China’s Six Decades of Territorial Disputes – 中国领土争端

C225X0702H_2011資料照片_N71_copy1Recent Disputes

China is most known these days for its American cowboy Manifest Destiny-style expansionism in its neighboring seas, particularly in the Southeast Asia Sea (sign the petition to change the name to the Southeast Asia Sea: https://www.change.org/p/change-the-name-south-china-sea-to-southeast-asia-sea).  Everyone knows the extent at which China is attempting to expand, including China’s construction of islands with airstrips, attacking of Vietnamese fisherman, and their placing of the “nine-dash line” on new Chinese passports and on every single published map (even to revised ancient maps!).  What most do not know is that China has been disputing territory since 1949, when the Chinese Communist Party took control, with a total of twenty-three disputes.

This link provides an interactive map of Asia’s current territorial dispute: (http://www.scmp.com/infographics/article/1379601/chinas-territorial-disputes-who-owns-what?utm_source=edm&utm_medium=edm&utm_content=20131214&utm_campaign=scmp_today)

Asia China land disputes 1

Previous Disputes

China has more nations bordering its territory than any other country.  The 14 nations are:   India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russia, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Bhutan and Nepal. The total amount of land territory that has/is in dispute equals more than 234,159 km2 or roughly the size of Romania, so it is no wonder that China is willing to enter armed conflict to seize this massive amount of land.  The size of the Southeast Asian Sea is roughly 3.5 million km², larger than the size of India and is resource rich, particularly in crude oil.

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Suggestions from the Past

For researchers and politicians, China poses a problem because the country is a nondemocracy and has acted unilaterally to obtain more territory in the past; however, Beijing has usually offered a compromise to their neighbors after the initial dispute.  What we may see in the Southeast Asia Sea is a China that tries to bargain with the nations bordering this body of water.  I would hope that these countries would not appease China in any way. In addition, if island building in the middle of international waters is a legitimate method to gain territory then we seriously need to reconsider rewriting the international law books because as of right now, China is breaching international law

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China’s territorial disputes – 中国领土争端 (zhōngguó lǐngtǔ zhēngduān)

I highly suggest this scholarly-written work, it is one of the best resources on the issue that is also largely overlooked: M. Taylor Fravel, Regime Insecurity and International Cooperation: Explaining China’s Compromises in Territorial Disputes, International Security, Vol. 30, No. 2 (Fall 2005) (http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1162/016228805775124534)

6 Comments

  1. great post. PLA white papers often state “protecting sovereignty” as one of the primary things they are willing to do with deadly force. Defining what exactly the PRC is sovereign over becomes something much graver than a technicality at that point.

  2. So are they going by historical maps what has been their territory few hundred years ago? If yes, then such behavior would be…well lets put it mildly, pretty ridiculous. I mean there would be world wide such troubles then. Just imagine France want their territories from the Napoleonian time, or Austria their old borders from the Austro Hungarian Empire, or the Second German Empire…the list goes on and on

    • One of the reasons they claim that it belongs to them is the infamous Zheng He who sailed all the way to Africa, according to Chinese sources. During his voyages between 1405 to 1433, Zheng He has stopped in the Southeast Asia Sea. Therefore emerges the argument by some Chinese historians that if Zheng He was capable of the trip, many Chinese people has utilized the region for trade and fishing for hundreds of years.

    • There is a pretty tricky aspect to all of this: the Republic of China, the government with sovereignty over Taiwan and the ally of the United States, actually claims more territory than the CCP. Their claims include all of Mongolia. What happens if somehow the ROC retakes Mainland China? What is the US to do about that?

      • I must say that such claims are always nice to see in some politcal view when running for some high position to gain more votes. However in reality such things can not be done anymore and IF it leads to troubles such as in the Ukrain now.
        At some point people need to see that it is just not an option anymore to claim territories abroad. Even with the ROC’s claim over Mongolia, common, in the end Mongolia would suddenly have a claim over half of Asia and parts of Europe when going by such logic…
        By all means they can have all the claims they want as long as no one gets hurt!

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