Donald Trump’s comments about China’s island-building in the South China Sea attracted some analysis by the US-based fact-checking site Politifact. The article mentions the province of Hainan.
“Hainan Island, which is roughly the size of Belgium, is not one of the contested territories.”
Hainan at 12,822 square miles is close to the size of Belgium (11,787) but a more accurate measure would be Moldova at 13,068 square miles.
We rate Politifact’s claim to be “Mostly True”.
The Guardian reports today that
“Ecuador creates Galápagos marine sanctuary to protect sharks. Belgium-sized area around northern islands of Darwin and Wolf will be off-limits for fishing in bid to conserve sharks and unique habitat.
Some 15,000 square miles (38,000 sq km) of the waters around Darwin and Wolf – the most northern islands – will be made off limits to all fishing to conserve the sharks that congregate there and the ecosystem on which they rely.”
38,000 sq km is in fact the size of Bhutan, not Belgium (30,000 sq km) but it is easy to confuse the low-lying EU country with the mountainous Himalayan kingdom.
The Daily Mail published a Q & A article about the status of the search for missing flight MH370. According to the article, which was sourced from AFP “So far, they have covered about 70 percent of a designated search zone four times the size of Belgium and are expected to be finished within months. “
An area of 4 x Belgium is roughly the same as
- 6 x Israel
- 3 x The Netherlands
- 3 x Switzerland
- 1 x North Korea
- 1/2 x The United Kingdom
So why did the journalist choose Belgium? I doubt we will ever find out.
In a BBC Newsbeat report today …
Royal Marines train US forces in Arctic over fears of Russian aggression
British Royal Marines are training their American counterparts in Arctic warfare for the first time.
The new Arctic training for US marines is happening in an area the size of Belgium.
The article does not explain why the training zone is the size of Belgium, but consider what happened to the Crimea, which is often reported as “a territory about the size of Belgium“.
The Financial Times reports on “an investment drive in which Ethiopia’s government leased 2.5m hectares, an area slightly smaller than Belgium. More than the same again is on offer.”
The title is in quotes because they are taken from a headline in The Huffington Post.
The article continues “Environmentalists are hailing the Canadian government’s landmark deal to protect 85 percent of the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia from logging and development — an area more than twice the size of Belgium.”
It is remarkable how yet again we see a multiple of Belgium being used when the 6.4 million hectares being protected are close to the actual size of Latvia or Sri Lanka.
The Siberian Times has an unusual instance of country arithmetic in an article about the Vasyugan Swamp, which it claims as the largest swamp in the world.
“Its area in Western Siberia is larger than Switzerland, or put another way is roughly the size of Belgium and Israel combined.”
I have previously asserted that there is nothing derogatory in comparing something to the size of Belgium (or any other country). However yesterday’s opinion piece in The Guardian makes this surprising claim …
Seen from China or India, the difference between the UK and Belgium is a rounding error: 0.87% of world population versus 0.15%. But this is not at all how Britain sees itself – consider the popular derogatory expression “a country the size of Belgium”
The author does not provide any supporting examples of derogatory use and although there may be some examples, the majority of comparisons with the size of Belgium relate to either:
- a measure of area
- an exaggerative simile such as “I woke this morning with a hangover the size of Belgium”.
Environment360, an online magazine, is from an American university, was written by a journalist based in Vietnam, about Indonesia. However the measurement used was, once again, Belgium.
“about 16 million acres of land were set aside for coal mining in East and South Kalimantan provinces in 2010 — an area twice the size of Belgium”
There are countries that are roughly twice the size of Belgium and could have been used (Latvia, Togo, Croatia), but Belgium is once again considered the standard.
Harper’s Bazaar wrote a piece reviewing the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. Nothing wrong with that, except the article claims that the park is “roughly the size of Belgium”.
This is a rather loose usage of the word “roughly”. In fact the park is only the size of East Timor, and less than half the size of Belgium.