Beijing influential  

Beijing, 8th most influential city in the world
According to the latest study by Forbes, Beijing ranks among the top 10 most influential cities in the world. The capital of the People's Republic of China and Sydney tied for the eighth spot.
Forbes also assessed that the Chinese cities Shanghai and Beijing have been gaining influence over the past years and forecasted they might move up in the list of most influential cities in the future.
The study shows that size does not matter anymore, as the Chinese capital came ahead of the country's largest metropolitan area Shanghai. “We ranked China's capital eight, ahead of Shanghai (19th)” because “with the advantage of being the country's all-powerful political center, Beijing is the headquarters of most large state-owned companies and is home to the country's elite educational institutions and its most innovative companies,” the report said.
Although Sydney only has 4.5 million residents, significantly less than Beijing's 21 million, the Australian city tied with the Chinese capital due to its high level of foreign investment and 15th ranking on the Z/Yen Group's 2013 Global Financial Centres Index, among other factors.
London still ranks first as the most influential city in the world, even after more than a century of imperial decline, the analysts at Forbes stated. Despite describing the United Kingdom as a “second-rate power”, the analysts put London at the top of its power list, saying the city's “unparalleled legacy as a global financial capital still underpins its pre-eminence”.
"A preferred domicile for the global rich, London is not only the historical capital of the English language, which contributes to its status as a powerful media hub and major advertising centre, but it's also the birthplace of the cultural, legal and business practices that define global capitalism," it said.
New York, which came in a close second in the study, is home to most of the world's top investment banks and hedge funds, and the massive stock trading volume on the city's exchanges. New York is followed by Paris and Singapore in the list, which signals a shift of power to “savvy” cities, rather than the largest or fastest growing.
To determine the most influential cities, John Korkin, urban geographer Ali Modarres, analyst Aaron Reen and demographer Wendell Cox graded 58 metropolitan areas in in eight categories: the amount of foreign direct investment they have attracted, the concentration of corporate headquarters, how many particular business niches they dominate, air connectivity, strength of producer services, financial services, technology and media power and racial diversity.
Of the world's 10 most populous cities, only Tokyo, New York and Beijing made the top 10 for influence, showing that while in the past century the greatest global cities were generally the largest and centres of the world's great empires, “today size is not so important”.
Among the cities on the rise, there's another Chinese city, which is Shanghai. However, these data is also relevant for the region as many of the cities which are gaining influence are in Asia, shifting the traditional influence from European and American cities to Asia-Pacific.

Obesity rises in China  

With an increasingly prevalent market, a fast-growing economy, rising incomes and rapid urbanisation, China has become more and more modernised in the past decades, but this modernisation has come at a price - obesity issues. While the Chinese population has doubled its life span with a developed public health program, now Chinese people are suffer from diseases that are more common in wealthier nations which are not caused by malnutrition as in starvation but by overconsumption of unhealthy foods and lack of exercise.
While the US keeps topping obesity charts worldwide, China is not falling far behind as Chinese children follow the same unhealthy American habits - junk food, sodas and couch potatoes lifestyles. “China has entered the era of obesity. The speed of growth is shocking,” stated a leading child-health researcher, Ji Chengye.
Indeed, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), obesity is a major health concern. While overall rates of obesity are below 5 percent in the country, in some cities these rates are higher than 20 percent.
Obesity in the Asian country is mostly prevalent in urbanised cities where fast food culture has been embraced by the society and globalisation has taken over, in contrast with poorer rural areas.
As the McDonalisation of the global society becomes more clear and China becomes more modernised, rising incomes, rapid urbanisation and cities dotted with fast food establishments - such as McDonald's (MCD), Pizza Hut (YUM), and KFC (YUM) - growing obesity among Chinese children is becoming a relevant problem in the country. Even an expert at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Chen Chunming, has warned against the rapid growth of American fast-food outlets in China. He advises: “Don't take children to eat fast food like McDonald's and KFC.”
In fact, more than half of Chinese children eat unhealthy food - including overly sweet and salt snacks as well as fried meals - every day, according to a survey of 10,000 students in 24 schools in six Chinese cities. Meanwhile, a quarter of primary school pupils and 16 percent of middle schoolers sip sugary beverages on a daily basis.
The kids' unhealthy eating habits are accompanied by a lack of exercise. According to the survey, about two-thirds of the students get less than an hour of exercise a day. Then, when it comes to exercising outdoors on the weekends, only 40 percent of primary pupils and one-fifth of middle school students engage in these kind of activities.
Moreover, thanks to a rapid motorisation, people are walking and cycling much more less than before. According to reports in 2002 and 2012, there is a correlation between ownership of motorised transport by households in China and higher obesity related problems in children as well as adults.
According to a recent report by the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, China is undergoing a fast rise in childhood obesity. In fact twenty-three percent of Chinese males younger than 20 are overweight or obese, while 14 perfect of their female counterparts suffer from the same condition. In contrast, back in 1990, the corresponding rate for Chinese male and female rate was less than 10 percent.
China's current rates are still below those in the U.S. (almost 30 percent for young males and females), they are above than those in Japan, South Korea and India.
According to the authorities, specifically Wang Longde, the Chinese vice health minister, the problem is that the population lacks awareness of the problem and knowledge in terms of what constitutes a healthy diet.
Therefore, as a response, the government aims at reducing the problem by building more playgrounds and making it mandatory for students to exercise or play sports for an hour at school.

Ai Wei Wei  
As a Chinese contemporary artist who is active in all sorts of artistic creations such as sculpture, architecture, photography and curating, Ai Wei Wei's latest installation in Toronto remains one of his greatest yet. Themed Forever Bicycles, he has installed 3,144 bicycles that seem to be floating in Toronto Square. With its sheer amount of bicycles, onlookers are in for a wondrous moment as they look at the geometrically homogenous design that Ai Wei Wei has created.
Ai Wei Wei's early life has been heavily documented and is an interesting tie to the artist that he is now. His father, Ai Qing was a Chinese Poet who was denounced during Mao Zedong's rule. The entire family was sent to a labor camp when Ai Wei Wei was barely one – they continued to live there until he turned sixteen. After Mao Zedong's death, the family returned to Beijing in 1976 whereby Ai Wei Wei began to actively pursue art in his academic career. Having lived in New York for about 12 years, he worked odd jobs to support himself while constantly taking photographs of streets in the big city; they are now known as the New York Photographs.
Today, Ai Wei Wei is a successful artist with many of his exhibitions featured globally. Although he has been arrested by Chinese authorities over his political activism, Ai Wei Wei remains a staunch artists who believes that through creating, awareness can be made which in effect provokes change. His art is sensational in 21st century art world and it is not surprising, just look at Forever Bicycles and you will understand why.
As a global city, Shanghai has approximately 23 million residents. Literally named “above the sea”, this city is an important apex of China. Historically, it started off as a fishing and textile town. She begins to gain the reputation of being a financial center after opening up to Western powers circa 1842. Today, Shanghai remains one of the most fascinating city in China as she holds myriad characters and facets.
The Bund is a must-go for any traveller in Shanghai. Known as the “museums of buildings”, this street houses historical buildings which once symbolized the powerhouse of Europe. Situated along the Huangpu river, one is able to see the HSBC building, a neo-classical building which is perceived to be the highlight of the Bund. One can also see the Pudong skyline from across the Huang Pu River. With the impressive buildings lining side by side, the skyline of this city at night is impressive and has been intensively photographed.
As one walks further down, you will come into Huang Pu and the Old City. Despite being a mega city, Shanghai is still best explored on foot; while ambling into the Old City, do stop by Yuyuan Garden, a traditional Chinese-Ming styled garden. Its famous tea house and zigzag bridge can be visited. It is here where one is able to take a breath of fresh air. In Huang Pu area, one can either choose to take a river cruise or start a stroll from People's Square. Passing by Nanjing Road Pedestrian street where stationery shops and bookshops are located, be prepared to come face to face with one of the largest bookstore in Shanghai.
There is a lot of activities going on the street level there it is advisable to take one's time to observe the way the locals carry out their daily routine. It is surprising to note how similar this city is to many other mega cities in the world.
Places To Go in China  
Places To Go in China
While planning a trip to China, one can take into account these three beautiful places that will take anyone's breath away.

Jiuzhaigou Valley
Situated on the north of Sichuan over the edge of the Tibetan plateau, this place is known for its multi-level waterfalls, colorful lakes, and snowcapped peaks. As the film location for many movies and Chinese dramas, this valley has become a popular tourist destination over the years. After taking look at the pictures, one would understand the appeal of such scenic lakes that have gathered numerous local legends.
Setting out from Kashgar, the westernmost city in China, one would have to traverse one of the world's most dangerous road, Karakoram Highway to get to the glacier sea lake which is surrounded by mountains. Four hours of being on the treacherous road has not stopped globetrotters from visiting Lake Karakul.
While in Xinjiang, do take a detour to the Nalati Grassland – a meadow so distinctive that the name Nalati(“place where the sun emerges” in Mongolian)was given by Genghis Khan when he laid eyes on it.
Guilin Located in northeast of Guangxi, this prefecture-level city has much to offer. With its tourist spots such as Longsheng Rice Terrace, Yangshou, Li River and numerous ancient towns, Guilin is among one of the top destination spots in China. With its extraordinary Karst mountains, travelers would definitely get their breath taken away when faced with the scenic topography that has inspired poets and artists over the centuries as well.
Taking a Trip to Huangshan  
Huangshan is located in the Anhui province, eastern China's most rural province. A well-known name, Huangshan consists of 36 separate peak with some rising above 1,800m. While this province is not the wealthiest, it is definitely compensated with its astounding natural beauty. The peaks of Huangshan are easily hiked and each year, millions of visitors come here for its magnificent sunrise views.
Originally known as Black Mountains, it was renamed Huangshan. Legend has it that an emperor rode off from these peaks to heaven on the back of a dragon. Literally translated to “Yellow Mountain”, this long mountain range extends across four counties. A tourist spot, there are many hostels and campsites made available for nature lovers to stay a few nights while enjoying the hike up and down Huangshan. The most popular spot to catch sunrise is the Dawn Pavilion. Less crowded spots would be a bit further in at Refreshing Terrace, Lion Peak or Red Cloud Peak.
The hike up is pretty unchallenging. Even novice hikers will not find much difficulty climbing up. If you would like to feel safer, join a guided tour where you will hike up in a group. The peaks will definitely be colder so bring a waterproof jacket that is thick enough to withstand the cold wind. On a good day, you will be able to see the mountain range clearly with clouds floating nearby - a truly mesmerizing site that showoffs the beauty of mother nature. Once you reach the top, there are other things to do and see as well. They include the Fairy Walking Bridge, Turtle Peak, Flying Rock and of course, confronting extreme vertigo while overlooking this historical place.
Has China's Hainan cracked the secret to lon...  
Has China's Hainan cracked the secret to longevity?
In Hainan, more than 200 of its 560,000 residents are aged a 100 over. This might not sound a lot, but it remains one of the highest ratio in the world. There are at least three centenarians –a term used for people aged over a 110 – in which there are less than 400 worldwide.
Residents in Hainan do not live a life of luxury. They live in shanty houses and survive on few dollars a day, it is mainly a simple life with a simple diet. This is perhaps the secret to their long lives. Farmers are the main profession in Hainan and residents claim that most of them do not exercise regularly as farm work is their ‘exercise' of the day. Researches have been conducted on the demographic in hopes of revealing the secret to longevity. They found that it is a combination of “diligent, simple-minded and magnanimous” lifestyle as well as a heavy “vegetarian diet and eating sensibly”. Of course, the classic idiom “early to bed, early to rise” applies too.
An active social life is key as well; men and women socialize daily in public parks – sipping tea and chit-chatting while listening to opera recordings. The locals claim that their regular consumption of alcohol is a contributory factor to living long. Their local grain spirit named “Three Coconut Sprint” is a famous choice of alcohol. A daily ritual, many of the older folks sip a shot of the spirit daily to keep warm. Combined with good climate and the soil which is naturally high in selenium, it can be said that Hainan possesses the right combination to an extra-long and fruitful life as it lacks the normative stress and environmental population that seems to be besiege most cities. More info here.
Foodie Cities in China  
Foodie Cities in China
Chengdu As the capital of Sichuan Province, you would be well acquainted with the name, Sichuan where spiciness is synonymous with its signature dishes. A very popular Chinese culinary style, Sichuan food is not for the weak-hearted as the level of hotness might potentially numb your tongue and swell up your lips. Classic dishes are the Sichuan hotpot, kungpao chicken and mapo tofu. Be prepared with liters of water at your side if you don't usually consume spicy food.
Xi'an Located in the Shaanxi province, food here is a fascinating mixture of Chinese and Muslim. It has exotic meat platters that consist of camel and donkey. With one of the most bustling night markets in China, Lanzhou provides foodies with hand-pulled beef noodles that are soft and chewy. Vegetarians must try the Jiangshui noodles, a cabbage filled soup that has to be fermented for three days which eventually produce its tangy taste. The mutton and bread soup is also a specialty of Xi'an, a simple but delectable meal.
Turpan Another place that holds Muslim and Chinese cuisine together, Turpan is located in Xinjiang, northwestern part of the Silk Route. This town has the best Uyghur food and they have numerous halal restaurants. With slight similarities to Indian food, they serve lamb kawop and crispy rounded nang breads - large flatbreads -that can be dipped with banshi, a local dish. Banshi is basically mutton wontons served in light tomato broth with black-eyed beans and cilantro. Don't let the exotic names scare you; they might sound foreign but you will not regret trying out their local delicacies.
Qing'dao Located in Eastern China, Qing'dao is famous for its Tsingtao beer and crowded beaches. This city also serves one of the best seafood dishes in China. Accompanied by the local brew, local shrimps, clams, sea cucumbers, crabs and crayfish make up the seafood platter in this sunny place. The catch of the day can be chosen from tanks and customers can request for any method of cooking they prefer. One of its famed delicacy would be the steamed Hongdao oysters from Hongdao island. Steamed with ginger and vinegar, the freshness of the oysters can be tasted through the bland style of cooking – which essentially is the signature cooking style of the seafood dishes here.
China's First Trans-provincial Subway Opens  
China’s First Trans-provincial Subway Opens
China has been expanding since the turn of the century. With newfound zest and economic policies, this emerging superpower has been solidifying its economy and urban development to compete with global markets. The latest development of China would be the opening of its very first trans-provincial subway line. This line links the country’s financial center of Shanghai with Kunshan City in neighboring Jiangsu Province.
At six-kilometer, this subway line is an extension of Shanghai Metro Line 11 and cost 1.85 billion yuan (approximately 294 million US$) to build. The extension features three elevated stations – Zhaofeng Road Station, Guangming Road Station and Huaqiao Station in Kunshan. The Huaqiao Station in Kunshan is a popular stop as most commuters transit daily from Kunshan to Shanghai for work. The new extension will cost commuters 7 yuan for a one hour journey, effectively saving around 20 yuan off their traveling cost. With this extension, Shanghai’s Metro Line 11 is now the longest subway line at 72 kilometers.
Situated 50km away from Shanghai, Kunshan is a satellite city in the Suzhou region. Its immigrant population is larger than its local population while boasting a solid economy. It has been presented with the prestigious award from United Nations for its innovative approach to granting migrants the rights to essential services in the city. Its export-oriented economies has propelled the city to become one of China’s most economically successful city while attracting more and more businessmen especially from Taiwan. The newly opened subway from Kunshan to Shanghai will definitely aid in business relationships between the two cities; allowing lower cost in travelling and easier commuting for businessmen and entrepreneurs.
China Increases Effort to Protect Her Heritage  
China Increases Effort to Protect Her Heritage
China has announced that steps would be taken to increase the preservation of ancient villages as they face a crisis of decline, decay and even utter desolation. A historical country, it is home to at least 12,000 traditional villages. Most of them have existed since before the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and a quarter of them were created before the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) according to the Director of the Rural Township Construction Department under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Rural Development.
A country-wide census has been conducted in 2012 and the survey returned with the results of more than 2,000 key cultural sites and over 3,000 provincial-level heritage sites which need preservation. China has been undergoing rapid urbanization and modernization in the past thirty years and this has inevitably challenged the ‘old’ culture. Without proper care, China is at risk of losing its past heritage and cultural identity with villages vanishing due to migrational patterns into cities for better job prospects.
Plans to protect and redevelop these traditional villages have began with significant emphasis on settlements in Southwest China’s Yunnan province, Guizhou province and in Eastern China’s Zhejiand and Fujian provinces. Authorities will continue to catalogue and designate plans for villages in dire need of preservation especially those with significant cultural value to the Chinese cultural identity. This long-term preservation plan will receive a substantial financial support from the government. President Xi Jinping has commented that ancient communities must be safeguarded. He condemned widespread demolition and new construction as inharmonious and an incorrect ideal to building up this beautiful country. Therefore, securing these traditional locations are of vital priority as the lightning-pace expansion of China threatens to demolish the ancient identity of this country.
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