SEATTLE — The Paracel Islands has, up until recently, been a relatively unknown group of islands. Yet the dispute over the South China Sea has brought the issue of the “owner” of these islands into the spotlight. Among the political posturing between China, Taiwan and Vietnam, little attention is given to the state of poverty in Paracel Islands.
Known as the Xisha Islands, the Hoang Sa Archipelago and the Spratly Islands, Paracel Islands is a collection of many different islands in the South China Sea. The islands saw a naval battle between China and South Vietnam in the 1970s, the result of which gave China control over the archipelago. However, the dispute over who these islands truly belong to remains.
Currently, these islands are claimed by Vietnam, Taiwan and China, who are each said to have historical records of the islands belonging to each nation. However, around five or so countries in Asia have citizens who occupy and earn their livelihoods off the islands, which can cause a lot of conflict and stress.
Since the islands are on a shipping route through which 30 percent of the world’s trade passes, with more than $5 trillion in commercial goods going through the islands each year, the area is delicate in terms of its economic potential.
According to The Huffington Post, the area is thought to have a significant amount of oil and gas reserves, adding to the potential of the busy area. These facts explain the various countries’ desires to lay claim to the land, as well as why the level of poverty in Paracel Islands affects a lot of people.
With so many countries having a stake in the islands, the number of citizens that rely on the islands for their livelihood is very high. The disputes and conflict that occur on the islands over the “rightful owner” end up disrupting the work being done in the region and can have damaging effects for those who earn money from the islands. For example, though the islands are not populated on a permanent basis, they still support fishing and, therefore, fishermen.
According to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), nearly 19 million Filipinos rely on the Paracel Islands’ fishing grounds in order to survive. For this reason, USAID reports that keeping sea territory in the hands of the Philippines is necessary for the survival of millions.
The administration of the Paracel Islands could affect the state of poverty in all the countries that use its land for economic purposes. Even if the conflict were to be resolved soon, millions of lives could be put in danger due to the islands’ economic withdrawal from a citizen’s home country, unless all countries who stake a claim to the islands find a way to coexist to limit the damage.
Until then, poverty in Paracel Islands considers to be a delicate matter and needs to be taken into consideration while the South China Sea dispute continues.
– Jacqueline Artz