A textbook used in Victorian schools that promotes Chinese territorial claims rejected by both Australia and under international law has been recalled by the publisher.
More than 600 copies of the book on Chinese culture have been sold in the state, which also includes passages that promote Chinese Communist Party propaganda.
The publisher, Cengage Learning Asia, has said it will recall all unsold copies of the book titled Chinese Language Culture and Society.
Within the book is a map of South East Asia simply called a “map of China”. However, the diagram includes China’s highly controversial so-called “nine dash line”.
This maritime boundary extends as far as the seas off Malaysia and puts scores of islands in the South China Sea, some administered by other nations, within territory claimed by Beijing.
This boundary is disputed by countries that border the South China Sea as it puts waters near their coasts into Chinese hands. Fishing vessels from a number of South East Asian nations have been harassed by Chinese ships in the area.
The United Nations has ruled that Beijing’s maritime claim has no legal basis and Australia has rejected the nine dash line.
The map also appears to show Taiwan as a province of Communist China. While Beijing covets Taiwan, it has been a de facto independent nation since 1949, is democratic and has never been ruled by China’s Communist Party.
The erroneous map was discovered by the University of Melbourne’s Citizen publication.
As well as the map, the book also included passages that said China can only progress when the “nation is united and led by a strong government” and the way ahead was a “democracy under a socialist system with Chinese characteristics”
The phrase “socialist system with Chinese characteristics” is heavily promoted by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and essentially means a one-party controlled economy and political system but with some aspects of capitalism.
Another extract from the book states that the Chinese view notions of political freedoms as “unfeasible” in such a large country and instead the people “value a strong central government”.
This is despite the fact the world’s second largest country, India, is a democracy.
Talking to The Guardian, Swinburne University’s Professor John Fitzgerald said the passages were straight out of the CCP “playbook”.
“Much of the book is innocuous, but what is presented in these passages and the map is an unvarnished Chinese Communist Party view of the world which has no place in a ‘textbook’ anywhere outside China.”
Almost 40 Victorian schools teach subjects in Chinese language, culture and society that could potentially make use of the book. However, it is not a text that state education authorities have said must be studied.
A spokesman for Cengage told The Guardian 633 copies of the textbook had been sold in Australia. It apologised for printing the disputed map and said it would recall all copies in stores and republish the book with a less contentious map of China.
However, the publisher argued that presenting Beijing’s view of the world without criticism was not “propaganda” but rather “background information” to illustrate China’s current political situation.
Australia stoked Beijing’s ire in July when the Government formally rejected China’s nine dash line claims.
China wasn’t impressed and through the pages of The Global Times newspaper, whose editorial line is in lock-step with the CCP, it said Canberra was “recklessly making provocations”.
The article said sanctions on Australian beef and wine exports were warranted and warned broken diplomacy between the two countries was almost unsalvageable.
“The relationship between China and Australia has now deteriorated to a very bad point and the chance for a turnaround is slim in the near future,” according to the article penned by Guangdong Research Institute professor Zhou Fangyin.
“One of the main reasons is that Australia’s policy lacks independence and its current choice is to closely follow the US lead.
“If Australia further provokes China, not only on political relations, but also economic relations, the damage to Australia should be expected.”
The diplomatic relationship between Australia and China soured when Canberra led calls for an international investigation into the initial outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic that is thought to have begun in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
The increasingly fraught war of words flirted with aggression in July when five Australian warships were reportedly confronted by the Chinese navy near the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
The map in Cengage’s textbook puts these islands solidly within Chinese territory.