SANYA, CHINA – Except for a few transient fishermen living in wooden huts, the tranquil shores of Woody Island were for decades largely devoid of inhabitants or civilian facilities.
Then, in 2012, it all changed for the biggest island of the disputed Paracels in the South China Sea.
That year, China – which controls the archipelago – established the Sansha city government, giving it the authority to “govern” the South China Sea islands and surrounding waters. Soon after, it added a library, a school, a hospital and even a satellite TV station, in an area half the size of Sentosa. Cafes and supermarkets line its main thoroughfare, Beijing Road.
The Chinese call the island Yongxing, or “eternal prosperity”, and it now has more than 1,000 residents, as China moves to solidify its claims in this and other disputed areas of the South China Sea.
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