MIDDLE KINGDOM

The new satellite image of Earth on WeChat’s splash page features China at its center—for a reason

Obsession
China's Transition
Obsession
China's Transition

Updated | WeChat’s nearly 1 billion users might have noticed a subtle change today. The Chinese messaging app announced that it will be rolling out a new satellite image of Earth for its splash page between Sept. 25 and 28, reports Chinese news site Sina.

Since the app’s inception in 2011, WeChat’s splash page has featured NASA’s iconic 2007 photo, Blue Marble. That will now be replaced by a similar image of Earth, this one captured by Chinese satellite Feng Yun-4A. This marks the first time WeChat has updated the design of its start page.

Sina reports that the change is intended to celebrate the major technological breakthroughs of the FY-4 satellite series—China’s second generation of meteorological satellites, named after the Mandarin words for “wind” and “clouds”—which are scheduled to go up between 2016 and 2040. The 4A is the first of the series and successfully launched in December.

The Verge noted that the photo swap also makes a political statement. Whereas Blue Marble shows Africa at the center of the globe, Fy-4A’s snapshot features China.

“The African continent is the origin of human civilization,” WeChat said of the original image in a statement (in Chinese). “Only with the emergence of humankind does the ability to communicate exist and have meaning.

“The FY-4A’s photo is meant along the same vein, to honor the emergence of Chinese civilization by featuring China’s geography to our hundreds of millions of users.”

Update: This story has been updated to reflect a more accurate translation of WeChat’s statement, following a firm request from the author’s parents. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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