China needs to undo its pseudo-history

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

It will take years to set up anti-flooding infrastructures in Manila. But only a few moments are needed to start unclogging waterways. Here and now government should:

(1) Stop calling squatters “informal settlers,” which romanticizes the crime of land grabbing, the syndicates posing as civic-religious NGOs, and their abettors;

(2) Be ashamed of itself for freeloading on private do-gooders like Gina Lopez who conscientiously relocate squatters from esteros;

(3) Jail politicos who let squatters proliferate — again — during the election campaign; and

(4) Arrest on sight street gangsters who stuff sewers with plastic bags when it rains, to make a quick buck ferrying trapped pedestrians across rising waters.

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The Chinese are taught from grade school that the entire South China Sea is theirs. Textbooks carry an “ancient map” with nine dashes in a U-shape denoting the outer limits of the sea, skirting the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, some islands of Indonesia, and Vietnam. Thirteenth-century-old, the Chinese map purportedly proves that “we were there first.” Therefore, China owns the 1.35 million square miles of sea and all its rocks, reefs, and sandbars.

Those among the grade-schoolers who later take up anthropology invariably discover they were fed pseudo-history and jumbled geology. For then they learn about indigenous peoples of the outlying archipelagos and Indochinese peninsula. Those inhabitants were from the Malayo-Polynesian branch of the Austronesians, the same roots of aboriginal Taiwanese. Given their island geography, the Malayo-Polynesians could only have been seafarers. In fact, from written mainland accounts, the Chinese first traveled by sea to Sumatra and onto Sri Lanka on Malay ships.

A “Chinese voyager” supposedly drew the 13th-century “nine-dash” map. That’s historical nonsense. China at the time was under Mongol invasion that forbade maritime activities, then by a dynasty that did likewise. Admiral Zheng He would not embark on his famed explorations till another 200 years, to kick off trade with the islanders. Only in another 200 years would the Chinese begin trekking to Taiwan.

Meanwhile, there already was brisk trade among the islanders. For a time, until expelled by the Indochinese, the Malay realm was based in Cham, in what is now Vietnam. Natives sailing due east to the Philippine islands, and those in the latter sailing due west to Cham, could only have known of and passed through the Spratly and Paracel islets in between.

The millennium earlier, Malay empire-builders crossed 4,000 miles of the treacherous Indian Ocean to conquer the world’s third biggest island, Madagascar. The Malagasy language and half of the native genes are of Malay origin; the island is the only part of Africa that has carabaos (water buffaloes), banana varieties, and rice paddy agriculture common in Southeast Asia.

China’s “nine-dash” map assigns Chinese island names to about 200 shoals, banks, and rock formations in the South China Sea. Except for a dozen or so islets — held by Taiwan, Vietnam, and the Philippines — all are uninhabitable because submerged at high tide. They are misnomers under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea definition of “island.”

But China says that since it declared its “nine-dash” claim in 1932, it predates and so is unbound by the UNCLOS. That line can backfire on China. Vietnam is in possession of an earlier 1904 map, printed by the Shanghai Publishing House, setting Hainan island-province as China’s southernmost territory, and the Spratlys and Paracels as part of Vietnam.

Older maps also show Scarborough Shoal, which China grabbed last year, to belong to the Philippines. The Carte Hydrographica y Chorographica de las Islas Filipinas, dating back to 1734, calls Scarborough the Panacot Shoal. A subsequent map published in Madrid in 1808, of the 1792 Malaspina expedition, includes it in Philippine territory as Bajo de Masinloc. Yet another topographic map drawn in 1820 shows Bajo Scarburo as part of the province of Sambalez (Zambales). Two other maps, the Mapa General, Islas Filipinas, Observatorio de Manila of the 1910s, and the US Coast and Geodetic Survey of the 1920s, place it within the Philippines as Baju de Masinloc.

Chinese scholars have begun to doubt the defensibility of the “nine-dash” claim. Some of them, through letters and blogs, are pressing Beijing to review its legality and avert a huge national embarrassment.

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“Tarzan, The Musical” is a good way to introduce your youngster to theater. It’s got all the ingredients for a memorable watch: adventure, action, drama, music, humor, romance, costumes, and fine acting.

Your kids surely are familiar with Edgar Rice Burrough’s “Tarzan of the Apes” and the 1999 Disney animation. The play retells an infant’s orphaning in the jungles of Africa and adoption by a band of gorillas. The growing boy strives for the acceptance of the ape-father, then learns the truth of their difference when a human expedition enters their realm.

Featuring Broadway and Glee star Dan Domenech, with Rachel Ann Go, Calvin Millado, and Ima Castro. Directed by Chari Arespacochaga for Viva Atlantis Theatricals.

Runs Fridays to Sundays till June 29 at 8 p.m., with matinees at 2 p.m. on Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays, at the Meralco Theater, Pasig City. For tickets: call (02) 8937078, 8401187, 6875853 (loc. 661 or 673); or TicketWorld 8919999; or at the box office.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

E-mail: [email protected]

Gotcha archives on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jarius-Bondoc/1376602159218459


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