Why the Chinese Military Has Increased Activity Near Taiwan

Country/area: Taiwan

Organisation: CommonWealth Magazine

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 27/10/2021

Credit: Silva Shih, Daniel Kao, Ying-Yu Chen, Sylvia Lee, Shu-Ren Koo


CommonWealth’s graphics and data team 

Project description:

Over 800 PLA Aircraft have entered Taiwan’s ADIZ since September of 2020, the time when Taiwan’s Minister of Defense started publicly sharing data on all PLA incursions. We stacked the flight paths together, showing the PLA has been concentrating their exercises toward the Bashi Channel and away from the Median Line, also lurking China’s underwater ambition.

Impact reached:

We are the first media publicly showing the PLA’s ambitions in the air and underwater in the Bashi Channel, raising the awareness of the potential war over the Taiwan Strait might be a proxy for the US-China conflict.

After we publish this data-driven story, Taiwan’s relevant organizations have approached and asked for using our graphics in the closed-door meeting.

Techniques/technologies used:

We use python’s crawler and google spreadsheet to collect and analyze data. 

On the graphics side, we manually stacked over 800 pdf files of the PLA’s paths with Adobe Illustrator. Then we built the interactive graphics with svelet.js. Our script also incorporate with the Figma’s components.  

What was the hardest part of this project?

PLA’s flight paths are all in the pdf format, hiding on the site of Taiwan’s MOD. We not only crawl over 800 pdf files, we resize and reposition the centers of those files to make them sense while stacking layers together. 

Not a fancy technique. But we took time of it in order to show the continuity of those flight paths.  

What can others learn from this project?

First, dumb techniques work (we did manually stacked over 800 pdf files together in illustrator).

Don’t only talk on a data point. It’s great to frame a data-driven story through the lens of continuity. 

Also, it’s always nice to use collaborative tools in production, like Github, Figma, and spreadsheet. They all enable team members to work and share much easier.

Project links: