We left Beijing on April 8, 2007. We originally planned to go by train to Weifang to tour a chemical manufacturing facility but no trains were operating during the day on Sunday. The intention was to see more of the countryside in China, but an eight-hour nighttime ride would not accomplish this mission. We decided to fly and booked tickets at the hotel.
We flew out of Nanyuan Airport, which is 9 miles south of downtown Beijing. Nanyuan Airport is a new and relatively small airport that was converted from a military base to a commercial airport. Nanyuan Airport is situated in the Fengtai District and is closer to downtown Beijing than Beijing Capital International Airport. Although the airport is not fancy, the China United Airlines jets are great and so was the flight to Weifang.
One interesting thing about the airport security is that a security guard required Norris McDonald to take a puff from his asthma inhaler. That was a first for him. During the flight to Weifang we saw hundreds of miles of plastic coverings in the agricultural areas. We later found out that these were greenhouses that are used to grow crops yeararound.. The ground level smog was palpable as we approached Weifang. The level of air pollution was very bad. We were driven to our hotel by representatives from the Shandong Weifang Binhai Economic Development Area.
Shandong Haihua Group Company
The Center spent two days with the Shandong Haihua Group (SHG). The Center has been in discussions with representatives of SHG about energy issues facing the company. SHG produces many chemical products, including: soda ash, industrial bromine, calcium chloride, silica white, sodium silicate solid, potassium sulphate, magnesium chloride, melamine, sodium nitrite, sodium nitrate, fire extinguishers, hydrogen peroxide, methanol, amino-resin, carbohydrase, zinc oxide sebacic acid, among other chemical products. SHG is located about 30 miles from Weifang City in Shandong Province.
Representatives from SHG were instrumental in arranging for the Center to visit one of China’s leading economic development areas. In addition to meeting with representatives of SHC to discuss energy and environmental needs, the Center will assess the needs of the entire Shandong Province and will make specific recommends to industry representatives and government officials.
Our meeting with the representatives from the Shandong Weifang Binhai Economic Development Area (SWB-EDA) went very well. We met in a hotel meeting room and our respective translators transmitted our exchanges very efficiently. After the formal meeting we had a great lunch.
Center staff toured the Shandong Haihua Group (SHG) chemical manufacturing facility It is a massive facility with cooling towers and power plants. There are salt ponds nearby where salt is skimmed. The ponds are charged by saltwater aquifers. There were miles of these ponds as our team was driven in from the airport. The Bohai Bay and Bohai Sea are nearby.
In China, they call the famers peasants. Well these peaants are royalty to us. They feed 1.4 billion people everyday in China.
The greenhouse is one of probably hundreds of thousands that we saw during the plane ride to Weifang. The plastic is held up with bamboo and is supported by a mud-straw wall. You almost have to crawl in through a small opening and the greenhouses are stuffed with the best tomatoes and other produce you have ever seen. There is irrigation and platic covers over the drip irrigation down the rows of plants. The evaporation is caught and reused by the plastic. There are straw rolls all along the top of the greenhouse (see picture at right) and are rolled down at night to maintain the heat and rolled back up in the morning to utilize solar radiation. They grow vegetables yeararound in these greenhouses.
The elegant lady farmer being hugged by Zhang Xiaoping was ashamed of her clothes and did not want to take the picture. We assured her that she was beautiful and a great symbol of the dynamic society of China. Derry holds some of the thousands of tomatoes that were in the one greenhouses above. And it is just April.
Observations and Sightseeing
The two weeks in China were enlightening. From the time Norris McDonald and Derry Bigby left Dulles Airport through meeting China Office Director Zhang Xiaoping at Beijing Airport, this trip accomplished all of its missions and has led to opportunities for future partnerships. At the end of each day and for a full day on the last Saturday, the Center team experienced the rich nightlife and sightseeing that China and Hong Kong have to offer.
One of our favorite places in Beijing was Houhai, which has a huge lake in front with stores, restaurants and outdoor seating. The video at left captures some of the atmosphere at this special location. Center President also had his picture drawn while peasants from nearby looked on completely fascinated.
The Center team was joined by Zhang Xiaoping's daughter, BoBo (she said she prefers to be called this), who is s college senior. As impressive as the Great Wall are the terraces dug into the surrounding mountains to obtain the stone and materials for the wall. MIles and miles of terraced mountains show that millions of people participated in constructing this wall over hundreds of years. It is truly a wonder of the world and an incredible human achievement.
We travelled all over Beijing by taxi. Xiaoping was invaluable in communicating with the taxi drivers. Of course, she was invaluable everywhere we went because her translation skills smoothes out any wrinkles that might have occurred in our travels. See taxi video below.