Tag Archives: Yunnan province

Kunming airport site of winter weather chaos

File photo of de-icing at the Kunming airport.

File photo of de-icing at the Kunming airport.

Winter weather bedeviled China’s fourth largest airport last weekend. As with similar situations from the past few years, thousands of travelers experienced delays, flight cancellations and a general lack of up-to-date information regarding flight status in Kunming. Aboard one airplane, anger and frustration boiled over to the point that passengers attempted to open emergency doors while their aircraft was moving.

China Eastern Airlines flight MU2036 was originally scheduled to depart Kunming Changshui International Airport January 9 for Beijing at 8:45pm. However, due to a combination of cold, fog and snow, the flight was delayed five hours and did not begin boarding until 1:45am.

While passengers stowed their baggage and took their seats, several people noticed a distraught elderly woman complaining of discomfort. Further delayed as the aircraft wings were de-iced, passengers began to complain on the woman’s behalf to flight attendants, some demanding to speak with the captain.

At this point, the story becomes a bit confused. The captain apparently addressed the cabin via intercom. What he said is a point of contention, with at least one passenger taking to social media to accuse the captain of going on a profanity-laced tirade so virulent multiple travelers felt compelled to call the police. A spokesperson for China Eastern Airlines has denied the use of any untoward language.

Once the plane began to taxi onto the runway, at least two unidentified passengers — still worried by the condition of the elderly woman and further angered by the pilot’s tirade — tried to open three of the plane’s emergency exit doors. The aircraft returned to the terminal, where 25 people were taken into custody by airport police.

Two people were eventually arrested, a tour guide from Beijing and a woman surnamed Zhao. Both were charged with “inciting [a] crowd and disturbing public order” and will spend 15 days in a Kunming jail.

Changshui Airport authorities delayed 83 flights on Friday — some for nearly 12 hours — and canceled another 23. Those cancellations and continued cold, foggy weather in turn led to more delays on Saturday and Sunday. Other than the drama on flight MU2036, no near riot situations arose as they did in 2013.

This post written by Patrick Scally was originally posted on the GoKunming website on 1/12/15.

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Filed under China, Current Events, SLIDER, Yunnan Province

8 Killed, 18 injured in Yunnan construction fracas

Police respond to the incident in Jinning County

According to local government sources, eight people were killed after a fight broke out between construction workers and villagers in Jinning County, located 60 km south of the provincial capital Kunming.

The county government reported the incident on its Sina Weibo account on October 15, a day after the fight occurred. According to sources, the incident happened at a construction site for the Jincheng Transasia Industrial Logistics Center in Fuyou Village. The fight broke out after a dispute over farm land used for the logistics center. Police reported that of the eight people killed, two were villagers and six were construction workers.

However, local villagers interviewed by Caixin said that the so-called construction workers were actually an unknown group of people. They reportedly attacked the villagers using knives and tear gas. The alleged attackders were clad in black and some carried shields that bore what looked to be police symbols. According to unconfirmed reports online, four of the unknown attackers were burned to death by the farmers. Police were called, but arrived after the fighting had stopped.

Disputes over land requisition are a common theme in rural China and Southeast Asia, as industry expands outside previous city borders and into traditional farm land. In China, most of the thousands of protests and riots that happen annually are linked with disputes over land requisition. Oftentimes, compensation given to rural villagers is also an issue, as has been documented by ExSE in its series on hydropower development on the Yalong River.

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Filed under China, Current Events, Governance, SLIDER, Yunnan Province

Laos extradites drug suspects to Yunnan

Editors note: This article was originally written by Cissy Yu and published on Go Kunming. It is reprinted on Exse in its entirety. 

Yunnan has long been the country’s main entry point for illegal drugs. Despite increased interdiction efforts, international law enforcement cooperation and recent large-scale busts, it appears the province’s ‘Drug War‘ is becoming more costly and having only a small effect on the overall flow of narcotics across the border.

Last week, Lao police transferred five suspected members of a drug ring to Kunming in a display of cooperation between the two countries. Authorities originally detained the suspects in a joint police raid conducted on March 19, 2013, when a naval patrol seized more than 500 million yuan (US$82.3 million) worth of methamphetamines on the Mekong River.

China has been conducting patrols such as this with the help of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar since the “Mekong River Massacre” of October 2011. The attack, which killed 13 Chinese sailors, spurred Beijing to begin interdiction patrols along the river. Institution of the policy, although sanctioned by neighboring Southeast Asian countries, was the first time in three decades that Chinese forces have operated outside the nation’s borders without a United Nations mandate.

Although the drug lord responsible for the killings, Naw Kham, was sentenced and publicly executed in Kunming last year, illegal drug trafficking continues to run rampant in the border regions between Yunnan, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. Known as the Golden Triangle, the area supplies an estimated 60 to 70 percent of all drugs consumed in China. A United Nations surveyconducted last year reported that opium cultivation in the Triangle rose by 22 percent in 2013, largely driven by mounting demand from the mainland.

Yunnan’s 4,060-kilometer border with Golden Triangle nations presents a grim challenge for anti-drug personnel. According to Yunnan Net, 70 percent of methamphetamines confiscated in China last year were seized in Yunnan. Currently, there are 1.7 million registered drug addicts in the province, although the government acknowledges the actual numbers are much higher.

While heroin remains the most commonly smuggled drug on the border, methamphetamines — also known as ‘ice’ — are a fast-growing second. In Ruili, a border town infamous in the past for its heroin trade, methamphetamines now dominate the market. One dose of the crystals — known as bingdu (冰毒) in Chinese — reportedly costs as little as five yuan.

Yunnan’s narcotics officials, meanwhile, claim they have redoubled efforts to combat the drug trade. Provincial courts sentenced more than 5,020 suspects for drug crimes in 2013. Yet some officials have complained that the record numbers on trial have led to more lenient judgments. “A suspect who would get the death penalty elsewhere [in China] only gets several years of jail in Yunnan,” said a National People’s Congress deputy. “The judicial system should be punishing these people with an iron hand.”

Image: China Radio International

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Filed under China, GMS, Health, Laos, Mekong River, Regional Relations, SLIDER, Yunnan Province

Tibetan Wine Boom Threatens Food Security

The growing Tibetan wine industry raises concerns about local food supplies and pesticide use.

Many familiar with China and Tibet, may have heard about China’s “Shangri-La,” a region in the northwest of China’s Yunnan Province bordering Tibet and Sichuan that was officially renamed in 2001 after the location of a mystical Himalayan paradise in James Hilton’s 1933 novel, Lost Horizon.  The goal of this naming campaign was to heavily promote and extend tourism throughout the region, a strategy that has proved highly effective for the local government with the number of both Chinese and foreign visitors continuing to grow annually and with the increasing expansion of a tourism industry catering to the desires of travelers wanting to experience both Tibetan culture and local natural wonders.


Grapes on vine in a village near the Yunnan Tibet border

Grapes on vine in a village near the Yunnan Tibet border

Over the last decade, a significant corporate and agricultural development project in the region has involved the growth of a Tibetan wine industry among rural villages on the upper Lancang (Mekong) and Jinsha (Yangtze) rivers.  About nine years ago, the provincial government approached villagers across the region’s warm and dry rivers valleys and encouraged them to begin growing grapes to annually sell to the newly established Shangri-La Red Wine Company, a new corporation with close government ties that markets its wine as being distinctly Tibetan and coming from “Shangri-La.”  As part of this program, villagers were given grape seedlings and concrete trellises to support their new vineyards.  Slowly, more and more villages have caught on to this practice and pattern of agriculture to the point that in several areas, fields have been transformed into monocrops, though this is not the case is all locations.  Indeed in some of the region’s villages, a diversity of crops including wheat, barley, buckwheat, corn, and in the southernmost areas rice, are all grown.


The government introduced Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards to the  village along the Upper Lancang in Yunnan close to Tibet.

The government introduced Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards to the
village along the Upper Lancang in Yunnan close to Tibet.

Though I had been traveling and studying in this region for seven years and had indeed witnessed grape growing, it was not until 2011 when I arrived to conduct research on the potential impacts of hydropower resettlement in the region for my master’s degree that I began to realize what a large undertaking has occurred with grape agriculture and the major impacts that this has had on local livelihoods.  Discovering these issues, I began to explore them more deeply, writing a chapter in my MA thesis focused on the topic (which is soon to be published as an academic article), and now looking at this grape agriculture, its history, and the changes associated with it in great depth for my doctoral research.


Original Rose Honey vines in the church yard at Cizhong in the  south of Yunnan’s Tibetan region

Original Rose Honey vines in the church yard at Cizhong in the
south of Yunnan’s Tibetan region

Despite their recent expansion across the region, grapes and wine actually have a long and interesting history in the region in isolated areas.  In the late 1800’s, French Catholic missionaries established a strong presence in the region, primarily in the neighboring Nu (Salween) river valley but with a few successful churches and Tibetan converts in the Lancang as well.  While establishing their churches, the French also began to plant grapes and to produce wine, a practice which is still carried on to this day by villagers in Yunnan’s southern most Tibetan villages in Cizhong.  Unique to Cizhong on the upper Lancang is also a variety of grapes known as Rose Honey, a strain that was thought to have been completely wiped out by a blight in France but was found preserved within the church walls at Cizhong.


Township government Cabernet vineyards planted outside of Cizhong’ s church

Township government Cabernet vineyards planted outside of Cizhong’
s church

Based on my own interviews and ethnographic work in the region, the Rose Honey grapes are in fact only grown by a limited number of villagers and today are primarily unique to Cizhong alone.  When the prefectural government and Shangri-La Red Wine Company introduced and encouraged grape growing throughout the region approximately eight years ago, they provided a new variety of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, which is the only variety that this company will purchase.  Therefore the majority of the communities in the region grow and sell these grapes, though in some cases around Cizhong they also produce some wine to sell to tourists themselves, though this is not the case everywhere, especially in the most upstream areas closest to Tibet where some villages have no knowledge of wine making.  Unlike the Rose Honey grapes, the Cabernet variety also requires significant chemical inputs by way of fertilizers and pesticides.


From a sustainability standpoint, this increasing reliance on chemicals is one of two major areas of concern and interest – the second is food security.  Villagers themselves are not unaware that they are becoming increasingly reliant on chemicals and that this may be causing problems either.  In one village where I work, only two years ago it was a very common practice among households to intercrop vegetables for personal consumption among grape vines.  However starting this year I both noticed that the practice has decreased and was informed that this was due to villagers own worries about eating foods exposed to too many chemicals and possibly now toxic soils.  Similarly, one of my informants in Cizhong prides himself on two features of his grapes: they are completely organic, and he only grows the Rose Honey variety he obtained from the church yards.  This man has pointed out that most people in Cizhong use many chemicals because the Cabernet grapes introduced by the government won’t grow without them, while the Rose Honey grapes can be grown without any inputs.  Using these characteristics he markets the wine he makes as being both organic and of the historically significant Rose Honey variety, and has managed to develop a very good income for himself by selling wine to local government officials for banquets and to a restaurant in the famous tourism city of Lijiang to the south.


Cizhong villager tending his organic Rose Honey vines.  He makes and sells wine  himself rather than selling grapes to a company.

Cizhong villager tending his organic Rose Honey vines. He makes and sells wine
himself rather than selling grapes to a company.

Food security and changes in traditional cropping patterns and ways of life are also a major issue created by grape growing.  In the downstream regions around Cizhong, the majority of villagers still grow large amounts of grain including rice (the northernmost rice in the Mekong and the only rice grown by Tibetans), wheat, barley, corn, and buckwheat to fulfill their own subsistence and livestock needs.  This is not the case upstream however where villagers now grow little to no grain in exchange for grapes as a monocrop; by doing so they then rely on the profits from grape sales to purchase grain for subsistence and also fertilizers and pesticides.  This has brought about two issues.  The first is major changes in diet, as people who traditionally subsisted on wheat and barley are now purchasing rice and in a sense becoming “Hanified” by their diets as they move away from eating traditional Tibetan foods.  Second, there is now a great reliance on the government and the Shangri-La Red Wine Company to purchase grapes, which are the number one income source and thus hugely important in securing funds to purchase adequate amounts of food to eat.  However from year to year, selling grapes is a major issue of concern, particularly being able to sell them at the ideal time when they are first ready to be harvested because if one waits too long they begin to rot on the vines and lose weight which is how they are measured for sales.


Interview with an 85 year old Cizhong villager who learned to make wine from French Catholics in the 1930s (photo by Sun Fei).

Interview with an 85 year old Cizhong villager who learned to make wine from French Catholics in the 1930s (photo by Sun Fei).

Since the harvest season of 2011 when I first began studying these issues, the company purchases have consistently arrived late every year, which has created serious worries among villagers about their ability to sell the crop.  Despite government assurances that the company is guaranteed to arrive by a certain date each year, this has not appeared to actually be the case, and securing maximum prices and value from grapes from year to year is a constant struggle for villagers as well as the new reliance on outside food purchase which are well captured in the following quotes from interviews:


“Before we planted grapes we didn’t have to buy corn and pesticides, but now we do.  However our income is still better growing grapes. If you plant grapes your income will increase, but you also have to spend more money to buy food.”


More or less, villages fully recognize the vulnerabilities involved in switching their cropping to grapes, but have still chosen to do and have invested much time and energy in doing so because of the high monetary returns that they provide.

An abbreviated version was posted here earlier this week on thethirdpole.net



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Filed under China, Food, Mekong River, SLIDER, Uncategorized, Yunnan Province

Yunnan Province and Its City Circles and Border Economic Zones


This is a map of Yunnan province, its city circles, and border economic zones.  Yunnan borders Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar.

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Filed under China, Economic development, GMS, VISUALS, Yunnan Province