Posts tagged ‘chinese new year’

08/05/2015

For returning migrant workers, a changed and desolate homeland|Society|chinadaily.com.cn

As the first wave of Chinese migrant workers return to live in their hometowns, they may find that life has changed dramatically from when they first left, a PhD student in Shanghai University revealed in his journal published in The Paper.

For returning migrant workers, a changed and desolate homeland

Rural areas tend to evoke empty villages where the working population has left, but the fact is that more and more middle-aged migrant workers are coming back home in recent years, said Wang Leiguang, a native of Luotian county of Hubei province who impressed readers with his “Journal of returning to hometown” during the Spring Festival.

Ever since China’s reform and opening-up in the late 1970s, waves of farmers left their land and worked in cities, where they could enjoy higher incomes but faced various disadvantages.

After working in cities for decades, they feel tired and no longer welcome in the city. Most of them have built new houses in their hometowns and have some savings. More importantly, they have to look after their grandchildren, as Wang elaborated in his article.

The year-on-year growth rate in the number of migrant workers has been declining since 2010, said a report released by the National Bureau of Statistics in late April. Since 2004, China has encountered a continuous labor shortage and many migrant workers aged above 50 have returned to their hometowns, as Wang has noticed in his hometown, Luotian.

However, returning home doesn’t mean a return to farming. Since most young laborers moved to the cities, the remote farmlands have become wastelands no one wants to reclaim. Meanwhile machines have replaced manual work in the remaining farms. Even so, many don’t really care about the harvest and some even give up their land.

City life has apparently estranged them from the farmland.

Meanwhile, the pace of urbanization in China during the past 25 years has seen the decline of many villages. As people have drifted away to urban areas, the countryside has become stripped of community and culture.

Unlike twenty years ago when villagers could enjoy various activities such as temple fairs, outdoor movies and opera performances, there are almost no cultural activities these days, as rural people left for cities to find better-paid jobs. When those migrant workers return, they find that villagers have less contact with each other, even between neighbors. Most of them stay at home watching TV.

Rural life is lonely and dull. Wang described the common sight of an old man or woman sitting in the sun at the gate every day, greeting acquaintances when they pass by, as if waiting for death to come.

Increasing social bonds may be a solution to fight the alienation in the countryside, Wang suggested. He found that villagers communicated more and felt happier during their efforts to build a road.

Zhou Jinming, an agricultural official with the Yulin government of Shaanxi province, suggested that the government should focus on supporting large villages by improving conditions, such as setting up libraries and clinics.

via For returning migrant workers, a changed and desolate homeland|Society|chinadaily.com.cn.

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04/04/2015

Poverty in China: Just a little bit richer | The Economist

THE villagers of Dingjiayan subsist on corn, potatoes, sunflowers and the few vegetables they grow. They sell the surplus and buy meat and a few other necessities in the nearby county town of Tianzhen. Its mud-and-brick buildings, and its setting among dusty hills in the north-eastern corner of Shanxi province, offer little to the occasional visitor to distinguish it from countless other parts of China where hard work brings but a meagre living. Yet Tianzhen county, of which Dingjiayan is a part, is one of just 592 areas that the central government designates as “impoverished”.

China’s official threshold for rural poverty is an annual income of 2,300 yuan ($370) per person. But the criteria for classifying a village or county are complex and often revised. They include comparisons of poverty rates and average incomes with those of the province, adjustments for inflation, quotas on the number of villages that may count as poor and a ban on including villages that own collective enterprises, whatever their income level. Though dozens of places have been listed and delisted every few years since the 1990s, the total has remained curiously fixed—at 592.

An “impoverished” designation brings substantial subsidies. But Ding Tianyu, who has lived in Dingjiayan for all his 73 years, says he hardly notices. Most households earn about 10,000 yuan a year, he says, and get a subsidy of 80 yuan for each mu (614 square metres) of land they farm. “I have five mu,” Mr Ding says. “When there is enough rain I am fine, and when I get the subsidy I feel just a little bit richer.”

With bustling shops and a fair number of pricey cars on its roads, Tianzhen’s county town does not, by Chinese standards, feel impoverished. There is little disclosure about how subsidies are used, says a restaurant owner. “We are told a lot of it goes into the local credit union and that we can apply for loans there, but they only lend to people with good connections.”

In 2012, when the list was last updated, Xinshao county in Hunan in south-central China was added. Local officials used the county’s official website to trumpet this “exceptional good tidings” after two years of “arduous efforts” and “untold hardships”. A large roadside board added its “ardent congratulations”. After nationwide criticism, the officials accepted that their words had been badly chosen. But their cheer was understandable: the official designation was worth an extra 560m yuan for the county each year from the central government.

The episode caused many to question the value of the system and the perverse incentives it creates for local governments. A commentary last year in the Legal Daily claimed that many places were misusing the funds and had fudged their figures to qualify as impoverished. Officials from the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, which manages the list, have acknowledged widespread abuses. In February it banned lavish new buildings and “image projects” in officially designated poor areas.

State television reported on two counties, one in Ningxia and one in Hubei, where local governments spent 100m yuan each on new headquarters. In March, during China’s annual full legislative session, the council’s poverty head, Liu Yongfu, raised a different question about the programme. He told the Southern Metropolis, a newspaper, that hundreds of counties would be taken off the list by 2020. “If a poor area as big as a county still exists, then can Chinese society still be called moderately prosperous?” he asked.

Attainment of a “moderately prosperous society” is a goal that previous Chinese leaders set and that Xi Jinping, the current president, has adopted as well. Much progress has been made since reforms began in earnest in the late 1970s. China claims to have lifted 620m people out of poverty since then. Others may quibble over that number—the World Bank puts it at 500m—but few question the premise that China deserves immense credit for alleviating so much poverty.

Much still remains, however. A little uphill from Dingjiayan sits a smaller village, Dingyuanyao. Its higher elevation means it gets less water, and a resident says most of its 90 residents will clear just 1,000 yuan a year after paying for seeds and fertiliser. Some own motorbikes and televisions, and they are grateful for the basic health insurance they receive. They laugh in unison when asked if they receive subsidies. The arrival of electricity 30 years ago was a vast improvement, they agree. But little has changed in their lives since then.

via Poverty in China: Just a little bit richer | The Economist.

01/04/2015

High-tech sanitation: Race to the bottom | The Economist

JAPAN is often viewed with antipathy in China, but increasingly commerce is trumping contempt. During the lunar new-year holiday in February, Chinese tourists thronged to Japan in record numbers. Many came home lugging a high-end Japanese luxury: a heated toilet-seat complete with pulsating water jets, deodorisers and even music to drown out less melodious tinklings. In recent weeks the run on Japanese loos has been a topic of much debate among Chinese commentators, revealing deep insecurities.

Chinese visitors bought more high-tech lavatory seats than almost any other Japanese product during the week-long break, according to Hottolink, a Japanese consulting firm. Most popular was a new variety with hands-free lid opening, say staff at a branch in Tokyo of Bic Camera, a consumer electronics store where Chinese shoppers are so numerous that signs advertise wares in Chinese and assistants speak Mandarin. These cost around ¥65,000 ($540). Some bought several seats, including portable, battery-powered ones.

Relations between China and Japan have shown recent, tentative signs of warmth after a long chill. But only three years ago demonstrators in several Chinese cities called for a boycott of Japanese goods in protest against Japan’s stance in a still-festering dispute over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. Some Japanese companies responded by minimising or hiding their branding on products sold in China.

via High-tech sanitation: Race to the bottom | The Economist.

11/03/2015

China’s Risky Mao-Style Focus on the Personal Life of President Xi Jinping – China Real Time Report – WSJ

Chinese media’s relentless focus on the achievements and personal life of President Xi Jinping represents a sharp break with recent leadership practice in China, which has studiously avoided the personality cult that surrounded Mao Zedong. WSJ’s Andrew Browne traveled to Liangjiahe, the cave village in northern China where Mr. Xi was banished during the Cultural Revolution, to answer a question: Is it all about personal aggrandizement? Or is it a media-driven effort by the troubled Communist Party to capitalize on an immensely popular president?

It may be both. Just over two years into his term, three major anthologies of Mr. Xi’s speeches and writings have rolled off the official printing presses. The Chinese characters for “China Dream,” Mr. Xi’s catchphrase for national rejuvenation, are plastered across subway stations, bus stops and billboards. Party newspapers extol the “Spirit of Xi Jinping.”

There’s an irony, of course, in Mr. Xi taking a leaf from Mao, who persecuted his father. But Mr. Xi’s main goal is to save the Party. That means preserving Mao as a symbol of Communist rule.

via China’s Risky Mao-Style Focus on the Personal Life of President Xi Jinping – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

11/03/2015

Chinese shoe factory workers strike over benefits | Reuters

About 5,000 workers have gone on strike at a shoe manufacturer in southern China over benefits, two activists and a worker said, marking one of the biggest work-stoppages in the country in months.

The company that owns the factory, Stella International Holdings Ltd, lists Guess? Inc, Michael Kors Holding Ltd, Prada SpA and Burberry Group PLC among its customers.

China’s slowing economy, rising costs and the spread of social media have driven an increase in strikes. Last year, the number of strikes more than doubled to 1,378 from 656 the year before, according to China Labour Bulletin, a Hong Kong-based advocacy group.

The strike at Stella’s Xing Ang factory in the city of Dongguan started on Sunday with workers unhappy about not receiving housing assistance, said Liu Zai, who added she had not received the funds in eight years at the factory.

“We want an explanation. Why haven’t they paid this for so many years?” she said by telephone.

Liu and two activists said all of the factory’s workers, about 5,000 people, were on strike. On Wednesday, most were forced to return to their workplace but were still refusing to work, Liu said.

via Chinese shoe factory workers strike over benefits | Reuters.

06/03/2015

China’s Fosun buys 5 percent stake in British travel group Thomas Cook | Reuters

China’s Fosun International (0656.HK) has bought a 5 percent stake in Thomas Cook Group (TCG.L), deepening its foray into Europe’s tourism sector and potentially helping the British company to compete with travel leviathan TUI Group (TUIT.L)

Fosun paid 92 million pounds ($140 million) for the Thomas Cook stake and will seek to double its holding in the world’s oldest travel group to 10 percent, it said in a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange on Friday.

News of the investment, which the companies said came after two years of talks, sent Thomas Cook shares soaring by as much as 22 percent in morning trade. At 6.20 a.m. ET the shares were up 18.8 percent at 143 pence.

Thomas Cook said that it expects the tie-up to enhance earnings in the financial year to Sept. 30, 2016, assuming plans under the partnership are implemented in 2015.

One of the plans is to explore collaboration opportunities with Club Mediterranee (CMIP.PA), the French holiday company Fosun bought last month, where it is seeking to turn around a business that is struggling in Europe and move more aggressively into fast-growing markets such as China.

via China’s Fosun buys 5 percent stake in British travel group Thomas Cook | Reuters.

20/02/2015

Top China cotton producer resists reforms in restive Xinjiang | Reuters

China’s top cotton producer, a quasi-military body formed 60 years ago to settle the far west Xinjiang area, is resisting a government policy that could force it to cut output in an industry employing hundreds of thousands in the restive region.

Farmers stack cotton at a cotton purchase station in Hami, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in this November 3, 2010 file picture. REUTERS/Stringer/Files

Beijing has pledged to end a costly stockpiling program that has artificially inflated cotton prices and in Xinjiang helped underpin an influx of Han Chinese workers, creating friction in an area home to the Muslim Uighur people.

Reluctant to accept the current weak market price, the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) has asked the government to buy part of its crop and store it in state reserves, said two trade sources with knowledge of the issue.

XPCC, also known as the army corps, or ‘bingtuan’, has become a sort of state within a state and gained a dominant role in industries such as cotton, where it employs about 200,000 mainly Han Chinese on some of Xinjiang’s best land.

“Cotton is intimately associated with land usage, ownership, employment and Han in-migration. It’s all tied up,” said Tom Cliff, a scholar at the Australian National University.

Beijing has promised subsidies to help cushion the impact of ending stockpiling, but the total amount is unclear and with the local cotton price plunging any threat to the industry could be a fresh source of competition for jobs.

via Top China cotton producer resists reforms in restive Xinjiang | Reuters.

20/02/2015

In Tibet, two celebrations coincide – China – Chinadaily.com.cn

The streets are more crowed and business is booming in Lhasa at the approach of Losar, Tibetan New Year, which coincides this year with the traditional Chinese Spring Festival.

In Tibet, two celebrations coincide

This year, New Year falls on the same day, Thursday, in both traditions. Losar dates to about 100 BC, the time of the ninth king of Tibet, Pude Gungyal. The celebration runs as long as 15 days.

Although the heavy snow that fell in Lhasa two days ago has not melted yet, residents are gearing up for the festival. Many of the hot shopping spots, such as the Ramoche Road and the Barkhor Shopping Mall, are packed with customers.

“My business is much better than last year. With the New Year festivals together, I had more shoppers,” said Basang Lhamo, a stall owner in the Barkhor market.

“I did not have time to prepare for my own Losar,” said the 38-year-old, adding that she will close her business on Tuesday, one day before New Year’s Eve.

As hordes of shoppers prepared for the festival, some bus drivers find it difficult to avoid traffic jams. “Ahead of Losar, with buses and streets crowded with people, it is hard to keep the bus moving smoothly,” said Nyima Tsering, a driver in Lhasa.

Karma Sonam, 43, a restaurant owner in the city, said his business has boomed this month. “My restaurant has been so full that my wife and our staff don’t have time for lunch most of the time,” he said. His family will travel to Xigaze for the festival, and he will give the staff a 15-day holiday.

Sonam Droma is a Tibetan woman who married a Han. They plan to spend the festival on the grassland. “It is more fun to embrace Losar in a remote grassland, as we enjoy the evening bonfire dancing and singing,” Sonam Droma, 27, said. “It is happier on the grassland.”

via In Tibet, two celebrations coincide – China – Chinadaily.com.cn.

16/02/2015

Li gives residents keys to ‘new life’|Politics|chinadaily.com.cn

The set of keys that Xiao Wenmei received from Premier Li Keqiang opens up not only her new apartment but her future.

Li gives residents keys to 'new life'

Li visited the newly finished Yu’an community in Guiyang, Guizhou province, and helped distribute keys to the new apartments on Saturday.

“Have you seen your new apartment?” Li asked as he handed keys to Xiao. “It is not only the key to your home but also to your new life.”

He then posted a fu character, a traditional Chinese paper cutting for Spring Festival, at the community’s main office.

“A new community is not only about building new houses but also about people’s new lives, so they can live in a comfortable and safe environment,” he said.

Xiao, 32, was still excited as she recalled the moment she received the keys from the premier. She said her family is busy preparing to move into the new apartment before Chinese New Year’s Eve “as a good start of the year”.

She has lived with her husband and kids in a nearby village, where houses leaked and roads became muddy during rainstorms. The local government invested 3 billion yuan ($481 million) in 2009 to build 8,500 apartments for 5,000 households in Xiao’s community.

Xiao’s family was allotted two apartments, about 300 square meters, as were some other families.

“We’ll move into one apartment and rent the other out,” she said. “A new house is like a big dream for my family.”

The Chinese government has counted heavily on the rebuilding of urban shantytowns to drive domestic demand and improve people’s living conditions.

via Li gives residents keys to ‘new life’|Politics|chinadaily.com.cn.

25/03/2014

Why China’s Manufacturing Sector Has Hit a Wall – Businessweek

More bad economic news out of China: A key indicator released on March 24 showed that the manufacturing sector of the world’s second-largest economy contracted for the fifth straight month.

The HSBC and Markit purchasing managers’ index fell to 48.1 in March, below the 48.7 expected by analysts in a Bloomberg News survey (a number above 50 indicates growth). “The weakness appears even more pronounced given that there is usually a seasonal rebound after the Chinese New Year holiday,” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, China economist at London-based Capital Economics, in a March 24 note.

The lackluster showing of the so-called Flash PMI (usually based on results from 85 percent to 90 percent of companies surveyed; the final reading will be released April 1) follows weak investment, industrial production, and export numbers in the first two months. “The old growth engine is losing steam,” Chen Xingdong, chief China economist at BNP Paribas in Beijing, told Bloomberg News.

via Why China’s Manufacturing Sector Has Hit a Wall – Businessweek.

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