Posts Tagged ‘urbanisation’

Elysium, China and the Electric Car Question

China Elysium

China Elysium

 

On the long flight back from China to New Zealand recently, one of the films I watched was Elysium.  The sci-fi thriller probably won’t make my top-10 list, but some of the content felt disturbingly close to home.

 

Although earth in Elysium was depicted as a polluted and overpopulated Los Angeles in 2154, it had elements of the way China is going right now, as the air and water pollution seem to be getting worse every year.  The luxurious space habitat that the earthlings wanted to escape to, reminded me a little bit of New Zealand – although with slightly better looking inhabitants and a far superior health system.

 

A recent McKinsey poll in China, found air and water pollution to be Chinese consumers’ fastest growing concerns – 11% and 7% up on last year – and the forth and fifth biggest concerns overall.  Interestingly, the concerns were confirmed by a recent report by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, claiming that Beijing was almost uninhabitable for human beings due to the pollution. Whether or not these claims are ‘exaggerated‘, as reported by Chinese state media, the pollution appears to be getting even worse, not better, based on both official reports and my personal experiences, particularly in Shanghai.

 

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157 Cities in China with more people than Berlin, 110 with more than Sydney

Most people have heard of Shanghai and Beijing, but I bet there’d be very few Westerners who could name 50% of the 113 cities with more people than San Francisco’s metro area. Every month in China, there is a city the size of Brisbane added to the landscape. On the Yangtze River alone, 18 cities have more people than New Zealand.

 

What’s remarkable, is the number of China’s mega-cities that most people have never heard of.  Consumers in those cities are becoming increasingly wealthy, and their tastes are going to increasingly influence the whole world.  To bring some perspective to the scale of China’s cities, my marketing and research agency, China Skinny, has created a simple tool, The City-Nator, where you can enter your city, or a population over 1 million and see how many Chinese cities have more people.  It’s quite fun, try it out at chinaskinny.com/tools/city-nator.

 

Below is a little infograph to warm up…

The rise of China's cities means are going to influence everyone, everywhere

The rise of China’s cities means are going to influence everyone, everywhere


 
See how your city compares to Chinese cities, try out the City-Nator

So China

Pristine Chinese wedding dresses hang next to a filthy moped workshop

Pristine Chinese wedding dresses hang next to a filthy moped workshop

 

It’s one of my favourite things about living in China – the constant contrasts at every turn. There’s the well known scenes: snot-green Lamborghinis zipping past peasants dragging stacks of wood, ultra-modern skyscrapers acting as a backdrop to crumbling lane houses where multiple families share a tap.

 

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China’s Police Force: The Most Approachable in the World?

The international press hasn’t been shy reporting the dramas in the build up to this week’s change of leadership in China.  There’s been the blocking of Google and other annoying Internet disruptions,  the 1.4 million-strong volunteer security force keeping peace in Beijing, and the unrelated, somewhat sensationalised reports of thousands clashing with the police in China.  But there seems little coverage of the positive change taking place right now in China’s police force.

 

A Chinese policeman on a bike

The new face of China’s Police force

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64 years of Hard Labour to Marry Your Traditional Chinese Bride

If you were born in China post the 1979 One-Child-Policy, you’d better hope you’re a karaoke crooner or have a lot of cash.  Getting a wife in China is becoming increasingly difficult.

 

If you’re one of those boys who does find your Chinese bride and grows old with her talking about sunsets on the Nile River, you’re one of the lucky ones.  Tens of millions will be without.  Yep, for every 100 boys born in China these days, there’re only 81 Chinese girls to woo.  And with those ratios, it just pushes the stakes up.

 

One of the lucky ones - A handsome Chinese groom in pink with his lovely bride prior to their traditional Chinese marriage in Shanghai

Not so traditional Chinese marriage outfits worn by a lucky groom and his Chinese bride

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Yangtze vs Nile – Which river runs supreme?

I’ve lived beside four rivers in my life.  As a youngster, Wellington’s mighty Hutt River was my favourite spot for sitting in inner tubes and doing ‘bombs’ into.  Then there was Dublin’s River Liffey, the resting place of more pint glasses than any other river in the world.   Preparing for our paddle down the Blue Nile, I lived in Khartoum, Sudan where the Blue Nile and White Nile meet.  It was there I caught the bug for the world’s longest river.

 

Since moving to Shanghai on banks of the Yangtze River Delta, my fascination with rivers hasn’t tempered and I’ve become curious about how two of the world’s greatest rivers compare.

 

Yangtze River Compared to the Nile River

China’s enchanting Yangtze River and Africa’s magical Nile River

 

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Chinese Rats Don’t Know How Good They’ve Got It

Just as the Beijing Health Bureau broke the news that the Beijing rat population has increased 15% in the past year, we started hearing noises in the night. Disappearing food and rat poop confirmed that we had a resident rodent.

 

filthy rat running riot in Shanghai

Billions of mangy rats run riot in China. By Edal Anton Lefterov

 

Now we’re no strangers to rats. Just two years ago we were stalked by our fury foe back in Wellington. Then last year we went on a pilgrimage to the rat-ridden Karni Mata Temple in Rajasthan, India. Yet no matter how many run-ins you have with the genus Rattus, you will never get used to them.

 

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Yiwu China Commodity City

I’ve never been a fan of shopping malls, that was before I went to Yiwu China Commodity City.

 

Yiwu City, about two hours by fast train from Shanghai, has the largest small commodity market in the world. In laymen’s terms that’s a massive mall where you buy large quantities of all the Chinese-made stuff you see in shops and markets all over the world.

 

And massive it is. 4.3 million square metres of floor space containing 62,000 booths representing factories and suppliers producing everything from 2011 Rugby World Cup balls to Hello Kitty socks.

 

Everything is for sale in bulk in Yiwu including NZ Rugby World Cup 2011 rugby balls

Everything is for sale in bulk in Yiwu including NZ Rugby World Cup 2011 rugby balls

 

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Who said China was a-changing?

When I was a youngster, China really scared me. I’d been told if everyone in China all jumped at the same time, the whole world would wobble. Although there hasn’t been a coordinated hop, China is without doubt, shaking up the balance of the world.

 

Curiosity has drawn Ellen and me to get in amongst China during this fascinating time in history. I was lucky enough to be working for an Internet company in North America during the dot-com boom, Ireland when the Celtic Tiger was roaring and New Zealand when microwave ovens were introduced, but nowhere has the rate of change been more apparent than in the Middle Kingdom.  This is the biggest boom in history.

 

The rate of change for almost everything in China is staggering; incomes (almost 300% since 2000), car sales (32% last year), the market for art (25% last year), number of billionaires (57% last year).  Even more impressive is the scale of it all – the rates are measured across 1.3 billion people!  And although developing countries have a low starting point to measure growth from, significant tracts of China are long past the ‘developing’ stage.  Shanghai, for example, now has a higher average GDP than parts of southern Europe.

 

suburban_beijing

View northwest to the suburbs of Beijing. This is not downtown, but the burbs, where shiny towers are popping up everywhere



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My wife Ellen and I are currently living in China, bumbling our way around this fascinating and fast-changing country. We kicked off our stay with a semester of Intensive Mandarin studies at Beijing Language and Culture University and are now living in Shanghai. These posts cover some of my experiences, views and curious facts in and around the Middle Kingdom. Please let me know what you think!


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