Assembling a City in the Ocean: Sansha Island in the South China Sea and the New Politics of Chinese Territorialization

  • Guanpei MingEmail author
Part of the Global Power Shift book series (GLOBAL)


In 2012, the Chinese State Council upgraded Sansha, a tiny community on an island in the disputed region of the South China Sea, to the status of a prefecture-level city. The city population had not grown and while Sansha’s upgrade meant an increase of its administrative power, it meant very little in terms of physical construction or migration. Shortly after the declaration, 21 companies were approved to set up offices in Sansha, an official government website was launched, a newspaper was opened, and the island was extended to accommodate a new airport runway. This chapter examines how China has demonstrated that its understanding of “territory” goes beyond that which can be simply drawn on a map. China wishes to extend its territorial control over the South China Sea; the airspace above it, the islands in it, the surface of the ocean, the submarine spaces, and the ocean floor. The chapter considers how China’s creation of infrastructure in the South China Sea has become the focus of recent political conflicts between China and its neighboring countries. It concludes by considering how building infrastructure is reflected and interpreted in foreign policy and territorial disputes.


South China Sea Sansha Territoriality Assemblage 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of Hawaii at ManoaHonoluluHawaii

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