China recently started issuing passports with an updated design to its citizens. The redesigned passports have upset a number of China’s neighbors with the map produced on the inside pages. Those watermarked pages show a map of China that includes areas of the region under dispute by several neighboring countries.
There are two main controversial areas on the passport map.
The first is the inclusion of South China Sea Islands which has upset the Philippines and Vietnam. The government of Vietnam has lodged a formal complaint against the Chinese embassy in Hanoi. Additionally, Raul Hernandez, the foreign ministry spokesperson for the Philippines stated, “The action of China is contrary to the spirit of the declaration of conduct of parties in the South China Sea.”
This is the latest of a string of complaints lodged by the Vietnamese government over the “nine-dotted line”, a controversial cartographic depiction dating back to 1947 by the Chinese government which encircles the main islands of the South China Sea Islands: the Pratas Islands, the Paracel Islands, the Macclesfield Bank, and the Spratly Islands.
In response, Vietnamese officials are refusing the stamp the new passports, issuing visas on a separate piece of paper for Chinese visitors.
The second area of dispute involves India which has has a a fifty year old territory dispute involving Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin with China. A month long war over the area was fought in 1962 and long stretches off the border area remain unresolved:
India says China controls 41,440 square kilometers (16,000 square miles) of its territory in Aksai Chin in Kashmir, while Beijing claims that the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which shares a 1,050-kilometer (650-mile) border with the Chinese-run region of Tibet, is rightfully Chinese territory.
Tensions over this area have been inflamed by the new Chinese passport map which shows both areas within Chinese territory. In a tit-for-tat move, officials at the Indian Embassy in Beijing have been stamping an official map of India on visas for Chinese citizens.
One area of geographic controversy not shown on the new Chinese passport maps is the depiction of islands in the East China Sea which are under dispute by both China and Japan.