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Cartographic Assertions by China

In a surprising move on August 28, 2023, China unveiled a revised standard map, purportedly aimed at resolving issues related to "problem maps." However, this new map has stirred controversy by depicting Indian territories of Arunachal Pradesh and the Doklam Plateau as part of Chinese territory, in addition to asserting control over Aksai Chin on its western borders. Furthermore, the map claims Bolshoy Ussuriysky Island as Chinese territory, despite a 20-year-old agreement between China and Russia that had divided the island.

One of the most contentious changes is China's expanded maritime boundary, now encompassing nearly the entire South China Sea, as represented by the infamous nine-dash line. This unilateral assertion of territorial claims has triggered a wave of international protests.

India, the first nation to voice its objection, responded through its External Affairs Minister, stating, "Our government is very clear about what our territories are. Making absurd claims does not make other people's territories yours."

In April of the same year, China had unilaterally renamed 11 northeastern regions, including mountain peaks, rivers, and residential areas, further exacerbating tensions in the region.

China's ongoing territorial disputes with numerous countries are seen as a reflection of its expansionist policies. Over the past decade, China has engaged in territorial disputes with approximately 18 nations, including Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, India, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, North Korea, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Tajikistan, Taiwan, and Vietnam. The disputes encompass both maritime and land boundaries.

Recent developments have added fuel to the fire, with five more countries now raising objections to China's territorial claims. These nations include the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia specifically dispute Beijing's claims over the South China Sea.

The Philippines called on China to "act responsibly" and adhere to its obligations under international law, while Malaysia flatly stated that it does not recognize Beijing's claims in the South China Sea, emphasizing that the new map holds no binding authority over Kuala Lumpur, according to Reuters. Indonesia asserted that China's map must conform to the legal framework of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) from 1982. Vietnam strongly contended that China's new map flagrantly violates Vietnamese and international laws.

Taiwan reaffirmed its sovereignty, emphasizing, "No matter how the Chinese government twists its position on Taiwan's sovereignty, it cannot change the objective fact of our country's existence."

China responded to these mounting objections by urging all nations to react to the new standardized map in an "objective and rational manner." These developments come just five days after the leaders of China and India met during the BRICS Summit, with reports indicating their intent to diffuse border tensions and promote regional peace and stability. However, China's cartographic moves have cast a shadow over India's hopes for a swift resolution to their border issues.

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