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Wednesday, August 02, 2000, updated at 15:45(GMT+8)

Xisha Developing From Desolation to Modern Civilization

At 9 o'clock on the morning of July 30, our portable computer got connected with the electronic boards of various main mass media in Beijing through the Naval Political Work Information Network in Yongxing Island, the "capital" of Xisha Islands, as deputy political commissar Li Xiangdong in Xisha has said: Although Xisha is suspending solitarily in the South China Sea, like most of Chinese cities, it has entered the networking world and is driving on the information expressway, this is a matter unthinkable a year ago.

Xisha Island is far removed from the mainland and is more than 180 nautical miles away from Sanya City, Hainan Province. Army men and civilians on the islands have been plagued by difficult communication for several decades. Communication has developed from the delivery of letters with boats to wireless telegraph and artificial switchboard, Xisha people through ages had been perseveringly seeking a swift and convenient way of establishing links with the outside world. But by the end of 1997, communication and connection between Xisha people and the outside world still relied mainly on shipping, because the supply boat came only once a month, and the time would be postponed in season of typhoon, as a result, the "daily" had become a "monthly", the delivery of a letter took three months or even longer time, this is indeed "a letter from home is priceless in a mall island suspending over the South China Sea" .

The Spring Festival of 1998 was an unforgettable day for the army men and civilians in Yongxing Island. It was on the eve of the Spring Festival that the island opened the IC Card public telephone to the capital. On the afternoon of that day, 80 newly enlisted soldiers coming from 12 provinces and cities sent their best New Year wishes through the direct dial telephones to their relatives in the inland as well as overseas, many people were so excited that their voice was vibrant.

Due to its location in the belt of high temperature, high humidity and changeable weather, there was frequent trouble with the opened satellite telephone, the dream of the army men and civilians of Xisha Islands remained hard to be fulfilled. At 12:00 a.m. on January 1, 1999, the program-controlled switchboard of Yongxing Island was successfully connected with the program-controlled switchboard of Sanya City post office, this marked the entry of Xisha's communication into the age of program control, and one can direct dial a phone call to everywhere in the country.

In our eyes, Yongxing Island is a stretch of greenery, more than 90,000 coconut, wind-resisting tung and wild loquat trees and over 20,000 square meters of turf and climbing rattan cover 85 percent of the area of the small island, later we covered the East Island where the forested area reached 92 percent, even in Shidao (Stone Island) where the ecological condition is the worst, the forested area also reaches 80 percent, Xisha has become a "green pearl on the South China Sea" worthy of its name. Army men and civilians here told us that 30 years ago, in most islands of Xisha, "there is no bird over the sky and no grass on the ground", they were "Gobi on the South China Sea" which caused people to turn pale at the mention of which. What caught the eye were white coral reefs, the ground temperature at daytime reached 50 degrees C, placed on which a cake of soap could be dissolved and an egg could be cooked thoroughly, and the feet of a person in rubber shoes would get blisters.

It was the officers and men garrisoned the islands that used rocks to set up windbreaks and drill steel to chisel holes, they carried bags of earth from their mainland hometowns to the island to grow rows of coconut trees and plant plots of turf, with thick soil, the trees survive, several dozen kinds of birds have come to settle on the island, wild bulls and other wild animals have multiplied sea turtles have laid eggs on the beach, man and nature develop in harmony, Xisha Islands desolate in the past have become full of vitality and vigor and has been designated as a key ecological protection zone by the State.

Today's Xisha Islands not only boasts trees providing a pleasant shade, blossoming flowers, but also melons and vegetables covering the courtyard and thriving domestic animals, the self-sufficiency rate reaches 60 percent in slack season and 80 percent in busy season. Xisha's first food preservation storage completed in Yongxing Island at the end of 1999 has a capacity of cold storage of 50 tons, and the length of preservation of fruits and vegetables ranges from seven to 10 months, the time when officers and soldiers suffered mouth ulcer and skin fester resulting from the lack of sufficient melons and vegetables throughout the year has gone forever.

On August 1, 1999, Xisha people joyously took a freshwater bath for the first time. People danced with joy, some even wept for joy. Why? Because Xisha is both a place with most water as well as a place most short of water-in the island when it is dug to a deth of three feet, not a single drop of freshwater could be found, all drinking water had to be shipped from the mainland to the island, when typhoon or a cold wave occurs and so the ship cannot set sail, Xisha would face the danger of being cut from water supply and of running out of food and fuel. Owing to the scorching sun throughout the year and the lack of freshwater bath, most people on the island suffer from stubborn skin disease.

Today, we see at the western end of Yongxing Island four silver water containers, each of which can store 5,000 cubic meters of rainwater. The rainwater, after going through technical treatment, such as filter, sediment, sterilization and electro-coagulation, reaches the State drinking water sanitation standard-this is the rainwater project, called the "project of life" by Xisha people, they can collect and process 140,000 tons of rainwater each year, basically meeting the demand of army men and civilians for freshwater.

On November 2, 1998, the set of inter-netting long-distance group consultation of equipment presented by the General Logistics Department and other work units have been installed in the Xisha Navy Hospital, it can pass the patient's case history and other related materials to the hospital at the higher level, then, medical experts will convene a seeing and hearing conference and present their diagnostic opinions through seeing and hearing.

Indeed, Xisha's modernization civilization is developing rapidly, when comparing it with 30 years ago, with 10 years ago and even with yesterday, people will discover with surprise that Xisha has changed, has become more beautiful and is more modernized.

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Xisha's modernization civilization is developing rapidly, when comparing it with 30 years ago, with 10 years ago and even with yesterday, people will discover with surprise that Xisha has changed, has become more beautiful and is more modernized.

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