Sansha City and the South China Sea issue

By An Gang
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, July 24, 2013
Adjust font size:

July 24, 2013 is the first anniversary of the founding of Sansha City and on the same day one year ago, a ceremony to mark the city's establishment was held on Yongxing Island in China's southernmost province of Hainan.

Residence Permit of Shansha City

According to an announcement promulgated by China's Ministry of Civil Affairs on June 21, 2012, the offices in Xisha Islands, Nansha Islands and Zhongsha Islands were revoked and the prefecture-level city of Sansha was established in their stead to administer the islands of the South China Sea and its waters. Thus, China established its second prefecture-level archipelago city after Zhoushan City.

The islands administered by Sansha cover only 13 square kilometers of land area and have a permanent resident population of less than 1,000. Despite this, they have a sea area of more than 2 million square kilometers, which is about a quarter of China's total land area.

Sansha City was established with tremendous public support. As Sansha developed into a prefecture-level city China adjusted and perfected the systems of administrative control in the Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha Islands as well as their sea areas. More importantly, the Chinese government strengthened the administrative management, development and construction and environment protection in these areas, providing a more substantial legal and factual basis for China to exercise its sovereignty over and protect its interests in the South China Sea, as well as the small islands and waters attached to them.

In the past year, with the support of the central government, the army in Hainan Province cooperated with the local government, while the provincial government cooperated with the municipal government, to implement the policy of "safeguarding sovereignty and stability, exploitation and environment protection," and building Sansha City into an important base to protect the sovereignty of the South China Sea and resources development service there. Among the great achievements made under this cooperative framework, the Party, government and judicial offices of Sansha were built within one month, while Sansha Garrison Command at division level helped Hainan Military Region to expand its frontline command to the central region of the South China Sea.

The regional development plans, overall construction plan of the City, the special agendas, such as the construction plans for Yongxing and Zhaoshu Islands and the inter-island transportation link are being rapidly completed. It is reported that the overall plan has already been submitted to the State Council and will hopefully be announced soon. The infrastructure, including the first phase of the all-purpose wharf in Yongxing Island, desalination plant, wastewater disposal and garbage collection and conveyance are all under construction and have received investment in excess of 10 billion yuan.

The construction in Sansha focuses on Xisha Islands and will gradually be expanded to Zhongsha and Nansha Islands. A strategic hinterland and rear base will be established for Sansha on Hainan Island after the completion of initial exploration work. The central government is actively researching and developing policies to support development in remote islands such as Sansha. Such policies cover a variety of fields, including city planning, municipal construction projects to improve the livelihood of the people, marine fishery, oil and gas exploitation, tourism and marine conservation.

The establishment of Sansha also symbolizes that China has become more active, determined, and systematic in how it protects its sovereignty in the South China Sea region via more comprehensive, flexible, and practical methods.

Directed by the "construction of marine power" policy, which is clearly stated in the report of the 18th National Congress of the CPC, the new round of institutional reforms and transformation of government functions by the State Council focuses on restructuring the State Oceanic Administration and establishing the National Marine Affairs Committee to ensure improved deliberation and coordination. The marine surveillance department of the State Oceanic Administration, the marine affairs department of the Ministry of Transport, the fishery administration of the Ministry of Agriculture, the anti-smuggling department of the General Administration of Customs and the marine police department of the Ministry of Public Security, which all used to act independently of each other, have now been optimized and integrated to form an integrated marine management system. Thus, marine management efficiency has been promoted.

China's official vessels have, under central command, begun to protect its sovereignty through regular patrols, law enforcement and fishery protection in the islands and ocean regions which fall under the country's jurisdiction. A maritime emergency command center was also established. As fishery protection has been strengthened, China National Offshore Oil Corporation is accelerating the construction of deep-sea drilling platforms and has announced plans to open nine sea regions of about 16,000 square kilometers in the South China Sea for public bidding and joint exploitation of oil and gas resources. Xisha Island has been successfully opened to the public as a tourism site and ecological maintenance and the establishment of a cultural relics collection are under the way. Research institutes analyzing the issues of the South China Sea are beginning to promote China's right of speech on the issue of the South China Sea in international forums.

Certain neighboring countries in the vicinity of the South China Sea have flagrantly violated the spirit of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and the principles of international maritime law; and they have done so for their own gain. These countries took advantage of the support of the world's major power to elevate their position and incite conflict. They relentlessly strengthen their actual control over the illegally occupied Chinese islands and harass Chinese fishermen working in the South China Sea region with the support of the U.S. By doing so, they invade China's territorial sovereignty, maritime rights and threaten the safety of Chinese citizens. The Chinese government, through a range of different means and channels, and through the efforts of its maritime law enforcement agencies, worked to counter these misdeeds. In such sea areas as Huangyan Island, the government decisively cracked down on Filipino actions, as well as those of certain other countries, and strengthened and expanded its actual control of the islands in the South China Sea.

The construction of Sansha, the exploitation and utilization of marine resources in Hainan Province and China's efforts to protect its sovereignty in the South China Sea region are complementary processes. When analyzed against the backdrop of current events, these efforts clearly show that China's comprehensive strength has improved. It also demonstrates that China has adjusted its foreign strategy, and increased public awareness of ocean and sovereignty protection.

If I pause at this moment to recollect several of President Xi Jinping's public speeches on the issue of South China Sea on various occasions since April this year, I will be able to convey a more accurate understanding of China's stand in the South China Sea.

On April 7, in his keynote speech at the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference, Xi solemnly stated China's determination to promote peace and stability in Asia and the world. He pointed out that China would continue to work hard to maintain friendly relations with neighboring countries on the basis of protecting national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity, thus ensuring regional peace and stability.

On April 8, Xi arrived at Tanmen town in Qionghai City of Hainan Province, the logistics base of Nansha Fisheries and where deep sea fish are gathered, distributed and sold. He visited Tanmen fishermen, exhorting them to look out for their safety while fishing. He also expressed his hope that their daily catch would continue to grow.

On April 9, when inspecting the navy base in Sanya, Xi stressed that priority must be given to the cultivation of fighting spirit and style.

Xi's most recent words on the South China Sea issue came on June 19 in his talks with the Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang. He pointed out that it is crucial for China and Vietnam to take the lessons of history seriously and give priority to friendly relations between the two countries, so that a political solution could be found to the South China Sea issue. "The key is to promote stability and cooperation," said Xi.

We can see that China's sovereignty protection on the South China Sea issue is going beyond the previous mode of only relying on diplomatic negotiations, as China is strengthening its sovereignty and interests from all perspectives and through various means. This demonstrates that certain countries can no longer take advantage of China's past incompetence and low profile to steal and encroach on China's interests as they have done before.

As the earliest developer and user of South China Sea, and the owner of these islands, the Chinese people have the rights to exercise the nation's sovereignty in the South China Sea and turning it into an area fit for peaceful cooperation. This is the confidence and enlightenment we should obtain from our reflection over the issue of the South China Sea on the first anniversary of Sansha City.

The author is a news commentator.

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of

Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from