Some maps capture the imagination and inspire so much imitation that they become icons. Harry Beck’s 1930s map of the London Underground is one of the best examples (here is the current tube map, on the Transport for London website, and here is the original map. Here and here are maps inspired by it, published earlier on this blog).
Another example is Saul Steinberg‘s ironic as well as iconic The World As Seen From New York’s 9th Avenue, a comment on the supposedly self-absorbed world view of the typical New Yorker. The map (discussed earlier) has been parodied many times over, one recent example being this view of Palinworld by the New Yorker magazine, which had published the original map in 1976.
The present example, entitled How China Sees the World, appears on the cover of the current issue of The Economist and illustrates a series of articles centering on China’s rise as a world power, especially at a time of economic crisis, seemingly underlining the decline of the West. The map is of course an explicit re-imagining of the original map, including (on a billboard): With apologies to Steinberg and the New Yorker. The city is of course China’s capital, Beijing (referred to until recently as Peking – that denomination still survives in the eponymous Chinese duck dish).
Beijing translates as ‘northern capital’ (Nanjing, in the formerly prevalent spelling Nanking, is the ‘southern capital’). The transliteration of the city as Peking was first introduced by French missionaries 400 years ago, and corresponded to the contemporary pronunciation of the city name. China’s capital has also been known as Zhongdu (during the Jin Dynasty), Jingshi, Dadu (to the Mongol usurpers), Cambuluc (in Marco Polo’s writings), Yanjing (referring to the ancient Yan state) and Peiping (“Northern Peace”, twice, when the capital moved to Nanjing).
Four places are named:
In the ocean immediately beyond the city are a few islands of particular interest to China:
Across a narrow representation of the Pacific Ocean lies the continent apparently most on China’s mind – America. And especially, apart from a tiny slice labelled Canada and a small appendage being dug up for minerals called South America, the United States. The US is a crumbling empire, with the Statue of Liberty clutching a begging bowl and holding up a sign saying: Please give generously. Next to some shacks is a sign saying Foreclosure Sale (a reference to the house repossessions that are symptomatic of the credit crunch which triggered the present economic recession). Wall Street is a fault almost splitting the US in two.
Europe is much smaller and more irrelevant than America, in the ocean beyond it. All that distinguishes it are Prada and Hermes, two brands of luxury fashion accessories, and presumably very popular with the wealthy Chinese elite – suggesting that Europe is only interesting to China as a glorified shopping mall.
Next to Europe is Africa, equally distant from China, but at least decked out with some of the implements of industry, referring to the large investments China is making in Africa, benefiting the poorest continent with new infrastructure and providing China with access to much-needed raw materials for its burgeoning industry.
Many thanks to James Hansen for sending in this scan of the Economist front page.