In October, the US Navy sent the USS Lassen, a guided-missile destroyer, on patrol within  12 nautical miles of Subi Reef in the Spratly archipelago. China responded by accusing Washington of having a “cold war mentality”. Photograph: Evan Kenny/EPA/US Navy

Was there a more potent image in 2015 to represent China’s newfound confidence in matters of foreign policy than the satellite photograph of a land r(...)