Some reports predicted and sounded an alarm in 2020 that China’s airpower would continue to be a major defence theme in 2021. China’s recent construction spree of air fields over artificial islands in South China Sea don’t just validate the predictions, but also show how problematic China’s airpower expansion can be for India when looked at from a strategic and geopolitical lens.
A website called The Drive has put out satellite imagery showing China’s sudden construction of air fields atop man-made islands in the South-China sea.
Just a year after the Galwan skirmish, China invested heavily in its military capabilities, specifically in its air force which falls under the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) branch of the Chineses defense forces. This is not to say that China has neglected its ground forces either, as construction of fortifications around the Indo-China border continues at a similar, if not faster, rate. This army-based infrastructure is both offensive (roads, railway lines for faster troop deployment etc.) and defensive (bunkers, troop depots etc.), i.e., they can respectively be used to launch an invasion and repel one.
Not that geopolitical friction is something new between the two countries, India and China, but things intensified just a year ago when a clash in Galwan valley between Indian and Chinese border troops left dozens dead.
Additional developments of a similar nature are underway on China’s Western frontier, facing India, with China constructing air bases and other infrastructure designed for military purpose in the high ranges. Both countries have had relatively high tensions from decades and the Galwan skirmish of the last year has only served to reignite them.