China Beat Archive



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August 22, 2009 in The China Beat


Copyright August 22, 2009. Used by permission.


A variety of readings that piqued our interest this week:

1. In a New York Times story, Howard French takes a look at the ongoing preparations in Shanghai as next year’s World Expo grows closer. In addition to Expo-related construction in the city center, French notes, attention is also being paid to outlying neighborhoods, which are being spruced up in anticipation that some Expo-goers will want to explore Shanghai’s innumerable side streets and alleyways:

Shiny new aluminum facades are being hastily stapled onto grubby family storefronts, and fresh coats of paint and mortar are being applied, often for the first time in decades. This Potemkin salubrity is regarded with frank skepticism by many locals as a gigantic, government-run “face operation.” Its aim, they say, is to impress foreign visitors, even those who wander off the beaten path, with Chinese living standards.

Shanghai authorities are seeking to achieve more than just cosmetic changes, however; like Beijing did prior to the Olympics, Shanghai is also exhorting its citizens to become more “civilized” before the Expo begins.

2. It’s the height of shui mi tao, or water honey peach–“The Best Peach on Earth”— season in China, but American consumers can’t enjoy any of these delicious treats, as Stan Sesser writes at the Wall Street Journal. U.S. markets prize long shelf life and durability in the produce they sell, and the honey peach is a delicate fruit that quickly turns rotten, so it cannot survive the long journey to American tables. The honey peach isn’t especially attractive, either, which is a further strike against it in the U.S., where fruit is bred to have a vibrant exterior color that pleases the shopper’s eye. Because of all these factors,

Growing honey peaches on U.S. farms isn’t practical, either. “It can be done, but it would be very time-consuming,” says [Al Courchesne, a farm owner in California], speaking of Agriculture Department regulations that require quarantine of imported fruit trees. To prevent the arrival of agricultural viruses, the USDA requires a period of isolation that could last several years, he says. When that period was over, growers would have trees bearing an ugly-looking fruit so delicate it would require special handling and rapid-fire distribution.