After covering the northernmost city in China (Mohe), we now travel to Ürümqi in the Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region in the westernmost part of China. I thought we may as well push it to the extreme and explore the provincial capital furthest from Beijing, a whopping 1,500 miles (2,400 km) away.
In fact, Ürümqi – pronounced something resembling “Yooloomooshee” – is both geographically and culturally closer to Kabul in Afghanistan than it is to Beijing. The majority of the population is Muslim and most Chinese road signs are dubbed in Arabic and sometimes Cyrillic script.
What are the most popular vehicles in this remote part of the world?
Dongfeng dealership in Mohe
We continue on our exploration of Chinese regions and after Harbin we head north to Mohe, still in the Heilongjiang province. This is the northernmost city in the whole of China, completely rebuilt in 1985 after a devastating fire, with striking Russian imperial-era style with colourful facades, spired domes and pillared entrances. A further 60 km (37 miles) north via a very quiet highway is Beijicun (literally “Arctic Village”), the northernmost settlement in China on the Amur River, the border with Russia.
In fact, from a couple places in Beijicun you can clearly see a Russian settlement on the other bank of the river. Even though it was the end of April when I visited, the river was carrying a large amount of ice blocks thawing their way toward the Japan Sea. As you can see on the map below the jump, in Mohe we are further north than any point in Mongolia and around the same latitude as the north of Lake Baikal — two regions I reported on in a previous Trans-Siberian series. You can see the Russian part of the Trans-Siberies Photo Series here and the Mongol part here.
So what are the most popular vehicles in Mohe?
After Mudanjiang, we are staying in the Heilongjiang province to travel to its capital, Harbin. It’s the 8th most populous Chinese city and the most populous in Northeast China, home to a total of 10.6 million inhabitants.
The uniqueness of Harbin resides in its Russian heritage. Refugees from the Russian socialist revolution in 1918 made Harbin the largest Russian enclave outside the Soviet Union. The Russian Harbin community peaked at 120,000 people in the early 1920s, accounting for well over half of the city’s population back then. As a result, a large part of the old town is comprised of Russian-influenced buildings including the St. Sofia Orthodox Cathedral. Harbin’s main pedestrian street is packed every night, including during the week, with locals enjoying their growing spending power as street food stands offer scorpions and centipedes among other delicacies.
A happily bustling city with a heart and a story to tell made it one of the highlights of this Northeastern China exploration. But what cars are Harbin inhabitants most fond of?
Long-defunct German automaker Borgward has a new life in China if you couldn’t already tell by the photos. The automaker released images of its first new car — since I dunno, the Eisenhower administration? — and it looks destined for the land where rules for intellectual property are much more relaxed than public demonstration.
Buick business up front, Porsche party in the back.
The Borgward BX 7 is a five- or seven-seater crossover with a 2-liter, turbocharged four that will be produced in China, according to German site AutoBild. The fledgling German automaker is backed by Chinese truck maker Foton who says the carmaker could eventually sell 500,000 cars annually.
The Borgward BX 7 will go on sale first in China, then in Germany by 2017, according to the report.
Slate has a story about hit-and-run crashes in China that proves that truth is usually stranger than fiction.
Geoffrey Sant, who teaches law at Fordham and is on the board of the New York Chinese Cultural Center, details a trend among Chinese drivers to kill the people they hit with their cars to keep from paying millions in medical costs over their lifetimes. Often, the drivers plead ignorance — that they thought it was a bag of trash, or a box — and rarely serve significant jail sentences.
Incidents captured on video show drivers sometimes backing over their victims several times to insure that they’ve been killed, according to the report.
Metals found in hybrid batteries, diesel fuel and headlight glass could again be subject to China’s ever-changing rules for rare earth exports.
On Wednesday, Molycorp announced that it would be suspending its mining operations of rare earth metals in California, but keep its mines in China and Estonia open for the time being.
The company, which went public in 2011, has fallen on hard times. In June, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and slowing demand in China isn’t helping. However, without a mine in the U.S., much of the rare earth metal mined in the world could be under Chinese government purview, and that’s not good. (Read More…)
The head of the AFL-CIO in the United States is criticizing the current presidential administration for its pursuit of a trade zone in the Pacific that could open up Asian markets to America and vice versa, the Detroit News is reporting.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka wrote the administration a letter saying that a free-trade agreement with countries such as Japan jeopardizes American jobs because those countries may be able to source cheaper parts from outside the negotiated area, according to the report.
“I hope it is not the case that the Canadian and Mexican negotiators are actually holding a harder line than our own government on this issue. But due to the unaccountable lack of transparency from USTR, absolutely critical decisions are being made without our input or voice. Thousands of good American jobs and an iconic American industry are at risk, and we don’t even know what our government’s negotiating position is.”
You’re car shopping for your dream car. You test drive it. It’s perfect. Everything in its place. The power … breathtaking. You look at the window sticker and there are a few numbers after a dollar sign. You can afford it — just.
Next year, your dream car will have no discernible differences from the one you are driving today. Everything will still be perfect, in its place, and the power will be just as intoxicating. Except next year the price will go down $5,000 thanks to a “Made in China” stamp on the doorjamb.
Toyota will keep a plant in China closed until at least Aug. 26 as it waits for conditions to improve after an explosion there killed more than 120 people, the Detroit News is reporting.
The Aug. 12 explosion in Tianjin, China injured 67 Toyota employees nearby and damaged 4,700 Toyota and Lexus vehicles. The plant in Tianjin, which produces Crown, Reiz, Corolla and Vios cars, is responsible for roughly half of Toyota’s annual production in China.
“We will only restart operations when we have been able to confirm the safety of our facilities and their surroundings, and when our employees feel that they can once again go to work in a safe environment,” the company said in an email, according to Reuters.
Break out the champagne and 7-liter engines. Have one on us, alright?
The Wall Street Journal and Reuters are reporting that despite a mild increase in crude, oil is hovering around $40 a barrel and it’s expected to further dip in coming months to a six-year low on a global glut of oil.
The national average for a gallon of gas could drop to as low as $2, Green Car Reports says, which would be the cheapest its been since January, and could approach historical lows from 2008.