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Le territoire et les frontières de la Chine / THE TERRITORY AND FRONTIERS OF CHINA

Marthe Engelborghs-Bertels
Civilisations
Vol. 19, No. 2 (1969), pp. 189-208
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41231221
Page Count: 20
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Le territoire et les frontières de la Chine / THE TERRITORY AND FRONTIERS OF CHINA
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Abstract

The characteristics of Chinese territory took final shape about 220 A.D. It is broadly divided into two regions : the 18 historic provinces of China proper, all south of the Great Wall ; and outer China, comprising the three northeastern provinces (Manchuria), Mongolia, Sinkiang (Chinese Turkestan) and Tibet. The limit between these two regions is the same as that separating the cereal-growing areas of the south from the deserts and stock-raising steppes of the north. The area south of that line is characterised by intensive agriculture and strong, efficient and centralised government ; comprising little more than one third of the total territory, it contains over 90 % of the total Chinese population. Chinese expansion has been limited by two factors : geographical conditions permitting the implantation of its own civilisation and the existence of political forces capable of resistance. Hence the buffer states, subject to Chinese suzerainty when the Empire was strong and seeking to invade it when it was weak. But even when well-organised nomadic tribes from the north succeeded in occupying extensive territories or in imposing new dynasties (as did the Ch'in in the III century B. C. and the Manchus in the XVII century) they were rapidly assimilated. In contrast to their frontiers with China proper, these buffer states always had very fluid outer frontiers until the arrival of European powers in the XIX century. In opposition to western expansion the Chinese started to integrate the buffer states, in the first place Manchuria; transformed into the provinces of Heilungkiang, Kirin and Liaoning, it was rapidly colonised by Chinese settlers intensively. So too after the 1911 revolution, although less intensively, was Inner Mongolia. The attachment of Sinkiang (promoted to the rank of province in 1884) and the north eastern, eastern and south eastern parts of Tibet, on the other hand, was purely political and has not led to any economic or cultural transformation of these territories. Tibet itself, although linked with China by a treaty dating from 821, long remained the most independent of the buffer states. With the exception of Hong Kong and Macao (vestiges of the concessions extracted from China by the imperial powers in the XIX century) and Tai wan and the Pescadores (held by Chinese nationalist forces with American aid), the communist republic established in 1949 has asserted its effective control of the whole of the national territory. The frontiers of this territory, however, were generally laid down in treaties imposed by the imperial powers or agreed between themselves during the second half of the XIX century. The present article examines the frontiers with Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Burma, India, Bhutan, Sikkim, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan, the USSR and the Mongolian Republic. Nominal Chinese suzerainty over Korea ended in 1895 with the military defeat of China by Japan. An agreement was concluded in I960 regularing traffic on the frontier rivers Yalu and Tumen, but no final frontier treaty has yet been signed, no doubt because of the continuing division of Korea. For the same reason there has been no new agreement on frontiers with Vietnam, these remaining as dictated by France in conventions of 1887 and 1895. Similarly, the frontier with Laos results from agreements between France and Siam, itself a buffer state between the XIX century French and British empires in south east Asia. Burma was the first country to sign a frontier treaty with the new Chinese republic, in I960. It is interesting to note that, apart from minor rectifications, it accepts the line drawn by the British except in the sector where the frontiers of Burma, India and China meet. The frontiers with India and its protected states (Bhutan and Sikkim), similarly a legacy from imperial times, are contested by the Chinese from end to end. The Chinese position is that, while the present line runs through parts of Chinese territory as customarily accepted before the arrival of the British, they are ready to accept it as the basis of negotiations. It may be assumed that such negotiations would already have been concluded if India had not sided with Tibet when China invaded that country, were not so eager for friendly relations with the USA and the USSR and were prepared to recognise China as undisputed leader of the Third World. In 1959 China expressly excluded from her frontier discussions with India her frontiers with Sikkim and Bhutan, although India had been bound by treaty with these two states to conduct their foreign relations since soon after her accession to independence. With Nepal a frontier treaty was signed in 1961 ; agin this is based on traditional lines. Similarly, a treaty signed with Afghanistan in 1963 accepts the line drawn by Britain and Russia in 1895 without consulting China. The remainder of China's frontiers are common with the USSR or Mongolia. They have been based on the treaties of the Argun (1858) and the Hi (1881) concluded between Russia and China. It was some time after the outbreak of the Sino-Soviet dispute that China — in an article in the People's Daily of 8 March 1963 .— stigmatised these treaties as unfair, implying that the whole frontier with the USSR required renegotiation. The frontier with Outer Mongolia was redefined by treaty in 1962. (China had recognised the independence of that country only in 1947, following a plebiscite provided for by the Yalta agreement). It should be noted, however, that China has never renounced its suzerainty over other Mongolian peoples, in particular the Buriat Mongols of the Lake Baikal region conquered by Russia in the XVII century, nor ever the Tannu Tuva region (inhabited by a people of Turkish origin) to the north west of Mongolia, which broke away from China after the 1911 revolution and was taken under Russian protection in 1914. In spite of recent incident, the eastern sector of the Sino-Soviet frontier is the most stable. This has been mainly due to the absence on the Chinese side of any national minorities akin to peoples on the Soviet side, as in Sinkiang and Mongolia, and consequently susceptible to propaganda about progress in Soviet Central Asia. The Rus. o-Chinese frontier was first defined in the treaty of Nerchinsk of 1689, the first treaty concluded by China with a European country : it followed the line of the Stanovoi Mountains, the watershed between the Amur and Lena rivers. Russian expansion eastward in the XIX century led to the revision of this frontier along the line of the Amur (treaty of the Argun, 1858) and to the cession of the maritime territory (treaty of Pekin, 1860). The Trans-Siberian Railway was built as a link with these new possessions and in 1896 Russia secured permission to build a line from Chita to Vladivostok across Manchuria. Her subsequent occupation of most of southern Manchuria and invasion of Korea in 1903 led to the Ru so-Japanese war of 1904-05. The treaty of Portsmouth which ended that war obliged Russia, inter alia, to cede to Japan the southern half of the island of Sakhalin, the railway from Harbin to Dairen and her lease on the naval base of Port Arthur. In 1919 the Soviet Union declared that it renounced all former treaties infringing Chinese sovereignty and expressed the intention of maintaining relations with China on a footing of equality. A Soviet mission to Pekin in 1922 failed, however, to reach any real agreement owing to the transformation of Outer Mongolia into a Soviet protectorate and the Soviet determination to keep control of the Manchurian railways. Nevertheless a convention wa; signed in 1924 for the joint management of these railways. The USSR also recognised Chinese sovereignty over Outer Mongolia, which was however to remain dependent on the USSR for its political and economic development. Relations soon deteriorated in Manchuria : in 1929 Soviet forces invaded the northern part of that territory and remained there until the Japanese occupation. In 1935 the USSR sold its interests in the Manchurian railwayj to Manchukuo, i.e. to Japan. In return for the entry of the USSR into the war against Japan it was agreed at Yalta that the status of Outer Mongolia would be respected, that Russian rights prior to 1904 would be restored (Sakhalin and the Kuriles), Dairen internationalised and Port Arthur returned as a naval base to the USSR, together with certain occupation rights in Manchuria for the purpose of maintaining railway communications with these two ports. After the victory of communism in China in 1949 the Soviet Union soon reached agreement with the new regime (February 1950) for the re; titution to China without compensation of the Manchurian railways and the Port Arthur base before the end of 1952. The implementation of this agreement, the recognition of the independence of Outer Mongolia and the transfer to China of Soviet industrial interests in Sinkiang are seen by the USSR as finally making good the promise held out in 1919. The USSR is not however averse to negotiations for the possible rectification of the frontier at certain points. The full publicity given by the USSR to recent frontier incidehts must be seen, in fact, against the background of the wider ideological dispute between the two countries. The Chinese position, on the other hand, is similar to that adopted towards India : viz, that existing frontiers were imposed by unequal treaties and must be renegotiated betweeri equal sovereign powers. The Chinese point out that the lines they would be ready to accept, subject to minor rectification:, would deprive them of one and a half million square kilometres of former Chinese territory. As for the Soviet claim on the island of Chen Pao, they recall that the treaty of I860 accorded this to China as it lies west of the median line of the main channel of the Usoiri. This and other frontier incidents — they list 4,189 since October 1964 — they attribute to Soviet provocation and imperialist ambitions, as in Czecho lovakia. It is interesting to note that China takes up a much more uncompromising position in relation to incidents in regions which are incontestably Chinese than in Sinkiang. The frontier incidents were no doubt also exploited in the inner-party struggle between Mao and Liu Shao-chi, who is more conciliatory towards the USSR. The conclusion may be drawn from this survey of Chinese frontier problems that present-day China is not always ready to talk as equal to equal with other big powers. This explains the short duration of good relations with the USSR and holds out little hope of success for Sino-Soviet frontier negotiations. Chinese foreign policy is the reflection of domestic policy : the "thoughts "of Mao may be clearly discerned in official foreign policy declarations proclaiming "peaceful coexistence" together with the promise of full support for revolutionary movements throughout the world and appeals for the defeat of American imperialism and its Soviet revisionist allies who are scheming to share out the world. Towards states of lesser importance, as its southern neighbours, China adopts an attitude of benevolent condescension and has concluded agreements with them since the outbreak of its conflict with the USSR. This is in line with traditional Chinese practice for protecting its peripheries. One solution for these states (Kashmir, Bhutan, Sikkim, Assam, the former British-controlled North East Frontier Agency and the Naga area), which are too small to maintain separate independence, would be to unite in a confederation forming a buffer state between China and India. This would satisfy the urge of these peoples to end their status of Indian protectorates and would solve the Indo-Pakistani conflict over Kashmir. As it would be constituted at the expense of India, the formation of such a confederation would require Chinese concessions too. These might take the form of the with- drawal of Chinese troops from Tibet and the restoration of full autonomy to that country. When developing countries do not accept the Chinese brand of Marxism — peaceful coexistence, the struggle against imperialism and revisionism, and economic development without outside aid — the Chinese regard them as imperialist puppets. If they have a common frontier with China, as in the case of India, vehement differences are inevitable and may even lead to war. A military victory is exploited, however, not for territorial expansion but as a political demonstration. Mao's conception of peaceful coexistence is in line with the ancient Chinese tradition of a centre firmly planted on its territory, endowed with the highest civilisation, protected on its periphery by peoples who are allied, or at least pacified or subdued, and excelling by the universality of its example and principles.

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