mapping global china
Our willingness to rely on the map is commensurate with our ability to suspend our disbelief in its veracity, but this amounts to a willingness to accept the map as an eye where the eye, too, no more than selectively brings into being a world that is socially constructed
Denis Wood and John Fels The Power of Maps 1992 Thomas Leiper Kane Collection, Library of Congress Hebraic Section, Guilford Press
The powerful visualization of space and data through maps makes certain things surface that would not be apparent otherwise and connect people to new problems and knowledge. In our post-literate age, they serve as visualization tools essential to communicate and gaining information on international affairs. The Mapping Global China project provides maps, datasets, and research on Chinese overseas engagement, including but not limited to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Its goal is to provide the broader public with a more nuanced understanding of Global China’s past, present, and future and its geopolitical, legal, economic, and environmental impact.
Among other things, our website contains the most comprehensive dataset of China-financed projects to date. It relies on collected project information from Reconnecting Asia Project Database, AIDDATA GeoQuery, Boston University Global China Dataset, Australian Strategic Policy/International Cyber Policy Center, and projects collected by NYU Shanghai. The map includes information such as the locations of the project, the project developers, the type of project, and its main contractors when the information is available. Moreover, thanks to Geographic Information System Mapping, each project is linked to satellite images of the area before (2014) and after (2019) during the day and night.
We believe that maps offer a unique tool to visualize the extent and scope of Global China. A map, like the one that a broad public can access on this website, enables one to put things in place and see China differently. They are central to the organization of knowledge, where points and lines form and inform our discursive and material realities. By seemingly representing a factual reality, maps deconstruct and offer a window into a new reality. That is why we believe Mapping Global China is vital for contemporary research and understanding China’s position in the world – because a map can show what other types of sources could not.
Underlying the project is the belief that Global China is not a monolith but a complex, sometimes fragmented entity made of different actors with different interests. China’s engagement with the world has been historically a much more nuanced endeavor, where projects result from diverse entanglements with the local conditions, norms, environments, and economies. Understanding these intricacies and unpacking Global China’s past, present, and future trajectory is the first step toward making better-informed policies.
Ultimately, we hope that the resources offered on this website and the research briefs will expand the debates and enrich and understand Global China.
Mapping Global China was made possible by New York University Humanities Seed Grant and Maria Adele Carrai’s Startup Funds and Research Funds.
Maria Adele Carrai
Founder and Managing Director
Founder and Director of Technology
Members and Staff
Communications and research