Chinese bases in South China Sea will help region, world, say experts

2016-12-08 08:39Global Times Editor: Li Yan ECNS App Download

China's construction in the South China Sea has turned its islands into the best-equipped, most advanced bases in the region with airports, hospitals, agriculture and 4G mobile signal, a military newspaper has claimed.

According to the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Daily, in late November, a Chinese soldier stationed on the Nansha Islands in the South China Sea came down with sudden illness and was successfully treated in a modern hospital on Yongshu Reef, the most developed island in Sansha City, China's southernmost administrative region.

This is just a small part of the development of these islands. Recently, the airports on the Yongshu Reef and on the Meiji and Chubi reefs at Yongshu's east, finished tests and soldiers' families can now fly to the Nansha Islands to visit their loved ones and tourists can also fly to these islands for sightseeing trips, the PLA Daily reported.

These facilities will service every country around the South China Sea and the ships which are crossing this region, claimed Liu Feng, an expert on South China Sea studies.

Apart from airports and hospitals, more than 20 scientific research projects are running on the Nansha Islands, dealing with issues such as seawater desalination, refuse disposal, and marine ecology protection; solar power systems provide energy for every island, the PLA Daily reported.

Liu said "in the past, if any marine or air accidents happened in this region, it would be very difficult to conduct search and rescue operations because there were no modern bases and facilities in the region, but now China has built airports, hospitals, and lighthouses, these will make rescue missions much easier than before."

Rapid change

A former officer in the PLA Navy surnamed Su, who was stationed on the Nansha Islands from 2013 to 2014, told the Global Times that construction started in 2014, so two years ago, there was nothing on these islands.

"Before the construction, our soldiers' living environment on the islands was extremely difficult," he said, "for instance, if they wanted to take a shower, they had to wait for rain."

But now, according to the PLA Daily, in the military barracks on these islands, besides bathrooms with hot water, soldiers can use air-conditioners, TVs, washing machines and 4G signal to contact their families by mobile phone.

In addition, there are also basketball and football grounds, and vegetable patches which provide fresh produce for everyone on the islands.

Before China's massive construction in the South China Sea, other countries like Vietnam, the Philippines and Japan had already tried to build on reefs and islands in the South China Sea, but their scale cannot be compared to China's efforts.

Jin Canrong, associate dean of the School of International Studies at the Renmin University of China, said on a TV program that "China's progress in two years is faster than Japan and the Philippine's progress combined in the past decades."

Jin also joked that "When the US sends their warships to scare us, we just fill in one or two more islands to make ourselves calm down."

Strategic location

"The South China Sea has a nickname, "the second Persian Gulf," since approximately 23 billion tons of petroleum and gas have been found in the region, and the South China Sea is also a crossroads of global navigation because it connects the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean," an unnamed high ranking military officer wrote in Global Military, a magazine under the PLA Daily, on January 25.

"So this region is advantageous geographically, and when conflict begins, who controls this region will dominate," he claimed.

China's construction and military presence in the South China Sea protects its own sovereignty and provides public goods for the region and global navigation, Su stressed, adding that China will not threaten any country, but if anyone wants to disrupt peace and challenge China's sovereignty, "they should know the consequences before making a stupid decision."

Kou Zhilin, a squad leader on Chigua reef, told the PLA Daily that "Although the facilities and living environment have changed a lot, our duty and determination to guard our territory will never change."


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