2014 Explanatory Reporting, Small Newsroom finalist

InfoGuide: China’s Maritime Disputes


About the Project

Territorial disputes in the South China Sea and East China Sea have caused increased tension between China and its neighbors. The developments heighten security concerns for the region, but also raise questions of Washington’s involvement as the United States strategically pivots towards the Asia-Pacific region. In the first of CFR’s InfoGuide interactives, China’s Maritime Disputes seeks to survey the escalating troubles in the South China Sea and East China Sea and educate and inform the ongoing policy debate through an engaging, interactive multimedia presentation.

China’s Maritime Disputes draws on insights from leading international affairs experts. The guide weaves together video footage, an in-depth timeline, a multi-layered interactive map, infographics, and compelling imagery and narrative to tell the story. It examines the reasons and history behind the disputes, surveys the claimed territories, and explores options for both conflict prevention and crisis management.

The guide opens with an informative introductory video detailing the implications of growing tensions in the South and East China Seas, featuring statements by world leaders, and expert insight from CFR president Richard N. Haass, Elizabeth C. Economy, CFR’s Director for Asia Studies, and Sheila Smith, CFR’s Senior Fellow for Japan Studies. Shen Dingli from China’s Fudan University and Simon Tay from Singapore Institute of International Affairs offer regional perspectives to the video.

The overview is followed by an extensive interactive map detailing claims in the region according to each state: China, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei. It also highlights prominent disputed regions. The map includes multiple clickable layers, helping the user explore the territorial claims. It also offers pop-up information about some of the highly-contested areas, and about the countries involved.

A detailed historical timeline outlines the root causes of today’s tensions, beginning with the close of the Sino-Japanese War. The guide is regularly updated.

China’s Maritime Disputes includes a “By the Numbers” section calling out relevant statistics on resource riches, military spending, trade numbers and more. Each infographic is independently sharable.

Rounding out the experience is a policy options component that features two more videos—one on measures for avoiding increased conflict in the South and East China Sea, and another on crisis management strategies if a military conflict does arise. This section allows for in-depth discussion, particularly for our education audience. Finally, the guide provides a thorough list of readings, primary source documents, a glossary of terms, and educational resources. These features allow viewers to pursue further research and assist educators in bringing the guide into the classroom. The teaching module linked in the guide provides discussion and essay questions, activities, and assignments.

China’s Maritime Disputes provides a go-to resource for students, educators, journalists, policymakers, and the general public at a time when regional tensions continue to escalate. InfoGuide: China’s Maritime Disputes differs from traditional news reporting in that it is a piece of “living” content, frequently updated as developments occur. The storytelling techniques make it accessible for a complex subject, and provide context and interpretation.

This interactive production follows the principles of responsive web design, allowing viewers to experience it on desktop, tablet, and mobile devices. The guide was built in a custom-designed interactive production system designed by the Council on Foreign Relations in collaboration Phase2 Technologies. The innovative tool allows producers to stitch together numerous interactive into an engaging multimedia story without requiring knowledge of backend coding.

The China’s Maritime Disputes InfoGuide is an innovative web resource offering smart coverage of a current, critical, and evolving news story. We consider InfoGuide: China’s Maritime Disputes worthy of an Online Journalism Award.