The Chinese military base on Mischief Reef, off the Philippine island of Palawan, loomed in front of our boat, obvious even in the predawn dark.
Radar domes, used for military surveillance, floated like nimbus clouds. Lights pointed to a runway made for fighter jets, backed by warehouses perfect for surface-to-air missiles. More than 900 miles from the Chinese mainland, in an area of the South China Sea that an international tribunal has unequivocally determined does not belong to China, cellphones pinged with a message: “Welcome to China.”
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