South China Sea Dispute: China Starts Cashing In On Cruises Along Contested Region
For China, territorial disputes are still good for business. In fact, cruise lines that take tourists along the South China Sea are very popular. And as part of the routes, patriotic Chinese tourists get to spend their holiday in some of the most disputed territories in the region.Advertisement
A company which reportedly owns the largest fleet of multipurpose vessels as well as specialized carriers has just agreed to launch its own cruise line. It’s a Chinese company that believes the local economy can be further enhanced with the promotion and development of the country’s tourism industry.
“It is practical to stimulate the local economy through development of tourism, logistics and infrastructure facilities,” explains Chairman of COSCO Shipping Xu Lirong during the Boao Formula for Entrepreneurs over the weekend in Boao, Hainan province.
In fact, his company has just signed an agreement with the China National Travel Service (HK) Group Corp and China Communications Construction Co. Ltd. last April to launch a cruise line dedicated to promoting tourism along the South China Sea.
According to a report from China Daily Asia, the new cruise business is expected to launch as soon as next month. For its first route, it will make its way from Sanya to Yongle Island , which is part of the Paracel Islands, a territory that Vietnam is also staking a claim on. Financial Times reported that the company will aptly name the new cruise ship “Dream of the South China Sea.”
Currently, COSCO has one competitor already in operation. Hainan Strait Shipping Co. Ltd. has already been offering cruises to tourists between Sanya and Xisha islands for over two years. So far, it has made 48 voyages, which carried more than 8,000 tourists.
Chinese tourists who have come to Paracel Islands in the past have brought the Chinese flag with them. They even left notes in the area. One of which had said, “The South China Sea belongs to China.”