China is strengthening its Sansha settlement on Yongxing island in the South China Sea by building a school for the 40 children of military personnel and others living there. This certainly won’t help to cool down the Sino-Vietnamese tensions, which have soared in the aftermath of China’s installment of an oil rig in the area and the ensuing anti-Chinese riots in Vietnam and the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing ship in a collision with a Chinese vessel.
The Paracel chain, where the island is located, is also claimed by Vietnam which considers that it’s part of its exclusive economic zone. On the other hand, China considers that the Vietnamese have no rights to disturb the oil rig’s operation it owns in this area. The US, the Philippines and Vietnam criticized China when it established the Shansha settlement in 2012, fearing that it would escalate tensions.
According to the SCMP:
The Sansha government said in a statement on its website that construction on the school started Saturday and was expected to take 18 months. It said there were about 40 children of school age on Yongxing Island, and the school could also educate the children of police, army personnel and civilians stationed on the islands, some of whom had to stay with grandparents in far-off hometowns.
When China created Sansha in July 2012, the outpost had a post office, bank, supermarket, hospital and a population of about 1,000. By December, it had a permanent population of 1,443, which can sometimes swell by 2,000, according to the Sansha government.
Now it has an airport, hotel, library and five main roads, mobile phone service coverage and a 24-hour satellite TV station. It also has its own supply ship that brings in food, water, construction materials as well as people who live and work on the island.
This bodes badly for Sino-Vietnamese diplomatic ties. Even worse, China is currently thinking about building artificial islands in the South Sea China that would host military infrastructures and airstrips!
By Aliaume Leroy
[Image via SCMP]