News stories about China

update 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.

Wed 1st Apr

Last week saw some relaxation of the lock-down across China. It seems that the understandable urge of everyone to get back to normal after two months of restrictions proved too tempting. Some restrictions such as the re-opening of cinemas has been re-imposed in some places as well as the movement of people over provincial borders . The city at the center of the outbreak, Wuhan, is due to relax lock-down restrictions on April 8th. The world will be watching to see if the figures of infecting people in China continue to stay very low when the restrictions are lifted. One of the strange repercussions of continued isolation is that the number of cases of injuries to children has increased. In quite a few cases bored children are falling off skyscrapers . Another effect has been the vast improvement in air quality seen not only in China but throughout the world. Perhaps a long term benefit will be that no-one will need convincing that pollution is a real issue that has to be tackled.

The problem with this virus is that some people are asymptomatic carriers. Once you move away from assuming everyone might be infected these carriers may unknowingly start off a new outbreak. These people are not detected by the widely used temperature test. China has now started monitoring these asymptomatic carriers in a bid to understand the implications. On April 1st as many as 130 were identified. One study even suggests that this corona-virus has been around undetected for years and it has only been a chance mutation that makes it potentially lethal that has caused the pandemic.

The Chinese festival of Qing Ming falls on Saturday April 4th this year. As the festival normally involves the whole extended family gathering to visit graves it is not compatible with current distancing rules. The government is asking people not to visit the graves, and blocking access to cemeteries , a break in a ritual that goes back thousands of years. In the famous Babaoshan cemetery in beijing suitably protected workers are providing the tomb cleaning service on behalf of families.

As most Chinese people consider the domestic outbreak beaten they are understandably keen not to let travelers bring the disease back into the country . So anyone who looks 'foreign' is now subject to a wary look and some cases refusal to provide services for. This is the reverse of the situation in the US and UK a month ago when anyone who looked Asian was subject to the same kinds of suspicions and in some cases violence. Foreign travelers are still being forced into 14-day quarantine on arrival when they are not permitted to meet anyone. The only long-term solution must be testing of everybody so that all asymptomatic carriers can be detected and isolated. However the tests are not 100% accurate and providing a repeated test for a population of over 1 billion is just not easy to do. The main hope is that all the key workers can be tested and any new infections quickly tracked down.

medical testing
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Wed 25th Mar

While India and the UK step up isolation measures China in now slowly relaxing controls. The only new cases of Covid-19 in the last week have been amongst people coming into the country that have tested positive during the 14 day enforced quarantine.

The most eye-catching relaxation is the opening of the Great Wall at Badaling near Beijing to tourists. Tourists are temperature tested on arrival and tagged by their QR code. They also need to keep their six feet distance from one another. It must be a good time to see the wall as it is usually immensely crowded.

Schools in the island province of Hainan are planning to re-open on April 7th after a long break. In Xinjiang province, that has only ever had 76 cases and no new ones for five weeks bazaars and businesses are starting to re-open. In the province at the center of the Chinese outbreak, Hubei, the very strict lock-down has been ended with no new cases reported for over a week. However people need a 'green' health code pass to be allowed to leave the province.

Many Chinese are attributing their speedy recovery down to the use of traditional herbal remedies. The most popular remedy is blended from over twenty herbs, including ephedra, cinnamon twigs and licorice root. It is drunk as a soup and has won over many skeptics. About 85% of recovering patients are given the soup. and some figures suggest a boost of numbers recovering by 33%.

China has switched to stop possible infection coming into the country rather than containing it within its boundaries. Foreign travel into China remains very restricted with 14 day quarantine isolation before being allowed to move around the country.

The only exception to the improving picture is in Hong Kong where the number of infected people is still increasing and running at 40 new cases per day. Some have blamed this on a distrust of government following months of unrest there.

Great Wall, Beijing
Great Wall near Simatai, Beijing

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Wed 18th Mar

If you are stuck indoors for long periods time drags. In China people have been using the ubiquitous smartphone to keep tabs on the antics of the most Chinese of creatures - the Giant Panda. The most popular web site iPanda.com has received 700 million hits since January 25th and over 200 million videos have been watched of the playful pandas.

giant panda, wildlife
A sleeping Giant Panda

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Thu 5th Mar

China continues to demonstrate how to control the spread of coronavirus. The number of people infected continues to fall and the number of new cases in China excluding Hubei was down to 10 people today.

Some of the people most affected are farmers. The stock still need feeding and the harvest needs gathering and selling. With much reduced local markets and shortage of truck drivers a lot of produce has had to be left to rot in the fields. Livestock can't be taken to market or else buyers can not be found, so farmer's incomes are being heavily squeezed.

We're continuing to track the spread of the virus with daily updates on our coronavirus page.

cows, farm

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Thu 27th Feb

The effects of the coronavirus continue to dominate the news, with millions of Chinese people choosing or forced to spend all their time at home. One popular new hobby in parts of Shanghai is the growing of plants from seed. Watching the germinated seeds grow into plants is giving the community a sense of a brighter future. Vegetables are a popular choice with the normal shops and markets closed or inaccessible. Other popular indoor activities have led to a surge in online ordering of computer games, books, yoga mats, make-up and rather inevitably condoms. Contrary to the popular impression created in the media, the situation in China is of gradual improvement with the number of infected people falling for the last ten days in a row as more people recover. Unlike the rest of the world there has been success in keeping the cases within Hubei province, it is not spreading to other provinces any more.

cabbage seedlings
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Thu 20th Feb

A round-up from various news items recently reported in the South China Morning Post .

Studies are showing that the corona-virus is much more infectious than similar viruses, it seems to bind very easily to human cells. Autopsies of those that have died show the virus principally attacks the lungs but also the liver. Some people are being treated with corticosteroids and some results show that their use may lead to damage of the liver and kidneys so these steroids are not recommended for widespread use. There continues to be reports that herbal medicines based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) are effective. It looks like that some herbs can significantly aid recovery but will not prevent people becoming infected.

The knock-on effects of the virus are showing in China and other countries. With many people either forced (as in much of Hubei province) or voluntarily staying at home the impact on all sorts of businesses is showing. With far fewer people traveling the airlines are canceling flights and laying off staff. Tourist destinations are pretty much deserted. As people are not out shopping many businesses are struggling, bookshops seem particularly badly hit, people are ordering by post to avoid going out. Restaurants are badly affected and some are quickly turning to offering take-away and delivery services to keep the businesses going. Farms are hard hit with livestock markets closed. Imports of frozen chicken, beef and pork are being held up at the ports due to a shortage of truck drivers to distribute them inland.

On a somewhat lighter note, a popular video game is letting people play at killing off the virus at least in the virtual world. With many millions stuck at home having something useful to do must becoming increasingly hard.

As far as the statistics are concerned there is a glimmer of hope. The number of people still infected has fallen on two consecutive days. If the pattern continues the whole sad episode could be over in a couple of months.

disinfecting coronavirus
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Thu 6th Feb

Tackling the corona-virus outbreak is consuming all the media coverage in China and around the world. Some novel ideas are being used to help out. One is to use drones a lot more and so avoid needing humans to go out and about. Some of the first usagee of drones is to go out and monitor the streets. If the drone sees people not wearing face masks it can use its loudspeakers to warn people to get indoors. More advanced drones have temperature sensors and can detect people who have a fever and alert the authorities that the individual needs quarantining.

Although things remain very bad in Hubei province there is some encouraging signs that the virus is under control elsewhere. Shanghai has seen a drop in the number of quarantined people (6th Feb). However much of this is because the New Year holiday has been extended and most people have stayed put at home. It will soon be necessary for many workers to go back to work to keep the economy moving and with this an increased chance of infection.

drone in flight
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Thu 30th Jan

We tend to leave the big news stories to dedicated news web sites but in the case of the current outbreak of coronavirus it is too significant to overlook. It is difficult to imagine how tough life must be in Wuhan and the rest of Hubei province with the place in lock-down (around 60 million people). Experts are skeptical about how effective this unprecedented government action will be. Although the bulk of the cases is in Hubei (4,586 on 29/1/2) there are already 3,197 or 41% of cases outside this region. [Follow the link for up-to-date statistics] It is fairly easy to live for a few days in lock-down but to expect 50 million people to live in relative comfort for two weeks is stretching even China's capabilities. Thankfully the fatality rate is lower than SARS at about 2%, but many people who catch it require hospital treatment to make a full recovery. If the infection spreads beyond a million people then it is hard to see how health care systems can cope. There is widespread footage of a hospital being built from scratch in a week but this only will be for 1,000 patients which is already looking far too few. The big threat of the virus is that it seems to take quite a time to show symptoms and the person is infectious during these crucial days. It is easy for someone to be in close contact with hundreds of other people during just one trip to a busy city center and so controlling the spread may prove impossible.

As there is no vaccine on the horizon for at least six months it is likely that governments are underplaying the risks to contain possible mass panic. Facemasks offer limited protection, they are more to help prevent infected people spreading the virus further rather than protected uninfected people. Already economic effects are significant with China's predicted growth rate marked down and stock markets worldwide taking a downturn. The next week will be crucial, if the rate of spread does not start slowing down then a global pandemic looks pretty inevitable. Our thoughts are with everyone caught up with this crisis at a time which should be one of rejoicing at the start of a New Year.

Hubei, Wuhan, cityscape, skyscraper
Wuhan, Hebei at night

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Mon 20th Jan

To celebrate the start of a new twelve year cycle - the year of the Rat - we've produced a fiendishly difficult New Year Quiz and also a recipe for a very popular New Year treat - jiaozi. The Spring Festival falls on Saturday 25th January and for many people the holiday will last a whole week. Xīn nián kuài lè - Happy New Year!

Yeat of the rat
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Thu 16th Jan
In the largest annual migration of humanity most people in China will be traveling back to the family home for the Chinese New Year on 25th January. The visit home ( bài nián) will stretch the capacity of China's rail and air networks when up to 3.6 billion trips are made. The improved rail system is built around a grid of eight vertical (north-south) and eight horizontal (east-west) lines linking all parts of the country. About 20 million travel tickets will be bought each day. The latest smartphone tickets and facial recognition should speed up the system somewhat but anyone traveling will have to expect delays and over-crowding.
airport, people, queue
Queue for airport desk for Chinese New Year flights Copyright © Dreamstime see image license

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Thu 9th Jan

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.

noodles
Various 2019 calendars on display at a bookstore. VCG Photo
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Fri 27th Dec 2019

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!

noodles
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Fri 20th Dec 2019

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.

tally count,zheng tally count,English
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Wed 18th Dec 2019

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.

singapore
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Wed 11th Dec 2019

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.

Jinci, Shanxi, sculpture, deity
Queen Mother of the West and maidservants in painted clay sculpture at Jinci, Taiyuan, Shanxi. It was built in the Ming dynasty.

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Wed 4th Dec 2019

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 wǒ tài nán le ‘I am stressed’. The phrase 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 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”.

Shanghai, people
Nanjing Road, Shanghai Copyright © Dreamstime see image license

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Wed 13th Nov 2019

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.

Wang Dewen,carpenter
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Wed 30th Oct 2019

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.

university, library, people
Students in university library Copyright © Dreamstime see image license

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Wed 23rd Oct 2019

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.

Shang dynasty, bronze, tiger
Early bronze tiger mask

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Tue 15th Oct 2019

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.

belt and road
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Dragon Boat, festival
Dragonboat Racing Festival Macau 2005. Image by lidxplus available under a Creative Commons license

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