It has been said that one cannot use an old map to explore a new world. Yet, if one is Communist China, one might be able to edit it to create a new world. Beijing’s recently revised mapping standards seem to suggest it is attempting just that.
The standards, released by the Ministry of Natural Resources on the approval of the State Council of the people’s republic, require that all Chinese maps “accurately reflect the scope of China’s territory.” In addition to islands in the South China Sea and Free China –– which is to be called “Taiwan Province” –– this also appears to include eight Russian cities that span the Sino-Russian border.
Vladivostok has become “Haishenwai.” Khabarovsk, Russia’s easternmost city, “Boli.” Sakhalin, the Kremlin’s outpost in the Pacific Ocean, just 27 miles north of Japan, is now “Kuedao.”
Beijing maintains that these, and five other, territories were unduly handed to Tsarist Russia in a bout of treaties that saw Moscow strip China of 350,000 square miles of land during the nineteenth century. The CCP claims that the new standards then reflect “China’s actual borders based on historical materials.”
Before the alleged plundering, Sino-Russian boundaries were governed by the 1689 Treaty of Nerchinsk under which the Qing acquired Russian lands north of the Amur River as far as the Stanovoy mountain range.
The Kremlin has so far not commented on Beijing’s advances. One could say that whether it does is also neither here nor there in what both Presidents Xi and Putin have repeatedly called a “new era.”