Since taking power in 2012, Chinese President Xi Jinping has helped secured China’s position as a global superpower — and pushed forward a serious foreign policy, making bolder moves in several key flashpoints across Asia.
From the South China Sea to the Himalayan Sino-Indian border, and even in one of its own cities, China has doubled down on its claims of territory, and taken a harder line in response to perceived challenges.
And as those disputes escalated this year with renewed and rising tensions, Xi has bulked up the military and increased its budget, with the instruction to “resolutely safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests.”
Here’s what you need to know about China’s key flashpoints in the Asia-Pacific region.
Dotted with small islands, reefs and shoals, the South China Sea is a crucial global shipping route and home to a messy territorial dispute.
China claims it owns almost all of the 1.3 million square mile South China Sea, but at least six other governments also have overlapping territorial claims in the contested waterway: the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and Taiwan.
The United States doesn’t have any claims in the waters, but has repeatedly challenged China’s claims.
China went ahead and built islands anyway:Since 2014, China has turned numerous obscure reefs and sandbars — far from its shoreline — into man-made artificial islands heavily fortified with missiles, runways and weapons systems, prompting outcry from the other governments.
The US and its allies have pushed back by sailing warships through the South China Sea close to features claimed or occupied by China, in what it calls freedom of navigation operations (FONOPS). They say such patrols enforce the right of free passage in international waters; China argues these are violations of its sovereignty