This past weekend a mysterious report emerged claiming that China plans to invade a South China Sea island controlled by the Philippines. The report, translated from “Chinese media” and appearing at a site called China Daily Mail, appears to threaten the Philippine forces occupying Pag-asa Island. Pag-asa is known as Zhongye Island in China, and Beijing claims that the Philippines has illegally occupied it for years. At about a tenth of a square mile, the island (pop: 300 civilians) is one of the larger ones in the Spratly Island group and is the only one with an airstrip long enough to accommodate larger planes.The China Daily Mail report angrily denounces the Philippines for increasing its military presence on the island, claiming that the Philippine troops are supported by American forces. This is “an intolerable insult to China,” says the report.Philippine officials refused to comment on the “unofficial” report. At the moment it’s far from clear that there’s any truth to it. But it follows a pattern of Chinese public intimidation of neighboring countries over territorial disputes. Last week, China’s Hainan province, a southern island that juts into the South China Sea and lies close to Vietnam, approved a new set of rules aimed at threatening foreign fishermen working in the vicinity. Hainan claimed that any foreigners fishing in waters near the Paracel and Spratly island chains, which are also claimed by Vietnam and the Philippines, must ask the “relevant” Chinese agency for permission before they can work in the area. Vietnam fired back that any Chinese activity in the area was unacceptable: “All foreign activities at these areas without Vietnam’s acceptance are illegal and groundless.” Today the U.S. State Department called the new rules “provocative and potentially dangerous.”Little by little, a cabbage grows in the South China Sea. China’s strategy—taking small steps toward the domination of the seas to its south and east—is progressing without drawing too much attention or retribution from the United States or smaller Pacific countries.