The under-the-radar South China Sea projects Beijing uses to cement its claims

The under-the-radar South China Sea projects Beijing uses to cement its claims

  • China is relying not just on the military but also on civilian and scientific activities to strengthen its position in the region
  • Those efforts are in less sensitive areas than other countries claiming rights to the region, a Chinese analyst says

Its navy drills grab most of the attention, but China has also been quietly mounting a range of civilian and scientific operations to consolidate its claims in the South China Sea.

The diversified approach includes setting up a maritime rescue centre in Sansha, a prefecture-level city on Woody Island, which China calls Yongxing. It also involves undisclosed research and oil infrastructure.

Observers said the multipronged approach is meant to bolster China’s presence and consolidate its actual control over the waterway as other counties repeatedly question its claims to the waters.

“A diversified approach can show China’s sovereignty, and managing related affairs and providing services to others in the region can put China in a stronger position in relation to the claims,” said Zhang Mingliang, a specialist in South China Sea studies at Jinan University in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou.