In the future, the world map may become vertical

(ORDO NEWS) — In the future, the world map may become vertical, with China in the center of the image, writes the author of an article for Big Think. This approach will reflect Beijing’s dominance and the new shipping lanes that will pass through the North Pole.

Europe, which has become an appendage of Asia and eclipsed by neighboring Africa, is somewhere in the corner.

North America, upside down, watches the rest of the world from the top of the map. It’s cut off from South America, which looks pretty lonely down below. Africa seems justifiably huge, but at the same time it is also shifted to the side.

With your eyes, you try to find on the map a place where you can stop – of course, not in the middle of the Indian Ocean, which is located right in the center of the map, but somewhere on solid ground.

Antarctica and Australia are too small – just intermediate steps leading to the massif of Asia. In the end, your gaze stops at China – the center of gravity in this unfamiliar world.

By managing to leave both poles intact, this “vertical” map of the world is very different from the classic Mercator projection we are used to, in which the “bloated” Europe occupies a central place.

But it is likely that this new map variant will soon become more common. Perhaps in the near future it will prove to be a fairer portrayal of a world dominated by China and whose shape will be determined by the sea routes that run through the melted Arctic.

Chinese borders

While there is no evidence yet that this version of the map is a reflection of the “official” worldview of the Chinese government, it’s no secret that China has a thing for maps, namely the depiction of this country on them.

The current economic success is seen in China as compensation for the injustice with which Western superpowers treated it in the 19th century. Many see Beijing’s world domination as a return to a more natural state of affairs in the world. And amending the maps is a logical consequence of such a worldview.

The Chinese authorities routinely issue fines to companies, both local and foreign, that for some reason fail to show China on maps in its entirety of its external borders, even if these very borders are disputed by other countries (for example, India, Taiwan and other states that are forced to share the South China Sea with Beijing).

But the People’s Republic’s cartographic obsession is not limited to China itself. It also affects the location of the country on the world map.

Kingdom in the center of the world

China calls itself “Zhongguo”, which means “central state” or “middle kingdom”. The word reflects China’s ancient image of itself as the center of civilization in a world where savage tribes live on the fringes.

This view of the world is not unique to Beijing. In the past, Vietnam has also positioned itself as a “central state”, regarding the Chinese as uncouth savages.

It may surprise some that Europeans once considered their continent as a relative “periphery”, and Jerusalem was the true center of the world for them. With the advent of the Age of Discovery, their worldview changed, and Europe found itself at the very heart of an ever-expanding world.

These views of theirs are reflected in the maps, and that is why today, on the standard world map, Europe is in the center, and China is on the periphery on the right.

The most remarkable feature of China’s very first complete map of the modern world, the Kunyu Wanguo Quantu (1602), is that it places the country in the very center.

Commissioned by the Chinese Emperor by the Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci, it was the first map to combine the Chinese perception of the world with modern Western knowledge. It was also the first Chinese map to show the two Americas.

Such a graphic representation of the world has not taken root in other parts of the world, but all Chinese schoolchildren immediately recognize it, because today it is the standard format for world maps that are studied in Chinese schools.

America turned upside down

For those who are accustomed to the “classic” Eurocentric maps, such a displacement of Europe to the side can seriously upset. America’s position on the horizontal Chinese map looks less shocking: it has simply been moved from the left to the right side of the picture.

But there is also a vertical depiction of the world in which the Americas are hit just as hard: here the Americas are torn apart and placed at the top and bottom of the map.

Haven’t you seen this before? Of course. Does it shock you? May be. It is not right? Not really. Firstly, no map of the world is absolutely correct, since from a mathematical point of view it is simply impossible to transfer the surface of a three-dimensional object to a plane without any distortion.

And since the world is a ball, which part of it you make the center is just a matter of subjective choice.

And there are historical reasons for this choice. The Mercator map was not designed to place Europe at the very center of the world.

This became more of a side effect, because its main task was to facilitate the movement of ships: the straight lines on the map corresponded to the straight lines along which the ships sailed on the seas.

The vertical map of the world, showing the relative proximity of China (and the rest of Asia) to Europe and even (to the east coast of) North America, has exactly the same rationale – or will by the middle of this century.

Experts predict that by 2050 (if not earlier) the Arctic will be ice-free enough to launch the so-called transit Arctic shipping route, a route that runs right through the North Pole.

This will save up to three weeks in the transportation of goods between Europe and Asia, which is currently carried out through the Suez Canal.

This route will become even faster than other northern alternatives such as the Northwest Passage (through Canada) or the Northern Sea Route. Since ships would not need to pass through locks or shallow waters, this would lift the current tonnage restrictions.

And the only country that is seriously preparing for such a future is China. No other Arctic power considers the transpolar sea route in a strategic way.

Meanwhile, in a Chinese government paper on Arctic policy released in January 2018, the Transpolar Route was already named the “Central Passage” – one of several “Polar Silk Roads” that China appears to want to develop. And he already has a map of the world suitable for this.


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