China has never forgotten that all great powers in modern history employed a solid navy tied to their commercial exploits. Beijing is now expanding its maritime reach throughout the South China Sea.
One objective to greater strategic control of the sea in the past few months has been the construction of artificial islands that would act as de facto territories and military bases. Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., and many other experts, are concerned that China is converting the underwater Fiery Cross Reef into the largest artificial island in the Spratly archipelago. Construction is done at a rapid pace by pouring sand and cement over the existing coral reef walls. Admiral Harris has dubbed this the as the “Great Wall of Sand.”
But even if this is a “Great Wall of Sand,” should America fear a transition for the worse? In many ways, yes. It is closer to a stake in the waters than a wall. The Spratly’s are closer to several other states in the dispute than to mainland China and the UNCLOS states that uninhabited islands cannot be economic exclusive zones. But considering china’s history with great walls, they typically mean insular defense. This barrier reef approach is based on a soft expansive sea forward initiative. Naturally, Beijing wants to claim what is theirs; even in the outrageous stretch to the distant Spratly Islands, which are closer to the Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.
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