Interesting Reads

I’ve come across a number of interesting (and geographically-relevant) articles this week that I thought I would share on my blog:

1. 5 maps that explain China’s strategy, Business Insider

A friend shared this pretty interesting article with me a few days ago on understanding China’s geopolitical strategy through various factors represented on maps. As a geographer (and thus avid user of maps) I thought I’d share the article here and discuss it – this is also particularly interesting for me based on what I’ve been doing at the Sorbonne. Last term I took a techniques in geography class that combined statistics and map creation; this term I’m taking a class on the developing and emerging countries of East Asia which means we have been studying China in quite some detail. Maps are a fascinating visual tool with which to analyse places, and the five maps reproduced in the article are no exception.

The article starts by looking at the ethnolinguistic composition of China. As one of the largest countries in the world, China is a fragmented space: though united by the common lingua franca of Mandarin Chinese, spoken largely by the dominant Han Chinese population, there are still significant pockets of territories that have an ethnolinguistic makeup very different to that of the inland and coastal regions – namely the autonomous regions of “Tibet in the southwest, Xinjiang in the northwest [and] Inner Mongolia in the north”. The second and fourth maps look at physical factors such as rainfall and topography, and how these have affected population distribution and in turn income (represented in the third map), and show a huge disparity in the standard of living between the coastal Han Chinese regions and the inland minority-populated areas, pointing to possible emergence of tensions and political instability should this gap continue to widen.

This ties in nicely with a piece of coursework I’ve been doing for my class on East Asia regarding the tense relations between China and Tibet that developed after China’s 1950 invasion of Tibet, led by the Chinese Communist Party. Despite widespread protests among the Tibetan diaspora, many of which involve self-immolation, China’s stance on Tibet has barely wavered and might in fact have become more resolute in the past few years. China has always maintained that Tibet is an integral a part of its territory, a claim it states is historical fact, and encourages Han migration to the area to “sinisise” Tibet and bring along development and modernity. As the article suggests, China’s “strategic priority is internal stability”, and so the present government under Xi Jinping is arguably trying to do everything in its power to keep autonomous regions such as Tibet and Xinjiang under control.

2. The Big Smoke vs. The City of Lights, Bloomsbury Geographer

While I’ve been away on my year abroad the UCL Geography department has got its own student-run journal, the Bloomsbury Geographer! I recently read an article I particularly liked and felt was relevant to my own experience: Zenia Khajotia’s comparison of London and Paris, both of which are world cities trying to cope in the face of rapid modernity and change. Zenia argues for London to take inspiration from Paris and preserve some of its unique qualities and old-world charm – “Whilst the City of Lights can be seen to focus on a preservative and restorative approach to renewal, London is constantly aiming for innovation, chasing after change, and obsessed with regeneration.”

I suppose this is largely true, but I don’t know if Paris’ approach is necessarily better; within the city centre the preservation of Haussmanian buildings from the 19th century keeps the City of Lights aesthetically-pleasing and maintains its status as a dream destination for tourists, however in general Parisians I have spoken to seem to deplore the slow place of construction and often wish La Défense (the Central Business District) wasn’t so far out! That said, I think Zenia is right in saying that Paris generally is a more liveable place than London – personally I’ve felt an obvious difference in the pace of life between the two cities, it seems that people are less inclined to rush about everywhere. Certainly rush hour in Paris is much less intense than peak hour in London – it’s a nightmare weekday mornings at Bank.

Happy reading!


Friedman, G. (2016) Five maps that explain China’s strategy [Online]. Business Insider. Available at: [Accessed: 6 April 2016].

Khatjotia, Z. (2016) The Big Smoke vs. the City of Lights [Online]. The Bloomsbury Geographer. Available at: [Accessed: 6 April 2016].





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