Island construction in the South China Sea in recent years has helped boost Hainan's economic development, giving greater importance to the protection of maritime rights, experts said.
Hainan is a province which governs China's islands in the South China Sea. And though Hainan's territory is not big, it oversees about two-thirds of China's territorial waters. The province celebrated the 30th anniversary of its founding three days ago.
In recent years, due to the rapid island construction in the South China Sea, Gross Ocean Product (GOP) is becoming an important source of GDP for Hainan, said Liu Feng, a Hainan-based expert on the South China Sea.
GOP means the GDP of the ocean, such as shipbuilding, sea transportation, fishery industry, maritime tourism, sea salt industry and offshore oil and gas exploration.
"In 2017, Hainan's GOP reached 114 billion yuan ($18 billion), and accounted for 28.2 percent of the province's total GDP, and is projected to reach 30 percent in the near future. Hainan will soon become an ocean-oriented economic entity," Liu said.
When China decided to establish Hainan Province in 1988, due to its limited capabilities and undeveloped economy at that time, Hainan's economic development was primarily focused on land rather than the ocean, Liu noted. "GOP's share of the GDP was very low at the beginning, but island construction in the South China Sea has boosted GOP growth."
In 2012, China decided to set up Sansha city under Hainan Province. The city administers Xisha, Zhongsha, and Nansha Islands, and construction work has significantly changed these islands.
The airport in Sansha has attracted many tourists to the South China Sea, said Zhao Xinbo, a tour guide at the Hainan Air International Travel Agency.
Sansha's peak tourist season starts around Spring Festival and runs until May, when temperatures in the region are relatively higher than other parts of the country, and diving, fishing and photography are the most popular activities, Zhao noted.
Since the GOP has become a major source of the province's GDP, China should send more militia missions to safeguard territorial sovereignty and the marine rights and interests in the South China Sea, a national legislator said.
The number of such missions assigned to the militia in Tanmen, a port township near Nansha Islands, has dropped in recent years, Wang Shumao, deputy head of the militia in Tanmen, told the Global Times.
The militia expects to receive more missions, including patrols and to drive away trespassing ships in the South China Sea, said Wang, who is also a deputy to the National People's Congress (NPC).
The Chinese navy and telecommunications firms are cooperating to upgrade communications on some South China Sea islands and reefs, the official People's Liberation Army (PLA) Daily reported in February.
The PLA Navy's South China Sea Fleet has signed framework agreements to cooperate with the Hainan branches of China's three largest telecom operators to upgrade communications on the Xisha and Nansha islands and reefs.
Once completed in May, the project will bring 4G+ service to the area.
Luann de Lesseps’ life is back on top after hitting rock bottom following a disorderly intoxication arrest and a rehab