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Beijing will race to catch up in South Sea dispute

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Subject

Chinese construction work on South China Sea reefs.

Significance

The latest aerial and satellite photography shows rapid progress in China's expansion of its outposts in the disputed Spratly islands of the South China Sea through land reclamation, creating artificial islands. US and Philippine officials have criticised these activities as "aggressive" and "destabilising", and much commentary has cast them as alarming and expansionary. However, they are only the latest development in a programme of Chinese consolidation dating back to the 1980s.

Impacts

  • Rival claimants will upgrade their military capabilities and facilities in the area.
  • Hanoi, Manila and Washington will seek ways of credibly imposing costs on China for its island-building.
  • Manila's and Hanoi's efforts to upgrade bilateral ties will be boosted.
  • Chinese fishing activities will increase, potentially resulting in volatile on-water situations.
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