The Chinese technological ruse that threatens the international balance

China defies the world and international laws, and creating islands continues unstoppably feeding its expansionist pretensions. She turns a deaf ear to the warnings of red lines from the US through dredging carried out by an arsenal of boats and excavators with which, since 2013, she has raised artificial land on which she places her flag and her weapons. Thus China and its state-owned fishing and oil companies are claiming their sovereignty over almost all of the South China Sea. And with it, on all the resources found in the outskirts of these new pieces of land, ignoring the interests of the countries in the area.

US Admiral Harry Harris described this Chinese ruse as "building a Great Wall of sand." A tactic as bizarre as if a machine were used between the Strait of Gibraltar and Morocco to create a new territory in international waters. And on that map where it creates islands it comes into conflict with Taiwan in the north, the Philippines in the east, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei in the south, and Vietnam in the west.

The Tian Kun Hao atp dredging vessel

To carry out its plan, China has used its crown jewel and its younger brothers. Chinese authorities say it is Asia's largest cutter, the ship dubbed the 'magical island maker', the Tian Kun Hao. A boat that premiered in front of Trump, and that since February 2022 sails the seas again. She is capable of excavating large sections of the seabed and moving them up to 15 km to lay out new islands. She can drill 6,000 m3 per hour, equivalent to three swimming pools, and reach 35 m below the surface of the sea. She cuts material from the seabed, sand, coral or mud.

This deeply worries the rest of the world. And the area is abuzz. Nicolas Chaillan, the former technology guru of the Pentagon, even declared that "we are close to a new Pearl Harbour". Fernando Cortiñas, a professor at IE Business School, explains that this artificial island project is nothing more than an extension of the Silk Road, and his desire to displace the US from the global stage.

Cortiñas establishes «China, as it grows in the maritime part, presses and its maritime strategies will mean that it will have conflicts with Japan in the East China Sea, in the Indian Ocean with India, in the Pacific with the United States. And she bullies smaller countries in the crucial South China Sea. A sea, adjacent to the Pacific that occupies three and a half million km2, equivalent to the entire EU, without Spain and Portugal. It is no coincidence that the US Marines are dusting off the island military strategy manuals they used in World War II, while rehearsing maneuvers with Japan.

And as Inés Arco, a researcher at Cidob, points out, "80% of global trade, according to Unctad", passes through this area, so the Chinese movement is not trivial "The construction of artificial islands and civil infrastructure works is of use dual, that is, they can be used for military purposes if the situation requires it. In addition, it is important to highlight the negative environmental impact of what these boats do, "Arco clarifies. In the artificial islands in (Spratly, Paracel Islands, Natuna Islands and Scarborough Shoal) tourist cities, airports or military bases have been built.

Exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles

Territorial waters claimed by China

Source: Own elaboration / ABC

Territorial waters claimed by China

Exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles

Source: Own elaboration / ABC

New lands

Víctor Yepes, Doctor of Civil Engineering, Canals and Ports and Professor of Construction Engineering at the UPV, details that «as regards artificial islands, the construction processes go through the filling of breakwaters or materials from the bottom of the sea. Dredgers, such as Tian Kun Hao, have a submersible cutter head (cutter), and suction equipment.

The Tian Kun Hao technique could be explained as a lagoon surrounded by a retaining wall of coral. “They introduce boats into that lagoon, put sand, concrete, stones and pump the water out of that line of coral. And they deepen the outer perimeter of the island to create deep-water ports where ships dock,” says Cortiñas.

China leans to claim the China Sea on a 1947 map called 'the nine dotted line'. The problem, says Cortiñas, is that with this action it invades the territorial waters of neighboring states, according to international law. But it is that “controlling this sea means enormous resources of gas and oil. And dominate access to the flow of ships that supply China, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan. Two billion people, a third of the world's population depend on that area. Under international laws on the Law of the Sea, a country that owns an island has the right to the resources of up to 370 km around it. Therein lies the catch.

In addition, an AMTI study revealed that China places anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense systems on these artificial islands. "However, the US is in charge of passing near those islands with fleets of warships to remind them that it is a free navigation zone," Cortiñas describes. And there are also Russian ships that have gone to support the Chinese in that area. What happens in the South China Sea is a precursor to what may come to pass in the Pacific. The fact that the Tian Kun Hao has returned to circulate means that China continues to generate land. Cortiñas points out “it is a complex problem, but if time is allowed to pass it may be too late to cut off its sovereign desire. The open question in this tension is when will the moment of 'enough is enough' (enough is enough)».

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