Press Release fron NG about Paracel Islands


In pursuit of a consistent and accurate Map Policy over the National Geographic Society's 122-year history as a not-for-profit scientific and educational institution, we strive to be apolitical, to consult multiple authoritative sources, and to make independent decisions based on extensive research. We do not seek to resolve or take sides in recognized disputes regarding territory or names, but to pursue a de facto policy — that is, to portray for any reader or viewer to the best of our judgment the current reality of a situation.

With respect to the Paracel Islands (the traditional name), National Geographic has recognized that this archipelago has been occupied and administered by the Chinese government since 1974, and as a result, the Society recognizes the Chinese name Xisha Qundao as the primary name. This is consistent with our Map Policy. On our regional and other maps of sufficient scale, we specifically also recognize and designate the alternative Vietnamese name Hoàng Sa, and the traditional name Paracel Islands, and include a note indicating that while China occupies and administers the archipelago, Vietnam claims the archipelago as its own. We believe that is the current reality from everything we know.

We have recently received complaints about the particular depiction on our World Map, the scale of which makes it difficult to include detailed information about a small land mass such as the Paracel Islands. We have carefully reviewed the situation and recognize that simply denoting the archipelago with the Chinese name and the word "China" in parenthesis without further explanation can be misleading and misinterpreted. In the future, we will either provide the additional explanation that is included on our other maps as described above, or we will omit any designation. We hope this better clarifies the de facto situation that is described on our other maps in greater detail.


Cindy Beidel
National Geographic


Le Duc said...

Dear Miss Cindy Beidel,

In the Press Release statement on the Paracel Islands, NGS admitted that in the map, by labeling the Paracel Islands with its Chinese name and the word "China" in parenthesis can be misleading and misinterpreted. If so, is your organization capable of rectifying the present situation rather than waiting for the future?

As of right now, the world map as found on this link:

still misleads the viewer to believe that these islands actually and legally belong to China. This is certainly not the case since the Paracel Islands are very much under dispute and have not been settled. If you don't attempt to change the present map with a different one that better reflects the reality of the situation immediately, you are continuing to do damage to a situation that the people involved in the dispute take very seriously.

I also like to argue that while you think the Chinese name of Xisha may be used as the primary designation, I don't believe the rest of the world feels the same. The world knows of this archipelago as the Paracel Islands. China would like for the world to know of this archipelago as Xisha through its propaganda campaigns and its attempts to shape the perception of the world. I believe National Geographic Society has fallen victim to China's schemes by buying into this name. This is rather unfortunate since I expect National Geographic Society to be a bit more perceptive than the average folk.

In addition, I don't quite understand why it would be in your policy to refer to the islands as Xisha just because China has been occupying it since 1974, and by force at that. Why would this amount of time be more important than the much longer span of time that Vietnam was occupying the "Hoang Sa" islands legally and peacefully? Why do you choose to validate forceful occupation by recognizing it on your maps as the primary designation? How does that make you impartial?

I think with the dispute being unresolved, it is in the National Geographic Society's best interest as an impartial, apolitical organization to refer to the islands in the most uncontroversial way possible, which is the name Paracel Islands. The world knows what you are referring to when you use this name, and people in neither side of the dispute will send you too many complaints.

I hope to see NGS take action soon.


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