Posts Tagged ‘china’

The Agnostic Cartographer: Google’s maps are embroiling the company in the world’s touchiest geopolitical disputes

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

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[Editor's note: Like other mapping company operating internationally, Google has to meet multiple objectives when delineating national frontiers.  This article from the Washington Monthly discusses some of the hot water the company has gotten itself into. Google recently rolled out higher-precision boundary lines in it's Maps and Earth products to address some of these concerns. Image above: Picturesque but contentious: Google Maps made this village Chinese, temporarily. India wasn’t pleased. Photo: Annabelle Breakey. Thanks GeoStuff!]

Republished from Washington Monthly.
By John Gravois

One fateful day in early August, Google Maps turned Arunachal Pradesh Chinese. It happened without warning. One minute, the mountainous border state adjacent to Tibet was labeled with its usual complement of Indian place-names; the next it was sprinkled with Mandarin characters, like a virtual annex of the People’s Republic.

The error could hardly have been more awkward. Governed by India but claimed by China, Arunachal Pradesh has been a source of rankling dispute between the two nations for decades. Google’s sudden relabeling of the province gave the appearance of a special tip of the hat toward Beijing. Its timing, moreover, was freakishly bad: the press noticed that Google’s servers had started splaying Mandarin place-names all over the state only a few hours before Indian and Chinese negotiating teams sat down for talks in New Delhi to work toward resolving the delicate border issue.

Google rushed to admit its mistake, but not before a round of angry Indian blog posts and news articles had flourished online. Some commentators posited outright conspiracy between Beijing and the search engine. “Google Maps has always been more biased towards China over the Arunachal Pradesh border dispute,” surmised an Indian blogger. Even more ominously, one former member of Parliament told the Times of India, “The Chinese know how to time their statements ahead of a bilateral meeting.”

Google responded in a manner that radiated chilly omnipresence—by posting a statement in the comments section of what appeared to be every single Web site that had discussed the mix-up. “The change was a result of a mistake in our processing of new map data,” Google announced. “We are in the process of reverting the data to its previous state, and expect the change to be visible in the product shortly.”

One mystery remained, however: how did such an error happen in “the product” in the first place? Why did Google have that perfect set of Chinese names lying around, ready to swap in for the Indian ones?

Continue reading at Washington Monthly . . .

The end of movable type in China (idsyn)

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

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[Editor's note: Ever wonder what the Movable Type blog platform is named after? "While Western letterpress printing has made a recent revival, what was once considered one of the Four Great Inventions of Ancient China is no longer a sustainable practice in its country of origin." Thanks Design Observer!]

Republished from idsyn.

Wai Che Printing Company, preserved by its 81-year-old owner Lee Chak Yu, has operated on Wing Lee Street with its bilingual lead type collection and original Heidelberg Cylinder machine for over 50 years. Curious to learn more, I visited Wai Che—one of the last remaining letterpress shops in Hong Kong—to understand how Chinese movable type differed and why this trade has become obsolete.

Movable type, made influential by Johannes Gutenberg around 1440, was one of the greatest technological advances defining typography as we know it today. Invented in China by Bi Sheng 400 years earlier during the Song Dynasty, movable type was created as a system to print lengthy Buddhist scripture. As Chinese characters were mostly square, characters of uniform size and shape were easily interchangeable for printing. Kerning was not an issue; the letterforms had a balanced visual appearance by nature.

When entering the Chinese letterpress shop, an instant observation was the vast amount of characters in each set of type. Characters of the Latin alphabet were often organized either by uppercase and lowercase (so named because of the separate cases to differentiate between majuscule and minuscule letterforms) or more recently in a California Job Case. Instead of using a type drawer, Chinese characters were typically stored in cube shelving with the type stacked into a square or column, facing outward for easy identification. Using a pair of tweezers, printers carefully picked characters out of a wall of tiled type and placed them onto a composing stick before setting up the chase.

Continue reading at idsyn . . .

Migration in China: Invisible and heavy shackles (Economist)

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

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[Editor's note: Powerful charting compares official stats to reality for the agricultural "ecosystem refugees" who find themselves in the city. Related: US Census releases data on geographic mobility for 2008.]

Republished from the Economist.

Until China breaks down the barriers between town and countryside, it cannot unleash the buying power of its people—or keep its economy booming.

ON THE hilly streets of Chongqing, men with thick bamboo poles loiter for customers who will pay them to carry loads. The “stick men”, as they are called, hang the items from either end of the poles and heave them up over their shoulders. In a city where the Communist Party chief, Bo Xilai, likes to sing old revolutionary songs, these workers should be hymned as heroes. Yet few of them are even classed as citizens of the city where they live.

Most of the stick men were born in the countryside around Chongqing. (The name covers both the urban centre that served as China’s capital in the second world war, and a hinterland, the size of Scotland, which the city administers.) Since 1953, shortly after the Communists came to power, Chinese citizens have been divided into two strata, urban and rural, not according to where they live but on a hereditary basis. The stick men may have spent all their working lives on the streets of Chongqing, but their household registration papers call them “agricultural”.

The registration system (hukou, in Chinese) was originally intended to stop rural migrants flowing into the cities. Stick men were among the targets. In the early days of Communist rule in Chongqing the authorities rounded up thousands of “vagrants” and sent them to camps (vagrants, said Mao Zedong, “lack constructive qualities”). There they endured forced labour before being packed back to their villages.

201019fbc434Rapid industrial growth over the past three decades has required tearing down migration barriers to exploit the countryside’s huge labour surplus. Hukou, however, still counts for a lot, from access to education, health care and housing to compensation payouts. To be classified as a peasant often means being treated as a second-class citizen. Officials in recent years have frequently talked about “reforming” the system. They have made it easier to acquire urban citizenship, in smaller cities at least. But since late last year the official rhetoric has become more urgent. Policymakers have begun to worry that the country’s massive stimulus spending in response to the global financial crisis could run out of steam. Hukou reform, they believe, could boost rural-urban migration and with it the consumer spending China needs.

In early March 11 Chinese newspapers (it would have been 13, had not two bottled out) defied party strictures and teamed together to publish an extraordinary joint editorial. It called on China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), which was then about to hold its annual meeting, to urge the government to scrap the hukou system as soon as possible. “We hope”, it said, “that a bad policy we have suffered for decades will end with our generation, and allow the next generation to truly enjoy the sacred rights of freedom, democracy and equality bestowed by the constitution.” Not since the Tiananmen uprising in 1989 had so many newspapers simultaneously cast aside the restraints imposed by the Communist Party’s mighty Propaganda Department, which micromanages China’s media output.

Continue reading at the Economist . . .

Maps of Mount Saint Helens, 30 years later +Tea Horse Road (NG)

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

[Editor's note: Two great maps from this month's edition of National Geographic Magazine by Martin Gamache.]

Republished from National Geographic.
Click on each to view larger.

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On Guam, planned Marine base raises anger, infrastructure concerns (Wash Post)

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

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[Editor's note: Map shows location of Guam in the Pacific Ocean on a globe, by one of my colleagues at The Washington Post. Guam is it's own "country" but under United States sovereignty. Things can get complicated, as the story explains.]

Republished from The Washington Post.
By Blaine Harden. Monday, March 22, 2010

HAGATNA, GUAM — This remote Pacific island is home to U.S. citizens who are fervent supporters of the military, as measured by their record of fighting and dying in America’s recent wars.

But they are angry about a major military buildup here, which the government of Guam and many residents say is being grossly underfunded. They fear that the construction of a new Marine Corps base will overwhelm the island’s already inadequate water and sewage systems, as well as its port, power grid, hospital, highways and social services.

“Our nation knows how to find us when it comes to war and fighting for war,” said Michael W. Cruz, lieutenant governor of Guam and an Army National Guard colonel who recently returned from a four-month tour as a surgeon in Afghanistan. “But when it comes to war preparations — which is what the military buildup essentially is — nobody seems to know where Guam is.”

Continue reading at The Washington Post . . .

China’s territorial claims (Economist)

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

[Editor's note: Animated and narrated map provides good summary the China's boundary disputes with it's neighbors. Check out Natural Earth, free GIS world map data where you will find all the mentioned areas.]

Republished from the Economist.

Suspicions between China and its neighbours bedevil its boundaries to the east, south and west.

Watch video China’s territorial claims »

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Chinese censoreship “map”

Friday, January 15th, 2010

[Editor's note: China's government censoreship and web practices have been in the news this week after Google threatened to pull out of the country. This map / tag cloud / art piece highlights forbidden topics and websites inside China. Thanks Curt!]

Republished from Gizmodo.

Ancient map with China at center goes on show in Washington, DC (BBC)

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

[Editor's note: "A rare, 400-year-old map that displays China at the center of the world will be on exhibit at the Library of Congress from Jan. 12 to April 10 2010, before it is digitized and then heads to its intended home at the James Ford Bell Library at the University of Minnesota. If you haven't checked our Ricci in China, it's a fascinating time period in the history of cartography. Thanks Curt and Mary Kate!]

Republished from the BBC.

Visitor instructions from the Library of Congress . . .

A visitor studies Matteo Ricci's 400-year-old world map at the Library of CongressThe huge map is being displayed at the Library of Congress in Washington

A historic map of the world, with China at its centre, has gone on display at the Library of Congress in Washington.

The map was created by Italian missionary Matteo Ricci in 1602. It is one of only two copies in existence in good condition.

Because of its rarity and fragility – the map is printed on rice paper – the map has become known as the “Impossible Black Tulip of Cartography”.

This is the first time it has been on public show in north America.

Ricci created the map at the request of Emperor Wanli who wanted it to help scholars and explorers.

‘Revered by Chinese’

The map was purchased by the James Ford Bell Trust in October for $1m (£0.62m), making it the second-most expensive rare map ever sold.

It denotes different parts of the world with annotations and pictures.

A detail from the China section of Matteo Ricci's world map

The map had China at the centre of the world to underline its importance

In the Americas, for example, several places are named including Chih-Li (Chile), Wa-ti-ma-la (Guatemala) and Ka-na-ta (Canada), and Florida is described as “the Land of the Flowers”.

Ford W Bell, a trustee for the James Ford Bell Trust, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review newspaper, that the map was “one of the two best in terms of quality, as far as we know”.

“Ricci was a very smart missionary. He put China right at the centre of this new universe, this new globe, to underscore its importance,” he said.

“Ricci, of course, was the first Westerner to enter Beijing. He was revered by the Chinese, and he was buried there.”

The first secretary for cultural affairs at the Chinese embassy in the US, Ti Ban Zhang, said in a statement that the map represents “the momentous first meeting of East and West”.

Chinese Evade U.S. Sanctions on Iran (Wall Street Journal)

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

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[Editor's note: This world map from the Wall Street Journal uses map symbols that reinforce the thematic color coding of countries. The symbols all feature a hand (common gesture for "stop"), and shape and color differences further differentiate the symbols. This graphic overloading of visual variables (using more than just shape, or just color, or just size) ensures a larger number of readers will comprehend the map's visual message. In this case, color between the symbols and the choropleth map colors links the symbols with the countries. All countries are directly labeled with their name and explanation. I like this map for a second reason: the Wall Street Journal is using a new CMS (content management system) that the Washington Post is also working to adopt and it shows how graphics can be flowed inside the article text instead of getting lost in a tab, link, or thumbnail. Many eye tracking studies show that readers spend more time on graphics than on article text but online, graphics are often hard to find (if they are found at all). This new CMS puts graphics back in the natural flow of reading.]

Republished from the Wall Street Journal.
By PETER FRITSCH

Chinese companies banned from doing business in the U.S. for allegedly selling missile technology to Iran continue to do a brisk trade with American companies, according to an analysis of shipping records.

A unit of state-owned China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corp., for example, has made nearly 300 illegal shipments to U.S. firms since a ban was imposed on CPMIEC and its affiliates in mid-2006, according to an analysis of shipping records by the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, a nonprofit proliferation watchdog.

A Wall Street Journal review of the records and interviews with officials at some of the American companies indicate that the U.S. firms likely were unaware they were doing business with banned entities, and in many cases were tripped up by altered company names.

The CPMIEC shipments, worth millions of dollars, include everything from anchors and drilling equipment to automobile parts and toys. In many cases, CPMIEC acted as a shipping intermediary — activity also banned under a 2006 presidential order.

The ability of CPMIEC and other foreign companies to continue doing business in the U.S. despite the sanctions comes as the Obama administration considers fresh economic sanctions against Iran. The illegal shipments suggest that U.S. sanctions have become so numerous and complex that they have become difficult to enforce.

Continue reading at the Wall Street Journal . . .

Obama’s apparent low-key approach to Kashmir disappoints some in disputed region (Wash Post)

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

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[Editor's note: The map uses Natural Earth vector and raster imagery to parse the mixed administration and claims in the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir.]

Republished from The Washington Post.
By Emily Wax. Wednesday, December 30, 2009

SRINAGAR, INDIAN-ADMINISTERED KASHMIR — Every day, Irfan Ansari sorts through dozens of résumés from young Kashmiris seeking jobs at his call center, seen by many here as a haven from the turmoil caused by militant Islamist forces seeking to uproot the government of Indian-administered Kashmir.

“Many young Kashmiris today just want a good life,” said Ansari, who has 300 employees. “I have more than 10,000 résumés on my desk. I wish I could hire them all.”

A new generation of Kashmiris is weary of five decades of tensions over the future of this Himalayan region, which has been a flash point for India and Pakistan, both nuclear powers that claim Kashmir as their own.

But Kashmiris have been caught in the diplomatic dilemma facing the Obama administration as it tries to persuade Pakistan to take on a stronger role fighting Islamist extremists and simultaneously seeks to improve relations with India, Pakistan’s arch foe.

Many Kashmiris celebrated when President Obama took office nearly a year ago, because he seemed to favor a more robust approach to bring stability to Kashmir, where human rights groups estimate that as many as 100,000 people have died in violence and dozens of Pakistan-backed militant groups have sprung up. At one point, the Obama administration contemplated appointing former president Bill Clinton as a special envoy to the region.

Continue reading at The Washington Post . . .