April 25, 2007

The Middle Kingdom: Chinablogging

With an imminent trip to China just a few weeks away, it wouldn't be too bad to note some China-related headlines people may have missed:

Report: China Will Pass U.S. As Polluter:
China will pass the United States as the world's biggest source of greenhouse gasses this year, an official with the International Energy Agency was quoted as saying.

China had been forecast to surpass the U.S. in 2010, but its sizzling economic growth has pushed the date forward, the IEA's chief economist, Fatih Birol, was quoted as saying in an interview appearing in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal newspaper.

"In the past couple of months, economic growth and related coal consumption has grown at such an unexpected rate," Birol was quoted as saying. China's rising emissions will effectively cancel out attempts by other countries to reduce their own, he said.

Those comments follow the weekend release of a Chinese government report detailing the costs of climate change but asserting that the country should focus on development before cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Higher than average temperatures meant spreading deserts, worsening droughts, shrinking glaciers and increased spread of diseases, said the report, compiled by more than a dozen government bodies. It said emission limits were unfair and would constrain China's current energy and manufacturing industries.

China is a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol on reducing greenhouse gasses, but is exempt from its restrictions because it is a developing country.

The Paris-based IEA advises developed country on energy policy.
China to use Marxism to clean-up Internet:
China's leaders are hoping that Karl Marx can shift the country's Internet users away from "decadent" content and help them clean up the Web, state media reported.

The Communist Party's Politburo this week asked media and cultural groups to promote and produce more "healthy online cultural products" including promotion of the ideology of Marxism, Xinhua news agency reported late Monday.

The government wants the Internet to "represent the social progress and the splendid traditional culture of China", the agency said, quoting a release from the meeting, which was led by President Hu Jintao.

The campaign's aim is to nurture a healthy online culture and prevent "decadent" material from spreading, Xinhua said.

China's Communist Party leaders, who enforce strict curbs on the press, have made no secret of the fact they regard the Internet as a threat and that it should be subjected to the same controls as traditional media.

In January, Hu called on the party to "purify" China's Internet community, which is rapidly growing as the country's economy expands.

The numbers going online jumped by almost 24 percent last year to reach 137 million, around one in ten Chinese, Xinhua quoted the China Internet Network Information Center as saying.

The country recently launched a crackdown on Internet pornography and last month capped the number of new cybercafes allowed to open this year, a measure state media said was aimed at stemming growing Internet addiction.
Chinese pirates beat Spider-Man to the punch:
China's infamous movie pirates have done it again -- "Spider-Man 3" is already being sold on Beijing's streets almost two weeks ahead of its U.S. premier.

Costing just over $1 apiece, the pirated DVDs appear to be of the actual movie, complete with a picture of the hero in a new, black spider suit which he wears for some of the film.

There is even a warning on the back, printed in Chinese, against pirating the product.

But put the one bought on Tuesday in the machine, and it does not work -- a common problem with Chinese-made DVDs, which are often made with poor equipment in dingy backrooms.

Early pirated copies of Hollywood blockbusters are sometimes filmed in cinemas and viewers can see people walking in front of the screen or hear members of the audience coughing. Other DVDs show totally different films to what may be advertised on the cover. China has been riled by U.S. complaints to the World Trade Organisation that it is not doing enough to tackle piracy, such as the billions lost each year by Hollywood to copyright pirates.

The government says it does take the problem seriously, but faces a multitude of problems such as convincing the man on the street not to buy fakes.

"It's too expensive to go to the cinema to watch movies," said Beijing resident Duan Nana. "This has a lot to do with why people are rushing to buy fake DVDs and watch movies at home. It's very common and it's logical."
China to Force Rain Ahead of Olympics:
Chance of showers during the 2008 Beijing Olympics: 50 percent. But Chinese meteorologists have a plan to bring sunshine.

The meteorologists say they can force rain in the days before the Olympics, through a process known as cloud-seeding, to clean the air and ensure clear skies. China has been tinkering with artificial rainmaking for decades, but whether it works is a matter of debate among scientists.

Weather patterns for the past 30 years indicate there is a 50 percent chance of rain for both the opening ceremony on Aug. 8, 2008 and the closing ceremony two weeks later, said Wang Yubin, an engineer with the Beijing Meteorological Bureau.

The forced rain could also help clean Beijing's polluted air, said Wang Jianjie, another meteorologist with the bureau.

"When conditions permit, we will artificially increase rainfall," she said. "Rainfall is a way to naturally clean the air."

In 2003, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences questioned the science behind cloud-seeding as "too weak." But China frequently uses artificial rainmaking in the drought-plagued north.

Last May, Beijing boasted having generated rainfall to clear the air and streets following the worst dust storm in a decade.

Technicians with the Beijing Weather Modification Office said they fired seven rocket shells containing 163 cigarette-size sticks of silver iodide over the city's skies. They claimed it provoked a chemical reaction in clouds that forced four-tenths of an inch of rain.

Beijing's air pollution is among Asia's worst. Officials have shuttered several chemical and steel plants on the city's edge, and many polluters will shut down _ or cut back _ during the Olympics. But the city also has 2.9 million registered vehicles, and the number is expected to reach 3.3 million by the Olympics, a 13 percent increase.

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