Map: No more border dispute between China and Central Asian ex-USSR countries

(via Wenxuecity and Feiyang Junshi)

According to newly published map in China, the border between Xinjiang AR and the Central Asian Stans have been quietly changed, reflecting results of recent negotiation to settle borders.

This is part of China's effort to "peaceful development", i.e., to make sure China can steer away from the distraction of border dispute or conflict and focus on economic development.

If the negotiation with India goes well as expected, China would be able settle all land border disputes with its neighbors. This would serve to prove that China has no intention of aggression, today or in the future, and dispel the myth of "China threat". Because if China plans to be aggressive, it would rather save some of the disputed areas as future excuses. It would also be silly to settle them in such haste because as we see below, in almost every case, China conceded most the territories it has claimed.

FYJS's site has some anecdotes about how China dealt with the disputes in thw 1960s and 1980s. Most of the disputed terriroties were under Soviet control. Soviet Army were a lot strong than China's. China did not want to escalate the conflicts.

However, the disputed areas were grazing zone for the nomads who lives on Chinese side (nomads migrates to where the grass is greener over the seasons), which is one of the main evidence for China's claim. When USSR and China were friendly in the 1950s, the nomads can cross the border to graze with no problem. But the Soviet started to harrass the nomads since the 1960s, even though there was an agreement to allow them there in particular seasons.

So every year, China needs to encourage the nomads to drive their herds to the Soviet controlled side, to keep the territory claim valid. Many were discouraged by the Soviet harrassment and would prefer not to go for such trouble. So sometimes China send some soldiers to disguise as nomad, to help them with the jobs, and to survey the landscape. These were high danger jobs so each trip was taken with a lot of sweat. FYJS's site has some memoirs of the trips made by these soldiers/officers.

Fig. Border with Kakhzastan. (left 2002 map, right 2005 map)
Red circle: border change
Click figures to enlarge

Fig. Border with Kirghistan
  • This is the largest disputed area. It concerns mainly how to divide the Wuzhongtushi river source area: 2844 sq. km
  • The lower (green, topographic) map is an enlargement of the area
  • Red dots the new negotiated boundary, yellow dots the disputed area
  • China claimed the boundary should be the Wuzhongtushi watershed, Russia claimed Tianshan South as the watershed

China obtained about 30% of the disputed area as a result of negotiation, Kirghistan 70%

Border with Tajikstan (left 2002 map, right 2005 map)

A related note: China and Vietnam settled the dispute on land border, border marks will be erected by 2008. Sea border in Tonkin Bay is also settled and the area will be patrol jointly by the 2 navies. Remaining dispute on South Sea Islands (Paracels and Spratly) will be set aside, the area will be jointly developed.


Anonymous said...

>>This would serve to prove that China has no intention of aggression, today or in the future, and dispel the myth of "China threat".

Another way to look at it:

- Does US power or "hegemony" around the globe have anything to do with border disputes or claims on territory?

- China wants to settle border disputes peacefully now (and in the past) out of weakness. China can't afford confrontation now because of its own internal problems. This has nothing to do with altruism or a philosophy of peace. The "China threat" comes to life in the future when China can afford to settle things "non-peacefully." In other words, it is a question of means, not of motive.

Anyway, those are just different viewpoints. I don't necessarily agree with them.

Your posts are amazingly thourough. I don't have the energy you have...

Sun Bin said...

I understand there are other interpretations. The pragmatic reasons based on current weakness (as you said) is certainly one of them. However, they also have the option of not resolving some of the land disputes like what they did in South China Sea.

So I inserted the word "serve to", i.e. "would help to portray" such view, but not necessarily a 'proof'.

p.s. This one I stole the research from the Chinese post I linked, basically a translation of that linked threads :).

Sun Bin said...

"Does US power or "hegemony" around the globe have anything to do with border disputes or claims on territory?"

There are some views that use border dispute as a reason to 'prove' china is aggressive territorially. Such logics are not very tight, but they have believers.

I think it is important, for both China and US (also Japan), to do analysis and make judgment and decisions based on the truly relevant facts. Correct decisions aligned to one's own interests (vs misguided decision) is better for people in all countries, in most cases.

Anonymous said...

"Does US power or "hegemony" around the globe have anything to do with border disputes or claims on territory?"

By this I meant is the absence of territorial claims or disputes a reliable indicator of "hostility" or future threat? Is it the only indicator of a country's intentions? Capital markets are 1,000 times more important than some strip of barely inhabitable land in the middle of nowhere. However, "territorial integrity" has an important domestic political component: national pride.

Anyway, I think the argument that China's border disputes indicate aggression or hostility have no merit. These border disputes didn't suddenly appear out of nowhere as China's power has grown.

Sun Bin said...

Thanks, precisely.

It will be more productive for US to focus on more plausible factors of instability, or conflicts.

Sun Bin said...

1. resources?
2. feeling threatened by you?
3. ideology?
4. weakness?

Anonymous said...

Some Chinese are very unhappy about these concessions, e.g. the Falun Gong, see: http://english.epochtimes.com/news/5-8-17/31330.html

Sun Bin said...

I do not care about FLG. They are real cult and nuts. They oppose for the purpose of opposition, and they do not really mean what they say.

However, there are 'nationalists' who are unhappy about the concession. But they are myopic.

Even without the grand strategy of 'peaceful development' or 'tao guan yang hui', I can still make sense of these concessions.

1. most of these areas were under USSR control already, even though PRC still put them on the maps.
2. the benefits of having a friendly neighbor is numerous.
a) curb the XJ saparatists
b) more business interaction
c) freer travel and even migration (have you heard of the mexicanization of Southwestern US?)

Anonymous said...

I am from Kyrgyzstan and agree with Sun Bin. There are many people unhappy with Chinese-Kyrgyz border deal here. According USSR ideology and propaganda all disputable territory belongs to Kyrgyzstan.
But Yuentze said that China border countries have growth rate more than 30%. It's myth... Only 5-13%. Kyrgyzstan has only 5%.

Sun Bin said...

Thanks for the comments.

When there is a negotiation and concession from both sides. It is hard to make everybody happy. But we should trust there is no reason the leaders try to betray their own country. If peace and intimate economic exchange is secured the benefit will far outweigh the give-in.

I think Yuen-Tze was talking about growth in mobile phone or internet access. For that 30% from a low base is quite plausible.