China says it is looking to develop the islands it controls in the disputed South China Sea and is looking for private investment to help bring the plan to fruition, according to state-run Xinhua News Agency, a move which will likely anger regional claimants.
Sansha, China’s southernmost island city that administers vast island groups and their surrounding waters in the South China Sea, is inviting private investors to support infrastructure construction projects this year, a senior municipal official said Friday.
Feng Wenhai, Deputy Mayor of Sansha, says the city will welcome private investment and “will initiate public-private-partnership programs,” Xinhua reports.
China plans to launch regular flights in 2016 that will depart for the sparsely populated Sansha city — which is part of the Paracel Islands — at an airport on Woody (or Yongxing Island), where the city government is based, according to the report.
“The city will also push forward the planning and construction of a maritime medical rescue center. Submarine optical cables will be laid and put into use this year, and WiFi will cover all inhabited islands and reefs,” Feng said.
Built in 2012 to help Beijing govern regional islands (including the Spratly Islands and the Paracel Islands) in the disputed South China Sea, Sansha city on Woody (or Yongxing) Island, has a mere population of a few thousand people and its infrastructure includes a 8,900 feet long (2,700 meter) airstrip, a few official buildings, a bank, a library, and an observatory. However, China is hoping to boost tourist numbers by introducing regular civilian flights.
The total land area of Sansha is less than 13 square km, but the water area claimed by the city approaches nearly 2-million square kilometers. Which makes Sansha simultaneously the smallest and the largest city in China — smallest by land area and population, but largest by total area.
The Paracels — includes about 130 small coral islands and reefs — are claimed by China, Vietnam, and Taiwan. Since a brief 1974 war with Vietnam, the group of islands has been occupied by China and is currently under the administration of Hainan Province.
China took full control of the Paracel Islands in 1974 after a naval showdown with Vietnam.
China claims almost the entirety of the energy-rich waters of the South China Sea, where over $5 trillion of maritime trade passes through each year.
Here are some photos of the island:
An aerial view of Woody Island, or Yongxing island. Photo credit
Located five miles Southwest of Yongxing Island, Qilianyu consists of seven small islands, and is part of Sansha. Photo credit
An aerial view of the Islets and reefs in the Yongle archipelago in Sansha. Photo credit
An aerial view of the village on the Yagong Islet in Yongle archipelago in Sansha. Photo credit
Fishing boats and public service vessels rest along Woody Island harbor. Photo credit
The government building of Sansha was built on Woody Island. Photo credit
The view of Woody Island from a nearby jetty. Photo credit
A sign at Woody Island, which is the center of government for Sansha. Photo credit
An aerial view of a port located at the southern part of Woody Island. Photo credit