Jul 26

China Watch Blog has learnt that Wang Anshun was appointed vice mayor and acting mayor of Beijing on Wednesday.

According to a Xinhua report, the appointment was announced at the 34th session of the Standing Committee of the 13th Beijing Municipal People’s Congress, the local legislative body.

The meeting also accepted the resignation of Guo Jinlong as mayor of Beijing, but there was no word why he resigned. However, Edmonton Journal reported that Guo is apparently still on track to be promoted to China’s powerful decision-making body despite public questioning of the city government’s handling of floods that left at least 37 dead.

Previously, Guo was elected secretary of the Beijing Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on July 3.
Wang, born in December 1957, is a native of Huixian County in central China’s Henan Province. He had worked in petroleum geology authorities, the Ministry of Land and Resources, northwest China’s Gansu Province, Shanghai and Beijing, holding a series of important positions.

He has served as vice Party chief of Beijing since March 2007.

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Jun 14

China Watch Blog has learnt that Shanghai has overtaken Beijing to become the most expensive place to live on the Chinese mainland for expats and the 16th most costly of 214 cities across the globe, according to rankings released by US human resource consultants Mercer.

Many Chinese cities are becoming more expensive due to a stronger yuan, soaring accommodation costs and steadily rising prices last year, Mercer said.

Shanghai is one place above Beijing on the global ranking list, with the cities climbing five and three places respectively from a year earlier.

Shenzhen, an economic center in southern China, rose to 30th place from 43rd in 2011.

Guangzhou City climbed seven places to rank 31st.

Other Chinese cities where the cost of living has risen sharply were Qingdao, Tianjin, Shenyang, Nanjing and Chengdu. All below the top 100 last year, they have now made it into 2012′s top 100.

Shanghai and Beijing also overtook South Korean capital Seoul (22nd, down three places) among major Asian cities.

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Jun 11

China Watch Blog has learnt that Beijing is unveiling new measures almost daily to shore up growth that slowed to 8.1 percent in the first quarter and is expected to decline further.

Gasoline and diesel prices have been cut for the second time in a month amid growing government efforts to reverse a sharp slowdown in the economy.

The reduction came after an interest rate cut on Thursday — the country’s first in nearly four years — prompting analysts to suggest that data due this weekend will show May trade and industrial activity was even weaker than pessimistic forecasts had suggested.

“Markets are bracing for a potentially bad set of May economic data for China,” said Moody’s Analytics economist Alaistair Chan in a report.

The National Development and Reform Commission said on Friday the country will cut its retail fuel prices by more than 5.5 percent on Saturday, the deepest since December 2008, in tandem with the global slump crude oil prices.

It lowered retail gasoline prices by 530 yuan ($84) a metric ton, or 0.38 yuan a liter, to be capped at 8,320 yuan a ton.

Diesel prices were down by 510 yuan a ton, or 0.43 yuan a liter, to 7,510 yuan a ton.

Gasoline prices were down 5.5 percent, while diesel dropped by 5.8 percent, down from a previous cut on May 10 when prices were reduced about 4 percent.

China had raised fuel prices in February and March.

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Oct 19

China Watch Blog has learnt that some 400 million people are set to move from rural areas to cities over the next 15 years, according to a McKinsey Global Institute report.

A China Daily report says there are fears that the already crowded big cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Chongqing will not be able to cope with the ever more rural migrants. Many from the government downward believe the only solution will be to create a new generation of smaller cities, many of them satellites to existing cities.

Mark Yaolin Wang, professor at the department of resource management and geography at the University of Melbourne, believes one of the only solutions is to transform 2,000 existing towns into cities.

“They are a much better route to development. These towns have existing infrastructure and distinctive heritage and culture,” he said.

“The problem with creating new cities around existing larger cities is that they lack character and have no personality.” Despite being the world’s most populous country with 1.3 billion people, China remains one of the least urbanized countries in the world.

Although its level of urbanization increased from 13 percent in 1950 to 41 percent in 2005, according to McKinsey, it remains well below the 75 percent levels found in the United States and Europe.

Even by 2025, after the next wave of rural migrants, the figure is only set to increase to 64 percent By then eight cities, Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Tianjin and Wuhan, will have populations of more than 10 million with some already megacity behemoths.

Wang at Melbourne University said one of the challenges will be persuading rural migrants to move to smaller cities. “People will still want to move to the bigger cities because that is where the better jobs and opportunities are,” he said.

“If people keep drifting to the bigger cities, the problem will become unsustainable. Already people in professional jobs are finding the cost of living, particularly property, in the major cities unaffordable and this I think will provide an opportunity to the development of small- and medium-sized cities, since they will be the only alternative.”

Rural migration is now much more fluid in China as a result of the gradual relaxation of the hukou, or household registration system.

In the past, it has been difficult for people with rural hukou to obtain registration in urban areas and they have often relocated illegally.

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Oct 13

China Watch Blog has learnt that Guangzhou edged out Shanghai to take the top spot on the list of best commercial cities on the Chinese mainland, according to the Chinese version of Forbes, the world’s leading financial media outlet, according to Forbes China which released its seventh Forbes Best Commercial Cities on the Chinese Mainland list.

China Daily reported that while Shanghai lost first place due to its high operating costs, the Yangtze River Delta cities still make up one-third of the seats. Beijing held steady at last year’s place and ranks sixth.

The list shows the spending power and economic viability in the county-level cities of the eastern developed regions are outstanding, and their innovation ability is also eye-catching.

At a time when city competition is changing from an emphasis on large-scale growth to the improvement of quality, the competitiveness of the cities that have undergone successful transformation has been greatly increased, said Liu Ruiming, Forbes Chinese executive editor.

For example, Suzhou jumped from the 10th to the fifth by encouraging entrepreneurship, tax cuts and other measures to significantly reduce operating costs. It attracted a large amount of high-end talent to improve the industrial structure and committed to the transformation from “manufacturing” to “creating.”

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Sep 25

China Watch Blog has learnt that Beijing’s traffic problems seem to be worsening, and last week, it took taxi driver Liu Chunwang two hours to drive his passenger 4 miles (7 kilometers).

“I’ve never experienced a worse situation,” the 28-year-old Liu, who has been navigating the Chinese capital’s roads for four years, was quoted as saying in a China Post report. “It was such a short distance but there was nothing I could do.”

Traffic congestion is nothing new to this metropolis of more than 17 million people but, in recent months, the gridlock seems to be reaching new highs, as surging auto sales put more cars on Beijing’s streets. A bout of heavy rain left the city virtually paralyzed recently, with more than 140 bottlenecks reported.

An average of 1,900 new cars has been sold every day this year, bringing the number of vehicles in Beijing to 4.5 million as of July. At the current rate, the Beijing Transportation Research Center estimates that car ownership will reach 7 million by 2015, which it says would bring average driving speeds in the city to a crawl of 9 miles (15 kilometers) per hour.

“As China’s economy and the urbanization process developed rapidly, traffic jams in metropolitan areas were bound to happen,” said Guo Jifu, head of the research center, noting that Beijing’s population is growing by half a million people a year.

Beijing added 415,000 vehicles last year and is on track to add more than 600,000 this year — an amount equal to the total number of vehicles in Hong Kong, Guo said.

“In Beijing, the number of cars that families own, the growth rate of car ownership and the intensity of the usage of cars are all higher than those of foreign cities such as New York and Tokyo,” he said. “When the traffic load reaches a certain level, a light disruption like an accident could destabilize the system and amplify the disruptive effect.”

The city is currently in the midst of one disruption with another one coming up: the three-day Mid-Autumn festival began on Wednesday, and it will be followed by the weeklong National Day holiday starting Oct. 1.

The warnings were dire ahead of this week’s holiday: Traffic police said roads would be clogged for at least seven hours, starting at 3 p.m. Then came word that rush hour had begun at 1 p.m. as motorists left work early to get a jump on the traffic.

China’s traffic woes came to international attention last month with a monster traffic jam that lasted 10 days and extended along a major highway for 60 miles (100 kilometers) to the outskirts of Beijing.

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