Wen Jiabao

Surveyors called in to decide on Wen's north-west divide

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 October, 2009, 12:00am

National surveying experts are studying what comprises northern China, after a verbal battle between Premier Wen Jiabao and a mainland publisher escalated yesterday.

The row is over a middle-school geography textbook and whether Shaanxi and Gansu and the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region should be regarded as part of northern or western China.

The Beijing Evening News reported yesterday that Wen had restated that regarding them as part of northern China was inappropriate.

After Wen's comment, another newspaper, The Beijing News, reported that the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping would put an end to the debate by stepping in to redefine the nation's regions by taking into account natural, economic and administrative factors. The latest reference to the northern-western issue came at about the same time yesterday as Wen made a public apology over a blunder where he wrongly identified the three types of rocks as sedimentary, igneous and volcanic in a speech he gave this month. The third classification should have been metamorphic. The speech was published by Xinhua at the weekend, and Wen sent the agency a correction on Monday.

Wen's argument with the SinoMaps publishing house goes back to early last month in what appeared to be a routine media tour to Beijing No35 Middle School. During the visit, Wen questioned the textbook compiler on how the country was demarcated, as he believed the demarcation of its regions in the new textbook was problematic. Wen's conviction was in line with the popular perception of the two provinces and Ningxia as being part of western China.

The premier's comment was soon picked up by critics as a rallying point against rogue textbook publishers who flood the market with expensive but substandard books because they have a stranglehold on the market.

SinoMaps turned the tables on Wen, saying the accusation was unfounded, without referring specifically to the premier. On September 11, SinoMaps said the demarcation was based on geology, under which the three areas were regarded as part of northern China.