Only a week to go until Chinese New Year and China's peak travel rush is already in motion. It's not an exaggeration to say that every plane, train and bus in China will be clogged with anxious travelers, eager to get home before the Year of the Dragon begins on January 23.
It's the largest annual human mass migration in the world, with more than 3 billion planned passenger trips in the next 40 days - up 9.1% from last year.
One young man sparked a new trend after he revealed his plan to fly internationally from Beijing to Bangkok and then from Bangkok to his hometown in Kunming, southern China. He couldn't buy a domestic plane ticket, he explained, and traveling an extra eight hours via Thailand was the only way to get home.
But not everyone's packing their bags this year: some Chinese twenty-somethings are choosing to stay put out of sheer frustration with the crowds, the noise and the cost of Chinese New Year travel.Continue »
China's Communist Party staged lavish televised ceremonies last weekend to celebrate its 90th birthday, featuring flashy dance numbers, patriotic songs, and hours of solemn speeches. But many couldn't help notice one key element was missing: Where was former president Jiang Zemin?
The 84 year old leader has only made a handful of appearances on the national stage since he stepped down from his roles as China's President in 2003 and as Chairman of the Chinese military in 2004. But his unexpected absence at the anniversary festivities raised eyebrows among Party watchers.
Rumors emerged on Chinese websites soon after the 90th anniversary TV specials ended. But within a day, they were wiped away by government censors.
It's a story that truly spans the globe: Activists from all over the world, including San Francisco, are trying to stop the construction of a dam in Ethiopia financed by a Chinese bank.
The Gibe 3 Dam is in the early phases of construction on Ethiopia's powerful Omo River, using $500 million dollars in equipment funded by the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC). The hydroelectric dam, one of the largest construction projects in Ethiopia's history, would regulate the flow of water along the Omo River as it courses through Ethiopia and into Kenya's massive Lake Turkhana -- a freshwater oasis in the heart of the desert.
The project has been mired in controversy since it was just a blueprint. The World Bank and the European Investment Bank financed smaller hydroelectric projects on the Omo River, but dropped consideration of the Gibe 3 Dam after viewing the environmental impact report commissioned by the Ethiopian government. Activists say the World Bank and the African Development Bank lost interest in the project after considering its social and ecological implications on the region's fragile ecosystem stretching across Ethiopia and northern Kenya. The European Investment Bank also dropped consideration of the Gibe 3 Dam, although its reasons for doing so are unclear.Continue »
This story was filed by CBS News correspondent Celia Hatton in Beijing.
Revolutionary fever has been spreading east from Tunisia for weeks, but it hasn't hit China... yet.
There were calls online for protesters to gather in designated spots in 13 cities across mainland China on Sunday. But few disgruntled citizens showed their faces, and no prominent political dissidents inside China supported the calls to rally.
In the end, the resulting non-events were little more than bizarre meetings of journalists and Chinese police. The original, anonymous appeals trying to arrange the demonstrations appeared on U.S.-based Chinese-language news site Boxun.com. So far, no one's come forward to claim responsibility for the idea.Continue »
Liu is a political philosopher who first angered the Chinese government in 1989, when he was involved in orchestrating peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square that ended with a military crackdown.
Decades later, Liu co-wrote Charter 08, a petition calling for multi-party democracy in China. He has spent much of his life in and out of prison, often living under house arrest.
Within the small community of people who are familiar with Liu Xiaobo's work, not everyone is comfortable with the idea that the Nobel was given to a single Chinese activist.
Many support Liu Xiaobo's efforts to promote human rights on a philosophical level, but believe others who have sacrificed their freedom and sometimes their lives also deserve recognition.
In one of the last vestiges of collective living, Beijing's coal plants pump heat to city apartments on a strict schedule, from November 15 to March 15, every year. Since the 1950s, the schedule has rarely changed, even if temperatures plummet before the appointed day.
After enduring record heat-waves this summer, with the mercury soaring to its highest mark in 60 years, and thick pollution in the fall (which the government blamed on "fog"), Beijingers are now suffering through the early onset of bitter cold. China's state-run media reported October 18 as the city's coldest autumn day since 1986, with temperatures peaking at 48 degrees and then dropping to 44.
Many residents of the capital city are counting down the days to November 15 hunched over their computer keyboards, commiserating about the frigid weather and lack of government-provided relief.
"I can't function in Beijing's October without a hot-water bottle and an electric blanket," complains one Chinese internet user. Others employ greater creativity to stay toasty.
"I highly recommend doing slow-motion exercises while surfing the internet in order to stay warm," suggests one energetic web chatter. Most local apartments don't have thermostats, so residents have no idea whether it's warmer inside than outside. Many use electric space heaters and turn their air conditioners to the "warm" setting to thaw their icy homes. Continue »
Striking autoworkers in southern China demanding better pay and job benefits? Just a few weeks ago, that's not something you would have seen in the media headlines here.
Since foreign companies began flooding into China in the 1980s, low-wage laborers have formed the backbone of the country's flourishing economy. Few other countries could offer an almost endless supply of relatively well-educated, healthy young laborers who would toil for long shifts without complaint.
The only legal labor unions in China are sanctioned by the Chinese government, which has ample reason to keep work disputes to a minimum.
That could be changing. About 1,900 workers at a Honda manufacturing plant in southern China's Guangdong province successfully negotiated a pay raise after walking off the job for more than ten days. The company had reportedly been hiring trainees to work for less than the Chinese minimum wage of $920 a month.
Nearby, employees at Foxconn, a major manufacturer of Apple products, Nokia phones and Dell computers, are gaining an average 20% raise after a spate of suicides captured international attention. The Chinese media also reported a one-day work stoppage at an auto parts plant outside Beijing that supplies Hyundai.
China has long been hailed as the "world's factory" but, until now, few have asked what goes on behind the factory's closed doors. In the case of Foxconn, labor activists have complained about conditions there for years, but the world's media ignored the problem until young workers began to kill themselves at an alarming rate.
Some analysts point out that a factory that employs 400,000 people is the size of a small city; of course some people within such a huge group would commit suicide, they argue. But even if the suicides can be attributed to a variety of things going on in the victims' lives, it's still difficult to shrug away the allegations of military-style discipline used by the company.
Even China's tight-lipped state-controlled media have devoted front-page coverage to the issue, detailing stories of Foxconn workers who paid middlemen to score jobs on the manufacturing lines, only to find themselves trapped in its prison-like atmosphere. Employees would routinely work long hours of overtime without being allowed to sit down or speak to one another. Chinese media reports detailed how workers would be fined large amounts for minor infractions -- fines collected by violent security guards.
Low wages are the source of unhappiness at many Chinese manufacturing plants. According to Geoffrey Crothall, an analyst with the Hong Kong-based China Labor Bulletin, says before the recent pay raise, the average Foxconn worker made around $130 a month, working full-time hours. With overtime, that monthly salary would rise to $292 a month.
Chinese media outlets abruptly stopped their coverage of the events at Foxconn, Honda and Hyundai in the past few days, so it' difficult to track the ongoing impact of the uprisings. June 4 is the anniversary of the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square, so this is a sensitive time for the Chinese government.
However, as the months go on, it will be possible to see if any real change has taken place in China's factory belt. It must be noted that, so far, Chinese leaders have only permitted strikes and media coverage of labor unrest at foreign manufacturers. The doors to the world's factory will only be open when domestic Chinese companies fall under the same spotlight.
Every night this week, fireworks have illuminated the skies of Beijing for the Chinese New Year.
Friday's fireworks, however, came early in the morning, when the Chinese government issued an angry statement deriding President Obama for spending an hour with Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
President Obama "grossly violated the norms governing international relations," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu wrote. The United States must stop interfering in China's internal affairs and make concrete actions to maintain healthy and steady growth of China-U.S. relations, he added.
Ask cyclists about their bikes, though, and you'll uncover a less romantic side to the story. Few people in Beijing allow themselves to get emotionally attached to their bikes. The city's high rate of bike theft means an unexpected goodbye could come at any time.
"There's a saying that you're not a Beijinger if you haven't lost any bikes," explains retired teacher Ma Zhiqiang.
Rumors about the opening ceremony swirled around office water coolers and down onto the city's traditional alleyways ("There will be fireworks in the shape of dragons!"). The 2008 Summer Olympics was about to start, though no one knew whether the Chinese government would be able to pull it off.
365 days later, few can argue the Olympics weren't a huge success for China's organizational mavens. The two-week event broke television ratings records. Dire warnings of heavy pollution failed to come true as the city basked in blue skies, allowing athletes like Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt to break records of their own.