Just in time for May Day, China will begin shipping tourists to the Paracel islands, which it gained control of in 1974 after a short war with Vietnam.
Quote from the BBC: The Xinhua news agency said tourists would live on board ships, as the largest island has only one hotel and no fresh water.
Analysts view the latest move as an another step in China’s battle to demonstrate that the potentially oil-rich area is Chinese.
The islands, in the bustling, combustible South China Sea, are claimed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan. This is happening as just China hosts mainly Asian nations at the Boao forum in Hainan. It’s worth comparing this decision, sure to upset Vietnam, with comments from Chinese president Xi Jinping today.
Asia needs to “enhance mutual understanding, build consensus, and enrich and deepen cooperation so as to strike a balance among the interests of various parties and build mechanisms that bring benefits to all,” Xi said, according to Xinhua.
Although other Asian nations are participating in the forum, one can’t help but think their representatives are props for Xi’s speech, which is intended not for Asia, but for a China, to show the nation as a regional peacemaker and consensus builder.