Shen Shiwei, a journalist for the official Chinese television CGTN, is to blame for China’s latest territorial conflict. On Thursday, he said on Twitter that his country has completed the construction of a town called Pangda and that Chinese citizens have already settled in the idyllic two-story houses seen in several photos. The problem is that, according to the location that Shen indicated on the map, the town is in the territory of Bhutan. Specifically, about two kilometers from the international border and very close to the place where three years ago troops from China and India – which protects and guides Bhutan’s foreign policy – clashed over the road that Beijing had ordered built in Doklam, point at which the territories of the three countries converge.
Shen deleted the tweet as soon as it began to turn into a big snowball and Bhutan’s envoy for India, General Vetsop Namgyel, said on Friday that “there are no Chinese people inside Bhutan.” However, the issue has rekindled an intermittent dispute: China already claims for itself about 12% of the territory of the small kingdom of the Himalayas. This includes such surprising places as the Sakteng Nature Sanctuary, located 27 kilometers from the nearest Chinese territory and which Beijing has considered since June ‘disputed territory’.
As Felix K. Chang, from the Foreign Policy Research Institute points out, China has never claimed that territory in the 36 years of talks it has held with Bhutan to definitively demarcate a border that has caused tensions since the Asian giant annexed Tibet in 1950 Beijing did not recognize Bhutan as an independent state until 1998, when it promised to respect its territorial integrity, but the claim to the sanctuary casts doubt on its real purpose.
TERRITORIES IN DISPUTE:
It claims for itself up to 12% of its surface.
Two areas to the west and east of the temporal border between the two are at stake.
Beijing claims the entire island, although Taipei runs it independently.
- Senkaku Islands.
The conflict with Japan over its control causes intermittent tensions.
- Paracelsus Islands.
Located opposite Vietnam, they have been controlled by China since 1974.
- Spratly Islands.
Disputed with the Philippines and Malaysia, it has built infrastructure in them.
India has also stood up to the Roof of the World, where a temporary Line of Control separates its territory from the Chinese. Last summer the worst clashes between the two powers were recorded, which caused two dozen deaths in a fight with sticks and fists that raised fear of a new war. Once again, the spark that ignited the spirits was the construction of infrastructures around the border, especially roads and buildings that facilitate access and supply of troops and that could be decisive in a hypothetical war conflict.
The recurring tagline
Whenever it has occasion, China reiterates that it has no expansionist ambitions and that it does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. However, it maintains open territorial conflicts with up to 15 states and it is enough to take a look at the line of nine lines with which it delimits its territory in the South China Sea to verify that the first maxim is, to say the least, questionable. In fact, this delimitation of its marine territory extends over a thousand kilometers from the southernmost coast of the country.
Communist politicians support their claims in a tagline that they repeat like parrots: “The territory has belonged to China since time immemorial.” Both independent historians and the UN itself have denied that this is the case, since some territories whose sovereignty the regime claims did not even belong to the kingdoms prior to the creation of China, but Beijing asserts its economic and military superiority to intimidate its neighbors. and it even provokes tensions with the United States, whose Naval Force has proposed to preserve free navigation in the area.
China has built military bases on some uninhabited islands and has even built artificial islands with airfields from which its planes could operate. In this regard, the Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, wrote an article in June in which he assured that China takes advantage of any occasion to “advance in the materialization of its claims” and that “the presence of the United States remains vital to the stability of the region ”. It is easy to understand why the most populous country in the world is interested in expanding its territory: the land areas it wants to annex are strategically relevant, especially if one takes into account that India is emerging as its main Asian rival, and the marine territory guards oil and gas reserves and rich fishing grounds.