Lost amidst all of the news surrounding Russia's annexation of Crimea is an oddly similar story coming out of western China. On March 28, survey teams from Yunnan province traveled north into what once was Sichuan, demarcating new boundaries and vastly enlarging Yunnan's territory.
The recently expanded border follows the northern twenty-eighth parallel for 250 kilometers, adding a triangular wedge of land covering roughly 27,000 square kilometers to Yunnan. The annexation includes the entirety of Panzhihua and most of Liangshan prefecture. The new border is marked by sticks in the ground connected by pink bunting that reads "This is Yunnan". In addition to losing land, Sichuan's official population has now dropped by nearly six million people.
The move was undertaken, according to Yunnan officials, not for economic or political gain, but to right an old wrong. Director of the provincial Bureau of Geographic Boundaries, Yu Renjie (愚人节), spoke to reporters to announce the move on Saturday:
Look, it's simple. Yunnan means 'south of the clouds', and by examining the historical record and analyzing prevailing weather patterns, we determined the clouds stop at the twenty-eighth parallel. Therefore, according to the rules and regulations of the People's Republic of China, those areas are, and always have been, Yunnan's.
Residents of the territory, who until a few days ago had been Sichuanese, were taking the new designation in stride. "It makes little difference to me, although I might miss the pandas. They do have huajiao here, I suppose. That's the most important thing", said a man surnamed Hun (诨) from the newly Yunnanese city of Xichang (西昌).
In Beijing, the border shuffle was met with confusion by officials in charge of monitoring China's territorial integrity. When asked about Yunnan's recent enlargement, chairman of the National Office of Internal Management responded:
Yunnan? That's the one in the south bordering all those little, tiny countries, right? The province where people have tails, talk funny and everyone rides elephants? I'm thinking of the correct place, aren't I? We don't really care what they do down there as long as they keep sending us their delicious fruits and vegetables.
Officials in Sichuan said they were sad to see a chunk of their province disappear but could not find any holes in Yunnan's territorial argument. The lost land may soon be replaced, as authorities in Chengdu say they have had their eyes on a particularly charming part of Qinghai for some time.
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