China has unveiled a new official map that shows the South China Sea as a key part of the nation’s territory. The contentious move has not only riled surrounding nations, but has increased suspicions that the superpower plans to resolve overpopulation issues by building floating cities off its coast.
The move comes just months after designs for a floating city, which was commissioned by Chinese government-owned construction company CCCC, were released by architects AT Design Office.
Although only conceptual at this stage, a test version of the city may well be in development. On release of the designs, project architect Slavomir Siska explained: “China Transport Investment Co. is reviewing the proposal and is likely to start to test this ambitious project from a smaller scale next year.”
Securing safe locations for floating cities will be vital to such a project’s long-term success, and this could be one of the reasons China has decided to reaffirm its claim of the South China Sea.
The new map (pictured above) identifies Chinese territory as extending right down to just above Malaysia, forming a tongue shape that includes almost all the sea between Vietnam and the Philippines.
Within the claimed area are a number of islands with hotly disputed ownership, igniting fears that China is also using the maps to flex its political muscles.
“Maps that show islands in the South China Sea and the Diaoyu Islands (the Chinese name for the Senkaku Islands) in one picture were a sign that the Xi leadership will take an aggressive policy in nearby waters,” said a Chinese Communist Party source in an interview with Nikkei Asian Review.
By building floating cities in the South China Sea, the country could further cement its claim to the region, making the structures a valuable political tool as well as a social one.
China’s floating city project is not the first to involve a political aspect, and politics is becoming a common feature among some organisations looking to establish floating structures on which to live.
The most notable example is the Seasteading Institute, a libertarian organisation that is looking to establish independent floating cities known as seasteads that are not only self-sufficient but which have political autonomy.
Floating cities are a hugely expensive undertaking, and many have questioned if they will ever happen.
However, they could serve as powerful political tools, and as populations grow further could become essential to provide enough housing, particularly in regions where rising sea levels are reducing the amount of available land.