Thursday, June 30, 2011

Recycled kitchen waste as cooking oil

A man collects oil floating in sewage

A man collects oil floating in sewage in Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province. Photo :CFP

Cooking oil products sold in markets may have come from illegal refineries that process hundreds of tons of recycled kitchen waste daily from restaurants in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei Province, the official Xinhua News Agency reported on Wednesday.

An undisclosed number of pig farmers in suburban areas of Beijing buy kitchen waste from restaurants, separate the waste oil from hogwash, then sell on the waste oil and use the hogwash to feed their pigs, according to the Xinhua investigation.

However, Beijing's sanitation, urban management, industrial and commerce, and quality watchdogs all claim they do not have the power to punish the illegal refineries, Xinhua reported.

It is estimated that there are over 300,000 tons of kitchen waste produced daily in Chinese cities, and the number is increasing dramatically as the retail volume of the restaurant industry grows at some 21 percent annually.

Paid waste disposal

Illegal cooking oil comes mainly from three different sources, Chen Yongquan, a professor with the College of Food Sciences at the South China Agricultural University explains. The first is obtained from oil floats in sewage or kitchen waste, the second is refined from poor quality pork, and the third is cooking oil that has been repeatedly used.

"Illegal cooking oil contains substances that are detrimental to human health, and can even cause cancer.  Such products should not be used as cooking oil again," Chen said. "However it's still very hard to say how much of those products make their way back to people's dinner tables."

Chen said the challenge of stopping illegal cooking oil from entering the food market lies in a lack of efficient ways of identifying which oil products are made from waste oil.

Authorities in big cities are also failing to fulfill their duties in regulating the waste oil market.
In Shanghai, a city that is home to over 50,000 restaurants, large-scale establishments (those over 700 square meters in area) sign service contracts with local sanitation departments and pay service charges to designated parties that retrieve kitchen waste, Jin Peihua, deputy secretary-general of the Shanghai Restaurants Association, told the Global Times.

For a 1,000-square-meter restaurant, the owner would normally have to pay about 50,000 yuan ($7,730) to 60,000 yuan ($9,276) a year for the service.

However, according to Jin, almost half of the restaurants in Shanghai are small-scale, and most of them don't work with local authorities to properly dispose of their kitchen waste.

"We don't know where the waste from university or company canteens ends up," Jin said.
Pursuit of profits is one of the fundamental reasons for this problem, which has been troubling authorities for years, according to Dai Xingyi, a professor with the Department of Environmental Science and Engineering at Fudan University.

"It is unreasonable to have big restaurants pay for the disposal service," Dai said. "Restaurants can make profits by selling waste to lower scale or underground purchasers. Instead, they have to pay to use government-designated services."

According to Dai's estimates, no more than 40 percent of the city's restaurant kitchen waste is dealt with properly.

Waste resource shortage

"Authorities are still not doing enough.  They should make laws strict enough so that breaking them will cost people a lot. And law enforcement should also be thoroughly implemented," Dai said. 
Tianjin, for example, has a regulation stipulating that restaurants that do not dispose of kitchen waste properly face fines of up to 10,000 yuan ($1,546).

"We know there are regulations and fines, but rarely do we hear about restaurants really getting fined."
Factories that have the technology to process waste oil into biodiesel are also facing a shortage of raw material.

The Shanghai Zhongqi Environmental Technology Company, one of two government-designated processing factories in Shanghai that have the capacity to process 40 tons of waste oil per month into biodiesel, currently processes less than 25 percent of its capacity. However, a city like Shanghai produces some 100 tons of kitchen waste every day.

Yang Jianbin, technological director of the company, told the Global Times that the company has been short of waste oil sources since it went into operation in March 2009. The company needs to at least double its current operations to make a profit.

"Our purchasing price is lower than some factories in neighboring Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, that's why although we work with the authorities, we still can't get enough raw materials," Yang said. "We are negotiating with the local government to pilot our own material-collecting network and hopefully resolve the shortage problem eventually."

(Extracted from Global Times dated 30th June 2011)

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Chizhou bridge to tear down

Finish what you started

Global Times | June 29, 2011 02:47
By Liu Meng

A bridge that cost 3 million yuan to build is torn down just as it nears completion in Chizhou, Anhui Province
A bridge that cost 3 million yuan to build is torn down just as it nears completion in Chizhou, Anhui Province. Photo :CFP

A costly bridge that was recently torn down in East China's Anhui Province has put the spotlight on the ongoing issue of officials wantonly calling off expensive projects and not being held to account for it.

Last Tuesday, the Yudai Bridge over Pingtian Lake in Chizhou, Anhui Province, was demolished just as it was nearing completion.

The one-year project had cost the local government over 3 million yuan ($460,000), the Beijing News reported.

The Pingtian Lake Management Committee told reporters that the bridge was too large and would ruin the beauty of the lake, adding that the construction would also influence water exchange and reduce the lake's self-purification capacity, the report said.

In a telephone interview with the Global Times, a press official from Chizhou who asked not to be named only said the bridge was built while the former mayor was in office and then torn down after the new mayor came to power, refusing to provide more details on the assessment process of the project.

"It is the taxpayers who eventually pay the huge bill, and as far as I know, nobody at the decision-making level paid anything," Zhu Lijia, a professor with the Beijing-based Chinese Academy of Governance, told the Global Times.

Costly decisions

Local governments that spend huge amounts of money on short-lived construction projects are not rare in China.

Last August, three newly completed buildings in the 40-billion-yuan ($6 billion) Xi'an Daming Palace National Heritage Park were torn down.

Zhou Bing, director of the preservation and promotion office of the heritage park, told People's Daily that the move was aimed at helping the Daming Palace Heritage site better meet world cultural heritage demands.

It was reported that as a national cultural relic protection unit, the park requires approval from the State Administration of Cultural Heritage before any construction can go ahead. However, none was provided.

"The new buildings don't fit with the rest of the heritage site," An Jiayao, a researcher at the Institute of Archaeology of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences told the Shanghai-based National Business Daily. "Certain modern designs could not possibly have appeared in the Tang Dynasty (618-907)."

Similarly, in Nanyang, Henan Province, a halt was ordered to the construction of two 27-story residential buildings for low-and medium-income earners last year just as they neared completion.

Millions of yuan had been thrown into the twobuildings, and the order to cease construction was reportedly made because the local government wanted to build a press release center in the same location for the Seventh National Farmers' Sports Meeting, which falls in October 2012 in the city, according to the Beijing Times.

According to a 2005 report by the National Audit Office on the economic responsibilities of the former leaders of 10 State-owned enterprises, losses in 2004 caused by economic crimes, including bribery and corruption, came to 1.6 billion yuan, while losses caused by bad decision-making was as much as 14.5 billion yuan.

Interest-driven reasons

Gao Zheng, secretary general of the residential engineering committee of the China Civil Engineering Society, told the Beijing Sci-Tech Report (BSTR) that the lack of strict management in city programming is the main reason why construction projects are suddenly abandoned.

"In many places, projects change according to who is in office. Some uncompleted projects launched by the former leader are demolished during the tenure of the new leader," said Gao. "These 'unnatural deaths' of projects are the biggest waste of resources."

Zhu Lijia said that some new leaders try to boost their own prestige by denying former leaders' political achievements, giving themselves more chances of promotion.
"Raising GDP growth is another main reason," said Chen Zhaoyuan, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

Chen said that large-scale demolition or reconstruction could boost the development of certain industries, including architecture and building materials, which would in turn push GDP growth.
"But in the long run, the growth of GDP brought by demolition is not sustainable," Chen was quoted by BSTR as saying.

State participation

Statistics provided by the World Bank show that between the seventh and ninth five-year plans (1986-2000), waste of funds and economic losses came to between 400 and 500 billion yuan ($62 billion and 77 billion), and as high as 30 percent of those losses were caused by wrong investment decisions, according to Yangcheng Evening News.

"These wrong decisions should be reduced to a minimum through the complete participation of organs of State power," Zhu said.

He said that without a decision-making system, local governments had too much freedom to make impulsive decisions.

"Local planning departments usually propose a certain project to the local government for approval, and the latter directly makes decisions without letting the local People's Congress know," said Zhu.

(Extracted: Global Times dated 29th June 2011)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Japanese' support on energy saving after Tsunami

Fukushima Crisis Gives GE, BYD Opportunity in LEDs, Power Packs

Fukushima Crisis Gives GE, BYD Opportunity in LEDs
Commuters take the stairs beside an escalator, which has been suspended to save electricity, at a train station in Tokyo. Photographer: Toshiyuki Aizawa/Bloomberg

Fukushima Crisis Gives GE, BYD Opportunity in LEDs
A businessman walks near a monitor displaying figures for the electricity generating capacity of Tokyo Electric Power Co. outside a subway station in Tokyo. Photographer: Toshiyuki Aizawa/Bloomberg

Fukushima Crisis Gives GE, BYD Opportunity in LEDs
The series of Panasonic Corp.'s "Everleds" light-emitting diode (LED) light bulbs are displayed during a news conference in Tokyo. Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg

The video screen at the Marunouchi subway entrance in Tokyo Station asks passing commuters to “Please Help Us Save Energy,” a plea repeated throughout Japan in television advertisements warning of summer power shortages.

More than three months after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami triggered the nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, lights are dimmed and escalators remain shut off in subways and shopping centers. The push to save energy is also creating opportunities for companies making long-lasting light-emitting diode bulbs and backup power packs.

General Electric Co. and China’s BYD Co. -- the maker of electric cars and appliances backed by Warren Buffett -- are going up against Toshiba Corp. (6502) and Panasonic Corp. (6752) to win a bigger share of Japan’s $120 billion appliance market. As summer approaches, the government has asked industries to cut power use by 15 percent following the nuclear disaster.

“LED bulbs and cooling fans are moving quickly because they are affordable to anyone who’s trying to save power,” said Ayako Chano, a researcher at GfK Marketing Services Japan Ltd., a research firm.

GE in April agreed to sell 101 types of LED lamps through the distribution network of Iris Ohyama Inc., a Japanese maker of household products. BYD, based in Shenzhen, southern China, will start selling backup power systems in Japan later this month, said Sherry Li, a spokeswoman. The systems can power home appliances such as refrigerators and medical equipment.

“There are still opportunities for foreign brands, including the Chinese,” said Ikuo Suzuki, an analyst at Advanced Research Japan in Tokyo. “Brands matter less for LEDs and batteries than for TVs and refrigerators, especially if they are cheaper and good quality.”

7-Eleven Solar Panels

Seven & I Holdings Co., the owner of the 7-Eleven chain, said after the March 11 quake it’s investing 10 billion yen ($125 million) in energy-saving measures that include installing solar panels at 1,000 stores and LED lamps at 5,000 outlets in the Tokyo region. McDonald’s Holdings Co. (Japan) and Lawson Inc. (2651) are using LED lights to cut energy use.

McDonald’s has also urged employees at its head office to consider taking leave in the first week of August to help save energy, said spokesman Kazuyuki Hagiwara.

LED lights consume less electricity and last longer than traditional light bulbs. They are used in ceiling lights, street lamps, traffic signals and to illuminate flat-screen televisions.

The rolling blackouts in March in the greater Tokyo area, served by Tokyo Electric, have helped spur sales among consumers. Sales of LED lamps doubled in Japan in April and May, while cooling fans quadrupled, according to GfK Marketing’s Chano.

‘Big Push’

For Osaka-based Panasonic, the interest in LED lights and battery packs ties in with the company’s “big push” in energy conservation, according to company President Fumio Ohtsubo.

The company, Japan’s largest maker of home appliances, said in January it plans to double LED production capacity in two years. Panasonic may also start sales of power systems earlier than planned, said Akira Kadota, a Tokyo-based spokesman.

Sanyo Electric Co., Panasonic’s battery-making unit, forecasts the global lithium-ion battery market will more than triple to 5 trillion yen annually by 2020, driven by large-scale batteries including backup power systems.

Sales of large-scale battery systems will probably expand to at least 2 trillion yen a year, while batteries for environment-friendly cars will reach 1.5 trillion yen, Sanyo said in November. Consumer electronics will account for the remaining 1.5 trillion yen of the 5 trillion yen global market, Sanyo said.

Chinese Competition

BYD aims to sell more than 10,000 sets of its power systems in Japan within two years, Li said, declining to comment on prices. The company offers a model that can power a refrigerator for as long as 20 hours, she said.

Toshiba will offer similar power systems this summer, accelerating shipments in about a year, said Keisuke Ohmori, a spokesman. Toshiba plans to sell 20,000 units with power capacity ranging from 1 kilowatt hour to 5 kilowatt hour, with the smallest model probably priced around 500,000 yen, he said.

“We’ve received very strong responses from customers in the Kanto region where planned power outages were carried out in late March,” said Toshiyuki Sato, a manager for smart-grid business promotion unit at Yamada Denki Co., Japan’s biggest electronics retailer.

Still, forecasts show that Tokyo may avoid a repeat of last year’s record heat wave as the La Nina weather pattern ends, according to Koji Yamazaki, an atmospheric scientist at Hokkaido University and a member of an extreme weather analysis team in the Japan Meteorological Agency.

Red Bars

Back at the Marunouchi subway, the video screen displays figures for the electricity generating capacity of Tokyo Electric: 43,700 megawatts. It also shows how much is in use, which was 79 percent or 34,720 megawatts as of 11 a.m. on June 16.

Public broadcaster NHK started an “electricity forecast” segment during its news programs six times a day from June 1 for viewers mainly in the Kanto region getting power from Tokyo Electric.
The bar chart showing the usage rate will turn to red from yellow as it reaches close to the utility’s supply limit, alerting viewers of possible power shortages, NHK’s evening news said May 31. So far, the chart hasn’t gone into the red, Tokyo Electric said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Mariko Yasu in Tokyo at; Maki Shiraki in Tokyo at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Young-Sam Cho at

(Extracted from Bloomberg dated 21 June 2011)

Note: We should learn from these Japanese people. With their positive minds and attitudes, they help their country in conserving the energy. Recently, the Japanese government promotes "Super Cool Biz" campaign to encourage the people to put on more casual clothing rather than, in dark suits and ties during the summer so that they are able to deal with the heat without consuming a lot of air-conditioning.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Flood Evacuation in China

(Source: China Daily dated 21 June 2011)

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Jamie Oliver's TED Healthy Eating

Jamie Oliver, who is popular for his cooking series, The Naked Chef and Food Revolution, has managed to revolutionize school children on the healthy food program in the UK in 2005.

Now, he uses the similar platform to educate the Americans about the healthy food in order to curb obesity in his latest food revolution series. Unfortunately, it's never been an easy task each time especially changing the American food culture from fast food and processed food.

In this video, he was invited by TED to talk about the problems that are being faced by the society in the world on obesity, diabetes and cancer diseases from the unhealthy food ....

Solution: Prepare homefood with fresh ingredients in order to stay fit and healthy.

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Pet Birth Control Program

 (Source: China Daily dated 11 June 2011)

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

DBSS is same as HDB public housing

5-room DBSS flat in Tampines going for $880,000

Centrale 8 at Tampines


Singapore's Minister of National Development Khaw Boon Wan has clarified that the S$880,000 five-room flats in Tampines belonged to a different class of housing options.

In his latest blog entry, Mr Khaw said that the "negative reaction from the ground was not surprising", but he added that DBSS flats are of a different class of housing type between HDB flats and executive condominiums and private condominiums.

He explained that DBSS flats are designed and priced by private developers. If there are no buyers, there will be no sales.

A five-room HDB flat at Centrale 8 in Tampines has been put on the market for a whopping S$880,000 (around $750 psf), the priciest new public flat to be released for sale under the Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) so far.

Measuring between 1,163 sq ft by 1,173 sq ft each, the 178 five-room units at the project cost nearly twice as much as standard flats sold in the recent Build-To-Order (BTO) project in Tampines, where a 1,216 sq ft flat cost up to S$444,000.

Mohamed Ismail, chief executive of PropNex, said that though the flats were built by Sim Lian Group under the DBSS, the price tag is still higher than any executive condominium.

He admitted that he did a double take when he first heard about the prices.

"No doubt it's in Tampines, which is a mature estate with many good things going for it, but it is still extremely high for a public housing flat," he said.

Despite the hefty price tag, a report from The Straits Times showed that the developer only paid S$261 psf ppr for the 21,132 sq ft site.

"The premium is due to its locale in Tampines Regional Centre with mature amenities such as banks, three shopping malls and the upcoming Integrated Lifestyle Hub," said a spokesman from Sim Lian, explaining the rationale behind the high pricing.

PropertyGuru analyst Tejaswi Chunduri said, "According to Sim Lian Group's indicative price range for Centrale 8, the price range for a five-room flat can be anywhere between S$685,000 and S$880,000. The floor area for these flats is in the range of 1163 to 1173 sq ft."

She added, "This will likely increase the asking price for newly developed projects as well as for the resale flats in estates island-wide."

"It is also within walking distance to the existing Tampines MRT Station and the future downtown line 3 MRT interchange."

However, Nicholas Mak, head of research at SLP International, said in an interview with ST that, while the location is good, it does not justify the flats' astronomical price tag.

"Another side effect is that it might encourage resale flat sellers in the area to increase their prices, as buyers would not need to wait for their units to be built," he said.

Prices of HDB flats have skyrocketed due to limited supply resulting from growing demand fuelled by mass-immigration. However, Khaw noted that "sharp property price increases cannot go on forever."

Mr Khaw assured Singaporeans that he will be ramping up the launches of more BTOs and pricing them appropriately.

25,000 units will be launched later this year, with 12,000 already in the market.

According to the Minister, larger launches may be in the works as they offer a wider range of choices.
To contact the journalist, you may send your message to

(Extracted from YAHOO! News Singapore dated 17 June 2011)

*** Note: 5-room doesn't interpret as 5 bedrooms in a HDB/DBSS flat. The term of 5-room simply means as 3 bedrooms + 1 living room + 1 kitchen area only. ***

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Crotchless Pants in China

My friends told me once about the ugly culture in China such as the spiting and dirty bathrooms without toilet papers and shortage of water. However, I didn't expect to see crotchless pants among babies, toddlers and children in China on the streets. This was a culture shock to me when I visited Tian An Men Square on my 2nd day of arrival in Beijing.

Crotchless pants among babies, toddlers and children in China

Most of babies and young children wear crotchless pants where you can see their private parts and bums openly. The parents will spread their children's legs widely and easily with the crotchless pants when the children need to defecate on the streets, in the restaurants, public transportation etc. Diapers has been introduced to China more than a decade ago but still, many parents find that crotchless pants is more cost effective than using diapers. Diapers is considered as a premium product which majority of parents can't afford to invest from their income earning. Higher living expenses and pricey rental property have become main issues to the locals in trying to combat to survive with their low incomes. A fresh graduate with degree qualification earns between RMB2,000 - RMB3,000 per month (US$333 - US$500 per month) who can barely survive with the rental of one room in the city which costs at least RMB2,500 per month (US$417 per month) while the rental of apartment with one bedroom already costs at least RMB12,000 per month (US$2,000 per month).

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Fighting for residence permits in Beijing

More students fight over fewer Beijing residence permits

  • Source: Global Times
  • [23:08 June 08 2011]
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By Zheng Yi

The Beijing hukou, or residence permit, is something Xiao Xi (pseudonym) has been striving to attain for nine years.

To fulfill that aim, the 29-year-old from Tacheng, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, enrolled in a Beijing-based university in 2002 to study Chinese Linguistics and Literature, then chose to further her studies two years after graduation.

"I found a job after graduation, but it couldn't give me a Beijing hukou, so I wanted to get a master's degree, which would give priority for me to get it. But I did not expect the local government to give fewer Beijing hukou to non-native graduating students in recent years," Xiao Xi said to the Beijing-based China Economic Weekly.

In May, media reported that the Beijing government would only offer 6,000 hukou – two-thirds fewer than last year's 18,000 – to non-native college graduates in 2011, the China Economic Weekly reported.

An official from the Haidian District Human Resources and Social Security Bureau (HRSSB) in Beijing said that overseas returnees, doctorate and master's students would have preference in getting a hukou.

On hearing this, Xiao Xi was initially happy that she had chosen to do a master's degree, but the official's words brought her back to harsh reality.

The official said that Beijing's college graduates would reach 229,000 this year, which meant only one-40th of them would get the 6,000 hukou, according to Beijing-based media.

The central government has sought to bring in 2,000 overseas elites since 2008. Most of them chose to stay in Beijing, and their family members were given a Beijing hukou.

That is one reason why students who graduated from Beijing-based universities will now get a smaller share of the hukou available, the official told China Economic Weekly.

Sales of hukou

"The local government usually gives a certain number of Beijing hukou to State-owned enterprise, administrative institutions and high-tech companies, while private enterprises hardly get any," said an anonymous staff member with the Haidian District HRSSB.

"Besides, most enterprises tend to recruit students who have majored in science and engineering, so students majoring in arts and literature are less likely to get a hukou."

In fact, State-owned enterprises can get a 70 percent share of the hukou that are distributed by the government, and if they are not all given out, the remaining hukou are usually sold to graduate students for exorbitant prices, China Economic Weekly reported.

As the government does not have enough workers to supervise all the State-owned enterprises, this practice is hard to control, according to the staff member at the Haidian District HRSSB.

"If you are a student majoring in science and engineering, you can get a Beijing hukou from me only if you pay me 150,000 yuan ($24,000). But I can't offer you one if you are a student majoring in arts and literature," according to Lin, a staff member with a Beijing-based State-owned enterprise, who posted an advertisement on a university website this March offering Beijing hukou to graduate students.

Lin said that his company has many leftover hukou every year, which it sells to graduates for extra money. "There were so many students fighting over the hukou and most of them were sold out this year," Lin told the Global Times.

According to Lin, the students can get a hukou seven months after paying the money and offering graduation certificates.

"You don't have to worry about being caught after you get a hukou from us because your personal files will be kept in our company for one year in case the government checks, but during that time you can freely work for other companies," Lin explained to the Global Times. "This is why we charge so much, because we can guarantee you a 'safe' hukou."

The hukou offered by State-owned enterprises is in great demand by many students looking for both a Beijing hukou and a high-paying job.

"State-owned companies can offer you a hukou but can't give you a high salary. Private companies might give you a high salary but can't offer you a hukou, so I think buying a hukou from a State-owned company and finding a job in a private company might solve both these problems," Shan Shan (pseudonym), 26, a graduate student working in a Beijing-based foreign company, told the Global Times.

Unsafe trade

However, Pan Fan, 25, a worker with a Beijing-based advertising company, may not agree.

"I paid around 100,000 yuan ($15,000) to a man who claimed to work in a State-owned company that could provide a hukou for me, but he disappeared without giving me a hukou," Pan told the Global Times. "I did not report it to the police because I thought it was also illegal to buy a hukou, so I had to let the money go."

The staff member at the Haidian District HRSSB said that swindlers are common in this industry. Some people even offer fake hukou to the students, China Economic Weekly reported.

"The Beijing hukou is so popular because it offers not just documentation for non-native students, but also provides extra conveniences for their lives. For example, they can enjoy preferential policies when buying a house or car," Xia Xueluan, a sociology professor at Peking University, told the Global Times.

He added that sales of hukou by State-owned enterprises show the irrationality of their economic structures.

"Some State-owned companies perform poorly and face closure, but still they do not emphasize technological development, and instead try to earn profits through selling hukou, which shows the irrationality of their economic structures," Xia told the Global Times.

(Extracted from Global Times dated 9 June 2011)

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University Entrance Exam/Gaokao in China

Education Questioned

  • Source: Global Times
  • [22:19 June 07 2011]
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Students study as they walk to evening classes at No. 2 High School in Huining County, Gansu Province. Photo: CFP

By Wang Fanfan

On Wednesday 9.3 million high school graduates across China will spend their second day taking the national university exams known as the "gaokao," while the country's educators try to figure out why there are more than a million fewer students taking the tests than in 2008.

There are more than 300,000 less students taking gaokao compared with last year's figure.

The last year of high school is supposed to be full of high hopes and great plans for the future, but top-student Tu's excitement about graduating has been dampened since half of his classmates dropped out in the final months of school.

Tu knows why most of his classmates left school in the final stretch after three years of hard studying. "They don't believe they have a chance of entering a good college, so they went looking for other opportunities," Tu said, asking that his full name not be used.

Ranked among the top students at Xixian County No. 3 High School in Henan Province, Tu is also worried his score on the tests he is taking this week might not be good enough to get him into a college that's worth attending.

Exam takers drop for 3 years now

National examinations are a long-held tradition in China. Passing them was a requirement for those who aspired to serve in the emperor's bureaucracy and since China's liberation passing the gaokao has been the only way to get into university.

Some former students at Tu's high school have even taken the gaokao four or five times in the hope of raising their marks and meeting the higher standards required by better schools for students from Henan.

An official report on higher education enrollment issued by Education Online, the biggest online education portal, this year indicates that the number of high school graduates who registered for gaokao peaked in 2008 at 10.5 million. This year that number has dropped by almost 1.2 million students.

The number of high school students who were qualified to sit the exams but decided to skip them reached 840,000 in 2009. That number jumped to a million qualified new high school graduates skipping the gaokao in 2010.

There are a number of obvious reasons for the declining number of students taking the exams. Demographics show the population of high school grads is in decline and will continue to drop until the turn of the decade. Increases in family incomes have not kept pace with rising education costs. The lack of equality of opportunity in education, especially for those from rural areas, has also emerged as a major factor.

Students study in crammed quarters as they cram for their gaokao exams. Photo: CFP

Troubling tales from the grads

Perhaps the most troubling reason freshly-minted high school students are skipping university are the tales of hardship they've heard from those who have already obtained a post-secondary education. Their low pay and poor employment prospects indicate that the investment in time, effort and money required to earn a degree is not providing the promised dividends.

Many high school students are seeing the writing on the wall and instead of pursuing a university education they're seeking training programs that will get them into the workforce as soon as possible.

Five years ago, Wang Yajun failed to get into a key high school in Yongqing County in Hebei Province, where he was raised. Even as a young teenager he knew his chances of going to university were practically nil. He decided then to attend a vocational school and study accounting.

"I knew I would not have a chance to get a good gaokao mark after attending an ordinary rural high school, so why waste three years for nothing?" he said.

Nowadays a more diversified labor market requires more skilled technicians and fewer academics. This new reality is leading students to choose a course of study that is more practical and skill oriented.

"I don't think the university courses are practical and enough to land a good job," said Wang.

As Wang's peers were taking their first tentative steps at their new colleges and into an uncertain future, he had already landed two jobs in Beijing.

Wang's younger cousin, Wang Guizhe, followed a different path after high school, but is now having second thoughts.

The younger Wang was determined to get a higher education and took the gaokao. He ended up with high enough marks to get into a college in northern Jiangsu Province, where he is majoring in engineering.

The exhilaration of leaving home for college didn't last long. Wang quickly learned that his job prospects after graduation are likely not that great.

"I don't want to go back to my hometown after graduation. I want to go to southern Jiangsu Province because it's richer," the sophomore said.

The cost of his annual education – 15,000 yuan ($2,315) a year – is a small fortune for his family and he's worried he won't be able to pay them back. "My parents' savings are enough to support me, but my dad raises pigs and his income is not always stable," he said.

Education as a way out of poverty

When Wang was a freshman he worked part time on campus but quit to devote more time to vocational training programs that will increase his employability after he finishes school.

"I want to get some certificates before graduation. I've heard that graduates who don't have work experience or skills can't even compete with migrant workers on the job market."

In the poor county of Huining in Gansu Province, passing the gaokao and going to university used to be seen as the best way out of poverty and the path to eventual fame and success.

There was a time when local people only talked about two things: When was it going to rain and whose kids got into college.

The long-held Confucian belief of "changing one's fate through education" seems to have backfired on many poor families in Gansu Province. The Southern Weekend reported that 50 percent of the peasant families that fell back into poverty cited education expenses as the main cause.

Many are finding that after the rigors of the gaokao they enter college as proud freshmen, only to later end up in the workforce as deflated members of the so-called "Ant Tribe." They are the new educated youth, who, after graduation, head to the big cities with big dreams, only to find highly-demanding, poor paying jobs while living in cramped, shared housing.

In his book Ant Tribes II published last year, Lian Si, wrote that 60 percent of the "ants" are from rural areas. Their education consumes their families' savings and after finishing school they're worked to exhaustion just to survive.

The college enrollment rate of those who take the gaokao surged from 57 percent in 2008 to 72.3 percent in 2011.

While they were encouraged to take courses offering better career prospects, the expansion of college enrollment has outstripped the needs of the labor market. Many grads are finding their majors have let them down and they have slipped to the bottom of the labor pool.

"When people no longer see education as a tool to better their lives, they start to think education is useless," said Xiong Bingqi, vice director of the 21 Century Education Research Institute. Xiong believes society's attitude toward education has changed.

Different starting line

"The quality of education rural students received when they were young is not as good as those who attended school in larger cities. The rural kids are also disadvantaged when it comes to finding a job because their social networks are smaller and the limits imposed by their hukou (residence permit)," said Xiong.

The unequal distribution of educational resources has led some experts to suggest that college education shouldn't be dangled like a carrot in front of rural students.

"Once they go to college, they won't want to go back to their hometowns and they'll be stuck in cities where property is unaffordable.

They will also no longer be part of the rural culture," Wang Ping, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said in a panel discussion at this year's meetings.

Xiong sees changing attitudes about higher education as a chance to return to the true nature of education, which is to help mould knowledgeable and creative minds.

"In China, education has long been seen as a way of changing one's social status," said Xiong. "But we need better planning to differentiate liberal arts education from vocational education."

Despite calls for reform, the gaokao exams are still seen by many as a fair, universal testing system that allows the truly meritorious to rise to the top regardless of their wealth or family background.

This is why Tu's mother, Zhang, had enrolled Tu in a primary school in Beijing before sending him home to Henan Province to complete high school.

A migrant worker in Beijing for more than a decade, the farmer-turned-domestic-worker told the Global Times reporter, "I want to send my son to the best university I can afford. If he gets into a good university he might become a civil servant some day."

(Extracted from Global Times dated 8 June 2011)

My Older Post:

Clone Victory Vitamin Water vs Vitamin Water in China

clone victory vitamin water vs. Vitamin Water

(source: TimeOut Beijing, June 2011)

My Older Post:

Friday, June 3, 2011

Disneyland Anaheim - the first Disneyland theme park in the World

It is everybody's dream to visit Disneyland theme park. My dream became reality when we visited Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California last month. The park will be over crowded when it comes to summer holidays (between June to August each year).

Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California is the first theme park, built under the direct supervision of Walt Disney himself. Disneyland Park becomes the favorite theme park among the adults and children since 1955. Some of the rides such as Dumbo, the Flying Elephant, monorail train and Enchanted Tiki Room are still operating and well-maintained since the opening day of Disneyland Anaheim. How do we know that? Well, you can learn a lot from its documentary show at The Disneyland Story featuring Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. You are able to see some old tickets and pictures at The Disney Gallery too. These attractions are located at the Main Street, USA.

Disneyland Park is not a place to enjoy the rides only but you are able to meet and take pictures with Disney's characters too.

From the ticket entrance of Disneyland Park

You have to believe the magic before you enter.
You will not experience the same when you leave the Disneyland park :D

I am just a small kid, who is also crazy for Disney's characters throughout my life. When I saw these Disney's characters, I would be running for the line and couldn't hide my excitement to meet them.

Sulley from Monsters, Inc.

My favourite, Pluto.
I like his collar tag which is read as "If missing, please return to Mickey Mouse."

Buzz LightYear from Toy Story.

Characters in statue

Sleeping Beauty Castle

This is a must visit to Mickey's Toontown where you will meet the Disney's characters.

At the end of the day, everybody was waiting along the pavement
of the main street to welcome the Disney's Parade. It lasted for about 15 minutes with a stunning performance by the Disney's characters and dancers.