Xinhua is reporting that China has launched a nationwide campaign to eliminate illegal online mapping services, with the country’s mapping bureau calling for the punishment of violators. Does this mean that foreign run map websites will be gradually shut down? We are monitoring the situation, of course. You can keep track of mainland access to various map websites listed to the left.
As our monitoring shows, no map website is currently blocked. Yellow ones symbolize slow access, but that is common among many foreign websites when acccessed in China. However, as has been demonstrated in the past with Facebook, Twitter, Youtube etc, websites can be closed down at any time.
Why would China close down maps?
Government decisions, be they concerning the GFW (Great Firewall) or otherwise, are always something of a mystery and we can only come up with educated guesses as to the motivation behind. In the case of maps there are several possibilities. There's the general protectionist argument, whereby the government is officially promoting stability while in practice only benefiting local web companies. There's also the special territorial issue - especially the question of Taiwan and whether or not it belongs to China. Google Maps, for example, illustrates China and Taiwan, as well as Hong Kong and Macau, as different countries whereas Baidu 地图 does not (Baidu actually doesn't include any other country than China).
Let us know what you think by participating in our poll below, and check back in the future to see whether any map websites get closed down.