Now, the Economist gives Aksai Chin to China

The cartographical inconsistency is systematic

In March 2008, the Economist showed Sikkim as a part of China. And now, it has given away Aksai Chin.

Map: The Economist

Its declared policy is to “use maps not to portray the world as it ought to be, or even as we would like it to be, but as it is.” If this is the case, it should explain to readers when the dispute over Aksai Chin was settled. It used to publish maps of the region showing the disputed frontiers in dotted lines and different shading. If it could draw the dotted line to indicate the disputed frontier between India and Pakistan, why didn’t it do so for the frontier between India and China.

To see the difference, here’s a map from July 2003. The Economist appears to have gone over to Beijing since then.

Related Post: How it gave Sikkim to China

The Economist can’t decide where Sikkim belongs?

Is there a method to its cartographical inconsistency?

In defence of its editorial policy on the maps it publishes alongside its articles, in September 2007 the Economist wrote “we use maps not to portray the world as it ought to be, or even as we would like it to be, but as it is.” Reassuring readers that it bore no malice about its maps of Jammu & Kashmir, it wrote “in using “the line of control” that divides Kashmir in the absence of an agreed international frontier we are merely noting the status quo, not endorsing it.”

So let’s look at its maps of the India-China border.

The most informative of the maps of the border regions came in May 1999 (although giving India and China the same colour allows a degree of chickening out, as Sikkim is both marked out but not coloured as being disputed)

Courtesy: The Economist

Maps from June and July 2003 are consistent with the Economist’s own stated policy: they note the status quo.

Courtesy: The EconomistCourtesy: The Economist

Its special annual publication, the World in 2007, published in late 2006, reported that “China now recognises the Himalayan state of Sikkim as India’s territory”. The accompanying map reflected this position.

And now in March 2008, the we find a change in the ‘status quo’: the Indian state of Sikkim has been painted in Chinese colours.

Courtesy: The Economist

Now unless the Economist knows something about the status quo that it is not letting on, it has clearly run foul of its own policy. If there is no cartographical conspiracy here, then is the Economist—unconsciously or otherwise—being a little too eager to please Beijing?