Monday, November 26, 2012

China’s undiplomatic passport gamble

A Chinese official shows the new PRC passport
Taipei finds itself in an especially difficult position to retaliate against Beijing’s latest escalation in regional disputes 

Several Asian countries last week reacted with unusual fury over the new design of the Chinese passport, which features watermarks that include 90 percent of the South China Sea, Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin, as well as famous tourist attractions in Taiwan. Although Beijing’s move was mostly symbolic, it constitutes yet another escalatory step in China’s many territorial disputes and could, depending on how other countries respond, make already complex issues even more difficult to resolve. 

So far, the reactions to the new passport have been uniformly negative, with Hanoi and Manila issuing official protests over the inclusion of the so-called nine-dash lines in the South China Sea and island groups such as the Paracels and Spratlys. Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry went as far as to request that Beijing remove the “wrong” content from the passport, and Hanoi is now reportedly refusing to stamp the passport, and will instead stamp a separate piece of paper. 

Even Taipei, the current government of which has engaged in a multifaceted effort to improve relations with China, called the passport “unacceptable” and warned it could negatively impact upon the ongoing rapprochement. 

My article, published today in The Diplomat, continues here.

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