On Territorial Disputes
No, the red dots are not alien landing sites nor are they earthquake hot spots. They represent some of the territorial disputes unresolved today in Asia and North America.
Between Canada and the United States, there are officially seven territories under dispute. 1 The United States have other disputes, though not indicated above, for example with Mexico and Cuba.
Some of the key disputes in East Asia are: Kuril Islands between Russia and Japan; Dokdo or Takeshima between South Korea and Japan; Diaoyu Dao or Senkaku between China, Taiwan, and Japan; and islands in the South China Sea claimed by many.
If we plot all the disputes between all countries, the entire map would be lit with red dots. In reality, territorial disputes are the norm rather the exception.
So, what sets apart United States’ territorial disputes from that of China’s? In this article, I would like to offer some perspectives.
In the last few decades, China has worked earnestly with her neighbors to fully demarcate their borders. China’s relationship is the most complex in this regard, because she borders 14 countries, more than any nation on this planet. Quite remarkable, really, China has concluded demarcation with almost all, including Russia and Vietnam.
On February 23, 2009, China and Vietnam celebrated their agreement with a ceremony held at the Youyiguan, or Friendship Gate, an ancient landmark that existed for more than 2000 years. 2
From the land border perspective, India is the last remaining country where negotiations are still ongoing.
Despite that trend, the Western press have always cast doubt on China’s ability to tackle such issue. The Wall Street Journal reported recently:
India and China’s agreement Tuesday to set up a mechanism to settle border disputes is unlikely to help lead to a broader pact over the disputed frontier, analysts say. 3
How much longer China and India continue to wrestle remains to be seen. In my opinion, the trend is definitely positive.
The remaining disputes where China is party to are mostly in the sea.
Looking at the U.S.-Canada disputes, one should note how “friendly” the two countries are towards each another. Despite that, why aren’t their disputes settled yet? Furthermore, the United States is overwhelmingly stronger, so sheer might has not expedited a resolution either.
In China and India’s case it was in fact an arbitrary mess created by the British imperialists who withdrew and left the McMahon Line that separated the two countries. If not for that, perhaps India and China would not have gone to war over the border to begin with. The two civilizations have in fact lived next to each other for thousands of years without fighting.
One may then raise, what about Tibet and Taiwan? Those are disputes too, aren’t they? The Western media cleverly creates an impression of many disputes and use that simplistic reason to insinuate a ‘bad’ China:
China and its neighbors have long been involved in a number of border disputes, many of them dating back to the end of World War II or the civil war that followed. Asserting Chinese sovereignty over borderlands in contention — everywhere from Tibet to Taiwan to the South China Sea — has long been the top priority for Chinese nationalists, an obsession that overrides all other concerns. 4
The above emphasis is mine. When the NYT said, “obsession that overrides all other concerns,” it is in fact false. China has in fact resolved almost all her borderland disputes. What country would not want to bring peace to their borders? It, instead, should applaud what China has achieved in the last few decades. Furthermore, despite Japanese leaders worshiping war criminals at the Yasukuni Shrine and whitewashing atrocities (through history text books and media), China nevertheless seeks normalization. China also has a policy to resolve these disputes through dialog.
Even for Tibet and Taiwan, they are issues today because of direct intervention by the United States. The TGIE (Tibetan Government in Exile) was a result of a CIA-backed uprising but failed because the Dalai Lama could not muster enough popular support. The ethnic Tibetan populace did not want to support the Dalai Lama’s theocracy. The uprising was easily put down, and the Dalai Lama and the TGIE escaped to India in 1959. To this day, the Dalai Lama and the TGIE receive financial support from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), an arm of the U.S. government with the sole purpose of instigating and supporting political oppositions abroad. TGIE’s separatist cause is also propped up in the West by Western media propaganda.
Taiwan was a result of the U.S. supporting the Nationalist and Mao unable to to fully defeat that faction on the island in the civil war.
In order to put Tibet and Taiwan in proper context, we must turn to the United States and examine separatist movements within her borders. The following is a current list of separatist movements in the United States 5:
- New York City
- New York State
- Secessionist movements
- Political party: Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP)
- Pressure group: Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, Movimiento Independentista Nacional Hostosiano (MINH), Socialist Front (FS), Puerto Rican independence movement (MPI)
- Militant organization: Boricua Popular Army (Macheteros)
- Autonomist movements
- The South
Theoretically (and I personally don’t espouse this), if the United States become a much weaker nation, and if a very powerful foreign country behaves in the same way as America has been, then any of these separatist movements could be armed, funded, and politically supported to break away. Think of the Libyan opposition helped by NATO bombing Qaddafi; they also receive arms and political aid from Western countries.
One might ask how is it possible those separatist movements on the list could become big enough? The simple answer is time. Once a backed group becomes violent, blood feud is inevitable. Once that begins, the cycle of violence will eventually fully polarize the population.
Note the above list does not even include Hawaii. There aren’t too many Native Americans left, but looking at how the colonial masters in the last couple of centuries divided and conquered, they can be exploited too. A dominant Mexico against a much weaker United States may start to unwind the entire western region.
Logically, a very weak United States with a super powerful meddler could undermine completely this whole nation. I am personally against it simply because it would create untold human suffering. It would open new chapters of blood feud which is extremely difficult to stem.
For this reason, we all must think in long term about territorial disputes.
Strong states, all states, must work towards an international system where disputes are encouraged to end peacefully that last. Any step by a powerful state to undermine disputing parties efforts to reconcile must be shunted.
If any dispute is resolved unfairly, the aggrieved party will forever look for a more opportune future time to revisit the issue.
- Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_territorial_disputes ↩
- Xinhua, “China-Vietnam border demarcation finished”, February 23, 2009, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2009-02/23/content_7503495.htm ↩
- The Wall Street Journal, “Analysts: India, China Pact Won’t Solve Conflict,” January 17, 2012, http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2012/01/17/analysts-india-china-pact-wont-solve-conflict/ ↩
- The New York Times, “China’s Territorial Disputes,” September 27, 2010, http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/china/territorial-disputes/index.html ↩
- Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_active_separatist_movements_in_North_America ↩