Understanding Modern China

China is a big country, both geographically and demographically. It can also be rather opaque and difficult for an outsider to understand. So this recent work from Reuters is amazing because it makes China a bit more transparent while illustrating just how the political system structures power and personnel appointments.

The table of contents/introduction
The table of contents/introduction

Truthfully, there is more content there than ought to be consolidated into a single blog post here. Briefly, the project was some 18 months in development and hits upon three key areas: Social Power, Institutional Power, and Career Comparisons. Two other sections, China 101 and Featured Stories, offer additional material to help the user understand China’s past and what is going on in the present.

Social Power with Xi Jinping's network shown
Social Power with Xi Jinping's network shown

Social Power examines, primarily through the use of network diagrams, the social dynamics of the upper echelons of the Chinese leadership. Previous generations of Chinese political leaders saw power confined into the hands of a few, e.g. Mao Tse-tung, but in recent years the Chinese Communist Power has decentralised that power into several individuals. Many of those individuals have friendships, marriages, and business relationships that have advanced them and kept them in power. The interactivity allows the user to dive deep into these relationships. And should things becoming confusing, here and throughout the app, there are links to biographies, definitions, and guides to explain what is before the user.

Institutional Power
Institutional Power

Institutional Power roughly compares to a look at the American system of checks and balances. The responsibility of governing China falls to three “branches”: the Communist Party, the Chinese government, and the People’s Liberation Army (under which the navy and air force fall, e.g. the People’s Liberation Army Navy). This section of the app lists who belongs to each post or group and how that post or group falls into the broader structure of the Party, Government, or PLA.

Career Comparison with the guide open
Career Comparison with the guide open

The Career Comparison shows the different—but not really—tracks taken by the leaders of China. The user can compare individuals both present and past, along with potential future players, to see their route to power. China’s political system, because of its arguably undemocratic nature, is different from that of the United States. The path to power is longer and more established in China, as this section clearly shows.

As aforementioned the app was designed over 18 months and was optimised for the iPad 2+ and modern browsers (especially Chrome and Safari). All in all, a stellar piece of work. Design and development credits go to Fathom Interactive Design. The credits listed in the About section are as follows:

EDITOR+PROJECT LEADER: Irene Jay Liu
PRODUCTION HEADS: Yolanda Ma, Malik Yusuf
LEAD WRITER: Chris Ip
COPY EDITOR: John Newland
DESIGN+DEV: Fathom Information Design

Catholics and Cardinals

As the conclave in Rome is almost ready to begin, likely sometime next week, cardinals are gathering in Rome to discuss the affairs of the Catholic Church and then elect a new pope from within their ranks. Many outsiders talk about the time for a pope from outside of Europe, that the papacy has been an office for Europeans—namely Italians—for too long.

However, the preponderance of Catholics outside of Europe is, in the 2000-year history of the Church, a relatively recent phenomenon. Explosive growth in Latin America, Africa, and Asia combined with a decline in European Catholics means that it is only in the last few decades that Europeans have fallen from being nearly 2/3 of the global Catholic Church.

As my infographic attempts to explain, despite this demographic shift, the early Catholic Church chose popes from the distant corners of its territory before it contracted. That historical consolidation in Europe—Italy in particular—has led, however, to a disproportionate weight of cardinal electors, i.e. the cardinals who elect the pope, in favour of Italy and Europe. And as the cardinals typically choose from among their own, it is far more likely that the next pope will come from Europe if not Italy.

Click the image to see the full-sized graphic.

Catholic demographics and share of the cardinals
Catholic demographics and share of the cardinals

Hispanics in California

Places never stay the same. And a large part of that is due to demographic shifts. California recently released figures looking at its demographic breakdown through 2060. The New York Times charted and mapped the data through 2020. What the interactive graphic reveals is a stunning shift in just 40 years, less than two generations.

Linking the small multiples through the roll-over allows you to follow the exact change for your county of interest.

Tracking shifts in a county
Tracking shifts in a county

Rolling over the demographic group recolours the map to match. While the story is about Hispanic growth, I do wish I could select the group and examine its numbers across California’s counties.

Tracking a demographic group's overall shift
Tracking a demographic group's overall shift

Credit for the piece goes to Mike Bostock, Shan Carter, and Kevin Quealy.

Budget Sequestration and US Austerity

First things first, the verb is to sequester. The noun is sequestration. 1 March is not when the sequester begins. It is when the sequestration begins.

Now that we have the preliminaries out of the way, much is made of high government spending relative to revenue. However, this conversation still misses the point that government spending has fallen significantly. The New York Times charted that recent fall in spending in this graphic. This contraction is the largest drop in over 50 years. Along with the bars indicating recessions, I perhaps would have indicated major US military conflicts given the emphasis the introduction places on those events.

Government spending
Government spending

The piece also looks at government employment, which has been atypically lower than pre-recessionary figures. Taken in sum, the two sets of data point to an extant condition of austerity that shall only be worsened by…c’mon everyone…that’s right, the sequestration.

Credit for the piece goes to Alicia Parlapiano.

Historical Chicago Snowfall

Snow should fall upon Chicago this afternoon and it may measure up to a few inches in depth. But much of this winter has been below average. And that is much the same from last year when snowfall did not even reach 20 inches.

I went through NOAA data to look at the last decade of monthly snowfall to see just how little snow has fallen this winter. (Not a lot.) And then I looked at the entirety of the NOAA records to see where 2011/2 fit in the span of winters. (One of the least snowy.) This graphic is the result.

Historical Chicago Snowfall
Historical Chicago Snowfall

Setting Up a Snowstorm

This weekend I researched meteorological data for a graphic that I will post tomorrow. But in doing that research I came across a series of weather infographics from WGN that are better than the average. The one below details the snowstorm due to impact the Chicago area and how it will form (along with the storm that brought a few inches of snow last week).

The setup for this week's snowstorm in Chicago
The setup for this week's snowstorm in Chicago

Credit for the piece goes to Jennifer Kohnke and Faye Shanti.

Counting Zombie Kills in the Walking Dead

I watched the first season of the Walking Dead, but I have not followed the show closely since. That is not to say it is a bad show or is not entertaining, I just haven’t had the time. Fortunately Richard Johnson and Andrew Barr of the National Post have been following along. Otherwise, they would have not been able to create the infographic from which this cropping comes.

Who Killed What When and How
Who Killed What When and How

The piece examines which character killed which zombie and with what weapon. They then pivot the data to examine the total kills by type and by character. What is interesting, however, is that when the image is reduced and rotated, you get a quick overview of the amount of carnage.

Reducing the image and rotating it provides a concise view of the carnage
Reducing the image and rotating it provides a concise view of the carnage

Credit for the piece goes to Richard Johnson and Andrew Barr.

Rebuilding After Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy caused a lot of devastation, especially along the Jersey Shore. I covered some of the infographics coming out of the storm last year when I happened to be home in Pennsylvania for the storm. But as the region begins to rebuild, many property owners are likely to face hardships in brining their constructions up to the newer FEMA codes. Last week the New York Times looked at some of those new regulations—along with damage and flood zones—for the northern section of the Jersey Shore.

The impact on Seaside Heights
The impact on Seaside Heights

Credit for the piece goes to the New York Times.

How Film Trailers Are Crafted

It’s Oscar time. And not in the it’s time for grouchy, can-living commentary. It’s as in movie award time.

How are films promoted? Often through trailers and teasers. But how are those made? Well, the New York Times dissected trailers for five of the nine films up for best film. The piece looks at where the films are cut and spliced to create a 120-second-long overview without ruining the plot. And as it turns out, different types of trailers have different systems for cutting up those films.

Argo's Trailer
Argo's Trailer

The piece is made even better through the annotations associated with different segments of the different films. This paired with the introductory text makes the diagram of the film trailers intelligible to the reader. And then of course you can click on the still and see the actual trailer. A solid piece, all around.

Credit for the piece goes to Shan Carter, Amanda Cox, and Mike Bostock.