- December 29, 2009
For data geeks interested in the developing world, few places are more compelling to gather numbers about than China. This owes much to its legendary economic growth, the staggering size of its population and global footprint, and hybrid political system. But there is another, often overlooked characteristic of the country at work here: its relentless pursuit of what it calls “scientific development”, which emphasizes the use of scientific research as a means to achieve social harmony and balanced economic growth, has led to an explosion in data-fueled, science-based policy. As a result, China is now one of the largest and most sophisticated data-gathering entities in the world.
There’s a good reason for this. Unlike China’s early post-revolution cadres, the ranks of China’s top leadership today are brimming with scientists and engineers, including President Hu Jintao, who has a degree in hydraulic engineering. When government “works”, these technocrats steer Chinese policy down a painfully cautious course based on five, ten, and even twenty year plans crafted to satisfy discrete social, economic, and technological benchmarks. At any given moment, the country is teeming with pilot projects spanning areas like subsidized housing, health care, industrial development, and family planning, which will ultimately be scrutinized by the country’s National Reform and Development Commission for use at the national level.
This science-based approach is exactly why China has recently come forward with ambitious carbon emissions targets–global warming has a direct, significant impact on its population, and therefore social stability. None of these projects could be completed without good data, and China knows it.
While we’ve been emphasizing social media data with recent posts, we hope to shine more light on the state of Chinese data and bring more of it into the repository in the near future. To this end, and as a special holiday treat, we’re releasing a visualization of major Chinese websites we scraped this past October during the country’s meticulously executed 60th anniversary of its founding. We find the bright colors and flashing lights to be particularly seasonally appropriate.