Wednesday, October 29, 2008

China Now America's Peer in Greenhouse Gas Emissions

This has come sooner than many expected a few years ago.

From The Irish Times:

CHINA HAS caught up with the US in greenhouse gas emissions and the level is not likely to fall anytime soon as the country continues to expand, particularly because its industry is so dependent on burning fossil fuels like coal.

Releasing a white paper on climate change, Chinese officials conceded that increased emissions of carbon dioxide had played havoc with the environment in China, but said economic growth on such a massive scale was necessary to improve the lives of hundreds of millions of poor people.

"Climate change has already brought real threats to China's ecological system and economic and social development," Xie Zhenhua, a deputy chief of the National Development and Reform Commission, said.

It is China's first official acknowledgement that it could already be the world's biggest greenhouse gas polluter, although environmentalists have said for a while now that China has surpassed the US in producing carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas from burning fossil fuels. Two-thirds of China's energy needs are supplied by coal.

Read On
This news doesn't surprise me.

I'm consistently choking on breathing in Xi'an's noxious fumes smoggy air. Being in the heart of Shaanxi Province, I'm right on the edge of China's coal country and its desertification frontier. It's a wonderful conflation of environmental hazards we've got going on here!

Unfortunately, I'm afraid that this is just the tip of the iceburg when it comes to China's CO2 emissions over the coming years.

An iceburg analogy, aren't I clever?!

Disko Bay, Greenland

Himalayas, China

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

It Ain't My Fault!

I've already voted!

My friend Marty sent this to me yesterday. Quite cheesy, but I like it.

Obama supporters must fight complacency! Let's get 'er done!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Chinese are Down With Obama

Having the support of Chinese citizens surely doesn't mean to much to Barack Obama, but at least it shows that I'm not the only person in the Middle Kingdom excited about the soon-to-be president.

From IPS News:

BEIJING, Oct 24 (IPS) - Beijing has a tradition of sound relations with Republican presidents of the United States, but the latest China poll shows popular opinion bucking the trend with Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama becoming an "overwhelming hit" with ordinary Chinese.

The results of the online poll conducted on the China Daily website by the U.S. embassy here showed Obama enjoying a much greater lead over his Republican rival, John McCain, with the support of 75 percent of Chinese polled.

"Perhaps his age, energy and even complexion, which signify the U.S. dream, are more appealing to the Chinese," Song Zhiyuan, who analysed the survey, told the ‘China Daily’.

Rebecca Zhu, a 29-year-old bank employee, agreed. "No Chinese leader is that young," she said. "Obama is attractive because he is hip and unconventional. He has even used e-mails to advance his campaign."

The media has been awash with commentaries predicting a new, more sensitive America, vastly different from the country led by George W. Bush, should Obama win. The popular notion in China that the U.S. is out to impose its Western ideals on the world would take a hit with the election of a man of African descent.

"Many think that because of his origins Obama would be prone to considering other nations’ concerns better than McCain,’’ says Shi Yinhong, an expert on international relations at China’s Renmin University. "But for China the most important factor is that he might be more susceptible to our concerns regarding Taiwan."

Read On

It's not surprising that the rest of the world would like to see a fresh face in the Oval Office. The citizens of the world obviously don't see that freshness coming in the form of a McCain administration.

There are about ten days left until the election. I'm cautiously optimistic that I'll be having a blowout celebration on November 5th (I'll know Wednesday morning Chinese time who's won) with my friends, both American and from elsewhere, here in Xi'an.

Here is a major reason why I'm not completely freaking out:

These charts and detailed analysis can be found at the website: It's a must for any political/poll junkie.

Obama is obviously in blue. Sure, the election hasn't happened yet, but things are definitely looking good for Obama.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Maiji Shan - Part 2

Here are more photos from the Buddhist grottoes at Maiji Shan in Eastern Gansu Province:

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

China's Slowing Down

The Chinese are not immune to the global financial meltdown.

From Reuters:

DONGGUAN, China (Reuters) - Like tens of millions of young Chinese before her, Yu Juan left China's hinterland for factory work near the coast four years ago with the dream of getting rich.

An acquaintance from her hometown of Dazhou in Sichuan province told her about an exporter in Dongguan, an hour-and-a-half north of Hong Kong, that was hiring.

The Hejun Toy Factory was large, Hong Kong-owned and paid well and on time. It also had an imprimatur that Yu and others working there thought was a virtual guarantee of job security: a stock code.

"At that time, we considered this company good because it was listed on a stock exchange," she said.

Last week, however, Hejun's owner, Smart Union Group, closed the factory gates, suspended its shares and said provisional liquidators had been appointed.

Read On
In today's globalized economy, it's not surprise that the world's financial problems will affect everywhere.

I'm really curious to see what happens in the coming months. New shopping malls, apartment blocks, houses are going up everywhere in Xi'an. These days still, on the surface, appear to be boom times in China.

When I see this rampant consumerism flourishing, I can't help but wonder will happen if a world recession, or maybe even depression, is looming. Chinese people are just starting to whet their materialistic appetite. A quick economic turnaround would be ugly.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Xiahe Labrang Monastery - Part 5

I saw several Tibetan pilgrims in the Labrang Monastery doing the following, prostrating, movements:

From some Google searching, I believe what this woman is doing is called "prostration." Here is a New York Times article from 2001 on the practice.

As far as I understand, some pilgrims will do this for up to hundreds of miles. Considering that the Labrang Monastery is one of the holiest sites in Tibetan Buddhism and is very far outside of Tibet, it seems likely to me, from my limited understanding of their culture, that this woman and the others I saw at Labrang had been doing these movements for hundreds upon hundreds of miles.

It was truly an amazing thing to see.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Maiji Shan - Part 1

My traveling over the October holiday did not go according to plan. Because my friend Andy and I were not allowed to stay in Xiahe more than a day, we had to figure out other things to do while in China's western Gansu Province.

We ended up going to Maiji Shan near the small city of Tianshui.

Here is a write-up as to what Maiji Shan is from
Maijishan Grottoes (Wheatstack Mountain), located on the northern side of the Qinling Mountain Range and at a height of 1,742 m above sea level, gets its name from its giant, haystack-like shape. The mountain's fame arises not just from its appearance, but from the many Buddhist caves that are gouged into its southwestern face. This is the fourth largest area of concentrated Buddhist grottoes in China, after Dunhuang, Datong and Luoyang. The area around and on the mountain is one of the most beautiful sights in Gansu for both stunning natural, and impressive man-made, scenery. The mountain, studded with caves and strapped by many winding walkways and spiral stairs, rises majestically from the surrounding heavily wooded slopes, so any visitor here with a bit of time on their hands could easily spend a few days hiking and admiring.

It is the Buddhist Grottoes (Maijishan shiku), some dated from as early as the Northern Wei dynasty (386-534), that most visitors come here to see. On arrival at the sight the most prominent sculpture is the 16 m Buddha that is carved high up on the mountain. The grottoes, all packed together on the sheer, rocky cliff faces below and above this, look from afar like chambers of a gargantuan beehive. On ascending the mountain, the grottoes are divided into two sections, the western and eastern, since the central section was almost completely destroyed by an eighth century earthquake. The western section is probably the better, with statues and other Buddhist articles dating mainly from the Northern Wei dynasty to the Tang (618-907). Just ascending the mountain, on winding, rickety walkways and spiral stairs, with the wooded mountain panorama below, is a breath of fresh air for even the most unconvinced China traveler.

Read On

We only spent a couple hours at the mountain and the Buddhist grottoes, but it was well worth the time we spent there.

Here are some of the photos I took:

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Land Reform?

Apparently there is great reform going on in China's countryside.

This is a comical, although very sad, account of the what China hopes to change.

From The New York Times:

There was a landmark decision made at the plenary session of the Party Congress this week: The Chinese government decided to give lease rights on the land to the peasants. No one knows how exactly this act will work; apparently it aims to narrow the income gap between the rich in the cities and the poor in the rural areas. For those of us who have had a little experience with rural land issues, we are a bit skeptical.

Here is my story.

About 10 years ago, we visited a painter friend who moved to the countryside and leased an abandoned schoolyard for 50 years to be his studio and home.

It was a charming residence. He had a vegetable garden and even tried to raise pigs. Compared with the compact living in 100 square meters in the city, his life seemed so much more spacious and connected with nature. My husband and I were immediately attracted to the idea and inquired about whether other lots were available in the village.

Read On
It's amazing to think how much one's life can change in China based upon the whims of your local official. The pay-offs and life-altering discussions taking place over alcohol is insane.

This is different than America, but only to a degree, I think. America's taking of its citizens to the wood shed seems to be more of a top-down, less grass roots, phenomenon.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Xiahe Labrang Monastery - Part 4

More Xiahe pics:

And finally, a video of some pilgrims walking through Labrang:

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Xiahe Labrang Monastery - Part 3

Here is another round of photos from the Labrang Monastery in Xiahe:

Wonderful blue skies

Prayer flags and rolling hills

A lot of Labrang smelled like a campfire. There was a good amount of wood being burned around many of the temples.

Golden roofs

This was at the entrance of a living community

I still have a few more posts to make on my visit to Labrang. Although I already have made a few posts about the place, I feel as though the narrative is lacking a bit on my visit to Xiahe. The problem is that I don't really feel comfortable saying a whole lot about the place right now. I just had a blog shut down two months ago and don't want to have another one follow that same fate.

My friend Andy and I did nothing wrong, questionable, or illegal in Xiahe, yet I still don't really want to get into much of a narrative description about the place right now though. Some day in the future I'll talk more about my experience at the place.

But for the time being, I'm just going to let my photos do the talking.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Xiahe Labrang Monastery - Part 2

The Labrang Monastery is a center of Gelug, or the "Yellow Hat Sect" of Buddhism.

I knew there'd be monks in and around Xiahe, but I was surprised by the sheer number of them that you saw both within the perimeter of the monastery as well as the streets outside of the monastery in Xiahe.

Here are some of the better photos and videos I have of the, largely Tibetan, monks at Xiahe's Labrang Monastery:

And then some monks singing on as the noon hour approached:

Monday, October 13, 2008

Xiahe Labrang Monastery - Part 1

Two French people we were with, my friend Andy and I were the first foreigners to visit Xiahe in Gansu Province in months.

Xiahe is in a military lockdown. Foreigners are not allowed in and haven't been for months.

It is a complicated story how we got in to the monastic village town. I'm not going to go into great details on how we did it right now. We didn't sneak in or go in illegally though.

Andy and I were granted one morning to visit the Labrang Monastery by the local authorities. Although we only had a few hours, we were able to see the place and get a good feel for the culture that pervades there.

Here is the first batch of photos that I'll post to my blog:

I'll post more photos and videos from the Labrang Monastery in the coming days.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Insanely Busy

I've been so busy over the past few weeks that I haven't really had much time to blog. Back in August before the Olympics before my old blog - - was shut down, it seemed like I was blogging every day.

Those days seem like a long time ago.

Beginning this coming week, I think I'll be able to get back in the blogging mode and going again with this site.

Bear with me.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Chinese to Remain at Guantanamo

Although a group of seventeen Chinese Uighurs were granted release from Guantanamo by a federal judge, the Bush administration is trying their hardest to make sure they stay imprisoned.

From Reuters:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A federal appeals court on Wednesday temporarily blocked the release of 17 Chinese Muslims held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

The appeals court granted the Bush administration's emergency request for a stay of a federal judge's order that the members of the Uighur ethnic group be released into the United States at the end of this week.

In a sharp rebuke to the Bush administration, U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina ruled on Tuesday there was no evidence the detainees, who have been held at Guantanamo for nearly seven years, were "enemy combatants" or a security risk.

He ordered that the prisoners be brought to his courtroom for a hearing on Friday morning, when they would be freed and allowed to live with Uighur families in the area.

Read On
Detaining people for years without evidence and without pressing charges, incredible. Sounds like America is following the motto: "Guilty until proven innocent."

It's no wonder the rest of the world despises America and what it currently stands for.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Back From Gansu

Andy and I are back in Xi'an after a grueling few days of traveling in Gansu Province. We saw some great stuff in Gansu, but the trip did not go according to plan at all.

We made it to our planned destination - Xiahe and the Labrang Monastery - but not without incident. Xiahe is a heavily fortified military state at the moment. Getting into the city was, well, interesting. While in and around the city we were told that we were the first foreigner visitors to make it to the city in months.

It's a long story how we entered the monastic village (we didn't sneak in or go illegally), and is one I'll explain in more detail at a later date.

Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to stay in Xiahe or go to Langmusi, another city with Tibetan flare near Xiahe.

So instead of doing more things in Gansu, Andy and I are back in Xi'an. I still have off two more days of work, so in a couple hours we're off to Hua Shan. I've written about Hua Shan extensively on my old blog and have a published article on the place.

This will be my third time to climb the holy mountain. A friend told me last night that this fact proves I'm masochistic. I don't know if I agree with that, I just think Hua Shan is one of the coolest places I've ever been on Earth.

I'll have tons of pictures to post in the coming days.