Authorities in China's southernmost province of Hainan are to expand broadcasting coverage to the newly-established city of Sansha, in an apparent attempt to consolidate the nation's territorial claims in the South China Sea by boosting infrastructure construction amid intensified rivalry over the region.
The program is expected to amplify cultural life for inhabitants, mostly Chinese fishermen and military forces stationed there.
The provincial department of culture, radio, television, publication and sports confirmed to the Global Times yesterday that by the end of August, all households on the inhabited islets of the Xisha Islands will be able to receive as many as 48 cable television channels and a number of radio broadcast channels free of charge.
"The officially-financed project is part of the central government's initiative since 1998 to gradually make radio and television available in all villages of remote rural areas across the country," Zhang Yuqi, a senior official with the department, told the Global Times.
The number of households entitled to the program was not yet available as official statistics were still being collated, he said.
"The local authorities are supporting facilities to widen channels of disseminating information to the residents there," Du Jifeng, a researcher at the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said.
However, Du questioned the schedule of the project, saying that authorities might not be able to cover such a large number of isolated islets scattered around the sea.
A large-scale infrastructure construction program on related islands would help deter competing claims over the Xisha and Nansha islands by Vietnam and the Philippines, who recently made legislative moves and established a kindergarten to fortify claims on islands in the South China Sea.
The Ministry of Civil Affairs announced on June 21 the establishment of Sansha following approval from the State Council, saying the city will have jurisdiction over the Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha islands and their adjacent waters, covering a total of 2.6 million square kilometers.
The city government sits on Yongxing Island, and has been dubbed the Chinese city with the smallest population, although no exact official figure has been released yet.
Moreover, the province has doled out some 500,000 yuan ($78,582) for the construction of two village entertainment rooms on Yongxing Island and Zhaoshu Island in the city of Sansha, according to media reports.
The State Archives Administration also granted the establishment of a new archive that will accommodate tens of thousands of documents, maps and other materials on the Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha islands.
The Hainan Daily reported that the new archive, measured at 3,000 square meters, will help guard the country's maritime sovereignty by developing and researching stored and newly-found archives.