Online Mapping and Politics: China’s World Map Service Upsets the Vietnamese

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Political uproar over depicted boundaries on map servers isn’t just a Google Maps issue.  The recently launched Chinese Map World has come under fire from the Vietnamese government for its depiction of Vietnamese sovereignty around the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) Archipelagos.

The act by the Chinese State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping  (SBSM) seriously infringes upon Vietnamese sovereignty over Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) Archipelagos, sovereign rights and national jurisdiction over Viet Nam’s continental shelf  and exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles. It also violates the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and goes against the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) signed between ASEAN and China.

Viet Nam opposes SBSM’s act and requests the Chinese side  to promptly remove from SBSM map service all data and information that  violate Viet Nam’s sovereignty,sovereign rights and national jurisdiction over Hoang Sa (Paracel), Truong Sa (Spratly) Archipelagos and the waters  of Viet Nam and to abide by the common perception of Leaders of the two countries on maintaining peace and stability, and refraining from complicating or expanding disputes in the East Sea.

The statement from the Vietnamese government expressed their objection to the presence of “the nine-dotted line” on the map service.  The nine-dotted line first appeared on Chinese maps in 1947 and “encloses the main island features of the South China Sea: the Pratas Islands, the Paracel Islands, the Macclesfield Bank, and the Spratly Islands. The dotted line also captures James Shoal which is as far south as 4 degrees north latitude.” The journal article,  “The Dotted Line on the Chinese Map of the South China Sea: A Note” quoted Professor Zhao Lihai of the Law Department of Beijing University:


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the nine-dotted line indicates clearly Chinese territory and sovereignty of the four islands in the South China Sea and confirm China’s maritime boundary of the South China Sea Islands that have been included in Chinese domain at least since the 15th century. All the islands and their adjacent waters within the boundary line should be under the jurisdiction and control of China.

Source: Press release from the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Screenshot from Map World showing the nine-dotted line

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