Country Listing

China Table of Contents



In 1987 China's borders, more than 20,000 kilometers of land frontier shared with nearly all the nations of mainland East Asia, were disputed at a number of points. In the western sector, China claimed portions of the 41,000-square-kilometer Pamir Mountains area, a region of soaring mountain peaks and glacial valleys where the borders of Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Soviet Union, and China meet in Central Asia. North and east of this region, some sections of the border remained undemarcated in 1987. The 6,542-kilometer frontier with the Soviet Union has been a source of continual friction. In 1954 China published maps showing substantial portions of Soviet Siberian territory as its own. In the northeast, border friction with the Soviet Union produced a tense situation in remote regions of Nei Monggol Autonomous Region (Inner Mongolia) and Heilongjiang Province along segments of the Ergun He (Argun River), Heilong Jiang (Amur River), and Wusuli Jiang (Ussuri River) (see fig. 3). Each side had massed troops and had exchanged charges of border provocation in this area. In a September 1986 speech in Vladivostok, Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev offered the Chinese a more conciliatory position on Sino-Soviet border rivers. In 1987 the two sides resumed border talks that had been broken off after the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (see Sino-Soviet Relations , ch. 12; The Soviet Union , ch. 14). Although the border issue remained unresolved as of late 1987, China and the Soviet Union agreed to consider the northeastern sector first.

A major dispute between China and India focuses on the northern edge of their shared border, where the Aksai Chin area of northeastern Jammu and Kashmir is under Chinese control but claimed by India. Eastward from Bhutan and north of the Brahmaputra River (Yarlung Zangbo Jiang) lies a large area controlled and administered by India but claimed by the Chinese in the aftermath of the 1959 Tibetan revolt. The area was demarcated by the British McMahon Line, drawn along the Himalayas in 1914 as the Sino-Indian border; India accepts and China rejects this boundary. In June 1980 China made its first move in twenty years to settle the border disputes with India, proposing that India cede the Aksai Chin area in Jammu and Kashmir to China in return for China's recognition of the McMahon Line; India did not accept the offer, however, preferring a sector-by-sector approach to the problem. In July 1986 China and India held their seventh round of border talks, but they made little headway toward resolving the dispute. Each side, but primarily India, continued to make allegations of incursions into its territory by the other.

China, Taiwan, and Vietnam all claim sovereignty over both the Xisha (Paracel) and the Nansha (Spratly) islands, but the major islands of the Xisha are occupied by China. The Philippines claims an area known as Kalayaan (Freedom Land), which excludes the Nansha in the west and some reefs in the south. Malaysia claims the islands and reefs in the southernmost area, and there also is a potential for dispute over the islands with Brunei.

The China-Burma border issue was settled October 1, 1960, by the signing of the Sino-Burmese Boundary Treaty. The first joint inspection of the border was completed successfully in June 1986. In 1987 the island province of Taiwan continued to be under the control of the Guomindang authorities (see Sino-American Relations , ch. 12).

Data as of July 1987