DA NANG, Vietnam — The Paracel Islands, comprised of 130 small coral islands and reefs in the northwestern portion of the South China Sea, have a collective population just upward of 1,400 people. Chinese military personnel and residential fishermen primarily make up this population, but the Paracels are becoming more hospitable to all. In its efforts to control the South China Sea, China is creating healthier living conditions on the islands that are providing residents with newfound stability. Here are five facts about living conditions in the Paracel Islands.
5 Facts About Living Conditions in the Paracel Islands
- The Paracels have long been a source of tension – For centuries, countries have disputed over who the Paracels belong to with China and Vietnam being the leading voices. In 1974, Chinese forces invaded the Paracel Islands (then occupied by the South Vietnamese regime) and after the loss of 70 Vietnamese soldiers, China has occupied the Paracels ever since. As China has implemented better living conditions in the Paracel Islands, some believe that these conditions are strengthening China’s case for legal recognition for its extensive territorial claims against Vietnam.
- China has built substantial infrastructure – In recent years, residents of the Paracels have shed light on harsh living conditions of the past consisting of a lack of electricity and water in “wooden hut” housing. China’s newfound infrastructure on the Paracels has boosted the economy and combatted hunger too as residents now enjoy water treatment facilities, restaurants, a hospital and several department stores. Outside of already established military facilities, this infrastructure has created opportunity and given residents food stability as a result of the improving economy.
- Rich fishing grounds surround the Paracels – Before China’s current occupation, seasonal and residential fishermen have long had an attraction to the rich fishing grounds surrounding the Paracels. Vietnamese fishermen have fished around the Paracels for centuries, and since China’s 1974 occupation, this resource has become increasingly disputed between the two countries. A 2015 study estimated that The South China Sea accounts for about 12% of the world’s fishing stocks.
- China is planning for future tourism – With the infrastructure in place and still under development in the Paracels, China is calling for citizens to visit the Paracels as tourists and eyeing cruises to visit too. Maritime leisure remains a developing industry in China, but future tourism to the Paracels would further boost the economy and increase financial stability for residents.
- Success in the Paracels is crucial for China – As Vietnam continues to dispute over the sovereignty of the Paracels with China, the success of human habitation in the Paracels is important to China because if the islands cannot sustain human habitation, terms of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea states that the Paracels do not have entitlement to generate exclusive economic zones as a result. Added infrastructure and maintaining internal success both improves China’s case of sovereignty as well as the living conditions in the Paracel Islands.
Living conditions have significantly improved on the Paracel Islands since China’s 1974 occupation. With added infrastructure on the Paracels boosting the economy atop the rich fishing grounds already surrounding the islands, residents have seen an increase in their quality of living. Dependent on this success moving forward, China intends to improve living conditions for years to come in the Paracels as it improves its case of sovereignty.
– Dylan James