The recent publication of China’s “2023 edition of China’s standard map” by the Global Times newspaper has sparked controversy and raised tensions between China and Russia over the ownership of Bolshoi Ussuriysky Island, also known as Heixiazi Island in Chinese. This long-standing territorial dispute has been a source of tension between the two nations for decades.
The island is strategically located at the confluence of the Ussuri and Amur rivers, serving as a natural border between Russia and China. In the newly published map, China seemingly lays claim to the entire 135-square-mile island, contrary to the existing bilateral agreements that divided it between the two countries.
In response to this development, the Russian Foreign Ministry, represented by spokesperson Maria Zakharova, firmly rejected any notion of revisiting the territorial dispute. Zakharova emphasized that the matter had already been resolved through bilateral agreements more than 15 years ago. She explained, “The Russian and Chinese sides adhere to the common position that the border issue between our countries has been finally resolved,” citing the ratification of the Supplementary Agreement on the Russian-Chinese state border in 2005 as the decisive moment in the island’s division.
Zakharova also highlighted the successful cooperation between Russia and China in the demarcation and demarcation of their shared border, which spans almost 4,300 kilometers (2,670 miles). She emphasized that this cooperation had contributed to regional security and stability, setting an example for resolving border disputes around the world. Moreover, she pointed to the absence of mutual territorial claims as outlined in the Treaty on Good Neighborliness, Friendship, and Cooperation signed in 2001.
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The two nations have established an extensive framework for border cooperation, with the Joint Border Commission playing a pivotal role in addressing relevant issues. Despite China’s new map and its claims, Russia remains steadfast in its commitment to maintaining the status quo and preserving the stability achieved through years of negotiations and agreements.
China’s publication of the map has not only strained relations with Russia but has also raised concerns among several other neighboring countries, including India, Malaysia, Taiwan, and the Philippines. These nations have expressed opposition to what they view as China’s symbolic land grab and a challenge to the existing international order.
Chinese officials, however, have defended the map’s publication as an exercise of national sovereignty and territorial integrity. Li Yongchun, a senior resources ministry official, emphasized the importance of a “correct national map” as a symbol of these principles. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin urged other countries to approach the issue objectively and calmly, discouraging any overinterpretation.
As the situation unfolds, it remains to be seen how neighboring countries and the international community will respond to China’s assertive stance on territorial claims, especially in areas of historical dispute. The issue underscores the complexity of territorial disputes and the need for diplomatic dialogue and peaceful resolutions to maintain regional stability and cooperation.