OpenStreetMap on the Chinese Border
Something funny happens when Google Maps meets the Chinese border. Commercial data providers follow China’s coordinate system (GCJ-02). Their illusion comes to a crashing halt when you reach a border with other countries, Hong Kong, or Macau.
In Móng Cái, Vietnam, something is noticeably off. The OpenStreetMap version, traced from satellite imagery, tells a different story
This confusion isn’t due to a border dispute. Google and Bing are forced to push the two cities together to follow Chinese data rules, and invented new geography to try and reconcile the problem. This issue has surfaced before, but it rarely enters discussions of why we make a free and accessible OpenStreetMap.
Why revisit and focus on these borders today? Due to the Belt and Road Initiative, new towns, roads, and hydroelectric dams are appearing on both sides of the border:
The new highway link to Myanmar shown above is missing from both Google and OSM. We have unmapped, under-mapped, and outdated coverage all over Southeast Asia. And no other major web map provider can show border cities accurately.
This makes the border a natural place for volunteer mappers to come in and make a difference. It may seem remote at first, but small changes build up our appeal to users, and the world changes quickly. Recently I received a message on OSM chastising me for edits to Bangladesh that I made ~10 years ago!
For more information:
- I made a new OSM Wiki page wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/China/Borderlands clarifying my intent to focus on new development and border crossings, not to change the South China Sea or Kashmir border.
- I messaged multiple editors of the China-Myanmar border and a few NGOs; no bites so far.
- I added two iD edit screencasts to this playlist: youtube.com/playlist?list=PLt48J5Vp6upHpORgmxXB9UQtRUpMYkoKW