The South China Sea is rich with natural resources, including oil, natural gas, and fisheries—all China needs to sustain and keep up with its vast and growing population. Moreover, about 30 percent of the global shipping trade passes through here, making it one of the most strategically important trade routes China aims to dominate in the next few decades. With that being said, you can already guess why the second most powerful country in the world is almost so obsessed with asserting its claim on that territory. And it doesn’t stop there. It also has been eyeing the Pacific Island nations in recent years and went as far as investing in diplomatic, security, cultural, and economic ties to make progress in its ultimate geopolitical ambitions.

Aside from lending assistance and loans, China has made significant progress in its global infrastructure development strategy, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, the trying times presented an opportunity for the country to build and even restore relationships through donating vaccines and financing economic recovery efforts.

While Beijing didn’t explicitly announce its strategic development in the Pacific Islands region, its increased engagement in the area sends a clear message of influence expansion.

A Cause for Concern, Not Alarm

“As Beijing seeks to expand its influence among Pacific nations, strengthening the US-FAS relationship will be essential to securing US interests in the region,” the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) reported Tuesday. Their co-authors include former senior military officials. This includes maintaining “a vital military buffer” in the region before Beijing effectively takes over the “strategically vital geographic” that consequently counters US interests.