2012–6-27 (ruvr.ru and by Andrei Karneev) — A new city has emerged on the map of China. China’s State Council has approved the foundation of the district level city of Sangsha. Governance over the islands of Xisha, Zhong Sha and Nan Sha – as well as the adjacent waters – will be concentrated in this administrative center.
Sangsha therefore becomes the southernmost city in China and, taking into account the area of the surrounding waters, it is the largest municipality too. At the same time, from the administrative division point of view, the appearance of a new city on the map looks like a curious incident. Usually a district level city in China has a population of no less than 200,000 people, while the population of the three islands together is not more than 500. However, from a geopolitical standpoint, it is a very clever move on the part of Beijing.
The city government of Sangsha will be located on Yongxing Island. Yongxing covers an area of about two square kilometers and is considered to be the outpost of Chinese interests in this natural resource-rich area of the South China Sea. In addition a subdivision of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army is deployed here, Boeing-737 class airplanes can land on the local runway, and 5000-ton ships can harbor at its port.
This step is evidently connected to the aggravation of territorial disputes in the South China Sea. China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei are all disputing the sovereignty over the islands. The Taiwan administration has also laid a claim for control over the islands.
It is possible that plans for founding a city in order to maintain effective control over this hydrocarbon-rich area have existed for a long time. Back in 2007, the Hong Kong Mingbao newspaper reported about the possible foundation of a city on the disputed islands. It was designated as “X City”. At the time of the news, Vietnam reacted very painfully to a possible increase in Chinese presence in the disputed territories. The Vietnamese Foreign Ministry came forward with sharp criticism of Beijing, and mass protests were held in two big cities – Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. As a result, the plans for X City had to be abandoned for a while.