Here’s the Chinese passport map that’s infuriating much of Asia

November 26, 2012

Page 8 of China's new passport shows this controversial map. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

China's new official passport carries, on its eighth page, a watermark map of China that has set off diplomatic disputes with four neighboring countries. The small map shows a version of China that includes disputed territory claimed by India, a vast stretch of the South China Sea, including islands claimed by several other countries, and the entirety of Taiwan.

The map seems to affront diplomatic protocol around the disputed territory; it risks exacerbating regional fears of Chinese heavy-handedness with its neighbors and their sovereignty. Southeast Asian nations, on guard against China's rising strength and sometimes pushy foreign policy, have been edging away from Beijing in recent years. So this map is probably not going to help.

The offended Asian nations are striking back in their own ways. Vietnamese border officials are refusing to stamp the new passports. India is stamping its own version of the map on visas issued to Chinese citizens. The Taiwanese and Philippine governments have formally complained.

Here is my rough annotation of the passport maps, with the disputed regions highlighted and labeled. To give a sense of scale, Arunachal Pradesh, the disputed region in the middle of the map, is a bit larger than Maine or South Carolina. The South China Sea islands, of which there are many, are all part of China's sweeping claim.


My annotation of a photo of China's new passport. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

One encouraging sign is that, as far as I can tell, the map does not include the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, which are claimed by China and Japan, and which have become a source of considerable tension and nationalist protests this year.

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Max Fisher | November 26, 2012