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China’s Passport Map Controversy: The intransigence of territorial ambitions

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Buried away in the corner of a New Zealand daily newspaper, barely noticeable, is an item entitled “China’s new e-passports cause anger.” The meager attention given to a major geopolitical issue is indicative of the naïve, if not outright stupid, mentalities of New Zealand journalists, politicians, diplomats, and business leaders who cannot see further than Chinese smiles, handshakes, and trade.[1] The entire article reads as follows:

China has redrawn the map printed in its passports to lay claim to almost all of the South China Sea, infuriating its neighbors.

In the new passports, a nine dash line has been added that hugs the coasts of the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and some of Indonesia, scooping up several islands that are claimed both by China and by its neighbors.

China has printed nearly six million of the passports since it quietly introduced them in April, judging by the monthly application rate.

The Philippines joined Vietnam yesterday in voicing it anger at the new map.

“The Philippines strongly protests the inclusion of the nine-dash lines in the e-passport as such image covers an areas of the Philippines’ territory and maritime domain,” said Albert del Rosario, a foreign affairs spokesman.[2]

This is typical of the quagmire that is called named “Asia,” as if there is, has been, or can ever be, such a unitary bloc in geopolitical, ethnographic or even just pragmatic economic senses. “Asia” as a unitary idea exists only in the minds of those in business, political and diplomatic circles, particularly in New Zealand, Australia and the USA, who have a reductionist outlook based on trade.

This surreptitious symbolic declaration of imperial expansion inaugurated by the Chinese in April was “noticed by keen-eyed Vietnamese officials who are in the process of renewing six-month visas for Chinese businessmen,” according to the lengthier report that was carried by The London Telegraph, from which The Dominion Post culled the five brief paragraphs.[3]

Vietnam has a long history of standing up to Chinese expansionism,[4] and has been the first to challenge China on this. The Telegraph’s Malcolm Moore adds that “In response, Vietnamese immigration is refusing to paste visas inside the new passports, instead putting the visa on a separate, detached, page.” Recognizing the passport with a visa would imply recognition of China’s claim to Vietnamese territory.[5]

“The new passport also stakes a claim to the Diaoyu or Senkakku islands, which have been a great source of friction between China and Japan.”[6]

Claims Against India

However, The Telegraph report is also far from adequate, failing to even mention the very significant inclusion of the Indian territories of Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin that have also been included on the passport map. India, also having a history of resistance to China’s expansionism, in response has issued visas stamped with maps of India that include Arunachal and Aksai Chin.[7] An Indian Express article concludes:

Incidentally, the new outline map on Chinese e-passports also includes Taiwan and South China Sea in its territory, leaving Beijing’s other neighbors such as the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia too infuriated. Taiwan, the Philippines and Vietnam have all protested against the new map.

About three years ago, China had created a diplomatic row by issuing stapled visas to residents of Jammu and Kashmir, terming it a “disputed territory”. It has always denied visas to those hailing from Arunachal.[8]

It seems enigmatic that China would now make such a provocative gesture when it is attempting to show its commitment to being a player for stability in the region, to be a reliable trade partner and part of a regional community, if not a world community. Is China as a nation irredeemably sociopathic?

China clashed with both Russian and India during the 1960s over disputed border areas. These disputed areas have supposedly recently been settled peaceably. The Indian Express commented on the territorial contentions with India:

In 1962, China and India fought a brief war over Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh, but in 1993 and 1996 the two countries signed agreements to respect the Line of Actual Control to maintain peace and tranquility.[9]

The dispute with Russia was supposedly settled amicably in 2008, whereby Russia would hand over Yinlong Island (known as Tarabarov in Russia) and half of the Heixiazi Island (Bolshoi Ussuriysky) at the confluence the of Amur and Ussuri rivers. The agreement was thought to be the basis for a Sino-Russian rapprochement. While Russia gave up Tarabarov and half of Bolshoi Ussuriysky, totalling 174 square kilometres, China supposedly gave up its claim to the other half of Bolshoi Ussuriysky. What is noted about all these concessions is that China seems invariably to get the better end of the deal.

Russia’s retreat from Central Asia with the implosion of the USSR has seen China attempt to full the power vacuum. Indian researcher Sudha Ramachandran offered a perceptive analysis, writing last year of China’s strategy: “A Sino-Tajik border agreement that was ratified recently by Tajikistan’s parliament flies in the face of images of China being a ‘bullying’ and ‘belligerent’ power that ‘will go to any length to fulfill its territorial ambitions.’” The agreement requires Tajikistan to cede about 1,000 square kilometers of land in the Pamir Mountains to China; only 3.5% of the land China was claiming. Under border agreements with Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, China received 22% and 32% respectively of disputed land. Ramachandran states that of 23 territorial disputes since 1949, Chgibna has offered “substantial comprises” in 17, usually accepting half the territory that has been demanded.[10]

Ramachandran offers an explanation for China’s “generosity” that is uncommonly insightful, and should be read in full:

However, there is more to it than meets the eye. The territorial concessions that China is believed to have made are not quite as substantial as they appear to be. Srikanth Kondapalli, a China expert at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi pointed out that China’s strategy of stepping up territorial claims and then settling for less has enabled it to appear to be making a major territorial concession to reach a border resolution agreement. In several disputes, “whether China actually gave up territory or made a substantial concession is a debatable question,” he told Asia Times Online.

… “China will claim more before settling for less,” he said. “The so-called territorial concessions that it will probably extend while settling the dispute will not merit being regarded as concessions.”[11]

However, in recent months there are indications that China will, when it regards the time as right, act as belligerent as necessary and throw diplomacy overboard.

A significant factor that does not seem to be taken into account is that China is likely to be acting dialectically, as it did under Mao. While the West enthuses over the “changes” that are taking place in China particularly in terms of trade, should it be inferred from this that China has also abandoned the dialectical character of its policies, simply because it now talks of trade rather than “world revolution”? Lenin[12] succinctly described the complex twists and turns of dialectics: “One step forward, two steps back,” which became Mao’s axiom. Filipino diplomat A Del Rosario, previously quoted in connection with the Chinese passport map, is cognizant of this strategy still in operation:

Lest we are lulled into a false sense of security and delude ourselves that quiet diplomacy is working, let us be wary of reports Chinese ships have withdrawn from Pag-asa in the Spratly group of islands. Remember it was Chairman Mao Zedong who said “To take one step forward, take two steps backward.”[13]

The timing of the new passport map is a provocation that reiterates China’s territorial ambitions, which warns the world that China’ s diplomacy should not be taken as a sign of retreat. Shubhajit Roy writes of the timing:

Significantly, these developments occur even as a high-level team of Chinese diplomats, for the first time, visited Sikkim in connection with consular issues, which was seen as reconfirmation of Beijing’s stance of accepting the state as part of India.

The development comes even as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao on the sidelines of the Asean summit in Cambodia where the two leaders discussed ways to move forward on the vexed boundary issue.[14]

This shows the duplicitous character of China; which I contend is sociopathic. Behind a decades’ long façade of “opening up” diplomatically and commercially, China is biding its time, building up and securing the economic strength that it could not secure under the clinically deranged Mao Zedong.[15]

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About the Author

Dr. K R Bolton
K R Bolton holds doctorates and certifications in theology, psychology and social work studies and a Ph.D.h.c. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Social and Political Research (Athens), and of the Institute for Higher Studies on Geopolitics and Auxiliary Sciences (Lisbon), and has been widely published on a variety of subjects in the scholarly and general media. Some of his books include: Revolution from Above; The Banking Swindle; Stalin: The Enduring Legacy; The Geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific: Emerging Conflicts, New Alliances; introductions to new editions of Oscar Wilde's Soul of Man Under Socialism, Belloc's Europe and the Faith, and T E Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom; and an upcoming book on Peronism (2013). 
  • denk

    tsk tsk tsk
    eminent professor bolton of the *china provoke amerika* fame is coming back with more of the same…

    here’s another whopper from the eminent prof
    *India, also having a history of resistance to China’s expansionism,*

    eminent prof bolton is well known for making wild assertions
    can the good prof substantiate his claim just for once , for the sake of his own cred ?
    [hint] i aint holding my breath

  • denk

    *China is also embroiled in a territorial dispute with Japan* [sic]

    dear eminent prof bolton
    china has been *embroiled in territorial dispute with japan* since the ming dynasty, when japanese pirates terrorised chinese coastal towns, this *dispute* went on for hundreds of yrs n cumulated in the ww2 naked aggression.

    +Japan’s intransigence about far-flung territorial claims is particularly hard to fathom given its undisputed role as aggressor nation, aligned with Nazi Germany. It invaded nearly all of its neighbors, left millions dead and committed unspeakable war crimes in China, Korea and Southeast Asia.
    Is it not a bit unseemly for Japan to be tussling over territory that it once used as a springboard to terrorize its neighbors?+
    http://www.globalresearch.ca/asia-u-s-tries-to-dribble-the-globe-like-a-basketball

    in contrast
    +Germany gave up 24 percent of its traditional territory to these two countries, the two biggest victims. We saw that as one way to pay our moral debt.+
    http://www.japanfocus.org/-Karasaki-Taro/1794

    whereas indian commentators cited by the eminent prof bolton against china can hardly be considered objective witness
    here’r three japanese, the thinking ones, speaking out for china on diaoyu.

    who’s the rightful owner of diaoyu, who’s the agent provocateur in the diaoyu n south china sea conflict.
    [hint] it isnt china, its not entirely japan either
    skycitygallery.com/japan/diaohist.html
    japanfocus.org/-Tanaka-Sakai/3418
    japantimes.co.jp/text/rc20120101a2.html

    the eminent prof bolton obseved with disdain that
    *China is also embroiled in a territorial dispute with Japan*
    perhaps he should ask why is japan still embroiled in dispute with russia, plus two of its former war victims, korea n china. ?
    a bit unseemly eh ?

  • denk

    eminent prof bolton
    *Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta arrives in China today to reassure Chinese leaders the Obama administration’s pivot to Asia is not meant to provoke a confrontation over China’s increasingly assertive [sic] posture towards its neighbors*

    my,
    such innocence !
    are u for real , eminent prof bolton ?
    ever heard of the saying
    *white face speaking in forked tongue* ?
    the clintons, pelosis, panettas, nulands , obamas etc are all accomplished performers. they could look straight into ur eyes n tell a bald faced lie, smirk n all
    oops, obama ?
    i guess u can call him an *honorable white faced*, those japs were rather proud of that *honor* during the south african apartheid era u know, being *honorable white men* they could jump queue at will just like the real articles. ;-)

    spending too much time in that ivory tower may dull one’s mind
    time to get out n smell the roses eminent prof bolton
    or go down to the *reservations* n talk to some remnants of native americans
    they’d tell u all about it.

    *white faced speaking in forked tongue*

    exhibit 1000
    http://tinyurl.com/9p5fqer
    1001
    tinyurl.com/d9d47fw
    1002
    tinyurl.com/ce5dnwq

  • denk

    i challenge eminent prof bolton to find another country with such a sterling reocord …………..

    Afghanistan – 0%
    Tajikistan – 4%
    Nepal – 6%
    Burma – 18%
    Kazakhstan – 22%
    Mongolia – 29%
    Kyrgyzstan – 32%
    North Korea – 40%
    Laos – 50%
    Vietnam – 50%
    Russia – 50%
    Pakistan – 54%
    http://indiaschinablog.blogspot.sg/2010/03/you-scratch-my-back-but-i-wont-scratch.html

    only someone of eminent prof bolton’s *calibre* could’ve spun such magificent display of diplomacy as some kind of diabolical scheme to gain unfair advantages over china’s neighbours, all 23 of them, including super power russia ! [sic]

    to back up his claim, eminent prof bolton quoted
    Srikanth Kondapalli, a China expert at the Jawaharlal Nehru University
    *“whether China actually gave up territory or made a substantial concession is a debatable question,” he told Asia Times Online.*

    well ask the rival claimants damn it !
    *China’s territorial concession has been hailed by Tajik Foreign Minister Hamrokhon Zarifi as a “victory for Tajik diplomacy*
    all indications are that those *stans* countries which had settled their border delimitations with china are very happy customers.
    just like nepal, pakistan, myanmar etc which negotiated succesfully with china long before the 1962 indo sino war.
    [ref india's china war , by neville maxwell]

    in fact, Kondapalli himself had to confess, *in the quest for regional stability China overall “has been liberal in border dispute resolution*
    are u there, eminent prof bolton ?

    only god knows, how did the nobel peace prize manage to pass over such a text book case of peaceful resolutuion in action ?

    on second thought, with companies
    like this
    voltairenet.org/Behind-the-2009-Nobel-Peace-Prize
    n this ,
    countercurrents.org/boyle131012.htm
    perhaps its just as well that china is spared that *honor* !

  • K R Bolton

    Denk
    You seem to have some kind of obsessive disorder. Ranting and throwing in a few references is hardly worth considering. I attempt to analyse matters from a broad historical perspective. As a resident of the Antipodes I don’t happen to feel that our politicians and big business have embarked on a sound course by hitching ourselves to China on the assumption that there will not be major geopolitical shifts in Asia in which Australasia will be rendered helpless. Nor do I share the widely held sentiment ‘downunder’ that the USA will be a reliable ally.
    As I have attempted to document in previous articles, conflict over water resources is liable to be a major factor of imbalance over the entire region and reaching into Russia.
    Scholarship starts with hypotheses which should be abandoned if shown to be untenable rather than ossifiy into dogma, as it often does. If my views are wrong, then well and good, as my scenario is rather pessimistic.

  • denk

    eminent prof bolton
    *You seem to have some kind of obsessive disorder.*

    tsk tsk tsk
    ad homein is the last resort of …….?

    * Ranting and throwing in a few references is hardly worth considering.*

    meaning u are unable to backup ur wild claims
    e.g.
    china had been *very provocative* to amerika
    india has been a victim of *chinese expansionism*
    amerika isnt trying to encircle china

    * I attempt to analyse matters from a broad historical perspective.*

    im interested in facts, not ur *perspertive*, which turns out to be mostly bs.

    * As a resident of the Antipodes I don’t happen to feel that our politicians and big business have embarked on a sound course by hitching ourselves to China *

    wrong again,
    +Australia’s role is especially curious. Its economy relies heavily on China. Yet Canberra has yet to see an anti-China trade and military alliance in Asia that it did not like+
    http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/eo20111130gc.html
    can we say…..biting the hand that feed u ?

    *on the assumption that there will not be major geopolitical shifts in Asia in which Australasia will be rendered helpless*

    dont worry, as long as u’r holding on to amerika’s coatail,
    u’d be alright. ;-)
    *”We really like using you guys”, said the American. “It’s like this: the British have the gurkhas; we’ve got the Australians.*
    http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/28339

    .* Nor do I share the widely held sentiment ‘downunder’ that the USA will be a reliable ally.*

    try telling that to ur elected politicians
    instead of keep barking up the wrong tree ;-)

  • denk

    eminent prof bolton
    *Scholarship starts with hypotheses which should be abandoned if shown to be untenable rather than ossifiy into dogma, as it often does. If my views are wrong, then well and good, as my scenario is rather pessimistic*

    u ought to be
    tinyurl.com/92eeknj
    u cant plead ignorance
    tinyurl.com/cgrcv8j
    yet u keep barking up the wrong tree

    *Further realistic [sic !!!] thinking came from a Rand analyst:
    “There are those in Russia who see China as a prospective threat*

    my,
    an *expert* from rand eh ?
    fukus has also been talking about the *yellow peril* for centuries now,
    But who is taunting whom across the Taiwan Strait
    antiwar.com/justin/j121302.html
    the diaoyu
    tinyurl.com/d9se8ab
    the scs ?
    tinyurl.com/8qh8ajt

    im interested in facts, not ur *perception*, nor some ultra nationalists in russia, or fukus.

    ur cherished indo russia alliance vs the *sino us axis* fly in the face of reality
    tinyurl.com/bktzpoe
    http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/eo20070607bc.html

    eminent prof bolton
    *As a resident of the Antipodes I don’t happen to feel that our politicians and big business have embarked on a sound course by hitching ourselves to China *

    u really dont know what u’r talking about doc
    tinyurl.com/bugrahe

    *Russia’s retreat from Central Asia with the implosion of the USSR has seen China attempt to full the power vacuum*

    i say,
    how many bs u wanna squeeze in one *thesis*, doc ?
    comecarpentier.com/afghan-variable.htm

    u wanna know about cia/raw *joint ventures* in afpak, nepal etc ?
    it’s open secret to those who care to find out
    stuartbramhall.aegauthorblogs.com/tag/baloch-separatist-movement/

    *Scholarship starts with hypotheses which should be abandoned if shown to be untenable rather than ossifiy into dogma*

    all indications are that u just wont let facts get in the way of ur anti chinese bigotry innit ?

    [for advanced leaners only]
    fukus shenanigans in afpak, africa, sea etc
    moonofalabama.org/2012/09/open-thread-2012-23.html#c6a00d8341c640e53ef017d3c1c26ea970c