Sunday, October 30, 2011

Random observations

It has been the longest stint without a post. I am experiencing a little ennui, but, at least, I don't have a foot of snow. It is at least 60 degrees here today. I read this morning that Central Park has not had an accumulated inch of snow before November 1 since the year 1879. Global weirding. 2012 is coming.

Here is a glimpse of one of China's most dangerous coal plants. In America, we have the lawn and its two-stroke motor mower. In Changchun, we have the street corner peddler who roasts chestnuts and pine-nuts and pops popcorn for the masses. Pick your poison.

This morning I hear shouting quite early in the courtyard of my building complex. I assumed it was the men who are working on insulating the roofs of the city, but it was a wedding and there was an archway of purple material and pink flowers spanning one of the doorways. Weddings here happen early in the morning and are usually at a restaurant. They last about an hour.

The most obscene reminder of the have and have not that I have seen in China was a wedding making its way from one place to another. It included a procession of red Audi convertibles and a couple dozen Hummers festooned with pink ribbons.

I have decided to be a Wall Street CEO for Halloween. I will have a dart board on my back and wear my one suit. I will have a pin that says CEO.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Sleeping on the Kang

Last weekend, I took my first real foray into the countryside of Northeast China. It was beautiful. It was the tail end of fall foliage, which is magnificent, though not like my beloved New England.

The corn had been harvested and the rice had been woven into piles.

Rice in the foreground, corn in the middle, and the rolling hills tinged with orange in the background.

A crib for corn.
There was a wide assortment of things drying, as well. The part of Liaoning Province that I went to is famous for its ginseng. There are also mushrooms and peppers pictured here.


The farmers were fattening pigs and geese for the winter. There were chickens and sheep in the streets.


Ubiquitous in Northern China's countryside (and nearly half of China's 1.4 billion live in the countryside) is a heated bed that has existed since the Neolithic Period. On the other side of the wall from this stove which Olive is stoking is the kang. It stayed warm all night long. Here she is burning the slash from a cornfield. When winter comes they will burn wood. I slept with Olive's father in one room and she and her aunt slept in another room on another kang.

I went to visit the 87 year-old grandfather of my friend. I brought him a box of cigarettes...which my friend told him was my attempt to kill him. His daughter lives with him and fixed a beautiful feast.

A random house in the village with its clothesline. I could not resist.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Waking Red Phoenix: Solar Dreams

The dragon and the phoenix are yin and yang in Chinese lore. Here are some articles on China and solar, nuclear, and wind issues, debacles, and opportunities. Only the first article in the list is not related to energy directly. The last article only makes passing mention of China in its last paragraph, but I include it, because it puts in sharp focus the reasons for taking an interest in these debates. The expected, projected rise in demand here, and in India, is frightening. 

Andrew Jacobs' piece is interesting because it shows the strength of the Chinese government's resolve to safeguard the environment. On the other hand, they may just shift the problem to another community.  "Government officials promised to relocate the plant after 12,000 residents took to the street."

I don't know enough to comment on Solyndra or the WTO issues, but I predict these will be the central contentions between the US and China in the weeks and months to come.

Aaron L. Friedberg considers the growing Sino-American rivalry and calls for the U.S. to project hard power to counter China’s rise.

China Shuts Solar Panel Factory After Antipollution Protests
Since last Thursday, the factory, JinkoSolar Holding Company, has drawn hundreds of protesters who blame the plant for fouling the local air and water.

China and India will consume 31 percent of the world’s energy by 2035, up from 21 percent in 2008, the Department of Energy predicted. 

Solyndra and the China Blame Game – Venture Capital Dispatch – WSJ – As we watch U.S. solar start-ups go up in flames, it’s easy to blame China. On Thursday, in light of the federal investigation into now-bankrupt Solyndra, Reps. Henry Waxman (D., CA) and Diana DeGette (D., CO) asked the House Committee to examine whether heavily subsidized Chinese solar companies are skewing the market, and making it impossible for U.S. manufacturers to compete.

Questions abound about whether China will be a savior for the international nuclear power industry or a ferocious competitor. 

The Obama administration gave the World Trade Organization a list of 200 programs, some in solar and wind power, that it said may unfairly benefit Beijing. 
Trees, natural carbon sponges, help keep heat-trapping carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. But insect and human threats are taking a heavy toll on them. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011


I awoke at 4:30 AM, met Shannon (my intern), and we hailed a cab to the bus station on Remin Da Jie. It would have been a cold walk. We waited there for the other nine people--colleagues and their partners--and boarded a bus at 6 AM to go to Changbaishan.

The mountain represents the mythical birthplace of Bukūri Yongšon, ancestor of Nurhaci and the Aisin Gioro Imperial family, who were the founders of the Manchu state and the Chinese Qing Dynasty. The name literally means "Perpetually White Mountain Region" in Mandarin Chinese. Koreans consider Mount Baekdu (their name for it) as the place of their ancestral origin and as a sacred mountain, one of the three "spirited" mountains; the one contained in the legendary foundation of Korea. From the beginning of history through the Three Kingdoms period, to the Goryeo and Joseon Dynasties, Koreans have spiritually depended upon the “divine” mountain. There were plenty of them at the mountain..even some waiting with us in this line. You have never seen so many people!

Yup...and over-run with humanity.

The mask is for warmth or is she afraid of the fresh air?

There were hundreds of these vehicles hurtling up the switchbacks, screeching their tires on the sharp turns and slamming the faces of tourists against the windows as we sought to take pictures of the extraordinary scenery.

Largest crater lake in the world! Might be the highest mountain I have ever been atop, as well.

You are considered lucky if you can see the lake and we were blessed with clear days and seriously cold temperatures.

If you look carefully, you can see Kim Jung-Il standing on the other ridge behind me. He is very small.

This is called an environmental bus because it uses natural gas. This is how you get up the first half of the mountain before transferring to a jeep.

It was lovely in the aspens...and cold.

I was amused by the juxtaposition of this couple standing on stones at the edge of this stream and the sign that warns "No Nearing." I think they could not get nearer.

Shannon Brien (PEA '11) and Alexander Lee (PEA '93) posed for a picture for
The Exeter Bulletin
at the waterfall near Changbaishan's north entrance.

Hundreds of people took our picture, because white people are a curiosity, but when I went to take a picture of these adorable twin boys, the shy one headed for mama.

Everywhere there must be a plaque.

The three characters in the upper-right mean Chang (Long) Bai (White) Shan (Mountain).