Connected China

Thomson Reuters, 2013

Connected China is our collaborative project with Thomson Reuters. Built for the iPad as an HTML5 application, and available on the Web, Connected China uses a custom database to explore the cultural and political factors that shape the dynamics of power in modern China.

The topic of Chinese leadership has never been more timely. China’s rapid rise in global prominence over the last decade has been well chronicled. In March 2013, the country completed a leadership shift that only occurs once every five years. This shift was particularly significant because it ushered in a new president, Xi Jinping, and a new premier, Li Keqiang. Their leadership will set the tone for China for at least ten years.

Yet China and its inner workings are still quite a mystery to Western audiences. How are power structures in China organized, and how does the Communist Party exert its influence within those structures? How do familial and professional relationships impact an individual’s level of political achievement? What are the benchmarks for a successful career in Chinese politics?

Connected China delves into the data to provide new perspectives and provocative insights about power dynamics in modern China.

Connected China — Front

Power in China is all about connections, both political and personal. Social ties from family and factions are strong. Accumulated social capital is a more concrete asset than it is in the West.

Social Power details the families and connections that define the careers of China’s top leaders.
Social Power details the families and connections that define the careers of China’s top leaders.

The country’s formal political structure is complex—and also misleading.

Institutional Power demonstrates organizational hierarchy and control.
Institutional Power demonstrates organizational hierarchy and control.

There are distinct patterns to successful careers. Both social and institutional power play a role in the rise of top officials. Connected China not only reveals who has power now—and how they achieved their current position—but who will likely be in power in ten, fifteen, or twenty years.

Career Comparison compares the career trajectories of Party members.
Career Comparison compares the career trajectories of Party members.

Connected China offers a multifaceted approach to understanding modern China. Combining investigative journalism, data, and historical context, the tool offers five gateways to understanding: China 101Social PowerInstitutional PowerCareer Comparison, and Featured Stories.

Featured Stories includes current news, investigations, and in-depth articles.
Featured Stories includes current news, investigations, and in-depth articles.

Since August 2011, journalists from Thomson Reuters have been researching and documenting the factors that comprise power in China. Their efforts were recorded in the proprietary database that drives this project. Fathom was granted access to the research at an early stage, which informed our approaches to exploring, presenting, and interacting with the data. The resulting sketches then provided direction for further research on the journalists’ part. This collaboration resulted in a unique and powerful information engine that provides unprecedented transparency of this world power’s political players and system.

Take a look at the video above to see happened behind the scenes of Connected China, and learn more about the nuanced decisions that steered the site’s content, design, and architecture.