Connect to share and comment

Shanghai reopens the Bund, limits smoking

Shanghai's renovated waterfront will open for the upcoming World Expo. Shanghai's first anti-smoking law will take effect. Australian author Robert Dessaix is denied entry because he is HIV positive. English-language China Daily refreshes its look and content. Newspapers protest the hukou system, but some are forced to take the editorial off the web. Premier Jiabao gives his annual internet discussion. A new food scandal erupts in Hainan. An earthquake rocks Taiwan. Shanghai's economy is up, while Hong Kong's is down. And a new class teaches video game play.

Top News: After years of renovation and construction, Shanghai’s famous waterfront, the Bund, will reopen on March 28. In addition, the famed Peace Hotel, which was a hotspot during the colonial era, will also reopen after a several-year-long renovation. The timing is to coincide with the fast-approaching start of the 2010 World Expo.

To make the city friendlier for visitors, the first anti-smoking law in Shanghai will go into effect. People caught smoking in schools, elevators, karaoke rooms, and supermarkets will be fined about $7. Most residents believe that the new law is unenforceable and won’t work.

The city is not too friendly with visiting authors either. The Shanghai International Literary Festival was supposed to host Australian author Robert Dessaix, however he was denied a visa, because he is HIV positive. Although the application says that HIV status will not affect whether a visa is granted, Dessaix was told that his health problems were the reason for his denial.

Chinese police have been celebrating a breakthrough year so far. Since last December, authorities have disabled 56 "mafia-style gangs" and detained 3,000 suspected gang members. In the past nine months, police have freed 3,455 children and 7,365 women from human traffickers.

China’s largest English language newspaper underwent the most drastic revamp in its 29-year history. The new China Daily has a more picture-oriented and colorful layout. In addition, the editors said that they would beef up their reporting and dive into more in-depth stories. (We’ll see.)

In other media news, thirteen newspapers in China joined together to appeal for a change in the hukou system, the country’s draconian household registration system. The papers complained that the system creates second-class citizens. Non-resident migrants don’t get government social support when they move to cities. Some papers were forced to pull down the editorial from their websites within hours.

Premier Wen Jiabao hit the Internet for his annual discussion with Chinese netizens. In the speech he pledged to continue economic growth, keep inflation low, and improve U.S.-China relations.

In a new food scandal, cowpeas from tropical Hainan province have been found to be tainted with an extremely toxic pesticide. Strangely, the scandal was brought to light by the government of the central Chinese city of Wuhan. This caused Hainan officials to publicly blame Wuhan for not letting them "save face," by quietly bringing them the news of the tainted food and allowing them to cover it up. No apology for the poison food was issued.

Officials in the eastern province of Jiangsu will release 20 million silver and green carp into Taihu Lake in an effort to combat pollution. Taihu has long been known as one of the world’s most polluted bodies of water and frequently experiences massive algae blooms from untreated sewage. The hope is that the fish will eat the algae.

A 6.4-magnitude earthquake hit Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s second largest city. No deaths were reported, but a few injuries and several fires did occur.

Money: For the first time in decades, Shanghai’s economy, based on GDP output, beat Hong Kong's. Shanghai’s economy grew 8.2 percent, while Hong Kong’s contracted 2.7 percent. The main reason for the strong growth in Shanghai was the government’s stimulus plan.

After worldwide complaints about China’s undervalued currency, the government is now conducting currency stress tests in many export industries. The hope is to find how far China can allow the renminbi to appreciate without causing irreparable harm to its large manufacturing sector.

Apparently Google and the U.S. government are finally seeing China’s Internet censorship and hacking regime for what it is: a new form of protectionism. Google has begun pushing the Obama administration to take China to the World Trade Organization over its systematic blocking out of American Internet media and commerce from the China market.

Elsewhere: A teacher at Zhonghua Vocational School in Shanghai has set up the first class that teaches online gaming — not how to program the games, but how to play them. The teacher claims that the class will help students learn to work together in groups and will boost their self-confidence.

A controversial and completely misguided real estate project in Chengdu has the Chinese Internet riled up. The city is building a new high-end district that will house 5,000 residents. The catch is that only foreigners will be allowed to live there. Chinese netizens see it as a return of colonialism, while foreigners see it as a Westernized ghetto.

American megachurch evangelist Luis Palau is coming to China, which supposedly has the world’s largest amount of Christians. He will preach to 20,000 people at Chong Yi Church in Hangzhou. If you’re in town, it might be interesting how American evangelical ideas and values will jibe with China’s culture.