This article is by Johan van de Ven, whose undergraduate dissertation at Oxford University examined the effects of factors such as environmental movements, diplomacy and social media on air pollution policy-making in China.
In a study conducted from June to December 2013, I quantitatively and qualitatively examined a variety of social media and mainstream media articles related to air pollution and compared the results with government statements and policy making events, with the aim of answering the question: Was social media primarily responsible for government action on air pollution in China? Read more
It may just confirm what we already know — the smog is getting worse: China’s Meteorological Administration says that there were more smoggy days nationwide this year than anytime during the past 52 years. In Beijing, that includes half of the days in the month of October.
As if number alone is not alarming enough, several media articles cropped up this week that added a sense of urgency to the issue. Some such stories may seem anecdotal. On Tuesday, China News Service ran a headline shouting “smog causes cancer; youngest patient is only eight years old”. The story tells a sad tale of an eight-year-old girl who was diagnosed with malignant lung tumor, a disease that is usually associated with smokers and the elderly. Though grounded on little more than speculation, the article suggests a a cause by describing that the child’s home was next to a dusty road. On Wednesday, Hong Kong’s South Morning Post published an article that the smog might have a role to play in police’s failure to prevent a terrorist attack, in which a Uighur man smashed his vehicle against one of the bridges in front of Tian’anmen, killing everyone onboard and several passers-by on his way. Low visibility caused by smog can blind surveillance cameras, says the newspaper.
Errant weeing will no longer be tolerated in Shenzhen. From yesterday, new regulations made any instance of uncivilized behavior in public bathrooms in the city liable to a 100 yuan fine. As Shenzhen Evening News reports today, however, enforcing straight weeing is much easier said than done. Read more
Satan Lucky is the pen name of cartoonist and illustrator based in Beijing. He publishes some of his work on Weibo. His style is based on Ukiyo-e — literally “pictures of the floating world”, the traditional Japanese style of woodblock prints and paintings of nature, history, scenes from the theater and of geishas and other urban decadences.
Some of Satan Lucky’s cartoons depict fantastic beats that seem to have no connection with contemporary reality, while others can be read as critical commentary In the gallery below, for example, 404 (the error number most Web browsers indicate when trying to access a blocked site in China) is depicted as a beast that sits on the computer, blocking access to Youtube and Facebook, while Flesh Net Beggar refers to the way in which resourceful people can avoid paying fines to the Flesh Net Beggar and “jump over” the Great Firewall. Read more
The news has been dominated in recent days with stories relating to the somehow sudden discovery of a three-story villa covered in shrubbery sitting atop a 26-story building in western Beijing. Now, as construction (or rather, deconstruction) workers set about removing grapevines from atop the villa, the Beijing Times reports that the chengguan, China’s notoriously thuggish “urban management officers”, have adopted a softer approach to the man behind Beijing’s “most awesome illegal building”. Danwei readers will remember the chengguan for their recent killing of a melon vendor in Hunan. This time, according to the Beijing Times’ feature report, “the chengguan will not issue a fine as the villa owner has already commenced demolition.” Read more
The front page of the Nanhu Evening News tells us today that “The news that everyone is paying attention to right now is the heat.” This has been the case for the past few weeks. As we covered on Danwei, newspapers in Shanghai recently wondered if the summer of 2013 might end up being even worse than the heatwave of 1934. Now, the Zhejiang, Jiaxing-based Nanhu Evening News has given a face to the fight against the heatwave facing China. The front page of this newspaper is dominated by a photograph of a man in a boiler suit with his arms dangling down a manhole. The headline below demands that people “Pay respect to the temperature warrior.”
This caption of this photograph reads, “Yesterday, beneath the searing midday sun, the ground temperature in central Jiaxing reached more than 70° centigrade. On the south ring road, a water service repairman named Gong Jinqian lay on the scorching ground, fixing a broken water meter for local residents. He spent more than half an our on the furnace-like ground until the meter was fixed, and when he got up, his entire body was drenched.”
Gong Jinqian may have been the most photogenic hero in Jiaxing yesterday, but he was not alone in his bravery. Read more
In late April a strange golden Buddha statue was erected in an amusement park in Luoyang, Henan province. With protruding belly, big smile and long ears, the statue in various ways resembled many other Buddha statues. Yet right at the top of the statue there was a fashion statement that is rarely seen in Buddhist imagery: a slick and smooth combed-back hairstyle. This utterly incongruous modern addition was just too much for many Internet commentators.
In the eye of the storm of public outrage, the Buddha was suddenly removed after a few days. But as the front page of the Zhengzhou Evening News (郑州晚报) from Henan province reports today, the slick Buddha is back! And it’s likely that the reason for this is that the statue was in fact made in the image of some entrepreneur (although which one we don’t know) who likes to see a massive golden statue of himself made in the image of a golden Buddha.
The “White-Haired Girl” (白毛女) was one of the first films made in the People’s Republic of China. Originally a Chinese opera and later a ballet, the film depicts the miserable life endured by a peasant girl whose poor father is murdered by a rapacious landlord. The landlord then takes the girl as a concubine and mistreats her, but she escapes and lives alone in the mountains for many years, surviving on the offerings at a nearby temple. Years later the landlord comes to worship at the temple during a stormy night. In a flash of lightning he sees the girl – now a disheveled, white-haired figure – and is nearly scared to death by what he perceives to be a reincarnated goddess come to punish him for his misdeeds.
The front page of the Shenyang Evening News (沈阳晚报) from Liaoning province today recalls this legend of the white-haired girl in the mountains with a very real report on a “wild woman” that was found deep in the mountains of Gansu. Like the White-Haired girl, this woman’s tale is likewise infinitely sad and appalling.
For eight years already now, a small workers’ residential community in Jingzhou, Hubei province has “quietly” been living a revolution. In 2005, errant fireworks caused a fire on a balcony in this community, and drawing the (painfully obvious yet in China excruciatingly absent) conclusion that fireworks on the whole just isn’t worth it, decided to ban the stuff altogether. As the front page of the Jingzhou Evening News reports today, for the last eight years Beiling has been living in a near nirvana-like state of calm and serenity. So can we all Learn from Beiling?
The millions of migrant workers in China have a tough life. Leaving their homes to find work and separated from their families almost all year round, they toil in the cities for little pay and reside in ramshackle lodgings. Yet this much we know about migrant workers, what we know less about is how these migrant workers deal with the loneliness and isolation of their long and difficult sojourns. After more than a month of research and interviews with migrant workers in the city of Ningbo, the Contemporary Gold (现代金报) newspaper from Zhejiang province today published a front page story on the phenomenon of migrant workers forming “temporary couples” (临时夫妻) in the cities.
The newspaper recounts the stories of a few individual migrant workers in Ningbo that have formed temporary bonds of love and support in the cities to help shoulder the difficult burden of urban life. The newspaper quotes statistics from the Ministry of Health that around 80% of migrant workers in China are in a sex-starved state. And not only this, they are alone in an unfamiliar location, with little money, and no-one to comfort them. So perhaps it’s not at all surprising that migrant workers are seeking to make temporary arrangements.
One of the stories that Contemporary Gold relates today is that of Old Shen and Xiaoyan, both married migrant workers, who found each other in Ningbo. Their tale illustrates just how some migrant workers are dealing with the difficult circumstances they face in the cities, and how they have to face the consequences of their decisions.