The man helping build China’s youngest city in the middle of the sea


Zhao Wenchao, a staff member at the Planning and Construction office under the Management Committee of Qilianyu Islands in south China’s Sansha city, is in charge of infrastructure projects on the islands.

Having majored in civil engineering at Zhengzhou University of Science and Technology, 30-year-old Zhao left his hometown in central China’s Henan Province to work in the city in 2020.

“I am already a qualified Hainan resident,” Zhao said, though he still remembers getting seasick the first time he took the boat out to the sea. “I wanted to vomit, but I couldn’t.”

The first task for Zhao is to improve a road that circles Zhaoshu Island. “We plan to turn a round-the-island road into a road of ecological protection and landscape viewing,” said Zhao, adding that, “the rainwater falling on the road’s surface can be collected in the side ditches and there are three pools next to the road so that the water flowing into the pools can be used for planting trees.”

Zhao also used his knowledge to help with the construction of a building for community-based services on the island.

The construction of infrastructure projects matters a lot to building Sansha City, which was officially designated as China’s youngest city in July 2012 to administer about the 2-million-square-kilometer islands, coastal areas and territorial seas in the South China Sea.

The city of Sansha got its name from the three island groups under its jurisdiction – Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha – and their surrounding waters in the South China Sea.

Passengers disembark from the vessel Sansha II after its maiden voyage at Yongxing Island of Sansha City, south China’s Hainan Province, August 21, 2019. /CFP

Passengers disembark from the vessel Sansha II after its maiden voyage at Yongxing Island of Sansha City, south China’s Hainan Province, August 21, 2019. /CFP

Thanks to years of efforts, the city, once an isolated fishing village with underdeveloped facilities, has become a maritime border city with quality infrastructure in the southernmost part of China.

To facilitate the commute between the islands in Sansha and other islands in Hainan Province, vessels including Sansha I and Sansha II have been put into operation in recent years. The two boats travel between Yongxing Island of Sansha and Qinglan Port of Wenchang City, south China’s Hainan Province.

Authorities in Sansha City have also invested in improving the commute between Yongxing Island and other nearby islands. For example, instead of fishing boats and small traffic boats, residents in Yongxing Island nowadays can take vessels to go to Zhaoshu Island and Yongle Islands three times a week.

Sansha has not only different types of vessels but also government-chartered planes and helicopters, which have effectively alleviated the traffic pressure of the residents in the city.

Besides the changes in transport, the southernmost Chinese city has also witnessed the building of hospitals, schools, banks, airports, libraries and other types of infrastructure. Nowadays, fishermen are relocated to new buildings and have access to potable water, electricity, mobile network and cable TV.

“The living conditions on the island are getting better, which was unthinkable before,” Huang Liangshan, a local fisherman, told Hainan Daily.

His two-story house is now connected to the freshwater network and he recently started a small business. He says the comfortable life on the island makes him feel at ease.

Witnessing the recent changes, Zhao said he hopes Zhaoshu Island will be more beautiful with better development.