China testing southern waters for new world order


BEIJING — If you want an insight into Chinese foreign policy, just look at its maps. Since President Xi Jinping took office in 2012, state-owned bookshops have begun selling vertical oblong maps that look rather different from previous ones. The new maps put the South China Sea in the center, rather than showing it in an inset. The border, which encompasses the entire sea, looks like a long tongue extending from the continent. The intimidating maps are a visualization of China’s challenge to the U.S. strategy of “Pivot to Asia.”

The military has historically played a key role in geographical surveys and map-making in China. The People’s Liberation Army General Staff Department is involved in demarcating border areas. The maps are printed at military printing plants.

“Maps that show islands in the South China Sea and the Diaoyu Islands (the Chinese name for the Senkaku Islands) in one picture were a sign that the Xi leadership will take an aggressive policy in nearby waters. Establishing an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) was also planned from an early stage,” a Chinese Communist Party source said. The source emphasized the government’s departure from “Tao guang yang hui” (hide one’s abilities and keep a low profile), the foreign policy adopted by Chinese leaders until Xi’s immediate predecessor Hu Jintao.


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