Tag Archives: pollution

Beijing: Mission Accomplished

3 Apr

chinese flagI finally got to Beijing last month. Now, a few Noodlers may remember that the last time I tried to fly there during summer 2013 I got as far as the airport before I was turned back. So my hopes weren’t high. I’ve also been a little dismissive of its somewhat dubious claims to be a genuine contender for world city alongside the likes of New York and London. Pollution, common rudeness and a somewhat robust approach to civil liberties (and journalists) did not fill me with a great deal of hope for a lovely weekend away.

Well in the end the planes flew on time; the 72-hour transit visa (flying from Macau and back to Hong Kong) worked a treat; and the miserable immigration guard only laughed once in my face, which I think is about as good as it gets in Beijing. The skies were the bluest blue I’ve ever seen in this part of the world, the locals were, well, pretty decent sorts, and the Hutong bars were an eclectic, messy, jumbled-up delight. Add in Peking duck at Da Dong and an overnighter to the Great Wall and you have just about the perfect weekend getaway.

In fact, the whole weekend made me thoroughly unimpressed on my return with the moody arrogance of parochial Hong Kongers, their shitty identikit bar/clubs, and paranoid NIMBY-fied attitude to late night licensing. For the record, I still like dim sum and junk trips though.

Here, as promised, is some gratuitous photo-porn from the weekend.

mau

forbidden city

lanterns

Lovely hutong: nanluoguxiang

Zhonglou and gulou

Zhonglou and Gulou: Bell tower and drum tower

gulou

great wall

toboggan

The only way to exit the Great Wall

chinese flag

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Chinese diaspora hurtles UK towards Milkageddon

17 Apr

glass of milkIt’s rainy season again.

Not rainy like those insipid drizzly squalls we used to get back in Blighty – this stuff comes in full tilt, balls out, end-of-the world downpours. And it’s usually accompanied by the kind of thunderstorms you’ll rarely see outside of 70s horror films. The urge to sit staring out of the window with a cigarette in my mouth writing some terrible poetry is almost crippling.

Anyway, one potentially positive side-effect of these daily drenchings for young Hong Kong mothers is that it may put off the local milk powder smugglers from their despicable cross-border trade.

Yeah, public confidence in the safety of baby formula sold on the mainland is so low these days that a huge parallel trading industry has grown up whereby powder is bought up en masse in HK and sold for a profit across the border. It has become so bad that the LegCo last month slapped a restricted export license on the stuff, making it equitable to rough diamonds and high grade pharmaceuticals.

Get caught carrying more than the personal allowance of two cans without a license these days and you’re in for a potential fine of HK$500k (£40,000) or two years in the slammer.

I read with much mirth last week, that the UK is now suffering the same fate, with major retailers restricting restricting the sale of milk powder as Chinese tourists and students rush to send the stuff back home. Perhaps more to blame though are the wily entrepreneurs who are snapping the stuff up at source before it can be distributed to the retailers and shipping it out to China for a profit of up to double what they paid for it.

Reuters says that, apart from the public health concerns of milk powder made in the PRC, demand is also being fuelled by an increase in middle-class working mothers – wherever they are in China.

All of which encouraged me to ponder what the future holds.

In a country where dead pigs float, rather than fly, in their tens of thousands down rivers, and air pollution levels regularly oscillate between “extreme danger: stay indoors” and “it’s eaten through the doors! Fuuuuuuck!”  there’s unlikely to be an improvement in public confidence about food safety in the near term.

So unless China’s young Mums decide to go “back to basics” (cue Benny Hill music) with their baby feeding habits, are we headed for the Milk Wars?

I envisage a dystopic future post-Milk War III (MW3) in which the planet has effectively becomes a servile colony producing milk powder, high-powered sports cars, Burberry handbags and terrible hip hop for its economic masters in China. Maybe Ridley Scott to do a film to raise public awareness.

At least we can thank our stars China’s leaders have for the past 30-odd years in their infinite wisdom enforced a very fair and humanitarian one-child policy in the country. Can you imagine the rush on Cow & Gate if they hadn’t? It turns the blood cold.

Oh, it’s stopped raining…

Can you hear the little piggies? Oh no, they’re all dead…

14 Mar

xi jinpingSome breaking news just in from China. Xi Jinping, already anointed general secretary of the Communist Party last November and PLA chief, has won a nail-biting contest which went right down to the wire after he saw off no-comers to claim the presidency of his country.

Cocky Xi, 59, said “I thought I had a chance when the only political party in the country elected me unanimously as its leader that I might just be able to squeeze over the line and I’m glad to say that all my hard work campaigning door-to-door has paid off. I’m dedicating this one to the PEOPLE!”

Now, of course that’s not what Xi said. It was a simple lampoon. But I hope it’s at least partially successful in expressing a tiny bit of cynicism at today’s ‘election’, during which national broadcaster CCTV actually reported that the National People’s Congress (aka China’s annual ‘parliament’) took a break to count the votes. A break to count the votes. Yeah, and make sure you do it carefully people because every…vote…counts. If that isn’t democracy in action, I don’t know what is.

In the end Xi secured 2,952 votes, with one brave soul voting against and three abstensions. Seriously, did someone lose their fucking marbles? They voted against? Before you have a pop at the Chinese presidential elections, though, check out the voter turnout. President Xi now has a 99.86 per cent mandate to do whatever he and his seven-man Politburo team, and of course all the shadowy factional power string-pullers, put their mind to. In your face Obama.

So while that one poor soul who didn’t vote for Xi can expect a swift exit from front-line politics, what can the rest of us look forward to from Xi’s China?  Well, less ostentatious displays of wealth from cadres for sure – in fact, the austerity/corruption crackdown has already begun, primarily because it makes central government look good. Hopefully that will also mean fewer instances of spoilt princelings wrapping their Ferraris around motorway bridges whilst getting sucked off by high class hookers. Actually, no, I’d quite like that to continue, if it keeps the general population of these arrogant little runts down.

We can certainly expect to see more effort to turn the whole smog thing round. The pollution levels in Beijing and other cities regularly go off the scale. I mean literally, they don’t even have measurements for how fucked people’s lungs are getting. Fujian province has even marketed itself to tourists on the back of its supposedly superior air quality with Partridge-esque slogans such as: “Welcome to a breath of fresh air”, and, “Take a deep breath. You’re in Fujian”. This interesting campaign was only curtailed recently when hundreds of dead piglets were found in a ditch in the province, contaminating the water and turning the air rather sour. Nice one Fujian.

Yes. Dead pigs. We can certainly expect a whole heap more public health scandals of this kind. In fact, over 6,000 of the oinky critters have been fished out of Shanghai’s  Huangpu river in recent days. In response to concerns that the water, which is processed into drinking H2O, was contaminated, President Xi remarked that a good “citizen test” to see if a river’s water is safe is to get the local mayor to go for a swim in it. Fancy a punt on the Huangpu Xi? Thought not.

If that wasn’t bad enough, it seems that the reason for the mass porcine disaster-cide is that diseased pigs were being killed and dumped in the river upstream after a local government crackdown meant they could no longer be slaughtered for eventual sale as processed pork-style products. Yes, diseased and dying pigs slaughtered for meat on an as-yet-unknowable scale. Forget randy monkeys, this is probably how AIDS started.