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Cover Story Series> Previous> 2012
UPDATED: July 2, 2012 NO. 27 JULY 5, 2012
Sansha by the Sea
China sets up a city to govern the Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha islands and their surrounding waters in the South China Sea
By Lan Xinzhen

The Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha Islands

The Xisha Islands comprise 22 islets, seven sandbanks and more than 10 coral reefs. There are more than 3,500 permanent residents living on the Xisha Islands. Yongxing, the largest island in the archipelago, covers an area of 2.13 square km. Yongxing Island lies 182 nautical miles away from Hainan Island.

The Zhongsha Islands consist of sandbanks, reefs and islets, which are all submersed in water except for Huangyan Island. The Zhongsha Islands are about 200 nautical miles to the east of Yongxing Island of the Xisha Islands.

The Nansha Islands are the southernmost and scattered across the largest area, with more than 200 islets, reefs, sandbanks and shoals. Major islands in the archipelago are Taiping Island, Zhongye Island, Nanwei Island and Zhenghe Qunjiao. The Zengmu Reef is the southernmost point of China's territory.

China's Jurisdiction over the South China Sea

- China first discovered and named the reefs, islets and the surrounding waters of the Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha islands, and has exercised sovereignty control continuously over the area.

- In A.D.110, the government of the Han Dynasty (202 B.C.- A.D.220) set up a government agency on Hainan Island, which marks the beginning of central governance over Hainan Island and the islands in the South China Sea. At that time, Chinese people often navigated on the South China Sea and lived and fished around the Xisha Islands and the Nansha Islands.

- In A.D.971, the navy of the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) cruised the Xisha Islands. This was the earliest record of China's naval patrol in the area.

- In the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1369), Emperor Kubla Khan sent astronomer Guo Shoujing to conduct astronomical observations in the Zhongsha Islands, which evidenced the government's sovereignty over the area.

- In 1911, the Guangdong Provincial Government of the Republic of China proclaimed that the Xisha Islands were put under the jurisdiction of Hainan's Yaxian County (currently known as Sanya City).

- After the end of the World War II, according to the Postdam Declaration issued in July 1945 and the Cairo Declaration issued in 1947, the Republic of China sent high commissioners to the Xisha Islands from 1946 to 1948 to take over the archipelago. A takeover ceremony was held on the islands, and a monument was put up to assert China's sovereignty. The government also stationed army and set up a service station for fishermen on Taiping Island, the largest of its kind in the Nansha Islands.

- In March 1959, the Central Government of the People's Republic of China set up the administrative office for the Xisha, Nansha and Zhongsha islands, which was governed by Guangdong Province.

- In October 1984, Hainan Administrative Region was set up, which took over the administrative office.

- In April 1988, Hainan Province was set up and the administrative office was put under the province.

- In June 2012, the State Council approved the establishment of Sansha City, which governs the Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha islands and their surrounding waters. Meanwhile the administrative office for the area was abolished.

Email us at: lanxinzhen@bjreview.com

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