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International community opposes China's ploy in promoting irrational "U-shaped line" claim

thediplomat-2019-12-09-1Regarding the case of the animated film "Abominable" (released in Viet Nam under the name “Everest - The Little Snowman”), produced by US animation studio DreamWorks, promoting China's "U-shaped line" map in the South China Sea, causing outrage within countries in the region, Viet Nam, the Philippines and Malaysia have all expressed their anger at the map shown in the film, which includes China's "U-shaped line", calling it "an ambiguous boundary line, used to ambiguously mark" Beijing’s territorial claims of for most of the South China Sea.

Vietnam officially banned the film "Abominable" from all cinemas on October 14, 2019, after 10 days of screening. The Philippines did the same a day later. Malaysia refused to screen the film after the Malaysian government's demand for an edited version without the controversial scene was rejected. Such sly practice by China continues to cause outrage within the international community. Even Taiwan, which China has long regarded as "part of its territory," had to voice their criticism on Beijing’s dishonest conduct.

On October 22, 2019, the Ministry of Culture of Taiwan released a statement expressing distress for the scene in the film “Abominable”, showing the "cow's tongue" map (which has fluctuated from 11 dashes down to 9 dashes and recently increased to 10 dashes) near Taiwan itself. The Taiwanese Ministry of Culture said the map did not respect Taiwan's sovereignty.

The map shown in the film "Abominable" consisted of 10 dashes (the 10-dash "U-shaped line" map first appeared in 2014), in which the 10th dash just recently appeared within Taiwan’s northeastern waters which had long been under Taiwan’s sovereignty.

In Taiwan, the film "Abominable" didn't get much attention until Li Chi-wei, a member of the Democratic Progressive Party, held a press conference on the matter. Li criticized the film for promoting China's sovereignty claims. He also called on the government to intervene, demanding the scene to be cut.

It is noteworthy that on October 23, 2019, US foreign policy journal Foreign Policy analyzed and did not hesitate to comment on how "Hollywood is paying a "terrible" price to reach the Chinese market”. The most important point in the Foreign Policy article, written by Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, Foreign Policy’s China Policy Specialist, highlighted Beijing authorities’ new move of using the Chinese market’s attractiveness to compel foreign businesses to propagate Beijing's unreasonable political, diplomatic, and sovereignty claims.

Related to the Dream Works animated film "Abominable", Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian recounted the most recent scandal: A map with the "U-shaped line" expressing China’s claim in the South China Sea has been included in a scene in the film as an obvious fact, despite the fact that these dashes (the "U-shaped line") had been ruled by the Permanent Court of Arbitration as illegal.

The article pointed out that it was due to the “U-shaped line” map that “a children's film turned into a geopolitical nightmare for Dream Works”. The author of the article said that the market demand by Chinese audience was booming, and was expected to surpass the United States soon to become the largest in the world. Beijing relied on this charm to compel foreign film production companies to comply with Beijing's demands and promote its views. Hollywood wanted access to the lucrative Chinese market, thereby committing the shameful deed of promoting an unreasonable Chinese claim in the South China Sea, which international community already criticized.

Through the film "Abominable" incident, it can be seen that Beijing authorities seem to want to turn the film capital Hollywood into their propaganda machine. The fact that China could request the animation studio to place a map of the Chinese "U-shaped line" on the wall of the main character’s room, a little girl’s, in the film "Abominable", shows that Beijing's propaganda machine has infiltrated this famous studio quite deeply.

China’s blatant insertion of a "U-shaped line map” in a children's film shows that it has used every trick to propagate unjustified claims violating the waters of the countries along the South China Sea. Beijing has never clarified the legal definition of the “U-shaped line”, not even giving its exact coordinates, perhaps because doing so would pave the way for legal challenges against China's ambiguous sovereignty claims.

On July 12, 2016, the Hague International Court of Arbitration ruled that most Chinese maritime claims in the South China Sea were rejected. Nonetheless, Beijing authorities spared no expense in seeking new ploy to install the image of their "U-shaped line" into cars’ built-in navigation system. In October 2019, Vietnam ordered a Chinese car company to stop distributing Chinese cars containing the said "U-shaped line" in their navigation devices.

Not long after that, by the end of October 2019, the image of the “U-shaped line” appeared again in an application of the famous German automaker Volkswagen, then being displayed at Vietnam Motor Show in Ho Chi Minh City.

In a meeting on November 4, 2019, Vietnam’s General Department of Customs announced its action plan of "confiscating material evidence" of the said Volkswagen Touareg vehicle, and, at the same time, asked businesses to check the satellite navigation softwares installed for cars imported from China.

On November 3, 2019, a Chinese textbook used by the Hanoi University of Business and Technology was found to have a "U-shaped line" map. China also sought to put the image of the "U-shaped line" on plastic globes, which were also discovered in the UK. It is evident that China’s persistence in propagating its "U-shaped line" in the South China Sea is becoming a problem for countries along the South China Sea to deal with at every single moment.

Facing the situation that many Chinese goods imported into Vietnam had the "U-shaped line" image, on November 5, 2019, the Ministry of Industry and Trade of Vietnam ordered local agencies to increase inspection of imported goods for images or information about this "U-shaped line".

The Ministry of Industry and Trade of Vietnam also warned that should companies or importers be found to sell, display or introduce products with such applications, they would be "committing very serious security compromising to national sovereignty", as well as "violating the law" of Vietnam.

Regarding Beijing's sinister tactics to propagate and promote its unreasonable claim in the South China Sea, negligence is equal to aiding Beijing authorities’ wrongdoing. Therefore, every country, especially those involved in the South China Sea, needs to be highly attentive and alerted, in order to promptly detect and expose such devious trick by China, in order for the international community to truly see the sinister nature of Chinese leaders in Beijing.

It is unfathomable what the Chinese leaders in Beijing have in mind before committing such acts, both being an embarrassment for the many centuries of Chinese culture and a disgrace for more than 1.3 billion Chinese people. May the international community continue to strongly criticize these disgusting actions by the policymakers at Zhongnanhai, help to protect the righteous cause in order to ensure peace, stability, freedom, maritime and aviation security in accordance with international law.

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