Here, in the fishing port of Tanmen in the southern island of Hainan, 50-year-old captain Chen Yuguo was in the wheelhouse of his trawler last week, carrying out minor repairs after a six-week fishing trip to the disputed Spratly Islands.
A portrait of “Comrade” Mao Zedong hung in a place of honor behind him, alongside an expensive satellite navigation system supplied by the Chinese government. Chen said catches are much better in the Spratlys than in China’s depleted inshore waters, but the captain said he is also fulfilling his patriotic duty.
“It is our water,” he said, “but if we don’t fish there, how can we claim it is our territory?”
Experts say the battle for fisheries resources, an often overlooked destabilizing influence in the South China Sea, is a source of unpredictability, volatility and risk.
“How China’s Fishermen are Fighting a Covert War in the South China Sea”