China Power

The Environmental Cost of China’s South China Sea Construction

Plus, more on the Tianjin explosions, China previews Xi’s trip to DC, and the world’s biggest solar plant. China links.

The Environmental Cost of China’s South China Sea Construction
Credit: Victor Robert Lee, Airbus Defense & Space, and Digital Globe

Time for your weekly round-up of China links:

We’ve seen plenty of stories about the strategic implications of China’s land reclamation and construction on reefs in the South China Sea. This week, The Guardian explored the environmental impact – and it’s bad, according to experts interviewed for the piece. Using the same satellite images pored over by defense experts, environmental scholars point out the signs of damage to coral reefs.

“Building new manmade islands on top of shallow reefs is smothering them with sediment, and turning clear water muddy – the environmental damage is substantial and unprecedented in scale,” one expert on coral tells The Guardian.

In other news, China is busy preparing for President Xi Jinping’s upcoming visit to the United States. Foreign Minister Wang Yi gave a preview of the visit, and an overview of U.S.-China relations in a speech at the Lanting Forum in Beijing. Wang promised that “a large number of cooperation agreements that will have far-reaching impacts will be signed,” giving a laundry list of areas for these “important agreements”: “economy and trade, energy, people-to-people exchange, climate change, environmental protection, finance, science and technology, agriculture, law enforcement, defense, aviation and infrastructure development.”

Cyber may have been absent from that list, but Wang also promised that “the two sides will step up dialogue on cyber issues, work together to combat all forms of cyber-crimes according to law, uphold cyber security and carry out cooperation in cyberspace.”

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A separate article by Huang  Yinjiazi in Xinhua outlined the prospects of the U.S. cooperating on China’s signature foreign policy initiative, the “Belt and Road.”  The article notes that the U.S. has its own “New Silk Road Initiative” and says that “Xi’s upcoming U.S. visit in late September will offer a golden opportunity for China and the United States to review their versions of ‘Silk Road’ initiative to see what they could do together.”

Speaking of Silk Road projects, chinadialogue hosts a piece by Zofeen T. Ebrahim on China’s construction of the world’s largest solar farm in Pakistan. Supporters point to the solar energy plant as a solution to Pakistan’s energy shortfalls, but the project has its critics, as well – some are skeptical that it will produce as much energy as advertised and worry about environmental and economic costs.

Finally, Foreign Policy translates a Chinese media article on the experiences of those who lost their homes to the Tianjin explosion earlier this summer, and their fight for fair compensation. The story profiles three residents – one renter, two apartment owners – and, in doing so, raises questions about the response of the local government.