Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid a surprise visit to Leh in Ladakh during the ongoing conflict with China. During his speech addressing soldiers, he made several not-so-subtle digs at China. Most conspicuously, he said that the Age of Expansionism is over and in the 20th Century, those who harboured expansionist ambitions had to savour the bitter taste of defeat.
China has taken umbrage with the remarks from Narendra Modi and have spoken out against it even though the Prime Minister did not name them explicitly. Ji Rong, spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in India, said the allegations were ‘groundless’. “It’s groundless to view China as “expansionist”, exaggerate & fabricate its disputes with neighbours”, the spokesperson tweeted.
#China has demarcated boundary with 12 of its 14 neighboring countries through peaceful negotiations, turning land borders into bonds of friendly cooperation. It’s groundless to view China as “expansionist”, exaggerate & fabricate its disputes with neighbours.— Ji Rong (@ChinaSpox_India) July 3, 2020
Territories China claims on historical precedent
As it so happens, allegations of expansionism against China are not groundless and there is good reason why such allegations are levelled against them. There are numerous countries apart from India that China has managed to antagonise with its territorial claims. China claims large parts of Laos and Cambodia on historical precedent that date back to the 13th of 14th Century. On certain occasions, it has also claimed the entirety of South Korea and North Korea on historical precedent.
China also claims all of Mongolia and Taiwan as well, although the two countries do not consider themselves part of China at all. There are several other countries such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan and Tajikistan who ceded territory to China to resolve their border dispute. Among the major countries to cede territory was Russia. Even after that, border disputes of China with these countries continue.
Disputes in the South China Sea
The prominent countries with whom China is involved in severe disputes apart from India are Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Phillipines and Japan. Vietnam maintains its territorial claim over regions of the South China Sea and the Macclesfield Bank, Paracel Islands and the Spratly Islands. China has also enforced a unilateral ban on fishing in these regions, much to the angst of Vietnam.
Japan’s dispute with China involve the Senkaku islands in the South China Sea and Ryuku islands and the Air Defence Identification Zone and Exclusive Economic Zone in the East China Sea. In the aftermath of the clash at Galwan Valley between Indian and Chinese soldiers, Japan initiated a legal process to change the status of the Senkaku islands, angering China.
Indonesia claims territorial control over parts of the South China Sea. Three years ago, the Indonesian government renamed parts of the disputed region to North Natuna Sea to underscore its claim. China claims fishing rights near the islands in the Natuna Sea/Exclusive Economic Zone of Indonesia, a claim that the latter rejects on the basis of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
China’s dispute with Malaysia also involves the South China Sea. Malaysia has a presence on three islands that China claims as its own, leading to disputes. Brunei also claims parts of the South China Sea as part of its continental shelf and Exclusive Economic Zone. Philippines, too, lays claims to parts of the Spratly islands and dragged China to the International Court of Justice, where it won the case, but China refused to adhere to the verdict.
Disputes with India’s neighbours
China has claimed parts of Nepal for itself on the basis of the Sino-Nepalese War in late 18th Century. China insists that parts of Nepal belong to Tibet and hence, a part of China. There have been recent reports that China has occupied some villages in Nepal while the Communist government in the country was busy quarrelling with India.
Bhutan has also territory to slow encroachment from China. The Dragon claims Kula Kangri and mountainous areas to the west of this peak and the western Haa district of Bhutan, apart from the well-known Doklam valley. Similarly, China also claims Indian territories of Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh, and was claiming Sikkim till a few years ago. Such a plethora of disputes is sufficient evidence of the fact that China wishes to extend its borders wherever it can.
Some of these claims date back to the 14th Century which are utterly preposterous. It also demonstrates that China is an extremely serious threat in the region and a genuine threat to world peace.
China’s recent new claims over foreign territories
While China denies being expansionist, the country is actually inventing new territorial claim against other countries. At the recently concluded 58th meeting of the Global Environment Facility Council, China tried to oppose funding to a project for the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary in Bhutan claiming that it was “disputed” territory. China claimed this despite the fact that there is no history of dispute over the area, and the Wildlife Sanctuary is located far away from China-Bhutan border. In fact, areas of Arunachal Pradesh lies between the border and the forest area. Bhutan had strongly opposed this claim by China, and other countries also supported Bhutan in the matter, but China still insisted that it should be recorded that China had opposed the funding. And Indian officer has represented Bhutan in the meeting, which eventually approved the project for the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary.
Similarly, China has started a new dispute with Russia over Vladivostok, the Pacific port city in eastern Russia. Chinese officials slammed Russian embassy officials in China this week for celebrating 160th founding anniversary of the city, saying that the area originally belonged to China. Chinese diplomats, journalists, and internet users launched an online attack on Russian embassy officials on Weibo and other Chinese social media sites, just because the Russian city belonged to China centuries ago. The Primorsky Krai territory and its capital Vladivostok were part of the Qing’s Manchurian homeland but was annexed by Russia during the Tsar empire in 1860 following China’s defeat at the hands of Britain and France in the second opium war.