Archive for December 21st, 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Commodities: Cabbage and Fuel

Cabbage doesn’t find as many buyers this year as expected. The wholesale price in Zhifang Township, Ruzhou (汝州), Henan Province, was around 6 Fen per kilogram in early December, according to dahe.cn, and it was six Mao per kilogramm a year ago, according to that source. Last year, farmers could count on buyers from places as far away as Guangdong and Shenzhen. Expecting more of the same, they had grown larger quantities of cabbage.

If you can believe the story at dahe.cn, all it took to improve sales was publishing the situation, plus some online publicity by the local party and government websites to get phone calls from Inner Mongolia and Jilin Province, doubling sales and reducing the farmers’ losses.

Over-supply may not be the only reason for falling demand from the South. China increased retail and wholesale prices for fuel and electricity by as much as 18% on June 19, but $2.9bn in subsidies were still “set aside”.

But a scarce commodity is a scarce commodity. Truck drivers in Guangdong Province have used a good share of their fuel to search for the next fill, and similarly bizarre situations could be watched in many places in China.

Probably, neither the actual market prices nor subsidies for fuel have contributed to make China’s markets more mobile.

Maybe the international oil prices – now falling – will help.

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Footnote: apparently there was a media scandal in Ruzhou three years ago – reporters took bribes to keep silent about mining disasters in the place.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

China Radio International in English: Where’s the Flavor?

This summer, I tuned into a news broadcast on shortwave, and for several minutes, I thought I was listening to the Voice of America (VoA). However, I was listening to an English program by China Radio International (CRI). This probably wouldn’t have happened if the focus hadn’t been on Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Turkey, but on Sino-American relations or on Taiwan, for example. But the reading style was exactly the same as on VoA.

When China is the topic, you can obviously see the difference between a VoA and a CRI program. But the style in which issues are reported is still much the same. That hasn’t always been the case.

When I listened to CRI many years ago (Radio Beijing or Radio Peking back then), it was a different story. The way the programs were presented was much more formal and sort of “stiff”. Above all, the wordings were different, there were few (if any) jingles within, and no bits of original recordings of what was originally Chinese, and only translated into English later.

One can say that CRI’s English programs have become livelier. But they have hardly become more authentic. I liked the “stiff” formats much better, and the changes at CRI English are one more reason for me to listen to the Chinese service instead. They have changed, too, but they are more “Chinese”. If I want to listen to a VoA-style program, I prefer the original. I don’t need CRI for that.

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