Chilling for Washington however, is the fear that Chinese forces are mimicking the Soviet Union’s Cold War tactics in the escalating dispute. The island fortresses built by China in the South China Sea, also described as ‘bastions’ by some observers, resemble a similar tactic used by the Soviets in 1988. As international affairs magazaine National Interest highlights, Moscow’s ballistic missile armed submarines operated from bastions in the Barents Sea, located north of Norway and Russia.
There, submarines could be concealed from enemy aircraft by land-based air and naval forces, ships and attack submarines.
On top of this, reports also suggest that Beijing’s military experts have pin-pointed Soviet methods as a route to success in the South China Sea.
The PLA have engulfed the Spratly Islands and Paracel Islands with military development, forming an aggressive claim to contested territory.
The moving of China’s aircraft carriers, airstrips and weapons into the region has earned the cluster of bases the nickname: “The Great Wall of Sand.”
A leaked set of photos given to a Filipino newspaper showed just how elaborate China’s development of military bases has been.
Some photographs showed cargo ships and supply vessels, which the newspaper said appeared to be delivering construction materials to the China-controlled islands.
Others show runways, hangars, control towers, helipads and radomes as well as a series of multi-storey buildings that China has built on reefs.
Analysts suggested at the time that the platform could become the first of many such designs.
The South China Sea is host to lucrative shipping lanes and trading ports, provoking President Xi Jinping to enforce a controversial Nine-Dash Line demarcation of what China deems to be its territory.
The demarcation enforces a claim over all of the island clusters in the region and 90 percent of the South China Sea as a whole, but is deemed illegal by UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea).
This has angered smaller nations in the region such as Vietnam and the Philippines, both of whom are reeling at China’s militarisation of the Spratly Islands – a key archipelago in the region that both countries claim sovereignty over.