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South China Sea: the strategic implications of China’s artificial islands

Tuesday 15th September 2015 6:00pm AEDT

There are four drivers behind China’s policy of constructing artificial islands in the South China Sea: nationalism, fisheries, hydrocarbons and strategic imperatives. Strategic imperatives are the most important. China seeks to counter the Obama Administration’s policy of rebalancing towards the Asia-Pacific by developing sufficient military power to dominate the first island chain running south from Japan, Okinawa, Taiwan, and the Philippines. China seeks to dominate the South China Sea to protect its sea lines of communications and to secure its southern flank against intervention by the U.S. Navy and Air Force.


China’s artificial islands in the centre of the South China Sea will serve as forward operating bases for Chinese fisheries and hydrocarbon industries as well as maritime law enforcement agencies. More importantly, the infrastructure on these artificial islands will support a growing military presence in the future. China has not just changed “facts on the ground” but is altering the regional naval balance of power. Prof Thayer argues that present U.S. and Australian policies are unlikely to dissuade China from its current course of action. In summary, China is slowly and deliberately excising the maritime heart out of Southeast Asia.

We are delighted to welcome Prof Carl Thayer to discuss these issues.

Carl Thayer 2015

Carlyle A. Thayer is emeritus professor, The University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy, director of Thayer Consultancy, and Defence and Security columnist for The Diplomat. He was educated at Brown, holds an M.A. in Southeast Asian Studies from Yale and a PhD in International Relations from The Australian National University. Professor Thayer has held senior appointments at the Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies at the Australian Defence College, Australian Command and Staff College, and the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, U.S. Pacific Command. He was the C.V. Starr distinguished visiting professor at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University (2005) and the Inaugural Frances M. and Stephen H. Fuller distinguished visiting professor at Ohio University (2008). Since 2009 he has presented academic papers on the South China Sea to thirty-five international conferences in Cambodia, Canada, China, Indonesia, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, the United States and Vietnam.


Entry:  AIIA NSW members:  $15.00; Senior/Student members $10.00

Non-members: $25.00;  Student non-members $15.00

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Tuesday 15th September 2015 6:00pm AEDT


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