The Astonishing Rise of the China’s Reef-Destroying Military Islands In High Resolution

by Chris Dixon

Subi Reef – This reef has changed dramatically in recent months. The southern, western, and northern edges of the reef have been reclaimed and an access channel to the inner harbor cut out. Dredgers continued to operate here in June. Two cement plants are being built along the western bank. Image: Washington Post/AMTI. 

In April, we ran a story that tracked some of the troubling destruction China is wreaking on reefs in the South China Sea in the pursuit of miltary and commercial bases. They’re actually building islands out of atolls. 

Today The Washington Post published a stunning series of images collected by the Asian Maritime Transparency Institute that lays out in depressing detail, the level of destruction and the scale of construction that China is bringing to what otherwise once appeared to be beautiful, blue atolls in the South China Sea.

Can we do a damn thing about it? No, not really. Will the future conflicts sure to erupt over these disputed territorial waters one day bring war back to South Asia? That remains to be seen.


Mischief Reef. The northern, western and southern landmasses constructed in the early Spring of 2015 have now been connected and are being reinforced with seawalls. Recent widening of the southern entrance to the reef may suggest a future role as a naval base, AMTI says. Image: Washington Post/AMTI. 

But these images clearly show what China has yet again proven. That a mammoth government that exists without any real sort of oversight from its people, and with little regard to the natural world can wreak apocalyptic damage on its land, ocean and resources with lightening speed.

To see more, have a look at the Washington Post’s and AMTI’s stellar collection of images. And maybe, give it a share. We  — CD

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