Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Geopolitics in Cartography

Recently Catholicgauze encountered a defiled poster on display showing worldwide of use of nuclear power. The Republic of China (Taiwan) had marker over it and an angry note telling all that the Republic of China was in fact part of the People's Republic of China.

This event got me thinking. The cartographer was using standard mapping shape files (which have there own faults) that dealt with a very touchy issue: country borders. I thought if only a few countries recognize the Republic of China yet it is shown as independent on the default data set and on many other maps. I wondered what other disputed zones cartographic treatments are.

Usually Independent:

Republic of China: Unless its National Geographic's China issue map, Taiwan is usually shown as a separate political body and not part of the People's Republic of China. The United States does not recognize the Republic of China but has unofficial relations with the government.

Western Sahara: The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic is usually shown as apart from Morocco though it has never been in control of more than 80% of its claimed territory. The United States does not recognize the SADR but neither does it recognize Morocco's claim.

Depends Who You Ask

Israel/Palestine: Most maps from countries who recognize Israel have the pre-1967 borders with the West Bank and Gaza as special zones (though before the 1990s Gaza was still shown as Egyptian and the West Bank was Jordanian) and the Golan Heights as Syrian. Israeli maps tend to have the Golan as Israeli with the West Bank and Gaza either part of Israel or special zones. Maps from Muslim countries have Palestine comprising Israel-proper, the West Bank, and Gaza.

India/Pakistan/China: Bad mojo behind this one. If you want to see a fight show a map with Kashmir and Aksai Chin to Chinese, Pakistani, and Indian grad students and watch the sparks fly. Most maps have the lines of control as the borders.

Never, Ever on the Map

Northern Cyprus: Norther Cyprus never is one any maps though it is recognized by Turkey and has been more or less a functioning democracy since 1983. I have even seen a Turkish map with it being part of Cyprus. With the strangely friend Nationalist Turkish/Communist Greek governments on the island reunification is close so maybe it will not matter.

Transnistria: Transnistria is a breakaway region of Moldova. Moldova was rated the saddest place on earth in the Geography of Happiness yet Transnistria is worse. How could it be worse? Well, trying having a corrupt government that openly employs Soviet symbology with a crazy psycho East German girl, Alena Arshinova, being the head of the youth group that was too crazy for the Kremlin-backed youth groups.

Too Soon

Kosovo: Previously blogged about this in the past. Still is the weird yellow/red double standard on Google Earth.

South Ossetia and Abkhazia: Anyone have Russian maps showing these regions as independent yet? I have not seen any. Maybe Nicaragua, the only other country to recognize them, will having something soon.

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