What West Virginia is to the United States, Shanxi Province is to China. Much of the coal that has powered the Asian nation’s industrial revolution was dug from Shanxi’s myriad mines. But dependence on a single, non-renewable resource is risky business, so the province is actively exploring alternative enterprises, such as big data and tourism. In 2012, the Datong Coal Mine Group turned some of its depleted pits into museums, inviting visitors to don mining helmets and boots and explore the dystopian landscape.The province has also begun deliberately dialing down its coal production, shuttering 88 of its 1,078 coal mines since 2016. Thousands of miners have lost their jobs in the process, but officials say the painful transition is necessary to avoid even more dire consequences down the road. . .
In 2011, a college student named Obed Tiony took a break from his studies in Economics at Shanghai University to go for a run. He registered for a half marathon in the nearby city of Suzhou, ran the race, and came in second. Tiony had arrived one month earlier from his home in Eldoret, Kenya, the hometown of many of his country’s best athletes. The race gave out cash prizes and Obed pocketed 10,000 RMB (roughly U.S.$1,500).
In the years since, China has seen a surge of enthusiasm for marathons and other running events. According to the Chinese Athletic Association (CAA), which is the national sport association administering athletics, in 2017 Chinese cities hosted more than 1,000 large-scale road and cross-country races. While China still has far fewer competitive runners than the U.S. (where almost 17 million people finished road races in 2016), the number of Chinese racers has risen dramatically, from 400,000 in 2011 to 4.98 million in 2017—a phenomenon that Chinese media call a “marathon fever.” Tiony, now a graduate student in International Finance, couldn’t enter every race himself, but three years after his initial run he found he could still enjoy a share of the marathon fever’s spoils. . .
“We were at an altitude of 15,000 feet on Mount Haizi. It started to hail. The temperature dropped to 40 degrees. We were only wearing t-shirts. They didn’t stop biking.”
It was photographer Wang He’s second time on the Tibetan Plateau. The first hadn’t gone so well—Wang had ended up in a hospital for altitude sickness. But if he worried about whether he’d make it through his 23-day shoot along one of the world’s most treacherous roads, he had a harder time imagining how his subjects, 42-year-old Wang Chao and his 12-year-old son Runxi (who had never been at this high an altitude before), would complete the 1,300-mile trip entirely on their bicyles, as they had planned. . .
Mei Aisi owes his business to his Internet celebrity, and his celebrity to his wife. Before he met her, Mei, a working-class native of the northern Chinese city of Chengde, didn’t have much going for him. He’d scored poorly on China’s college entrance exam and his prospects at home seemed dim. But after he followed a friend on a whim to Ukraine, he eventually managed to secure a place for himself in a fine arts program in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. He found work as an animator and then started his own businesses, running a Chinese restaurant and then an import-export company. A decade later, he met Daria, a willowy blond Ukrainian, then just 16 and 12 years his junior. He began posting about their romance on a Chinese Internet forum for car enthusiasts. . .
If you’re not dead yet and you were never very famous, can you still get a street named after you in Beijing? You can if you’re 27-year-old artist Ge Yulu. Open Google Maps, enter his name, and there you will find a 1,476-foot-long street that stretches a few blocks, east of the Third Ring Road, in Beijing’s affluent Chaoyang district.
All it took was an official-looking, self-made street sign. Ge, whose three-character Chinese name conveniently ends with the character 路, “road,” put up the sign with his name on it as an art project in 2013, intending, he explains, to explore the relationship “between self-identification and public space.” He looked for nameless roads in Beijing, where his graduate school, the China Central Academy of Fine Arts, is located, where he could post homemade street signs bearing his name. . .