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China completes internal boundary survey

China has completed a survey of its 62,000-kilometer provincial borders and 416,000-kilometer inter-county boundaries after years of efforts, marking an end to a lack of legal internal boundaries, a civil affairs official said Friday in Beijing.

Zhang Weixing from the National Boundary Demarcation Office of the Ministry of Civil Affairs said, “Achieving the first boundary survey of the Chinese mainland has laid a solid legal foundation for future regional administration.”

“This will also better guarantee social and economic development all over the country,” he said, adding that the ministry has done splendid work since the tenth national working conference on civil affairs was held in 1994.

Before the border surveying project was formally launched in 1996, only five percent of the country’s provincial and inter-county boundaries were legal, with the rest either disputed or following customary use.

For thousands of years, administrative regional boundaries in China were never specified or marked by stone, and regional borders in modern times were simply inherited from practices that started in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and were followed until 1949.

Because of the lack of clear-cut boundaries, land disputes were common, which not only undermined social stability but also wasted natural resources. Since 1996 when the legal position of doubtful borders were gradually clarified, local governments have begun to shoulder their responsibilities for progress in culture, education, sanitation, industry and commerce, collection of taxes and public security.

As a result, once rampant boundary disputes have been reduced and no new disputes have occurred on demarcated borders. To make the surveyed boundaries legally binding, demarcation procedures have been strictly followed.

According to Zhang, neighboring provinces and counties have been required for the first time to sign a joint border agreement approved by higher authorities and erect a boundary stone, with the authorization of the central government. All demarcation agreements have been filed in the country’s first internal boundary data bank.

“Only when regional administration becomes fully legal and standardized with the help of information technology, can the grass-roots reap the greatest benefits of the work,” Zhang said.
“And we’ve got enough proof already in many places,” he added.

In Xiamen city, a coastal city in east China’s Fujian Province, a disputed boundary section from Huangcuo to Qianpu used to be a wasteland where no one could invest because of ownership ambiguities.

But within six months of the demarcation being finalized, the former wasteland has given way to a flourishing tourist resort.

Sources with the Ministry of Civil Affairs disclosed that a regulation on internal boundary management will soon be issued to ensure every local government strictly follows its demarcated borders.