Detailed regulations to guide their development are currently being drafted by Guangdong provincial authorities with a public bidding process set for next year, the China Daily said on Wednesday.
"The new regulations will be introduced and come into effect next month," Bai Hua, director of the Waters Administrative Department under Guangdong's Bureau of the Ocean and Aquatic Products Industry, was quoted as saying.
The islands would be sold for tourism, transportation, trade, warehouse and industrial development, Bai said, but no military intallations would be allowed.
Sino-foreign joint venture companies that are controlled by Chinese firms are allowed to bid, but other foreign concerns or individuals are not.
Bai said investors had to hand over detailed development plans, involving environmental and ecological protection measures, before they bid.
Interest so far had been keen, with the bureau inundated with telephone inquires and written applications from both companies and individuals.
Guangdong has China's longest coastline and a total of 1434
islands. More than 90% of them have no residents and 604 cover an area of more than 500 square metres each.
It was not clear how many of the islands would be sold, but authorities are expecting they will go for between 100,000 yuan (12,000 dollars) and 100 million yuan (12 million dollars) each.