The Chinese government began issuing the passports, which contain an electronic chip with the holder’s personal data, last April. It is believed to have handed out more than 5 million of them, but the map began stirring controversy only a few days ago.
The Philippines, engaged in a fierce territorial dispute with China over fishing grounds near the Scarborough Shoal, has protested to Beijing. Taiwan, which Beijing claims as an integral part of its territory but which enjoys de facto independence, has also complained.
“This is total ignorance of reality and only provokes disputes,” said Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, the body responsible for relations with China, in a statement last week.
The map of China, on page 8 of the new passports, shows a dotted line to illustrate China’s territorial claim to almost the whole of the South China Sea, which puts it in conflict with a number of its neighbors, such as Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei.
Washington has dismissed the map as irrelevant.
“These issues need to be negotiated among the stakeholders, among ASEAN and China, and, you know, a picture on a passport does not change that,” she added.