The Conundrum of China’s Devilish Speed in Building Artificial IslandsPosted: March 12, 2017
I mentioned in my article “The Conundrum of China’s Massive Island Building in South China Sea” yesterday, according to Chinese navy’s plan, building two artificial islands on Fiery Cross and Mischief Reefs costs $5 billion and takes a decade. Now, it takes China a little over one year to complete the construction of seven large artificial islands. There shall be lots of equipment to build them at such devilish speed and most of the equipment will remain idle for a long time after construction of the islands has been completed as there will be no further need for them for quite a long time. The excessive number of equipment used for fast construction greatly increased the costs of construction.
Why such devilish high speed?
On October 21, 2005, Defense editor for The National Interest Dave Majumdar gives an answer to the question in his article titled “China’s Greatest Fear: U.S. Navy ‘Cruise Missile Carriers’”.
According to the article, US Navy shall build additional Ohio Replacement Program submarines to serve as cruise missile carriers for attacking Chinese homeland as it is too risky for US aircraft carriers to go within the range of China’s DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missiles to enable its fighter jets to attack China as US carrier-based warplanes’ range is limited.
Other US military experts are also of the opinion that US aircraft carriers are vulnerable to the saturate attack of not only DF-21Ds but also anti-ship cruise missiles; therefore, they believe that the US shall use submarine-launched cruise missiles to conduct first strike to neutralize Chinese land-based defense so that US carriers my come near China to conduct the second strike.
Chinese strategists certainly know that even US existing attack nuclear submarines can launch more than one thousand cruise missiles to conduct the first strike from the South China Sea. As US military interference with China’s disputes with its neighbors, especially the Philippines, seemed imminent, China had to build up a network of artificial islands to deploy an anti-submarine network to detect and track US submarines and have anti-submarine aircrafts and helicopters deployed on the islands to destroy US submarines when they have attacked China. It is precisely due to such defense urgency that China made such huge investment to build artificial islands so quickly.
Now, with those artificial islands, China is able to deploy enough anti-submarine facilities and firepower no matter how many ballistic missile submarines the US will build and deploy in the South China Sea. They constitute effective deterrence to US submarine attack of Chinese homeland.
As for surface fleets, a US study believes that a floating island together with two aircraft carriers is equivalent to 5 aircraft carriers. The three airports on three artificial islands in the Spratly Islands will be equivalent to at lease 9 aircraft carriers as they may support and supplement one another. Moreover, fixed artificial islands can carry much heavier loads than floating ones; therefore, they may have even greater firepower. For example, heavy fighter jets, fighter/bombers and bombers can take off from the long runway on the three islands to dominate the airspace and sink all US warships even without the help of the anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles from China’s southeastern coast.
As a result, in a war between China and the US, South China Sea will become forbidden area to US navy.
I mentioned in my article yesterday China’s defense strategy in establishing its Sansha prefecture-level city. When Sansha has grown into a true prefecture-level city, US warships will be sailing within the city when it patrols the South China Sea. They will thus be in a very dangerous position in sailing within a Chinese city. The establishment of Sansha City has thus put an end to US hegemony in the South China Sea!
However, if the city is established merely for military purpose, it will be a heavy financial burden on the state. The development of fishery, fish farming, energy exploitation and tourism will enable China to recover the costs and even make profits from the city. In that way, China is able to do more things in developing its military with a military budget much smaller than America’s.
Moreover, only by the establishment of Sansha City in the South China Sea can China really have the area claimed by it. A country’s marine area does not exist in map or its claim. There has to be extensive physical presence. The artificial islands, the permanent residents and tourists on them, the fish farming, the energy exploitation, the fishing boats and perhaps the floating islands that China will build there in the future will be China’s actual presence there. Only in that way will China be really benefited by its rights and interests in the area.
Article by Chan Kai Yee