Road sign indicates distances from South China Sea issue

Updated: 2016-05-26 00:25

By Zhang Yunbi in Sansha, Hainan province(

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At first glance, a road sign indicating the distance to New York and Bangkok, as well as other destinations, may seem out of place on tiny Yongxing Island, which hosts the city government of Sansha, but it has become a landmark in its own right.

Standing at the end of Beijing Road and in front of the Xisha Hotel, the brown, steel road sign points out the distances and directions to global destinations.

"Bangkok, 1,220 km; New York, 1,3601 km; Sydney, 6,976 km," its gleaming white letters inform.

Interestingly, it gives the distance to major cities of countries not directly involved in the South China Sea issue - Thailand, the United States and Australia.

The countries have differing positions and policies regarding the South China Sea.

Bangkok has echoed Beijing's call for peacefully resolving disputes through negotiation, while Australia has demonstrated an increasing interest in having a say about the South China Sea issue.

And the US is increasing its military presence in the sea by boosting alignment with treaty allies, including the Philippines. US warships have embarked on what it calls the "Freedom of Navigation" program.

Some US politicians and experts have doubted China's sovereignty over the Nansha Islands because the islands are geographically closer to the Philippines and they say China has made "excessive claims".

But they fail to see the glaring contradiction that the US military will go to "great lengths" by transcending the Pacific Ocean thousands of kilometers from their home bases to fulfill what Washington describes as a "rebalancing in Asia".

The road sign is a symbol of something more significant than distances. It also shows the importance of a connected world and greater communication.

It testifies to the point made by Foreign Minister Wang Yi responding to a question by CNN in March: "History will prove who is a mere visitor and who is the real host."