Understanding China, One Blog at a Time

An American in China

Central planning…

Posted by w_thames_the_d on December 2, 2009


Today in Beijing, it is not snowing but hot as hell. Hot you say, as in hot outside? No, and it is not due to global warming. It is a remnant of that curious cultural phenomenon- centrally planned economy (aka communism).

The reason that I am frying, is that the heat in my building is going on at full blast, so much so that I actually feel faint. Sounds simple, just adjust the thermostat…. well, I could do that, but many of the buildings here in China still operate on the old communist philosophy of centralized control.  What this means is that you have no control of the heat that is pumped into your home.

Let me back up. Many cities may have apartments with a main boiler which supplies heat to the building, effectively simulating this phenomenon to a certain extent. But, actually, here, the government decides when it will turn on the heat! And I dont mean the heat to a province or town, basically the central government decided that on November 11 or so, all heat would be turned on in all buildings and apartments in the Beijing area, they had been turned on earlier in the northeast and northwest.

This decision effectively takes away your control over the heating your apartment or office.The only remedy left for you, is to open your windows. So, for example, lets say that you are in an apartment complex and like the heat, then, the heat supplied may not be sufficient, (each house is allocated and charged a certain amount per square foot of the apartment.) If it is insufficient, you can buy space heaters. If it is too hot, you must open the windows. Irrespective of your choice, you will be billed the same amount as everyone else whose apartment is the same size as yours.  Just consider that. Talk about freedom of choice or lack thereof.

This event is to me, an ever-present reminder of big brother or governmental control. The central government has the power to turn on and turn off the heating for 1.3 billion people at its discretion. maybe its a good thing, maybe not, but it is just one of those cultural things that has got to make you think.

-boiling in Beijing

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