300 Million Non-Existent Chinese

China’s one-child-per-family law, enacted in the 70s, has prevented (avoided?) around 300 million births since that time – roughly equivalent to the entire population of the United States. Now China is making the connection between the reduced birth rates it’s enforced and the environment.

“… avoiding 300 million births means we averted 1.3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2005”

Hard to argue with the math – the question is whether China is using the numbers as proof that it’s doing its part in the fight against global warming. Oops, guess they are:

“This is only an illustration of the actions we have taken,” said Su Wei, a senior Foreign Ministry official…

The environmental benefit of the reduced population is real. Spinning that reality as though it were China’s intended contribution to the environment is dishonest – especially in a country where air pollution causes up to 750,000 premature deaths each year.

Lake of Paint

China Digital Times (a J-School-hosted site) links to a stunning pair of images showing an algae bloom in China’s Lake Dianchi so intense the water seems to have turned to paint (here’s how the lake used to look).


Salon.com picked up and expanded on the post: Invasion of the great green algae monster, quoting Ming Dynasty poet Yang Shen:

A windy lake is Dian yet never any dust is seen,
The newly green isle Ding in the far horizon lies.
Beauty one enjoys here as in land south of the Yangtse River,
A vast rippling lake in spring with distant foam lily white.

The bloom is stunning – and tragic – evidence of the consequences of China’s economic boom and rapid industrialization. While it’s common (and largely true) to point out that China’s boom has been marching on heedless of environmental considerations, that’s not quite the case here.

Perhaps the most shocking aspect to the current algae explosion is that Lake Dianchi has been a target for environmental cleanup for more than a decade. The days when the city of Kunming simply dumped nearly all of its raw sewage and garbage directly into the lake are more or less over. Landfills have been created, sewage plants erected, waste water treatment facilities put into place.

But efforts to clean up the lake have come too little too late, insufficient to offset years of abuse. “The struggle is vast: Cleaning up Lake Dianchi means nothing less than bringing to heel the entire economic revolution that has swept China over the past three decades.”

What kind of poem would Yang Shen write, if he were alive today? … Would he observe, in tones of the darkest gloom, that a jewel of China’s environment that has been treasured for centuries upon centuries has been made unfit for human beings or fish in the space of one lifetime?

To quote BTO, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

Music: Jefferson Starship :: Dance With the Dragon

Chinese Language Pack

chinablog.jpgWe’re finally getting The Great Firewall of China off the ground – set to launch later this month. It was up to me to install the Chinese Language Pack for Movable Type on our server. Installation itself was fairly easy. Somewhat more tricky for a non-Chinese speaker is using the back-end in Chinese mode. Only via intimacy with the UI was I able to negotiate my way around. Let’s see… the Rebuild button is second from the bottom, and the Rebuild Category Indexes option is the third item in the picklist. If you switch languages without either knowing the language or having the muscle memory, you won’t be able to get back to the language selector to return to English mode – you’d have to wander around the labyrinth pecking half-random ’til you got it right.


The key is not just to get menu items to display in Chinese, but to have proper encodings on both the back-end and on your public site. Learned something interesting: If you’re in charset=iso-8859-1 and paste Chinese characters into a form, then save the record and look back at what you just entered, the characters will all be HTML entities (i.e. they’ll render okay for readers, but will be virtually uneditable). The browser does this, not MT. On the other hand, if you’re in charset=UTF-8, the characters are retained properly.

If you set the default encoding to UTF-8 in the MT config file, you’ll affect all blogs under the installation, which is probably not what you want to do. If you just want to affect one blog, leave the config file alone and hard-wire the encoding into the templates for that blog. That covers the public pages. The back-end language is selected per-user, and form encodings are switched automagically.