A country’s sovereignty and foreign policy is reflected in every detail of its relations with other countries. In this respect, the cowardice and ineptness of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his administration has been amply displayed recently.
Maps on the pages of new Chinese passports show the disputed South China Sea, disputed areas along the border between China and India, as well as Taiwan as part of Chinese territory. To strengthen China’s claims to sovereignty over Taiwan, page 43 of the passport displays images of the Chingshui Cliffs and Sun Moon Lake, two prominent tourist attractions.
Beijing’s machinations affect the countries involved in the South China Sea sovereignty dispute. As customs personnel stamp the visas in passports belonging to Chinese tourists and businesspeople entering their countries, they are tacitly giving a stamp of approval to China’s declaration of sovereignty over these areas. These countries are now expressing their anger over China’s attitude.
As well as lodging a protest with Beijing, the Vietnamese government has also decided to issue a new visa to visitors holding the new Chinese passport. The visa is inserted in the passport to avoid having to place a stamp on the map and indirectly recognize China’s sovereignty claims in the South China Sea.
The Chinese passports also include Arunachal Pradesh — called Zangnan by China — and Aksai, China, territories that are claimed by India. Indian foreign ministry officials say this is “unacceptable,” and the country has now begun to stamp an Indian map on visas in the Chinese passports.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario says his country is strongly opposed to the South China Sea map in the passport, calling it a violation of international law and saying that the Philippines will not recognize the passports.
However, Ma’s government has only said: “We have noticed this issue,” and Mainland Affairs Council Deputy Minister Liu Te-shun (劉德勳) reiterated that the Republic of China (ROC) is a sovereign and independent country with its own territory and that the council had gone through “channels” to express Taiwan’s position in the hope that China will pragmatically recognize the ROC’s existence.
The calendar that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs prints and distributes is seen by the ministry as important information about Taiwan for the international community, and it includes an outline of the ROC in six languages — Chinese, Japanese, English, Spanish, French and German. It shows Taiwan proper, the Penghu Islands, Kinmen, Matsu and the Pratas Islands (Dongsha Islands, 東沙群島) as territory under the jurisdiction of the ROC. However, Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島) and the Diaoyutai Islands are not included.
In response to media queries, the ministry said the now defunct Government Information Office (GIO) was responsible for printing the calendar, and that text concerning the areas under ROC jurisdiction includes the character “deng” (等), meaning “and others, and more.” This detail, however, is not present in the English translation of the text.
The attitudes of China and Taiwan to disputed territories are at two extremes. China is eager to show its strength, both militarily and territorially; its military has even said it would not stop at “drawing its sword” to protect Chinese territory. Taiwan, on the other hand, is weak and cowardly, afraid of standing up for its territorial claims. Little wonder then that other countries ignore Taiwan, even excluding it from meetings discussing disputed territories to which Taiwan is a claimant.