China has recently unveiled its new “standard map” for 2023, which controversially includes the territory of neighbouring countries as its own. This action does not hide China’s territorial ambitions but rather reinforces the widespread belief that the current Chinese leadership is determined to pursue its territorial expansion goals openly. China has made its intentions clear to neighbouring and nearby countries, leaving no room for accusations of covert strategies.
Regrettably, the mindset of China’s leadership has not evolved positively over the past 75 years. This is evident from its aggressive occupation of the Tibet region, resulting in the deaths of thousands of protesting Tibetans and the forced exile of the revered Dalai Lama and his followers to India. China’s actions in Tibet and the release of this new map indicate that it is willing to pursue its objectives without regard for the means employed.
On this map, China has incorporated territories belonging to India, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, placing them within its borders. This includes the entirety of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, Aksai Chin, as well as the entire South China Sea.
India, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia have issued separate statements expressing their strong opposition to China’s map. Despite these protests and concerns, China defended the release of the map on August 28. Evidently, China dismisses the protests from neighboring countries, perceiving them as impotent and inconsequential.
When China occupied Tibet in the 1950s, there were no significant and impactful protests from other countries, allowing China to proceed without hindrance. Mild murmurs of protest from the United States did not escalate further.
China is currently openly threatening to annex Taiwan, despite having no legitimate historical claim to the region, as Taiwan emerged as a separate entity following the Chinese Civil War. The logical reality is that if China can assert Taiwan as part of its territory, Taiwan can likewise claim mainland China. China also has ongoing disputes with Japan over the Senkaku Islands.
The question arises: where will China’s territorial expansion ambitions lead? China has engaged in hostilities with India multiple times and still occupies thousands of square kilometers of Indian territory. China has full control over Tibet and maintains a strong military presence there. In short, China has a history of territorial aggression, raising questions about whether it will halt its adventurous pursuits.
Regrettably, the United Nations Organization has become largely ineffectual and unable to intervene effectively to restore peace in various regions. Few countries, including China, seem to take the UNO seriously, as it has gained a reputation as a debating club.
Beyond the controversial map, China has also strengthened its influence in Pakistan through the economic corridor project and, to some extent, in Sri Lanka by taking control of the Hambantota port. China’s global infrastructure project, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), has allowed it to extend its influence in several vulnerable countries, particularly in Asia and Africa. By extending substantial debt to these nations, China’s economic aggression mirrors its political aggression reflected in the release of the “standard map.”
As China’s economic and industrial growth has made significant strides in recent decades, it has also bolstered its military establishments and made substantial technological progress. China appears to believe that it can become a global superpower. However, it must not achieve this goal at the expense of other nations. China’s recent release of the “standard map” is a troubling indication of its aggressive and unacceptable approach, which merits concern.