Looking to get away from it all? Why not plan a trip to one of the most heavily contested places on earth?
After building artificial islands in the middle of the South China Sea and filling them with airstrips, cute female soldiers, veggie gardens and surface-to-air missiles, China is now working hard on turning the disputed islands into tourist hotspots.
According to the South China Morning Post, Hainan delegates at this year’s National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing have released a document stating that tour flights to the Paracels (Xisha Islands) are one of their priorities for this year.
Already Chinese companies operate two cruise ships to the Paracel Islands, which are also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan. According to the SCMP, these tours are comprised of a few days of fun, sun and patriotic activities. One ship, The Changle Princess, made its maiden voyage last week, joining The Dream of the South China Sea. Its launch was marked by Chinese state media with articles encouraging readers to take in the remarkable views and beautiful scenery that the islands offer.
Last year, over 12,000 tourists visited the Paracels, a 48% increase over the year before as China tries to strengthen its claims that its artificial islands are so much more than just military outposts.
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