In the run-up to the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s decision regarding the Philippines/China dispute in the South China Sea, China has been “reclaiming,” building on and, the US charges, “militarizing” unoccupied, and in some cases, originally submerged features. The relatively muffled rhetoric on both sides have led to speculation as to what is going on behind the scenes.
This paper provides an overview of the chain of events contributing to the escalation of tensions in the South China Sea, as well as the context in which they occurred and potential connections they have. It is hoped this paper will help those concerned about the disputes see the bigger picture and get to the heart of why things have happened that way.
On December 30, 2013, the Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reforms was established, representing the largest re-centralization of power in recent history, altering the power distribution at the top and changing way the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) operates. Three years have since lapsed and it is time to take a closer look at this powerful body.
Greenpeace recently released its China air quality survey for the first quarter of 2016 and the results indicate improvements in most parts of the country. PM 2.5 levels across 355 Chinese cities surveyed fell 9 percent as compared to the same period in 2015.
An often-heard explanation is that China is simply trying to catch up with Vietnam, Malaysia, and the Philippines by creating a strong physical presence in the South China Sea. However, if the purpose is simply to make a point about sovereignty, it is unclear why the building projects were executed with such speed and scale.
Proposals for island construction in the Spratly Islands had been around for some time before Xi Jinping became president. Although the Hu Jintao leadership preferred not to act forcefully, the relevant bureaucracies were growing increasingly furious with what they saw as continued infringement of Chinese sovereign rights.