Thursday, May 24, 2018

China's Great Sea Grab

For a number of years the Republic of China has been engaged in a huge territory grab in the South China Sea. It has claimed countless coral reefs and engaged in building artificial islands, both of which it is using to construct new military bases. Other countries in the area dispute China's ownership of these islands and are becoming increasingly worried about the country's growing military presence.

Reuters has been examining satellite imagery to track China's military expansion in the South China Sea. In Concrete and Coral Reuters has worked with Earthrise Media to explore China's construction projects, particularly on the Paracel and Spratly islands. As part of this investigation Reuters has mapped out the extent of China's dredging and reclamation work on both island chains. This is presented in two maps showing the extent of the Paracel and Spratley islands before and after China's reclamation work.



Both these maps show that the territory owned by China has increased dramatically over the last few years as it reclaims land for military installations. During the same period the amount of reefs and islands owned by other countries on the Spratly Islands has remained largely the same. Only South Vietnam appears to have reclaimed a little land, and nowhere near to the extent of China.

Reuters' small multiples graphic of the Spratly and Paracel Islands is supported by satellite imagery which similarly shows the extent of China's dredging and reclamation work. The satellite imagery also reveals the extent of China's military construction work on the islands.

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative has mapped out all the territorial claims of the Asia Pacific. Its Maritime Claims of the Asia Pacific attempts to provide an as complete, accurate and up-to-date map as possible of all the competing maritime claims in the region.


On the map each country's territorial claims are shown using color-coded borders. The map includes a filter option which allows you to view any combination of countries' claims on the map. By selecting any two country's territorial claims on the map it is possible to see exactly where they have territorial disputes.

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative map doesn't show territorial claims for the Spratly and Paracel Islands "due to a lack of clarity about what each country claims".


In the last few years both China and Japan have escalated their military presence in the South and East China Seas. China has also become caught up in diplomatic rows with Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei over long standing conflicting claims over territorial rights in the China seas.

Al Jeezera has published a map examining the history of the South China Sea Disputes. The map explores some of the historical hot-spots between China and its neighbors in the area since 1974. The map itself was created using Leaflet.js and the Knight Lab Story Maps library.

The Story Maps template means that you can explore the map chronologically, using the forward and back arrows to progress through Al Jaeera's mapped history of the region. You can also click on the map markers to jump to individual locations on the map to learn more about the history of territorial disputes in that area.
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