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Tibet - Correspondence
This series of emails occurred in the summer of 2002. The
story of how the disputed Tibet border came to be placed on
the Peters Map is an intriguing one.
Subj: What's up with TIBET?
Date: 7/15/2002 13:06
From: Martin Luz
Hi -- I recently purchased a Peters Projection map and
was shocked to find that you show Tibet as part of China!…
In other parts of the world where borders are in dispute
(e.g., Kashmir) you show dotted lies for borders…and where a
junta is in power (e.g., Mayanmar) you give the original
name of the country.. (Burma)..but TIBET?
Tibet may have been annexed by China, but they have never
given up their claims of autonomy, and they have both a
government and a leader in exile…it seems that for a map
whose political agenda is: "Fairness to all
peoples...(because) the people's of the world deserve the
most accurate possible portrayal (sic) of their world."…..
this lack of attention to Tibet seems like a GLARING
Thanks for listening --
Martin J. Luz, NY, NY
Subj: Re: What's up with TIBET?
Date: 7/16/2002 4:01:41 PM Eastern Daylight Time
To: Martin Luz
Your query about the depiction of Tibet on the Peters Map
has been forwarded to Oxford Cartographers who are
responsible for maintaining the map.
The Tibet question is a tricky one but we have no
alternative, in common with all cartographic companies
worldwide, but to follow a consistent policy on all disputed
territories, which is to show the situation as recognised by
the UN, or in certain circumstances the de facto situation.
To date the UN has not recognised Tibet as an independent
nation. We cannot get into the rights and wrongs of any
territorial claim otherwise we would be seen as partisan.
You may not know that there are currently approaching 200
territorial disputes worldwide; just because they do not all
get media publicity that does not mean they are less
significant to the people who are pursuing the claim. For
years the East Timorese sacrificed their lives in the fight
for freedom while the world turned a blind eye. Fortunately,
that has been resolved but while it was going on we could
not show it as an independent country, because it was not a
de facto situation, and it was not a foregone conclusion
that it would become independent.
Oasis Park, Eynsham, Oxford OX29 4TP, UK
Phone (44) (0)1865 882884 Fax (44) (0)1865 882925
Subj: Re: What's up with TIBET?
Date: 8/8/2002 8:44:31 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: Martin Luz
I have been giving your thoughts on Tibet quite a lot of
thought. And I would like to reply.
The marketing spin put on the Peters Projection is that....
"In this complex and interdependent world in which the
nation's now live, the peoples of the world deserve the most
accurate possible portrayal of their world."
Along the bottom of the map, there are ample references to
the European-centered view portrayed by the Mercator
projection and the injustice it does to the rest of the
world. It makes explicit reference to Northern areas as
places where "whites have traditionally lived."
And it says that the Mercator projection is "not compatible
As two examples of "objectivity" I point to the disputed
border of Kashmir (shown as a dotted line) and the name of
Mayanmar (with the original name of "Burma" shown under it
For all these reasons, I find your rationalization of why
you won't portray Tibet as a disputed border rather flimsy.
The invasion of Tibet took place a mere 52 years ago -- half
way through the 20th Century... it's not like we're talking
about a dispute that goes back millenia... and it was an
invasion that was protested in international forums by the
Tibetans from the very beginning... there was NEVER a period
of consent by Tibet to Chinese rule.. The validity of the
Chinese occupation of Tibet (until then a sovereign nation)
comes only from the refusal of the International community
to do anything about it. And given the claims of the Peters
Projection to "objectivity" and respectful fair play it is
especially disappointing to have this dispute swept under
The repudiation of white western colonial imperialism may be
"objective," but it is also old hat. Very old. It's now
merely a stylish social attitude that costs nothing to sport
about in public. But embracing anti-white, anti-European
critical tropes it is hardly the end-all and be-all of "the
most accurate possible portrayal of [the] world."
I guess what I'm trying to say is that it's all fine and
good to be iconoclastic when it costs you nothing. And
admittedly an accurate portrayal of the Tibetan and other
geo-politically thorny territorial disputes could get you
into a great deal of hot water. But your excuses of "UN
recognition" fly only so far as the bottom right corner of
your map, on which one finds note of sponsorship.... "This
map is produced with the support of the United Nations
One dares not bite the hand that feeds I guess. But in the
end it is a sad commentary (which undermines your message)
that your "objectivity" and idealism extend only as far as
your pocket book.
The conclusion: Six weeks later, ODT and Oxford
Cartographers decided to include the disputed border between
Tibet and China on the next printing of the Peters Map.