Now that we're in the second year of the second decade of the second millennium, we can look back on the first with wisdom and experience, and all we have to say is: We have a subway, folks! Apart from that, what else changed? It's hard to tell when everything is flying by so fast and furiously all around you, so here's our non-comprehensive and ultra-condensed Sichuan history of 2010 for you. (Cliff's Notes: Natural disasters continue, pandas rule the roost, and construction prevails.)
Plans for a new high-speed railway line between Chengdu and Xi'an that will shorten the travel time between the two cities to a mere three hours by 2014 were announced. Chengdu Airlines saw its inaugural flight depart on the morning of January 22 and land in Shenyang later that afternoon.
Rumors of bike-rental pilot programs started appearing in the local news as early as January. By year's end, two programs had been launched in Chengdu (Jinniu District and Sansheng Xiang) in addition to those in Dujiangyan and Qingcheng Shan.
A 5.2-magnitude earthquake struck the border of Sichuan province and Chongqing, killing one and injuring 15.
Nine people in Leibo County were arrested on suspicion of trafficking at least 20a mentally handicapped people to coal mines over the past two years in order to murder them and then extort compensation from mining companies by pretending to be the victims' relatives.
Waves of indigence shot across the China blogosphere with the announcement that Western China's first foreign-only community would be developed; the community, it was said, would exclude all Chinese from renting property on-site. An unexpected pre-Spring Festival marriage rush overwhelmed local venues as well as the city's wedding registrar. Three-year-old giant panda Mei Lan was shipped from Washington to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.
And an eight-year-old wild panda surprised villagers by entering its home, gobbling up pork bones, and then taking a long nap just outside the door. The Chengdu Forestry and Garden Authority put up floral displays around the city to celebrate the new year, and 17 pedestrian overpasses were put up around the First Ring Road, foretelling what lay ahead.
After months of talks, General Motors announced that negotiations to sell Hummer to Sichuan-based Tengzhong had failed, and that it would begin to wind down production of the iconic military-style vehicle. Sichuan-based electronics manufacturer Changhong was accused of submitting bogus financial reports for at least 12 years; the company denied the accusations. More pedestrian overpasses were put up, with still more planned for the Second Ring Road. The clutches of a massive drought that had been leaving Yunnan locals without water slowly spread to Sichuan. UNESCO named Chengdu a City of Gastronomy. The Chengdu Blades lost its place in the Chinese Super League after being implicated in a bribery scandal. The Asia One Golf Tournament came to Luxe Hills, and the Bookworm's annual International Literary Festival was held.
A magnitude-7.1 quake struck the Sichuan-Qinghai border, killing thousands and devastating the region. The "drainage oil" scandal sent grossed-out gasps across the country, and, in Chengdu, 13 hotpot restaurants (some upscale) were accused of using "substandard" oil.
Weeks after a "mystery beast" was captured in the Sichuanese countryside, officials declared the animal to be a Himalayan weasel, a species never before seen in the area.
NBA legends Robert Horry and Chris Mullin visited Sichuan to play demonstration games and meet students as part of the NBA's ongoing charity efforts in Sichuan. Singers Fang Ziyuan and Yin Youcan made national history when they were fined RMB25,000 each for lip-synching during what was meant to be a live performance. No such penalties had ever been handed out in modern-day China.
The Chengdu Aircraft Industrial (Group) Co. completed the first nationally built maglev train for the Shanghai Expo. Four tons of garbage were found floating down the Baimu River, the source of Chengdu's drinking water. Water to parts of the city was shut off and resumed the next day after cleanup. Three men later admitted to dumping the trash. Ironically, the same month the Annual Summit of China Green Companies 2010 was held in Chengdu "to facilitate cooperation between companies and government toward building a more sustainable economy." On a related note, the Dujiangyan bike-rental program launched to much fanfare and a warm public reception; and Volvo announced it would set up a production base in Chengdu. The Chengdu city government announced that it was considering capping the number of vehicles in the city and held a series of semi-open forums in order to seek the public's input. The public was largely opposed to the caps.
Closer to home, we celebrated as CHENGDOO citylife Magazine turned three and GoChengdoo turned one with an '80s-theme party at New Mooneys Bar.
For the Labor Holiday, the second Zebra Music Festival moved in and gave Chengdu another three rowdy days of music and running around in the fields.
Speaking of running around in fields, the AFC Women's Asia Cup was held in Chengdu, with the final match a muddy mess between Australia and the DPRK. The former took the title with a penalty shot during a downpour over the Chengdu Stadium. Netizens voted on Chengdu's worst street names; Chou Maosi, which roughly translates to "Smelly Toilet," took the cake. Dujiangyan announced that construction would begin on an RMB60 million training facility to prepare captive giant pandas to survive in the wild.
More construction, this time on what will be the tallest building (the 280-meter twin towers of the Chengdu Global Commerce Plaza) in Chengdu, and the Chengdu-Dujiangyan high-speed train opened, allowing passengers to travel between the two cities in 30 minutes and only RMB15.
The nation's first licenses for handicapped drivers were awarded in Chengdu; but the number of handicap parking spaces for such a small percentage of drivers triggered an online debate.
And 10 fully electricity-powered buses hit the streets of Chengdu, operating on the 16 and 28 lines and serving as a prototype for the 250 such vehicles that are slated to be in operation by 2012. Finally, floods caused by spring showers in 13 provinces, including Sichuan, kill more than 100 people.
Marriot announced its intention to open a Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Chengdu by 2012 as part of its goal to increase the number of hotels it operates in China to 15, up from the current six. The Shanghai-based Forever Bicycle Company launched a bicycle-rental program with 200 vehicles and 24 loan stations at high-traffic areas in Sansheng Xiang flower town. And the marketers of the kiwifruit (which is actually a crop native to China, known before the mid-1950s as the Chinese gooseberry) announced that it would bring the world's first commercialized variety of red kiwifruit to the global market with the help of growers in Dujiangyan.
New Chengdu PSB rules requiring all Internet-café users to present a new-generation national ID card inadvertently (or was it advertently?) excluded foreigners from using 'net bars, inspiring minimal media coverage in local papers and considerably more grumbling on the English-language China blog network.
Chengdu taxi drivers were invited to "smash their enemies" by taking sledgehammers to fake taxis that had been confiscated. Most drivers reported that the activity was therapeutic. Lastly, the Chinese government asked Nepal to open its Consulate General's Office in Chengdu.
The city released a list of 22 large dog breeds that would be banned within the city, sparking debate among pet owners. Yet another high-speed railway: this time linking Shaanxi's Baoji to Chengdu (via scenic spot Jiuzhaigou), slashing the total 463-kilometer journey from 21 hours to four. Construction on Chengdu's 222-km Second High-Speed Ring Road began, with a projected completion date in 2013. The road will link Guanghan, Qingbaijiang, Jintang, Longquan Yi, Shuangliu, Xinjin, Chongzhou, Wenjiang, Pixian, Xindu, and Pengzhou. Construction on four additional high-speed roads began the same day, making Sichuan the province with the most meters of under-construction high-speed road in the country. Sichuan Airlines opened a direct, six-and-a-half hour flight between Chengdu and the Maldives and resumed flights between Chengdu and Seoul, and Chengdu Airlines announced its intentions to begin flying the country's first domestically built regional jet, the ARJ21, next year.
West China's only marine-mammal park and oceanarium, the Polar Ocean World, opened, and Wenjiang announced plans to build the country's largest horse-racing track. Plans for the largest medical complex in Asia were unveiled—the plastic-surgery center is being constructed in Chengdu with an initial RMB34 billion from Korean investors, and high-profile electronics manufacturer Foxconn announced plans to open a new factory in Chengdu that is expected to employ 100,000.
Flash floods and landslides in quake-stricken areas in Sichuan killed dozens, trapped hundreds, and left still more missing. Millions of residents, including an entire prison, had to be evacuated. In Guangyuan, floodwaters were up to three meters high. Other areas saw temples completely submerged, bridges collapsed, and other structural damage. Lightning storms left thousands of passengers stranded at Shuangliu's Airport when nearly 100 flights were delayed.
The rainstorms that began in May and continued through August caused a total of RMB22.4 billion in damages in Sichuan over the summer.
Two train cars fell into a river in Guanghan after high waters weakened the bridge the train was crossing.
A nearly 200-year-old bridge in Huayang collapsed due to the rainfall as well.
A state of emergency was declared in certain parts of the province, and August 15 was proclaimed an official day of mourning for those who had been affected by the heavy downpours. In the meantime, temperatures hit 42.5 degrees in the city of Luzhou, making it Sichuan's No. 1 "urban sauna." Over 50 tons of dry bamboo caught fire at the Panda Base. A coal mine explosion in Neijiang killed 10 and injured two others.
The 11th Provincial Sports Games were held in Zigong, and the official panda census announced that there were a total of 1,206 wild giant pandas in Sichuan, up 33 percent from the 1980s. Meanwhile, more than 17,000 people from around the world vied to become a "pambassador" and live with the pandas for a month as part of the Panda Base's "Project Panda."
Four Sichuanese traditions—the Qiang New Year festival, sericulture and silk craftsmanship, the Gesar epic tradition, and engraved block-printing techniques—were recognized at a UNESCO ceremony to applaud China's intangible cultural heritage. Construction began on the largest bus station in Chengdu, which will serve as a comprehensive transportation hub housing 627 long-distance coaches, and convenience-store chain 7-Eleven announced its intention to enter Chengdu's 24-hour shopping sector, but not before local chain Hongqi said that it would begin opening 24-hour shops too. After the completion of 70 pedestrian overpasses, the city announced it would build 300 more in order to "optimize" traffic.
Finally, the first Chengdu Photo Walk took place.
Offices were abuzz in September, with one Chengdu company coercing employees to hug their allegedly young and attractive CEO as well as each other on a daily basis or face fines and another encouraging workplace romances with a "love fund" for those who manage to dip their pens in the company ink, if you know what we're sayin'.
Chengdu University starts the province's first and the nation's second sex-education degree course, and Chongzhou's Jiezi Old Town officially reopened and invited a group of young women to tour the city clad in nothing but bikinis and sashes. Meanwhile, the town's elders tried their best to ignore the situation.
Perhaps taking a clue from the bikini models, 1,141 Chengdu residents shed their shoes to set a Guinness World Record for largest barefoot walk. Chengdu observed World Carfree Day by restricting traffic in the city center. Chengdu Commercial Daily reporters took the city to task for its lackluster participation in the event. It was announced that an RMB20 million Smurfs theme park will open in Chengdu in the next three to five years, and, by next year, People's Park, Xinhua Park, Tazishan Park, Yongling Park, and Nanjiao Park will all be open 24 hours. The historic bell tower at Tianfu Square (also called The First Clock of Chengdu) was dismantled, and the oldest China Telecom service hall in Chengdu went with it.
And finally, the moment we'd all been waiting for: Chengdu Metro Line 1 opened, days ahead of schedule, to a resounding success.
The travel crunch during the National Holiday Golden Week saw jammed roadways and no shortage of traffic incidents, including one that caused a backup of tens of thousands of vehicles near Kanding. A woman who attempted to take a knife on the newly opened subway and then resisted security officers was detained for 15 days. The ATP tennis champions tour arrived in Chengdu for the second year in a row, bringing along legendary players Pete Sampras and Thomas Enqvist. Last-minute replacement player Greg Rusedski took home the trophy. In other sports-related news, the A.B.E. Charity Cup was held. Mid-month, thousands of protestors gathered in the center of the city to protest Japan's claiming ownership of the Diaoyu Islands. Windows and displays at Japanese retailers were smashed.
On a more constructive note, the Chengdu International Photography Center opened with a triple-play debut exhibition, and it was announced that Chengdu will be home to the world's biggest standalone structure. The 1.5 million-sqm Exhibition and Travel Group complex will feature architectural design by Zaha Hadid.
A young model created a nationwide stir later dubbed "stripgate" when she flashed the audience at a Chengdu modeling competition. An argument over a parking space in the Chengdu suburb of Xindu ended with one party dead and the other accused of murder.
A 7,300-sqm "youth education" museum opened on the site of the Sichuan Province Yuan Youth Farm in Xichang.
The Two Kings Temple (Erwang Miao) in Dujiangyan reopened after being closed for more than two years due to damage the structure sustained during the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. In other construction news, two shopping centers opened up in late November: First, the heavily promoted Galleria brought the very first Sephora cosmetics and "fast-fashion" European chains H&M, Mango, and Zara shops to Southwest China.
Shortly on its heels, the 250,000 square-meter Uno Tianhui Mall opened up after nearly a decade of anticipation, the first in large changes to the Luomashi region. Finally, 2010 was the year of Australian culture in China, and as such, a group of Australian new media artists arrived for a weekend of workshops and performances as part of the On the Edge tour.
Gigalopolis alert: The National Development and Reform Commission approved plans for a Southwest China economic zone that includes 15 Sichuan cities and 31 districts and counties of Chongqing Municipality.
Apartments made out of shipping containers were spotted in Chengdu suburb Wenjiang. Though such units have appeared in lots of cities around the country, Chengdu has seen them only recently. At only RMB6 per day to rent, they might prove popular. A wild grassland fire in Daofu County, a Tibetan region of Sichuan, killed 22 people early in the month.
Chengdu University of Science and Engineering students protested the infamous Li Gang corrupt-son incident with a drunk-driving reenactment. Lan Kwai Fong (finally) celebrated its official grand opening with Christmas and New Years parties, promising to bring a new level of internationalism to Chengdu.
And finally promotional photos of the luxurious first-class cars in the future high-speed Shanghai-Chengdu train sparked controversy with passengers saying that the space should be used for more affordable rail travel.
The Year in Sum
lessons learned in 2010
8. Rain is deadly.
7. Stripping is a way to deal with problems, especially if you're a good-looking young woman in China.
6. Traffic will get worse, no matter how absurd the ideas to ease the problem.
5. Chengdu still hasn't come down from the 2008 Olympics, continuing to set all kinds of records.
4. If the pandas continue their growth, their status will change from "endangered species" to "pest."
3. There's new hope for cheap early adopters as Chengdu becomes an electronics-manufacturing center of China.
2. Soon you'll be able to escape Chengdu in any direction via high-speed train or high-speed road (much better than those crashing, combusting buses).
1. There is a high chance that some weather phenomena will leave you stranded at Shuangliu Airport.
This interview was first published in CHENGDOO citylife Magazine, issue 40 ("and the winner is").