China is set to register the world’s largest online population in 2008, according to a recent survey by the China Internet Network Information Center. With 73 million new net users in 2007, taking the total pool to 210 million, China is only 5 million Internet users behind the US, which leads the world in terms of connectivity. And there’s room for growth, as China’s current Internet penetration ratio of 16 percent is well below the world average of 19.1 percent.
Golden Down – Previously one of China’s “Golden Week” national public holiday periods, the May Day break is no more. New regulations have reduced the holiday from three days to one day, while four traditional Chinese festivals – Tomb Sweeping Day, Dragon Boat Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival and Lunar New Year’s Eve – have become one-day national holidays. In addition, the fairer sex are now also permitted a half-day public holiday on International Women’s Day (March 8), children younger than 14 can take a break on Children’s Day (June 1), and active-duty soldiers get a half-day off on August 1. Tough luck if you’re a male office worker over the age of 14.
A Bicycle Built For Two – The Beijing government is pedaling pretty fast to encourage locals to forget the car and get back on a bike. In recent months, a number of new bike hire ventures have started appearing all over town. Located in the vicinity of subway stations and shopping precincts, the bike stations allow patrons to pay a deposit, pick up a bike, and drop it off at one of dozens of other bike stations when done.
For the first time ever, China’s tourism revenue broke the one trillion mark in 2007, reaching RMB1.09 trillion (US$137.92 billion), according to the China National Tourism Administration. The number of inbound travelers topped 132 million, up 5.5 percent on 2006 figures, and over 54 million people stayed overnight, up 9.6 percent. The influx created an estimated 500,000 job opportunities in the tourism sector.
Beijing’s National Aquatics Centre, a.k.a. the Water Cube, was officially unveiled on January 28 and an Olympic test event in the facility will be staged on February 5. Taking four years to build, the US$130 million building is comprised of a series of blue membranes, creating a distinctive “double bubble” appearance. Come August 2008, over 42 gold medals will be given away inside the Centre, which houses 6,000 permanent and 11,000 temporary seats for spectators.
The Beijing Capital Airport Express Line – the express rail line connecting Beijing with its airport – will begin test runs on April 1 and is due to be fully operational by July 1. Extending from the central transportation hub of Dongzhimen to Beijing Capital Airport, stopping at Sanyuanqiao Station, Airport Terminal T3 Station, and Terminal T2 Station, the 28.1-kilometer (17.4-mile) line will soar above the traffic, whipping passengers to the airport in a speedy 17 minutes. Needless to say, taxi drivers are not happy that their most lucrative route may be compromised.
The Beijing Olympic Village – apartments for 205 athlete delegations – is preparing for a July opening. Located less than three kilometers (1.86 miles) from the Bird’s Nest, the village is also equipped with indoor fitness and training centers, a jogging path, tennis, basketball and volleyball courts, recreational facilities such as Internet cafes, games and DVD rooms, worship and meditation rooms, and a comprehensive outpatient clinic providing emergency and doping detection services.
Protecting Its Young – The Forbidden City and Great Wall are, like, sooo yesterday. The Beijing Municipal Government recently announced that it’s now focusing on the protection of modern architectural monoliths previously overlooked in favor of ancient historical structures. A total of 188 buildings built within the past 160 years are to be given government protection, including the 50-year-old Great Hall of the People, schools built by missionaries in the 19th century; and the city’s first water works.
New Restaurant And Bars In China
A Gourmet Revolution – A chic new warehouse space – 1949 – The Hidden City – will open this Spring in Beijing. The 6,000-square-meter (64,590-square-feet) space features Gallery 49, showcasing modern art, as well as seven restaurants and bars. Located in a glass house, Sugar Bar is dedicated to coffee and chocolate sweet things; Duck de Chine is an innovative duck restaurant with an exclusive Bollinger Champagne Bar; 1/5taverna has digs in a rustic warehouse and features a made-to-share menu and live mariachi music; Noodle Bar dishes up fresh noodles in a contemporary setting; 1/5 is a chill-out lounge, situated in a loft space; for the summer months, outdoor Well Bar serves ice cold beer around an abandoned well; and Club 49 is a private club devoted to good food, good wine, and good art.
Global Sounds – A nightclub partnership between Hong Kong’s Love Da Records and local DJs, Globe Music Bank is the newest mega-club to grace the nightlife scene in Guangzhou. Spread over four different rooms, the club debuted in January with sounds from legendary DJ Meat Katie, alongside wild pyrotechnic displays and bar antics that put Tom Cruise to shame.
In Da House – Throwing open its doors in Shanghai just before Christmas, the sleek, sexy Hamilton House is located in a 1930s art deco building, featuring high ceilings, quirky loveseats and art deco knickknacks above the bar. Within spitting distance of the Bund, the restaurant dishes up modern international cuisine, and some of the best desserts around.
Not A Silly Sausage – The cold weather may be over for now, but the comfort food has just begun. A newcomer in 2008, the German Sausage Corner in Suzhou sells (you guessed it) German sausages, beer and not too much else. The succulent Bratwurst and Currywurst platters are a treat with a freshly brewed beer in the cozy restaurant, tucked down Bar Street.
For Sure Faurs Chou – The newest gallery on Beijing’s Dashanzi 798 Art District block, Faurschou, is the brainchild of notable Danish collectors Luise and Jens Faurschou, who opened their acclaimed Galleri Faurschou in Copenhagen in 1986. Their 1,000-square-meter (10,765-square-feet) space in Beijing is dedicated to showcasing the best in modern international art to the Chinese community, with an opening exhibition from renowned American artist Robert Rauschenberg and planned shows from the likes of Michael Kvium, Andy Warhol and even Pablo Picasso.
Upcoming China Events
It Really Is a Great Wall – To be run on May 17 this year, the Great Wall Marathon is regarded as one of the most extraordinary races in the world. Held on a spectacular section in Tianjin of China’s most famous landmark, the marathon is for the truly hardy. It includes 3,700 steps, many of which are irregularly shaped or spaced; exhausting ascents; slippery stones; and unfinished paths.
Ghostly – Also known as Tomb Sweeping or Ghost Festival, Qingming is a traditional Chinese holiday marked to remember and honor ancestors by visiting their graves with family, offering food, wine, tea, chopsticks and incense. Falling on April 4 in 2008, the festival is also considered a good time to make a fresh start – it’s a popular time for first dates, and sees fallen-out friends and relatives mend bridges.
Midi Me – From humble roots, the Midi Music Festival has grown the biggest outdoor music festival in China, held over four days in Beijing every May (May 1 to 4, 2008). The festival attracts an eclectic mix of local and international bands – from folk, rock, punk and metal to electronica and even a spot of rap – and a crowd just as diverse. This year will see one stage sponsored by Sutasi, which has promised to up the international cred of the festival and bring out a couple of big name bands.