Changing China

Giant on the move

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The Other China Stimulus

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By Zhou Xin

As the world watches how Beijing’s $585 billion stimulus package can create opportunities for investors, they might be overlooking another mini-stimulus that is coming in a matter of weeks: the lavish celebration the government will be staging to mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China on Oct. 1.

On top of what is expected to be a huge military parade through central Beijing, massive firework displays are expected to light up the capital and other big cities around the country.

Although overall spending figures are secret, speculation about the windfall profits that the country’s only listed fireworks firm could reap from the event have caused its share price to, well, explode over the last month or so.

Panda Fireworks shares have more than doubled in value over the past month, even amid a more than 14 percent fall in the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index over the same period. (See the chart plotting their values and relative performance.)

from The Great Debate (Commentary):

Shenzhen’s “Bird’s Nest”

If you want to gauge the current state of China's construction boom, look no further than Hong Kong's dynamic neighbour, Shenzhen.  Defying the searing heat of the Chinese summer, construction workers are busily building a state-of-the-art stadium for the 2011 World University Games.

I was there last week on a five-day tour organized by Guangdong Province, and the stadium was the first stop, indicating how intensely proud officials are about the "Lotus Flower" stadium.

From Canada, looking back

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I first visited China in June 1997.  It was eight years after the Tiananmen crackdown, weeks before the Hong Kong Handover back to China marking the end of British rule, and over a decade before the 2008 Summer Olympics. It was a family trip — my parents were looking forward to a college reunion with classmates they hadn’t seen in decades and I had just finished my second year of university. I was looking forward to finally seeing the place I’d heard so much about.

Born and raised in Canada, I grew up listening to stories of the past — lessons in history, humanity, tragedy and survival. And like many children of immigrant families, there is a constant search for a balance and a place between the different worlds that shape our identity.

Tightening screws on Tiananmen

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Security on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square is always tight.
 
But I knew that today it was going to be particularly so when, upon emerging from the subway station, I was faced with three police vans and literally hundreds of security personnel, all on guard against any kind of disturbance ahead of the 20th anniversary of 1989′s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing.
 
Nervously I made my way to one of the square’s entrances, wondering if I would even be allowed to enter.
 
I put my bag on the X-ray machine, was briefly frisked by police with metal detectors, and cleared to go on my way.
 
The square was full of tourists, as usual. What was different was the hordes of uniformed police, military police and plainclothes security every few metres.
 
The plainclothes officers were painfully obvious, shuffling awkwardly in T-shirts and tracksuit bottoms, their crew cut hairstyles and poorly hidden walkie-talkies distinguishing them from ordinary visitors. They were also all carrying the same brand of bottled water.
 
Everytime I tried talking to someone, a police officer or one of the guards began hovering behind me. Finally I was able to chat with a trinket seller, who, talking in a low voice, complained
that the security was ruining her business.
 
“June 4 is tomorrow,” she said simply.
 
At that point one of the crew-cut men marched over and told the lady to stop talking to me.
 
By this stage. I had had enough and began heading back towards the subway station, passing on my way a foreign television crew. A policeman was telling them in no uncertain terms that they could not film in the square.
 
I felt lucky that nobody had stopped me. I’m sure the police knew I was there though, and why I had gone.

Photo caption: Chinese security personnel try to stop pictures from being taken as they check the documents of the photographer at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 3, 2009. Chinese security forces blanketed Tiananmen Square on Wednesday ahead of the 20th anniversary of the June 4 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. REUTERS/Reinhard Krause

Karaoke Blues

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Has the fat lady sung in China?

Karaoke is much maligned in most of the West and much loved in most of China.

After years in Beijing, I’ve become perhaps too fond of all-night singing sessions in the city’s karaoke palaces, where you can rent a room for two or 20 friends to croon along to tens of thousands of Chinese numbers and an eclectic English selection that ranges from old hymns to Amy Winehouse.

For as long as I’ve lived here, singing on a Saturday night meant reserving a room, arriving on time (more than 10 minutes late and you lose your room) and then waiting around for at least half an hour for the previous group to tear themselves away from the mics and for the cleaners to do a quick mop-up.

China opens Paralympic Games

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opening cermoney one

Beijing opened the Paralympic Games in spectacular fashion on Saturday, the crowd at the Bird’s Nest roaring in approval at the lavish performance overseen by renowned Chinese film director Zhang Yimou.

Particularly well received was a moving ballet performance by a young girl who lost a leg in May’s massive Sichuan earthquake.

Snapshot Beijing, 7: Bolt breaks the unbreakable world record

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Bolt breaks the 200 world record

My abiding memory from these Games  will be watching Usain Bolt give everything he had to break a world record most of us had thought unbreakable.

Michael Johnson’s time of 19.32 in the 200 metres had never been seriously challenged before the Jamaican sprinter, a headline writer’s dream, decided it was finally time to get down to some serious work.

A pleasant surprise in Beijing

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Volunteers stand near the targetsI’d expected the worst when I got to Beijing three weeks ago. I remember what it was like in another Communist country — East Germany with its suppressed and scared people coupled with deplorable service and shoddy quality everywhere you turned.

That’s roughly what I had in mind for China, although I knew Beijing itself would certainly be a more prosperous and modern place than East Germany, and with a bit of window dressing for the Olympics.

Snapshot Beijing, 6: Michael Phelps wins eight golds

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Phelps in full flow

Michael Phelps trouncing his rivals is always something fantastic to see, and here in Beijing it took your breath away to watch him so often leave everyone else for dead.

But the races which stick most vividly in my mind are the two in which gold appeared to have escaped him.

Beijing bustling again already

As Olympic visitors started to worry on Sunday about airport return traffic, cars in Beijing were being parked on sidewalks again.

Night clubs were open after an anti-prostitution blitz a few weeks ago. Once banished vendors scrummed on sidewalks to sell Olympic pins, the collection of which had grown to a competitive roar among locals close to the Games.

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