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China's passport propaganda baffles experts

China is issuing passports with a map of the disputed South China Sea labeled as part of China.

By Staff Writer / November 27, 2012

A woman holds a Chinese passport, displaying a Chinese map which includes an area in the South China Sea inside a line of dashes representing maritime territory claimed by China (l., top) and a picture of Beijing's Tiananmen Square (bottom), at an office in Wuhan airport, Hubei province, November 23. China's neighbors condemned Chinese passports containing a map of the disputed territories across the South China Sea.




China’s neighbors are seething with anger over new Beijing-issued passports that they see as the latest, underhand, Chinese jab in an ongoing regional row about maritime territory. 

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Beijing has infuriated India, too, with its e-passports, decorated with a map of China that shows disputed territories across the South China Sea – and Himalayan land that New Delhi claims – as belonging to China.

Vietnam is refusing to stamp the new passports with visas, for fear that to do so would imply acceptance of China’s claims. The Indian consulate in Beijing is stamping its own map of the disputed border when it affixes visas to the new passports.

The quiet Chinese move has baffled even some Chinese experts.

“I do not know why they decided to do this,” says Niu Jun, professor of international relations at Peking University. “It cannot resolve any of the disputes with our neighbors and we could expect a response from the other countries.”

At Vietnam’s border with China, Vietnamese officials are not pasting visas into the new passports, but issuing them on separate pieces of paper.

The Vietnamese government says it has sent a diplomatic note to Beijing asking the Chinese government to remove “erroneous content” from the new passports.

The Chinese government began issuing the passports, which contain an electronic chip with the holder’s personal data, last April. It is believed to have handed out more than 5 million of them, but the map began stirring controversy only a few days ago.

The Philippines, engaged in a fierce territorial dispute with China over fishing grounds near the Scarborough Shoal, has protested to Beijing. Taiwan, which Beijing claims as an integral part of its territory but which enjoys de facto independence, has also complained.

“This is total ignorance of reality and only provokes disputes,” said Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, the body responsible for relations with China, in a statement last week. 


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