Last Friday China seized a US Navy submersible drone—like the drones the Air Force uses but for underwater purposes—in international waters off the coast of the Philippines. This graphic from the Washington Post shows how, while in international waters, the seizure occurred not far outside China’s Nine-dash Line, which they claim as territorial waters.
Credit for the piece goes to the Washington Post graphics department.
Today’s post features a simple set of graphics on the BBC, however the creators were actually the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative. The background? The increasingly tense geopolitical situation in the South China Sea, where China claims numerous islands and reefs claimed by other countries—and to a smaller extent other countries make similar such claims. Just a few weeks back, the Hague ruled against Chinese claims against islands within the Philippines territorial waters. But as these graphics show, it takes more than a legal decision to effect change on the ground.
Satellite photography shows military installations on numerous Chinese-held islands. But what makes the images potent in the communicative sense is the simple overlay of white plane illustrations. They show how many fighter jets, support aircraft, patrol aircraft, &c. that China can base at the various military installations. It is a simple but incredibly effective touch.
Credit for the piece goes to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.
Apologies for the lack of posts the last two days. I visited Wisconsin to trace some of the courthouse records of the Spellacys. And while I will try to return to them later next week, today we go to China.
During my recent holidays, the media made much ado about a new straddling bus in China. Except that it’s not that new. And now it might not be real or at least really viable. I recalled this graphic from 2012 via the Guardian and decided it would be relevant to try and explain how the bus should work.
Okay, so the title might be a bit hyperbolic, but the point that China has spent the last few years expanding minor reefs into major military installations still stands. This New York Times piece is a few months old at this point, but through a combination of maps, photography, and diagrams, it illustrates what has been going on in the South China Sea.
The screenshot above is of the first still in a short time lapse video introducing the article If you do not have the time to read the entirety of the piece, just watch the video. A lot can happen in one year.
With Xi Jinping visiting the United States the BBC published an article looking at China’s changes over the years. In general, I don’t like the article—why are they using pigs to look at pork consumption? My general dislike aside, they do have a map that plots urban centres with more than one million people and how that map has changed since 1970 and will change out to 2030.
I probably would not have used that terrain map as the background as blue-green circles on the green coast are a bit difficult to read. A lost opportunity of a sort—assuming it is possible at all—is to use a satellite image of China for each year and overlay the circles on that. One can only imagine that China’s urbanisation has gone together with drastic changes to the landscape.
Credit for the piece goes to the BBC graphics department.
This weekend the Wall Street Journal published an article that combined my interest in data visualisation with my interest in naval ships. The article looks at the growth of the Chinese nuclear submarine programme. And alongside the article are maps, charts, illustrations, and a narrated video that support the written word.
Credit for the piece goes to Alberto Cervantes and the Wall Street Journal’s graphics department.
Today’s piece comes from the South China Morning Post. It looks at the Chinese government’s efforts to connect China to trade partners via a maritime route. This is conjunction with efforts to build a railway intended to connect Europe and China via Russia.
Over the last few weeks, tensions have been rising in the South China Sea. While most of the world has been focused on violence in Ukraine and Nigeria, fishing boats and other maritime vessels in the South China Sea have been clashing—thankfully without the use of guns or missiles. These clashes contribute to a growing fear that one day, one clash will spiral out of control and lead to something more than required paint jobs for fishing trawlers.
Thankfully, for those of you unfamiliar with who exactly owns what and what they think they own versus what they think others own—in short a mapped out version of the conflict—the New York Times has put together a nice map.
Hong Kong—and to a similar extent Macau—is part of China, but at times not so much. Because of the long history of British control through their colony, the people of Hong Kong, Hongkongers, are accustomed to a more liberal, democratic, and perhaps Western lifestyle than those of mainland China. Since the British handover, a local university has been asking the inevitable question of “Are you Hongkonger or Chinese?”. This interactive piece from the South China Morning Post looks at how that answer has evolved over nearly 20 years.
The piece presents a broad overview on the right with the specific survey results displayed larger on the left. Broadly speaking, the piece is successful. In particular, the decision to highlight the particular survey on the right brings that into focus without losing the context of the historical results. And providing a timeline beneath the larger stacked bar chart on the left offers a second means of choosing a survey of interest.
Yet I think the piece lacks two, perhaps three, elements that would improve the piece. First, sometimes I like to see the numbers for data visualisations. Adding a hover or mouseover state would help with that. Second, while the chart on the left includes a 50% line, I wonder if that would not also be helpful in the historical display on the right. Thirdly, and perhaps not too important for those not terribly interested in the data, the overall piece states the sample size for all surveys being within a range. People wanting more data on the survey responses might be interested in seeing the sample size per survey.
Credit for the piece goes to Simon Scarr and Joe Lo.
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.
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 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 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.
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