On the afternoon of October 15, the Weibo account “Xinhua Online Matters” (@新华社中国网事), operated by China’s official Xinhua News Agency, announced that it would “release an important map” today, October 16. Because the image on the Weibo post advertised “22 million data points aggregated,” a number approximating the population of Taiwan, and because the People’s Daily had the very same day published an article called, “Standing On the Right Side of History: A Letter to Taiwan’s Ministry of Intelligence and Governance,” many internet users speculated that the “map” in question would have something to do with the sensitive issue of cross-straits relations.

Subsequently, however, eagle-eyed internet users scrutinizing the background image used for the Weibo announcement discovered that this was in fact a politically problematic map “incorrectly” drawing the border Arunachal Pradesh, which China refers to as “South Tibet” — an area that is the subject of fierce territorial disputes between China and India.

Composite image by CMP. At top, a map of the disputed area between China and India. Below, two images of the Xinhua News Agency Weibo post, the one at right faintly showing the contours of Arunachal Pradesh, which China refers to as “South Tibet.”

On the night of October 15, the official Weibo account of People’s Daily Online (@人民网) issued a post emphasizing that, “China is large, but nothing can be left out; a map may be small, but still there can be no error.” The post was clearly directing criticism at Xinhua for its oversight.

Despite the online chatter about the problem map, only today did “Xinhua Online Matters” delete the original Weibo post. But internet users continued to pile on with comments, apparently relishing the opportunity to cast blame at state media for incorrectly reporting the nation’s borders.

“This time the car overturns and netizens really start to doubt Xinhua News Agency,” wrote one commenter on Weibo. Another fumed: “So only hours after you send it out do you realize the map has a problem? And you can’t delete it and re-post? . . . What kind of people are running things over at Xinhua?”

Judging from the content since released by Xinhua News Agency, the “important map” proclaimed by “Xinhua Online Matters” does not deal at all with thorny issues of sovereignty or territorial integrity – but rather is a “Map of Poverty Alleviation in China” (中国扶贫地图).

CMP Staff

The China Media Project

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