VietNam Bridge – Many Chinese ancient documents show that China’s southeastern frontier ends at Hainan Island and Hoang Sa and Truong Sa belong to Vietnam.
A map of the Qing Dynasty, without Hoang Sa and Truong Sa Islands.
Chinese ancient documents such as the Literary collections of Tang in Tang dynasty made references to the book “Bizarre stories in Jiaozhi” by Yang Fu with bizarre tales in Jiaozhou (Vietnam) in which the author claimed Hoang Sa islands belonged to Jiaozhou.
In Song dynasty, the book “Records of Linh Ngoai” by Zhou Chen Fei also verified that the Thousand-mile Sands (Hoang Sa islands) were located in the sea of Jiaozhi (or today’s Gulf of Tonkin).
In Ming dynasty, the “Records of Yu Bei” by Mao Yuan Yi called the East Sea the Sea of Jiaozhi and many other historical documents in Ming dynasty in the 15th century denoted that Hoang Sa and Truong Sa islands, originally the fishing farms of Zhan Cheng (Champa) inhabitants, became the territories of the Dai Viet, especially after 1427 when Le Loi defeated Ming enemies to reclaimed the Dai Viet’s sovereignty.
In the “Records of oversea observations” in 1696 by Chinese monk Sheng Dai Shi, there were many description paragraphs of the so-called Thousand-mile sands of Vietnam.
Monk Sheng Dai Shi was invited by Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu to Thuan Quang in 1695 and came back home in 1697 to propagate Buddhism. In his naval expeditions to the thousand-mile sands or trips to Thuan Quang, Hue, Quang Nam or Quang Ngai…, Monk Sheng Dai Shi researched and recorded in details the Hoang Sa team which implemented Vietnam’s offshore sovereignty.
In the “Records of National Offshore Map”, Wang Ping Nan (1820-1842) compared the observations of Jie Qing Gao, a Chinese sailor who trotted the region: “The thousand-mile sands (Hoang Sa) are offshore sands that serve as the external fortification of An Nam”.
The “Geographical textbook of China” published in 1906 in Qing dynasty made references in page 241: “The southernmost tip of China is Zhouya of Qiongzhou District (Hainan) at the parallel of 18013’ North”. Meanwhile, Hoang Sa islands were located in the south at the latitude of 15045’ to 17015’ North and Truong Sa islands at the latitude of 06000’ to 12000’ North. Hence, both Hoang Sa and Truong Sa islands are completely never the territories of China.
In the mid-19th century, another book worth mentioning is the Ocean Affairs (Hai Luc) written during the Dao Guang period in which Yang Bing Nam of Jia Ying province wrote the foreword in Nham Dan year (1842). The book was records of what is seen and heard in a sea voyage by a Chinese sailor named Xia Qing Gao “The Van Ly Truong Sa (the thousand mile Sandbank) is located in the West. The inner flow and outer flow are separated by sandy banks. Van Ly Truong Sa is a floating sandbank on the sea and stretches a few thousand miles, making it a shield to safeguard Annam (…)”.
By the early 20th century, no documents (both books and maps) of China determined that Hoang Sa and Truong Sa islands belong to China.
However, since the early 20th century, China started its disputes and encroachment on the East Sea, initially the Northern offshore territories and later the entire East Sea territories by the middle of the 20th centuries with these following milestones: reaching Hoang Sa in 1909; U-line delineation in 1946 (making up 80% of the East Sea territories, not officially public until May 2009), along with the invasion of eastern portions of Hoang Sa islands and Ba Binh islands in Truong Sa; in 1958: official sovereignty claims by the People’s Republic of China for Hoang Sa and Truong Sa islands; in 1974: invasion of western portions of Hoang Sa islands; 1988: takeover of a number of portions of Truong Sa islands; 1995: invasion of Vanh Khan – the southern island of Truong Sa, etc.
China imposed its sovereignty over the entire islands of Hoang Sa, claiming that Hoang Sa and its contiguous seas were the country’s apparent and indisputable territories. China admitted having disputes over Truong Sa islands and the contiguous sea, yet advocating “Chinese sovereignty, removal of disputes and joint exploitation”.
Since the mid-1990s, fueled by rapid economic growth and China’s enhanced position on the international arena, China started to propose and implement new offshore policies and focused on control and exploitation in neighboring seas to head for further oceans. In 1995, China proposed the “Sea Exploitation strategy” with an aim to transform China into a global sea powerhouse, which was able to control and monitor offshore routes and exploit their resources. China deemed itself far from a comprehensive powerhouse as long as the country was not a sea powerhouse.
In term of resource exploitations, China takes priorities of distant seas over neighboring seas, seas in dispute over seas in Chinese sovereignty, and diplomatic measures over naval forces. It decoys, entices and divides the ASEAN, takes advantages of and curb the US and Japan. In terms of cooperation, China insists mainly on bilateral talks and multilateral ones as long as the country calls the shot. The main direction of China is the resource-rich East Sea where powerhouses removed their military bases while concerned smaller countries are all weak in military capacities.
In face of illegal claims and actions of China, many Chinese scholars have cried out in protest, particularly Yi Ling Hua, researcher of the China National Center of Oceanic Studies and Professor Yi Guo Xing in the Shanghai Jiaotong University, known by his pseudonym “Fairy Man of Baopu”.
Scholar Yi Ling Hua said: “The U-line on the South Sea (East Sea) is just non-existent. Our ancestors delineated the U-line without any specific parallels or meridians nor legal rationale… The world has never seen such a non-existent onshore or offshore borderline. They drew out the U-line that overlapped exclusive economic zones of 200 naval miles of Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and close to Natuna Sea that was hugely rich in gas resources of Indonesia”.
He also vehemently protested the so-called Sansha City and condemned Chinese authorities of having allowed Haiyang Oil Company to make bidding in the 200-naval-mile exclusive economic zone of Vietnam. He claimed: “The UN Convention on the Law of Sea in 1982 is a great statute of extremely large importance for a brighter life and future of people all over the world, including the Chinese. The South Sea issue, although related to international laws, should largely rely on the Convention in terms of the legitimacy of lesser islands, determination of offshore baselines and rules of determination of offshore borders”.
With these Chinese documents, once again we can claim the indisputable sovereignty of Vietnam over the islands of Hoang Sa and Truong Sa
In 1895 and 1896, two merchant ships La Bellona (Germany) and Imeji Maru (Japan) sank in the Paracel Islands. Fishermen from Hainan Island of China flocked to "loot" assets on the two wrecks. The insurers of the two vessels asked for the Hainan government’s help. The head of Hainan Island stated that the looting occurred outside the territory of the Qing Dynasty so he could not control or take responsibility for it.
French documents also recorded the robbery of a French ship in the Paracel Islands as follows: In the reign of the Qing Dynasty, a French cargo ship carrying bronze was robbed in the waters of Hoang Sa. The ship captain reported the incident to the authorities of Yulin port on Hainan Island. The Chinese mandarin said: "The land of the Qing Dynasty ends here. I don’t care about the things occurred in Paracel and the incident is out of my responsibility."
The French captain then reported the robbery to the officials of Hai Phong, Vietnam. The local authorities sent a patrol boat to Paracel to trace the robbers and grant certification to the captain’s robbery report as the evidence to show to the cargo owner and the insurer.
Later, when China seized the Paracel Islands, a Chinese scholar quoted this story and said ironically: "If saying that Paracel belongs to China, we may have to pull some Hainan’s mandarins from the tomb to behead!"
Both Western and Chinese writings on Hoang Sa, Truong Sa in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries are consistent with ancient contemporary documents of Vietnam, which have clearly demonstrated that Hoang Sa and Truong Sa belong to Vietnam where the kings and the feudal imperials of Vietnam exercised their administration and exploitation.
To be continued…
National Times/Hau Giang Newspaper