According to Business Insider
Reposted on News Republic
THURSDAY, MARCH 17, 2016 10:01 AM GMT
Slowly but steadily, Beijing has been expanding and developing its military capabilities in the South China Sea.
Over the protests of other countries in the region — particularly Vietnam and the Philippines — China has dredged islands, established runways, installed radars, and deployed surface-to-air missiles throughout the sea.
The following interactive map, from the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, demonstrates Beijing’s growing strength in the region.
On the map, Beijing declares ownership to everything within its own self-declared Nine-Dash Line. This line thoroughly cuts through the accepted maritime borders of multiple states in the region, including Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia.
However, China claims the majority of the contested region, which is home to $5 trillion in annual global trade.
According to author and the chief geopolitical analyst for Stratfor, Robert D. Kaplan, “the South China Sea functions as the throat of the Western Pacific and Indian oceans — the mass of connective economic tissue where global sea routes coalesce.”
“More than half of the world’s annual merchant fleet tonnage passes through these choke points, and a third of all maritime traffic worldwide,” Kaplan wrote in “Asia’s Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific.”
What’s more, Xi Jinping is at the helm of the world’s largest military. China’s roughly $356 billion budget dominates the region’s military spending.
To that end, the tit for tat over crumbs of land in the South China Sea isn’t for nothing.
The current deployment of assets throughout the South China Sea allows China to hypothetically respond to any military matter effectively. The distribution of air strips and helicopter pads throughout the region, according to the map, allows China to effectively project airpower and de facto further their claims to control the region.
These developments have led to a report from CSIS claiming that the South China Sea will be nothing but a “Chinese lake” by 2030. And in mid-February, Beijing took a further step of militarizing the region by placing advanced surface-to-air missiles on a disputed island to solidify its claims.
This militarization of the region, and the potential consequences, has led the former CIA chief Gen. Michael Hayden to claim that mishandling the rise of China “will be catastrophic.”