北京 Beijing Winter Wonderland

We had planned to visit Beijing, the Nujiang Valley in Yunnan,and the Ice festival in Harbin over the Christmas break. The dates for the Christmas and New year holiday at the university in Madrid would have been perfect. Unfortunately, due to unforseen circumstances we had to cancel the trip.

However, our friend Fu Dawei has sent some fantastic photos of the coldest winter in Beijing for many years. We hope you enjoy them!

The pictures remind us of when we first visited Beijing in the winter of 1990.  However, in that year the temperature was around -6 to -8 degrees. This year it is hovering around -15 to-17. As you can see from the next photo you have to wrap up to keep warm.

Beijing Hangover

HolaChina: Your Gateway to China

It’s not often I make forecasts on what will happen in China, usually they leave you with egg on your face. However, this time I’m going to venture that China is going to face a big post Olympics hangover. Below are my thoughts.

Inflation

There will be big rise in Inflation due to the governments efforts to artificially keep inflation in check before the Olympics will be removed. As a consequence interests rates will have to rise to keep inflation in check.

Houses

Even long before the Olympics there has been a housing boom in Beijing and other cities. After the Olympics thousands of hotel rooms are going to converted into flats adding to an already saturated market.

The Stock Market

All ready more than 50% down on its peak, it will continue to fall as inflation rises and global growth slows down. Many small investors are being seriously burned.

Jobs and Output

China’s industrial model based on low wages appears to be stalling. In the industrial heartland of Guangdong factories are having to deal with a number of increasing problems that are cutting profit margins and seeing record factory closures.

Some of those factors are:

  • Falling global demand
  • Higher wage costs
  • Difficulty in recruiting new labour from the provinces
  • New environmental and labour laws
  • Dislocation by foreign and Chinese companies to countries with lower costs.

Beijing 1990 – 2007

Up until the 1950s, Beijing was an architectural wonder, an almost perfectly preserved metropolis from the pre-industrial era. Many ancient towns and cities exist around the world, but Beijing was enormous: 62.5 square kilometres (25 square miles) large including lakes, parks, palaces and of course the Forbidden City, the emperor’s home. Surrounded by some of the greatest fortified walls of antiquity, it was a microcosm of ancient China, a city that symbolized the political and religious ideals of a system that had existed for twenty – five hundred years. Ian Johnson, Wild grass, p. 101

HolaChina: Your Gateway to China

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Part One- Beijing 1990


Stepping out onto the concourse outside Beijing railway station into the sharp winter sunlight we saw the number 20 bus pulling in. “That’s the one!” I shouted to Margie. We stormed it with the rest of Beijing. The descending passengers didn’t stand a chance as the mob rushed the opening doors. I tried to use my backpack to annihilate any opposition in my quest to get a seat. However, despite my efforts, the old ladies with their jabbing elbows still managed to get on before us. But we did get our bums on those precious seats in the end. Two foreign tourists getting off the bus looked at us in total shock and disgust. But, hey, we had already been out in Western China for 2 months, and when in Rome… Welcome to Beijing 1990.

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It’s a long time ago, but Margie kept a diary, so the memories come flooding back every time we reread it. I remember a cold, hazy city. The sun, though occasionally glaring, was more often weak and blotted out by a polluted sky (worse than now). When the clouds covered the sky, snow sometimes fluttered in the air, but mostly melted before it had time to settle. The people looked pretty poor, though there were some inklings of an incipient urban sophistication we hadn’t seen elsewhere in China. Something was happening but we couldn’t quite put our fingers on it…..

For more go to: HolaChina: Your Gateway to China

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The Uninvited 不速之客(Book Review)

The Uninvited’ – a novel by Geling Yan

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Scratching beneath the surface of Beijing’s modern façade, Geling Yan reveals a world of inequality, corruption and sycophantic banality. The main character, Dan, is an unemployed factory worker who lives with his wife, Little Plum, in their old factory’s run-down accommodation on the outskirts of Beijing. By accident, Dan realizes he can earn a nice living and enjoy the pleasures of China’s finest cuisine by pretending to be a journalist.

In modern-day China, journalists are often invited to functions in order to write positive reviews about whatever corporation or society is holding the event. They are wined and dined in lavish style and then, to top it all, they are paid “money for your trouble” to reward them for their attendance and encourage the publication of favourable articles. The banquets are bizarre and farcical; for instance, the bird watchers’ society culminates its event by serving up one of China’s most endangered birds.

Dan’s life becomes more complicated when he meets the famous painter, Ocean Chen, and the determined and ambitious journalist, Happy Gao. From this point onwards, Dan is taken on journey of discovery that will immerse him in the bowels of Beijing’s less savoury side. Quickly, the thin veneer of a stable, dynamic and modern city is peeled away and its rotten core revealed. Exploited prostitutes, money-grabbing constructors, crooked policemen and judges, as well as vain and self-centred artists are all woven into a web of corruption.

Despite the biting irony of the book, ‘The Uninvited’, is often humorous and consistently down to earth. The main characters are likable and real and the plot unravels unexpectedly. Definitely a good read.

Huoguo

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Huo Guo, the fiery hot pot from Sichuan and Chongqing, is undoubtedly one of those great culinary experiences you should try when you visit China. It’s not a meal to have on your own, but something to share and savour in the company of friends. I’ve found that between 4 – 6 diners is about the perfect number, but on many occasions it’s simply a case of ‘the more the merrier’.

What exactly is a Huoguo?

A Huoguo is a giant pot of boiling broth….

For more got to: HolaChina: Your Gateway to China

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