cfsmtb in low earth orbit

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Wealth sparks car kingdom

Just ask Liu Min. He recalls the day when he rode his bicycle to work in the sprawling capital. Twice a day, the 36-year-old says he joined rivers of cyclists for his 35 minute commute between his office and home.

But things are changing in the 'kingdom of bicycles.'

'I've always dreamed of owning a car,' says Liu, a China Post employee. 'With a car it is more convenient to move around in Beijing or go for an excursion in the suburbs. I love to travel.' Liu's life has changed dramatically since February, when he bought a sport-utility vehicle for 85,000 yuan (US$10,240). Liu earns 36,000 yuan per year and chose a domestic brand due to the low price. The SUV saves him about 20 minutes on his home-office commute if traffic is good. Liu's excitement about owning his first car is shared by a growing number of people. As affluence grows, more people are locking up their bicycles and jumping behind a steering wheel. The national economy has doubled since 1990, boosting living standards, especially in major cities and along the east coast. A consumer society is emerging. The auto boom is beginning as well. As the economy barrels forward, annual household incomes in major cities are reaching or exceeding US$4,000 - the figure regarded as a take-off point for private auto ownership on a massive scale...

China traffic death toll 600 a day, says WHO
More than 600 people are killed each day on China's roads, the United Nations health agency said on Friday, double the death toll announced by state media just months ago. 'The World Health Organisation estimates that more than 600 lives are lost and more than 45,000 people are injured on China's roads every day,' the WHO said in a report....