This fall, key historical documents, atlases and journals were assembled into an exhibit at China’s National Library. The library’s official statement included a sneering reference to the “sheer historical lie” of Japan’s claims, and the displays included records from imperial envoys stretching back to the Ming dynasty in the 1300s.
Maps — ancient and modern — have been a particular area of focus, with the government’s scientific and academic subsidiaries pumping out atlases, three-dimensional graphs and sketches of both disputed areas. New passports were outfitted with maps that include a dotted area that pointedly marks China’s claimed portions of the South China Sea. Even weather reports on state-run television have been amended to add forecasts for disputed areas.
Some international scholars, however, question how much credibility the recent burst of historical studies and technical data adds to China’s claims — especially given the fact that most think tanks and universities in China remain firmly in the grip of the Communist Party and its government.