What Maps of China Reveal


This cable, in particular, discusses the Chinese government's requests to the U.S. government, to make Google fuzz up or alter some of its Google Earth imagery, to avoid revealing "sensitive" locations. This is a longer discussion for another time (previous mention here or here), but the perceived subversive power of maps and satellite images in many societies is profound. For instance, as I've mentioned before, Google Earth shows a gigantic airport on the west side of Beijing (right) that I have never seen on a Beijing city map. I've meant for months to do a post about the odd aspect of online satellite imagery of China: if you go to a site with both a "map" and a "satellite" view and click back and forth, you'll see that they don't exactly match. There's an offset built into almost all of them. Main point: the cables show that the Chinese officials are well aware of what these images can mean.