Visualizing China’s Rise

China’s emergence as a global power is likely to be the most consequential factor in twenty-first-century international politics. Yet the nature of Chinese power is poorly understood. Its capabilities remain uneven, which can lead to misrepresentations of China’s strengths and weaknesses. Through data visualization and written analysis, ChinaPower unpacks the complexity of China’s rise. These features from the last year examine five interrelated categories of Chinese power: military, economics, technology, social, and international image.

Economics / International Image

How influential is China in the World Trade Organization?

China’s accession to the World Trade Organization was heralded by the international community as a victory for free trade and economic liberalization. While China has been one of the organization’s most active members, Beijing has not instituted deep, systemic reforms and its compliance with WTO rulings has been mixed. Our visualization tracks all cases filed in the WTO’s dispute settlement system between 1995 and 2018.

Technology

How web-connected is China?

The internet has fundamentally transformed China. Internet-based technologies help drive China’s ongoing development, but they have also been used to clamp down on political dissidence. Our interactive explores internet penetration across China by visualizing the number of broadband and mobile phone subscribers by region between 2011 and 2017.

International Image

Is China contributing to the United Nations’ mission?

In recent years, China’s support for the UN has grown considerably. Beijing’s increasing financial and personnel contributions enable China to exert diplomatic and political influence while reassuring the international community of China’s commitment to global peace and stability. Our interactive tracks all resolutions adopted since 1946 and compares the voting patterns of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Military

What does China really spend on its military?

Defense spending is one of the most direct ways of measuring a country’s potential military capability. Comparing defense spending between countries – whether nominally or as a percent of government expenditure – is a useful gauge of relative military strength. Spending patterns can also reveal key political events that have prompted shifts in spending. Our interactive compares China’s defense spending between 2000 to 2018 with other key countries using data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Economics

How dominant are Chinese companies on the global stage?

The world economy is shaped not just by states, but also by an assortment of influential companies that act as critical elements of national economic power. In conjunction with China’s emergence as an economic superpower, Chinese companies have climbed the ranks and become key actors in the global marketplace. Using data from the Fortune Global 500 and Brand Finance’s Global 500, we visualize the rise of China’s top companies from 2007 to 2019.

Social

How does water security affect China’s development?

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Military

How is China modernizing its nuclear forces?

China is one of only nine countries that possess nuclear weapons. Although its nuclear arsenal is small relative to those of the United States and Russia, China is currently expanding and modernizing its nuclear forces. As China faces evolving security challenges, Beijing may also revise its primarily defensive nuclear strategy.

Technology

How is China advancing its space launch capabilities?

Conducting activities in space embodies the pinnacle of technological achievement. Only a handful of countries have the capability to indigenously launch payloads into space. China sits among this elite group, but closing the technology gap with more-advanced space powers will require China to make significant headway.