China's New Island-Building Tech Sure To Churn South China Sea

(MENAFN- Asia Times) Chinese scientists have devised a new method to overcome the challenges of constructing on soft coral sand, upping the stakes in the disputed South China Sea where rival claimants are racing to build up features to gain a military edge.

This month, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported that scientists from China's Ocean University have developed a new excavation method that overcomes the limitations of soft coral sand for artificial island building.

SCMP notes that China's three largest artificial islands, Meiji (Mischief Reef), Yongshu (Fiery Cross Reef) and Zhubi (Subi Reef) create a triangular defense position against US bases in the Philippines.

The report notes that China has transformed seven reefs in the Spratlys into artificial islands using a distinctive method that involves extracting coral from the reef's core, pulverizing it and piling it up to create elevated artificial land to host various facilities.

SCMP says the Chinese science team, led by Chen Xuguang, proposed building large tunnels beneath each island to bolster China's foothold in the region without provoking its neighbors.

China's military and government have mandated that construction activities must not disrupt daily operations or the stability of existing surface structures due to the delicate underlying coral sand layer, the SCMP report said.

Chen and his colleagues have developed an engineering technique that injects a slurry mixed with fine cement particles into the ground through vertical pipes, fills in the gaps between the coral sand grains and solidifies into a rock-hard underground mass once the cement sets.

SCMP notes that scaled-down laboratory tests confirmed that tunnels could be excavated in this artificial substrate without the intrusion of external seawater or secondary disasters such as ground subsidence.

China's reclamation in the South China Sea has posed an ongoing problem for the US and the Philippines, prompting both nations to seek an adequate long-term response.


Asia Times

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