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To National Geographic : The petition for removal of the label “China” at the Paracel Islands on NGS’s online world map

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#1
Ninomax

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We are writing this letter concerning the label “China” at the disputed Paracel Islands on the online world map edition published by the National Geographic Society. (*)

The fact is that the islands located in the South China Sea have never been recognized as part of Chinese territory by the international community.

In this letter, we do not have any ambition to convince you the Paracel Islands belong to a specific country. Instead, we are requesting you to review the current status of the islands based on reliable, third-party source for correctly labeling the islands on your map.

The sovereignty disputes over the islands remain unresolved for nearly a century. Over the years, the United Nations have also received many complaints from Vietnam and China regarding these features. In fact, the latest submissions to the United Nations from these countries happened in May 2009. The United Nations have classified the Paracel Islands as “the disputed islands” and have never confirmed them belong to neither country.

It is no doubt that the National Geographic Society is a trusted and reliable source of important information for many people around the globe, including researchers and young students.

Therefore, in preventing the public from being misled, we call upon you to immediately review and change the label based on the true status of the Paracel Islands to reflect both the point of view of the international community as well as the neutral point of view policy of the National Geographic Society. Thank you.

(*) Link to the said online world map by National Geographic Society
http://www.natgeomap...orVisible=false

USEFUL INFORMATION

1. The International Court of Justice of the United Nations has recorded the Paracel Islands as the disputed islands between Vietnam and China.
http://www.munfw.org...ve/45th/icj.htm

2. On May 6, 2009, Vietnam and Malaysia formally filed a joint submission with the United Nations’ Commissions on the Limits of the Continental Shelf to claim their territorial sea, including the Paracel Islands.
http://www.rsis.edu....RSIS0652009.pdf

3. On 6 August, 1998, at the request of the Government of Viet Nam, the protest was circulated to all States Members of the United Nations.
http://www.rsis.edu....RSIS0652009.pdf

#2
James Hines

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After doing some research the National Geographic did nothing wrong to list the Paracel Islands as part of the People's Republic of China. The difference is the islands are administered by the People's Republic of China but Vietnam only has a claim on those islands. Therefore jurisdictional of the islands officially belongs to China, meaning the claims of Vietnam are illegitimate at this time.

"There is much beauty that we fail to see through our own eyes teeming with life forms that give us that perception of our reality.  Leaves on the trees blowing gently in the wind, or scarily, the waves pounding through high surf, or lightly on a warm summer’s day; that opportunity to sit or swim in the water on a white beach.   That comfort to shout, “The universal conscious do you hear me?  I am alive, guide me dear logos towards the path of rightnesses.”  Earned what has been kept, no longer to be absorbed into a life filled with cold damn winds and  that stubborn fog clouding  my vision with nothing but darkness."


#3
François Goulet

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After doing some research the National Geographic did nothing wrong to list the Paracel Islands as part of the People's Republic of China. The difference is the islands are administered by the People's Republic of China but Vietnam only has a claim on those islands. Therefore jurisdictional of the islands officially belongs to China, meaning the claims of Vietnam are illegitimate at this time.


Oh! Be careful James with affirmations like that... What about Tibet? Cisjordania? Western Sahara? Nagorno-Karabakh? Kashmir? Spratly Islands? Northern Cyprus? Those are very sensible subject for the people involved.

The CIA keeps a list of disputed area as part of their World Factbook and you can see that it's not something that we could resolve by only saying "According to my researches, China's right and Vietnam is wrong". Throughout history, there was numerous wars and bloodsheds about territorial claim just like that so we can't take the question lightly.

When it comes to independence, territorial claims or even ethnicity and religion, as cartographer we have to be more that careful because simply by drawing a line, or only by drawing it plain or dotted we are "imposing" a reality that can be false or falsely interpreted and it can have repercussion. How do you draw the line between "It's yours" of "You shouldn't claim it as your own"?

For those who can read French, there's an interesting article about that...

#4
Hans van der Maarel

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I'm kinda hoping Alex Tait will chime in, he's done a lot of work for the international court on border disputes.

But yeah, a lot of these conflicts run a lot deeper than we can even imagine, and we have to be mindful of them at all times.
Hans van der Maarel - Cartotalk Editor
Red Geographics
Email: hans@redgeographics.com / Twitter: @redgeographics

#5
Ninomax

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Another leter to Mr Chris Jones

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY
1145 17th St, NW
Washington, D.C 20036-4688
nationalgeographic.com/magazine
ngsforum@ngm.com
Attn: Mr. Chris Jones, Editor in Chief

Dear Mr. Chris Jones,

The new World Political Map (Item 22005C, 2009), published by the National Geographic Society (NGS), shows the Paracel Islands in Southeast Asia (SEA) as belonging to China, in contrary to the 1943 and 1994 maps. This must be an error that puts the NGS as taking side on the disputed status of the archipelago whose legal status has not been arbitrated by any international legal body. In the interest of scholarship and fairness, we ask you to consider corrective actions based on the following facts:

1. Both China and Vietnam have presented historic evidences of their possession of the Paracels dating back to the 15th century. In the 19th and 20th century, the Paracels were identified as part of Vietnam when it was a protectorate of France. It was returned to South Vietnam in 1954 and the South Vietnamese posted garrisons and exploited natural resources there. In 1974, taking advantage of the American withdrawal from South Vietnam, China attacked the South Vietnamese and took the archipelago over by force. Since then Vietnam never ceded rights to the archipelago and international scholars classed it as “disputed”. There are numerous documents regarding these facts. Due to lack of space, we cite only the following:

• DK Digital Maps for 21st Century, published by Oxford University Press, page 179.
http://www.time.com/...,908427,00.html
http://www.seasfound...ai-liu-ting-anh

2. China has claimed practically the entire SEA waters bordered by Hainan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines as its maritime territory (see map). It uses Paracels and some islands of the Spratly archipelagos, which it also took over by force in a 1988 bloody invasion, as centerpieces of the claim. It is building a nuclear navy base on Hainan and several airfields on the Paracels and Spratlys in order to patrol this vast expanse of international water; claiming all mineral rights; forbidding the fishing activities of Southeast Asian countries; and controlling the vital sea routes between Singapore and Japan. In fact, it has challenged the presence of the United States in the area by harassing U.S. signals surveillance planes and research ships (e.g., April 1, 2000, incident regarding the US Navy 1EP-3 aircraft and the March 8, 2009, incident regarding the US Navy ship Impeccable.)

3. Currently SEA countries and China have submitted papers with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) governing body, outlining competing claims and professing adherence to the convention. While an international effort to mediate and arbitrate the claims appears rational, China insists on dealing with the smaller nations one-on-one, leaving interested parties such as the United States, India, Japan, Russia and other SEA nations out of the talks. The disputed nature of the Paracels and Spratlys is clear and potentially dangerous to world peace.

The NGS publications and maps are widely read and consulted all over the world for references. Your corrective actions for the hopefully inadvertent error will confirm the reputation of the NGS that it does not take side in disputed geopolitical matters.

We request that you return the annotation in National Geographic’s 2006 Atlas of the World, which states that: “Paracels Islands:administered by China, claimed by Vietnam”, which is more accurately representing current situation.

Thank you for your attention.

Sincerely,

Ngo Vinh Long, Ph.D., Professor of Asian Studies and US-Asian Relations, University of Maine.

Tai Van Ta, Ph.D., former Saigon Law School professor and Law lecturer and Research associate, Harvard Law School, Attorney at law.

Vu Quang Viet, Ph.D., former Chief of National Accounts Statistics, United Nations. Author of several papers presented at Workshop “South China Sea Disputes in Vietnamese Context” on November 18, 2009 at the Council of Southeast Asian Center, Yale University.


@Hasdrubal: Pls be careful with your statements!!!. This issue is very sensitive as François said. How long did you research? How do you know about China and Vietnam? Just with "after some your researchs", you confidently judge who is wrong, who is righ?, it's ridiculous and :angry: ! OMG.
i hope someone from NGS can explain this terrible issue!

#6
nt2008

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After doing some research the National Geographic did nothing wrong to list the Paracel Islands as part of the People's Republic of China. The difference is the islands are administered by the People's Republic of China but Vietnam only has a claim on those islands. Therefore jurisdictional of the islands officially belongs to China, meaning the claims of Vietnam are illegitimate at this time.


Could you tell me more detail about National Geographic's research. What is historical evidence to comfirm that Paracel Islands belongs to Republic of China.

#7
Hans van der Maarel

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Just a friendly reminder that this is not really the place for discussion on who the islands belong to.
Hans van der Maarel - Cartotalk Editor
Red Geographics
Email: hans@redgeographics.com / Twitter: @redgeographics

#8
ELeFevre

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But yeah, a lot of these conflicts run a lot deeper than we can even imagine, and we have to be mindful of them at all times.


I think the key in a topic like this is to focus on best cartographic practices for handling territorial disputes on a map. Otherwise it's a doomed conversation.



#9
mapfax

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Came across this discussion and thought I would add a few comments, as a former editor at National Geographic.

The Paracels are shown as part of the People's Republic of China because China has controlled the northern Paracel Islands since the 1950s and all of the Paracel Islands since 1974. While it is true that the Paracels have been ruled by the Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, and French in past centuries, a 21st century political map would need to recognize that the PRC administers these islands today.

If you ignore administrative control then you ignore the place names given by the administrative government. The Chinese have named the island group as Xisha Qundao, and the use of Paracel Islands should be secondary--like Islas Malvinas is secondary to the Falkland Islands on most maps, and Serbian place names are secondary to Albanian place names in Kosovo. Mapmakers need to show what exists on the ground--not what we would like to see. The use of "Paracel" is derived from the former French colonial empire in Indochina, which ended in 1954; so it would seem that Paracel Islands is a dated term, kept around by inertia.

The Vietnamese claim to the islands should be noted on maps, because it is similar to Argentina's claim to the Falklands and the Japan's claim to Dokdo (South Korean island in the Sea of Japan/East Sea). All of these disputes have gone on for decades, with little or no resolution in sight.




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