01 October 2014
Aboard the Coconut Princess — Mr Zhang Jing watched the grey shells of the Paracel Islands emerge from the purple, predawn South China Sea. Here was the focal point of a cruise more about politics than pleasure.
Cheers erupted on board the Coconut Princess at the sight of the distant land, and Mr Zhang and the other passengers scurried to take pictures of each other at the railing holding the country’s bright red flag. A few kilometres away, a Chinese navy frigate cruised by silently, part of the country’s continuing watch over the tiny islands it has long claimed as part of its territory.
“This is the southern frontier of China,” said Mr Zhang, a policeman, when he had reached one of the islands. “As a Chinese, I feel proud to come here and declare sovereignty.”
With him and 167 other Chinese tourists on board, the ship had travelled more than 320km south of Hainan Island off China’s southern coast to what they said was an indisputable outpost of their country.
…Dr Bernard Loo, a military studies professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said stoking nationalist fervour could backfire on leaders in Beijing if they eventually opt for a more conciliatory approach with China’s neighbours.
“Playing the popular card is always potentially dangerous because you may unleash forces you can’t control,” said Dr Loo. “But if (China) really wants to reinforce its claims to the Paracels and, if necessary, resort to military force, it helps to get the population on its side.”
GPO / IDSS / RSIS / Online / Print
Last updated on 01/10/2014