Archive for August, 2011


By Richard Trombly

Posted on August 15th 2011


The most populous city in China, Shanghai is experiencing urban development and cultural renewal on a grand scale.

Shanghai is known as “The Pearl of the East” and is a city that was designed from the outset. Before the Western powers won concessions from China in the Opium Wars of the late 19th century, there was only a sleepy fishing village. But with the influx of foreigners, the city was built within a walled circle on a bend of the west bank of the Huangpu River.

A once-stately brick building bears the white hand-painted Chinese character that means this building is condemned and ready for demolition. Photo by “Jude” Jiang Wen

  • A once-stately brick building bears the white hand-painted Chinese character tha
  • A “wet market” where locals have a choice of affordable vegetables. Photo by “Ju
  • View of the Rock Bund Hotel, which opened last year and also features a modern a
  • A trendy young man photographed in Huai Hai Fang, an old lane house compound off
  • Chinese people at the Shanghai World Expo in front of the Philippines Pavilion.
  • Old Shanghainese man photographed on People’s Square. Photo by Patrick Wack.
  • Schoolboys at the Shanghai World Expo. Photo by Patrick Wack.
  • Elderly people practicing Tai Chi Chuan on the Bund as the sun rises over the sk
  • View of the Huangpu district and the modern skyline of Pudong as the sun rises.
  • Migrant workers from the countryside comprise the bulk of the workforce in the b
  • View over old lanes near Nanjing West road in the Puxi area of Shanghai. Many pe
  • A woman getting her hair curled at the local hair salon. Photo by Patrick Wack.
  • Tourists and passers-by walk pass a giant urban planning billboard on Nanjing Ea
The city is built around the river and divided into Puxi (literally “west of the Huangpu”) where all of historic Shanghai exists and Pudong (East side), which was farm fields until the 1990s but is currently home to the city’s modern glass and steel behemoths that comprise the Lujiazui financial district. Ferries filled with numerous scooters, cyclists, pedestrians and motorcycles still cross the river but one can see that the tracks onto the boats were designed for cars – a reminder that just over 20 years ago, before the first of Shanghai’s now impressive network of bridges and tunnels, this was the only method of crossing the wide, yellow silt-laden river.With a population reaching 20 million, Shanghai is the nation’s most populous, and certainly most prosperous, city in mainland China. And despite city planners’ design schemes, Shanghai is a city with a mind and a rhythm of its own.“Shanghai is fascinating as it exists on multiple levels no matter what sphere you are moving in,” says former Shanghai resident Richard Simpson, who works as portfolio design manager with New Zealand-based Essenze and is an expert in organisational behaviour. “On street level, rickshaws pulling collected polystyrene are mingling with luxury cars, but there is no friction or visible animosity. It clicks and hums at an extraordinary pace and seemingly reinvents itself on an almost daily basis.”With overflowing sidewalks where pedestrians bump shoulders, spilling into bike lanes where displaced cyclists jockey for space with the endless stream of motorised traffic, including unlicensed three-wheeled taxis, a never-ending stream of electric scooters and motorcycles stacked with produce from neighbouring provinces, as well as cars and buses, the morning commute is a chaos that somehow works on a grand scale.The traffic patterns found some recent relief due to massive expansions in the subway system in advance of the 2010 Shanghai Expo. It is a safe, clean, cheap and environmentally friendly way to move over 7 million riders per day from one of the more than 270 stations along the over 420 kilometres of track. A ride on the metro starts at 3 Yuan or approximately US$0.45. The longest ride will only cost about US$1.

All of this traffic reflects a huge amount of commerce and the city is growing, expanding and modernising at a breakneck pace. It is happening so fast that rows of vast skyscrapers, each contributing a unique design to the skyline along the main business arteries, give way directly to 19th century “shikumen”, Shanghai’s distinctive brick residential blocks characterised by winding, narrow streets. Meanwhile across the city, former concession areas offer European-influenced villas and Russian Orthodox churches that have been renovated into upscale nightclubs.

“Local and global influences are brought together and blended to infuse the city with a mystique all its own,” comments Simpson. “Traditional Chinese architecture is encroached by modern high-rises, making its command of positive and negative space even stronger. Standing at the Bund [riverfront] is very much the ying and yang of the city with the Art Deco behind and the flamboyant modern expressionism across the river.”

But not everyone is sharing in this prosperity. Gentrification remains rare in this city that strives to be so modern. Instead of repurposing existing buildings, entire blocks are demolished and residents displaced to make way for new buildings. A rundown shikumen block located conveniently along Zhaojiabang Road, a major business street, is a myriad lanes zigzagging among once-stately brick buildings that all bear the white hand-painted Chinese character meaning “condemned”.

Although the demolition has begun, Liu Xiaoling is one of only 10 residents left in her block that used to be teeming with thousands. Here she pays US$62 per month out of her US$200 salary for her 5 square metre single-room apartment. Most apartments exceed her salary. “I look at these beautiful old buildings and it seems like they are weeping and aware of their fate,” says the 34-year-old office maid. “I want to stay in Shanghai, but once this room is gone, I may not find any place I can afford.” Others from her neighbourhood and nearby blocks visit the lottery vendor on her lane in the hope that they will be lucky and avoid their fate.

“Among the chaos there is order of a highly dignified manner,” adds Simpson. “Wet markets on the roadside appear to be a seething mass of people fighting for personal space, yet for the locals they seem to represent a layer of tradition within a whirlwind of change. Designer label stores next to hole-in-the-wall eateries define a city that refuses to lose its roots to rampant building.”

One of the economic realities is that “wet markets” are the local choice for affordable vegetables. At best these are grand open halls filled with local farmers. But there are also lines of farmers that carry their produce to town in two baskets on a bamboo pole and then squat along a roadside, effectively cutting off all traffic and clogging it with pedestrians elbowing their way to a bargain.

Though the Chinese government has strong authority to enact civil control, there is a famous folk saying in China: “The hills are high and the emperor is far away.” This exemplifies the passive resistance that the people present to the government. Wet markets are one example. Shanghai mandated the closing of wet markets while stating supermarkets should start selling vegetables, but supermarket produce costs are considerably higher.

So in this communist nation, the wet markets remain due to market demand. Even though the Shanghai government website still boasts that to improve public health and modernisation, all wet markets would be state-owned by 2006, 80% of the wet markets remain privatised. Shanghai lawmaker Zheng Huiqiang concedes that this goal, with a price tag reaching US$4.5 billion, won’t likely be met soon.

The power of the people can also be seen in a 2003 ordinance to restrict all bicycles from downtown and turn bicycle lanes into additional automobile lanes. The popular resistance from an overwhelming majority of the people led to this policy being abandoned. And even while the government forbids superstition and mysticism, the old traditions find their way to emerge.

On a recent taxi ride, my 47-year old driver, Xu Wei pointed to the Nine Dragon Pillar at the intersection of several streets, and told me the local legend that work was repeatedly halted and the pillar could not be solid until a monk came to exorcise a nest of dragon spirits living there. The monk called on the workers to adorn the pillar with dragons so that the people would know to respect their spirits.

Of course, famed designer Zhao Zhirong tells another story. He was called upon to design the pillar that marks the heart of Shanghai’s sprawling highway network and says he drew on elements from nature like his family’s garden. When he looked at the traffic pattern of Shanghai’s highways, he saw the form of a dragon with wings extended. Nonetheless, locals have propagated the other story and somehow it is fitting of the way the people in this city make their own story.

Richard Trombly is a freelance writer living in China since 2003. He is also an obscure filmmaker with a clear vision at: www.obscure-productions.com

A child of suburban Paris, photographer Patrick Wack has been based in Shanghai since 2006, after spending several years in the US, Sweden and Berlin. Website: www.patrick-wack.fr


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China launch again ahead of Space Station and Mars drive

July 26th, 2011 by Rui C. BarbosaChina has launched another navigation satellite, with the BeiDou-2 ‘Compass-IGSO-4′ lofted into orbit by a Long March 3A (Chang Zheng-3A). The launch took place from the LC3 launch complex of the Xi Chang Satellite Launch Center, in Sichuan Province, with lift-off timed at 21:44 UTC – a T-0 slightly delayed due to poor weather in the region.

Chinese Launch:This range of satellite was developed by the China Academy of Space Technology, based on the DFH-3 satellite platform. Equipped with a phased array antenna used for navigation signals transmission and a laser retroreflector, the satellite’s Navigation Satellite System (CNSS) is China’s second-generation satellite navigation system, capable of providing continuous, real-time passive 3D geo-spatial positioning and speed measurement. The system will be initially used to provide high-accuracy positioning services for users in China and its neighboring regions, covering an area of about 120 degrees longitude in the Northern Hemisphere. The long-term goal is to develop a global navigation satellite network similar to the GPS and GLONASS.

Like the American and Russian counterparts, CNSS will have to kinds of services: a civilian service, which will give an accuracy of 10 meters in the user position, 0.2 m/s on the user velocity and 50 nanoseconds in time accuracy; and the military and authorized user’s service, providing higher accuracies. The first phase of the project will involve the coverage of the Chinese territory, prior to the completed Compass constellation covering the entire globe. The constellation of BeiDou-2 satellites will consist of 35 vehicles, including 27 MEO satellites, five GSO satellites and three IGSO. The satellites will transmit signals on the: 1195.14-1219.14MHz, 1256.52-1280.52MHz, 1559.05-1563.15MHz and 1587.69-1591.79MHz, carrier frequencies. The MEO satellites orbit on 12 hour long laps around the planet, the IGSO orbit is on an inclined geostationary orbits, while the GEO satellites are – as expected – located in the geostationary constellation. The previous BeiDou-2 Compass launch took place on April 9, when a Chang Zheng-3A orbited the ‘Compass-I3′ (37384 2011-013A) satellite. This was the 21st flight of the CZ-3A Chang Zheng-3A launch vehicle. The CZ-3A is a three-stage liquid launch vehicle, which has inherited the mature technology of the CZ-3 Chang Zheng-3. An upgraded liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen cryogenic third stage has been developed to enable CZ-3A performing greater geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) capability. The CZ-3A is equipped with a more flexible and sophisticated control system, which supports substantial attitude adjustments to orient the payloads before spacecraft separation and provides adjustable satellite spin-up rotation rate. It has paved the way for the development of CZ-3B Chang Zheng-3B and CZ-3C Chang Zheng-3C, and became the basic type of GTO  a lifespan of eight years. The CZ-3A is mainly used for GTO missions; it also can be used for LEO, SSO and polar orbit missions, as well as dual-launch and multiple-launch missions. The launch capacity of the CZ-3A to GTO is 2,650 kg, the lift-off mass is 241,000 kg, the overall length is 52.5 meters, the diameter of first stage and second stage is 3.35 meters, the diameter of third stage is 3.0 meters, and the maximum fairing diameter is 3.35 meters. The first stage and second stage of CZ-3A employ storable propellants, i.e. unsymmetrical dimethy1 hydrazine (UDMH) and nitrogen tetroxide (N2O4), and the third stage uses cryogenic propellants, i.e. liquid hydrogen (LH2) and liquid oxygen (LOX). On the first stage the CZ-3A uses a DaFY6-2 engine with 2961.6 kN thrust, while the second stage is equipped with a DaFY20-1 main engine (742 kN) and four DaFY21-1 vernier engines (11.8 kN each). The third stage is equipped with two YF-75 engines (78.5 kN each). The fairing diameter of the CZ-3A is 3.35 meters and has a length of 8.89 meters. The CZ-3A consists of rocket structure, propulsion system, control system, telemetry system, tracking and safely system, coast phase propellant management and attitude control system, cryogenic propellant utilization system, separation system and auxiliary system, etc. The launch success rate of CZ-3A is 100 percent since its maiden flight on February 8, 1994, when it successfully launched two experimental satellites (the Shi Jian-4 and the Kua Fu-1, a DFH-3 model). And it was awarded the “Gold Launch Vehicle” title by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation in June 2007. This was the 142nd successful Chinese orbital launch, the 141st launch of a Chang Zheng launch vehicle, the fourth launch from Xi Chang in 2011, and the fifth orbital launch for China in 2011. The Xi Chang Satellite Launch Centre is situated in the Sichuan Province, south-western China and is the country’s launch site of choice for geosynchronous orbital launches. Equipped with two launch pads (LC2 and LC3), the centre has a dedicated railway and highway lead directly to the launch site. The Command and Control Centre is located seven kilometers south-west of the launch pad, providing flight and safety control during launch rehearsal and launch. Down range Tracking and Control stations of the launch center are located in Xi Chang City and Yibin City of Sichuan Province, and Guiyang City of Guizhou Province. Each of them houses tracking and measurement equipment for the powered phase of a launch vehicle flight. Other facilities on the Xi Chang Satellite Launch Centre are the Launch Control Centre, propellant fuelling systems, communications systems for launch command, telephone and data communications for users, and support equipment for meteorological monitoring and forecasting. During 1993-1994 Xi Chang underwent extensive modernization and expansion, in part due to the requirements of the CZ-3 launcher family and in part to meet commercial customer needs. The first launch from Xi Chang took place at 12:25UTC on January 29, 1984, when the CZ-3 Chang Zheng-3 (CZ3-1) was launched the Shiyan Weixing (14670 1984-008A) communications satellite into orbit. The launch of the new BeiDou-2 satellite was the 52nd successful orbital launch from Xi Chang. Before the end of the year China plans other launches like the launch of the first HY-2 Hai Yang-2 oceanographic satellite and some commercial launches. On August 14, Pakistan Independence Day, China plans to launch the PakSat-1R, a DFH-4 based communications satellite; in September also a CZ-3B/E Chang Zheng-3B/E will launch the Eutelsat-W3C communications satellite and at the end of the year it will launch the NigComSat-1R communications satellite. Other commercial launches will see the launch of the Turkish Gokturk-2 satellite and the launch of the Pakistan Remote Sensing Satellite also at the end of the year. The “Heavenly Palace” moving forward: With the shuttle now retired after the STS-135 mission, along with Russia now set to dominate the frequency of flights to the International Space Station (ISS), China is seeking to affirm its place on the world space program stage with the schedule launch of TG-1 TianGong-1 (Tiangong means ‘Heavenly Palace’) Space Station in September. Soon after, Shenzhou-8 will be launched unmanned to test the rendezvous and docking procedures on a several week long mission. If everything goes according to plan, manned flights will follow with Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10 in 2012. The docking of TianGong-1 with Shenzhou-8 is regarded as an essential step toward building a space station. China aims to complete construction of a relatively large manned space laboratory around 2020, developing and launching the first part of a space laboratory before 2016, focusing on breakthroughs in living conditions for astronauts and research applications. As previously announced, this project is the finish line of the three-step manned space program, one which involved the developing the Shenzhou spaceships, then then technologies required for docking and extra-vehicular activities – which is currently underway, prior to the construction of the space station. TianGong-1, can eventually be transformed into a manned space laboratory after experimental dockings with the Shenzhou-8, Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10 spacecraft, with the last two carrying two or three astronauts each. China’s Focus on Mars: Another major step in space and planetary exploration for the Chinese will be the launch of the YG-1 YingHuo-1 Mars probe. YG-1 will be launched in tandem with the Russian Fobus-Grunt Mars mission on November 3, via a Zenit-2SLB launch vehicle from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. Once launched, the YingHuo-1 probe will arrive at Mars, following a journey of nearly a year. The development of the Chinese probe will also build cooperation with Russia, with whom the Chinese are building ever-closer ties with. The launch was originally schedule for October 2009 but was delayed because of problems in preparing the Russian probe for launch. YingHuo-1 has a cubic structure 0.75 meters long, 0.75 meters wide and 0.60 meters high, and is equipped with two solar panels. The probe will weigh 110 kg in total at launch. This project will lift China’s overall capacity of deep space exploration and the space industry in general, transporting several instruments for the observation of the Martian surface, allowing them to analyze the magnetic levels of the planet, in an attempt to explain the absence of water on Mars. Once in the vicinity of Mars, the two probes will separate and the Chinese probe will orbit the red planet independently on the Russian probe. (Images vai ChinaNews, AP and Roscosmos)

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