Taiwan, which China claims as a renegade province, cannot be viewed at the same resolution as the mainland.
In the last two years, China’s State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping has introduced new legislation that requires mapping service providers to store all their information in servers based in China and apply for a license. (Google hasn’t yet applied.)
China, of course, is concerned about sensitive information getting out. For instance in 2008, commercially available satellite photos revealed the existence of a new ballistic missile submarine.
So as the “Financial Times” reports:
For example, while Google Maps allows users to zoom in on an air force base at Shahe just north of Beijing to the extent that individual aircraft are clearly distinguishable, Mapworld goes blank over Shahe at beyond 1:36,000. The same happens at Jiuquan, the location of China’s largest space vehicle launch facility.
As the Berkman Center pointed out this week in its report on circumvention tools, “users in many filtering countries may simply prefer to access local content, written in their own languages about topics of local interest, despite the fact that the local content is subject to traditional government regulation and therefore highly censored.”
That partly explains the rapid rise of the Chinese video-sharing website YouKu, which is now No.1 in the country, although the fact that YouTube has been inaccessible in China since March 2009 helped that along. If Google Earth/Maps is blocked for not having a license, or some other infraction, then Mapworld could benefit in exactly the same way.