Several days ago, the state-run People’s Daily ran a piece entitled “The Post-80’s Generation is Dispirited: Early Decline Cause for Alarm,” arguing that while China’s youth born after 1980 have far and away better material conditions tha
[Note: The following is a Tea Leaf Nation op-ed, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of the editors.] On November 29, 2012, at the end of his visit to “The Road to Revival” exhibition, which showcased China’s achievements in mo
The 13-foot tall and 4.5 ton weighting humanoid robot on wheels with all its 30 hydraulic joints can be operated directly from the cockpit or remotely using a smartphone with a 3G connection.
To compensate for its 6 miles per hour, the robot is equipped with a Gatling gun shooting 100 ball bearings per second. Presently Kuratas are announced to be available in 16 colors, costing $1.28 million per robot, with an optional cup holder for just $90.
Nannies, housecleaners, caregivers—they are sometimes called the world’s most invisible workforce. In the US alone, it’s estimated that more than 2 million people do this type of work. Most are women and many are immigrants.
As part of our Global Nation coverage, The World’s Monica Campbell has our first piece in a series about domestic workers: http://ow.ly/l4owh
Many times we run across articles on Chinese expat sites that detest what China has become and many foreign writers have stated that the era of foreigners living the “high life” in the Middle Kingdom has ended. Still, there are other laowai who have found a way to embrace the “New China,” with not only increasing affluence and influence on the world stage, but a stronger embracing of a developing music and cultural scene in the bigger cities. One such foreigner is Brad Seippel, an American expat, who went from practicing music in his apartment to becoming an integral part in the developing Beijing music scene. In a a conversation with Brad, he told me about how he first got involved in the music scene and gave advice on how other foreigners can get involved in Beijing and other cities in China.
Brad first began making music in his bedroom for more than half a year in Ningbo before first getting an invitation from a show organizer in Shanghai, Michael Ohlson.. He first tried out his talents in Shanghai and Ningbo, but found his performances really took off in Beijing after starting to get involved in the music scene that revolved around a local Beijing bar called What Bar (什么吧）. According to Seippel, “I think at that time it was a pretty important place for me to meet people who were active in the music community.”
Brad would perform on weekends or and said he had to really dig into the music scene to find music of that really appealed to him. But he was fortunate to live in the capital, where people have more exposure to a variety of live music. “Living in a bigger city like Beijing or Shanghai offers the show goer more opportunities to get exposure to this kind of environment.”
After getting involved in the music community, Brad stated that his impressions changed somewhat from what he originally felt in the beginning. “I think playing shows and collaborating with people making original music and throwing DIY shows has changed my view of the Chinese scene tremendously. I think here there is a bit less pressure than in the West.”
The Louisiana native offers advice to anyone who wants to become involved in the Music scene in China. He first recommends checking out a few music blogs like beijingdaze.com or livebeijingmusic.com. But, besides also checking out the music scene online and getting a Weibo account, he also advises the serious musician to go a lot deeper to learn the language and overcome the challenging aspect of gaining the respect of the audience. He explains: “Gaining the respect of the Chinese audience isn’t always so simple. This is their scene and you’re stepping into it as an outsider.”
Touring throughout China under the artist name Throughitin, he has gained valuable memories and experiences. He says, “I think that there are some exceptionally talented people here and collaborating with them has been an unforgettable means of sharing culture. Brad, who is a conversationally fluent Chinese speaker and also player of the pipa,has found his niche in the “New China” by embracing much of the culture and the language, by not being afraid to explore new ideas and concepts. His most poignant advice which can definitely be applied to any field is just to try, and if you really enjoy what you are doing, you will eventually be the magnet for your own success. “The best advice I can give to someone wanting to get involved in the scene is to just jump in…If you’re playing music you genuinely care about people will eventually realize it and all the other nonsense won’t matter.”
There are generally two kinds of foreigners in China: those who come for a year and leave, and those who are deeply interested in the culture and want to really become apart of this up and coming superpower. I believe we can follow Brad’s example by not being afraid to make mistakes. Whether our passion is writing, music, or anything else, don’t be afraid to try. You might just find yourself opening a door to whole new possibilities.
About the author:
You might be surprised to find that most of the decline in China’s fertility rate happened before the one-child policy was enacted in 1982. The World’s Mary Kay Magistad investigates the future of the one-child policy in China as part of her “China Past Due” series: http://ow.ly/kwz37
Tips for Drinking Safe, Clean Water in China
May 10, 2013 By Katie Burkhardt, eChinacities.com
World Water Day may have come and gone, but many eyes are still set on China’s water crisis, including those of China’s expat population, who are constantly trying to keep abreast of the latest developments and in reach of healthy water. As Greenpeace shares in a list of devastating facts about water pollution, approximately 320 million people are without access to clean water in China. This is not surprising, given the rapid industrialization and urbanization taking place within the nation’s borders. But what is being done about it? By taking a look at the general water situation in China as well as several recent high-profile incidents related to water pollution, this article will help you to better understand the environment and also offer advice on drinking safe, clean water in China.
The lowdown on China’s water situation
Water quality is a major concern in China largely due to man-made pollution and natural contamination. According to a long-term study completed in 2011 by the Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Chinese Academy of Engineering, over 90 percent of the groundwater in cities was polluted to different degrees. Of 118 major cities, 64 percent had seriously contaminated groundwater supplies. Furthermore, laboratory tests conducted by the Ministry of Water Resources found that 20 percent of China’s rivers were so badly polluted that their waters were too dangerous to even come in contact with. These alarming water pollution statistics can be traced back to sources including manufacturing emissions, poorly treated sewage, industrial spills, and agricultural runoff. With 70 percent of China’s population depending on groundwater for their drinking supply, these startling numbers present a very serious health concern.
Unfortunately, pollution is only half of the country’s water problem. Not only might China’s water be toxic; it is also scarce. The Ministry of Water Resources reported in 2012 that nearly two-thirds of China’s cities are “water-needy” and more than 300 million rural residents lack access to drinking water. The Ministry concluded that the nation, on the whole, is only using 50 percent of its water supply effectively, with the agricultural industry held accountable for significant levels of wasted water.
Recent high-profile incidents related to water pollution
The issues impacting China’s environment are not going unnoticed in the media these days and water quality has certainly held its fair share of time in the spotlight. Let’s recall a few recent episodes that testify to China’s growing water pollution problem.
- January 2013 - The Zhuozhang River was seriously contaminated by a 39-ton chemical spill, containing possible carcinogens, and not reported until five days after the spill
- February 2013 - China formally admits to the existence of “cancer villages” popping up around the nation from toxic contamination of air and water
- March 2013 - 16,000 dead pigs were fished out of the Huangpu River, believed to be dumped from swine farms upstream, rather than being properly disposed of
- March 2013 - Shanghai’s Suzhou River turned black from “normal discharge”
Just when you thought you could avoid all this mess by drinking bottled water, think again as a recent scandal has highlighted even more concerns in regard to water safety. As China Daily reported, the bottled water producer Nongfu Spring Company has previously received public warnings for using quality standards below those set by the government for the nation’s tap water, while the beverages they produce have come under scrutiny for containing high levels of arsenic and cadmium. And on May 3, 2013, amid fresh claims that the company’s bottled water contains trace amounts of what is essentially liquid garbage, Beijing’s Bottled Water Sales Association published a notice, recommending all shops in Beijing to pull Nongfu Spring 5-gallon jugs of water off the shelves. But Nongfu Spring shouldn’t be held entirely guilty—it was recently discovered that China, as a nation, has 80 percent fewer national standards for bottled water than for regular tap water.
If you’re anything like me, perhaps your apartment came furnished with a water dispenser that you count(ed) on for safe, clean water and refill with those large bottles that are conveniently delivered to your doorstep. Well buyer beware, as in July 2011 the Industry and Commerce Administration reported that 31 water brands had failed regular safety checks and exceeded the allowable count of aerobic bacteria. One brand in particular, Liquan, was 9,000 times over the allowable bacteria limit! If you still dare to use these potentially dangerous bottles that may have been illegally manufactured and therefore tainted, remember that they should be consumed within a month of opening and the dispenser itself should be cleaned regularly with a bleach or vinegar solution.
Water testing and clean water solutions
Although state officials claim that more than 80 percent of water leaving treatment facilities met government standards in 2011, other assessments show differing opinions on the actual water quality. A report by Century Weekly notes that infrequent testing, inadequate independent water-monitoring bureaus, weak transparency from local governments, and contamination from piping after leaving the water-treatment plant as major reasons for these assessment disparities. Without trustworthy information to rely on, how can we be sure what we’re putting into our bodies? We all know there is no shortage of boiled water in China, but that only makes it microbiologically safe. What about all of the toxins?
This concern has led to the rise of the water purification industry in China, largely dominated by foreign brands. Water filtration systems use various means to remove impurities and produce water fit for human consumption, with the most common types including ion exchange, distillation, filtration, ultra-filtration and reverse osmosis. PureLiving China has a good breakdown of the pros and cons of each type of filtration system and how effective they will be in China. As the website notes, the right water filter will depend on the type of contaminant you wish to remove, your desired water use, and your budget. Speaking of money, the price of a filtration system will depend on the technology, capacity, type of device, and brand. There are personal, portable water filters (such as LifeStraw), water filter pitchers, faucet-mount filters, under-sink filters, and whole-house filtration systems. A simple search on Amazon will reveal a number of different filtration options at various price points, and the list below contains some common domestic and foreign brands dominating the Chinese market.
- The Angel brand offers water dispensers, water filters, ice makers, and water treatment systems at the lowest price, but have received bad press in the past about quality concerns
- Pentair is a leader in air and water filtration with point-of-use and whole-house filtration systems ranging from 1,000-4,000 RMB
- Litree offers kitchen and whole-house solutions ranging from 2,000-3,000 RMB and is sold at Metro stores across China
- 3M clean water systems use dedicated faucets to provide filtered water at the point-of-use with prices ranging from 1,000-4,000 RMB
- A.J. Antunes is the under-sink and whole-house filtration brand trusted by government officials and foreign corporations in China with the lowest-priced model starting at 7,000 RMB
Many government offices, foreign restaurant chains, and hotels are already making use of water filtration systems in China. For example, every Starbucks and McDonald’s in China is using American-made A.J. Antunes filtration systems, with a price exceeding 20,000 RMB per location. In my mind, if the same restaurant that is handing out greasy burgers and fries finds it important enough to filter water, maybe I should too. So whether you want to fork out several thousand RMB for a foreign-made filtration system or spend much less on a portable, personal water filter, well that’s your decision. Just remember, it’s hard to put a price tag on your health and in the long run, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Hope for the future
Modern China has both the knowledge and the capability to effectively deal with the environmental and health challenges its rapid development has created. However, they face an ongoing battle with manufacturers who have found a myriad of ways of working around the rules, including constructing secret pipes or directly dumping wastewater into rivers. Fortunately, Chinese citizens aren’t keeping quiet about these issues. Mounting public outrage, largely aided by the power of social media, is starting to push officials to take action. The government has introduced efforts to tighten its supervision over exploitation of underground water, further protect sources of drinking water, and restore the aquatic ecological system.
There has been a long-term buildup to this problem, and the resolution will require a long-term process, but China knows they must act and take responsibility, and they are. As compared to an issue like food safety where immediate solutions are much less obvious, with proper water filtration devices we can rest assured that we are consuming safe, clean water in the meantime, at least until a sustainable, long-term solution is worked out.