MANILA, Philippines – The 17th century map of China was a gift from German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Chinese President Xi Jinping during his recent visit to Berlin. But the gift offended many Chinese for it might as well have been Germany's gift to the Philippines and other countries caught in maritime disputes with China.
The ancient map debunks China's historical claim over several territories including the island of Hainan in the South China Sea, the southernmost province of China located just below the mainland.
The antique map drawn in 1735 by French cartographer Jean-Baptiste Bourguignon d’Anville sent China's Internet abuzz, leading netizens to question Merkel's message behind the gift, according to a Time.com article titled "Maybe heads of state shouldn't give maps as presents"
The Time article reads: "The 1735 d’Anville mapshows 'China proper' as a landmass separate from areas like Xinjiang, Tibet, Mongolia and Manchuria. The island of Hainan is drawn in a different color, as is Taiwan. This depiction is utterly at odds with how history is taught here."
It added: "Chinese students learn that these areas are inalienable parts of China, and that they have been for a long, long time. One netizen described the map as a 'slap' from Merkel."
The map was supposedly drawn with the help of Jesuit missionaries. (Here's another article from the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) that shows the ancient map: Angela Merkel's historical China map flap)
The SMH writes: "The d'Anville map, at least visually, is a rejection of that narrative [in Chinese schools]. Unsurprisingly, China's official media outlets don't seem to have appreciated Merkel's gift. The People's Daily, which has given meticulous accounts of Xi's European tour, eluded any coverage of the offending map."
A different version of the map was apparently circulated by the local media in China. According to SMH, Chinese media reported that Merkel's gift was an 1844 map made by John Dower and published in London showing a bigger territory encompassing China's territory to include "Tibet, Xinjiang, Mongolia and large swaths of Siberia."
The 17th century marked the beginning of the expansionist Qing Dynasty, which eventually conquered more territories.
The 9-dash-line claim that China meant to delineate its maritime borders, however, was drawn in 1947 by the Kuomintang Government. (READ: South China Sea represents 'a new Persian Gulf'?)
It's a claim that overlaps with the 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone of neighboring countries as defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). (READ: 'No such thing as 9-dash-line' – US envoy)
In the Philippines, a map published as early as 1734 shows the now disputed Panatag Shoal (Scarborough) as part of the Zambales province in Luzon. The map was made by Spanish Jesuit Pedro Murillo Velarde. The shoal used to be called Bajo de Masinloc. (READ: Scarborough shoal according to Manila, Beijing)
Manila has filed a case against Bejing before a United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal over China's claims in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). – Rappler.com