In April, China held military drills for two days in the sea. They brought together about 10,000 personnel and 48 naval vessels.

China wants to keep the others away, said Jonathan Spangler, director of the South China Sea Think Tank in Taipei.

“There’s the demonstrating that you are a world leader politically and militarily, the power projection thing, and there’s the deterrent aspect,” Spangler said. “There’s also the sort of insurance policy aspect. In the off chance there’s a conflict, then (China) will be prepared.”