From the Himalayas to the South China Sea, China’s expansive territorial claims have once again ignited controversy, with neighboring countries voicing strong objections to Beijing’s latest “standard map” released in 2023.

The map, produced by the Chinese Ministry of Natural Resources, features a U-shaped line that reinforces China’s sovereignty claims over almost the entire South China Sea, a region vital for trade and resources. This development has escalated concerns over potential clashes in the already contentious area.

Revised Border Lines: A Bold Statement by China

China’s new map, as opposed to previous versions that featured a “nine-dash line” encircling the South China Sea, introduces a “ten-dash line.” This revised demarcation extends eastward, encroaching on the territory of Taiwan, a self-governing island that Beijing claims as its own. Taipei, however, reaffirmed its independent status, asserting that no matter how China interprets the situation, the island nation remains a distinct and sovereign entity.

Shortly after, the map drew swift and stern reactions from multiple regional nations, particularly those embroiled in territorial disputes with China. The Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, and again, Taiwan, all of which have ongoing disagreements with China over territory, have vehemently rejected this new “standard” map.

Philippines: Strong Denunciation and Call for International Law Adherence

The Philippine Foreign Ministry issued a statement denouncing the map, emphasizing that it lacks any basis in international law and conflicts with the 2016 ruling by an international tribunal in The Hague, which rejected Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea.

In a statement released Thursday, Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Ma. Teresita Daza asserted that “[t]his latest attempt to legitimize China’s purported sovereignty and jurisdiction over Philippine features and maritime zones has no basis under international law, particularly the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).”

“The Philippines, therefore, calls on China to act responsibly and abide by its obligations under UNCLOS and the final and binding 2016 Arbitral Award,” she added.

But, of course, this dispute has persisted because China chose not to participate in the tribunal’s proceedings and has never recognized the ruling.

Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam: Joint Opposition to Audacious Territorial Claims

Furthermore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam joined the chorus of disapproval, each expressing strong objections to the map’s audacious territorial claims. In contrast to China’s stance, these nations called for adherence to international law and peaceful resolution of territorial disputes.

Likewise, releasing a statement on Thursday, Malaysia’s Foreign Ministry said that the country “does not recognize China’s claims in the South China Sea as outlined in the ‘2023 edition of the standard map of China,’ which extends into Malaysian maritime area.” It further clarified that the map does not hold any legal authority over Malaysia.

India Joins the Fray: Protests Over Himalayan Claims

The diplomatic turmoil extends to India, where the map asserts Beijing’s sovereignty over the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh and the Aksai Chin plateau, a contested region in the western Himalayas controlled by China but claimed by India. In response, China’s Foreign Ministry Wang Wenbin explained that the released 2023 standard map “is a routine practice in China’s exercise of sovereignty in accordance with the law.”

“We hope relevant sides can stay objective and calm, and refrain from over-interpreting the issue,” Wang noted.

The Indian Foreign Ministry registered a protest against China’s map, contending that it would only exacerbate the ongoing border dispute between the two nations. It is worth noting that just weeks ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had agreed to intensify efforts to resolve this border dispute.

The Timely Release: Implications and Significance

The timing of the map’s publication is noteworthy, given recent tensions in the South China Sea. China’s clash with the Philippines, which involved the blockage and use of water cannons against Philippine vessels, ignited a global debate about the legitimacy of China’s territorial claims and garnered renewed international support for the 2016 tribunal ruling.

Donald Rothwell, a law professor at the Australian National University, recently highlighted the significance of this timing, particularly as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members prepare to convene in Indonesia. Among the ASEAN nations, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Vietnam are notably critical of China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. China has been negotiating with ASEAN over a code of conduct for the region, further complicating the situation.

Navigating Controversies: Maps and Territorial Disputes in Asia

Territorial disputes and controversies over maps are not uncommon in Asia. Governments in the region are quick to push back against anything that could be seen as legitimizing Beijing’s territorial claims. For example, Vietnam banned the movie “Barbie” in July due to a scene featuring a map that included what Vietnamese film censors considered the “nine-dash line,” a move that sparked a diplomatic spat. Warner Bros., the studio behind the film, defended the map as a “child-like crayon drawing,” asserting it was not intended as a political statement.


In conclusion, China’s release of a new map with expanded territorial claims has stoked regional tensions, leading to strong objections from neighboring countries with territorial disputes. Amidst recent clashes and ASEAN negotiations, the map’s timing underscores its potential to exacerbate ongoing disagreements in the South China Sea and beyond, further complicating regional stability and diplomatic relations.