News stories about China
https://www.chinasage.info/news.xml Here are some news stories we have found 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 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.
In the run up to Chinese New Year on 25th January 2020 now is the time get ready for the year of the Rat.
With the ubiquitous mobile phone making access to calendar information instant, it might be thought that traditional printed calendars were only of historical interest. However in the last few years traditional calendars showing one page for each day are making a comeback in China. Many are illustrated and have facts, figures, cultural and historical information; it is far more than just a printed day and date. Du Xin from Tianjin is one person producing these new 'personalized' calendars. One reason that they are popular is that there is a wide range and so the choice made shows individual taste.
Chinasage provides an online calendar of all the Chinese festivals and holidays.
Various 2019 calendars on display at a bookstore. VCG Photo
During times of famine in the 1950s and 60s farmer Chen Suyuan was forced to use unusual foods. One is the inner bark (cambium) of elm trees that can be processed to make a very bitter flour from which unpleasant tasting noodles could be made. In the current boom for nostalgia foods Chen Suyuan in Shanxi province is now making a fair income from making elm bark flour.
Fortunately many Chinese suffer from the opposite problem nowadays: 30% of adults are overweight and 11.9% obese. The popularity of the famine foods have both a nostalgia and a health appeal - bitter tasting food must surely be good for you!
The way that Chinese people make a tally is rather different to how other countries do. Instead of using groups of four with a diagonal stroke for the fifth in the tally the Chinese way is to draw the character Zheng stroke by stroke, it is drawn with five connected strokes.
Singapore is considered one of the most ordered places in the world with laws regulating every detail of life. Deng Xiaoping was so impressed back in 1978 that he ordered top party members to go to Singapore to learn how a Chinese run city can be run efficiently and prosperously. The training of senior figures in Singapore has continued up until the present day but now the trend is in decline, but President Xi is still impressed about how the small country manages to remain on good relations with the U.S. and China. Like Hong Kong, Singapore flourished as a British colony 1819-1965.
With popular tourist destinations suffering under the sheer weight of numbers new technology may offer a better solution.
If you have had to queue for hours only to get a brief glimpse of say the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, St Mark's Basilica in Venice or the Dragon Throne in the Forbidden City you may wonder whether it was all worth the trouble. Well with sophisticated virtual reality headsets you can now start to explore the top tourist destinations without the crowds, it is the ultimate in armchair traveling.
In China one of the top destinations is Jinci in Shanxi province for it has buildings that have survived for 1,400 years. Authorities are concerned that the high numbers of visitors is starting to damage the buildings and environment. So they have now digitally recorded Jinci temple in high definition and with a suitable headset you can wonder around as you would the real thing - walking around and admiring the artifacts as if you were in the temple. All this at your leisure and with no-one else around. This approach seems to be the answer to all the congestion and limitations of visiting such popular sites and it is likely to be adopted elsewhere in the world.
Queen Mother of the West and maidservants in painted clay sculpture at Jinci, Taiyuan, Shanxi. It was built in the Ming dynasty.
Shanghai Daily reports on the buzzwords that you were likely to hear in China during 2019.
Many reflect the full-on work culture. The number 996 reflects the need to work 9am to 9pm 6 days a week. From this relentless workload comes ‘996.icu’ with ‘icu’ standing for Intensive Care Unit. Alibaba founder Jack Ma ➚ is quoted as saying such a long working week was a ‘blessing’ for people. It is not surprising that another 2019 common phrase is 我太难了 wǒ tài nán le ‘I am stressed’. The phrase 硬核 yìng hé ‘hard-core’ is now applied to people who are highly driven to succeed. The endless toil is making some people embittered and envious so the term 柠檬精 níng méng jīng ‘sour lemon spirit’ is applied to those experiencing ‘sour grapes’ at other people’s good fortune.
Catch-phrases from films such as the epic, sci-fi success The Wandering Earth ➚ have also made it to the list. A robotic voice says “Beijing No. 3 District’s transport commission reminds you that roads are countless but safety is foremost. Unregulated driving will cause your loved ones to end up in tears”. This has been re-purposed to refer to any official warning such as “Industries are countless but observance of the law is paramount. Cheating and trickery will cause one to end up in tears behind bars”.
With everyone turning away from plastic as much as possible the use of wood must be due for a comeback. 62 year old Wang Dewen from Shandong has become an unlikely Internet sensation with his carpentry skills. Only using hand tools he demonstrates the satisfaction of making complex objects such as toys for his grandson from a single block of wood. Watching him work wood with handsaws, chisels and mallets is very satisfying. He does not use nails or glue only good old-fashioned jointing techniques.
This YouTube video ➚ shows him making a traditional, sturdy Luban stool. In China his video channel 'Gong Shi Dao' is followed by over 2 million people.
During the past two thousand years the passport to a steady income and job security was a job in the Imperial civil service. Somethings never change, it is still the case in the Peoples' Republic. There used to be prized jobs (the iron rice bowl) that offered cradle to grave medical care, free education for the children and a pension. These have all but disappeared except in the government civil service. Figures just released show that 1,400,000 people applied for just 24,000 jobs in the civil service. That is one job per 60 applicants. To narrow down the field a grueling examination will need to be passed with flying colors. The traditional Chinese view of the importance of study and examination success continues unabated.
Students in university library Copyright © Dreamstime see image license
There was a time that westerners claimed that Chinese culture only really started about 500BCE and that 'history' of earlier periods were just legends. Now archeology has established the validity of not only the Shang Dynasty 1600-1100BCE but the earlier Xia dynasty 2100-1600BCE. The new Erlitou Relic Museum in Luoyang, Henan has been opened to house many finds from excavations in the area that give details of life in those early days.
Early bronze tiger mask
The huge investment in Central Asia, Africa and Europe made by China since its launch in 2013 has slowed to a crawl. The figures for 2019 show there were only two loans over $1billion: $1.2billion to Egypt and $2.5billion to Pakistan. This follows a reduction in 2018 when 'only' $126 billion was spent by China. The recipients of the loans are showing reluctance to accept further money as interest payments are looking harder to repay with uncertainty over exchange rates and domestic growth. There is a growing realization that the investments do tie the recipients to China. China has less funds in the kitty to invest abroad. With the ongoing trade war with the US under President Trump there is reduced growth and a risk of a slowdown in the Chinese economy. Part of the reason for Belt and Road is to gain more markets for China's construction and development industries now that domestic demand has peaked. The total investment so far totals about $100 billion so it is a very substantial venture and has involved 160 countries creating 82 overseas industrial parks.
As part of the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the PRC the President presented ‘Friendship Awards’ to 42 foreign experts. These are the highest honors that can be awarded to a foreign national. Among them was remarkable survivor from well before the Peoples’ Republic: 104 year old Isabel Crook. She was born in Chengdu, China to Canadian missionary parents. She married David Crook in 1942 in England and went back to China in 1947. They made an intensive, thorough study of how the new communist reforms were affecting poor farmers in rural areas. Their findings showed how the poorest people were being significantly helped by the new system. They suffered, as did all foreign nationals, under the Cultural Revolution but Isabel’s love for China held firm throughout all the troubles. You can read about her incredible life on her web site ➚.
Photograph and more about the awards can be found here ➚.
Mao Zedong makes a report at the Second Plenary Session of the Seventh CPC Central Committee. April 1949. Image by Unknown available under a Creative Commons License ➚
1st October 2019 marks 70 years since the proclamation by Chairman Mao Zedong in Beijing. Inevitably it is a time to look back at these tumultuous years. In 1949 China was bankrupt and starving after occupation and civil war, it was considered a Third World, undeveloped country that was likely to remain as such.
Most American commentators thought the Communist government would last a decade or so and then Chiang Kaishek’s Nationalists would be shortly put back in control. After 70 years the Communist party in as strong a position of control as ever. Their position is pretty much unassailable as long as the country continues to prosper. And prosper it has, it is on course to overtake the U.S. to become the number one world trading nation. Modern cities have been created or completely rebuilt, standards of living have rocketed and technological expertise is one of the highest in the world. Should the progress stall or turn into decline it is possible there might be change of type of government but there is no sign of it at present.
Foreign observers continue to be bewildered that Mao Zedong, as the founding father, is still held in such high regard (something like 75% good, 25% bad) as most in the west are taught he was an evil dictator in the same league as Stalin and Hitler. What the Chinese people understand well is that the country needed rapid transformation, piece-meal reform had been tried and failed, a strong unwavering hand was needed to turn it all around - the cut worm forgives the plow. So in spite of millions of avoidable deaths there is still a strong attachment to Mao Zedong who kept the country together through very difficult times. His proclamation and promise at the foundation 70 years ago seem to have come true: ‘We, the 475 million Chinese people, have stood up and our future is infinitely bright.’
The P.R.C. was founded on 1st October 1949 so 2019 will be a bumper year for commemorating this event. A nationwide campaign has been in operation to find a group of people to represent the achievements of the last 70 years. They are ordinary people who have made some outstanding contribution. 300 candidates have been selected by recommendation and online votes and will be whittled down further in time for October 1st. Candidates include British born Huang Danian who was an expert in geological exploration of the deep Earth who died in 2017. Wang Jicai and his wife are honored for guarding tiny Kaishan Island off the Jiangsu coastline in total isolation for 32 years, Wang died last year. Better known heroes from the past conflicts are Huang Jiguang and Qiu Shaoyun; who both died heroically in the Korean War 1952.
Attitudes to teaching boys and girls differently are changing. There has been a strong historical tradition that girls are 'yin' while boys are 'yang' and so opposite ends of the passive through to assertive spectrum. A school in Chengdu, Sichuan is proposing to reinforce this age-old division against the worldwide trend. Some schools in the U.S. and U.K. are now going so far as imposing a unisex school uniform so that gender is no longer so obvious.
In the school boys are taught to build rockets while girls learn how to knit. The special course entitled 'Boys and girls are extremely different' has been popular among parents to combat the general gender-neutral treatment. Principal Fu Jin reported that the current situation “led to boys lacking enough space to grow heroically and girls lacking gentle and tranquil feminine examples to follow, so there is some gender dislocation.” The school has been widely criticized but there is a general trend back to age-old gender stereotypes.
In the early days of the People's Republic there was less gender discrimination. Mao proclaimed that 'Woman held up half the sky' and both men and women wore the same style of drab clothing. But not there is currently only woman (Sun Chunlan) who has reached the heights of the Communist Party Politburo. Of the Central Committee's 204 members only 10 are women. The Standing Committee of the Politburo (one rung higher) has never had a woman member. Elsewhere it is now common for rich businessmen to have several mistresses housed in their own flats.
Copyright Richard Wingfield, October 2017.
With tension all around us in the world it is comforting that Chinese people are still able to see the funny side. The comedy form becoming increasingly popular is stand-up comedy. Comedians are filling theaters with people seeking a community able to have a laugh together at themselves and the world. The popularity of the simple set up of a comedian and a microphone took root in the UK and US some years ago and some US comedians ➚ have succeeded in importing this new form of entertainment in China using Hong Kong as the initial test of popularity (including Jo Wong ➚). Just telling non-stop jokes has not been a Chinese tradition and in the early days Chinese comedians could only afford to do it part-time. Now theaters are packed out and tickets command high prices. Some were recruited at 'open mic' evenings when anyone could turn up and have a go.
Guangzhou and Beijing now have a number of small theaters dedicated to stand-up comedy. Let's hope they can help make everyone a little less stressed out!
Fine vinegar has always been important in Chinese cuisine. It is far more complex than making a standard Western malt vinegar as like a fine wine different ingredients and processing give the vinegar unique and subtle flavors. Also like a fine wine vinegar is matured and a old vintages can command high prices. There are four main areas in China with renowned vinegars:
Zhenjiang black vinegar comes from Jiangsu province. It is made from rice, wheat, barley and peas. Different types of mold are used to produce the acid with some sweetness maintained.
Fujian Yongchun red vinegar comes from the Eastern coast. The red color of the vinegar is imparted by a different kind of mold. The complex maturing process takes three years to complete.
Lastly Shanxi mature vinegar has the longest history - probably at least 2,500 years. It is produced from sorghum, barley and peas. No rice is used. It is matured in three and five year vintages. It is Shanxi vinegar that is in the news because the producers are making a lake of vinegar. The maturation process needs sunlight in summer and the winter cold so it needs to be exposed to the elements. The lake is part of a park created as a tourist attraction by the Shanxi Mature Vinegar Group Co Ltd. The lake is 886 feet [270 meters] long and up to 79 feet [24 meters] wide and can hold over 15,000 tons [13,607,775 kgs] of vinegar. It is said of Shanxi's citizens that they can't eat a meal without fine vinegar - it remains a passion in this northern province.
Because Chinese vinegar is made from herbs and some legumes it has a much more subtle flavor and is more nutritious. Many vinegars claim to be beneficial to health.
China is one of the few large countries that does not have an official national flower . England and the U.S. have the rose, Scotland the thistle, France the iris and India the lotus. China's National Flower Association has conducted a survey with the top candidates being: peony, plum (blossom) and orchid. The peony came top with 80% of the vote. It has long been used to symbolize beauty. It is a common garden plant in China and should the peony fall sick it was considered a bad omen form the family.
Beijing is following Shanghai's example for the management of its annual 9 million ton mountain of garbage. Everyone will now have to sort their garbage so as much can be recycled as possible. People and businesses will now need to sort their waste into dry refuse, wet trash, recyclable waste and hazardous waste. A fine of 200 yuan will be enforced if the new directive is not followed. There will be rewards as well as fines to those who comply. This is all part of the China's aim for 2020 when 35% of household garbage should be recycled.
A widespread view of China is that it is a coal-burning, CO2 generating monster that threatens to make global climate change worse.
That is a misleading simplification, in some areas China leads the world in green, clean energy. As an example Qinghai province has now run on all clean energy for 15 days on the trot beating the previous record of 9 days last year. Admittedly Qinghai is one of less populated provinces (6 million people) but it shows that great efforts are being made - even in the remote areas of China. It's not all gloom and doom.
Statue of the Tang dynasty painter Wu Daozi
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