China’s New ‘Standard Map’

  • 01 Sep 2023

Recently, China has unveiled its official "standard map," asserting territorial claims over Arunachal Pradesh, Aksai Chin, Taiwan, and the South China Sea, a move that has drawn strong reactions from India and other nations.

Key Points:

  • Strong Indian Reaction: India's Foreign Minister criticized China's act of releasing the map, referring to it as "absurd claims" that would not alter the status of these territories.
  • India lodged a strong protest against China's map.
  • India's External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson reiterated that Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India and dismissed China's claims.
  • Previous Incidents: This incident follows earlier attempts by China in April to rename 11 places in Arunachal Pradesh, which were similarly rejected by India.
  • BRICS Summit Interaction: Last week, during the 15th BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, Indian Prime Minister and the Chinese President had a brief interaction where they discussed "unresolved issues" along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and agreed to work towards early disengagement and de-escalation.
  • Standoff Situation: India and China have been in a standoff for the past three years, with deteriorating relations due to tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
  • The two nations have held 19 rounds of talks to address boundary issues in eastern Ladakh since 2020.

Basis of Chinese Claims on Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh

  • Tibetan Claims Leading to Chinese Assertions: The Chinese claims over Aksai Chin, Ladakh, and Arunachal Pradesh are deeply rooted in Tibet's historical claims. China argues that if Tibet is an integral part of China, any territorial demands made by Tibet over these regions are inherently China's claims.
  • Tibetan Claims Post-Independence: In 1959, India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, revealed to the Lok Sabha (Indian Parliament) that shortly after India's independence in 1947, the Tibetan government had put forward territorial claims.
  • China's Perspective on Ladakh and Arunachal: China's stance on Ladakh is centered on the belief that it forms an integral part of the western region of Tibet. In the case of Arunachal Pradesh, China considers it part of southern Tibet. The key to this claim lies in the Tawang monastery, a significant Buddhist institution located in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Tawang Monastery and Historical Influence: From a broader Tibetan viewpoint, the Tawang monastery is regarded as an indispensable element of the Tibetan Gelug theocratic institution. Consequently, it is argued that Tawang should remain closely linked to Tibet. Historical records suggest that Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, continued to wield both spiritual and temporal authority over Monyul (Tawang).
  • British India's ability to enforce the Simla Convention in the region remained limited until 1938, as documented by Phunchok Stobdan in his book "The Great Game in the Buddhist Himalayas: India and China's Quest for Strategic Dominance."

Territorial Claims and Disputes: A Comprehensive Overview

  • Bhutan: China's territorial claims on Bhutan have expanded beyond the 2017 standoff in Doklam Plateau.
  • Nepal: China's territorial disputes with Nepal trace back to the Sino-Nepal War in 1788-1792, during which Beijing asserted that these regions were part of Tibet and, by extension, China.
  • The Yellow Sea and the East China Sea: China faces Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) disputes with North and South Korea in the Yellow Sea and with South Korea and Japan in the East China Sea. Additionally, it claims the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands of Japan in the East China Sea.
  • South China Sea: China asserts ownership of nearly the entire South China Sea, citing "historic rights." This region is vital for maritime trade, handling annual trade worth $3.5 trillion. Multiple disputes over islands, boundaries, and waters involve Taiwan, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, and Vietnam.
  • Koreas: China claims the entire Korean peninsula due to historical ties, dating back to the Yuan Dynasty. Tensions also exist over the Baekdu Mountain.
  • Russia: Despite agreements, China unilaterally asserts control over 160,000 sq km of Russia's territory, particularly in Far East Russia, which is rich in resources. Recent controversies arose over Vladivostok's history, with some claiming it belonged to China during the Qing Dynasty.
  • Tajikistan, Laos, Cambodia, and Mongolia: Historical Precedents: China cites historic precedents, particularly under the Yuan and Ming Dynasties, to claim parts of Tajikistan, most of Laos, segments of Cambodia, and all of Mongolia.
  • Tibet: An Ongoing Controversy: China claims Tibet as part of its sovereign territory, referencing its rule during the Yuan Dynasty. Modern Tibet is divided, with the Tibet Autonomous Region under direct Chinese control.