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Tourism gains greater role in South China Sea dispute

Monday, June 5, 2017

Subject

Tourism in disputed areas of the South China Sea.

Significance

The Philippines has begun shipping construction materials and personnel to the Spratly Islands for a 1.6-billion-peso (32-million-dollar) project to renovate and lengthen its airfield and improve civilian facilities in the disputed archipelago. The move is being undertaken as Manila pursues warmer ties with China. Beijing has so far refrained from responding publicly, in keeping with the recent moderation of its policy over the issue.

Impacts

  • China also aspires to run tourism in the Spratlys but is unlikely to implement this unilaterally in the medium term.
  • With the infrastructure in place, tourism will become an area of potential cooperation as well as tension.
  • Media reporting on the Philippines' construction work will test the Chinese government's ability to control public opinion.
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