China News

tea, people
Demonstrating the elaborate tea ceremony at the Du Fu Thatched Cottage Museum, Chengdu, Sichuan

update http://www.chinasage.info/news.xml Here are some news stories we have found on other web sites that we think tell you much about what is going on in China. We avoid stories on politics and economics as these are adequately covered on other news web sites. These News stories are available as a news-feed so you can receive notifications of these automatically in your browser. Click on the RSS button to add it to your browser or copy and paste the link.

Tue 10th Apr

Concerns have been expressed about the stability of the sea bridge from Macau to Hong Kong that is planned to open (belatedly) later this year. An artificial island has been created where the traffic will go under the busy Pearl River shipping lanes in a tunnel. Summer storms have ripped up some of the island's outer defenses. Experts say the damage is superficial and the integrity of the island is not under threat.

When opened it will be the longest sea bridge in the world, dramatically cutting the time to travel from either side of the immensely busy Pearl River estuary.

Peral estuary bridge
(Photograph: Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Authority)
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Thu 22nd Mar

China is well aware of the huge problems of waste disposal. Now that rural communities have more income there is far more plastic and other toxic waste that would normally have to go to landfill. The landfill is often not properly contained and escapes to poison the groundwater. Now Han Zhaobin of Hunan province believes he has come up with a solution. A small scale five ton incinerator is designed to leave very little toxic residue and a series of washing stages will remove toxic components from the smoke. A community level waste disposal unit will save transporting it to a large county level facility.

The Central government have recently announced an initiative to bring all rural communities out of poverty by 2050. Dealing with increased waste will be a necessary step in improving the standard of living of many rural communities.

garbage, rubbish, three gorges dam, clean-up
Collecting Garbage at Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River, China. Image by Yoshi Canopus available under a Creative Commons License

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Tue 6th Mar

Hong Kong has managed to pip Japan and Italy as the location with the highest life expectancy. Figures for 2016 give 81.3 years for men and 87.3 years for women. This is a remarkable turnaround for China which has suffered from high mortality rates going back centuries. Some put the high survival rate to diet, some to physical health and others to the climate. Hong Kongers generally eat a varied diet with a good proportion of health-giving fish and can be compared to the Mediterranean diet. Many people in the 80s came from the mainland and reached there by physical exertion - swimming to Hong Kong Island or traveling hundreds of miles overland, so maybe physical fitness plays a part. Hong Kong is notorious for its high humidity but the sub-tropical climate there never sees cold winters and this is a key factor in survival rates of the elderly. As well as a warm climate Hong Kong has many green spaces, and it is easy for people to get away from the urban center to a tranquil natural spots among the mountains. All this makes the former colony a good place to live.

Hong Kong, park, modern housing
A pavilion located at Nan Liang Garden in Hong Kong

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Mon 19th Feb

With many people still celebrating the Spring Festival and the start of the Year of the Dog, I came across a piece describing the decline of what was the most famous breed of dog in China. The Pekingese were Dowager Empress Cixi's favorite dog and she kept hundreds. They were bred to look like tiny lions rather than dogs and Cixi kept them as lap dogs. They were given marble kennels in the Forbidden City and rested on silk cushions. Imperial eunuchs looked after the dogs and they were given the choicest meat and rice. As part of the spoils of the sacking of the Summer Palace in the Opium Wars (1860) one Pekingese dog was sent back to Queen Victoria which she kept as a pet called 'Looty'.

In China the Pekingese breed is not now popular, people now prefer poodles and other breeds. The small, local population is now considered so inbred that Chinese are looking to bring back Pekingese from overseas to re-invigorate the breed.

dog
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Tue 13th Feb
Unexciting news for some may be but China is known for its long term central planning. A major new policy initiative is to lift all rural people out of poverty. The aim is that by 2050 that rural areas should have efficient, quality agriculture, a beautiful countryside and the farmers wealthy. Such a transformation will take stages and will involve marginal land being taken out of agricultural production and people moved off the land. To achieve these ends the continuing campaign against corruption by local officials will be escalated. Although China is becmoing urbanized at an unprecedented rate in world history their are still hundreds of millions trapped in poverty in the China's vast interior.
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Wed 10th Jan

A distressing story of harsh life in the provinces has moved many hearts on Chinese social media.

Wang Fuman walked the 3 miles to school in the freezing cold dressed only in thin clothes. He is one of the millions of 'left-behind' children who live in villages. Both his parents have moved away to work in the cities and so he is looked after by an older sister and his grandmother. Cold weather in Yunnan province can be fierce but is not as common as elsewhere in China.

frozen child
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Sat 30th Dec 2017

For a very long time ivory from Africa has been smuggled into China where after it is carved it is often falsely labeled 'antique' so it can be sold. With increasing affluence in China the market in ivory had grown with the result that poachers in Africa have established a lucrative illegal market.

Moves by the Chinese government have driven the trade underground and the price for ivory has dropped and from 1st January 2018 a total ban on ivory trade is to be enforced involving the shutting down of the few remaining workshops.

China used to have a considerable population of Asian elephants but killing and habitat erosion has now restricted the pachyderms to only a few places in Yunnan. There are believed to be only 250 of them but numbers have started to rise.

Ming dynasty, Beijing, sacred way, elephant
Elephant guarding the Sacred or Spirit Way to the Ming Tombs, Beijing

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Wed 13th Dec 2017

We included a news item in July about the ambitious water management projects in China. A new article on the Shanghai Daily web site details just how impressive it all is. It is the world's largest water diversion project projected to cost $76 billion dollars. The first phase is complete and generating great benefit to Beijing. About 3 trillion gallons have been rerouted and the water all the way from the Yangzi is now supplying 70% of Beijing's water. All this is great news in the parched north but there are concerns that the diversion may adversely affect the lower Yangzi delta region's delicate ecosystem.

North-South water diversion
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Fri 1st Dec 2017

China can not be accused of taking the digging up of historical artifacts from burials lightly. It has always been culturally important to respect the graves of the dead as many still believe the ancestors pass judgment on their families. China has many ancient tombs some containing valuable ornaments and jewelry, particularly in northern China.

Yao Yuzhong from Inner Mongolia has been found guilty of grave robbing - not just himself but heading up a gang numbering 225 people. He now has two years to mount an appeal and even if he loses that, he may have his sentence commuted to life imprisonment for good behavior.

tomb, gateway
Rebuilt tomb commemorating five legendary Chinese kings

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Mon 20th Nov 2017
A key section of the New Silk Road has been opened. The 8,445km over land route will link Shanghai across Asia all the way to St. Petersburg, Russia. The completed section is on China's border - at Horgos with Kazakhstan. Goods will take 10 days over land rather than 45 days by sea from end to end. The G312 road from Urumqi to Horgos should bring rapid development to this poorer part of China.
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Mon 6th Nov 2017

Shanghai is now considered the city most at risk from rising sea levels. The great metropolis is built on low lying land on either side of the Huangpu River - a minor tributary of the mighty Yangzi. Shanghai does not really have any hills - much is below 30 feet above sea level. A projected 3°C rise of temperature will raise sea level enough to engulf all the 15.5 million inhabitants. Already flood prevention measures are being taken, a 40bn yuan ($6bn) River Flood Discharge project is under way and high walls are being built to encase the rivers.

Shanghai, bridge, road, cityscape
The Nanpu bridge at Shanghai

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Tue 24th Oct 2017

In a bit of a climbdown the Chinese government have relaxed their ban on the import of certain 'moldy' cheeses from E.U. countries. The authorities say they were banned on the basis of a health risk but it may be more to do with protecting Chinese cheese makers. Although these cheeses are usually only seen at foreign-cuisine restaurants the rapid rise in pizza popularity has made mozzarella cheese a valued import.

blue cheese,cheese
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Tue 17th Oct 2017

The BBC web site has published a web page with some interesting statistics about how China is changing.

  1. In the last 3 years marriages have gone down 16% and divorces up by 16%. Divorces are still not very common compared to the U.S. but it may reflect a trend away from loveless marriages 'arranged' by families.
  2. The gender imbalance stands at 114 men for 100 women. This will lead to may be 100 million men with no prospect of a wife. Increasingly desperate measures are being taken to get one including kidnapping and import from elsewhere in S.E. Asia. Now that the One Child Policy has been relaxed to a two Children the ratio should in time come back to normal.
  3. The generation of millennials (born 1982-2004) are twice as likely to own a home than in the U.S.. There has always been a bias to save rather spend in China unlike elsewhere in the world. This is also part of the gender imbalance issue, owning a house is a good way for a man to attract a potential bride.
  4. There are almost as many mobile phones as people in China. 97% of people have a cellular phone subscription. The Facebook equivalent in China is WeChat and it is even more popular there. With over 1,300 million people that is a lot of online traffic.
  5. Studying abroad is seen as a passport to a lucrative career and a good marriage. From 2010 to 2016 the number of students has nearly doubled, now standing at over half a million, that's a large number of students.

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Tue 10th Oct 2017

China boasts many things and having the largest bore is another claim to fame. But the bore in question is a tidal bore that rushes up the Qiantang River estuary is at peak height and strength just after the autumn equinox. The wave surges up the funnel shaped estuary and can be up to 33 feet [10 meters] high. The linked page shows some spectacular photographs of the bore in Zhejiang province in the last couple of days.

It is all to do with the geography, the orientation of the estuary and the moon's orbit. A similar tidal bore of more modest proportions occurs up the River Severn estuary in the U.K. Here there is a tradition of boats and surfers ‘riding the bore’ as it travels slowly upstream.

Qiantang,tidal bore [Image from CCTV]
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Mon 2nd Oct 2017

The second largest get away in China after the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) is underway. 1st October marks the foundation of Peoples Republic in 1949. However things have shifted over the years. Gone are the vast military parades in Tiananmen Square and the longer 'national' festivals. As well as Mao Zedong it is perhaps surprising that Sun Yatsen is also honored in the official government parades - his picture is carried to reflect his place as founding father of the then Republic of China. This year the traditional festival of Moon or Mid-Autumn Festival falls on October 4th so the two disparate celebrations have been merged to give a whole week off work for many people. Over recent years the traditional festivals have come back into popularity and the high calorie moon cakes will be eaten by the million.

Moon festival, food, cake
Moon cake for the Mid Autumn (Moon) Festival

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Tue 19th Sep 2017

Many see China as an authoritarian society with the government firmly in control. Sometimes a news story comes along that shows that the government does not always get its own way. In Shanghai a 'nailhouse' has just been demolished that has stood in the way of a main road for fourteen years. A 'nailhouse' is a house where the owners have held out against developers usually in the hope for a better offer of compensation. There are a number of them spread over China. In this particular case the three story house was in the middle of an arterial four lane road in Songjiang district, Shanghai. The family eventually accepted relocation to a new flat, perhaps the noise got too much in the end. It is unclear whether they were given a better deal than they were initially offered.

Nailhouse,Shanghai [Image by Cao Lei for China Daily]
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Tue 12th Sep 2017

Among the most influential inventions of the Chinese has been paper money. While the rest of the world was lugging around silver and gold China had made the break in the Tang dynasty around 800CE. In China the problem was that normal coinage was in standard bronze discs. The coins had a hole in the middle so they could be strung together in groups of 100. A string of cash was a heavy and inaccurate unit of currency (some traders would claim a 'complete' string which would only have 65 coins). How much better to carry around IOUs rather than cash? As long as the IOU was unequivocally signed by a reputable merchant it was just as valuable as thecoins it represented.

The problem of metal coins was particularly acute when the government forced Sichuan province to use iron coins. As soon as the government saw that the system of IOUs was working well they of course stepped in and made it a government monopoly.

At the same time counterfeiters threatened the new currency and for that reason in the reign of Kublai Khan (1279-1294) Marco Polo witnessed the use of money in the form of strips of black mulberry bark which was then marked with the red seal of the Emperor (only the Emperor was allowed to write in vermillion ink). The bark had to be specially processed and so the notes were hard to forge. An even rarer form of currency had been attempted much earlier in the Han dynasty (175 BCE) when Emperor Wudi introduced money made from pieces of hide from rare white stags.

As the issuing of paper money did not have to be backed by actual silver and gold the modern system was born where a government can just print money to get itself out of (or into!) financial difficulties.

money
A note for 1000 cash issued between 1368 and 1399. 34x22.5 cms. Printed in black on paper with red seal impressions for extra security. “By the time this note was issued, seal impressions and printing, once identical, had become as clearly distinguished as our postmark and postage stamp are today.” (Carter) Image by Chris55 available under a Creative Commons license

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Mon 4th Sep 2017

The shadow of the Second World War still looms in China. A new generation are discovering the danger and hardship of many under the Japanese Occupation (1937-45). A new low budget film ‘Twenty two’ has proved a box office hit. It documents the lives of the 22 remaining victims of the ‘comfort women’ used by the Japanese. Japan remains in denial about the execution/torture/rape that was inflicted on many Chinese people. Around 400,000 were used as sex slaves and many died as a result.


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Wed 30th Aug 2017

Arguably Guizhou's most famous export is Maotai liquor. It's a potent distilled spirit made from fermented sorghum and often used for toasts at banquets for visiting dignitaries. It's also very expensive.

Now the central government has put on a ban for Guizhou local government employees from taking a lunchtime tipple. Not just maotai but all alcoholic drinks are banned - unless special dispensation is given. It's part of a government initiative to improve efficiency in local government. It's no longer going to be acceptable to doze through the afternoon in a semi-drunken stupor!

maotai, liquor, alcohol, guizhou
Moutai bottle. Image by Javierpetrucci available under a Creative Commons License

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Thu 24th Aug 2017

We are familiar with China's rapid building program. Huge new tower blocks appearing almost overnight with little apparent city planning.

Yet a long running campaign to remove a chimney that has scarred the Beijing skyline for 40 years is about to bear fruit as the eyesore is soon due to be demolished. It is its proximity to ancient buildings in central Beijing that has fueled the continued moves to get it removed. It is close to the Tianning Pagoda built in the 12th century.

It all goes to show that there remains some respect for old culture, it is not all disappearing under bulldozers to make way for shiny new buildings. However another government policy does come into play that may also explain the success of the campaign. The Beijing authorities are very keen to move all polluting heavy industry and their chimneys away from the center of the city to improve air quality rather than worry about the aesthetics of the skyline.

Beijing, modern housing, Summer Palace
Panoramic view of Beijing skyline, including the Summer Palace

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garden, Foshan, Guangdong, architecture
Moon gate in Qinghui garden, Foshan city, Guangdong
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Citation information: Chinasage, 'News from China', last updated 1 Dec 2016, Web, http://www.chinasage.info/news.htm.

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