Chinese tourists set another record in changing shopping in Japan

The spending power of Chinese tourists in Japan is so impressive there’s a special word for it: bakugai, or explosive buying.

While the soaring yen this year has threatened to curb their enthusiasm, the latest figures from the Japan National Tourism Organization show that 731,400 Chinese visitors flocked to the country in July, a monthly record.

What also emerges from a detailed look through tourism data is the growing importance of young women travellers, the popularity of Japanese cosmetics, and waning sales of electronic goods as the quality of Chinese-made products improves.

“Chinese consumers are starting to buy electronic goods domestically,“ said Yoko Hayano, a senior consultant at JTB Tourism Research & Consulting Co. in Tokyo.

The stronger yen and higher customs levies faced by Chinese tourists when they go home may reinforce this trend.

Also behind this shift in buying patterns is a large number of women travellers in their 20s and 30s, who accounted for more than 40 per cent of all Chinese tourists in the second quarter of this year, according to the Japan Tourism Agency.

More than half of Chinese tourist come in on trips of four to six days and travel the so-called golden route that links Tokyo, Mount Fuji, Kyoto, and Osaka.

Special buses for Chinese tourists on ‘explosive shopping’ trips to Japan are causing traffic headaches in Tokyo

“It used to be the common notion among us Chinese that Japanese electronics are superior, but I think Chinese products are just fine nowadays,“ said Liu Yi, a 36-year old housewife from Hubei Province. “It’s Japanese cosmetics and health-care supplements that are very nice,” said Liu, as she lined up for opening time outside the Mitsukoshi department store in Tokyo’s Ginza shopping district.

As incomes keep rising in China, Japan can count on its larger neighbour remaining the key to the health of its tourism industry.

Liu, who was on her first visit to Japan, travelled with her daughter and mother-in-law. If statistics are any guide, they may be back.

Hacking tools stolen from NSA show Chinese cyberfirms were targeted, experts say

Hacking tools claimed to be pilfered from the US National Security Agency reveal a ­severe security threat to China, mainland experts say, with a leading national provider of network security said to be among the victims of the government hackers.

Some of the data was released online over the weekend by the Shadow Brokers, an anonymous group of hackers which said it took them from the “Equation Group”, an elite espionage team widely believed to be operated by the NSA. An increasing number of security experts have since said the data appeared to be legitimate.

[Topsec is] one of the largest security hardware suppliers in China, as big as Huawei

Tang Wei, senior engineer at Rising

American cybersecurity firm Risk Based Security studied the release and found one victim was Beijing Topsec Network Security Technology, which provides firewall ­services to government arms, including the tax bureau, as well as the military.

It looks increasingly likely that the NSA has been hacked, as experts scrutinise leaked code

An analysis of the data by mainland ­cybersecurity company Rising showed China was at a severe risk.

“We can tell for certain now that some attacks have been carried out against China,” Rising senior engineer Tang Wei said. “Topsec has been compromised; they are one of the largest security hardware suppliers in China, as big as Huawei.”

Topsec provided internet security services for aspects of national space projects, including the maiden launch of the Long March 7 rocket in June and the docking of the Tiangong-1 space station with the Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-8 spacecrafts.

Topsec has also provided information security for several international events held in China, such as the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, the 2010 Shanghai Expo and the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen in Zhejiang province last year.

China’s hack-proof quantum satellite leap into space leads the world

China and the US have traded accusations of hacking for years, but in 2013 former American intelligence analyst Edward Snowden revealed details about the extent of the NSA’s global surveillance programmes in 2013. He provided documents that showed the NSA was carrying out extensive hacking of major telecoms providers in China, and the Hong Kong headquarters of Pacnet, which owns a key fibre-optic submarine cable in the region.

A year later the US Justice Department charged five officers in the People’s Liberation Army over computer hacking and economic espionage.

Many Chinese security companies, including us, are studying the data to patch up security loopholes

Tang Wei, senior engineer at Rising

Since the Snowden incident, China has replaced network components developed by overseas companies such as Cisco Systems to prevent infiltrators from exploiting “back doors”.

But the code, which was created in 2010 and updated constantly until 2013, suggested domestic providers could be vulnerable to overseas attacks too, experts said.

EXCLUSIVE: Whistle-blower Edward Snowden talks to South China Morning Post

According to Tang, hackers could target vulnerabilities in firewall equipment and infiltrate internal networks run by commercial organisations or the government without being detected. “Many Chinese security companies, including us, are studying the data to patch up security loopholes. But what worries us most is that the tools have been disclosed,” Tang said.

Another security expert, who declined to be named, said that although Topsec might not have the best engineers or technology among mainland cybersecurity companies, they were closest to the government. “In terms of government and military purchases, they are No 1, no doubt, leaving the runner-up nearly a block ­behind,” the source said.

In addition to Topsec, three American companies – Cisco, Juniper Networks and Fortinet – were targeted by the Equation Group, according to the analysis by Risk Based Security.

Another Chinese firm Shaanxi Networkcloud Information Technology was also targeted, according to a blog post by Nicholas Weaver, a researcher at the International Computer Science Institute in California. Networkcloud, located in Shaanxi province, is a distributor for Topsec, according to its website.

Both Chinese companies did not ­immediately respond to inquiries by the South China Morning Post.

The Shadow Brokers is auctioning the remaining tools to the highest bidder, ­saying that it will release them publicly if it receives 1 million bitcoins, valued at roughly US$568 million.

Chinese airlines dangle lucrative pay to expat pilots as travel demand explodes

Chinese airlines need to hire almost 100 pilots a week for the next 20 years to meet skyrocketing travel demand. Facing a shortage of candidates at home, carriers are dangling lucrative pay packages at foreigners with cockpit experience.

Giacomo Palombo, a former United Airlines pilot, said he’s being bombarded every week with offers to fly Airbus A320s in China. Regional carrier Qingdao Airlines promises as much as US$318,000 a year. Sichuan Airlines, which flies to Canada and Australia, is pitching $302,000. Both airlines say they’ll also cover his income tax bill in China.

“When the time to go back to flying comes, I’ll definitely have the Chinese airlines on my radar,” said Palombo, 32, now an Atlanta-based consultant for McKinsey & Co. who said he was speaking in his personal capacity and not his employer’s. “The financials are attractive.”

Air traffic over China is set to almost quadruple in the next two decades, making it the world’s busiest market, according to Airbus Group SE.

Startup carriers barely known abroad are paying about 50 per cent more than what some senior captains earn at Delta Air Lines, and they’re giving recruiters from the US to New Zealand free rein to fill their captains’ chairs.

With some offers reaching $26,000 a month in net pay, pilots from emerging markets including Brazil and Russia can quadruple their salaries in China, said Dave Ross, Las Vegas-based president of Wasinc International.

Wasinc is recruiting for more than a dozen mainland carriers, including Chengdu Airlines, Qingdao Airlines and Ruili Airlines.

“When we ask an airline, ‘How many pilots do you need?,’ they say, ‘Oh, we can take as many as you bring,”’ Ross said. “It’s almost unlimited.”

Spokesmen for Qingdao and Sichuan declined to comment. A Chengdu Airlines spokesman didn’t reply to faxed questions sent at his request.

More seats than passengers as Chinese airlines expand too fast

Recruits preferring to live outside China earn a bit less but are offered free flights home to visit family members. Also on the negotiating table: signing bonuses, overtime pay and contract-completion payouts. Earlier this year, Ross saw the monthly paycheck of a pilot he placed at Beijing Capital Airlines: $80,000.

“I looked at that and thought, ‘Man, I’m in the wrong line of business,’” Ross said from Vienna, where he was interviewing candidates for Chengdu Airlines. “They can live like a king.”

By comparison, the average annual salary for senior pilots at major US airlines such as Delta is $209,000, according to Aviation Consulting.

Some U.S. regional airlines pay $25,000 or less, according to the Air Line Pilots Association, representing more than 52,000 pilots in the US and Canada.

“When we ask an airline, ‘How many pilots do you need?,’ they say, ‘Oh, we can take as many as you bring. It’s almost unlimited”

Dave Ross, Las Vegas-based president of Wasinc International

Aviation is booming in China, where the number of airlines has increased 28 per cent to 55 in the past five years. The fleet has more than tripled in a decade to 2,650, according to the Civil Aviation Industry Statistics Report.

The growing ranks of low-cost airlines favour single-aisle jets such as the A320, which can seat about 180 people. With passenger numbers in China increasing 11 per cent last year, carriers are scheduling more flights to handle demand. And that requires more captains.

Offering a fat paycheck is the only option for the newest carriers because they have minimal brand recognition and a limited performance record, said Liz Loveridge, who’s responsible for China recruitment at Rishworth Aviation in Auckland.

Chinese airlines are paying as much as five times more than some Asia rivals for new hires, she said.

“They can’t attract people through any other means,” Loveridge said. “They think money’s the only answer.’’

The lucrative packages go some way toward compensating recruits for one of their biggest headaches — government bureaucracy. It might take two years for a pilot to start work in China after applying for a job, she said.

“It’s the documentation, the work permits, the immigration, the medicals,” she said. “They say they want pilots, but there aren’t the resources.’’

“There aren’t a lot of expat pilots who really want to go to China. There are places that are more comfortable”

Richard Laig, Manila-based partner for consultancy Mango Aviation Partners Ltd

About 30,000 pilots fly for Air China, China Eastern Airlines and dozens of competitors, while about 2,200 foreign pilots have transport licenses, according to the government’s Annual Report of Chinese Pilot Development. South Korea, the US and Mexico contribute the most expatriates, and there’s also a lone Zimbabwean aviator.

Foreigners willing to captain a Boeing 737 for Urumqi Airlines can earn $21,333 a month, according to recruiter VOR Holdings. They would be based in Urumqi, a western outpost bracketed by Mongolia and Kazakhstan.

VOR also advertises similar roles at Xiamen Airlines, with pay potentially topping $332,000.

“There aren’t a lot of expat pilots who really want to go to China,” said Richard Laig, Manila-based partner for the Asia-Pacific region at consultancy Mango Aviation Partners Ltd. “There are places that are more comfortable.”

The imported aviators may do more than just chip away at a pilot shortage — they can bring decades of experience to the flight deck.

Chinese airlines are consistently late for this one surprising reason

The Asia-Pacific region’s accident rate — not just crashes but incidents such as landing gear malfunctions — has increased since 2011, according to the International Air Transport Association.

That safety record also is worse than the global one. In Asia-Pacific, there were 3.2 accidents per million flights last year, compared with a worldwide rate of 1.8 per million. The Bloomberg Asia Pacific Airlines Index has declined about 10 per cent this year.

“Some of the airlines see some value in having a Western accent in the cockpit,” Loveridge said. “They’ve got experience.”

That’s likely to become an even more expensive commodity in China’s skies. Airlines and leasing companies announced orders last year for 780 planes valued at about $102 billion.

Chinese airlines will need 6,330 new planes — worth $950 billion — in the next two decades, according to Boeing Co.

That influx of aircraft means carriers like Chengdu can’t be fussy about where they hire. Airline officials gave Ross, the recruiter at Wasinc, the OK to hire in bulk wherever he could.

“They told me: ‘Any place you can find 15 to 20 pilots that want to interview, we’ll go there,”’ Ross said.

‘One Belt’ must bring real benefits to people of partner nations, Xi says

Chinese President Xi Jinping has pledged to intensify China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative and ensure it brings real benefits to the people of participating countries.

China-led investment projects, mostly infrastructure and energy, have suffered a series of setbacks, with the blueprint marred by concerns that Beijing is using its economic power to gain diplomatic influence.

Analysts said the show of goodwill by Xi was necessary, but far from sufficient to reassure partner countries.

China’s one belt, one road plan covers more than half of the population, 75 per cent of energy resources and 40 per cent of world’s GDP

At a work conference on Wednesday about the initiative, Xi said measures were needed to ensure the projects were properly implemented.

“[The scheme] should not only benefit the Chinese people, but also the people of all countries along the routes,” Xi was quoted by Xinhua.

The blueprint aims to create an economic corridor stretching from China’s Southeast Asian neighbours to Europe and Africa. Although it was greeted with fanfare at its launch in 2014, the initiative has fuelled suspicion that it is a vehicle for extending Beijing’s geopolitical influence.

Others question the plan’s feasibility, pointing to a lack of concrete measures, financial returns, and continuing setbacks.

Why China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ plan is doomed to fail

In March, the Thai government announced it would not accept Chinese financing for a US$15 billion railway project and would instead invest in a shorter rail network itself.

China’s high-speed railway project in Indonesia, a US$5.1 billion joint venture with four Indonesian state-owned firms, only received a construction permit for the first 5km because of lack of details on the design and data from the field.

A number of Chinese-backed projects in Myanmar, including the US$3.6 billion Myitsone Dam, have also been halted amid ­protests by local communities who complained that the projects brought them few tangible ­benefits.

Ambiguous principals and expressions of intention are not enough

Shi Yinhong, professor of international relations, Renmin University

For projects in regions with significant security challenges, including Central Asia, Xi called for comprehensive safety risk assessments and emergency planning.

Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University, said it was only natural for other countries to have doubts over the scheme, especially given tension in the disputed South China Sea. Beijing has angered several nations in the region by more forcefully pressing its claims to the waters.

“Generally, ambiguous principals and expressions of intention are not enough [to reassure countries]. It depends on very complex and concrete negotiations on numerous issues,” Shi said.

“Only through detailed, concrete arrangements accepted by both parties can the mistrust over political, diplomatic, economic and financial matters be dispelled effectively.”

For first time, Zhang Dejiang spells out how Hong Kong can seize key role in One Belt, One Road

Shi said that although the Chinese side was committed to the blueprint, bilateral and multilateral negotiations were “lagging seriously behind”.

“It is absolutely not possible for you to start construction in other countries’ territories without their consent,” Shi said.

“And the consent cannot be only a general agreement. It also involves numerous important and not so important matters, sensitive and not so sensitive problems, as well as the whole international political atmosphere,” he said.

Chinese military to provide ‘aid and training assistance’ to Syrian government

The Chinese military will provide aid and training assistance to the Syrian government, as a Chinese military envoy agreed with Syrian defence minister in Damascus on Sunday.

The latest move is another step taken by Beijing to strengthen engagement in the Middle East. Beijing appointed Xie Xiaoyan, its former ambassador to Iran, as its special envoy to Syria in March.

The Chinese military delegation to Syria, headed by rear admiral Guan Youfei, director of international cooperation at the Central Military Commission, met Fahd Jassem al-Freij, Syrian vice prime minister and minister of defence, Xinhua reported on Tuesday.

China’s appointment of Syria envoy to boost involvement in Middle East and protect regional interests, say analysts

“They reached consensus on enhancing personnel training, and Chinese military offering humanitarian aid to Syria,” the Xinhua report said without given more details.

Al-Freij thanked the Chinese government and military for their help, while Guan said the Chinese military was willing to continue exchanges and cooperation with the Syrian military.

Guan also met Lieutenant General Sergei Chvarkov, chief of the Russian centre for reconciliation of opposing sides in Syria on Monday.

Williams calls for rethink of way US Fed operates

Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco President John Williams called for monetary and fiscal policy makers to rethink the way they operate, saying America is getting a taste of a new economic normal that warrants a change in orthodoxy.

Williams’ analysis centres on the idea that neutral interest rates — those that neither stoke nor slow the economy — are historically depressed and are poised to stay that way. To better adapt, he urged governments to prepare to provide a stronger fiscal backstop and central bankers to consider scrapping the practise of targeting low inflation.

“We can wait for the next storm and hope for better outcomes or prepare for them now and be ready,” Williams wrote in an essay published Monday by the San Francisco Fed. While he isn’t a voting member of the policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee this year, Williams is one of the foremost experts on the natural interest rate.

Williams, who was Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s top policy adviser when she was San Francisco Fed chief, joins a chorus of central bankers calling for stronger fiscal measures and a rethink as years of ultra-low interest rates and unconventional policies fail to stimulate breakout growth.

He’s also the second Fed policy maker in two months to suggest a major break with how the US central bank conducts itself. The St. Louis Fed’s James Bullard on June 17 announced that he would stop submitting long-term economic forecasts and lowered his rate projection to one hike in 2016 and none during 2017 and 2018, based on his thinking that the economy is in a new, low-productivity and low-growth regime.

“We can wait for the next storm and hope for better outcomes or prepare for them now and be ready”

Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco President John Williams

Williams’s comments come ahead of next week’s symposium hosted by the Kansas City Fed in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where top global central bankers and economic thinkers will gather to discuss how to design resilient monetary policy.

For central banks, the long-standing mantra of targeting a low inflation rate is no longer appropriate in an era of low interest rates, Williams wrote.

“There is simply not enough room for central banks to cut interest rates in response to an economic downturn when both natural rates and inflation are very low,” he said in the essay. The Fed adopted its 2 per cent inflation target in January 2012.

Williams suggested either setting a higher inflation goal or replacing the practise with something else. Options include flexible price-level targeting or aiming for levels of nominal gross domestic product.

While Williams has previously said that policy makers should explore their alternatives for dealing with a low-rate world and has put forth the idea of a higher inflation target, his essay takes a more forceful tack, arguing that “we are seeing the future now” and “reviewing the key aspects of inflation targeting is certainly necessary.”

Williams was careful to note that he isn’t “advocating an abrupt reversal of course,” which could be disruptive. “But now is the time for experts and policy makers around the world to carefully investigate the pros and cons of these proposals.”

Shifting demographics, slower productivity and economic growth and the fact that emerging markets are seeking large reserves of safe assets have all lowered the natural interest rate, according to his analysis. That means conventional monetary policy has less room to stimulate the economy, Williams wrote, suggesting that the neutral rate may have fallen from 4 per cent to 4.5 per cent in the short term to a new normal of 3 per cent to 3.5 per cent, or even lower.

With less wiggle room, central banks will have to turn to other tools such as balance sheets, communications and “potentially even negative policy rates,” he wrote. Recessions will be deeper, recoveries slower and the risk of unacceptably low inflation will be higher.

On the fiscal side, Williams advocated creating a more robust framework to help stimulate the economy in case of a downturn, since monetary policy will be less powerful.

He floated the idea of designing “stronger, more predictable, systematic adjustments of fiscal policy that support the economy during recessions and recoveries,” such as tying Social Security benefits or income tax rates to the national unemployment rate.

In PLA war games, side playing West fails to convince, says military mouthpiece

Every summer, the military holds war games in Inner Mongolia that pit PLA troops gathered as the “red army” against the “blue army” – a collection of tanks, artillery and soldiers that represent Western forces.

Ideally, the head-to-head drills should give soldiers experience in reacting to the tactics of Nato ground forces, including the United States Army. But according to the PLA Daily, the blue army is falling widely short of expectations.

China’s PLA units failing to replace expired ammunition, military mouthpiece warns

Citing an anonymous officer in charge of an army training base, the military mouthpiece reported yesterday that the “blue army”, was too simplistic in its simulation of how Western troops operate.

To address the problem, military institutions and the Zhurihe Training Base in Inner Mongolia have drawn up a formal appraisal system for the dummy unit.

The new assessment would be implemented during the current war games, which kicked off last month. Land forces from all five theatre commands are taking part, as well as air force units involved in early warning.

“The standardisation of the ‘blue army’ will help the land forces in modern joint operations that are involved in aviation teams, missile troops and other strategic supporting forces,” said Song Zhongping, a Beijing-based military expert.

The review system will focus on three main requirements: how much the blue army appears like Western military forces, which includes eating, living and uniforms; how much they learn from the Western forces’ approach; and how well they perform.

In order to better imitate the US Army, the blue army were given upgraded weapons and artillery last year, including the advanced 094A battle tank, the Type-07 self-propelled artillery and an early warning system.

“This new evaluation will also help the blue army discover its problems and consolidate goals, paving the way for it to become a professional ‘coaching unit’,” the PLA Daily reported, citing Wang Zhian, a drill director involved in the exercises.

The PLA established the “blue army”in 2012, naming it the 195th Mechanised Infantry Brigade and giving it a “prairie wolf” logo.

The review system will be implemented in the navy, air force and other strategic supporting forces

Antony Wong Dong, military expert

Compared to traditional armed forces, the special unit employs strong electromagnetic interference to disrupt the communications and command system of the PLA side, according to video footage carried on the website of the military mouthpiece.

During the exercise held in 2014, the red army, drawing on personnel from the former seven military commands, learned some bitter lessons, according to People’s Daily. It said the blue army won six out of seven battles.

Macau-based military expert Antony Wong Dong said the performance of the blue army would become “very close” to the capabilities of the US land forces under the new assessment system.

“The review system will be implemented in the navy, air force and other strategic supporting forces, which have also set up ‘enemy forces’ over the past few years,” Wong said.

Rides to nowhere: Shanghai Disney visitors ‘spend hours lined up for closed rides’

Visitors to Shanghai Disneyland have complained about waiting for up to four hours to get on popular rides, only to be told that the machines were out of order, local media reported.

The disgruntled customers did not get a refund, according to Instead, the amusement park offered passes valid for the next 12 months.

A woman surnamed Liu, who visited the park on Sunday, said she arrived in the morning and managed to go on just one ride for the whole day.

We do not fear Shanghai Disneyland, says new Hong Kong Ocean Park boss

She spent most of her time queuing up for two popular attractions, Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure and Roaring Rapids.

But in both cases, she ended up being told that the ride needed to be shut down for maintenance, the report said.

If you have a plan to repair the machines, why not inform us in advance

Patron surnamed He

“If you have a plan to repair the machines, why not inform us in advance, so that we don’t wait for many hours?”

A man surnamed He said the response he got from Disneyland’s guest service department was “unreasonable” and left him “outraged”.

“We had no chance to talk with any senior managers,” he said. “Most of the staff dealing with our complaints were just security guards.”

Liu said she and her child had come all the way from Gansu province and could not use the passes offered by Disneyland in compensation. “It’s not possible for us to come again,” she said.

However, she said she finally accepted the passes after arguing for an hour, since she and her child were exhausted.

Shanghai Disneyland trial run hit by lengthy queues

Shanghai Disney Resort said it is was occasionally necessary to temporarily close some of the attractions for a number of reasons, including maintenance, operational requirements and unforeseen circumstances.

The company did not provide attendance figures, but said it was pleased with the “robust demand and strong consumer interest” at the resort since its official opening about two months ago.

Ministry adds dozens of apps to blacklist

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has blacklisted 32 apps, deeming them malicious or a security threat to users, the ministry said yesterday.

They included five third-party apps from Baidu, one from Xiaomi and one from consumer electronics company Meizu.

Most of the apps were that allegedly bundled unrelated software that users did not ask to download, according to a notice posted on the ministry’s website.

“I’m surprised,” said Lin Yun, a smartphone user in Beijing. “I had faith in the big names, especially Baidu and Xiaomi. They have many security experts and promise only ‘green apps’ in their stores. I am too young, too naive,” she said.

Baidu, Xiaomi and Meizu could not be reached for comment.

Most of the blacklisted software ran on the Android smartphone platform.

The ministry releases a list of apps that have fallen under suspicion every three months. It asks the app developers to correct problems that have been flagged up, and failure to do results in a ban.

Last year more than 3,000 apps were removed, mostly because they contained porn.

Internet authorities are tightening their grip on the rapidly growing app market in other ways. Under new rules from the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), app providers on the mainland must adopt real-name registration for users and keep their user activity logs for 60 days.

The administration said the regulation, which took effect last Monday, was introduced to curb the dissemination of “illegal information” and violations of users’ rights through mobile apps.

“Lawbreakers exploit a handful of apps to disseminate violent, terrorist, obscene and pornographic information and rumours against the law,” an unnamed CAC official said.

New Hainan fishing port to extend China’s maritime reach: analysts

China has opened a new fishing port – the largest in the southern province of Hainan and the nearest to the disputed Spratly Islands – in a move analysts said would help expand its presence in the South China Sea.

The Sanya city government opened the Yazhou Central Fishing Port on Monday.

It could accommodate about 800 boats now, and was expected to be able to handle about 2,000 once the project was completed at a total cost of 3 billion yuan (HK$3.5 billion), the official ­Hainan Daily reported.

The port would be able to ­accommodate vessels as heavy as 3,000 tonnes, the report added.

Hainan had announced in June that it would build another large port on its southwestern coast at Leying village. After its completion in early 2018, it is ­expected to be able to handle at least 600 boats of 300 tonnes.

China enlists fishermen’s help to protect maritime rights in disputed South China Sea

To build itself up as a maritime power, China has long been ­providing financial support for fishermen, so they can build larger boats that can travel further.

For its part, the Sanya government has paid over 64 million yuan in subsidies to fishermen, and 25 fishing boats, each weighing more than 500 tonnes, have been launched there since June.

Analysts said large ports were also necessary to support this maritime expansion.

Lin Yongxin, a deputy director at the Hainan-based National ­Institute for South China Sea Studies, said that with large ports, fishermen would be more willing to build heavy fishing boats, which could travel further and confront coastguard ships from the Philippines and Vietnam when fishing in waters near the Spratly and Paracel islands.

South China Sea air strips’ main role is ‘to defend Hainan nuclear submarine base’

“By building these large ports, we can offer assistance to fishermen, who are the icons of China’s presence in South China Sea,” Lin said.

“And with this support, these fishermen will be able to continue to develop the fisheries in these areas.”

This could increase China’s presence in the South China Sea

M. Taylor Fravel, MIT

M. Taylor Fravel, an associate professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, took a similar view. He said opening more ports “demonstrates China’s resolve to continue to fish in the South China Sea, presumably including areas where a Hague tribunal ruled that China could not claim historic rights to resources”.

“This could increase China’s presence in the South China Sea, which is the first step towards achieving control,” he said.

Meanwhile, the foreign ministry rejected critics’ claims that the Yazhou port would serve as a base for Hainan’s informal maritime militia.

The ministry said in a written statement that the new facility was meant only to support local fishermen.