To My Friends in China & Beyond:
I am in Sacramento, where the temperature is now 86 F (30 C) and may reach 101 F (38 C) today.
However, it is dry heat, not humid heat - not like China, or the eastern half the US. So it is hot, but the shade is more comfortable; evenings cool down; sleeping is ok and not too many bugs. Sacramento is in between the sea (San Francisco) and the mountains where gold was found (Sierra Nevada). The sky is almost always blue and sunny, and the land is very flat and good for agriculture. This is northern portion of California's Central Valley and the location of the State capital. Here the buses are always air-conditioned in summer but the price is dear: 9 rmb. (But almost everyone drives their car.)
I visited an elementary school in Sacramento that will start teaching half in English and half in Chinese, beginning in kindergarten. The school has a Chinese teacher, but there are starting to be more programs in the US which teach Chinese. I think it is good.
I read a long article about increasing trade between China and Russia's Siberia. Historically, Russia has always wanted ports that are open in winter (one reason why Dalian was so important), but now there is more talk about Russian raw materials (iron, wood, oil) going to China and, in return, Chinese manufactured goods heading west by rail through Siberia to Europe. In 2012, Russian oil will go to China by a new pipeline (1 MM barrels of oil each day; about what California uses EACH day). This will free up freight trains to carry commodities and manufactured goods. (I remember discussions in Chongqing about a rail line going north to Russia that enable China's interior to export goods. Anyone know more?)
When Americans think about Siberia or Manchuria - which unfortunately we seldom do - we think about vast, desolate, cold lands with political prisoners. Because of border disputes between China and Russia, there was little development or relatively little Chinese trade with Russia (ok, maybe not in Shenyang). This may be changing in a bit way.
Westerner newspapers are full of information about Chinese strikes at large foreign factories. (Honda, Toyota) The results seem to be slightly better wages and working conditions for the millions of young migrants who come for a better life. I heard even the KFC in Shenyang gave the workers a bit more money. Do you hear about this? I don't think Chinese companies treat workers very well and it will take time to change.
Hope everyone is well.