On Tuesday, China unveiled a new “vertical atlas” of territorial claims, including Taiwan, the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh (“South Tibet”), the continental shelf extending to the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islapolicies s, and almost the entirety of the South China Sea.
The old nine-dash line maps either used boxes to enlarge the Spratly and Parcel Islands, or instead cut off most of mainland China. The new ten-dash line map is elongated to show continental China and all of its territorial claims, stretching down to the coasts of Malaysia and Indonesia, on one map with the same scale.
This is the latest in a string of territorial altercations, which some analysts are suggesting might lead to war. While China’s territorial disputes are all long-standing, complex, and unique, they are not impossible. If China and its neighbors were interested in resolving their territorial disagreements they could do so without much ado: for instance, as China and Vietnam have done in the Gulf of Tonkin, where the two countries share fishing rights without explicit claims of sovereignty. This suggests that China—and Japan, regarding the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands—is not only refusing to solve its territorial disputes but deliberately aggravating tensions.
The simplest explanation is that the Chinese government is invoking nationalism to: create a superficially unified public, rallying behind the government; distract from domestic problems; and to bolster support for aggressive foreign policies.