After 11 months of inactivity due to the Covid19 pandemic, China’s Paracel Island Tours resume their operations amid geopolitical disputes, it was reported on CNN.
A pair of Chinese cruise ships have been in operation since Dec. 9, running from Hainan province’s port city, Sanya to the Paracel Islands.
These tours began in 2013 on a modest scale, having around one journey per week, until January last year, in which tourism ground to a halt.
Shanghai-based tourism consultancy firm, T-identifier founder Zhou Mingqi said that Chinese are avid travelers and that the rare access to what is dubbed “China’s Maldives” adds to the appeal.
However, what these tours offer is more than sightseeing. For many, they are a way in which the Chinese government can display sovereignty in a highly contentious area.
“The tours are operated and marketed as some cross between leisure and national duty,” said Ian Rowen, assistant professor of geography, urban planning and sociology at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.
Majority of tourists to the islands are reportedly in their fifties or older, who visit the place as it has long since been part of their generational folklore. This is owed to patriotic literature depicting China’s battles defending the islands. One such text, “The Beautiful and Bestowed Paracel Islands”, is learned in primary school.
The Paracel Islands, called Xisha by the Chinese, is an archipelago located in the hotly debated South China Sea which Beijing has laid claim to. Six other territories, including Vietnam and the Philippines, have also assumed ownership of parts of this body of water that holds a wealth of natural resources and shipping passageways.