A state-run newspaper hit out against the Communist Party's measures to
temporarily improve Beijing's environment during the 50th anniversary of
the People's Republic.
"This so-called good environment is impossible to sustain for the long
term," says the China Youth Daily. "Actions are only taken in response to
special occasions, and are not kept up for long," it adds.
Clear blue skies over the capital during the week-long holiday at the start
of the month quickly reverted to the usual smoggy grey as factories were
ordered back up to full production. Small-time vendors quickly swarmed back
on to city streets, contributing to traffic jams, noise and the litter that
now once again clogs the few streams winding through the capital. Twelve
million registered inhabitants and migrant workers in Beijing were well
aware that government slogans urging them to help keep things clean for yet
another event were simply temporary measures, the paper says.
"The surface environment is good for a time, but the daily life of ordinary
people does not improve," it says. "On the contrary, it worsens."
Government officials and managers at state-run enterprises know that soon
after the special dates pass they can resume neglecting their duties or
discharging pollutants into the air and water. The paper says: "If the
Government wants ordinary people to willingly protect the environment, it
should let them see that it continues to put real effort into improving the
environment after National Day, and make people feel that its fundamental
aim is to create happiness for the people, not just to add color to
festivities or to highlight leaders' achievements."
An old man named Ling recently died in Shanghai. During the funeral,
everybody was crying. Two women in particular were crying and screaming
louder than the rest. However, the older two sons and one daughter of Mr.
Ling remained very quiet. Suddenly, the two women crying and screaming stopped. Everybody was shocked
that these two who seemed so upset with the death of Mr. Ling, suddenly
stopped crying and screaming in the middle of the funeral procession. One
of the women turned to the eldest of Mr. Ling's sons and exclaimed roughly,
"Time is almost up, so it is time to pay the bill!"
The elder son was shocked. "Time is not yet up, so why pay so early?" he
"Huh?" the woman snapped back. "If this funeral procession keeps going and
we keep crying for you, then we must calculate overtime. You must pay
double according to the labor law. Don't you realize, we cry and mourn up
to the amount paid for. Then we stop. You want us to cry more, then pay
One of the relatives realized that the women were only being paid to cry.
"When it's time for the sons to cry, they don't bother. They pay another to
cry for them. This funeral is meiyou yisi!"
Xinmin Evening News
In Dahua county, Guangxi Autonomous Region, the local health department
finished building a beautiful office building. The three health department
bureau chiefs got together and planned the "house warming" celebration for
their new office. Due to traditional superstitious beliefs they invited a
Taoist priest to select a date for the celebration.
On the day they moved into their office, the health officials lit fireworks
and hired another Taoist priest to say prayers to "scare away ghosts." They
also pasted "posters of ghosts" in their offices to scare evil spirits
away. Then they placed a tiny emperor's throne as the "seat of the spirit"
in the center of their office. Then they requested many local leaders to
come to their office, burn incense, kowtow and then "chase after ghosts" to
"scare them away and avoid misfortune."
The people of this county laughed at all these activities. Rumor spread
among the people to the effect, "How can you trust the health officials if
they believe in superstition and ghosts. Their health work now has nothing
to do with science and fact."
When news of the local health department's superstitious activities was
reported to higher level officials, they were furious. Two of the bureau
directors were sacked and one received a "serious warning from the Party."
The locals laughed even more pointing out that the Taoist priests ended up
bringing only bad luck despite all their efforts.
China's largest hydrodam will lose US$121 million (1billion
yuan) this year, according to its general manager, because it doesn't have enough
customers for its output. When the massive Ertan dam, which spans a Yangtze
tributary in Sichuan province, began producing electricity last year,
China's top leaders praised it for demonstrating China's ability to build
world-class projects. Partly financed by the World Bank, the US$3.4 billion
hydrodam was built to alleviate "severe power shortages."
But last month Xinhua News Agency reported that Liu Junfeng, general
manager of Ertan Hydropower Development Corporation, "has become
increasingly anxious" because he can only sell 60 percent of the dam's
output. With many state-owned factories shutting down, electricity
consumption has dropped sharply, and China is faced with a growing
surplus of electricity after a decade of rapid expansion.
Ertan officials are furious that Chongqing municipality-the dam's largest
prospective customer-has refused to buy 31 percent of Ertan's power output,
as agreed to in 1995, saying it only needs 14 percent. An Ertan spokesman
says that Chongqing, which separated from Sichuan province in 1997 and
became a municipality under the central government, has other reasons for
refusing Ertan power besides the electricity glut. Local power plants,
newly-built and financed by the private sector, can readily produce power
more cheaply than Ertan. And because Chongqing's new status allows it to
collect tax from power producers in its jurisdiction, the municipality now
has a financial incentive to favor local power producers over
Deregulation of the electricity industry also allows power consumers in
Chongqing to choose their own power suppliers based on economic
considerations such as price and efficiency. Knowing that cheaper power is
available locally, Chongqing leaders have complained that the price of
Ertan power, about six US$.06 cents per kilowatt-hour, is too high. The
Ertan Corporation, meanwhile, has lost its monopoly status and can't force
consumers to buy power they don't want or need.
Ertan is thus threatened, not just by the electricity glut, but by the
increasingly competitive electricity market, Xinhua News Agency reports.
Unless Ertan's managers can find more customers, the dam will be losing an
estimated US$2.4 million daily by the time its last two turbines are
installed next year.
A pet project of former premier Li Peng, Ertan will have a total generating
capacity of 3300 MW. Its difficulties are an ominous sign for the Three
Gorges dam, which is also in Sichuan province. Three Gorges, which is
designed to produce five times as much electricity as Ertan, is expected to
start generating electricity in 2003.
While China looks to expand the global market for its traditional
medicines, conservationists are trying to ensure that won't mean a greater
threat to tigers, rare plants and other endangered wildlife often used in
the remedies. At a conference organized by the Chinese government, World
Wildlife Fund officials are urging Beijing to meet strict standards barring
use of endangered species as it develops its market. "Our mission is
clear," Peter DeBrine, an official in the U.S.-based WWF, says. "We must
work together to develop new global standards that will guide traditional
Chinese medicine markets away from endangered species toward more
environmentally healthy alternatives." DeBrine predicts Chinese traditional
medicine sales worldwide will grow from an annual volume of just under US$1
billion now to US$12 billion in the next decade. While China uses Western
medicines, it also still relies on the traditional medicines from complex
recipes of plant and animal parts that date back some 3,000 years. Tiger
bones are used to treat rheumatism and to promote bone healing, while rhino
horn has been used for fevers, says Huang Lixin, president of the San
Francisco-based American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Though the use of some animals, including tigers and rhinoceroses, is already
illegal in China, demand remains strong and an underground market fed by
smuggling continues to flourish, says James Harkness, director of WWF's
China program. But the endangered species aren't a necessity in making
medicine. Traditional doctors in China long have substituted other
materials for tiger and rhino parts because they have become so rare, Huang
says. One example: Bones of the sailong, a north China rat used in Tibetan
medicine, are certified in China as a substitute for "Tiger Bone Wine," a
famous tonic. "Any professional in the field of oriental herbal medicine
would recognize that for every substance supplied by endangered species
there are many effective substitutes," Huang says. The trick, she says, is
getting consumers to accept that such substitutes are just as good as the
endangered ingredients. Education campaigns are needed to convince
consumers, Huang says. Her organization has been promoting the use of
substitutes among traditional Chinese medicine users in San Francisco and
Canada over the past year.