Through Invented Antiquity, Beijing Seeks to Validate Territorial Claims


Beijing tries to claim territories by attempting to change its name and through invented antiquity, the most recent being announcing a list of standardised names for 11 places in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh by China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs, reported Sanjay Pulipaka and Mohit Musaddi in Politeia Research Foundation (PRF).

Name-giving is a process through which Beijing seeks to validate territorial claims through invented antiquity. While this tactic may not immediately alter boundaries, it is part of Beijing’s longer-term strategy of validating territorial aggrandisement.

By that logic, drawing on its civilisational resources, India could assign names to places that are currently in China. For instance, there are some who contend Xinjiang and its adjoining regions used to have a significant Indian civilisation presence. In fact, some argue that Kashgar was referred to in ancient Sanskrit texts as Kasa+giri, meaning bright mountain, said Pulipaka and Musaddi.

The Chinese approach to defining nation-state boundaries is based entirely on ancient geography when the empires were at their peak and had large areas of land under their control.

This was the third batch of standardised names issued by Beijing to territories in Arunachal Pradesh. Even though the Chinese Defence minister is due to visit India this month for the SCO Defence Ministers’ Meet, by assigning standardised Chinese names to places in Indian territory, Beijing has displayed that is in no mood to reduce tensions along the contested areas.

On a broader scale, while the exercise is likely to have limited geopolitical consequences in the near future, name changes of territories are a clear attempt by Beijing to legitimise its claim on regions it considers as its own. As the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson noted a few years ago, these places have been part of “China’s territory since ancient times”.

There are other historical and contemporary examples as well where China has claimed territories by attempting to change its name, reported PRF.

In 2013, the Chinese Foreign Ministry refused to confirm that Okinawa Islands (which Beijing refers to as the Ryukyu Islands) belonged to Japan. China also refers to Japan’s Senkaku Islands as the Diaoyu Islands and claims them as its own. The disputed South China Sea also has different names, with Vietnam referring to it as the East Sea and Philippines government agencies often preferring to call it the West Philippine Sea.

There is a perception among the Chinese that Vladivostok is a former Chinese territory and was taken over by Russians in 1860.

In 2011, Tajikistan ceded about 1,000 square kilometres of land in the Pamir Mountain range to China to resolve their boundary dispute.

Moreover, the Taiwan issue has always been sensitive for China, and Beijing has often exerted pressure to compel international agencies to comply with its diktats.

In July 2018, Beijing instructed 44 international airline companies not to refer to Taiwan as a non-Chinese territory on their websites, reported Pulipaka and Musaddi.

As a result, the companies had to comply or else fear losing one of the world’s biggest aviation markets. During the 2022 FIFA World Cup, there were reports that China prevailed over Qatar to change the name of Taiwan to Chinese Taipei on its online visa application system.

Chinese style of nationalist imagination and defining national boundaries based on invented historical and civilisation presence. Countries in Asia and beyond must recognise and contest such attempts by Beijing based on arbitrary historical narratives, reported PRF. (ANI)

Source: economictimes