Society

Degree of trust

Beijing’s hottest topic

One way to cool off

Degree of trust

Beijing’s hottest topic

Even for a city known for its sweltering summers, last week’s heat wave caught Beijing’s residents by surprise. The country’s capital recorded temperatures reaching a blistering 40.6 degrees Celsius last Monday, the highest for July since 1951.

The heatwave hit the front pages,  with detailed reports about heat-related fires and deaths. It even prompted a Beijing bus to catch fire.

In fact, such widespread local coverage of the summer weather conditions is not common. That’s because temperature in China is a tightly controlled topic. The reason, analysts say, is that when it gets too hot, outdoor labourers don’t have to go to work. In Beijing, for instance, when temperatures exceed 38 degrees Celsius, labourers get the day off.

That can lead to rumours that the real temperature reading is consistently higher than the officially-recorded one. This year is no different. No one seemed to be able to say for sure how hot it really was in the capital. The Beijing News, for instance, recorded 42.9 degrees Celsius on Monday.

Workers in high-temperature environments are also supposed to receive extra pay. In Beijing, outdoor workers get an extra monthly allowance of Rmb120 when temperatures exceed 35 degrees Celsius; and Rmb90 extra goes to office workers when temperatures breach 33 degrees Celsius, according to Xinhuanet.com. But critics say enforcement is poor so workers usually go uncompensated for working under such harsh conditions.

“Current regulations on labour usually stipulate only what employers should do, but they don’t set penalties,” says Ye Hailin, a researcher from Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. “Local governments should find a way to ensure enterprises follow the regulations.”

To escape working during the hottest part of the day, construction workers have adjusted their schedules to work early in the morning or late at night.

As ever, there are some winners in the record-breaking heat spell. Beijing Business Today reports that airconditioning salesmen had seen sales quadruple last week.

But the weather is also leading to  water shortages and power cuts in many residential complexes around the capital. The water company in Beijing said the problems were caused by demand spiking to 2.86 million cubic metres, close to the city’s daily water supply capacity of 3 million cubic metres. The Beijing Times quoted an official who said the city’s water system had never been under as much pressure.

Many Beijing locals resorted to more creative means to combat the heat. “When we were suddenly left without power, my whole family rushed to a supermarket right after daybreak just for the air-conditioning,” says a resident surnamed Zhang. Another resident said many of her neighbours fled their apartments after a power outage and camped out in their air-conditioned cars overnight.

Thankfully, the temperature has started to cool in the last few days, with the city beginning to receive rain showers.

But before Beijing residents could breathe a sigh of relief, the National Meteorological Centre warned that –despite the rainfall – local temperatures are likely to stay high for a while. What this means is that Beijing will now experience sauna-like weather – very hot days and ultra-high humidity.

Even for a city known for its sweltering summers, last week’s heat wave caught Beijing’s residents by surprise. The country’s capital recorded temperatures reaching a blistering 40.6 degrees Celsius last Monday, the highest for July since 1951.

The heatwave hit the front pages, with detailed reports about heat-related fires and deaths. It even prompted a Beijing bus to catch fire.

In fact, such widespread local coverage of the summer weather conditions is not common. That’s because temperature in China is a tightly controlled topic. The reason, analysts say, is that when it gets too hot, outdoor labourers don’t have to go to work. In Beijing, for instance, when temperatures exceed 38 degrees Celsius, labourers get the day off.

That can lead to rumours that the real temperature reading is consistently higher than the officially-recorded one. This year is no different. No one seemed to be able to say for sure how hot it really was in the capital. The Beijing News, for instance, recorded 42.9 degrees Celsius on Monday.

Workers in high-temperature environments are also supposed to receive extra pay. In Beijing, outdoor workers get an extra monthly allowance of Rmb120 when temperatures exceed 35 degrees Celsius; and Rmb90 extra goes to office workers when temperatures breach 33 degrees Celsius, according to Xinhuanet.com. But critics say enforcement is poor so workers usually go uncompensated for working under such harsh conditions.

“Current regulations on labour usually stipulate only what employers should do, but they don’t set penalties,” says Ye Hailin, a researcher from Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. “Local governments should find a way to ensure enterprises follow the regulations.”

To escape working during the hottest part of the day, construction workers have adjusted their schedules to work early in the morning or late at night.

As ever, there are some winners in the record-breaking heat spell. Beijing Business Today reports that airconditioning salesmen had seen sales quadruple last week.

But the weather is also leading to water shortages and power cuts in many residential complexes around the capital. The water company in Beijing said the problems were caused by demand spiking to 2.86 million cubic metres, close to the city’s daily water supply capacity of 3 million cubic metres. The Beijing Times quoted an official who said the city’s water system had never been under as much pressure.

Many Beijing locals resorted to more creative means to combat the heat. “When we were suddenly left without power, my whole family rushed to a supermarket right after daybreak just for the air-conditioning,” says a resident surnamed Zhang. Another resident said many of her neighbours fled their apartments after a power outage and camped out in their air-conditioned cars overnight.

Thankfully, the temperature has started to cool in the last few days, with the city beginning to receive rain showers.

But before Beijing residents could breathe a sigh of relief, the National Meteorological Centre warned that –despite the rainfall – local temperatures are likely to stay high for a while. What this means is that Beijing will now experience sauna-like weather – very hot days and ultra-high humidity.


© ChinTell Ltd. All rights reserved.

Exclusively sponsored by HSBC.

The Week in China website and the weekly magazine publications are owned and maintained by ChinTell Limited, Hong Kong. Neither HSBC nor any member of the HSBC group of companies ("HSBC") endorses the contents and/or is involved in selecting, creating or editing the contents of the Week in China website or the Week in China magazine. The views expressed in these publications are solely the views of ChinTell Limited and do not necessarily reflect the views or investment ideas of HSBC. No responsibility will therefore be assumed by HSBC for the contents of these publications or for the errors or omissions therein.