Chinese firms announce plans to build floating islands for southern Pacific

As well as dredging up islands off its south-eastern coastline, China is planning to manufacture them in shipyards, according to a press conference held by Jidong Development Group last month.  

Jidong, a construction firm, said it is planning to join forces with Hainan Hai Industrial Company to build the modular structures which, put together, would create a gigantic rafts., according to the Popular Science blog.  

Among the uses suggested for the islands are windfarming, tourism, oil and gas processing, fueling stations and a military base. It has also been observed the islands could be used to reinforce China’s claims on the sea area around the Spratly Islands, which are also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. 

Popular Science quoted Wang Yandong, the general manager of JDG, as saying that the islands would be able to move at speeds of up to 18kmh. 

Vietnam reacted to the news of the press conference as a move in the game being played for the Spratlys.   

Phan Vinh Tri, former director of information technology of the Vietnam Shipbuilding Industry Group (Vinashin), told Vietnam Net Online: "The real purpose of China in building mobile island is unpredictable. However, a clear effect that we can see it right now is these mobile islands will enhance the presence of China in the East Sea, anywhere they want and for a longer time. These mobile islands are better resistant to winds and waves, and can accommodate more vehicles and people." 

He added that the islands would be escorted by a fleet, and that the immediate influence would be the "restriction of the activities of fishermen and boats around them in the radius set by China". 

According to Tri, Vietnam should respond by placing its own vessels in the area as "mobile small islands". 

Photograph: The country that claims the Spratlys can also claim rights to an extended continental shelf (Source: DHN/Wikimedia Commons)

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