Two Eyes on China’s territorial ambitions – all 20 of them!

Two Eyes on China’s territorial ambitions – all 20 of them!

Emperor Shi

The Peoples Republic of China shares a land border with 14 different countries.  China is a large place – that it shares a land border with 14 countries shouldn’t necessarily come as a surprise.  However, what might come as a surprise is that China has a territorial border dispute with all 14 of these countries; North Korea, Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam.  When considering China’s territorial aspirations in the South China Sea (a.k.a. the West Philippine Sea) and the Western Pacific, an additional 6 territorial disputes are dialed into focus; South Korea, Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Japan.  China’s ongoing tally of 20 territorial disputes is the all-time record, with lots of room to spare for any single country since World War II. 

On the surface, some of these border disputes seem like they orient on unimportant rocks in useless parts of the ocean or uninhabited and barren mountain ranges.  However, the reality is that each claim comes with a several miles wide area of ocean and territory which includes necessary fishing rights, mineral access rights, and/or drilling rights.  Additionally, the control of small rocks and reefs in the ocean also conveys control of the associated sea lanes and airspace.  China seemingly wants to control as much territory as it can to control trade routes and long-term access to resources – and then influence the resources, economies, and access rights countries across the region. 

Its ongoing military buildup only matches the aggressive stance taken by China’s territorial claims.  Several sources have asserted that China continues to modernize its military capability with a sharp focus on its ability to attack and seize coastal locations. 

Nations that value democracy and the benefits of a free economy, especially those that have interests in any part of Asia, the Pacific, or the Indian Ocean, need to be warry, alert, and on guard.  China is seemingly probing in every possible direction to expand both territory and hard influence. Again: 20 ongoing border disputes is a big number, a number that hints at serious problems with respect to historical precedence. 


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