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90% of Land Boundaries Settled
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Nearly 90 percent of China’s land boundaries have been agreed, leaving only the Sino-Indian section a key issue.


“China and India have envisaged a political settlement of their decades-old boundary dispute although the survey will take a prolonged period of time and will be an arduous task,” said Ouyang Yujing, division director of the Department of Treaty and Law affiliated to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


The total length of Sino-Indian boundary is nearly 2,000 kilometers with 125,000 square km in dispute, in which, 90,000 square km is in the eastern section, 2,000 square km in the middle section and the rest in the western section. The eastern and middle sections are now almost completely controlled by India.


The Sino-Indian boundary disputes remain from the UK government’s drawing up of the MacArthur line by Henry McMahon and local representatives of China’s Tibet in 1914, but never recognized by any central government of China. 


The Indian government inherited the MacArthur line after independence in 1947, and a war between China and India broke out in October 1962 because of the dispute.


Boundary disputes also triggered wars in 1969 at Zhenbao Island between China and the former Soviet Union and in 1979 between China and Vietnam.


With a land boundary exceeding 22,800 kilometers in length, China is bordered by 14 countries.


The longest boundary of 4,710 kilometers, between China and Mongolia, was settled in the early 1960s. Since then, the two countries have conducted two boundary reviews.


“Two approaches should be taken when handling boundary disputes,” said Ouyang, “First, two countries should jointly conclude a boundary treaty after taking politics, strategies, diplomacies and nations’ security into account. 


Second, the two countries should jointly conduct surveys, re-demarcating boundary lines according to the lines on the former maps and setting up new boundary markers.”


“The two countries should finally sign a boundary protocol described by legal language and draw new maps,” he added.


Boundary surveying is hard work because natural environments along boundaries are often difficult.


Boundaries are formally settled once boundary markers have set up, and there are nearly 5,000 markers on China’s borders.


“Countries make boundary reviews every 10 to 20 years to jointly check markers and assure they are in good condition,” Ouyang said.


So far, China has finished such reviews with 10 of 12 bordered countries.


A survey is now being done by China and Vietnam. Another one between China and Tajikistan will start this year.


Boundary surveys are a sensitive issue and impact on issues including handling border incidents, border trade, border source protection and border entry administration.


“Being friendly with our neighbors and taking them as partners are the guidelines for China's relations with its neighbors," Ouyang said.


(China Youth Daily, China.org.cn, May 5, 2005)

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