Capitol of Sansha in Yongxing Dao (Woody Island) Neighborhood Committee
Location Sansha City jurisdiction (in pink) in Hainan
|Country||People's Republic of China|
|Prefecture-level city||24 July 2012 (UTC+8)|
|City seat||Yongxing Island|
|• CPC Municipal Party Secretary||Fu Zhuang (符戆)|
|• Mayor||Xiao Jie (肖杰)|
|• Land||13 km2 (5 sq mi)|
|• Water||~2,000,000 km2 (~772,000 sq mi)|
|Population (2010 Census)|
|• Estimate (2012)||1,000|
|• Urban density||34.15/km2 (88.4/sq mi)|
|Time zone||China Standard Time (UTC+8)|
|Territorial Dispute: There are on-going territorial disputes in the entire area covered by the city, whose administrative authority is not internationally recognized.|
|Literal meaning||three sands (referring to the Chinese names for the three island groups)|
Sansha is a prefecture of the People's Republic of China's Hainan province which administers (actually or nominally) several island groups and undersea atolls in the South China Sea, comprising the Spratly Islands, the Paracel Islands and the Macclesfield Bank. The entire territory is disputed, and China's de facto control over the area varies. Sansha has equal administrative status to a prefecture-level city, and was created on 24 July 2012.
The establishment of Sansha is simply an upgrade of the administrative status of these island groups from the previous county-level Administrative Office, and construction of a city is not actually underway. A garrison may be established, however. The United States Department of State called the change in the administrative status of the territory "unilateral", and the move has received criticism from two nations engaged in the South China Sea dispute, the Philippines and Vietnam.
The centre of government for Sansha is located on Yongxing (Woody) Island in the Paracels, where some 600 Chinese civilians reside. Woody Island is the largest of the islands in the Paracel and Spratly groups with an area of about 5 square miles (13 km2). Nationally, Sansha is the smallest prefecture-level city by both population and land area but the largest by water area and the southernmost.
Sansha is governed by a municipal congress of 60 delegates directly elected, with a standing committee of 15 members. It is further subdivided into 3 towns at the township level (4th-level subdivision), based on the island groups:
- The Paracels or Xisha Islands – "The West-sands" – Town code: 460321
- The Macclesfield Bank or Zhongsha Islands – "The Middle-sands" – Town code: 460323
- Governed by the Zhongsha Dao and Jiao Neighborhood Committee.
- Does not have actual control of this area.
- The Spratlys or Nansha Islands – "The South-sands" – Town code: 460322
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (August 2012)|
Given approval by the State Council on 24 March 1953, the "Guangdong Province Paracels, Spratlys, and Zhongsha Islands Authority" was established as a county-level administrative division on Yongxing (Woody) Island, the largest in area among the disputed South China Sea Islands. During the Cultural Revolution, when Revolutionary Committees were being set up across the country, it was upgraded to the "Guangdong Province Paracels, Spratlys, and Zhongsha Islands Revolutionary Committee" on 4 March 1959. On 22 October 1981 the original Authority was restored. Administration was transferred to Hainan on National Day, 1984, when the Hainan Administrative Region was established, followed by the establishment of Hainan Province on 13 April 1988. On 19 September 1988, it was officially changed to the "Hainan Province Paracels, Spratlys, and Zhongsha Islands Authority". On 25 December 2006, Woody Island census-town's first-ever Residents' and Fishers' Congress was held. three representatives at the township and village levels were selected to represent the census-town's Neighborhood Committee of the North and South Villages. The Neighborhood Committee began work on Woody Island the following day with an office at the Border Guards of the Paracels' Police Station. They were the first ever actual subdivisions created within the county-level authority.
The prospect of the establishment of a "city" on Woody Island was first mooted on 19 November 2007 in a report by Mingpao, a Hong Kong-based newspaper, through a telephone interview with a Mr. Zhang of the Propaganda Department of Wenchang, Hainan. This report claimed that a county-level city was to be established by the PRC State Council in November 2007 to administer three disputed archipelagos in the South China Sea: the Paracel Islands, Macclesfield Bank (Zhongsha Islands) and the Spratly Islands. This was to replace the county-level Paracels, Spratlys, and Zhongsha Islands Authority. That the city of Wenchang would provide supplies and logistics to the to-be-established city. The article also stated that Wenchang's municipal party secretary Xie Wenzhang had announced a similar decision at the municipal congress on 26 October. It was referred to simply as "City X". The article finally concluded with the possibility of the opening of tourism onto Woody Island as a next step. However, until June 2012 there had been no official announcement of a decision by the Chinese government.
On 23 July 2012 the Chinese Central Military Commission announced it had authorised the People's Liberation Army Guangzhou Military Command to form a "garrison command" in Sansha City. The troops would be responsible for managing the city's national defence mobilisation, military reserves and carrying out military operations.
On 24 July 2012, China officially established the city of Sansha in Yongxing Island.
Because Sansha's jurisdiction comprises island groups that several nations besides China claim as their own, the city is considered by some as controversial.
In 2007, the Foreign Ministry of Vietnam protested against the city's proposed establishment, which had been recently approved by China's State Council, as Vietnam claims two of the three island groups that comprise Sansha. This was later followed by student demonstrations at the Chinese embassy in Hanoi and a consulate in Ho Chi Minh City.
Days prior to the official establishment of the city in late July 2012, Vietnam again stated its opposition and was joined in its protests by the Philippines. The United States Department of State also weighed in on the issue stating, "we remain concerned should there be any unilateral moves of this kind that would seem to prejudge an issue." The chair of the US Senate Foreign Relations East Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee, Jim Webb, also made a statement regarding Sansha and questioned whether the city's creation was a violation of international law. While Senator Webb stated that the establishment of Sansha was China "creating a governmental system out of nothing", the Chinese government has included the island groups that comprise Sansha in its administrative structure since 1959. Before these island groups were under the nominal administration of Sansha, they were nominally administered by an administrative office under the provincial government of Hainan.
Yongxing (Woody) Island, the seat of Sansha city, includes a small airport, sea port, medical clinic, supermarket, observatory, and post office. A hospital is planned. Woody island is supplied by a freighter which hauls supplies, including drinking water, from Hainan. The small airstrip, Yongxing Island Airport, was completed in July 1990. The runway is either 2,600 or 2,700 metres. Some say it is capable of handling People's Liberation Army Naval Air Force aircraft such as the Shenyang J-11BH/S, Chengdu J-10AH/S, and Sukhoi Su-30MKK.
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (August 2012)|
There is a common saying in China that "traveling abroad is easy compared to a trip to the Paracels". Indeed, before the 1970s, the only means of transportation to and from the islands were by hiring fishers' boats, and even then only Woody Island was accessible, while the rest of the Paracels, the Zhongsha Islands and the Spratlys were only accessible to military personnel. The situation was improved in 1977 with the construction of a freighter given approval by then Premier Zhou Enlai. Having a tonnage of 2160 tonnes and a maximum load of 200 personnel, the "Qiongsha 1" (literally "Hainan-South China Sea Islands 1") freighter carried supplies and personnel between Woody Island and Hainan Island. In 1997, "Qiongsha 1" was destroyed in a typhoon while en route to Zhanjiang, Guangdong Province for routine maintenance and upkeep. A smaller "Qiongsha 2" freighter at 1410 tonnes and a load of 100 personnel was commissioned that same year. It operated for 10 years, and was decommissioned in January 2007.
As of 2008, the "lifeboat" of the islands is the "Qiongsha 3" freighter (Tonnage: 2500 tonnes; Load: 200 personnel; Payload: 750 tonnes in cargo; Length: 84 metres; Width: 13.8 metres). This is basically the only means of transportation to and from the islands for non-military personnel (mostly fishers and researchers). Its maiden voyage was on 10 February 2007, and it has been sailing regularly between Wenchang's Qinglan Port on southeastern Hainan Island and Woody Island in the Paracels roughly every 20 days. A normal trip takes 13 to 15 hours, navigating between dangerous reefs and banks, through a distance of 186 nautical miles (344 km).
Although all of the Paracels have been under China's control since the late 1970s, its strategic military position at the frontiers and its status as a disputed island with several claimants' military personnel nearby, have meant a low priority for the development of tourism. Nevertheless, since 2005, the provincial government of Hainan has instituted a small organising panel to investigate and discuss the possibility of opening up tourism to Woody Island and the rest of the Paracels.
- Administrative divisions of the People's Republic of China
- South China Sea Islands
- Territorial disputes in the South China Sea
- Alexa Olesen (Associated Press) (2012-07-24). "China dubs tiny island new city in sea claim bid". chron.com. Retrieved 2012-07-24.
- "China sets up Sansha City to administer South China Sea islands". Sina. 21 June 2012. Retrieved 21 June 2012.
- "China establishes Sansha City". Xinhua. 24 July 2012. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
- "Sansha garrison". China Daily. 2012-07-27. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
- Lague, David (Wed 25 Jul 2012 5:07pm EDT). "China's hawks gaining sway in South China sea dispute". Reuters (Hong Kong). Retrieved 7 August 2012.
- "STIRRING UP THE SOUTH CHINA SEA (II): REGIONAL RESPONSES Asia Report N°229". International Crisis Group. July 2012. p. 5. Retrieved 7 August 2012.
- USA Today, Tiny island in South China Sea is stirring up tensions, Calum MacLeod, 12 July 2012
- "Sansha government". Xinhua Net. Retrieved 8 August 2012.
- "China's Jurisdiction over the South China Sea". Beijing Review.
- "Vietnam, China: The Dispute over Significant Waterways". Free Intelligence Reports (Stratfor). 2007-12-04. Retrieved 2007-12-08.
- BBC News, China Approves Military Garrison, 23 July 2012
- "Vietnam objects to China’s establishment of San Sha city on the Hainan Island: MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS' SPOKESMAN – MR. LE DZUNG ANSWERS QUESTION ON 3rd DECEMBER 2007". Vietnam Ministry of Foreign Affairs. undated. Retrieved 7 August 2012.
- Symon, Andrew (20 Dec 2007). "China, Vietnam churn diplomatic waters". Asia Times Online. Retrieved 7 August 2012.
- For Vietnamese stated opposition, see "REFILE-PRESS DIGEST – Vietnam newspapers – June 22". Reuters. Thu 21 Jun 2012 10:56pm EDT. Retrieved 7 August 2012.
- For Philippines stated opposition, see "Philippines summons Chinese ambassador to protest Sansha city.". Sina. 6 July 2012. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
- "Victoria Nuland, Spokesperson: Daily Press Briefing, Washington, DC, July 24, 2012". United States Department of State. 24 July 2012. Retrieved 27 July 2012.
- "Senator Webb: China’s military and governmental expansion into South China Sea might be a "Violation of International Law"". United States Senate. 25 July 2012. Retrieved 27 July 2012.
- "China opposes US statement on S. China Sea". 08-05-2012. CCTV. Retrieved 7 August 2012.
- "Nation’s newest city takes root in South China Sea". Shanghai Municipal Government. 2012-07-25. Retrieved 8 August 2012.
- Bernstein, Richard; Munro, Ross H. (1998). The Coming Conflict with China. Vintage Books. p. 74. ISBN 978-0679776628.
- "专家建议造浮岛机场让战机作战半径覆盖南海" (in Chinese). Eastday. 4 June 2012. Retrieved 11 July 2012.
- Chang, Andrei (26 September 2008). "Analysis: China's air-sea buildup". Spacewar.com. Retrieved 11 July 2012.
- Administrative divisions of Hainan Province
- Hainan Province Paracels, Spratlys, and Zhongsha Islands Authority
- Hainan Province Paracels, Spratlys, and Zhongsha Islands Authority Woody Island Census Town
- Subdivision Information of the Hainan Province Paracels, Spratlys, and Zhongsha Islands Authority
- US criticises China garrison