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Mayor answers: 'I'm from the sea'

Updated: 2016-05-27 07:36
By Li Xiaokun And Liu Xiaoli In Sansha, Hainan (China Daily)

Whenever he is asked where he's from, Xiao Jie, the mayor of Sansha, Hainan province, gives a surprising answer: "I'm from the sea."

The answer actually makes sense. Xiao is responsible for the largest maritime area in China, some 2 million square kilometers in the South China Sea.

He figures that about a third of every year sees him on the waves, traveling more than 10,000 nautical miles to visit and inspect the islands and reefs he administers.

As territorial disputes in the South China Sea have escalated in recent years, every move by the southernmost Chinese city attracts global attention.

Xiao, 56, who has been mayor since 2012 when city status for the area was established, takes the pressure in his stride.

"Sansha is like a blank canvas, and I'm obliged to carry out scientific planning and building on it. The focus of the country, and the expectation of the people, are all on my shoulders."

But sacrifices have to be made. Xiao does not have leisurely weekends. The interview with China Daily was on a Saturday on Yongxing Island, the largest island in Xisha and the seat of the Sansha government.

"We often hold meetings aboard vessels, though some may succumb to severe seasickness," he said.

Few mayors have to worry about getting their feet wet, but for Xiaoit is part of the job. He often has to disembark in rocky inlets or coves.

But work is progressing at a rapid pace. In 2016 alone, 96 projects were underway.

"This is the ocean of my ancestors, stretching for thousands of miles and you can't see the end. ... It is our home and we are the master," he wrote in lyrics for a song.

"Living in far Sansha, we have the country in mind. Living on the islands, we work for the people."

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