JISHOU, HUNAN — In an effort to convince the wider world that China has an expansive territorial claim to a large portion of the South China Sea, the People’s Daily has released a three-minute cartoon history lesson that is sure to convince the United Nations tribunal considering those claims.
A decision by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague is expected on Tuesday, but China has announced it intends to ignore the court’s decision. So there.
Entitled “Grandpa Tells a Story,” the wise grandpa tells his inquisitive granddaughter the history of China and its long-standing claim to the South China Sea and especially to islands just off the coasts of four other nations, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines. (See map above.) Taiwan also has overlapping claims with China in the area.
First, he tells her Chinese fishermen were the first to discover the Spratly Islands 2,000 years ago, during the Han Dynasty. They found them with the help of magnetic compasses, which the Chinese just so happened to invent. Apparently, other fishermen in the area were clueless.
Then, sailors during the Yuan Dynasty explored the South China Sea. Six hundred years ago, the navigator Zheng He (sailing in what look remarkably like 19th century clipper ships) sailed through the South China Sea to India and parts west and south.
(Zheng He’s adventures were the inspiration for Sinbad the Sailor in the Arabian Nights, grandpa says. Bet you didn’t know that! Well, he was a Muslim, after all.)
After singlehandedly creating the Silk Route, Zheng He then cleared pirates out of the South China Sea. No doubt some were Malay, Filipino or Vietnamese, but the cartoon is mute on that issue.
But things went bad once the French, the Japanese and other nasty foreign powers started claiming the islands in the South China Sea as their own, grandpa says.
After the Second World War, though, the islands were recognized as Chinese territory, he tells his very British granddaugheter. [Actually, recognized mostly by China as Chinese territory.] Then, oil and gas reserves were discovered under the sea floor in the 1960s, and once again foreign powers are trying to seize Chinese territory, those nasties!
Watch the video, mateys! Arrhh!