area. Before the beginning of 2015, defense officials from the United States were of the opinion that China had only reclaimed around 500 acres of land mass in the South China Sea region, and that this had been mostly built atop semi-submerged reefs by using dredged material from the seafloor. With the suggested area of reclamation now around 600 percent larger than this, the efforts of China to engage in what could be considered provocative activity in the South China Sea have clearly redoubled over the last 12 months.
China dominating the Spratlys
This is further underlined by the statistic that China has, in fact, reclaimed 17 times more land than any other nation in the past 40 years. The Chinese reclamation has amounted to around 95% of all land in the Spratlys, at least according to Pentagon sources. China has evidently engaged in extremely aggressive conduct in the region, despite the fact that numerous Chinese neighbous also lay claim to the islands. Countries believing that they should have a stake in the South China Sea region include Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines,Taiwan and Vietnam.
Of these nations, Vietnam has reclaimed the most, around 80 acres, while Taiwan has reclaimed approximately eight acres; succinctly underlining the extent to which China is now dominating the region.
As geopolitics becomes increasingly defined on the rivalry between China and the United States, the development of the South China Sea question will be of increasing interest to the US authorities. Some might consider the US interest in the region to be rather hypocritical considering its own foreign policy, but it is certainly an interest that will continue into the future.