The New York Times  has written about the increasing invasion of personal information and biometric data in China where cities store this material in databases along with assigned identification numbers for each citizen.  In an area close to Mongolia  “The system crunches all of this into a composite score that ranks you as “safe,” “normal” or “unsafe.” Based on those categories, you may or may not be allowed to visit a museum, pass through certain neighborhoods, go to the mall, check into a hotel, rent an apartment, apply for a job or buy a train ticket. Or you may be detained to undergo re-education, like many thousands of other people.”
The New York Times article is specifically writing about the targeting of the indigenous Uighurs in the western region of Xinjiang, and compares this new “digitized surveillance” as a modern take on conventional controls reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and ’70s.”
The Daily Durning~Tom Durning sends the video below which illustrates the new facial recognition software that can now pinpoint citizens on the street in the City of Guiyang. Using sophisticated software every face is matched with an identity card and the movements of citizens can be followed by the week. As the reporter notes “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.”

 

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It had been forecast for some time with the tightening of lending and monetary restrictions. But as the Wall Street Journal reports housing prices are “stalled” in Beijing and Shanghai and prices are dropping in other cities.
Mansion Global observes “Demand has dried up in these areas as a result of government measures including higher mortgage rates, higher down-payment requirements and limits on buying a second or third home. Would-be sellers are increasingly putting plans on hold in hope that prices will rebound. While China has seen brief property downturns before, the high debt levels that fueled the boom makes this slump a particular risk for China’s economy and the policy makers trying to manage it.”
New home prices have decreased 8 per cent from October through to mid-December, a startling retreat from double-digit price increases in the previous year. As many Chinese families took on big and risky loans to buy apartments, price drops could mean some owners will owe more than they can sell the homes for. “New restrictions in many cities make it harder to unload a property. To ease the pressure, the government is encouraging the growth of a rental market.”
While overall house prices have increased by 7.5 per cent from the previous year, price drops in smaller cities without large population demand will mean no one will buy these units even at a discounted rate. The World Bank has identified property price uncertainty as a major concern in China’s growth  in 2018. In Shanghai previous condo purchases in a development  protested at a developer’s office as unit prices were decreased by seven per cent from the amount paid a year before.
China’s property market accounts for a significant share of economic growth—as much as a third, according to Moody’s Investors Service—sending ripples outward into the global economy. The property boom stoked imports of housing materials, cars, appliances and other products. UBS called Chinese property one of the major engines of global growth in 2017.”  If the real estate bubble is bursting  in China, will there be any  impact in Metro Vancouver real estate?

 

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In a pretty dramatic move to halt air pollution, The New York Times reports on China boldly ceasing the production of car models in China that do not meet fuel economy standards for the country. They stopped over 500 different car models effective January the 1st. This suspension impacted both domestic and foreign  automobile ventures, including partnerships with Volkswagen and Benz.
China produced 28 million vehicles in 2016 and also has scores of smaller-scale car factories. While there is some credence that this new policy  centralizes and consolidates the car industry,  “the measure pointed to a mounting willingness by China to test forceful antipollution policies and assume a leading role in the fight against climate change. The country, which for years prioritized economic growth over environmental protection and now produces more than a quarter of the world’s human-caused greenhouse gases, has emerged as an unlikely bastion of climate action after President Trump’s rejection of the Paris climate agreement.”
China is also providing incentives for power companies to operate more cleanly by creating the largest carbon market. While the Chinese government currently has bonuses to produce “clean energy” vehicles, these will be replaced by quotas for clean energy vehicles in 2020. When you have the biggest consumer demand for cars in the world, global automobile manufacturers  respond in a relatively positive way.  As Michelle Krebs an AutoTrader Group analyst observed ” “The simple fact that China is the biggest market means automakers will be accommodating“. China is now leading the way in auto emission policy, unlike the United States which is looking at relaxing tailpipe emission standards.
This YouTube video from CGTN from January 2017 shows that at that time only one in fifty cars in China were electric, and unfortunately portrays electric vehicles as “cheaper than taking transit”. It does illustrate how remarkable China’s new policy is in demanding the adaptation from automakers to clean energy vehicles in a relatively short time frame.
 
 

 

 
 
 

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Bloomberg Image
The Economist reports on a new trend  that is getting attention in China-the return of the bicycle. Unlike the conventional docking systems that are used for bike-sharing initiatives in many cities, a user-friendly approach has been taken in China where bike rental is paid for by smart phone and then the bike can be left anywhere after the ride.  The use of GPS technology enables the bikes to be located with a mobile app. Since the typical bike ride by bike share is about fifteen cents or one yuan, and since bikes can move faster in areas that cars cannot, bike share has caught on.
Established in 2015, bike share company “OFO” has over 2.5 million bike share yellow framed bikes in more than fifty Chinese cities, with rival Mobike installing bright orange wheeled bikes. Things must be going well as Ofo is now commencing bike share services in Singapore and San Diego, as well as Cambridge England.
So has the dockless bike system had challenges?  “Some riders hide the bikes in or near their homes to prevent others from using them. Another trick involves photographing a bike’s QR code and then scratching it off to stop others from scanning it. With the stored image, the rider can then monopolise the machine. But customers caught misbehaving can have points deducted from their accounts, making it more expensive for them to rent the bikes.”
While thirty years ago 63 per cent of people in Beijing biked, the number today is only 12 per cent, perhaps because cycling in China is dangerous-40 per cent of road accidents include bicycles. Previously installed bike lanes have been taken out to make room for cars, and bicycles are seen as causing congestion according to “some city authorities”.   “This month the southern city of Shenzhen ordered limits on the number of shared bikes. Other cities, including Shanghai and Beijing, are considering similar measures.”
While bicycles are battling for their road share, the use of bikes does represent sustainability and reduced carbon emissions, both goals that China is striving for. Will Chinese cities be willing to retool their boulevards and plazas for bike lanes  to accommodate the return of the bike?

Image Deal Street Asia
 

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On a gorgeous sunny morning, as I get ready to go for a walk along the seawall, it is terrifying to see how some people see the future of our cities. .

The Shanghai Tower is a super tall skyscraper under construction in Lujiazui, Pudong, Shanghai. Construction work on the tower began in November 2008. Upon its completion in 2014, the building will stand approximately 632 metres (2,073 ft) high and will have 121 stories, with a total floor area of 380,000 m2 (4,090,000 sq ft). The Shanghai Tower is the tallest building in China and the second-tallest in the world, surpassed by the Burj Khalifa in the United Arab Emirates.

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UPDATE:  Here’s John Graham’s comment and picture, brought up from below:

Some context: the tower sits in an area of Pudong that has virtually no services at street level and nothing you could walk to, so there’s good reason to build community into the building because there’s nothing else around. Here’s a photograph with the tower under construction in the background:

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Each time I go to Shanghai I ride to the top of “the world’s second tallest building”, and each time it’s a different building — the Jin Mao tower, then the World Trade Centre, and when I go next time it will be this one. And every time the streetscape gets worse because there’s nothing happening except traffic and construction.

But here’s the irony: the people who work in the buildings almost uniformly come from low apartment buildings in small towns or villages teeming with street life, right down to the guys sitting beside the road mending zippers while you wait. This kind of building is even more foreign to them than it is to us. In fact, when I took my translator up to the top of the WTC building, she was petrified — not because of the height but because she had never ridden in an elevator before.

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From the New York Times: 

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In Shanghai, Easing of One-Child Rule Isn’t Seen as Cure for Challenges Ahead

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… strict family planning policies that long restricted many urban couples to one child were put in place in the late 1970s in response to a surge in births that started in the 1950s. Couples who violated the birth limits could face fines and even forced abortions or sterilization. An exemption allowing a second child for couples who were themselves only children came into effect in 1984. The government decided to ease this further in late 2013, saying that localities could permit couples where only one partner was an only child to have a second baby.

As Shanghai and other cities loosened the rules for their residents, some braced for a baby boom. But far fewer eligible couples than expected have taken advantage of the new policy, giving rise to a different set of worries, and to Shanghai’s appeal.

… so far, only 5 percent have applied for permission to do so …

The newspaper said that the high cost of raising and educating a child and the fact that many young couples were struggling to juggle career and family had deterred them from becoming parents. Shanghai’s living costs are among the highest in China.

“Many in China, especially government officials, had a blind belief that China’s (and Shanghai’s) low fertility was mainly a result of the one-child policy,” Cai Yong, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who specializes in Chinese demography, said in an email. “More and more have come to realize that China’s low fertility goes together with other social revolutions happening inside Chinese families and society.” …

He Yafu, an independent demographer, highlighted the fiscal dangers ahead. “Shanghai’s local population has been shrinking and is rapidly aging. Fewer young people means fewer payers to social welfare funds,” he said, adding that Shanghai “will struggle to make ends meet in its social welfare and pension funds.” He said that the city was increasingly relying on tax revenues from the migrant population to keep its social welfare system from collapsing.

But demographers warn that simply easing the family-planning policy will not be the magic bullet to bring an immediate turnaround in the birth rate and solve the aging crisis.

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There is a field of rubble in front of a fashionable hotel, not far from the southwest corner of Georgia at Thurlow.

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It’s art.

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It undulates, softy.  You won’t notice if you just walk by; it requires that you stop and look, to briefly concentrate until you wonder if your consciousness is altering just a bit.

This is ‘Calm’ – and it can be.  Of course the artists, the MadeIn Company, an artists’ collective from Shanghai, have the required explanation to go with it – ambiguity, ways of observing, all that – but the pleasantness of the flux in contrast with the material makes it an easy appreciation.

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We all enjoy a good Chinese Ghost City story.  Here’s Sixty Minutes’s version, by way of the Shanghaiist:

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Ignore the financial-apocalypse intro and skip to around 1:20 for some epic ghost-city shots. In a Chinese version of ‘If you build it, they will come,’ real estate developers have been building tremendous apartments, infrastructure, and skyscrapers, and not worrying (small detail) about the people to fill them. This CBS special includes massive empty shopping malls with fake Starbucks (3:40) and even a knock-off Europe (4:41) all built for huge populations that never got the invite.

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