Forget those stories of China building ghost cities that no one lives in, now the country Justin Trudeau admires for its basic dictatorship is building fake islands.
Reporting from Subic Bay, Philippines, Postmedia reporter Matthew Fisher is documenting China's efforts as they try to exert control over much of the South China Sea.
To support part of its brazen — some might say preposterous — claim to about 85 per cent of the South China Sea, Beijing is building artificial islands on tiny outcroppings, atolls and reefs in hotly disputed waters in the Spratly Archipelago.
To do so, the Chinese have been using formidable seaborne dredges to haul up huge amounts of sand and coral from the ocean floor, and bulldozing what is brought to the surface onto at least six of the far-flung lumps of rock.
China cites ancient maps and scrolls to support its claims to this area of the South China Sea, pointing long time use by sailors and fishermen. Those same claims though are made by neighoubouring countries such as the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam. Each of those countries claims the area as part of their 200 mile exclusive zone.
As Fisher reports, there is more to China's "Great Wall of Sand" than simply grabbing territory.
There are three clear reasons the Spratlys and the other disputed bits of rock and beach in the South China Sea such as the relatively near Paracel Islands and Scarborough Shoal are of such keen interest to so many countries. They sit atop what are thought to be a large pools of unexploited oil and gas, are surrounded by rich fishing waters and situated astride some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
China's moves are creating a lot of tension in the area, but the former naval superpower in the region, the United States, has pulled back in recent years, including from long time allies such as the Philippines.