China News - Spring 2009

Some notes on Wen Jiabao's speech

'See China in the light of her development' at Cambridge University on 2 February 2009

China, my beloved motherland is both young and old. Young because the PRC is only 60 years old and reform and opening up only began 30 years ago, China has followed a path suited to its national conditions which is socialism with Chinese characteristics. The significant component is institutional innovation and through economic reform, a socialist market economy has been built where the market plays a primary role in allocating resources under government macro-regulation. Political reforms have been carried out and we endeavour to build a socialist country under the rule of law. The essence of China's reform and opening up is to put people first and provide equal opportunity for all-round development. It aims to protect democratic rights and promote stability, harmony and prosperity, also to safeguard dignity and freedom so everyone can pursue happiness with ingenuity and hard work. Over the last three decades, more than 200 million people have been lifted out of poverty, average life expectancy has increased by 5 years and 83 million people with disabilities have received special care from the government and society. These show the efforts made to protect human rights. Free nine-year compulsory education, a cooperative medical system and an improved social safety net have been introduced.

Over the millennia, China has weathered numerous disasters, both natural and man-made and the sufferings have made her into a nation of fortitude and perseverance. After the Sichuan earthquake, I visited Beichuan village school. Ten days after the disaster, the school was functioning again with makeshift classrooms, and I wrote on the blackboard, 'A country will emerge stronger from adversities'. I am deeply moved by the unyielding spirit of my people, which is the source of strength which has enabled the Chinese nation to emerge from all the hardships stronger than before.

Great progress has been made but China is still a developing nation. Its economic output is one of the largest in the world but its GDP per capita ranks only 100th in the world and is about an eighteenth of that of Britain. There has been no fundamental change in China's basic condition: a big population, a weak economic foundation and uneven development. The cities are modern but the rural areas are quite backward. To achieve modernisation by the middle of this century, three major tasks must be accomplished: first, industrialisation, which Europe has long completed; second, the promotion of economic growth whilst ensuring social equity and justice and third, the pursuit of sustainable development at home whilst accepting our share of international responsibilities.

China values her traditions which are rich, extensive and profound. Harmony, the supreme value cherished in ancient China, lies at the heart of Chinese culture. The Book of History classic advocates amity among people and friendly exchanges among nations. Chinese culture values peace as the most precious. Zheng He, the 15th century Chinese navigator who led seven expeditions to over 30 countries was a true messenger of friendship. The view that a big power will seek hegemony does not apply to China because it goes against her cultural traditions and the will of her people.

China is committed to building a harmonious world. Nations need to respect, tolerate and learn from each other's cultures. Cultures influence each other and no culture can flourish in isolation. How much a country contributes to the culture of humanity is increasingly determined by her ability to absorb foreign cultures and renew itself. That is why China will remain open and receptive, valuing its own traditions while drawing on others' successful experience.

Mr Wen stressed the importance of seeing China in the light of her development. The world is changing and China is changing - it is no longer the closed and backward society of 100 years ago or the poor and ossified society of 30 years ago. Thanks to reform and opening up China has taken on a new look as the Beijing Olympics showcased. He urged people to visit China more often to get to know what people are thinking and doing.

Turning to the financial crisis, Mr Wen believed that closer cooperation is needed but countries should first and foremost run their own affairs well and refrain from shifting troubles onto others and pursuing its own interest at the expense of others. He said at Davos that a reform of the IMF should be carried out to establish a new international order that is fair, equitable, inclusive and well-managed. He explained how China has responded to the crisis. Adjustments have been made to the direction of China's macroeconomic policy and ten measures to expand domestic demand have been introduced. Government spending has been substantially increased to boost domestic demand in a two-year plan to invest Rmb4 trillion, equivalent to 16% of China's GDP in 2007. The money will go into subsidised rural housing, railway and other infrastructural construction, social development programmes, environmental protection and post earthquake recovery. There will be massive tax cuts and interest rates have already been cut substantially. A range of financial measures will be carried out including increasing liquidity in the banking system. Ten key industries will be restructured and rejuvenated. These include automobiles and iron and steel. Energy conservation, reduced emissions and improvements in efficiency will be tackled. New technology and new products will be encouraged. Energetic efforts will be made for progress in innovation in science and technology. The National Programme for Medium and Long-term Scientific and Technological Development will be stepped up with special emphasis on 16 major projects. These include core electronics, use of nuclear energy and advanced numerically controlled machine tools. To summarise, China will rely on major breakthroughs in science and technology to foster new social demand and bring around a new round of economic boom. The level of social security will be significantly raised. The measures include increases in basic pensions for enterprise retirees and workers' compensation. Medical and health systems are being reformed and the goal is to put in place a nationwide basic medical and health care scheme for everyone in both urban and rural areas within three years. Priority is being given to education and work is being done on a national programme for medium and longer term educational reform and development. Help is being given to college graduates and migrant workers to find jobs. The measures are aimed at boosting domestic demand, reinvigorating industry, enhancing science and technology and strengthening social security all at the same time.

For many years, China practised a highly centrally planned economy and regarded planning as absolute. This hampered the development of productivity. However, the financial crisis has made it clear that a totally laissez-faire approach will lead to economic disorder and unfair social distribution. It also shows how dangerous a market economy without regulation can be. We must strike a balance between financial innovation and regulation, between the financial sector and real economy and between savings and consumption. To effectively meet the crisis, we must fully recognise the role of morality. True economic theories will never come into conflict with high moral and ethical standards and they should stand for justice and integrity and contribute to the well-being of all people including the most vulnerable. Adam Smith, the father of modern economics held the view in 'The Theory of Moral Sentiments' that if the fruits of a society's economic development cannot be shared by all, it is morally unsound and risky and is bound to jeopardise social stability.

Britain is the last leg of Mr Wen's European trip and he said he has gained a deeper understanding of Europe through this visit. Britain has rich experience in economic development and environmental protection and China hopes to learn from this experience.

The future belongs to the younger generation and they must build an even more splendid future of China-Britain relations. Finally Mr Wen mentioned Dr Joseph Needham, a Cambridge alumnus who made an important contribution to culture exchange between China and Britain. With his monumental masterpiece, Science and Civilisation in China he built a bridge between the two great civilisations of East and West. (From the internet)

From the British Press

Message from Mr Wen at Davos-Financial Times report

Hopes in London and elsewhere that China will hand over a chunk of its $2,000 billion foreign reserves to help recapitalise the IMF are likely to be disappointed. Mr Wen does not see China's role as saving capitalism from itself. Asked if China bore any responsibility for causing the financial crisis he said that this was 'a ridiculous view'. He made it clear that Beijing will do whatever is needed to maintain growth at about 8% and that, 'running our own affairs well is our biggest contribution to mankind.' He said that forceful steps must be taken and that under special circumstances, extraordinary measure are required and China should not be restricted by conventions.

A comprehensive stimulus effort is being made including initiatives to boost consumer spending and welfare. The sales tax on vehicles with small engines has been halved and 74 million low-income people have received lump-sum spending subsidies. Former employees of state-owned enterprises have received pension supplements, allowances have been granted to vulnerable groups and 12 million school teachers in Beijing have had significant salary increases. Money has actually been put in people's pockets because it is believed that consumer spending is vital in boosting economic development. Mr Wen reiterated his pledge to put in place a comprehensive social safety net - Beijing has announced a Rmb850 billion medical care spending plan and would also spend Rmb600 billion on technological upgrading. (People rely on their savings for security and possible health care)

The rural economy with 700 million people is in for a boost with the recapitalisation of the Agricultural Bank of China by an injection of $30 billion. He totally disagrees with the former US Treasury secretary's suggestion that the huge volume of savings in China had been one of the root causes of the global financial crisis because it reduced risk premiums around the world. Mr Wen believes the reason is the imbalance of some economies. They had deficits in both fiscal and current accounts and kept up high consumption based on massive borrowing. Banks used excessive leverage to reap huge profits. He said that it is confusing right with wrong when some countries overspend and then blame those that lend them money for their overspending. Mr Wen mentioned a character from the novel, Journey to the West, Zhu Ba Jie, who always blames those who try to help him. He said that world business leaders at Davos agreed with him.

Mr Wen gave short shrift to the view that China is manipulating its currency - the Rmb has appreciated 21% since 2005. He stated that maintaining the stability of the Rmb at a balanced and reasonable level is in the interests of both China and the rest of the world. China is the largest foreign holder of US Treasury bonds and would continue to be an active participant in the market, but he issued a veiled warning that China might rethink its long-term investment strategy once the crisis is over. He played down the idea that China would use some of its reserves to recapitalise international financial institutions such as the IMF. Any process of reforming the IMF should start not with capital injections but with reorganising its voting rights to give developing countries a bigger role. On the subject of carbon emissions to be discussed at Copenhagen later this year, China will continue to set its own targets to improve energy efficiency, but it would be difficult for a developing nation to undertake quantified quotas. Finally Mr Wen revealed that he always carries a copy of The Theory of Moral Sentiments by Adam Smith, the Scottish economist which sets out the moral underpinnings for governing societies - and market economies. The book makes the point that a society is unstable if all the wealth is owned by only a small number of people. (From Financial Times 2/2/09)

Downturn causes 20 million job losses

More than 20 million rural migrant workers in China have lost their jobs and returned to their home village or town as a result of the global economic crisis, government figures revealed today. By the start of the Chinese New Year on 25 January 15.3% of China's 130 migrant workers had lost their jobs and left coastal manufacturing centres to return home. The job losses were a direct result of the global economic crisis, said Chen Xiwen, director of the Office of Central Rural Work Leading Group. He warned that the flood of unemployed migrants would pose challenges to social stability in the countryside. The figure of 20 million does not include those who have stayed in the cities to look for work after being made redundant. (From The Financial Times 3/2/09)

Matters of life and health

Healthcare policy and reform are key parts of Chinese government policy. In sheer numbers, there are more people in China who need healthcare than any other country. China is devoting huge resources to create a world-class healthcare system. In the current five year plan, which finishes next year, a total of 21.6 billion yuan was earmarked for public healthcare, of which a third was for the procurement of medical equipment.

A large proportion will be spent on imaging, diagnostic, maternity and child health related equipment as well as medical vehicles. This sum of money will be augmented by extra expenditure as part of the 4 trillion yuan fiscal stimulation policy. A major element of the new health spending will be improving healthcare in rural areas - there are to be more centres and quality will be improved. Also by the end of 2010, it is expected that all major cities in China, especially central and western areas, will complete the construction of refurbishment of municipal centres for disease control. The Ministry of Health has proposed investment in some clinical research projects. Advanced research equipment will be purchased to enhance research capabilities. (From China-Britain Business Review February 2009)

Finance guru advises 'emigrate to China'

Jim Rogers, former partner of George Soros, when asked for advice for a young person said, 'Move to China, learn Chinese'. George Soros and Jim Rogers 'broke the Bank of England' in 1992, when sterling was forced out of the European exchange rate mechanism, costing UK tax payers $1 billion and making themselves correspondingly wealthier. In 2007, at the age of 63, he drew some attention for moving from New York to Singapore. He said that moving to Asia now is like moving to New York City in 1907. (From The Independent 22/1/09)

China now third largest economy

China's economy has officially overtaken Germany's to become the third largest in the world in 2007. The Chinese government revised upwards its estimates for how much the economy grew during 2007. China's still relatively bullish performance of 9% growth in 2008 and the stagnation and contraction seen in Germany will widen the gap more. However the general standard of living in Germany is significantly ahead of China. The GDP per person in Germany was $38,800 in 2007 in Germany compared to $2,800 in China. Many economists, using the 'purchasing power parity' factor, believe China is already the second largest economy in the world above Japan and by 2025 it will overtake the US. (From The Independent 15/1/09)

Mass exodus for Year of the Ox

On Wednesday nearly a quarter of a million people flowed through Beijing's main railway station setting a record for a single day's traffic. A day later, this record was exceeded as 288,000 people boarded trains to return home for the first day of the Year of the Ox on Monday. About 188 million people across China will travel by train. It is the largest single movement of humanity on Earth and every year the numbers have risen along with incomes. Unfortunately this year, because of the economic situation, many will not be coming back. The Chinese economy's recent boom may have lifted more than 200 million people out of poverty in two decades, but more than 10 million lost their jobs towards the end of last year. If the government is worried about an army of newly unemployed criss-crossing China, then it can draw comfort from a common refrain, 'People from my village will help me out'.

Living standards have soared during 30 years of market reforms and most people have never had it so good. The older generation remembers the chaos of the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution when they were mired in poverty. One woman said that the leaders know that the Chinese people have a great capacity to endure and that times will have to get very bad before people risk what we have gained by going into the streets to demonstrate. Outbreaks of unrest may be unavoidable but they are likely to be scattered. A few who lost their jobs last year stayed in towns and cities to protest, but this was relatively rare.

The Chinese leadership is not sitting idle. Local governments are providing training for returning migrant workers and subsidies for the poorest families. In central Jiangxi, the administration is offering free baby rabbits to returnees as 'seed capital' to start a business. Many are hoping to get a job under the government's 4 trillion yuan (£400 billion) stimulus package. A Chinese academic expert on social unrest said, 'I pin my hopes on infrastructure works and training as the most effective ways to feed and pacify the migrant population. (From The Times 24/1/09)

China-Britain education and training mission

This education and training mission scheduled for 9-18 March 2009 is supported by the UK Trade & Investment and supported by the China-Britain Business Council. It is aimed at those seeking to establish long-term collaborative projects with Chinese education providers and will provide participants with the opportunity to meet Chinese counterparts interested in establishing ties within the UK education and training sector. China continues to be a huge market for UK business in the field of education and training. The total number of Chinese students in the UK is currently in the region of 80,000. UK businesses are taking advantage of the expanding opportunities including in-country delivery; joint research; joint and franchise programmes and professional training. The mission will visit Beijing, Jinan, Dalian and Xi'an. (From the China-Britain Business Review February 2009)

Beijing pumps $30 billion into rural bank

Agricultural Bank of China (ABC), the last of the largest state-owned banks, is to receive this capital in preparation for a stock market listing. ABC is a mainstay of China's rural economy and has traditionally lent to China's impoverished rural areas. It suffered an even higher bad loan rate that the other large banks of China. The capital injection is higher than the $20 billion it expected to receive and marks the final stages of an overhaul of China's banking sector that began nearly a decade ago.

Official Chinese media said that ABC is planning to restructure its operations along the lines of a commercial bank and is considering applying for listings in Shanghai and Hong Kong. The bank is also open to foreign investors, but this may be difficult as some cash strapped international banks have begun to sell holdings in Chinese banks.

After transferring the bulk of their bad loans to dedicated assent managers, the large Chinese banks received capital injections. Bank of China and China Construction Bank each received $22.5 billion at the end of 2003. Industrial and Commercial Bank of China received $25 billion in mid-2005 and China Development Bank received $20 billion. The initial public offerings of these banks were amongst the largest seen in international capital markets. Industrial and Commercial Bank of China raised $22 billion in Hong Kong and Shanghai and is the world's largest listing.

China has also begun experimental reforms with underground banks, legalising three in the Wenzhou area of Zhejiang province in another attempt to stimulate lending to rural enterprises. (From The Financial Times 2/2/09)

China used-car trade in top gear

The used car trade in China had a problem until recently: the car industry was simply too young to have enough old cars. However, more recently during the last three years there has been double-digit growth in this sector, but this year traders expect slower growth. According to 51Auto, an online consultancy, used car annual sales growth was 9% in October, 12% in November and 8% in December. However, slower growth is better than no growth or a downturn, especially as new models sales face a slowdown.

Apparently the price gap between new and used cars is narrowing and recent tax cuts for small-engine vehicles will erode it further. Mr Zou and other used car dealers believe it is still easier to make money on used cars than new - provided they are black or grey. Light coloured cars are not good sellers. Chinese people have a worldwide reputation for thrift but Chinese consumers prefer their cars (and houses) to be new - if they can afford them. (From The Financial Times 5/2/09)

Minister calls in Confucius to raise school standards

Jim Knight, the schools minister wants to import the teachings of Confucius into English classrooms in the hope that they might boost exam results. He says that every pupil should have access to learning Mandarin and is drawing up plans to spread the wisdom of the Chinese sage throughout comprehensives. He believes there is much we can learn from Chinese culture and Confucius, who said that, alongside knowledge, you should have time to think.

Mr Knight added that it is not just about the acquisition of knowledge, but respect for the importance of education and the family. He would like to see this engendered in our culture as well as it is in China.

He announced this new initiative following a fact-finding trip to China to see how schools in England might benefit from Chinese teaching methods. The Department for Children, Schools and Families wants to know why children from Chinese backgrounds outperform every ethnic group in Britain. During the trip he discussed setting up a network of 'Confucian classrooms,' which would be centres of excellence in teaching Mandarin and Chinese culture in English state schools.

Chinese pupils have the best results of all ethnic groups in national curriculum tests at the age of 11 with 86% reaching the required standard compared with 80% of white British children. The figures include recent immigrants who do not have English as a first language. This success is continued to GCSE level where 65.8% of Chinese-origin pupils obtain five A* to C grade passes including maths and English, compared to 44.3% for white British pupils.

Confucius championed the importance of study and respect for elders and claimed that strong family relationships were the key to a good society. Confucius also criticised learning by rote, warning of the 'great dangers of acquiring knowledge without thinking'. (From The Sunday Times 22/2/09)

New Confucius Institute at Liverpool University

The University of Liverpool Management School is to open a new institute dedicated to the promotion of Chinese language, culture and society. The Liverpool Confucius Institute, which is the result of a partnership by the between Liverpool University, the Office of Chinese Language Council International and Xi'an Jiaotong University in Suzhou, is designed to strengthen the relationship between the University's Chinese and British communities. The University was awarded Confucius Institute status by the Chinese Ministry of Education in Beijing. The overall aim is to promote friendly relations between China and the rest of the world, encourage the teaching of Chinese as a foreign language and to support Chinese students studying in the UK. (From alumni.liv.ac.uk)

From the Chinese Press

Wen shoe protester in court

Martin Jahnke, 27, a German postgraduate at the University of Cambridge's department of pathology, arrived in court on Tuesday to face charges of threatening behaviour. The incident cast a shadow over Mr Wen's three day visit to Britain, although Beijing said it would not harm relations. Mr Wen described the action as 'despicable' but has since urged that the student be allowed to continue his studies at Cambridge, where he carries out important genetic research into debilitating diseases such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis and arthritis. Mr Jahnke is accused of 'threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to cause fear or to provoke violence'. If found guilty, he could face six months in prison and a £5,000 fine. In addition he faces disciplinary action by the university authorities.

(From South China Morning Post 10/2/09)

Wheat crop at risk if no rain soon

The central government warned on Tuesday of a severe risk to the nation's winter wheat crop if there was no rain within 15 days to end the worst drought in half a century. The authorities have been firing thousands of shells and rockets packed with cloud-seeding chemicals in a desperate effort to spark rain across the Chinese wheat-growing heartland. Premier Wen Jiabao said that the drought, which has also hit central and south-western rice growing provinces, risked straining food supplies when people already faced hardship due to the economic crisis. The authorities in the four provinces of Henan, Anhui, Shandong and Shanxi have declared the highest-level drought emergency. This was the first time the emergency has been so high. Some regions had not seen rain for over 100 days. More than 4.3 million people and 2.1 million head of livestock are short of water with some areas suffering the worst drought since the early 1950s. (From South China Morning Post 10/2/09)

Annual Central Economic Work Conference

This annual economic summit of the Chinese government and ruling Communist Party took place on 8-10 December 2008 in Beijing. Five major tasks were highlighted: maintaining economic growth, boosting domestic demand, economic reforms in key sectors, further opening up of the domestic market and improving people's livelihood. Earlier in 2008, the central government implemented various steps to combat inflation and cool down an overheating economy. These were successful as inflation fell from 8.5% in April to 2.4% in November and growth fell from 11% during five consecutive years to 9.9% in the first nine months of 2008.

In the light of the worsening global economic crisis, China has put in place a number of drastic policy changes and a whole range of fiscal, financial, monetary and industrial steps have been drafted. These include more subsidies to agriculture, further easing of taxes and interest rates for some industries, creating more employment opportunities and, most significantly, a 4 trillion ($586 billion) yuan stimulus package for the next two years. This package will increase investment in infrastructure projects including transportation, energy and housing, expanding bank credit and improving financial services. Greater emphasis will be placed on social undertakings. For decades, China's economy has relied heavily on export and foreign investment, with dependency on trade standing at 60%, whilst domestic consumption growth has been relatively weak. Household consumption in China is 35% of gross domestic product, compared to 60% in Japan and 70% in the US. (From Beijing Review 18/12/08)

China takes on pirates

Rear Admiral Du Jingchen has been appointed commander of China's first naval mission that may involve fighting outside its territorial waters since the 15th century. A three-ship fleet, two destroyers and a supply ship sailed out of Sanya City, south China, on 26 December 2008 to join a UN-mandated multinational antipiracy patrol in the Gulf of Aden. There are about 900 sailors, which include a naval special forces unit. The first phase of the mission is expected to last for three months. (From Beijing Review 8/1/09)

India-China relations

As any serious student of India's diplomatic and national strategy will testify, Western notions like alliance, encirclement and counterbalance are not part of the vocabulary of Indian strategic thinking, which is fiercely independent. If at all we tend to think more like the Chinese adage that near neighbours count more than distant relatives. We wish to engage with the wider world, both near and far, for peace, stability and prosperity. It is in this belief and confidence that we welcome growing engagement with China as a strategic and cooperative partner, and also anticipate that we can work together to promote peace and stability in our region. (From an article in Beijing Review 22/1/09 by Nirupama Rao, the Indian Ambassador to China)

Vice Premier urges industry to shift from quantity to quality

Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang has urged China's industries to shift their focus from quantity to quality. He made the comments on a tour of steel, textile, high-tech and pharmaceutical enterprises. He called for further industrial rationalisation to achieve consistent sustainable development and said that key industries, major enterprises and well known products should get more support. Government should encourage and support companies in their efforts to increase investment in research and development and boost growth through technological progress. He also urged companies to improve their management, cut operating costs, improve quality and promote staff development. (From Xinhua-People's Daily 10/2/09)

China, Japan & South Korea set up world's largest radio telescope

Scientists from these three countries have just started to use the world's largest radio telescope array, which they have jointly set up to probe into the mysteries of outer space, including the structure of the Milky Way and supermassive black holes. On the basis of each country's individual astronomical networks , the three nations have integrated 19 radio telescopes with an area of about 6,000 kilometres in diameter in East Asia. The radio telescope array covers an extensive region that extends from the Bonin Islands and Hokkaido in Japan to Urumqi and Kunming in China, which makes it the world's largest radio astronomy network. If tied up with the Japanese 'Kaguya' circumlunar satellite, the diameter of the telescope array could be extended to 24,000 kilometres. The major role of this observation network, the East Asia VLBI, is to improve the image of the Milky Way and Japanese scientists believe that it will dramatically improve the accuracy of star positioning. Korean and Japanese scientists are developing a special computer to integrate the mass observation data and this facility will be put into operation in Seoul, South Korea by the end of next year. The East Asia VLBI will be fully operational by 2010. (From People's Daily online 10/2/09)

China's poverty line raised

The State Council has raised the official poverty line from 786 yuan a year to 1,067 yuan a year ($112 to $152). As a result 28.4 million more people have been included in China's poverty alleviation programme in addition to the current 14.8 million. Despite several increases, China's poverty line, first announced in 1985, is still low considering consumer prices and the World Bank's figure of $1 per day ($365 per year) for definition of extreme poverty. (From Beijing Review 8/1/09)

First tunnel under the Yangtze River

This was opened to traffic on 28 December 2008 in Wuhan, capital of central China's Hubei Province. It is 3.63 km long with four lanes of traffic and will cut travel times between the Wuchang district, where government offices and the universities are situated, and the Hankou business area to just 7 minutes - from the previous half an hour. The tunnel can accommodate 50,000 vehicles per hour and is built to withstand flooding and earthquakes up to 6 on the Richter scale. Construction work began in November 2004 and cost 2.05 billion yuan ($299.6 million). (From Beijing Review 8/1/09)

Ancient buildings go on UN heritage list

US intelligence once mistook the sturdy edifices built in the shape of a doughnut for missile silos strategically hidden in the remote hills of south-eastern Fujian province. But further research showed that they were the ancient fortified homes of Hakka people who sought safety from persecution in this inaccessible corner of the country. This year UNESCO has added 46 of these structures to their list of world heritage sites.

The Chinese government fought for years to gain this listing and now tourists are flooding in. Almost as quickly, residents are moving out to newly built brick and tile houses, as living standards rise They are the descendants of the clans that built these circular 'tulou' structures from a packed mix of sand, earth, mud and pebbles bound together with glutinous rice and brown sugar.

The exodus is a cause of concern for the chief of the Chengqilou tulou, that once housed more than 100 people and is now home to only 32 mostly elderly people and young children. Mr Jiang said, 'If anyone can afford to, then they move out. They want homes with lavatories and bigger rooms.' Without inhabitants, the tulous deteriorate rapidly. Next door is the Wuyunlou, its four-storey front wall cracked and buckling. A notice at the door forbids visitors from entering or climbing the steep stairs in case the structure crumbles. But three old people still live inside. The government begs them to leave, but this is their home and so they stay.

Mr Jiang hopes that the 600-year-olds tulou, the oldest of these houses, built between 1300 and the 1960s will be amongst the first to benefit from restoration after the UNESCO listing. Another 71-year-old tells of his pride in his 376-year-old clan home. Only eight families still live in the ruin that once was home to more than 300 people. He says that the government wants them to sell, but they refuse, they have always lived there.

The younger generation is far less sentimental. From Qing Lian's three-storey brick house she can look down on the circular tulou that was her home for decades. She says,' It was so inconvenient and dirty. My daughters have built this house where we have a bathroom on every floor. Only people without money still live down there'.

The tulous will soon be no more than museums, but there are 20,000 in Yongding county alone. However, even if the ancient tulous cannot all survive, the style should be preserved. The Chinese architect from Urbanus is building a tulou affordable housing project in Guangzhou. The circular structure will house 245 apartments, a dormitory, small hotel, shops and even a gym. Urbanus believes that the distinctive shape provides an alternative to the ubiquitous urban blocks. (From The Times 3/1/09)

Skiing in China

Beijing residents are able to drive out to Wei Tao shi resort on winter afternoons. The number of persons skiing has increased from tens of thousands in 1999 to three million by 2004. According to the Chinese Ski Association's website (www.skiing.org.cn) the number of ski resorts in China increased by 20 to 30 each year over the last few years and totalled 200 last year. There were only about a dozen or so in 1996 and most of these were used for the training of professional skiers. Today ski resorts are located in 15 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities throughout China. At first they were only situated in the cold northeast region of China, but now using snow making technology, many warmer places have a growing number of ski resorts, such as Inner Mongolia, Hebei, Xinjiang and Beijing. (From Beijing Review 8/1/09)

Hydroelectric Power in China

China is on track to rely on hydropower for 28% of its electricity generation by 2015. The Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River, which will have 32 generating units each with a capacity of 700,000 kw (total 22.4 million kw), is due for completion within the next year. By 2015, the Xiluodu Hydropower Station in Yunnan Province will be finished and its total capacity will be 12.6 million kw. This will equal the Itaipu Hydropower station in Brazil, which is currently the second largest in the world.

The Water Power Research Group under the Chinese Academy of Engineering said that China plans to build more than 110 large hydropower stations each with an installed capacity of over one million kw. To date, 20 of them have been completed and put into operation. The remainder, which have a combined installed capacity of 198.67 kw, will be generally be completed between 2010 and 2015. Although hydropower stations cost more than coal-fired plants, they are cheaper to run and create no pollution. This why the government intends to increase hydropower to contribute 28% of China's total power generation by 2015, up from the current 20%.

China's water energy reserve is estimated at 690 million kw in theory, with a technically exploitable capacity of 540 million kw, which is about four times the present actual installed capacity of 145 million kw. There is still high potential for this clean method of generating electric power but there are challenges such as relocation of people as in the case of the Three Gorges Dam. (From Beijing Review 30/10/08)


Sino File is compiled by Walter Fung with some input for From the Chinese Press by Teresa Ray.

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