Come get your Chinese takeaways. And no, we’re not talking about ordering food. That’s just so 2015. The year just gone was packed with happenings, big and small, in China. Some were good, but a whole lot were bad. Let’s have a look at China’s big news events of 2017.
New Visa Regulations Rules
The title’s not a typo, it's ironic. The new visa regulations don’t rule, in fact, they blow. Or rather the process of obtaining one does. Last year the Chinese government announced they would be introducing a new system whereby foreign visa applicants would be graded on a sliding scale from A to C. We hoped in early 2017 that the new rules would streamline the process for us excellent A-grade expats. It actually turns out most of us are B-grade at best. However, if you’re a Nobel Prize winner or a high-rolling tech leader you’re in for a much easier ride.
The Hutong Purge
The big hutong purge of 2017 mainly only affected Beijing residents, but it was one of the biggest discussion topics for expats and locals alike across China for the second half of the year. The government’s aim to modernize the capital by knocking down illegal structures and bricking up unauthorized windows and doors robbed Beijing’s backstreets of their charm and organic chaos. The move was met with reproach, and rightfully so, but to no effect.
The Migrant Migraine
We thought it would be tough to outdo the hutong purge, but in November a deadly fire in Beijing's Daxing district fanned the flames for a government clean up the “low-end population” with forced evictions across the city. The victims mainly consisted of poor migrant workers from other provinces living in crowded and often unsafe conditions. While the government maintained the evictions were conducted in an act of humanitarian concern for the well-being of the migrants, critics said the move was an affront of human rights.
The National Party Congress
In October, the 19th Party Congress took up hours of our lives we’ll never get back, but it all worked out well for President Xi Jinping, who got a tighter grip on his power. The Chinese media shoveled on the praise after Xi’s epic three-hour speech - most notably Xinhua with their 32,000-character long report. The main outcome of the Congress was that Xi is now not too far from the godly status of Mao Zedong, having had his ideology enshrined in the Chinese constitution. Good for him.
Another yuuuge event of 2017 was when Trump came to visit Xi for some Peking Duck and baijiu as part of his Asian tour. After villainizing China for his entire presidency campaign, Trump sucked up big time to Xi during his visit, only to dump on China once again as soon as he left. With friends like these…
Bike Sharing Behemoth
Everyone loves the concept of bike sharing. Most people don’t like bike sharers. And no-one likes having to wade through a mountain of tangled handlebars and wheels to get somewhere. Last year saw the concentration of unwanted bikes and ungracious behavior reach its peak in China. With the power of venture capitalists, the number of bikes far surpassed the demand, resulting in crazy share bike graveyards, photos of which went viral around the world. So will 2018 be the year the bike sharing craze finally stops? We can only hope.
Last year also marked a change in China’s banning etiquette. In 2017, anything could banned if it was big or “subversive” enough. This was a big step-up from 2016 when they mostly banned weird stuff, like eating bananas sexily on camera. In 2017 we saw a university in Shenyang ban Christmas in a bid to help students resist the “corrosion of Western religious culture.”; the government ban cryptocurrencies over concerns that unregulated markets could pose major financial risks; and internet regulators crack down on VPNs, with several individuals arrested for selling them and Apple choosing to remove them from the China App Store.
Clean Air, Dirty Consequences
But 2017 wasn’t all doom and gloom, even though it might seem like it when reading this list. Last year treated us with a significantly improved AQI (Air Quality Index), and the sales of face masks and indoor air purifiers decreased, according to sales statistics. The bad? Millions of people living in the rural areas around Beijing were left without proper heating because the government banned the use of coal in order to give us said clean air. Thankfully they reversed this policy in some northern cities in December when news struck that freezing is no fun.
So that’s our list of the biggest Chinese takeaways of 2017. Did we miss something? Feel free to add your own experiences in the comments section below.
The Great Fire Wall of China is about to get a little bit taller. From the end of next month, overseas providers of virtual private networks (VPNs) will be blocked in China, state media has reported.
Ethnically Chinese foreigners can now gain a five-year China visa, under new rules.
Shanghai has been named China’s top city for expats and business, followed by Guangzhou and Beijing.
The Chinese website of Marriott International has been shut down and an employee sacked after two incidences of the hotel chain “disrespecting China’s sovereignty”.
Good news for non-Chinese readers who get lost easily. Google Maps are available in China again!
International tourists transiting through Beijing can now enjoy visa-free stopovers of up to six days.
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