Living Conditions in the Paracel Islands
The Paracel Islands is a group of more than 30 islands between the coastlines of Vietnam and China, also called Xisha Islands, the Hoang Sa Archipelago and West Sand Islands. The country is in the South China Sea and some have considered it a flashpoint for regional tensions in East and Southeast Asia. Along with the Spratly and Patras Islands, the maritime territory is “…at risk of becoming Asia’s Palestine…” said the outgoing Secretary-General of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. With this in mind, here are 10 facts about the living conditions in the Paracel Islands.

10 Facts About Living Conditions in the Paracel Islands

  1. Fishing grounds and potential oil and gas reserves surround the Paracel Islands. Although no one has done a reliable estimate on the area, many believe there is a significant hydrocarbon (the chief component in petroleum and natural gas) prize in the region. The mere suspicion of the potential value the islands may have had made China anxious about its occupation.
  2. According to international law, China has sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly Islands by discovery and occupation of said islands. While China faced Japanese aggression in 1930, however, France, as the colonial power in Vietnam, occupied some of the islands upon the argument that those islands were Vietnamese historical territories.
  3. The Japanese invaded the Vietnamese islands as an act of aggression towards China. It was not until the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty and the 1952 Sino-Japanese Treaty when Japan renounced all rights to the Paracel Islands, as well as the Spratly Islands, Penghu and Taiwan to China. Because of this, the Paracel Islands are a huge source of international conflict. The People’s Republic of China has tried to keep the occupation of the islands, despite protests from the Republic of China (Taiwan) and Vietnam. In 2012, the People’s Republic of China declared a city named Sansha, located on Woody Island, one of the Paracel Islands, that administers several island groups. The People’s Republic of China is doing everything in its power to support its territorial claims.
  4. Although no one has calculated an exact number, the People’s Republic of China invests millions in the development of the Paracel Islands. More recently, Beijing revealed a $23.5 million contract for a coastguard ship to patrol the Paracel Islands. It has also made advancements in the living conditions on Woody Island.
  5. Woody Island is the most populated of the Paracel Islands with over 1,000 habitats and scattered Chinese garrisons on the surrounding islands. Most people living on the islands are soldiers, construction workers and fishermen. With the recent construction, China has built a school for the 40 children living on the island. It also has a hospital, a postal office, a supermarket and more.
  6. There are many concerns about the militarization of the South China Sea as reports of the presence of missiles on the islands, especially Woody Island, surge. China built a military installation on Woody Island with an airfield and artificial harbor. President Xi Jinping held a private two-day drill in the Paracel Islands as a show of strength in the South China Sea.
  7. There is a limited supply of fresh water on the islands. On most of the islands that China occupies, drinking water comes in barrels with other supplies from small boats, making it as scarce as fuel. Desalination plants have activated in the South China Sea but are not available to all. Many have had to improve their ability to sustain long periods of time without supplies, including drinking water.
  8. There are plans underway to open the Paracel Islands to tourism by granting visa-free travel. The travelers will be able to stay up to 30 days on the islands. For years, tourism was scarce in the islands due to international conflicts but construction has already begun for a tourist area. There is, however, a threat for allowing tourists onto the islands.
  9. One of the biggest sources of income for the habitats in the Paracel Islands are the surrounding fishing grounds. It represents a key part of the living conditions in the Paracel Islands. If tourism opens up in the area, fishing activities will be greatly reduced. Another problem has risen against the fishing grounds: the degradation of coastal habitats. The degradation of coastal habitats has been mostly due to the military bases in construction. Luckily, the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Environment Programme have partnered for the Implementation of the Regional Strategic Action Programme for the South China Sea. Along with rehabilitating the coastal habitats, one of its priority issues is the management failures with respect to the linkage between fish stock and critical habitats. The coastal reefs are a considerable part of the Paracel Islands because they also act as a defense.
  10. A major concern of the Paracel Islands is typhoon season. The islands experience a series of typhoons during the summer months. This natural disaster leads to instability in the islands and the reefs are a critical part in protecting the islands from major harm.

People have given little attention to the poverty the habitants of the Paracel Islands have been facing these past years. These 10 facts about the living conditions in the Paracel Islands should illuminate the subject so the archipelago can improve over time.

– Andrea Viera
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Chinese President Xi Jinping announced during the 2015 Global Poverty Reduction and Development Forum opening presentation that he vows to eradicate poverty in China by 2020.

Over the past 15 years, China has lifted more than 600 million people out of poverty.

This impressive feat made them the first developing country to achieve the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of halving poverty before the 2015 deadline.

Despite this commendable accomplishment, more than 70 million people in China are still living below the poverty line – earning less than 2,300 yuan annually, which is the equivalent of $362 U.S.

“Despite the achievements, China remains the world’s biggest developing country, and narrowing the urban-rural gap remains a big challenge for us,” said President Xi.

Similar to many countries worldwide, the disparity between the rich and poor in China continues to increase as the world’s second-largest economy slows its pace.

According to President Xi, only 12.3 million Chinese people earned enough money to move above the poverty line in 2014, compared to 43.3 million people in 2011.

In light of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on Oct. 17, the Chinese government will have to lift, on average, 1 million Chinese people out of poverty per month until 2020.

The Chinese government and China’s Office of Poverty Alleviation & Development plan to come up with a string of more effective and targeted measures to achieve the goal, including:

  • Launching Education Campaigns — With education at the forefront, people living in rural communities can receive proper education and will be more likely to escape poverty.
  • Encouraging Financial Support — Experienced financial specialists can help people living in poverty managed their money and teach them how to save money over a period of time.
  • Building Public Platforms — This will encourage middle-class Chinese people to join the fight in eradicating poverty.

“Chinese government has made great efforts on poverty alleviation. We hope to encourage all sectors of society to participant in the endeavor to lift all rural population out of poverty by 2020,” said Hong Tianyun, head of the Lead Group Office of Poverty Alleviation & Development in China.

Alexandra Korman

Sources: CCTV, Reuters, The Times of India
Photo: Pixabay

Though the June 1st ban on smoking wasn’t the first of its kind in Beijing, it may be one of the most effective. The ban comes at a time when China has the highest number of male smokers. It is estimated that one-third of all cigarettes sold globally are produced by China National Tobacco Corporation, with 43% of tobacco produced in China.

The high rates of smoking in China, and in particular Beijing, are especially concerning. About 60% of male doctors smoke and few associate the habit with health problems other than vascular ones. Without the widespread knowledge and dissemination of the risks associated with tobacco smoking, people often have little incentive to stop.

China’s smoking problem is also largely a cultural one, concentrated in masculinity. While an estimated 45% of men smoke, only about 2.1% of Chinese women do. However, when looking at the plethora of health problems that stem from smoking, men, women, and children are all affected. The high volume of smokers combined with the thick covering of smog cloaking entire cities creates a pocket of pollution where the effects of second-hand smoke are exacerbated.

The latest ban introduced in Beijing bans all smoking in indoor places with an added level of severity-fines. People who act against the ban are subject to fines of $32 and businesses that allow people to smoke on their premises will be fined $1,600. In the past two months, about $16,000 has been collected in fines from the ban, but in the coming months that amount may rise. The Beijing Municipal Commission of Health and Family Planning has discussed the possibility of increasing fines for individuals to $800. What’s more is that any person who violates the law three times is subject to being publicly named on a government website, a clause that aims to shame.

Upon the initial implementation, support was strong and people seemed excited. However, as is the case with most past similar bans, the popularity fades and as the attention slips away so does the people’s enthusiasm and commitment. On the contrary, this particular ban has shown more promise. Almost two months post-implementation, the ban still sees support from pop culture icons and a visible decline in indoor smoking. With Beijing getting a little extra focus from the Chinese government for being the capital, perhaps this particular ban will see greater success than past ventures. If the abstinence continues, Beijing will be able to serve as an example to other cities around the country, and the overall rate of smoking will likely decline.

Although such a decline in vast numbers of Chinese smokers will affect the nation’s economy slightly, the overall benefits to health seen in both men and women will create a healthier working class that will reciprocate any losses by boosting the workforce and spending. Also as smoking rates decline, women will face fewer health risks imposed by their male counterparts, which will make for a more fair environment for women, although China continues to struggle in gender equality, it is a step. Like all newly implemented programs and policies, the ban can only restrict smoking so far, but it is a very positive step for Beijing and for China. In order for China to fully reap all of the rewards from smoking reduction, a cultural change is needed, which is often times the harder of the two to enact.

Emma Dowd

Sources: BBC, CNN, FP
Photo: Flickr