You often hear politicians and strategic thinkers talk about establishing "facts on the ground" - the need to take account of what actually exists when framing policy.
Well in the South China Sea, the Chinese government is going one step further.
As defence ministers and strategic thinkers from across the Asia-Pacific region gather for the annual Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, China is not just creating facts on the ground, it is creating the very ground itself.
In a number of locations in the Spratly Islands, Chinese dredgers are spewing up torrents of sand from the sea bed, turning reefs into new islands.
The transformation of Mischief Reef for example, (known to the Chinese as Meiji Reef) in territory also claimed by the Philippines, is a case in point.
This is only one of several small outposts the Chinese have been constructing in an effort to press their expansive claims hundreds of miles from China's own shores.
Every year the Shangri-La Dialogue, organised by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) brings together everyone who is anyone in Asia-Pacific defence circles "to take the temperature" - as IISS director general John Chipman puts it - of security developments in the region.
This year, once again, US-China tensions are centre stage.
Beijing's efforts to create new facts on the ground have been termed by some as an attempt to construct a "Great Wall of Sand" to delineate the boundary of China's interests - a reference to the ancient Great Wall that guarded China's frontier.
Mr Chipman says: "In both the State Department and the Pentagon, we are seeing real concern about Chinese activities in the South China Sea but also about some of the activities of other claimant states who have sometimes sought to make the areas they feel able to control more habitable or to build facilities on them." (end of excerpt)
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