To the Chinese capital, the dawn of November long meant one thing -- the invasion of winter cabbage, the government-subsidized, not-too-tasty "patriotic vegetable" that sustained the masses through the icy months. \nRickety trucks from one-horse towns streamed into the city, laden with heads of da baicai -- big cabbage. Folks queued their donkey carts and wheelbarrows, anxiously stocking up. Refrigeratorless families by the millions lined gray rooftops with edible green shingles. \nThis week, the cabbages are coming, right on schedule. But it's not like it used to be. \nWith each November's passing, the fuel of the proletarian revolution is becoming simply another lifestyle choice in a shiny city of dizzying selections. And therein lies a tale -- of economic progress, increasing affluence, and a generation of palates weaned on Pizza Hut. \n"Old grandpas still fondly remember da baicai. But for people my age, it's just like any other vegetable," said Dong Yue, 34. He oversees marketing for Dayanglu, one of Beijing's largest wholesale produce markets. Its inventory this week includes 109 varieties of vegetables. \nIn recent days, vendors from all corners of the land have brought their perishable harvests to Dayanglu for the pre-winter rush. Color is splashed everywhere: scarlet bell peppers, emerald hot peppers, eggplants in deep purple. \nArmed with the inventory of available vegetables, Dong ticks off those that many farmers hadn't heard of a decade ago. When he's done, 50 of the 109 items are checked -- everything from iceberg lettuce to celery to the more exotic "monkey-head mushrooms." \n"Lines for da baicai? You won't see that anymore," said Gao Zhanmin, laughing as his half-full truck of cabbages loomed behind him. "They want one bunch, they just go out and buy it. They don't need to fill their homes with it anymore." \nTwenty years ago, 95 percent of sales at Beijing's wholesale produce markets came from da baicai. Ten years ago, it was between 50 and 70 percent. This year, Dong expects just 9 percent of Dayanglu's sales to come from the cabbage. \nOn Monday, the government's Xinhua News Agency said demand for da baicai -- known to most Americans as Napa cabbage or by its Cantonese name, bok choy -- was expected to plummet yet again, this time by 8.3 percent from last year. \n"The house vegetable of Beijing has lost its vaunted position," Xinhua said with a whiff of lament. \nIt's hardly disappearing: In 2001, the average Beijing resident consumed 35kg of the cabbage. But China's two-decade experiment in capitalism has brought extraordinary changes to everyday life, and even to cabbage. \nWhen economic reform began in the late 1970s, Beijing was emerging from Mao Zedong's (毛澤東) Cultural Revolution. Restaurants, scorned for years as bourgeois, were rare. Among winter's few certainties were the odor of burning coal, the wizened men on street corners selling sunflower seeds from burlap sacks, and the cabbage. \nDa baicai became Beijing's culinary canvas. There was cabbage in sour sauce. Cabbage soup. Cabbage and bean curd. Braised cabbage over rice. And on special days, cabbage dumplings -- sometimes with a bit of minced pork. \n"There were no other vegetables. And no one could have afforded them anyway," said Ma Laicang, owner of the Old Beijing Zhajiang Noodle King, a restaurant offering several cabbage dishes. \nA 1988 shortage caused panic buying, and a glut the following year left 80,000 tonnes of cabbage piled in the streets. The mayor invoked patriotism and ordered public offices, schools, factories and army units to stock up. The cabbage crisis ebbed. \nIn 1992, the government cut its cabbage subsidy. Five years later, it deregulated the price. Popularity plummeted. Why hoard cabbage when so many other delicacies were available? \nIn today's Beijing, the French superstore Carrefour sells fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, nine varieties of mushrooms and an entire aisle of canned vegetables -- a sharp contrast to Beijing of 1980, when an average Chinese couldn't buy a Coca-Cola without knowing a foreigner.
FEELING THREATENED: The first military commission under Kim Jong-un’s leadership to last longer than a day is a sign of a growing escalatory doctrine, an analyst said North Korea discussed assigning additional duties to its frontline army units at a key military meeting, state media said yesterday, suggesting that the country might deploy battlefield nuclear weapons targeting South Korea along the rivals’ tense border. The discussion comes as South Korean officials said North Korea has finished preparations for its first nuclear test in five years, as part of possible efforts to build a warhead to be mounted on short-range weapons capable of hitting targets in South Korea. During an ongoing meeting of the Central Military Commission of the ruling Workers’ Party on Wednesday, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and
TRADE TALK: Xiao Qian said that Australia had fired the ‘first shot’ in deteriorating trade relations with China, but improvements were possible if Canberra takes action China’s new ambassador to Australia chided protesters who heckled him yesterday during a speech about the future of relations between the two countries. Xiao Qian (肖千), who has only been in the role since January, had just begun his speech at the University of Technology Sydney when the first protesters interjected, calling for freedom for Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong. The ambassador was repeatedly interrupted by sign-wielding protesters, some criticizing China’s treatment of the Uighur people as well as the university for inviting Xiao to speak. “People who are coming again and again to interrupt the process, that’s not expression of freedom of
China’s COVID-19 outbreak is shifting to its south coast, with a flareup in Shenzhen triggering mass testing and a lockdown of some neighborhoods, while Macau — an hour’s drive away — is racing to stop its first outbreak in eight months. The new cases come as China’s two most important cities, Beijing and Shanghai, look to be subduing the virus after months of strict curbs and repeated testing. Shanghai yesterday reported nine local cases, while Beijing reported five. Nationwide, China yesterday reported 34 new COVID-19 infections. Yet new clusters continue to emerge, prompting action from local officials. Borders are increasingly under pressure, with
New Zealand stargazers were left puzzled and awed by strange, spiraling light formations in the night sky on Sunday night. At about 7:25pm, Alasdair Burns, a stargazing guide on Stewart Island, also called Rakiura, received a text from a friend saying to go outside and look at the sky. He went out and saw a huge, blue spiral of light amid the darkness. “It looked like an enormous spiral galaxy, just hanging there in the sky,” Burns said. “Quite an eerie feeling.” “We quickly banged on the doors of all our neighbors to get them out as well. And so there were