News / Asia

New Chinese Passports Rile Asian Neighbors

A Chinese man holds up a Chinese passport with details on a page that shows dashes which include the South China Sea as part of the Chinese territory outside a passport office in Beijing, China, Friday, Nov. 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
A Chinese man holds up a Chinese passport with details on a page that shows dashes which include the South China Sea as part of the Chinese territory outside a passport office in Beijing, China, Friday, Nov. 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
Whenever a country issues new passports, someone almost always complains about the new design. But China's latest edition of travel logs is drawing formal criticism from countries across Asia.

The passports feature a map of China that includes areas of the South China Sea claimed by other countries, as well as territory claimed by India.

Taiwan's government objected to the passports Friday, following similar protests by the Philippines and Vietnam. Officials at the Indian Embassy in Beijing are protesting in their own way, stamping Chinese visas with a map showing the disputed territory belonging to India, according to The Press Trust of India.

John Blaxland, with the Strategic and Defense Studies Center at Australian National University, called China's move "pretty clever."

"It basically forces everyone who's a claimant of South China Sea elements to acknowledge it by stamping it," he said.

As China's military and economic influence has grown throughout the world, Beijing has become more brazen in its claim to territories believed to be rich with oil and natural gas across the Asia-Pacific.

China’s Foreign Ministry said the “nine-dash” map of the sea printed in the new passports wasn’t targeted at any specific countries.

Blaxland described China’s move as part of a "long game" being played by a new generation of leaders who will steer the country for the next 10 years.

"We've just seen a major transition in China … They can act deliberately and slowly, and slowly get their way. There's really not very much anyone is seriously prepared to do about it," he said.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations discussed the territorial disputes at a summit in Cambodia earlier this week but failed to achieve a united stand on how the 10 member countries should respond to China.  

Carl Thayer, a professor emeritus at the University of New South Wales, said the map in China’s new passports may partly be in response to Vietnam’s passage earlier this year of a Law of the Sea. The law asserts Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Spratly and Paracel islands, which are claimed by both Hanoi and Beijing.

“It's just finding one more way of turning the screw that China has jurisdiction,” Thayer said.

Although Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines have been most vocal in their opposition to China’s moves, Brunei and Malaysia also have rival claims in the South China Sea, and Japan is embroiled in its own dispute over islands in the East China Sea. All the territorial spats have raised concerns about a potential maritime conflict, prompting the United States to wade into the controversy.

The Obama administration says it is not taking sides but is pushing for the countries to adopt a code of conduct, which China opposes.

Blaxley said the United States wants to secure its freedom of navigation in the region.

“When you think back to the days of the Cold War, there was a clear code of conduct between Soviet or NATO or Western ships, that when they encountered each other, there was a protocol. Well there isn't one at the moment for the South China Sea, and that is problematic,” he said.

Despite that, Blaxley said neither the United States nor any of the other countries directly affected by China’s moves have much of an appetite to take action regarding the passports or the territorial claims.

As a result, Thayer said the passports will not change the reality on the ground, and will serve more as a political stunt than anything else. A stunt, he said, that other countries are as capable of performing.

"I flew Air Vietnam," he said, "and it had a map up there clearly indicating that the Paracels and Spratlys were Vietnamese."

Additional reporting by Victor Beattie.

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by: fromSA from: south africa
December 01, 2012 4:29 AM
americans...the biggest hypocrites on the face of the planet, always pointing fingers at everybody else when they were the ones who are guilty of doing the exact same things. learn to clean up your own act first before pointing at others....

by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
November 28, 2012 8:18 AM
just refer the news of VOA. Chinese tourism to US growing they spend double than average.
So kick them out of your country, hum?

by: K.H.J.
November 27, 2012 12:47 PM
They will complain and do nothing as India backs up China's takeover of everything. Their is already a large Asian economic block forming for China and India to rule over the other member nations in it. There is nothing anyone can do about it.

by: james greer from: wyoming
November 25, 2012 1:49 AM
China's quest is to become regional and global super power. and so doe's Russia.
In Response

by: Guillaume from: Paris
November 28, 2012 10:58 AM
And so is US !!! How could you forget it ????????????

by: Anonymous from: wyuming
November 25, 2012 1:35 AM
"Red Dragon Rising" The rise of china will be America's demise. When china wakes it will shake the world. The american government gave them top secrete military weaponry informatiom, they inturn made it ten times better, and they ar'ent going to share. their power is more awesome than you can imagine. High - tech computerized warfare,thay have the capabilty to shut down the electrical power grids of any nation they wish in a heart beat.and they have much more. with the passport thing, they are just building up more power.
In Response

by: from SA from: south africa
December 01, 2012 5:22 AM
@SRA, typically arrogant american....lol. its not china that you should be afraid of you're right, its actually God. america is the biggest pseudo christian nation on the planet. the hurricane that hit new york is just a taste of what God has in store for you....good luck, at least china doesnt go around claming to be a holy christian nation and then do all sorts of sordid DARK things behind everybody elses back and then accuse everyone of doing the same thing. americans like paris hilton cant even handle broken nails, lol.
In Response

by: SRA from: USA
November 27, 2012 10:22 PM
I'm shaking in my boots. The boogie mans going to shut off the lights. Guess what Americans are taught at a very early age not to be afraid of the dark. About the only thing that will cause is about 300M angry Americans and a few extra bed time stories.

by: L
November 25, 2012 12:49 AM
China should cut deals for ownership; like they will give royalties should the offending country relinquish territory in said dispute. It's like taking someones house in sparse land areas. We'll give you some money and well build a four story building in place of your home. You get the top floor and you have a new house and money. We take the bottom three floors and rent them. Everyone wins. The U.S. would have fewer territories to contend with; thus fewer military resources would be justified. The remaining territories could be sliced up in the future.

by: Howard Miller from: Augusta GA
November 24, 2012 10:40 PM
US - CANADIAN BORDER DISPUTE CONTINUES
It's ironic that one of the longest running border disputes is rarely mentioned. The Canadian passports clearly mark the island of Moosylvania as being US territory, while the US passport maps clearly define Moosylvania Island as being part of Canada.
In Response

by: Buck Mast from: Tennessee
November 26, 2012 10:36 PM
Sounds like no one wants Moosylvania

by: Tony from: Texas
November 24, 2012 10:12 AM
The fact is that on these disputed territories some countries have already conducted concrete actions setting up facilities or grabing the natural resources but China didn't. Now, what Chinese is doing is just to hit back those one-sided moves from these countries.

by: Think Again from: US
November 24, 2012 9:17 AM
China claims everything in their field of view. Just wait until they claim your city's chinatown because there are some chinese living there.

In Response

by: from SA from: south africa
December 01, 2012 5:12 AM
@guillaume.i totally agree with you there. once again americans proving that they are under-educated and just go around mouthing off. the americans are the bigesst hypocrites on earth. the americans also go around claiming everything in their site of view. the hawaii islands and alaska as far as i know isnt in the same physical vicinity of the other 50 states is it? and what about the military base in okinawa in japan? the americans annexed it during ww2 and havent given it back. and what about all those sarcastic jokes that americans make about canada? in the childrens movie the robinsons there is a joke about how canada becomes north montana in the future and in "how i met your mother" barney stinson once said that if canada plays its cards right it could become a state of america. these may only be examples from movies and television but a person can learn a great deal about how nations think from the media. i know from my friend in toronto that americans think that canadians are inferior. perhaps the americans should look at themselves first before pointing racist fingers at others. and another thing i've learned. people who point fingers at others are usually guilty of the same thing.
In Response

by: Guillaume from: France
November 28, 2012 11:07 AM
It's incredible, your guys, take a look at what the US do!!!!!

then you are still not qualify to critic China, because, you know nothing about Chinese history..................
In Response

by: Avi from: Ottawa
November 25, 2012 4:53 AM
Well, back in India, we used to learn a nice phrase about Chinese foreign policy.
"Whatever is mine, is mine forever. But whatever is yours, is negotiable!!"

by: Skylight from: Taiwan
November 24, 2012 7:30 AM
Chinese government is insane to print other country's territory on its passport ! I suggest China print moon and mars on its passport, Idiot !!
In Response

by: from SA from: south africa
December 01, 2012 4:52 AM
well its insane for the taiwanese to eat, speak and think in chinese is it not? perhaps you should invent an entirely different culture, language and try to replace almost 5000 years of history? what kind of history do you teach your children at school? the pathetically short history of taiwan with its long prehistory or the history of china? if you dont like china then taiwan should give up chinese culture. perhaps the chinese should charge money from other people for practising their culture instead of claiming territories.
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