Archive for February, 2008

Shanghai Snowman

February 1, 2008

It’s travel time again in China because in just a few days there will be spring festival, the Chinese lunar new year. But this year there is no sign of spring – in contrast, it is still 隆寒 (winter at is coldest). While this would be usual for the northern parts of China, the cold weather now also affects that have been practically immune to snow in the past.

A few days ago I talked with a friend who is in Urumqi, Xinjiang at the moment, and temperatures are well below bearable: Even at daytime temperature is about 20 degrees Celsius below zero (-5 °F) and the wind is blowing.

I yesterday received an e-mail from a friend in Shanghai who told me that there has accumulated the most snow she has ever experienced in Shanghai – I could not believe that in Shanghai (about as far south as New Orleans or Marrakesh) there is that much snow. I was told that there was enough snow to not only cause traffic problems as at the walkways the snow was not shoveled away, but also enough to make a snowman. Furthermore, the snow did not melt away but it there was snow for three consecutive days.

Snow in Shanghai
Snowmen, err snowbear in Shanghai

One also has to consider that in southern China (typically south of Yangzi river) there is no heating in buildings. I remember last march when the central heating was cut in March and it was still cold outside – but that time there weren’t 4 inches (10 cm) of snow outside.

And even a minimum heating and electricity supply was not secured, due to transportation problems power plant were threatened by running out of coal. There is also a lot of direct or indirect damage caused by the bad weather: Infrastructure has been damaged, crops have been harmed and shortages have caused production stops e.g. in the auto industry. Besides this, the lack of transportation of goods has caused the prices to raise, especially food prices, although inflation is already at a relatively high level.

But more important than the economical aspects of this is the human side: Travel by train as well as by plain has been hit by the snow, in Guangzhou along some 500,000 travelers were stuck and caused an exceptional move by premier Wen Jiabao who apologized for the situation in pubic. However, some might decide to not go home for the after all, Xinhua reported that 60 percent of migrant workers in Guangdong decided stay instead of going home – this means they won’t see their family for a long time and since the “golden week” in May is not longer in effect, the opportunities for migrant workers to return home more limited.

According to the Chinese saying “spring snow foretells good harvest” (瑞雪兆丰年), so the year of the rat after all might be a good one!

Happy Chinese New Year!

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