Urbanisation

Often in rural China, a couple would travel far to find work in cities, leaving their offspring behind with their grandparents as pictured here in rural Yunnan.

China’s rural elderly: The disappearing keepers of tradition

The rural elderly are the guardians of local traditions, says Hisham Youssef, an Egyptian-American architect based in Shanghai. On his travels to the Chinese countryside, he sees aged craftsmen labouring quietly, often with no one to pass their skills on to. Will precious culture and traditions disappear without a trace at this rate? How can this group’s life experiences be best harnessed and passed down and the youth attracted to stay or return to carry on family trades?
A hillside village in Songyang, Zhejiang province, pristine in appearance, has been “discovered”, and is increasingly becoming overwhelmed by luxury boutique hospitality projects.

Towards responsible rural tourism in China: Getting local communities involved

In part 2 of his reflections on the Chinese countryside, Egyptian-American architect Hisham Youssef asserts that local communities must be involved in the nation’s drive for rural rejuvenation. These can be projects that promote local culture and craft, rather than tourism per se. Perhaps through such efforts, the soul of these communities can be preserved and these rural gems can truly live on for generations to come.
Pedestrians wearing protective masks walk down Nanjing East Road in Shanghai, China on 14 August 2021. (Qilai Shen/Bloomberg)

Why China is embarking on the journey of 'common prosperity'

China has set itself the goal of achieving "common prosperity" in the coming years, after realising its goal of "building a moderately prosperous society in all respects". Chinese academic Luo Zhiheng describes this ideal society which is the opposite of a society plagued by a serious wealth gap — people should look forward to improving their quality of life and not worry about their basic needs; social safety nets should also provide basic livelihood protection for the disadvantaged groups. He outlines how China can realise this ideal by harnessing the strength of all who are able and who have "gotten rich first" during the reform and opening up process.
Drying bamboo sticks for various uses including chopsticks, near Anji (安吉), Zhejiang.

Egyptian-American architect: Is China's countryside losing its identity and rustic charm to mass tourism?

Based in Shanghai, Egyptian-American architect Hisham Youssef has travelled to many off-the-beaten-track locations across China. He shares his observations about the impact of organised mass tourism on the countryside. With transport links improving and tourists arriving in droves, will tangible heritage be eroded and undiscovered gems become a thing of the past?
People wearing face masks are seen on an overpass in front of a residential building in Beijing, China, 11 August  2020. (Tingshu Wang/File Photo/Reuters)

Why China is regulating the property market

Rapid real estate and infrastructure development in China over the past two to three decades has improved people’s lives, but also led to rising housing prices and property speculation. Regional governments have started to step in with regulatory measures. Commentator David Ng thinks these are good signs, as a society’s wealth should be distributed by labour and contribution instead of through housing.
Paramilitary police officers evacuate residents stranded by floodwaters with a boat following heavy rainfall in Hedian town of Suizhou, Hubei province, China, 12 August 2021. (cnsphoto via Reuters)

Extreme weather could become the norm, but Chinese cities are not ready for it

With the recent severe rainfall and flooding in Zhengzhou, Zaobao correspondent Wong Siew Fong speaks to academics, who warn that China’s water infrastructure and weather drainage systems may not be suitable for the advent of extreme weather, and the authorities need to act quickly to bridge the gap.
A pedestrian pauses on a footbridge in the Lujiazui business district in Shanghai, China on 20 July 2021. (Qilai Shen/Bloomberg)

The Yangtze River Delta region: Promoting economic integration amid provincial competition

While the Yangtze River Delta region comprising Shanghai and parts of Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Anhui has been seeing strong economic development, it could be more productive. Provinces with their own targets to meet have few incentives for regional integration, leaving the region as a whole less competitive. How can policies or market mechanisms be implemented to encourage more collaboration between local governments?
A rapidKL train travels along an elevated track above streets in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on 1 June 2021. (Samsul Said/Bloomberg)

Chinese companies see ASEAN as a bright spot for investment

According to a pulse survey conducted by Standard Chartered, Chinese companies are attracted to ASEAN’s large market and potential as regional production bases. External factors such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Agreement (RCEP) could also funnel greater Chinese investment into the region in areas such as high-value manufacturing, energy and digital services.
In this picture taken on 11 January 2021, young gymnasts train at the Li Xiaoshuang Gymnastics School in Xiantao, Hubei province, China. (Nicolas Asfouri/AFP)

A Chinese education: Why are Chinese parents and kids going to extremes?

As children cram for their studies, their parents are cramming along with them, believing that they should be good role models. Is all this hyper-learning normal or good? Chinese economics professor Li Jingkui will let others be the judge, but he says that economically speaking, this is a sign that social mobility is shrinking; everyone feels compelled to grasp the last inch of rope that will airlift them to a better life.