China’s Win­ter wel­fare

That's China - - Stirring The Pot 北京火锅 -

For China’s north­ern­ers who are able to wearT-shirts and sum­mer pa­ja­mas in­doors dur­ing the cold­est times of the year, it is hard to imag­ine how much de­ter­mi­na­tion it takes for south­ern­ers to leave the warmth of their bed in the morn­ing. When China launched its win­ter cen­tral heat­ing net­work in the early 1950s – when the coun­try was bent on learn­ing from the Soviet Union in its in­fras­truc­tural and so­cial con­struc­tion – a se­ri­ous lack of en­ergy and re­sources re­sulted in a de­ci­sion that cen­tral heat­ing would only be pro­vided in the north, north­east and north­west of the coun­try to en­sure an av­er­age in­door tem­per­a­ture hov­er­ing be­tween 16℃ and 18℃. One of the 156 key state-run projects op­er­ated with Soviet as­sis­tance, was the con­struc­tion of the first ther­mal power plant in Bei­jing in 1957.The year 1958 saw the ground break­ing for the con­struc­tion of the first steam pipe­line for use in the cen­tral heat­ing sys­tem. Chang’an Pipe­line, a key part of the Chang’an Street in Bei­jing, was built in

nd 1959, and has since been pro­vid­ing faith­ful, high qual­ity heat­ing for the Zhong­nan­hai area, the cap­i­tal city’s ‘heart’. Un­der the Soviet sys­tem, win­ter only of­fi­cially ar­rived when the out­door tem­per­a­ture fell to 5℃ (or be­low), and, at the time, the re­gions that met the cri­te­ria were in the coun­try’s north, north­west and north­east, where more than 90 days in a year met the cri­te­ria. His­tor­i­cally, China’s south has al­ways been slightly warmer than the north, so such a de­ci­sion seemed rea­son­able. China’s gov­ern­mentsub­si­dized cen­tral heat­ing in win­ter has only been avail­able to north­ern­ers ever since, but as cli­mate change prompts lower tem­per­a­tures na­tion­wide and as a re­sult has brought a grow­ing num­ber of cities in south­ern China into the ‘cold zone’, there have been grow­ing calls for ex­pand­ing the ‘win­ter wel­fare’ to the south. In 2008, most of Hu­nan prov­ince ex­pe­ri­enced sub­zero tem­per­a­tures, and in 2009, Shang­hai recorded tem­per­a­tures of -8℃ . In 2014, more than 17,000 house­holds in Hangzhou, the cap­i­tal city of Zhe­jiang prov­ince, used un­der­floor ra­di­ant heat­ing. A range of other fac­tors af­fects peo­ple's sense of feel­ing cold, such as hu­mid­ity and wind speed. For ev­ery 10 per­cent rise in hu­mid­ity, peo­ple feel as though the tem­per­a­ture has fallen by about 1 de­gree. In­ter­est­ingly, China’s cen­tral heat­ing regime did not truly copy the ‘Soviet mode’ that had no geo­graph­i­cal di­vi­sion in­volved from its be­gin­ning. The south-north clas­si­fi­ca­tion was, some­what mis­ap­pro­pri­ated, based on what was pro­posed by Zhang Xiang­wen, the first chair of to­day’s China Geo­graph­i­cal So­ci­ety, in 1908 for agri­cul­tural con­sid­er­a­tion.

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