Territorial disputes are becoming a worrying factor in 21st century China’s geopolitical life, as we saw recently when anti-Japanese sentiment over a string of islands in the East China Sea boiled over into widespread and violent protests in Chinese cities.
As such, many may be disheartened to hear the news that newly issued Chinese passports apparently contain a subtle, yet undeniable references to territorial disputes — and it hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Three separate pages in the passport include China’s so-called “nine-dash” map of the sea, first published in 1947, which shows Chinese territory extending hundreds of miles south from China’s Hainan Island to the equatorial waters off the coast of Borneo. The image on the right, via Weibo user Roger Army, shows the map.
The problem is that this map includes the Spratly island chain, currently the subject overlapping territorial claims by China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines. The Philippines have announced they “strongly protest” China’s decision to include the map, while Vietnam has lodged a formal complaint, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.
That’s not the only issue. Taiwan, also included in the map, has protested, while India, in a tit-for-tat move after their own disputed regions were included on the map, have began stamping their own versions of the map onto passports for Chinese citizens.
Passports are an especially difficult area for diplomatic disputes like this, as another nation’s stamp could be taken as a seal of approval on the map. In the past, China itself has stapled passports rather than stamped them in a bid to get around this problem, the Washington Post reports.
There is one small glimmer of hope, however — the map does not include the islands in the East China Sea that are claimed by China and Japan.