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.
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.”