Sand dredging is essentially when ships suck sand or sediment from the bottom of the ocean or another body of water. This can be done for environmental reasons such as to clear waterways, and also be used to reshape landforms.
Reuters has reported China is now conducting a massive dredging operation with multiple ships in territory claimed by Taiwan.
One Taiwanese security official told the agency the move is “part of their psychological warfare against Taiwan”.
The operation has been referred to as a ‘grey-zone’ campaign, in which one force can wear down the resources of another without engaging in open war.
The sand dredging ships are reported to be ‘swarming’ around Taiwan-controlled areas such as the Matsu islands, where they are forcing the coast guard there to be on constant alert.
The Chinese ships can then use the sand they collect for construction projects back on the mainland.
However, Taiwanese officials and residents who live on the affected Matsu islands say the dredging, as well as being taxing for security resources, has other consequences.
It is thought more than 13,000 people live on the Matsu islands.
One person who Reuters identified only as ‘Lin’, has been warning off the Chinese vessels with a boat armed with water cannons and a machine gun.
They said: “They usually leave after we drive them away, but they come back again after we go away.”
China’s relationship with Taiwan is tense. Beijing has repeatedly hit out at the idea of Taiwanese sovereignty, while Taiwan is resisting China’s military operations near to its own territory.