China

IN A set piece of imperial pomp, power and benevolence for which the Chinese capital seems designed, the leaders of more than two dozen countries, plus envoys from fourscore more, gathered in Beijing last weekend—in awe of Xi Jinping. At his much ballyhooed “Belt and Road Forum”, the Chinese leader laid out what was intended to look like a new global economic order: Chinese-led investment in railways, roads, bridges, ports and other infrastructure that would transform 60-odd countries to C...
A cheap way to keep out the riff-raffSALARY ALLEY runs from the National Art Gallery to Dongsi North Street in downtown Beijing. It is one of the city’s surviving hutong (alleyways) from the pre-Communist period—a lane of single-story houses, grey brick walls and upturned eaves. It is also a microcosm of changes ripping through China’s cities.Salary Alley is poor. Large houses have been subdivided into warrens. Few have kitchens or bathrooms, so the lane is lined with public bathrooms and ...
FOR years Wuhu, a city (pictured) in the poor central province of Anhui, was on the front line of a national effort to reduce a glut of unsold homes. New property developments stretched into the haze along the Yangzi river on the town’s western edge. But buyers were scarce: although Anhui has a population about the size of Italy’s, many of its people have long preferred to work in richer parts of the country. Officials in Wuhu tried to entice locals to buy homes, offering tax breaks. At one ...
ON APRIL 10th a freight train pulled out of Barking station in London carrying Scotch whisky, baby milk and engineering equipment. It arrived in Yiwu in eastern China (see map) nearly three weeks later, completing the second-longest round-trip train journey ever made (after Yiwu to Madrid and back, a record set in 2014). It lopped around a month off the time of a sea journey from Britain to China.A day after the train’s departure, a less ballyhooed but potentially more significant event took p...
Nothing abnormalCHINESE officials describe the far western province of Xinjiang as a “core area” in the vast swathe of territory covered by the country’s grandiose “Belt and Road Initiative” to boost economic ties with Central Asia and regions beyond. They hope that wealth generated by the scheme will help to make Xinjiang more stable—for years it has been plagued by separatist violence which China says is being fed by global jihadism. But the authorities are not waiting. In recent m...
QUEUES at Chinese hospitals are legendary. The acutely sick jostle with the elderly and frail even before gates open, desperate for a coveted appointment to see a doctor. Scalpers hawk waiting tickets to those rich or desperate enough to jump the line. The ordeal that patients often endure is partly the result of a shortage of staff and medical facilities. But it is also due to a bigger problem. Many people who seek medical help in China bypass general practitioners and go straight to hospital-b...
Migrants aren’t supposed to look like thisNATIVES of China’s capital find it all too easy to ignore the millions of people who have moved to the city from the countryside. The newcomers live on building sites, or in windowless rooms in the basements of apartment blocks. Many of them rent cramped accommodation in ramshackle “migrant villages” on the city’s edges. Beijing-born residents often treat the outsiders with scorn, blaming them for much of the city’s crime and its pockets of s...
Guo Wengui is doubling downIN CHINA, tycoons are often privy to murky secrets. Their dealings inevitably bring them into close contact with officialdom—they know whose palms can be greased, and who the real power-brokers are in the shadowy world of Communist Party politics. They are careful, however, not to speak out: an angry politician can easily destroy a business and have a person jailed. No wonder, then, that many Chinese have been transfixed by the claims made by a self-exiled property m...
MOST of Tian Shuang’s relatives are herding goats in the barren hills of Ningxia province, one of the poorest parts of western China. But last year Mr Tian came down to Minning, a small town in the valley, when the local government, as part of an anti-poverty programme, gave him a job growing mushrooms and ornamental plants in a commercial nursery garden. His name, address and income (20,000 yuan a year, or $2,900—six times the minimum wage) are written on a board by its greenhouse door.Mr T...
RESIDENTS have found something else to blame for the toxic smog that envelops many Chinese cities for much of the year. Until recently the culprits that were usually fingered were the obvious ones: emissions from coal-fired power plants, exhaust fumes from cars and dust from building sites. This year, however, reports began to appear in state-run media that climate change is now reckoned to be a factor, too. Chinese scientists say that in eastern China global warming is resulting in less rain an...
Weighing them up against BMWsA MAN pedals a brand-new, orange and silver bicycle to his office door. He dismounts in the middle of the pavement, flicks down the kickstand and disappears inside. A woman approaches and waves her smartphone over a QR code near the rear mudguard. The lock snaps open and off she rides. These days, China’s once bicycle-clogged streets are choked with cars. But some urbanites are getting back on two (motorless) wheels, lured by the ease of using shared “dockless”...
ALL politicians demand loyalty, but some politicians demand more loyalty than others. Xi Jinping, China’s president, is in the Napoleon class—Napoleon the pig, that is, who taught the creatures of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” the slogan: “Comrade Napoleon is always right.”Over the past few months a parade of dignitaries has professed undying allegiance to Mr Xi and the Communist Party he leads. The trigger was a party decision in October to anoint Mr Xi as the “core” of the le...
THROUGHOUT Chinese history, the dawn of new dynasties often involved moving the entire capital, imperial palace and all, to a new city. By those dynastic standards, Xi Jinping’s ambitions are modest. He simply wants to shift some of Beijing an hour’s drive to the south. But by the standards of modern urban development, his vision is grand indeed. All going well, the new area, known as Xiongan, will cover 2,000 square kilometres, nearly three times the size of New York City or Singapore. A ...
The old Carrie LamTHE leader of Hong Kong, Leung Chung-ying, will not be widely missed when he steps down at the end of June, especially by the young. His five-year term has been dogged throughout by student-led protests. In 2012 thousands of high-school pupils demonstrated against what they saw as an effort to teach them to love the Chinese Communist Party (“national education”, as the government called it). Leaders of the campaign were back on the streets again two years later demanding fu...
FRIDAY is a good day for eight-year-old Yang Zongtao. He will see his mother and baby sister after spending the week boarding at Jiaoba Central Primary School in Guizhou, a southern province and one of China’s poorest. He misses his mother “a bit”, he says stoically. But the walk from his home takes an hour, too long to undertake alone each day. So, like millions of pupils in China’s countryside, he remains at school all week (some stay longer). There are rural children who start boardin...
IN THREE months, celebrations will take place at Hong Kong’s harbour-front convention centre to mark the 20th anniversary of the territory’s momentous return from Britain to China. The rumour is that President Xi Jinping himself will attend. What was striking about the handover ceremony on July 1st 1997 was that Hong Kong’s people were not represented. They were mere bystanders—or else helping with the catering. From the start, Hong Kongers were symbolically put in their place. At the co...
AS DONALD TRUMP prepares to welcome Xi Jinping next week for the two men’s first face-to-face encounter, both countries are reassessing their place in the world. They are looking in opposite directions: America away from shouldering global responsibilities, China towards it. And they are reappraising their positions in very different ways. Hare-like, the Trump administration is dashing from one policy to the next, sometimes contradicting itself and willing to box any rival it sees. China, tort...
IMAGES of China beam out from a giant electronic billboard on Times Square in the heart of New York city: ancient temples, neon-lit skyscrapers and sun-drenched paddy fields. Xinhua, a news service run by the Chinese government, is proclaiming the “new perspective” offered by its English-language television channel. In Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, children play beneath hoardings advertising swanky, Chinese-built apartment complexes in the city. Buyers are promised “a new lifestyle”....
THE National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s rubber-stamp parliament, wrapped up its annual session on March 15th. Usually its business is unremarkable. This year, however, a piece of legislation that was passed on the final day may prove unusually important. It is known by the unlovely name of the General Principles of Civil Law. It sets the stage for China to pass its first civil code, an overarching law governing legal disputes other than those involving crimes.China has a civil-law syst...
Is he worth it?MUCH grumbling accompanied the start on March 4th of this year’s season of the Chinese Super League (CSL), the uppermost tier of professional football in China. Managers of its 16 clubs have been gnashing their teeth at a change of rules which was suddenly announced just a few weeks before the first matches. Teams are now allowed to field a maximum of three foreigners.The clubs would have preferred more notice. Many of them have only just acquired even more foreign players. All ...