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Wilf Day


Wilf Day

Another babbler asked about a Morocco trip, so that's my excuse: we're going to China next month. Anyone been recently? Any tips?

We'll have three nights in Shanghai, a day in Hangzhou, a stop at a water village (Wuzhen), a day in Suzhou, a Yangzte cruise from Yichang to Chongqing, then Xian, Taishan (Mount Tai) and Qufu, and Jinan, ending with four days in Beijing. Three weeks in all, with a tour group.

After watching that new documentary shown on CBC Sunday night, Up The Yangtze, I will be watching the tour ship staff for those too young and shy to know how to ask for tips without asking.

(Do you know the difference between Chinese and Americans? A Chinese driver and an American driver come to a sign saying "for communism turn left, for capitalism turn right." The American turns right. The Chinese puts on his left turn signal and turns right. But I won't use that line in China.)

[ 02 April 2008: Message edited by: Wilf Day ]


I wish Canada had state-owned banks and construction companies ranking among the world's top 500 largest companies. Our big-little economy might grow at a respectable clip, too, if that was the case.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

I haven't been in China recently -- I did spend a week in Beijing, 4 days in Hong Kong and 2 days in Taipei on a work trip (although we worked some tourist time into it!) about 10 years ago. I know that Beijing has changed a lot in that time.

You will have to share some of your observations as I am about to take another working trip to China in the fall. I'm very much looking forward to it.



Originally posted by Fidel:
[b]I wish Canada had state-owned banks and construction companies ranking among the world's top 500 largest companies. Our big-little economy might grow at a respectable clip, too, if that was the case.[/b]

If we had state-owned banks with the precarious books some of the Chinese state-owned banks have it would not be a great thing. It's generally believed that the Chinese banking system is as screwed or more than the American banking system is, the bubble just hasn't burst yet.

[url=]See here for more[/url]



[b]But Gave and other analysts downplay the problem, maintaining that much of China's bank debt is more like government debt, and its strong foreign reserve position makes it a creditable guarantor of that debt.[/b]

"I just don't see how the so-called train wreck would happen," Gave said. "A train wreck implies a forced seller, and I can't see the Chinese government as a forced seller," he said.

On the other hand, Gave warned, foreign investors looking to put money into Chinese banks should beware of the possibility that a future economic slowdown could motivate the government "to order banks to cough up money in new loans to support flagging growth.".

They're practicing Keynesian finance and banking. Economic growth in China is unprecedented in world history. And China is a net creditor wrt the U.S., and I think a great deal of the debt is internal. But that's not so good either, because I believe what it translates to is that there are vast inequalities within China. They need a social safety net.

According to William Krehm of [url=,],[/url] the People's Investment Bank along with Singapore's state-owned Temasek were snapping up shares in Barclays(British) and 12% of Standard Chartered a few months ago.

Private banks with 29% or more foreign ownership apparently forfeit privileges for money creation in Hong Kong.

Wilf Day

Shanghai, the central city of the central kingdom of the world, is overwhelming in its power and contrasts.

Despite China’s weak central government – almost invisible on the streets of Shanghai – the city has many superb public services.

Pudong is Shanghai’s newest borough. Almost 3 million people, where 16 years ago were only rice fields, Pudong makes Toronto look old and dirty. Shanghai’s 8 metro lines include two brand new ones opened in December. The wide streets are spotless, thanks to the street-sweepers in orange jump suits employed by the local borough, with long brooms worthy of a Moscow babushka. The metro cars are spotless, due to a sweeper moving up and down the train scooping up any stray scrap of paper.

The countless expressways and multi-lane major arteries in all parts of Shanghai are incredibly safe. Despite vast fleets of buses and taxis (which seem to outnumber the private cars) with driving habits that make Montreal drivers look like Sunday school teachers, I saw no hint of any accidents. One collision yesterday between a bus and a truck, in which no one was killed, was page 3 news in the Shanghai Daily.

Bicycle lanes everywhere. Along the major arteries of Pudong, they are condoned off with neat green chains between perfectly placed pilons (why doesn’t Toronto do this?), perhaps to protect the (usually) law-abiding bus drivers from the anarchist cyclists.

Transportation is so cheap. Entering the metro station, you touch your destination station on a touch-screen ticket machine and it sells you a ticket to anywhere downtown or in the inner suburbs for only 4 yuan (60 cents). A taxi from the downtown to our hotel in Pudong costs only 18 yuan (about $2.70).

And this prosperous city somehow makes money. No annual property tax. A small municipal income tax. Do they finance all this by leasing their land (people own their condos, but the city owns the land) to investors building a new building, it seems, every few minutes?

Construction cranes everywhere. Hoardings around demolition sites for the latest sky-scraper, or is it for the latest expressway tunnel or metro line (they are building one new line per year)? The city has about 13 million permanent residents, and perhaps 6 million migrant workers drawn by the boom.

But the future-is-now breakneck gleaming growth of Pudong looks nothing like much of the old city. Alleyways festooned by what our tour guide calls China’s national flag -– laundry –- have a third-world appearance. The Shanghai princesses in the latest fashions, raised in one-child families, jostle on the sidewalks with migrant workers who let their children pee on those sidewalks. Crowds throng entire narrow streets lined with millions of tiny shops, while a tour bus honks in the vain hope of clearing a path. Yes, millions of tiny shops. Even the metro station mezzanines are lined with dozens of tiny shops. How do all these people make a living in such tiny spaces? Oh, and despite its mostly excellent public services, you still can’t drink the tap water.

Pudong and the downtown seem totally bilingual. The metro cars have signs in Chinese and English, and a recorded message in Chinese and English announces the next stop, and re-announces it as you enter. This is for those who are standing where they can’t see the cute little animated map showing the next station by a blinking red light, which a line of dots keep passing as the virtual train zips around the map to show the direction of travel. (A few people even get seats, including the elderly Chinese – but not elderly tourists - to whom everyone yields their seat.) But the bilingual ads along the metro station walls are sometimes in Chinglish.

Yesterday one of our tour group went off on a pilgrimage of his own. His parents were stationed in Shanghai in the 1930s when the Japanese invaded. They let the foreigners stay, even after 1939. But after Pearl Harbour they were all interned as enemy aliens, whole families, including his parents and his two older siblings (he himself was born just after the war.) So he went to see the “concentration camp”— actually a commandeered high school – where they lived for those years. Today it has been converted to condos renting for US$3,000 to $5,000 per month.

Today, on to Hangzhou.

Bicycle lanes.

[ 12 June 2008: Message edited by: Wilf Day ]

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

I envy your trip, WD. It sounds wonderful.

Wilf Day

First, the earthquake.

Our hotel's TV has BBC World (which calls it the "Chinaquake"), NewsAsia from Singapore (which calls it the Sichuan Quake), CCTV9 (China Central TV's English channel which calls it the Wenchuan earthquake), TV5 Monde Asie (French), DW-TV (Deutsche Welle, German), and CNN. All are covering the quake except CNN which is more interested in counting Hillary Clinton's delegates. CCTV gives very frequent updates and live news conferences with uncensored blunt questions, but has given up on trying to count bodies. The death toll seems likely to reach 100,000. They say the disaster is well beyond the scope of any municipal or provincial construction teams, so the central government is co-ordinating municipal and provincial construction teams from the 6 neighbouring provinces. (Note there are no national construction teams.) The rail link to the area was cut when part of a tunnel collapsed on a freight train that had 12 oil tank cars, which burned, although both crew members escaped. Will that line re-open in a month? They hope so. Roads, much sooner.

No one mentions the fact that the worst-hit area has a large Tibetan minority. Perhaps this was not lost on the Premier, whom we have seen working beside the front-line troops pulling survivors from the rubble.

Back to the China tour.

To grasp China, imagine Europe if the Roman Empire had never fallen. Imagine a Europe where everyone speaks Latin as well as their local language. (There are at least seven Chinese languages in addition to Mandarin.) Imagine a culture stretching unbroken for almost 5,000 years. Imagine Ancient Rome and its Greek accretions being not a different older world, but just part of our own history. Imagine Roman engineers having built a grand canal from Hamburg in Germany past Paris to the west of France back in 500 AD. Imagine the majority of that canal still carrying large freight boats today. Imagine popular movies about Roman heroes from 500 AD, and our Shakespeare being poets and dramatists writing in Latin 500 or 1,000 or 1,500 years ago.

Zhou En-Lai famously said, when asked the Chinese view on the impact of the French Revolution, "We think it's too soon to tell." He was poking fun at the Chinese perspective on history, yes, but not unreasonably.

In 2,500-year-old Suzhou, we are in a very different world than Shanghai. It has 200 gardens, and 8,000 bridges over its various canals. No buildings over 6 stories in the old city. Beside the 2 or 3 lane streets you see a row of manicured shrubs or a bed of red azaleas, then the bicycle lanes, and then sometimes a small canal. Getting off the tour bus, the street vendors ask us if we want to buy "Chapeaux?" Touring a 1180-AD garden (restored in 1958), half the foreign tourists are French, which makes sense. Suzhou has a very French sensibility, from its world-famous gardens to the soft, sweet accent (says our tour guide) spoken by the locals.

It's hard to understand the overtones. For example, our guide explained the symbolism in one garden. The Chinese word for mirror sounds the same as the word for peace, although written with a different character. Same for the words for vase and tranquility. Same for clock and eternity. So a garden with a clock, mirror and vase is a visual metaphor for eternal peace and tranquility.

Yesterday in Hangzhou, we were on a tour boat on West Lake (a Unesco World Heritage site) at 2:30 when the quake hit Wenchuan. No tremors in Hangzhou. We knew nothing of the quake for over 6 hours until we watched the evening news.

West Lake has inspired poets for centuries. Marco Polo saw it, along with Suzhou, and told Europe he had seen paradise on earth. The pavillions, causeways and islands have gardens with every tree shaped as though by an artist. They are surrounded on three sides by ranks of hills, which in turn are covered (on closer inspection) by terraced rows of tea-leaf shrubs. We got a lecture from a charming young woman with a degree, she said, in Tea. Elsewhere are mulberry bushes for the silk worms.

We saw a silk museum which explained the life-cycle of the silk worm (just as shown in every grade 1 class in Canada), but also the history of silk production in China which dates back to their pre-history.

In Suzhou we saw an embroidery workshop where they make what look like paintings, with almost microscopic stitching using 71 different stitches, a craft which they began 2000 years ago.

Meanwhile, in yesterday's Shanghai Daily is a story on China's new "transparency" regulation in force May 1. It requires disclosure of information to the public. A public opinion survey showed 77.5% of people wanted most to see the salaries -- and assets -- of public officials. Going Ontario one better.

[ 26 June 2008: Message edited by: Wilf Day ]

Wilf Day

Tourism is hugely big business in the Yangtze Delta around Shanghai. But you might be surprised who 90% of the tourists are -- other Chinese. Even on the causeways of Hangzhou's West Lake, where you find a few tourist shops between the pavillions selling high-quality tourist junk, it's mostly to the Chinese tourists.

Driving from Suzhou to Shanghai's HongQiao airport along the Shanghai - Suzhou - Nanjing toll-road Expressway (HuNing Expressway for short) we find one of the very few major roads with no lanes beside it for mopeds and bicycles. But still, between the four lanes in each direction is a median strip full of carefully manicured shrubs in a serrated pattern, and more red azalea beds.

Chinese don't seem to worry much about the distinction between restorations and recreations. After many historic sites were destroyed by the Japanese between 1935 and 1945, they didn't have the luxury of requiring authentic restorations. Similarly, with over one million people having to relocate from the banks of the Liang Jiang (the river westerners call the Yangzte) as a result of the Three Gorges Dam raising the water level about 60 meters, many historic sites and historic inscriptions on the stone walls of the gorges -- many over 1,000 years old -- had to be moved or recreated higher up.

At the giant Three Gorges Dam our tour of the facility was led by a remarkable fellow. His small village upstream had had to relocate, and they had chosen to move to Sandouping, the town beside the dam. Such families got a new house and a year's salary, and compensation for the loss of their orange groves (they could buy land for new orange groves if they wished), but as the son he was offered a dam job, which he jumped at. For years he ran a jack-hammer, breaking up the big stones from the giant holes blasted out of the bedrock. Understandably, he decided to learn English and become a tour guide. He had a great incentive, since those jobs are scarce. He had the best English of anyone we have met in the last week. And he is a natural comedian, in a hard-rock style he said he learned from watching American jail-break movies, which suited his tall muscular build. He broke all the stereotypes with great gusto. He said there were few young women in Sandouping for the dam workers to pair up with, since 95% (he said) of the dam workers were male. But he said he regretted nothing -- he had helped China create a miracle with his bare hands, and he was genuinely proud.

The Three Gorges themselves, and the Lesser Three Gorges up a smaller tributary, are still the world-class scenic treasure they have always been. With sheer rock cliffs rising 1,000 metres almost straight up in places, the loss of 60 metres due to the rising river level is no problem. And the Red Tower at the west end, with its iron cannons guarding the exit as they have for millenia (it is said one man could stop 1,000 invaders from coming upstream, back in the days when Sichuan was a separate kingdom), still stands guard many hundred metres above the river, in a scene found on the back of every ten-yuan note (think two-dollar bill).

This being an American-owned cruise ship, we get only CNN and the excellent Singapore-based NewsAsia, which keeps us up to date on the earthquake. Among all the stories of collapsed buildings, everyone notes the 900 schools. Hints abound of substandard construction, and threats of severe punishments for anyone responsible. In Canada hundreds of workers die on the job and no one is accountable. In China when people are accountable they can be executed. A happy medium would be nice.

[ 17 May 2008: Message edited by: Wilf Day ]


Thanks for the updates!


I love reading your trip account Wilf. I hope you keep it up. You write so beautifully about China, I can see it. Thanks.



Originally posted by Wilf Day:
[b]ChongQing is unique. One of China's big four cities, over 10,000 people, it's the only one in the interior. [/b]

Wilf, is that [url=]this Chongqing[/url], population [b]31,442,300[/b] ? That's approaching the population of Canada in one municipality eh.

I saw a documentary about the first emperor on tele. He was fascinated with the idea of immortality, and his royal physicians prescribed mercury capsules for him. Apparently they knew it was a special substance that lasted a long time. He slowly went mad, and legend says about one of the mounds excavated somewhere there is emperor Qin's grand burial chamber complete with a royal city for Qin to rule in the afterlife, tens of thousands of jewels embedded in the earthen ceiling simulating twilight sky, and a lake of mercury for everlasting life or some such.

Wilf Day

For the last three days China has had a period of national mourning. At 2:28 every day the whole country stood still for three minutes. Very impressive and moving.

China's automatic priority, whether in ancient gardens or new high-tech zones, is beauty. Arriving in Jinan, we were on the new Jinan - QingDao Expressway. Beside the paved lanes were five rows of trees, each row different, all landscaped, ranging from shortest on the inside to tallest at the edge of the expressway land. And again on the new road south of Tai'an we see the new interchanges beautifully landscaped, with exquisite flower beds, shrubs and ponds inside the curved on-ramps and off-ramps.

Yes, even Tai'an, the small historic city nestled in the shadow of Mount Tai, has a high-tech zone on its southern outskirts, with a brand new university featuring a stadium with a dazzling curved roof.

But the museums are also fascinating. In one of them we saw the first Hibachi: an iron cooking stove virtually identical to a modern Hibachi barbeque, dated to 25 AD.

I have to find out more about China's only full empress (not counting the Empress Dowager Cixi). Somewhere back around 700 AD or so. Apparently she made many changes for the benefit of women, which did not long survive her. (Edited to add) [url=] Wu Zetian.[/url]

The variety of TV channels in hotels continues. Today we are in Tai'an, near Qufu where Confucius lived in 500 BCE, and his great-grandson Mencius and his other followers. Many Japanese are Confucians. Many Japanese businesses invest in the Tai'an area. So we have Japanese channels on our TV including a Japanese English-language channel.


Originally posted by Fidel:
[b]his royal physicians prescribed mercury capsules for him . . . He slowly went mad, and legend says about one of the mounds excavated somewhere there is emperor Qin's grand burial chamber complete with a royal city for Qin to rule in the afterlife, tens of thousands of jewels embedded in the earthen ceiling simulating twilight sky, and a lake of mercury for everlasting life or some such.[/b]

I don't know about prescribing mercury, and madness -- I'll research that when I'm home -- but his burial chamber does indeed contain wonders yet unseen by the public. It is still sealed, partly because exposure to the air will adversely affect the colours and otherwise damge the contents, and partly because the tomb indeed contains mercury vapour, likely as a preservative rather than a medication.


Originally posted by Fidel:
[b]is that [url=]this Chongqing[/url], population [b]31,442,300[/b]?

That's the province of ChongQing. They created a new province, splitting Sechuan, but this would be like creating a new province of Southern Ontario and calling it the province of Toronto although the city of Toronto would be one-third of the population. ChongQing is the same.

[ 22 June 2008: Message edited by: Wilf Day ]

George Victor

Would the gods that Bertolt Brecht sent to scour the countryside of Szechuan, looking for good people, be reaffirmed in their doubt by the quality of school construction? The Globe's account puts 10,000 kids buried in their schools and counting. Right next to buildings housing a more privileged set of humanity still standing strong.

Where would they most likely be able to say, with confidence, that they had found The Good Person (Soul) of Szechuan, outside of the kids?

Or has the obvious new wealth of the country satisfactorily resolved Brecht's central question about the difficulty of remaining a good person amidst impoverishment? Look around, it's been solved? It's only a matter of growing the economy?

And yet,in such a 1984ish setting,how DO you distinguish war from peace without getting to peek behind the state facade, or be confident about the meaning of one single impression? Down a road which is going to require one helluva lot of goodwill.

Wilf Day

The most dramatic earthquake picture we've seen -- you may have seen it too -- was by a wedding photographer in Wenchuan who was filming five weddings in front of a temple just as the quake hit. He keeps filming a bride as she looks in horror at the temple collapsing behind her for about 10 seconds until she stands, dirty but unharmed, in a mound of rubble.

In Jinan -- the "city of springs and parks" -- we got swarmed by a Grade 9 class, out with their teacher collecting signatures on a giant wall poster scroll to send to their fellow students in the earthquake zone. They refused money: they were not collecting donations. But they were so eager for a western signature that they hugged us, took our pictures, and gave us yellow armband scarves.

China's greatest treasure, even greater than its beauty, is its people. A 12-year-old girl with quite decent English overheard Margaret having language difficulties in a Jinan department store, and volunteered as her translator until she was done (in a huge shopping plaza underneath a magnificent new central park, both about nine years old.) A 6-year-old "little Empress" posed for our photo in a pose like a movie star. Most of these kids were out with their grannies. Even in 3.4-million-strong Jinan, many of the parents have gone to Beijing or Shanghai during the week to find good jobs.

Beijing is under renovation. But it will all be finished in time for the Olympics.

Well, not all. But they are already putting giant tinfoil-wrap around the construction sites of new buildings that will still be being built.

The giant Olympic media centre, shaped like a dragon's head, with the world's largest TV screens on all sides of the top of the building and more than half its width, will be ready. At the other extreme, so will the hutongs (alleyway neighbourhoods) of the old city's northwest quarter, which are all getting brand-new public toilet buildings in each block, while the friendly residents re-roof their homes and reconstruct anything else that comes to mind, trying to keep up with the new gated condos on the fringe of the -- well, not quite yuppified, but certainly upscaled old district.

So much of China's heritage was destroyed either by the Japanese or during the Cultural Revolution that much of what we are seeing is reconstruction, not restoration.

Even Beijing is full of lakes and parks in unexpected places. Along the 3rd Ring Road Expressway around Beijing we saw what looked at first glance like trees of flowers. At second glance, they were identical pots of flowers on tree-shaped pole stands, eight rows high. Absolutely beautiful. The red, yellow, orange, and purple beds of flowers along the road to the Olympic stadium are not just a special for the Olympics, they are the norm.

But China doesn't just put parks in every spare square metre of land -- they use them. Dancing, singing, Tai Chi Rouli ball (a cross between tennis and juggling), and ribbon dancing (a hobby so beautiful it has become an Olympic sport). Large groups, many of them seniors (women retire at 55, men at 60), others just regular folks on their day off.

Even China is running out of cheap labour. Beijing's No. 1 Cloisonne factory used to have 700 employees, who lived in the company-owned housing all around it. Now it has fewer than 100, and the housing is converted to condos. The price of the skilled hand-craft work is too high for most buyers to pay. The number one job choice for graduates is a railway job, paying 10,000 yuan a month. Next is a bank job, then an electric company job, then a public servant, then a doctor, then a teacher. The average wage in Jinan is 6,000 yuan a month. Wal-Mart pays only 700-yuan a month, minimum wage, in China as everywhere else.

Beijing's subway managers have found a source of revenue Toronto might copy: ads on the exit signs. On the YongHeGong station platform, a plan of the station shows you where the exits are, and the signs to Exit B tell you that this is the exit for the Aodong Law Firm, the Everhonest Certified Public Accountants firm, and the Huijia Law Firm. Perhaps this helps pay for the beautiful music (not Muzak) filtering through the station.

After a lifetime of being just plain Margaret, she is now a goddess, having been to heaven -- the summit of Mount Tai.

Climbing Mount Tai is part of the Chinese character, sort of like the muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. Until 20 years ago, it had to be done on foot. Our guide first climbed it at age four with his grandmother, who took eight hours to make the ascent, stayed overnight and walked down the next day, once each year.

Thankfully they built a road 20 years ago part-way up, and a cable car part of the rest of the way. The final segment still takes an hour on foot, and at 33 degrees C (92 F) this was arduous. We got sunburnt in heaven. But the view, the entire experience, is so magical it was worth it.

By the way, I think I now understand the excess male births in China. It's not selective abortions. The one-child policy applies strictly in the urban 45% of China, but in the rural 55% a family that has a girl child can have a second child in hopes of a boy. Perhaps they can even have a third child after two girls. That would skew the stats.

Edited to add: Oops. No, it wouldn't.

[ 12 June 2008: Message edited by: Wilf Day ]

It's Me D

Thanks for the wonderful account!

Wilf Day


Originally posted by George Victor:
[b]The Globe's account puts 10,000 kids buried in their schools and counting. Right next to buildings housing a more privileged set of humanity still standing strong.[/b]

Chinese news media have been discussing this. Western media reports implying some ban on the topic in the Chinese media are yet another case of the assignment editor defining the story and sending a tame reporter out to write it.

The head of the party's discipline committee, described in the Chinese media as the country's top anti-corruption offical, was on the scene very quickly, vowing that those responsible for substandard school construction will be punished severely. We saw a demonstration on TV of poor materials used in one school. I'm not talking of western media, but the China Daily and CCTV-9, their official English-language channel, which carried live questioning of top officials by skeptical reporters.

Chinese people love and value their children more than anything. It is not credible that the schools issue would be covered up.

And by the way, I have a report in the China Daily of the top official in the Beichuan county government crawling out of the ruins of his own collapsed county building, and start assigning rescue work within 10 minutes. It wasn't just schools.

[ 05 June 2008: Message edited by: Wilf Day ]

martin dufresne

Wilf Day wrote:


By the way, I think I now understand the excess male births in China. It's not selective abortions. The one-child policy applies strictly in the urban 45% of China, but in the rural 55% a family that has a girl child can have a second child in hopes of a boy. Perhaps they can even have a third child
after two girls. That would skew the stats.

(Putting on my Dr. Spock ears) That's illogical, Wilf. The net effect of the factor you mention would be more baby girls, not more baby boys. Selective abortion - and probably infanticide - is indeed the culprit.

martin dufresne

I did, and you are right (sorry for the flip-flopping...) I get a ratio of 23 boys to 22 girls for 24 couples trying until they reach a boy, up to 4 children.
However that ratio is much closer to the actual demographics in China, so there has to be another factor. such as femicide, before or after birth.

[ 30 May 2008: Message edited by: martin dufresne ]

[ 30 May 2008: Message edited by: martin dufresne ]

Stephen Gordon

That's interesting. I thought that a stopping rule in which parents stop having children once they have a boy would skew the sex ratio, but when you work it through, it doesn't seem to be the case. What happens is that families whose first children are girls have more kids. If the birth ratio is 50-50, so is the sex ratio.

For example, suppose that there are 8 couples, and suppose that 3 is the maximum. 4 will have boys the first time. Of the 4 who had girls, 2 will have a boy the second time around. Of the two who had two girls, one will have a boy.

So 7 of the families will have a boy. But there will also be 7 girls.

[ 30 May 2008: Message edited by: Stephen Gordon ]

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

If you start with 16 couples, a 50-50 chance of boy/girl baby, and stop at the first boy or fourth child, whichever comes first, the sex ratio comes out 50-50 - 15 boys and 15 girls.

martin dufresne

I need at least 24 couples to account for a four-child maximum:
1: B
2: G B
3: B
4: G G B
5: B
6: G B
7: B
8: G G G (what's the MATTER with you!!!) B
9: B
10: G B
11: B
12: G G B
13: B
14: G B
15: B
16: G G G G (Just tie a KNOT in it!!! Yeah, give mom a break, Dad...)
17: B
18: G B
19: B
20: G G B
21: B
22: G B
23: B
24: G G G B
23 boys to 22 girls, although the ratio is skewed by stopping at 24 couples and the 4th children. As the number grows, the ratio alternates between 50-50 and a number approaching it.

[ 30 May 2008: Message edited by: martin dufresne ]

Stephen Gordon

2^4 = 16, so redoing the exercise I did with a maximum of 4 is


15 boys
15 girls

Just like M. Spector said.

[ 30 May 2008: Message edited by: Stephen Gordon ]

martin dufresne

Talk about thread drift...

Stephen Gordon

Actually, this sort of thing is pretty important when you're trying to figure out the causes of the sex ratio imbalance in China. Exercises like this suggest that on its own, the one-child policy can't explain the imbalance.

[ 30 May 2008: Message edited by: Stephen Gordon ]


Their one child policy is a result of some hysterics by a right-wing think tank in the 1970's, the Club of Rome. They funded an MIT study which came to a false conclusion that there would be world-wide famine and chaos by the year 2000. China reacted.

[url=]Medical experts[/url] suggest that at least some of Aubry De Grey's ideas for life-extension drugs will be developed by 2040. A 60 year old body then should still be in the prime of life.

I think that if there is any good time in history to have children, it's now. But try and keep it to 2.1 or fewer?

George Victor

Actually, it was a "Dr. Ma" who brought the problem before the powers that be - probably also using math and statics of food production - back when Trudeau first visited the place. They were buying a lot of Canadian wheat, if I recall rightly????

Anyway, that "Dr. Ma" was quoted by a U. of Beijing engineer/academic who visited us while on a year's sabbatical at U. of W. in the early 80s.


I've never heard of him, George. It's possible I suppose. [url= article[/url] says his name was Song Jian, a systems control specialist for China's state-owned defence industry who paid a visit to Europe in 1978.

George Victor

The fellow who informed me about Dr. Ma, was Wang Dajun, associate professor in the department of mechanics at Peking University, Beijing. This was over a quiet dinner at our place in 1982.
He likely did not survive (professionally) the pogrom that shook the universities even before the "slaughter in the square".

Another visitor, in the late 90s, the grandparent of two of my wife's students, asked,through his son-in-law, acting as interpreter, where China had "gone wrong". He was, through his working years, the political officer of an army regiment. In retirement, he depended on help from his Canadian daughter, as Chinese society became more and more stratified.

Such personal accounts can be helpful in understanding the recent history of developments there.

I would not have learned of Dr. Ma without that help. I only wish that I could have met and conversed with a thousand more people.



Originally posted by George Victor:
[b]Such personal accounts can be helpful in understanding the recent history of developments there.

I would not have learned of Dr. Ma without that help. I only wish that I could have met and conversed with a thousand more people.[/b]

Yes George. I've spoken with a number of Chinese-Canadians and visiting students as well. Some very talented people have come to Canada, and many have chosen to return to China and Asia in since the 1990's. The cold war was a bad time with dozens of atrocities committed by all principals involved.

Wilf Day

China highlights, in retrospect:

China's first and best surprise was its friendly people. Margaret had been nervous: how can you relate to a seething giant mass of 1,300,000,000 people? One family at a time, as it turned out. On our second full day in China, our free Sunday in Shanghai, we started our exploring. At the subway station across from our hotel we got on a brand new Metro line. Who knew Chinese celebrate Mother's Day too? Children and adults were carrying elaborate Mother's Day bouquets. Across the aisle in the crowded subway car was a mother serenely holding a bouquet in one hand. She held her son's hand with the other, while her granddaughter leaned her head on her shoulder. Some people in the crowd stared at us a little, but still we felt almost at home, among people just like us.

Everywhere, people wanted to take Margaret's picture (once even mine) along with their group, putting their arms around her as though she were part of their family. Since everything in China has a negotiable price, she wondered if she should start charging. Nevertheless she was, and still is, curious. Why, out of all the westerners in the tour group, did the Chinese tourists pick out her to be photographed with? It was at the serene and magnificent West Lake in the renowned gardens of Hangzhou, where tour guides relate the ancient myth of the white snake lady, that I ventured to suggest this might be a clue.

Chinese say "Travelling 10,000 km is like reading 10,000 books," or perhaps it's "Travelling 1,000 km is better than reading 10,000 books." Either way, it's true.

Chinese people celebrate a lot. Many firecrackers go off on Saturdays (moving day), to celebrate a family having moved into a new apartment -- and to scare away ghosts. Weddings in restaurants feature masses of fresh flowers. (Still, they almost all smoke, even in restaurants.)

Chinese are fearless in traffic, drivers and pedestrians alike. We saw hundreds of fathers and mothers on bikes or scooters with a child on the back or front, driving between buses and taxis and cars with no fear. On an old Shanghai street, cars mounted sidewalks when necessary to pass a delivery truck, but children on the sidewalk stood their ground. Cars dodged them. Even with only 12 in our group, we had both a tour guide and a driver for our little bus: driving in China is a job for professionals.

In China keeping the body supple appears to be a national obsession. Across from our Shanghai hotel, not only did store staff do their famous morning tai chi and calisthenics on the plaza in front, but dance classes kept practising in the plaza all day and late into the night.

The Chinese are world masters of food. We ate many wonderful mystery dishes. If only someone had given us a full description of what we were eating. But they haven't limited themselves to traditional foods. Watch for cans of Lulu Almond Drink to appear on Canadian shelves before long. And then there's Hot Coke with Ginger. Margaret saw it on the menu of a simple restaurant in Beihai Park overlooking the beautiful lake, and took a chance. It was a big mug of hot Coca-Cola with about an inch of finely shredded fresh ginger floating on top: extremely refreshing and delicious. Carp is the favoured, even hallowed fish of China appearing repeatedly through the centuries in Imperial architecture and art treasures. Its appearance however on the lazy susan, anatomically complete, as the gastronomic highlight of the evening meal, was not always greeted with reverence or relish by the western diners.

Chinese are tenacious, especially street vendors. Our Yangtze cruise is the only time our Canadian group is submerged in hundreds of American tourists. On a shore excursion we are led through a row of makeshift stores but have no time to shop, being on our way to a motorized sampan ride through the Lesser Three Gorges. Margaret looks at an item in Store 34, and the owner fixes her gaze on her: "you come into my store later, okay? Store 34, remember me." Several hours later, heading back to the cruise ship, we again run the gauntlet of the row of buzzing, in your face, vendors. (Surely someone is getting a kickback for directing us this way). Margaret is no longer wearing the same jacket, but the woman in store 34 isn't fooled, searches her out, chases her down, and grabs her from the crowd. The social director of the cruise ship -- a handsome blond American refugee from a TV cruise show -- is, for some reason, hovering in the shop too. As the high-pressure sales pitches pile up, Margaret appeals to him for help, but far be it from him to interfere with local "retailers." He just stands there flashing the same Crest white-strip smile he used to varying degrees of effect on the cruise ship. It's an unwritten rule: our own tour guide will tell us what an item is worth, but not within earshot of the local merchant.

Restoration does not mean, in China, what it means to us. In Jinan (pop. 3 million), there's the 60-metre-high Gold Buddha on the dominant hillside overlooking the downtown, set in the Thousand Buddhas Park. Most of the thousand Buddhas had been destroyed in the Cultural Revolution. So they restored the Park by building one giant new Buddha, only eight years ago. But why not? Some of their greatest scenes of natural beauty are not natural, but were built (like Hangzhou's West Lake) many centuries if not milennia ago.

Chinese know their history -- of China. Jinan's Baotu Spring is the best of its 72 springs. First written about 3,543 years ago, its clear water is of the highest quality. The large volume feeds a small river leading to yet another beautiful small lake with a pavilioned island in the middle. This one is dedicated to the extraordinary poetess Li QingZhao (1084-1151), and has a statue of her. The most famous lines of China's most famous poetess, which it seems almost every school child knows, include a lament on those who, in the 1127 rush to escape Manchu invaders, thought more of saving their lives than of defending their emperor:

"Alive we need heroes among the living
Who when dead will be heroes among the ghosts.
I cannot tell how much we miss Xiang Yu
Who preferred death to crossing the River"

Xiang Yu had lived more than 1,300 years earlier (232 BC – 202 BC), yet was still the metaphor for honour: he died rather than retreat in disgrace. To this day he is still an early example of a Chinese tragic hero. History is long in China.

So is their history with national minorities, of which the Manchu are the second largest. As everyone repeats: China is 92% Han Chinese, 8% in the 56 national minorities with special privileges. They are exempt from the one-child policy, so that 8% will grow. They have quotas at universities, so they can enter with lower marks than Han Chinese, and get various free services and preferential economic development and aid. Remarkably, we heard no hint of resentment of these special privileges.

Other than these pleasant generalities, we can say little about China as a whole. It is not a whole in the western sense. No country so large can be other than a series of local republics or kingdoms. Each of our seven local guides was impressively proud of their city, even the young woman in little Yichang (barely 500,000 people). Our local guide in Shanghai told us he could tell what neighbourhood of Shanghai a person lived in by his accent. We learned a great deal from our guides. They made the difference between sightseeing and understanding.

Shanghai will stay in my mind forever. I have total recall of it even three weeks distant and thousands of miles away. Hordes of people in the subways, in the parks, riding bicycles, even stylish young women in their stilettos speeding on their motorbikes. Hordes of people in the streets dodging fast traffic while talking on their cell phones, even on traffic islands in the middle of mad intersections where fast vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, and the odd, terror-stricken western tourist somehow avoid getting hit. Street vendors selling everything imaginable, everywhere. The explosion of construction or the demolition of buildings that seemed to have been built just last month, to make way for still newer construction. Margaret's wry comment that there "is nothing in Shanghai older than me except in the museum" had some merit. Even the gymnasts in one of Shanghai's top rated shows are retired in their early twenties because after that their bodies are not supple enough to perform the unimaginable, but still mesmerizingly beautiful, routines on a daily basis.

On our last night in Shanghai we want to the famous downtown shopping street, Nanjing Road. Mostly high-end western brand-name merchandise, but still a huge variety. Then we found a basement food court where we could experiment with the menu: four restaurants, one of which was Kentucky Fried Chicken, which we passed up. There we met our one and only spook: we thought it might be a mall security guard who wandered around but kept coming back with his eye on us, the only westerners in sight. Was he just bored? Did he know he was spooking us? That afternoon we had been further off the western tourist path, in a commercial district around Shanghai's oldest Buddhist Pagoda. Far from the downtown, where the merchants spoke little English, we must have looked like visitors from another planet, but still we had never felt nervous.

We felt nervous for a different reason in the Tai'an Ramada. This very impressive hotel was being made still more impressive by alterations. Our room had been touched up with some work in the bathroom, whose door jam was adorned with a sticker reading "DO NOT USE IT, PLEASE." Use what? The door? The bathroom? We gingerly checked all the fixtures. They all seemed to work. Still, we got a laugh from our group at dinner that evening when we related our dilemma. (It seems every hotel on the tourist circuit has recently been bought up by some western chain. Since westerners are proverbially unable to fathom how low Chinese bottom-line prices really are, one wonders how rich the original Chinese owners of these hotels have become.)

As we arrived at our Beijing Sheraton hotel, I got another laugh from our group as we looked around the modernistic four-story atrium, when I said "Ho, hum, yet another awe-inspiring lobby." In a country where so many things are larger than life, even awe has its limits.

No account of a trip to China can be complete without a note on the hardest thing for westerners to adapt to: Chinese washrooms. We called a washroom "the Happy House" (better to laugh than to weep), and graded them from a zero-star through five-star. One-star had only squat toilets (at ground level), were strictly BYOP (bring your own toilet paper), had no doors on the stalls, and were so smelly it was hard to breathe. Two-star were clean but otherwise the same. Three-star had doors, and one western-style sit toilet in a stall marked for the disabled, which we quickly decided included the culturally disabled. Four-star even had one toilet paper dispenser, in the washbasin area, for those whose supply had run low. Five-star were western-style, found mostly in hotels and other tourist establishments. Zero-star defies description and is what Margaret faced during her climb of Mount Tai (known as China's Holy mountain). When we got off the cable car and looked at the long stairway from the South Gate of Heaven to the North Gate, she decided a pit stop was unavoidable. It was the dreaded zero-star. She said she thought her tombstone would read "died of suffocation in a Happy House halfway to Heaven."

What was most impressive about China? The ancient visual poetry of Mount Tai, with its pervasive sweet smell of the Scholar Trees? The grandeur of Beijing, sprouting more ultra-modern architecture at every corner? But these are worlds as different from each other as both are from Canada. How can you compare?

Egypt has been the Nile, for millennia. Much of China has always been its Long River that we call the Yangtze. People at one end of it speak a different language than at the other, but its vast natural beauty, and its vital commercial role in transporting goods, put it at the centre of China's past and future. Northern China is the part north of the Long River, southern China to the south. In 609 AD they built the Grand Canal, linking the Yangtze at least 1,400 km to China's northern centre of Beijing, then just inside the Great Wall (it became capital of all of China only under Kublai Khan in 1279). Before long China will complete a channel sending water from the Yangzte basin -- perhaps even from the lake above the Three Gorges Dam -- about 1,400 km to thirsty Beijing. And when that Dam's power comes on line, it will provide 5% of China's electricity -- that's power for 70 million people, twice Canada's population. I will never forget the pride of our hard-rock dam guide at having "helped build a miracle with my bare hands."

[ 26 June 2008: Message edited by: Wilf Day ]


Thanks Wilf. Your post above should have been included in that National Geographic edition on China recently. Very good, it sounds like a trip of a lifetime. I tried to picture myself eating Carp fish and remembered reading about how even Cod fish were considered a poor man's fish at one time. I think Canada's East coasters once considered lobster second rate fare. I think if they are hungry enough, and they raise the price enough, people might realize the value of perfectly edible food. cheers

Wilf Day


Originally posted by George Victor:
[b]The Globe's account puts 10,000 kids buried in their schools and counting. Right next to buildings housing a more privileged set of humanity still standing strong.[/b]

[url= prosecutors have joined an official inquiry into 10 schools that collapsed in last month's devastating earthquake, preparing possible charges. [/url]


In Shifang, one of several areas of the southwest province of Sichuan ravaged by the May 12 quake, the procuratorate, or prosecutor, will seek to ensure that probes into the sensitive school issue are done fairly, the Legal Daily reported on Monday.

Authorities in Shifang are seeking to ease parents' doubts that any official inquiries into the collapsed schools will be impartial.

Prosecutors there will "enter early into investigations into project quality at 10 collapsed schools in the city to gain first-hand material of construction quality at the collapsed schools, launching preliminary inquiries and prepare for possible investigations into professional crimes," the newspaper reported.

But the report also said many grieving parents doubt the impartiality of official inquiries into the schools.

The investigators were obtaining geological reports, blueprints and documents on building and inspections and also taking samples of steel, concrete and bricks.

"With the participation of the procuratorate, the unsteady emotions of some parents have been comforted," an anti-corruption investigator, Hu Hong, told the paper.

Grieving parents across Sichuan have complained that a disproportionate number of children died in the quake, due to lax and corrupt building practices. The quake killed nearly 70,000 people, with many thousands more missing and likely dead, and at least 9,000 of them were schoolchildren.

Note that The Legal Daily reported both sides: the complaints of parents, and the anti-corruption inquiry.

[url=]The Legal Daily is a state-owned newspaper under the supervision of the Ministry of Justice [/url]yet it reports both sides. This is fairly new in China. Western media seem skeptical of the extent to which journalism has flourished since Chinese people found suppressing the Internet was not working.

Wilf Day

A footnote on China, to illustrate why they don't much need to bow to the rest of the world.

[url=]When Marco Polo visited China in 1275 - 1292[/url]


China had matured in the arts, both fine and practical, beyond anything found in Europe. Literature was greatly respected. Paper had already been invented; books of philosophy, religion, and politics could be found and a large Encyclopedia had been printed under the supervision of the Emperor. Mechanical devices were not lacking and paper money was the accepted currency in many sections of the empire. It was in this world of advanced wonders that Marco Polo resided for many years.

Upon his return to Italy, Marco Polo told of his findings of jade, porcelain, silk, ivory, and other riches of Asia. He described the festival of the Emperor's birthday in which everything from clothing to ornaments were laced in gold. He also explained how he saw people using black stones for fuel (later known as coal). Unfortunately, all his stories and details of the unimaginable were rejected, and Marco Polo became the "man of a million lies."

When he was near death, a priest entered his room and asked him if he wanted to admit his stories were false. Instead, Marco Polo replied, "I do not tell half of what I saw because no one would have believed me."

[url=]From 1405 to 1433 Fleet Admiral Zheng He led seven Chinese voyages [/url]in the Indian Ocean basin, with a fleet of about 250 ships, visiting southeast Asia, India, Sri Lanka, the Persian Gulf, Arabia, and down the east African coast as far as Malindi in what is now Kenya. He brought envoys from thirty states who traveled to China and paid their respects at the Ming court. The records of Zheng's last two voyages, which are believed to be his farthest, were unfortunately destroyed by the Ming emperor. Therefore it is never certain where Zheng sailed in these two expeditions.

Zheng himself wrote of his travels:

"We have traversed more than 100,000 [i]li[/i] (50,000 kilometers) of immense water spaces and have beheld in the ocean huge waves like mountains rising in the sky, and we have set eyes on barbarian regions far away hidden in a blue transparency of light vapors, while our sails, loftily unfurled like clouds day and night, continued their course [as rapidly] as a star, traversing those savage waves as if we were treading a public thoroughfare."

His missions did not lead to significant trade. Imperial officials gave up any plans to maintain a Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean and even destroyed most of the nautical charts that Zheng He had carefully prepared. The decommissioned treasure ships sat in harbors until they rotted away, and Chinese craftsmen forgot the technology of building such large vessels.

Fifty years ago the pioneers of the American space programme feared that, after landing a man on the moon, we would decide the expedition was not worthwhile, and cancel the programme.

In 1433 China, having returned Marco Polo's favour, decided the barbarian world was not worth exploring.

Sure, China fell behind us after we invented the steam engine, while the East India Company devoted its energy to boosting opium exports to China. A temporary setback. Now, they say, China is strong again.

The impressive western knock-off towers of Pudong will not last 100 years, because they were built on sand, the Yangtze Delta, which has been subsiding ever since they started building on it. Global warming or no global warming, they will have to build a wall around it, and their next metropolis will be on higher ground, built to last 1,000 years like all good Chinese architecture.

Are such people going to trust western promises to cut carbon emissions?

Brian White

Hi Wilf, i am working for a guy with a factory in China. He says thermal water heaters are built in in all the new housing there.
did you notice any good environmental stuff there?

Wilf Day


Originally posted by Brian White:
[b]did you notice any good environmental stuff there?[/b]

Not too much. They are growing so fast.

For example, the Three Gorges Dam will supply 5% of their electric power needs, but in 20 years or so that will be only 1% because their power needs will be five times today's. No matter what new dams or nuclear plants they build, it will mostly be coal.

For another example, prosperity is now reaching the point where more and more people will be able to afford cars. Production totaled 8.88 million vehicles in 2007, up 22 percent from the year before, but that's peanuts compared with the explosive growth about to take off. There are brand new expressways everywhere, and more being built. (They are all toll-roads, so that's a plus. They are building more rail, another plus.)

They all want something done about the declining air quality in Beijing and Shanghai, which has been getting steadily worse. But the most likely thing is to force new plants to locate in other cities, which would happen anyway because both cities are becoming too high-cost. So other cities will get more polluted.

I have the impression of a juggernaut growing out of control. The environment cannot be a priority at this stage no matter what anyone may say or want.

The only mild redirection given any priority is "the harmonious society" which is shorthand for "Prosperity is too concentrated in Shanghai and Beijing, we have to spread the wealth and the growth around to other provinces and cities. And then we have to spread it to the rural areas too." But this is not a massive project because Shanghai and Beijing have only 3% of China's population between them, so there's already a great deal of development and economic growth elsewhere. That's why I say this is only a mild redirection.

[ 05 July 2008: Message edited by: Wilf Day ]

Liang Jiajie


Originally posted by Wilf Day:
[b]A footnote on China, to illustrate why they don't much need to bow to the rest of the world [...] Are such people going to trust western promises to cut carbon emissions?[/b]

Why do you write China does not require "to bow to the rest of the world?" And who are the "such people"?

Wilf Day


Originally posted by Liang Jiajie:
[b]Why do you write China does not require "to bow to the rest of the world?" And who are the "such people"?[/b]

I would defer to whatever you want to say. I was only in China for three weeks.

But most people in Canada do not really understand how strong China is becoming, how quickly, and how normal that seems in the sweep of history.

If I was in China, and people in Canada asked me "why do you not conserve energy more, or use solar power or wind power, and cut back on your use of fossil fuels?" I think I would try to answer politely, but it might be hard.

But I am not in China and I do not pretend to know what you would say.

Liang Jiajie


Originally posted by Wilf Day:
If I was in China, and people in Canada asked me "why do you not conserve energy more, or use solar power or wind power, and cut back on your use of fossil fuels?" I think I would try to answer politely, but it might be hard.

I would answer that the central government has greatly increased its committment to the environment since the early 1990s by legislating an impressive regulatory framework to protect the environment and that its implementation is mostly dependent on provinical and local governments, that Wen Jiabao recently admitted that what his government, and its predecessors, has legislated is still not enough to protect the environment, and that the central government has initiated projects to rejuvenate grasslands and forests. I would admit that more needs to be done such as clarity and public input in the decision-making process regarding environmental policy at each level of government.

I would speak about the public education campaigns initiated by NGOs and government-regulated environmental groups.

I would finish by saying that it takes time.

I would not answer from within an oppositional frame of mind by summarizing the environmental damage caused by industrialization in Canada. That position is outdated, unproductive and, at this point in the history of China's natural environment, hypocritical.

Wilf Day

"No final, accurate figure" yet on dead students.

In September, a Chinese government scientist acknowledged that a rush to build schools in recent years likely led to construction flaws causing so many of them to collapse _ the first official admission that low construction standards may have been behind the student deaths.

Wen said that as of Nov. 12, nearly 200,000 homes had been rebuilt, 685,000 homes were under reconstruction, but that another 1.94 million households still needed to be rebuilt or repaired.

More than 1,300 schools have been reconstructed or are currently being worked on, and site selection had started for relocating 25 townships, including Beichuan and Wenchuan, two of the most devastated areas.

A little over a quarter of the 70,000 people who died in a massive earthquake that struck Sichuan province in May have been identified, a Chinese official said Friday, as authorities rushed to prepare stricken areas for the coming winter.

Wei Hong, vice governor of Sichuan, said 19,065 bodies have been identified since the May 12 quake razed huge swaths of the lush, mountainous southwest province. Another 18,000 people are still missing.

The government still has not given a separate toll for children who were crushed when their shoddily built schools collapsed, but has said that about 7,000 classrooms were destroyed.

"The government is also very sorry about their deaths," Wei said. "Our government will try their utmost to properly resolve the questions raised by the family members and parents of students who died in the earthquake."

Wilf Day

China has just launched the fastest express train in the world, on the longest track on earth.

It runs from the central city of Wuhan down to GuangZhou on the south coast, at a speed of more than 380km/h. It takes less than three hours, when it normally takes ten and a half hours. The country is building 42 high-speed lines over the next three years.


Wuhan Railway Station in Wuhan, capital of central China's Hubei Province, cost more than 14 billion RMB yuan (2.4 billion U.S. dollars), to be put into use Dec. 20. It is the first station built for the Wuhan-GuangZhou high speed railway passenger special line.

The first high-speed railway independently developed by China, with a speed of 350 kilometers per hour, celebrated its first anniversary on August 1. It carries 18.7 million passengers in the past year between Beijing and Tianjin and the number of passengers between the cities rose by 86 percent after it opened for service. The travel time was shortened from 90 minutes to 30 between the cities. Despite the influence of economic crisis, GDP of Beijing and Tianjin still saw a big increase over last year. "I attribute the boom to the operation of the Beijing-Tianjin Intercity Railway. It not only promotes close economic contacts between these two cities, but also boosts consumers' confidence."

One hour from Beijing to ShiJiaZhuang, 4.5 hours from Beijing to Shanghai, about eight hours from Beijing to GuangZhou... in three years, high-speed trains as fast as airplanes, will be popularized all over China. This will allow travel between Beijing and most provincial capitals in one to eight hours, and make travel significantly more convenient.

China's hi-speed network will be nearly as large as that of the rest of the world's put together when the 1,300 km Beijing to Shanghai line is completed. With an investment of 220.9 billion yuan ($31.6 billion), the route, linking China's two most populous regions, is the single most expensive construction project in China since 1949. The 1,318-km-long railway line will cut the journey time between China's capital and its eastern financial hub in half, reducing it to just five hours. It connects two major economic zones - Bohai Bay and the Yangtze River Delta. One fourth of the country's population live in these two economically prosperous regions, with the local GDP accounting for 40 percent of the national total. The overall project is due for completion in 2011, in time to begin operations in 2012.

China's Ministry of Railways (MOR) has begun to raise 30 billion yuan (4.41 billion US dollars) to support railway construction through floating the first batch of bonds this year on the inter-bank bond market. Last year, State planner National Development and Reform Commission gave the green light to the MOR to issue 100 billion yuan of bonds, mainly to facilitate construction of 43 railway construction projects and locomotive purchases.

This new generation of 350km/h-multiple unit trains uses the technology achievement of Jingjin Inter-city railways, planing to produce a high-speed train’s producing system with self-owned intellectual property rights that include researching, developing, designing and producing.

High-speed rail in China.


Wilf Day


Originally posted by Stargazer:
[b]I hope you keep it up.[/b]

As requested . . .

Maybe you've already heard of the miracle baby: 100 hours post-quake she was pulled from the rubble, as was her mother, whose dead body had sheltered her infant. The mother had left this text message on her cell phone: "If you survive the earthquake, remember I love you."

Today our riverboat was met by a class of about 8 sweet girls in their school uniforms, aged 9 or 10, standing by a metre-high photo of the earthquake's devastation, collecting money for girls their age in the earthquake zone. They did well.

Last night we went past WanXian, a city of about 200,000 that knows how to party. Nine o'clock on Saturday night there must be special. They were playing loud music on speakers in a downtown plaza echoing across the river, but at nine o'clock a computer imitation of Big Ben sounded the full-hour chimes followed by nine "bongs," followed by a brief announcement by a woman's voice, fireworks, and more dance music.

In fact the most interesting aspect of China, overall, is the friendly people.

On HangZhou's West Lake, where everyone was taking photos, half a dozen different Chinese tourists asked Margaret to pose with a couple of their group in front of some famous scene. (She says she's still wondering whether they were simply acknowledging her beauty, or whether she bears an accidental resemblance to some famous painting of the White Snake Lady or some such figure from Chinese mythology.)  Wink

Everyone takes pictures. When we again see yet another photogenic child and ask mom's permission to snap a picture, not only is it never refused, but they love to help pose the child.

Many people comment on the generation gap. The new generation are ostensibly not interested in politics nor in religion, but very interested in the future of China.

And the definition of the "New China" is shifting. Sometimes it still starts in 1949, "the year China stood up." But increasingly it starts with Dr. Sun Yat Sen, the "Father of the New China." Even the Three Gorges Dam is now attributed to a plan he wrote in 1919, quite a stretch. Some people still refer to Deng Tsiao Ping, the "founder of the open policy." But then they have to refer to Mao who is still then labelled "70% correct and 30% incorrect." One person even commented, while discussing Chinese idioms, on the expression "to have a soft ear" meaning being overly susceptible to persuasion: "For example, during the Cultural Revolution Chairman Mao had a soft ear for his wife."

But on the whole it seems simpler to avoid such topics and simply refer back to the man everyone loves, Dr. Sun Yat Sen whose picture now outshines Mao's. We have seen only one big picture of Deng Tsiao Ping: a riverbank town had a school which had been built about 20 years ago with help from a school in GuangDong (Canton) after GuangDong had been the first of the New Economic Zones. They required a giant portrait of their hero in the school wall as a condition of their aid.

Wilf Day

ChongQing is unique. One of China's big four cities, over 10,000,000 people, it's the only one in the interior. Unlike the booming urban centres like Shanghai, it is blooming but not overheated. You can buy a nice condo here for $75,000 (Canadian). The minimum wage and basic old age pension here is 160 yuan per week, or about $24.00, which will feed a person for a week. Yet the city looks not unlike Shanghai, with new towers and more new construction everywhere.

The one difference in appearance is due to it being a city of hills upon hills: no bicycle lanes. The scooters and mopeds compete with the taxis, buses and other vehicles. As our guide said "only two groups ride bicyles in ChongQing: athletes, and stupid people."

Like everywhere in China, ChongQing has its own unique local history. It was the wartime capital during WWII. This meant that Claire Channault's famous "Flying Tigers" were based here -- the mercenaries he originally recruited for China's Air Force, plus the next wave of Americans who volunteered to fight the Japanese even before Pearl Harbour. But it was also the end-point for a group of famous heroes I totally missed hearing about: the "Hump" airlift. After the Japanese took Burma, ChongQing was as landlocked as Berlin in the 1950s when the Berlin airlift saved it. But in the case of ChongQing from 1942 to 1944, the airlift was [i]over the Himalayas[/i], from Assam in northeast India. Over that period, about 1,500 planes were used; half of which did not survive. Its motley group of pilots held reunions in later years, and claimed to have taken part in the greatest feat of heroic aviation in military history. I don't know how to compare them with the pilots of the Battle of Britain, but I am not about to dispute their claim.

Xi'an has fewer people but more history. Its numerous stints as China's capital date back to 221 BC, when the first Qin Emperor first unified China, built the Great Wall, standardized the Chinese language's written characters and its legal code, and so on. And he also had the usual mausoleum built during his lifetime, like the ancient Egyptians. Unlike his predecessor kings of Xi'an, he did not plan to have an army buried alive with him to protect him in the afterlife. In a step which no doubt won favour with his armed forces, he created what we know today as the Terracotta Warriors: thousands of plaster-cast models, each with a different face taken from his real army.

They were also buried with their swords, which are still sharp 2,200 years later, because they were made of chome-plated bronze to prevent rusting. And here we thought we in the west had invented chrome-plating in 1937.

The Expressway to the Terracotta Warriors is lined with beautiful willow trees. As usual, they have a double meaning. They have been a symbol of Xi'an for over a thousand years. Some emperor started planting them because the word for willow sounds like the word for return home (or something like that), and it was part of a civic pride campaign for Xi'an people to return home.

Many children in China start learning languages, and more than one foreign language, as young as age four. So we've been told, but you don't believe it until you see it. At the ChongQing Zoo we went to see the panda bears (the Chinese word for them is "cat bears" because they have the personality of cats.) We saw more cute Chinese kids than pandas. One girl had just turned five. Margaret asked her granny for permission to photograph her, which as always was granted with a broad smile. The girl loved the game, playing peekaboo behind her granny's legs. Margaret asked how old? Granny holds up four fingers. "No, No" signs the girl with a wave of her hand. Holding up her own fingers she counted out, in perfect and unaccented English. "One, two, three, four, [i]five[/i]." Photographs completed, the girl smiled and said "Thank you very much." As her final flourish, as she walked away she called out in Russian "Do svedanya" (Bye-bye.)

After that, watching a 10-month-old panda scamper to the top of her tree and loll backwards nibbling leaves was almost an anti-climax.

Wilf Day


Wilf Day


Originally posted by martin dufresne:
[b]The net effect of the factor you mention would be more baby girls, not more baby boys.[/b]

The question is the ratio of girls to boys, not the number. Play with some sample numbers and you'll see it results in more boys than girls.

Edited to add: oops. Apparently it doesn't. Embarassed


That is amazing, Wilf. Our kleptocrats have talked a lot about funding a study to look at fast rail between Quebec City and I think Windsor. Our corrupt stooges do a lot of talking though, and spending millions on studies. In China they get it done.


Thanks for the opportunity to recall and re-read these wonderful posts, Wilf.


Wilf Day

Unionist wrote:

Thanks for the opportunity to recall and re-read these wonderful posts, Wilf.

Actually they were a bit incoherent, having been posted late in the evening from various hotel "business centres" as we trekked around China.

So the edited rewrite is on TravelPod.


[url= decline of America[/url] The comfortable U.S. hegemony of the late 1990s has been upset by economic crises and military misadventure -- the future may belong to someone else

Globalization in the 2000s is backfiring on the United States and confirming Kennedy's warnings. Bush's three-trillion-dollar/150,000-man war in Iraq weakened America's position in Afghanistan and dealing with North Korea, Venezuela and Iran. American manufacturing went to China and services went to India. The former "arsenal of democracy" now entertained, speculated and consumed, going the way of Holland and Britain. America's financial sector grew from four to eight per cent of GDP. A new generation of untrained real estate entrepreneurs forgot, and then repeated, the horrendous mistakes of the 1920s.

In the 2000s Global America no longer provided enough goods or services to pay its bills. The Pax Americana may be over a lot sooner than many think. Who will fill the vacuum?

By 2030, China's GDP will be $70 trillion. Asia was once home to the largest and most influencial economies in the world. It will be again.

Sven Sven's picture

Fidel wrote:

[url= decline of America[/url] The comfortable U.S. hegemony of the late 1990s has been upset by economic crises and military misadventure -- the future may belong to someone else

Globalization in the 2000s is backfiring on the United States and confirming Kennedy's warnings. Bush's three-trillion-dollar/150,000-man war in Iraq weakened America's position in Afghanistan and dealing with North Korea, Venezuela and Iran. American manufacturing went to China and services went to India. The former "arsenal of democracy" now entertained, speculated and consumed, going the way of Holland and Britain. America's financial sector grew from four to eight per cent of GDP. A new generation of untrained real estate entrepreneurs forgot, and then repeated, the horrendous mistakes of the 1920s.

In the 2000s Global America no longer provided enough goods or services to pay its bills. The Pax Americana may be over a lot sooner than many think. Who will fill the vacuum?

By 2030, China's GDP will be $70 trillion. Asia was once home to the largest and most influencial economies in the world. It will be again.

Do you think the Chinese will be more altruistic and benevolent and more of a "team player" with other nations than America is once China is the world power?  Or, do you think China will largely act according to its own interests, much like America does today?

Even if one-party-rule eventually ends in China, I suspect China will be less susceptible to the "peer pressure" of the "community of nations" than even America is.


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