The Chinese national flag is seen in Beijing, China
In photo: the Chinese national flag is seen in Beijing, China.


  • China recently added a 10th dash to its infamous 9-dash line that a 2016 arbitral award had invalidated
  • The new map now includes an additional dash on the east of self-governing Taiwan
  • India, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan have rejected China's new map

China recently released a new map that now features a 10-dash line, drawing the ire of its Asian neighbors including Taiwan, which is now included in Beijing's expansive territorial in the South China Sea.

China's Ministry of Natural Resources published the map last week, and it was met with strong opposition from its neighbors, led by India. Following the angry protests, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the map was launched to "raise public awareness of the standardized use of maps," and called on concerned parties to view it "in an objective and rational light."

What's new?

In the new map, a 10th dash has been drawn in the South China Sea around the east side of Taiwan, the self-governing island that has repeatedly rejected Beijing's claims that it was part of China's territory.

The new map also includes India's Arunachal Pradesh and the Aksai Chin plateau under China's territory -- the latter being a disputed region controlled by China.

What's old?

Before China's 10-dash line, there was its infamous 9-dash line -- a U-shaped demarcation line covering the maritime territories that are also claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan. The 9-dash line dates back to the 1940s and Beijing has been using its supposed historical relevance to contest other nations' claims over areas it claims is its own.

The 'David and Goliath' saga continues

Taiwan, which falls in the area covered by the newly-added 10th dash, was the latest to reject the map's territorial assertions, but its decades-long fight with Beijing has been likened repeatedly by experts and analysts to the David-and-Goliath saga in the Bible.

"No matter how the Chinese government twists its position on Taiwan's sovereignty, it cannot change the objective fact of our country's existence," said Taiwanese foreign ministry spokesperson Jeff Liu of the new map.

Tensions between the two sides have been escalating in recent months as China continues to put pressure by sending fighter jets and Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) vessels across the Taiwan Strait.

Beijing is particularly irked by Taiwan building closer economic and military relationships with Washington and several other Asian allies. The Biden administration recently approved the first direct U.S. military aid to Taiwan -- an $80 million package. President Joe Biden also signed into law the United States-Taiwan Initiative on 21st-Century Trade First Agreement Implementation Act, which seeks to bolster trade agreements between the two sides.

Beijing has since said it "strongly opposes" any form of official interaction between Taiwan and "countries that have diplomatic relations with China."

Other Davids on the rise?

Taiwan isn't the only country that rejected China's new map. India was the first to respond, filing a "strong protest" against the map's release.

"We reject these claims as they have no basis. Such steps by the Chinese side only complicate the resolution of the boundary question," said Indian foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi in a statement. India's former ambassador to Switzerland, Smita Purushottam, told International Business Times that China's map only confirmed Beijing's "lack of interest in resolving the border issue to mutual satisfaction." The shared Himalayan border between the two countries, long a point of dispute, has seen rapid militarization following a clash betwen their troops in 2020, leading to fatalities on both sides. Thousands of troops, guns, tanks and warplanes now face each other in the freezing heights.

Malaysia followed suit, becoming the first Southeast Asian nation to stand against the biggest economic and military player in the region. "Malaysia does not recognize China's claims in the South China Sea, as outlined in the 'China Standard Map 2023 Edition' which covers Malaysia maritime area," the Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said as per a Google translation of its statement.

Soon after, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said China's claims through its new map had "no basis under international law," calling on Beijing to "act responsibly and abide by international laws," specifically the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 2016 international arbitral award to the Philippines.

In recent months, coast guard ships from the two sides have had standoffs at the Spratly Islands over several incidents initiated by the CCG, including "aggressive" actions in disputed waters and turning a water cannon on Philippine Coast Guard vessels.

The 2016 arbitral award ruled overwhelmingly in favor of the Philippines and rejected China's territorial claims in virtually the entire South China Sea, basically invalidating the 9-dash line.

After the Philippines, Vietnam also chimed in, with Vietnamese foreign ministry spokesperson Pham Thu Hang saying the new map "violated Vietnam's sovereignty" as determined by the UNCLOS.

Washington signals support

The United States, a long-time ally of some Southeast Asian countries with claims in the disputed waters, has also spoken up about the contentious map. "With respect to the dashed lines in the South China Sea depicted on the new map, like many countries, we reject the unlawful maritime claims reflected on that map," said State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel earlier this week.

What now?

Beijing has historically been firm that whatever it claims is its own. It remains to be seen whether countries protesting the new map will take action beyond dialogue, and how China will respond to further resistance from other claimants to the territories.