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. By November of 2003, you will be able to access the video we are producing that includes this story in it, and we hope to have the “Tibet story” available as a streaming video on the web.


Subj: What's up with TIBET?
Date: 7/15/2002 13:06
From: Martin Luz
To: Petersmaps@aol.com

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 oversight.
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
From: Terry.Hardaker@oxfordcarto.com
To: Martin Luz
CC: BAbramms

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.
Terry Hardaker
Oxford Cartographers
Oasis Park, Eynsham, Oxford OX29 4TP, UK
Phone (44) (0)1865 882884 Fax (44) (0)1865 882925
Email: terry.hardaker@oxfordcarto.com
website: http://www.oxfordcarto.com/


Subj: Re: What's up with TIBET?
Date: 8/8/2002 8:44:31 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: Martin Luz
To: Terry.Hardaker@oxfordcarto.com
CC: BAbramms

Dear Terry:
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 with objectivity."
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 in parantheses).
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 rug.
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 Development Programme."
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.

Read about Tibet in the news today: