China has launched a research project aimed at compiling historical data obtained during earlier expeditions conducted by its teams to the disputed South China Sea since the late 1950s.
The research project is one among the 14 resource investigation programmes approved by China’s Ministry of Science and Technology.
Under the project, Chinese researchers will collect and compile valuable data and materials which were obtained by China during its major ocean expeditions to the South China Sea and its affiliated islands and reefs. China expects that a comparative analysis and research done into the data will offer insight into the resources, environment and changes related to the South China Sea and its affiliated islands and reefs.
Around 193 scholars with specialisation in fields such as marine life, ecology, fishery and geology from China’s 10 domestic research institutions and universities will take part in the initiative. Retired expedition members would also be invited to assist in this programme to ensure the reliability and precision of the data.
South China Sea Dispute
China has been aggressively claiming the entire South China Sea as its own. The other countries that claim the various territories in the South China Sea are Taiwan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.
The South China Sea is part of Pacific Ocean spreading an area of some 35 lakh square km with eight littoral countries/territories viz. China, Taiwan, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore and Vietnam. It is strategically located in the international shipping route that sees the passage of world’s half of the merchant ships. The sea is rich in energy reserves including petroleum, mineral and fishing resources. It is made of some 200 tiny islands, coral reefs, shoals, sandbanks etc. grouped into three archipelagos of Spratlys, Paracels and Pratas. The Macclesfield Bank and Scarborough Shoal are also part of South China Sea. Several countries have made competing territorial claims over the South China Sea. Such disputes have been regarded as Asia’s most potentially dangerous point of conflict.