1 Zola and Retail Marketing
2 Playing the Waiting Game
3 Beware the Ides of March
4 The county not on a map
5 Chinese Chess in Beijing
6 Build it and They'll Come
7 Riding the Water Dragon
8 The Best of Both Worlds
9 Storming the Great Wall
10 Welcome to the Wangba
11 The Catcher in the Rice
12 The Marriage Business
13 The Crouching Dragon
14 Counting the Numbers
15 A Century of Migration
16 Shooting for the Stars
17 Rise of Yorkshire Puds
18 Harry Potter in Beijing
19 Standing Out in China
20 Self-pandactualisation
21 Strolling on the Moon
22 Tea with the Brothers
23 Animated Guangzhou
24 Trouble on the Farms
25 Christmas in Haerbin
26 Dave pops into Tesco
27 A Breath of Fresh Air
28 The Boys from Brazil
29 Rolls-Royce on a roll
30 The Great Exhibition
31 Spreading the Word
32 On Top of the World
33 Moonlight Madness
34 Beijing's Wild West
35 Avatar vs Confucius
36 Brand Ambassadors
37 Inspiring Adventure
38 China's Sweet Spot
39 Spinning the Wheel
40 Winter Wonderland
41 The End of the Sky
42 Ticket to Ride High
43 Turning the Corner
44 Trouble in Toytown
45 Watch with Mother
46 Red-crowned Alert
47 In a Barbie World
48 Domestic Arrivals
49 Tale of Two Taxis
50 Land of Extremes
51 Of 'Mice' and Men
52 Tour of the South
53 Brooding Clouds?
54 The Nabang Test
55 Guanxi Building
56 Apple Blossoms
57 New Romantics
58 The Rose Seller
59 Rural Shanghai
60 Forbidden Fruit
61 Exotic Flavours
62 Picking up Pace
63 New Year, 2008
64 Shedding Tiers
65 Olympic Prince
66 London Calling
67 A Soulful Song
68 Paradise Lost?
69 Brandopolises
70 Red, red wine
71 Finding Nemo
72 Rogue Dealer
73 Juicy Carrots
74 Bad Air Days
75 Golden Week
76 Master Class
77 Noodle Wars
78 Yes We Can!
79 Mr Blue Sky
80 Keep Riding
81 Wise Words
82 Hair Today
83 Easy Rider
84 Aftershock
85 Bread vans
86 Pick a card
87 The 60th
88 Ox Tales
2001 to 2007

Paradise Lost?

Taking aim...

I watched the small flock of Teal circle over the “reservoir”, looking for a place to rest on their arduous northward journey.  After circling four times, and failing to find a deep enough area of water to land on, they flew off.  I put my binoculars down and surveyed the damage that has been done to one of the prime birdwatching sites at one of the world’s most important migration stop-off points. 

  Dismayed, I stared incredulously at the dozen or more diggers and trucks that were crawling around on what was, until recently, the south end of a reservoir that had been teeming with aquatic life and the birds that depend on its richness.  I’m not ashamed to admit that my bottom lip began to quiver as I called a friend to find out what was happening – after all, this area had been, I had understood, designated a “protected area” (one of only two protected areas on the entire Qinhuangdao coastline as far as I know). 

  I found out that the official line is that “they are cleaning the river”. Incredible as this seemed, I was at least given a little hope that my fears that this precious place is being “developed” are groundless.  But even if it is restored to its former glory (or miraculously improved), the decision to drain the reservoir in the spring – when numerous fresh-water-dependent birds pass through the area – is breathtakingly heartless.

  I have been coming to Beidaihe every spring for the past 16 years and have witnessed a gradual decline in the prime habitat that the migrants depend on. “Gradual”, that is, until this visit, when on a single day I saw destruction on a bigger scale and faster pace than I have ever seen here before:  the Yang estuary has been dammed; twenty per cent of the bird-magnet little wood near there has been cut away; many of the fish-rich ponds near the Yang river have been filled in and another housing estate is being built; housing estates are also being built on the sides of the Dai river; a housing estate now occupies the entire area of the once-fabulous (for birds) “Radar Marsh”; and 4x4s were driving around the sandflats, the only other “protected area” (at least that’s what the sign says).   

  Last year, I attended the International Bird Festival in Beidaihe, where dozens of birdwatchers, environmentalists, and a few government officials gathered to talk about the importance of protecting this critically-important migration area. Words are easy, but words need to be judged by their effectiveness.  And judging by what I have seen today, those pleas for help, aimed at the only people who can provide the islands of protection against the relentless tide of infrastructure development in this country – the government officials – fell on deaf ears.  As they always do.  Over the course of 16 years, the only designated “protected areas” I am aware of have been at the reservoir and sandflats (see above). 

  This really is a crying shame, not just for the birds, but also for the reputation of Qinhuangdao (the city that is responsible for the administration of Beidaihe).  Among birdwatchers and environmentalists around the world, the Qinhuangdao region is a world-famous location – more than 400 species of birds have been seen within the city’s borders.  Every year for the past 16 years, scores of foreigners made the long trip here to witness one of the greatest migration spectacles on the planet (they write about it, taje photos of it, and tell others about it, who in turn come to see it for themselves).  The city’s residents know about this and many are quite rightly proud of their city’s international “status”.

  The city’s government has, not surprisingly, been keen to leverage this for its own PR.  If you read the gushing local tourist books and look at the local government’s official website (they have an English version of it if you would like to take a look), you get the impression that the people responsible for the area are acutely aware of the importance of protecting the natural environment, and that this is a “green haven”.  Indeed, this idea of “green, harmonious development” is something that has been embraced by all levels of government in China.  This policy is not just simply the right thing to do ethically it also (as I have touched on) pays dividends in terms of how a city is perceived – by its citizens and by the tourists that visit it (domestic and overseas).

  Only a handful of China’s 700 or so cities are as fortunate when it comes to the richness of the natural environment and the diversity of the wildlife that falls within their jurisdiction.  In this respect, nature has dealt Qinhuangdao the most marvellous hand.  And this is why the people responsible for running the city have to act now before it’s too late, because there’s one thing far, far worse than not being famous for something, and that is being infamous for wantonly flushing that precious something down the toilet.


  Being known as the city that used to be famous for birds and birdwatching would not be an advertising slogan to be proud of.