|A runway of 2700 meters for tourists or the military?|
On July 17, probably in response to Vietnam's advances in the area, China officially created a new prefecture, responsible for administering 'its' territories in the South China Sea.
The prefecture is called: Sansha, 'san' meaning three and 'sha' is an abbreviation for the three groups of islands in the area, Xisha (Paracel Islands), Zhongsha and Nansha (Spratly Islands).
The new administrative center is located on the island of Yongxing (also known as Woody Island), the largest of the Paracel Islands, occupied from 1932 by the French and then by the Japanese, and finally by the Chinese. It is also claimed by Vietnam as part of its territory.
The particularity of the new town: it has an area smaller than a Chinese university campus (2.13 km2) and a population of 444 inhabitants (in 2010).
It will however admister the largest and most southerly area of the People's Republic of China.
Residents of Sansha are mostly military and government officials.
According to Xinhua, Beijing has set up an organizing committee to create a legislative body for Sansha.
The committee was set up by the Standing Committee of the Hainan Provincial People's Congress in Haikou, capital of China's southernmost island province. Xinhua says that the Committee will organize the elections for the first municipal congress which will have 60 'directly elected' delegates.
Can you believe it!
It is the State Council, China's cabinet, which approved the establishment of Sansha to "improve China's management of the region and help coordinate efforts to develop the islands and protect the marine environment".
Wu Shicun, the Director of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies told the Chinese news agency that the fishermen, the oil-gas, and tourism resources in the South China Sea would thus be better protected.
Beijing would like Sansha to administer some 200 islets, sandbanks and reefs of the Paracel, Zhongsha and Spratly Islands, covering 13 km2 in island area and 2 million km2 of water.
But there is another story.
Xinhua also reported that China's central military authority has approved to form and deploy a military garrison in the newly established city of Sansha.
It affirmed: "Sources with the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Guangzhou Military Command said that the Central Military Commission (CMC) had authorized it to form a garrison command in the city."
It added: "The garrison command will be a division-level command under the PLA's Hainan provincial sub-command, responsible for managing the city's national defense mobilization, military reserves and carrying out military operations. The PLA's Sansha Garrison Command will be under the dual leadership of the Hainan provincial sub-command and the city's civilian leaders."
Does it mean that the PLA in Sansha will be under an 'elected' government?
It would be a first in China.
Why not to replicate the experiment in the Tibetan autonomous prefectures?