How does/will China keep their created islands from being washed away?

Does anyone know how China is or will keep their hand built islands in the South China Sea from being washed away from the seemingly myriad typhoons that hit the area every year? I was watching the news about the one currently hitting Hong Kong and Guangzhou and wondering how the people on those islands are making out, since it was also in the news that China is doubling down on their South China Sea adventure by declaring an air and sea exclusion zone and the possibility of reprisals for violators. Looking at the islands shown in the news they don’t look like there is much to them, protection wise, from something like a typhoon. Anyone know what the deal is?

Its the same as any other land reclaimation project, you need to continuously work to keep the sea at bay and rebuild after major natural disasters.

And lots and lots of tetrapods. Clever things - they interlock with their neighbors and allow water to flow through so they tend not to get moved.

Plus, when the Kaiju come, they have lots of appropriately sized caltrops to slow them down.

This is one of the issues of dispute. There’s a question over what constitutes an “island”.

The first step is that it has to be above water. And not just part of the time. It doesn’t count if it’s only above water at low tide.

The second step is there has to be some kind of life on it. If there’s nothing living on it, it’s just considered a “rock” and not an “island”.

So generally speaking, an island is something which sticks out of the water and has something living on it. But there’s a new question: how did the island get there? Can you make an island or does it have to occur naturally?

One argument is that an island is an island, regardless of what it’s made out of or how it got there.

Another argument is that an island has to be made out of “natural materials”. So you can make an island if you dredge up sand and rocks but not if you use metal supports and concrete.

A third argument is that an island has to be formed by “natural processes”. So an island that’s artificially constructed doesn’t count even if it’s made out of natural materials.

I don’t believe that the Chinese give a darn, and I don’t see them paying attention to any organization.

Pretty sure this has been dealt with by the Hague ruling, which talked about China’s spurious historical claim as well as to re-address what constitutes an ‘island’ wrt colonization and asserting territorial waters and exclusive economic zones, which are the key aspects of this (i.e. no one cares if someone builds an island out of whole cloth…what they care about is trying to assert EEZ and TW status from that). ETA: And as carnivorousplant says, the Chinese themselves don’t really care nor does it look like they are going to back down whatever anyone says.

I don’t know how sustainable these ‘islands’ are going to be in terms of physically (as opposed to politically), though that link that gotpasswords gave about the tetrapods makes me wonder now. I was thinking that a really heavy typhoon could wipe those ‘islands’, which can’t be more than a meter or so in elevation I wouldn’t think. But maybe they will survive longer than I think…though I certainly wouldn’t want to be on one if a typhoon was coming in. :eek:

Many of the major coastal Asian megacities, like Shenzen, Mumbai, Karachi, Hong Kong are partially or even mostly built on reclaimed land. So its not like there is no experience in this matter.

I tried to find out what construction method China was using but, from what I found, it appears they’re using a variety of methods. The main one seems to be dredging up sand from the ocean floor and dumping it where they want to build up an island. But in other cases they’re building metal and concrete structure. And in some cases, they’re scuttling ships and using them as the foundations to build off of.

Playing devil’s advocate, China does have a point about the Hague Ruling being biased against it. Past policy has always been that an island is an island, regardless of its origins. And any island generates a claim to territorial waters and exclusive economic zones. My understanding is the recent Hague ruling is the first time a distinction has been drawn between natural islands and artificial islands, with artificial islands not granting rights. China is arguing, with some justification, that the United Nations made up a new international law just to target China.

Do you have a cite showing that the new ruling is a change from previous policy and that other countries in the past (and who were signatories to the treaty) were able to build islands out of nothing, and then extend their EEZ and TW from that point? I have never seen a similar case that China could point to as precedence for what they are doing in the SCS

Not just sand, live coral.

Reclaiming land in this way isn’t new. Japan has two airports that I can think of (Nagoya and Osaka) that are built on completely man-made islands (and the second article links to several more). Interestingly, it appears that one of the biggest problems is the settling of the fill material, which results in a lowering of the island elevation over time. Depending on the original sea floor depth in the area and the properties of the fill material they used, China’s new islands could sink to below sea level in just a few years’ time.

The USA touched the waters with its toes and backed off for it being too hot to handle. None of the other claimants to the Spratly area can take on the mighty Chinavwithout help from USA.

India could be persuaded to take on China which is building a nexus with Pakistan. That would suit USA but not really India who have pretty much sewn up the Kashmir issue for the past 70 years.

USA are blinking in this fight and coming second best. They should not have meddled. NATO also wont care as it is too far away.

This is getting even more far afield of the OP, but what do you base this assertion that the US is blinking and dipped a toe and ran away? We have been pretty consistently overflying the region as well as transiting our warships through it to make the point that we aren’t caving in on this. I think Obama et al have taken a pretty good policy on this, and don’t see how we could have done anything differently. We are currently negotiating with the Philippines for basing rights as well as loans for equipment for the Philippines, we are working with our other allies in the region (Austrailia has also been using it’s warships and air force to overfly the region to make the point it’s international waters), we are negotiating with Vietnam to open up US markets for things like warships and other things, as well as talk of a mutual defense treaty, etc etc. That doesn’t seem, to me, to be the actions of someone poking their toe in and running away scared, nor someone blinking. We haven’t gone in guns blazing, true, but then that probably wouldn’t do more than spark a major war in a region where a large percentage of the worlds trade transits each year.

Even if one argues that this targets China now, China isn’t the only nation that could seek to significantly extend its territory this way. IMHO, this would be a dangerous policy to encourage.

Here is article 121 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

“Islands” as defined in the Convention are “naturally formed”. The ordinary meaning seems clear enough to me. An artificial island is not “naturally formed”. Even if it somehow wasn’t clear, allowing states to create fully entitled islands at will simply by piling up dirt would obviously be contrary to the object and purpose of the article and the Convention.

This isn’t some new, “made up” law, it’s part of a treaty China took part in negotiating and chose to become a party to in 1996.
And I don’t think China actually disagrees with this particular interpretation of the Convention. China’s complaint with regards to “rocks” is rather that the tribunal was too strict about what it takes to “sustain human habitation or economic life of their own”.

Sure, but is there any kind of historical precedent for a nation dredging up an “island” nearly 3 times the standard exclusive economic zone distance away from their shores, so they can claim everything in between?

That’s what this is about, not lawyering about the status of rocks vs. islands, and the definition of habitable. Pretty much every other nation in the South China Sea is closer to the Spratlys than China, but they’re basically acting like a huge international bully to claim the entire sea as their own.

And the UN doesn’t like that; so they made it illegal.

If China needs to be taught a lesson, even with force, the time is now.

With their power and finances who knows what they will get up to next. They should be dealt with now.

Dont get me wrong. The USA does not appear to be mobilising opinion of the bigger world powers like NATO, Russia etc. They are treating this like a regional issue, where as the blatant moves by China will have far reaching consequences for the world at large, especially if they feel emboldened to do this and get away with it. overflying the territory is childs play of thumbing the nose. We need more diplomatic overtures and mobilisation of world opinion and USA should lead it as the dominant nation in the world.