China, US in race for Asean: Who has the edge?

Entry type: Single project

Country/area: Singapore

Publishing organisation: The Straits Times

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 2022-05-23

Language: English

Authors: “Danson Cheong – China correspondent
Charissa Yong – US correspondent
Stephanie Adeline – Digital Graphics Journalist
Bhavya Rawat – Digital Graphics Intern
Charlene Chua – Digital Graphics Journalist
Charles Tampus – Digital Graphics Developer
Joseph Ricafort – Digital Graphics Designer
Rebecca Pazos – Data Visualization Editor”


The Straits Times digital graphics team is a multi-disciplinary team focused on creating high-quality data-driven and visuals projects for editorial. Our audience are mostly Singaporeans from all walks of life, so we balance innovation and functionality for all of our projects.

Project description:

With the on-going China-US trade war and rivalry as major global powers, we took a closer look on US and China’s influence rivalry in the Asean region through trade investments.

Impact reached:

The China-US rivalry comes with a long and complicated history that may not be easily understandable to readers who do not closely follow the news. This story helps readers to explain that context in a visual way. The visuals show that China’s trade foothold in Southeast Asia is quite deep, but that US investments in the region dwarfs China’s. The story then continues to some more deeper analysis by our foreign correspondents that attracts readers who are interested in the topic. The project is among the most-read stories on May 23, the day it was published.

Techniques/technologies used:

We used a scrolly map to compare the amount of investments between US and China in the Asean region. The subtle relief map was optimized using QGIS. The peak charts were created using Datawrapper which then further refined using Illustrator.

The styles uses visual cues between US and China. We used blue and an eagle to represent the US while we used red and dragon to symbolize China. The colors and icons are symbolic between these two countries. The eagle and the dragon are known to be powerful and dominant creatures as well.

Context about the project:

Gathering and crunching the numbers and making sure the figures we collected are consistent was a long process. We also spent more time crafting the scrolly map along with the data visualization showing the comparison of investments between US and China.

It is challenging to visually tell a story and dissect or simplify terminologies about international relations and global powers.

What can other journalists learn from this project?

Collaboration is essential on producing these type of stories. Visuals helped to enhance the text and made it engaging for readers. But as data journalists, we also need the help of foreign correspondents to verify our findings and make sure our charts are accurate. From this project, we also learned the importance of double checking our data sources and making sure the comparison we were making between China and US is fair, since we understood that the data was collected differently depending on the country.

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