from the new-railways dept
The Spratly Islands are some 750 reefs, atolls and islands in the South China Sea that are claimed variously by Brunei, the People's Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan), Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. That's largely because of the rich fishing grounds that surround them, and the possibility of significant oil and gas reserves nearby.
In order to reinforce those claims, most of the countries listed above have stationed a few military personnel on a few of the larger islands. Recently, China has come up with a novel way of bolstering its position:
In the ongoing dispute over the Spratly Islands claimed by China and Vietnam, the latest development is that China is opening up 3G services on the islands, not only to Chinese soldiers but also for the country's fishermen.
As the Tech In Asia article quoted above explains:
Chinese soldiers and fishermen will now be able to text message, call, and chat online with family back home over the new 3G network. This upgrade to 3G from regular cellular coverage (started in 2011) and the recent 3G network in the disputed Paracel Islands in July 2012 signals a more permanent Chinese presence on the rocky outposts.
What's interesting here is how this tighter integration with the domestic network is used symbolically to underline that the various islands are -- in China's view -- part of its territory. It can be thought of as the 21st-century equivalent of building roads in the Roman Empire, or laying down railway tracks in the American West.