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.
Cambodian fishers on the Mekong River got a shock when they inadvertently hooked an endangered giant freshwater stingray 4m long and weighing 180kg, scientists said yesterday. The female leviathan, one of Southeast Asia’s largest and rarest species of fish, was caught by accident last week in Stung Treng Province when it swallowed a smaller fish that had taken a baited hook. An international team of experts on the US-funded Wonders of the Mekong project worked with the fishers to unhook the ray before weighing and measuring it, and returning it unharmed to the river. The Mekong is a crucial habitat for a vast
A glimpse of a possible Picasso in the home of Imelda Marcos filmed during a visit by her son after his presidential election win has set off a flurry of speculation in the Philippines, where the family that once plundered billions is set to return to power. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, the son and namesake of the late dictator, won a landslide victory in Monday’s presidential election, an outcome that has appalled those who survived his father’s regime. Images released by the family showed Marcos Jr visiting the home of his mother, who had displayed Picasso’s Femme Couche VI (Reclining Woman VI),
The head of Australia’s foreign intelligence service has used a rare public address to suggest that an increasing number of disillusioned Chinese officials are willing to cooperate with the agency. Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) director-general Paul Symon addressed a range of topics related to Australia’s foreign intelligence operations, including the recent Solomon Islands-China security pact and the need to recruit new spies “with more vigor and urgency” than ever before. Speaking at a Sydney event hosted by the Lowy Institute to mark ASIS’ 70th anniversary, he said the audience, which included high ranking members of Australia’s intelligence community and top diplomats,
WARNINGS IGNORED: An initial count found that Ferdinand Marcos Jr had 56 percent of the presidential vote, while Rodrigo Duterte’s daughter would be VP The son of late Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos yesterday cemented a landslide presidential election victory, after Filipinos bet a familiar but tainted dynasty could ease rampant poverty — while dismissing warnings that the clan’s return would worsen corruption and weaken democracy. With an initial count almost complete, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr had secured more than 56 percent of the vote — more than double the tally of his nearest rival, Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo, a lawyer and a liberal. His now unassailable lead of 16 million-plus votes spells another astonishing reversal in the fortunes of the Marcos family, who have gone