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Beijing Scene, Volume 5, Issue 18, July 23 - 29


Crocodile Tears
There was a factory director named Chen whose mother passed away. In order to "raise up the spirit of the funeral" Director Chen hired five people who were specialists at crying during funeral processions. These professional tear droppers could cry in many different styles. Some would cry very sadly, others with big screams, others could cry as if really suffering-all very professional.

During the funeral Director Chen's wife was furious. "You say that his mother suffered so much in life and everybody is crying over her death, that's just rubbish. In fact, it was me the daughter-in-law who had to suffer when his mother was alive. But now you all say nice things. Well I ought to die too just so you can say nice things about me as well." Then she began to cry. Soon all the relatives were crying at the funeral alongside the professional funeral wailers. Then the crying stopped. The funeral was nearly over and it was time for Director Chen to pay money to the professionals who were crying. Director Chen paid RMB200 to each. But then the relatives who were crying too thought that this was unfair because they were crying real tears. So Director Chen started to pay each of his relatives RMB200 for crying at his mother's funeral.

Finally somebody grabbed Chen and tried to rationalize, "What's wrong with you. You only have to pay the professionals who are crying, not your relatives. Your relatives should not be paid, they should be crying because they fare genuinely sad."

"It doesn't matter!" declared factory Director Chen with great 'face'. "Pay the crying money to everybody-RMB 200 each. In the end I will charge it all back to the factory expense account, so it makes no difference-just pay!"
(Xinmin Evening News)

Don't Drink the Water
The Han River which cuts through Wuhan is the largest tributary of the Yangtze River. Residents in Wuhan receive some 60 percent of their drinking water from this river each year.

Within a radius of 5 kilometers along the Han River there are many boats docked along the river bank which have "Men's Room" and "Ladies Room" signs up. These are in fact floating toilets and people working along the river stop off to use them. The owners of the boats collect a fee for letting people use their facilities. The business is really good, in some cases booming.

The boats were originally for cargo, but have since become public toilets. The problem is that all of the human waste is going right into the Han River which provides the main source of drinking water for Wuhan.

Journalists interviewed the director of the Wuhan Port Authority Inspection Department who explained that, "There is no regulation on how to handle these toilet problems. There is no way to penalize them." Given the lack of regulation, it looks like you should not drink the water in Wuhan.
(Beijing Evening News)

Fortune Telling
More and more people are becoming superstitious and believing the words of fortune tellers. Once considered part of the condemned feudal classes in the Mao era, fortune tellers are now making a great leap forward, becoming professionals in their own right.

In Handan City, Hebei Province, one fortune teller became known as the "first mouth in Handan" because everybody listened to his fortune telling before doing anything at all. People also believed that he was a living god. Finally the police had enough of this feudal pest and arrested him, finding some RMB 850,000 in cash in his possession.

However, the police could not prove that the fortune teller had committed any crime. The fortune teller in fact had a rational explanation for his numerous activities as follows: He came from a village where there were over a hundred professional fortune tellers as so many people in his village had decided to enter this profession. The village that all of these fortune tellers are from is called "Huangliang Meng" which means "dreaming nice dreams which evaporate when you awake." He had customers who were both Chinese and foreigners with a "nicely framed price list." The list ofservices included "telling fortune from the face of a person," "telling fortune from writing Chinese character strokes," "household 'feng shui' inspections," and "granting lucky names."

The above services were charged on the basis of two price ranges, one for local Chinese and one for foreigners, with prices starting at a minimum of RMB50 for locals and RMB100 for foreigners. "Household 'feng shui' inspections" requiring house calls were priced at the highest starting rate of RMB1000 for this very personalized service.
(Yangcheng Evening News)

Net Users Double to 4 Million
The number of people in China using the Internet has doubled since the end of last year to four million, the China Internet Network Information Centre says in a survey.

It says there are 1.46 million computers connected to the Internet and 40 percent of the 52,549 users questioned were aged between 21 and 25.

Some 85 percent of users questioned were male and 63 percent were single. Beijing accounted for around 22 percent of the users, with the boomtown of Shanghai accounting for only 8.8 percent, the survey says.

It says most users spend six to 10 hours online each week and 59 percent of those questioned have university degrees. The main gripes of users are slow surfing speeds, high fees and insufficient information.
China slashed telecommunication fees in March but "the payment system still has room for improvement," the official Xinhua news agency quotes Chen Yin, director of the Ministry of Information's development and planning section, as saying.

Chen says the ministry is making efforts to improve the system and catch up with international Internet speeds, Xinhua says.

China may further reduce telecommunications fees in the future, Chen says.

Experts estimate that China's Internet population will balloon to 10
million by the end of 2000.

Yuan Dynasty
China's central bank chief rattled nervous foreign exchange markets by saying the value of the currency would be set by the market, but officials quickly added there was no policy shift.

Governor of the People's Bank of China Dai Xianglong told reporters that the value of the yuan, the local currency, was subject to market forces.

"The exchange rate is determined by supply and demand on the market," he told reporters after a meeting of the Bank for International Settlements in Shanghai.

The respected central bank chief, in reply to several questions about the exchange rate, did not repeat his frequent mantra of "no currency

Currency traders say that his remarks raised speculation that Beijing was backing away from its policy of firm support for the currency.

A Chinese central bank official later said there had been no policy change and that the yuan had a "market-determined, managed floating rate."
"That has been our policy since 1994," says Li Ruogu, director general of the central bank's international department.

China ended its dual exchange rate system in 1994 and set up its Shanghai-based national foreign exchange trading system. It keeps trade on the system in a narrow band and maintains controls on the capital account, mainly investments.

Since the Asian financial crisis emerged two years ago, foreign exchange markets have been periodically buffeted by speculation that China might devalue.

Beijing has held its currency steady but some economists have suggested that once Asia recovers from its regional crisis, China might allow a modest devaluation.

Some economists have also said that China's exporters would need a boost sooner or later while domestic manufacturers could use protection from import competition if the nation succeeds in its bid to join the World Trade Organization.

Such speculation was dismissed by the central bank's international
department director. "I don't think we are going to devalue anyway," he says.
In a previous news conference, the central bank governor said that the key to the exchange rate is the nation's balance of payments position.
Dai repeated his previous remarks that the balance of payments position was strong and that supported a steady yuan.

China's exports have been hit by the Asian crisis but they remain in surplus. The nation had a surplus of US$7.07 billion in the first five months of the year, down from surplus of US$18.5 billion from a year earlier. Foreign direct investment was US$13.9 billion during the same period, though that slipped 6.6 percent from the period last year.

In a separate announcement, the official Xinhua news agency says China's foreign exchange reserves were US$147.05 billion as of the end of June, up US$2.09 billion since the beginning of the year.


  Previous Stories...

July 16 -22, 1999

July 9 - 15, 1999

July 2 - 8, 1999

June 25 - July 1, 1999


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