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September 20, 2017

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'Coalition of the willing' emerging against China

MANILA -- By disregarding its passport, China has sparked a torrent of diplomatic protests. The new passport carries a map that shows China's territorial claims in the South China Sea and on its border with India.

China did not need to occupy the disputed territories through invasion by the People's Liberation Army. It did not have to fire a shot to validate its claims based solely on a map, making the whole affair a paper coup.

According to Bloomberg, three separate pages in the passport include China's "nine-dash line" map of the South China Sea (parts of which are known in the Philippines as West Philippine Sea), first published in 1947. The dash lines extend hundreds of kilometers south from China's Hainan Island to the equatorial waters off the coast of Borneo, Vietnam and the Philippines.

The map includes the Spratly island chain, the subject of overlapping claims by China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency website.

The Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom reported that the Philippines, Vietnam, India and Taiwan had vehemently protested against the new passport, "which essentially forces neighboring countries to validate China's position on contested regions."

Vietnam and the Philippines have lodged formal complaints with Chinese embassies in Hanoi and Manila. India's external affairs minister, Salman Khursid, called the map "unacceptable."

Hi Yinhon, an international relations professor at Renmin University in Beijing, warned the row could have long-term consequences.

"Especially in the East and South China Sea, both sides have taken a confrontational approach," Hi said. "This kind of situation will have a long-term impact on East Asian security and relations between these countries."

Bruce Jacobs, a professor of East Asian studies at Monash University in Australia, said the map "underscored China's increasing boldness in laying claim to the disputed territories," adding that the country "lacked institution such as a free media that could keep its foreign policy decisions in check."

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