shanghaishift[Image: The same point in Shanghai, shifted between its map and satellite view; via Google Maps].

The slippage between map and territory is made unsettlingly clear by a mandatory geographic offset introduced into digital cartography products operating in China.

Variously known as “_applyChinaLocationShift,” eviltransform, the “China GPS Offset Problem,” and, most interestingly, as “Mars Coordinates,” this algorithmic shifting of GPS coordinates is related to China’s official mapping and survey rules, devised for national and economic security.

I’ve written much more about this in a new article for Travel + Leisure, where everything from trap streets to Jorge Luis Borges gets involved, as well as questions of technology, international borders, and geopolitics. Check it out, and let me know if you’ve had any experience with the issue yourself.

(Thanks to @0xdeadbabe for the tip!)

3 thoughts on “_applyChinaLocationShift”

  1. I observed this exact issue, in this exact spot in Shanghai, in December. I took this photo https://goo.gl/photos/5VFLxwLEa6WDgpUdA on the east-side of the river, but the GPS shows that it was taken at a spot across the water on the Bund. I’d assumed it was some one-off glitch but it’s fascinating to understand that it is deliberate.

  2. Just visited Macau this week and experienced this first hand. I would regularly be about a block of from my actual coordinates. My GPS position even “jiggled” periodically as I watched it while I was staying still it would move a few feet this way or that for no discernable reason.

    Interestingly my friend’s phone didn’t exhibit this behaviour. Curious…

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