Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) has instructed enterprises in the country to review contracts and legal documents to ensure that imported goods do not violate the country’s sovereignty and territory with false images. The government’s directive comes after several companies have imported goods that featured pictures of China’s illegal nine-dash line in the East Sea.
China has established its nine-dash line to claim more than 90% of the East Sea, which is referred to internationally as the South China Sea. Countries in the area have rejected the Chinese line territorial claims on multiple occasions, because it claims do not conform to the prevailing international law of the sea.
China is attempting to claim areas of the sea that overlap with territorial claims by Vietnam. Other countries, including Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan also have claims in the waters adjacent to their countries, which are believed to be rich in energy resources.
The Vietnam MoIT said that Chinese nine-dash claims in books, magazines, maps and other content platforms are prohibited because they misrepresent historical facts, and cause confusion about national boundaries and territorial sovereignty.
The MoIT has asked businesses to monitor goods they are importing and ensuring that they are not installed with documents, equipment, or images that infringe on Vietnam’s border.
Companies that are importing display devices, globes, maps, publications and software-based devices have been told to ask sellers for a written commitment not to attach, install or use equipment, documents or images that violated Vietnam’s sovereignty and territory.
Over the last several months, the government has become increasingly concerned about the misrepresentation of Vietnam’s borders and territories after children’s toys as well as imported automobiles have shown the Chinese nine-dash line in the East Sea.
GPS maps have become one area of concern after a Volkswagen Touareg, that displayed at the Vietnam International Motor Show 2019 last month in Ho Chi Minh City, as well as Hanteng cars imported from China were found with GPS maps showing the Chinese nine-dash claims.
Tran Tuan Anh, Minister of Industry and Trade, spoke at the Vietnamese National Assembly earlier this month and said that electronic products and software in imported cars installed with the nine-dash line was a new phenomenon and that, “The ministry will temporarily suspend automobile import business licenses until enterprises fulfill their responsibilities.”
The nine-dash line is also known as “cow’s tongue” in China because of its shape. It first appeared on an official Chinese map in the 1940’s, and was adopted by Communist China. In 2016, the Philippines brought a case against China to an international tribunal that ruled the line was illegal.
Despite the legal ruling, China maintains it has rights within the U-shaped line, which encircles Taiwan—a self-governing democracy—as well as areas claimed by Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. While Philippines leader Rodrigo Duterte has taken an appeasement approach to China and its refusal to recognize the international tribunals ruling, Vietnam has taken an active position that disputes China’s claims.
The contested “South China Sea” map that shows how the Chinese nine-dash line illegally covers territory claimed by
other countries including Vietnam
In October, Vietnam banned the screening of the animated film Abominable, which contains the disputed line and Jackie Chan, the popular Hong Kong movie star, had to cancel a charity event in Vietnam last week, after thousands of angry Vietnamese internet users flooded the Facebook page of the charity, accusing Chan of supporting China’s claims.
Because of the MoIT directives, businesses in Vietnam have started their own screening for the disputed map. A Vietnamese company, that imports Chinese books and magazines said that it is setting up an internal team to make sure that nine-dash maps are not in any of the publications that it distributes, while an automobile distributor, which sells Chinese cars, said that it would remove the navigation maps on vehicles that include the nine-dash line.