Category Archives: Technology

Infrastructure money continues to pour into Kunming

Planning Map of Kunming Subway System Image: Kunming Rail Transit Group

Planning Map of Kunming Subway System Image: Kunming Rail Transit Group

The seemingly unlimited supply of development money made available to Spring City urban planners shows no signs of letting up. A new report released by the municipal governmentreveals 340 billion yuan (US$54.3 billion) has been allocated to “accelerate” construction, especially on the city’s metro, railway and highway systems, over the next five years.

Referred to as the “Comprehensive Transportation Campaign” (CTC), program costs include having at least six fully functioning metro lines by the year 2020, up from the current number of two-and-a-half. When finished, the above- and below-ground sections of the Kunming Metro will cover 206 kilometers. Three additional lines are also under consideration, but will not be finished by 2020.

It is not only the metro that will receive huge amounts of funding. So too will railway ventures designed to make Yunnan more connected not only to the rest of China, but also to its Southeast Asian neighbors. Among the 12 railroads receiving CTC money is a line that will one day connect Lhasa to Shangri-la and then Kunming, a bullet train to Shanghai and other railways linking up with Chongqing, and cities in Guizhou, Myanmar and Vietnam.

In addition to the expenditures for the metro system and vast railway upgrades, the Comprehensive Transportation Campaign will add more than 20 newly built or drastically expanded traffic expressways radiating outwards from the Spring City. The network of roads is planned to connect all of the “economically important cities of central Yunnan” and in some cases drastically reduce driving times.

One other key initiative involves logistics and Dianchi Lake. To facilitate all of the planned trade coming into and leaving Kunming once the aforementioned projects are completed, an enormous “integrated transport hub” is under consideration for Chenggong. If approved — and it appears the money has already been set aside — a 458 million yuan (US$73 million) shipping and receiving facility would be built on the shores of the lake, complete with a wharf.

The CTC’s 340 billion yuan price tag should provide a significant economic jolt to a city already in the throes of a long-lasting and frenetic building boom. In 2014, the entire province saw 70 billion yuan earmarked for infrastructure work — a number almost matched by annual CTC outlays for the Spring City alone. It appears provincial leaders, and those in Beijing, are still quite serious in their intentions to transform Kunming into a hub connecting greater China with Southeast Asia and beyond.

Editors note: This article was originally published on GoKunming and written by Patrick Scally. It is republished here, in its entirety, with permission from the author.

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Filed under Governance, SLIDER, Technology, Yunnan Province

Thinking Outside the Dome

The meteoric popularity of Chai Jing’s “Under the Dome,” attests to the Chinese public’s readiness for stronger environmental policies to tackle air pollution. Despite its banning last Friday, the documentary’s apparent support from certain branches of the bureaucracy, and increasing pro-environment rhetoric coming into this year’s hosting of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (also referred to as the Lianghui) seem to suggest that change may be in the air when it comes to tackling China’s smog. What is less clear is what the hidden consequences of these efforts to combat urban air pollution will be.

A fresh shipment of coal from western China.

In September 2013, the State Council promulgated the Action Plan for Air Pollution Prevention and Control (APPC), which contained directives addressing China’s air crisis. These included a reduction in coal’s share in China’s energy profile to 65% by 2017, reduced capacity in high polluting industries like steel and cement production, and improved fuel quality standards.[i] The next year, Premier Li Keqiang famously declared “war on pollution,” spotlighting the issue as a top-tier policy concern.

Regionally, the government has banned new construction of highly-polluting industrial projects such as coal power plants and steel factories in key cities on the east coast. However, the push to curb air pollution in Beijing is driving the coal industry westward, where massive coal bases are being established to feed China’s need for energy. Environmental activists are concerned that because of the massive quantities of water needed for coal processing — up to 20% of China’s water resources are used to produce energy from coal[ii]— the additional strain of a larger western coal industry may wreak havoc on water tables and food resources in a region already plagued by desertification.

Distribution of coal reserves in China.

Air pollution activists also have good reasons to be concerned about this trend. Northern China not only suffers from air quality problems arising from pollutants, but also from periodic dust storms that roll in from China’s northwest.  Relocating coal plants, especially coal-to-chemical projects, and other water intensive polluters to these regions is an invitation for ecological disaster. Worse, Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projections show a potential for increased desertification in China due to global warming. Increased coal capacity will continue to threaten the ecosystems of northwestern China and thus the health of China’s citizens elsewhere. The specter of intensified dust storms descending on Beijing each spring should give those concerned about air pollution reason to demand strict controls on heavy industry and coal processing in northwestern China, not just in Beijing and its direct environs.

The upshot of the energy development story in China’s northwest is that many of the same areas endowed with rich coal reserves are also blessed with massive wind resources. In the last decade, the central government has actively pushed for the development of wind power, resulting in a 73-fold increase in wind capacity since 2006.[iii] Moreover, the same electricity corridors built to accommodate China’s new coal bases will also serve large wind farms. Much, however, is still up in the air. Will wind power be given priority in power transmission eastward? Will wind power have the funding and support it needs? And what will be the consequences of China’s massive coal development in the west? These are questions that a concerned Chinese citizenry will need to address in order to breathe free.

Charles Vest is a freelance translator and environmental activist based in Beijing. He researches climate change and environmental policy in China

[i] Cornot-Gandolphe, Sylvie, “China’s Coal Market: Can Beijing Tame ‘King Coal’?” Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, http://www.oxfordenergy.org/2014/12/chinas-coal-market-can-beijing-tame-king-coal-2/

[ii] China’s Water-Energy-Food Roadmap, accessible from http://www.wilsoncenter.org/publication/global-choke-point-report-chinas-water-energy-food-roadmap

[iii] Li Xin, “Decarbonizing China’s Power System with Wind Power — The Past and the Future,” Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, http://www.oxfordenergy.org/2015/01/decarbonizing-chinas-power-system-wind-power-past-future/

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Filed under China, Current Events, Energy, Environment and sustainability, SLIDER, Sustainability and Resource Management, Technology, water

Airport International Connectivity Ranking: China vs. US

Intraprovincial routes in Yunnan [click map to enlarge]

Intraprovincial routes in Yunnan [click map to enlarge]

In this era of time-space compression, people, goods, and ideas move about Earth faster and in greater numbers than ever before. Human civilization has always revolved around nodes and flows, as ancient trading centers and trade routes demonstrate. What makes the era we’re in now unique is the degree to which transportation and communications infrastructure have accelerated these flows, erasing the physical distance between the nodes. But much in our interconnected world, for instance most commodity chains, remains out of sight under the surface. Only when a factory collapse in Bangladesh splashes the headlines are we reminded of the long and convoluted paths that stuff takes on its way from raw materials to the shelves at Wal-Mart. Continue reading

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Filed under Economic development, SLIDER, Technology, Yunnan Province

Remarks: Strengthening Cooperation & Promoting Cross-border Transport Logistics

GMS workshop

NOTE: The following is the English language transcription of a speech by Yang Shiji, Vice Director of the Yunnan Provincial Government’s Research Office, presented on June 5, 2013 at a workshop on GMS (Greater Mekong Subregion) Freight Transport Association Capacity Building.  The first part contains an interesting portrayal of connectivity potentials and a brief history of transportation linkages between China and Southeast Asia.  The reader should keep in mind that the area in discussion contains some of the most difficult terrain in the world, but the speaker’s main concerns are inter-government cooperation and the harmonization of customs and trade procedures throughout the region.   The final portion of the speech provides a framework to improve connectivity and upgrade logistical services within the region. 

For reference, a map of the Greater Mekong Subregion is linked here

“Strengthening Cooperation and Promoting Cross-border Transport Logistics in the Greater Mekong Subregion”

Cross-border logistics is an emerging industry combining several composite services such as transport, warehousing, and information.  Connecting production with consumption and linking countries to the outside world, the industry is composed of tangible and intangible factors and covers the entire process from product manufacturing to commodity flow.  Therefore, giving full play to the function and role of transport and upgrading the efficiency of cross-border logistic transport will have significant impact on all aspects of the economic and social lives of the countries in the GMS.  With the maturation of China’s market economy, a professional and efficient logistic system has been an indispensible factor for upgrading the quality of its economic functions, the income of its enterprises, and an accelerator for its entire national economy.

Located at the junction of China and Southeast Asia, the South Asian Subcontinent, Yunnan borders with Laos, Vietnam, and Myanmar, and shares with them a 4060 km national boundary line, about one-fifth of China’s total land border.  It has 25 frontier counties, 23 national entry ports, and over 100 trading channels for border residents.  To its east Yunnan is linked to the Zhujiang River delta and the Yangtze River delta economic circles, and to its south it has direct access from three routes, east, central, and west, to Hanoi, Bangkok, Singapore, and Rangoon via the Kunming-Bangkok highway and the Pan-Asia Railway, currently under construction.  It is the gateway to the vast western hinterland of China to its north.  To its west, it has access to the Indian Ocean via Myanmar.  In a word, the province enjoys the locational advantage in “connecting with two oceans, the Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean, and linking with three major markets in East Asia, Southeast Asia, and South Asia.” Continue reading

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Filed under China, DOCUMENTS, Economic development, GMS, Laos, Mekong River, Myanmar/Burma, Regional Relations, Technology, Thailand, Vietnam