China News

Hebei, Sui dynasty, bridge
The earliest spandrel bridge in the world at Anji, Hebei from Sui dynasty

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.

Thu 11th Oct

One of the oldest traditional art-forms in China is shadow puppetry. In this form 'flat' and articulated figures are held up against the back of a lighted sheet. From in front the figures can be made to act in natural way. The skill to handle the puppets takes a long time to develop and it is a custom under threat with so much competition from modern alternatives.

In a new twist to the tradition Ding Yongfa has come up with stories about current events rather than age-old historical dramas. As fifth generation puppeteer Ding is a real expert of the techniques and has introduced a puppet show on the current drive to root out corruption. Local administrators welcome the idea as it should help educate a new generation about the evils of graft.

shadow puppet,  traditional art-form, customs
An intricate shadow puppet of a young lady in a house. Available under a Creative Commons License

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Tue 11th Sep

While I normally try to give the positive news about China on this blog and on this web site I feel it necessary to mention the sensitive subject of Xinjiang.

The situation of Xinjiang is much more sensitive to the Chinese government than Tibet. Xinjiang has always been on the frontier of Central Asia and at times like Tibet has been independent of China. As well as an important trade route it is Xinjiang's oil and mineral resources that are of great financial interest.

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has studied the plight of the majority Muslims in Xinjiang and have come to a damning assessment. Many policies are making the worship of Islam near impossible for Muslims.

Many Muslims have been detained for long periods without charge on the flimsiest of suspicions that they are somehow 'involved in terrorism'. Huge 'correction' camps of up to one million people have been built to 're-educate' the ethnic Muslim population. While it is true that there have been a few terrorist attacks by Xinjiang separatists the Chinese government should behave on the basis of evidence rather than fueling further ethnic tension.

Perhaps the long arm of history is partly to blame, the Panthay Rebellion (1856-73) cost about 2 million lives. But to modern eyes the widespread suppression of religious practices (shaving beards, clothing, learning local language, Muslim names) is unpleasant to see in an aspiring world superpower.

Xinjiang, Kashgar, muslim, people
Muslim worshipers kneel on prayer carpets outside of Id Kah Mosque at the end of Ramadan. Kashgar, Xinjiang Copyright © Dreamstime see image license

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Wed 29th Aug

It has been widely reported that China is stopping the import of waste plastic for recycling. It's a commonly held misconception that there is value in this waste while in fact it costs money to recycle it. The main reason that China has stopped processing plastic is that it does not fit well with the status as an upcoming world power rather than a garbage recycler.

The plastic is now going to other countries in the region including Malaysia and leaves China with an increased demand for 'virgin' petro-chemicals to produce plastics.

China is the biggest producer of waste plastic that ends up in the ocean - 63% compared to the U.S. 2% and schemes to ban single-use plastics are only just started working. Improved trash collection at coastline and riverside cities in China would have a bigger impact on sea pollution than trying to restrain demand for plastics.

Our demand for plastics is high and growing. In developing countries where clean water is unavailable there continues to be a legitimate need for plastic containers for bottled water.

It's to be hoped that China will change its views on plastic recycling to leave the world a cleaner place.


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Wed 8th Aug

Shanxi province is rich in coal deposits and for many years has the reputation as the most polluted areas on Earth. Although the government in Beijing has set targets to curb air pollution the problem persisted. The reason has become clear and it is a familiar story. Local officials in Linfen cheated the system so that pollution monitoring systems would give lower readings and so show they were meeting the improvement targets. Sixteen officials have now been tried and found guilty of fabricating data in May this year. There are now moves to get a real grip on this problem. It exemplifies a common weakness of governance in China, particularly on environmental issues, central government may set out bold and ambitious targets but it is down to local officials to make sure they are implemented. At the local level economic growth trumps any wider environmental considerations.

smog
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Wed 1st Aug

China's investment in China is so huge that it is considered by some as a form colonialism. China's Belt and Road Initiative is intended to open up trading routes not just through Central Asia to Europe but also the old sea routes to East Africa.

Bagamoyo in Tanzania is planned to be transformed from a sleepy fishing village to Africa's largest port. The $10 billion investment will handle burgeoning trade from East Africa to China via Sri Lanka and India.

To enable the port to reach into Africa new railways are being built. A 470km railway from Ethiopia to Djibouti is part of the master plan.

However this grandiose project has an unhelpful precedent. In the 1970s Mao Zedong invested in a railway in Tanzania. The 1,100-mile railway now lies in a decayed state with the grand Dar Es Salaam station falling into decay. The larger scale Chinese investment into not just Tanzania but also surrounding countries heralds an ambitious move to open up Africa to trade. Early signs are showing that the investment is welcomed and may well bring much needed prosperity to the whole region.


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Thu 12th Jul

Statistics on China's remarkable development in the last forty years are hard to take in. The GDP was 82.7 trillion yuan (US$12.5 trillion) in 2017 about 200 times that of forty years ago. The billions/trillions and growth rate may impress but do not give much insight on how ordinary lives have been transformed.

The linked article in the Shanghai Daily newspaper looks how individuals at three individual case histories. Xie Mingsheng farmed his small parcel of land in Shanxi by hand, harvesting with a sickle now harvesting, weeding, pest control is now all mechanized and a much larger area can be farmed with the same labor.

Zhao Zhaofeng comes from a coal mining family in Shanxi. His grandfather extracted coal with a pick and shovel and carried out the coal in a bamboo basket. With modern machinery the productivity has gone up forty times in forty years.

Han Yonghui sells street food in Tianjin. To get to his pitch in the city it used to take twenty hours. With new railways and fast trains it now takes him just six hours.

These stories show how modern development has transformed the lives of individuals in China on an unprecedented scale.


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Thu 28th Jun

The Chinese government is ramping up pressure for all nations to consider the island of Taiwan as a province of China. Under the ‘One China’ policy countries have for many years acknowledged the People’s Republic as the only ‘China’. Previously Taiwan was often referred to as ‘Republic of China’ due to the outcome of the Civil war ending in 1949. Now the government is insisting that Taiwan is listed as ‘China - Taiwan’ or ‘China - Taiwan region’ not as if a separate nation. In addition maps of the region should show Taiwan in the same color as mainland China. If airlines do not comply they may face extra tariffs and other sanctions. It represents a toughening up of policy and one more step towards the re-unification long dreamed of in Beijing. The model of two systems for fifty years adopted successfully in Hong Kong may be a preferred solution. This web site continues to treat Taiwan as a separately governed entity to reflect its current status. Should President Trump choose to strongly back Taiwan - as America has done since 1949 - we are all in for interesting times.

Taiwan flag
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Thu 7th Jun

The power of the huge Chinese economy makes itself felt in all sorts of unexpected ways. One area of recent concern is the demand for a French export that is not food or wine but oak timber. China denuded itself of forests over the centuries and there is a severe shortage of quality hardwood. (There is however plenty of softwood (conifer) available from the north-eastern provinces). To allow woods to regenerate there are strong controls on felling and so China imports more timber than any other country. France has a good deal of deciduous woodland that has been carefully managed over hundreds of years so there is a good supply of mature oak which requires 100 years to grow. There is now very strong demand in China for quality wooden oak floors and furniture. Although this may be good for France's balance of payments it is bad news for the saw mills in France as the timber is sent to China unprocessed as it's far cheaper to process it there.

oak leaves
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Fri 1st Jun

The rapid industrial development in the last 30 years has been very bad news for China's rivers. In a new survey 22.1% of all water samples were considered unfit for human contact. This is an overall improvement of a few percent over previous years but in some areas there has been no improvement. Competitive advantage is blamed for some of the pollution, if a company spends extra money to clean up its effluent then its competitors who are not so fussy will gain the advantage. China has always been subject to flood and drought and is concerned that the extra requirements for intensive agriculture and industry will lead to severe shortages.

An example of how work can be done to bring back high water quality is the popular tourist spot of West Lake, Hangzhou. Treatment plants have been added that filter out contaminants and relocating over 7,000 people.

Hangzhou, Zhejiang, west lake
West Lake, Hangzhou. Copyright Richard Wingfield, October 2017.

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Mon 14th May

The devastating earthquake of May 12th 2008 was China's worst natural disaster in recent years. Nearly 90,000 people were killed - a huge number compared to many more high profile disasters (30 times the loss in the 9/11 attacks). It occurred in a rural area north-west of Sichuan's provincial capital Chengdu in the afternoon. Among the dead were up to 5,000 students. Many blamed the poor quality of the buildings which had been hastily constructed. Criticism of the government's role was suppressed and some feel that they never received adequate explanations.

China is very prone to earthquakes and holds the dubious honor of the most loss of life anywhere in the world. In 1976 the Tangshan earthquake, Hebei cost 650,000 people's lives but the worst still was 830,000 lives lost in 1556. The country is geologically diverse, made up of a mosaic of small tectonic plates that occasionally slip and slide against each other.

garden, Sichuan
Traditional public garden at Chengdu, Sichuan

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Wed 9th May

Time will tell whether it was Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un's secret visit to China in March that caused the break-through in negotiations or whther it was the game of nuclear brinkmanship with President Trump. Perhaps Trump's aggressive gestures have forced Kim to reluctantly turn to China's for a reluctant, cold embrace. China will not want a re-unified Korea to become close allies of the U.S. so there are many angles to be covered. It is not surprising that a second secret visit has just taken place. We have a guide to the long and complex history to Korean-Chinese relations that show how crucial the relationship has been over at least two thousand years. Both President Xi and Kim must work to cement a new and peaceful relationship.

Jilin, Changbai, lake, view
Crater lake, Tian chi on the border of China and North Korea

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