China tries to turn disputed islands into Maldives-style holiday hotspots

China aims to turn some of the islands in the disputed South China Sea into Maldives-style resorts catering for weddings. It is trying to lure what it calls patriotic holidaymakers to purpose-built resorts around Woody Island in the contested Paracels chain. Holidaymakers would be able to windsurf, fish, dive, take sea plane trips and attend island weddings “for romantics”, the state-run China Daily explained. It was part of a plan to create a “major tourist attraction comparable to the Maldives”, the paper added.

It is not an easy trip, but many people with a patriotic spirit want to try it.

Xiao Jie, mayor of Sansha city, on Woody Island

China claims almost all of the strategically vital South China Sea despite rival claims from neighbours Vietnam and South Korea and has built reefs into artificial islands capable of hosting military planes. Tourists have been allowed to travel to non-militarized areas since 2013, with an estimated 30,000 having already visited. Also on Friday, China reacted angrily to a statement from G7 leaders criticising its claims over the South China Seas. “China is extremely dissatisfied with what Japan and the G7 have done,” said foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying.

I’m confident about the prospects… many tourists want to have a look at the mysterious islands

Cai Chaohui, from the Chinese port of Sanya where cruise ships leave for tours