Chichige, a 26-year-old woman of the Mongolia ethnic group, has
never left her home town on pastures in the Inner Mongolia
Autonomous Region, north China. But this does not kept her away
from pursuing a stylish life.
Recently, she traveled several dozens kilometers to a beauty
parlor to dye her black hair blonde. Hair-dyeing is now a fashion
pursued by many Chinese urbanites.
On her dresser are various cosmetics: lipstick, mascara, body
lotion and hair gel. All these cosmetics are brandname products
advertised on China's TV programs.
"She just washed her face with clean water in the past and now
she uses cosmetics," said Batu, Chichige's husband. "She learned to
do her make-up through TV programs."
However, it is electricity that enables Chichige's family to
have access to TV and radio programs, which brings them closer to
the outside world and a modern fashionable life.
A total of 500,000 farmers and herdsmen in the Inner Mongolia
and Tibet autonomous region in the northern and southwestern China
have had access to TV and radio programs since the 1980s, according
to the science and technology departments of the two regions. This
is ascribed to the development of wind power and solar energy in
the two regions.
Chichige's family has installed a wind power generator with a
capacity of 200 watts on the roof of their brick-structured house.
The family now uses electric lights, ending its long history of
burning oil lamps at night.
The TV and radio programs have also brought other noticeable
changes to the life of Chichige and her family.
The four-member family has raised more than 300 sheep and a
dozen milk cows. They earn more than 30,000 yuan (about US$3,700) a
year from selling livestock and mutton.
In the past, Mongols cherished their sheep and cows very much
and never sold them. They only culled the livestock when the
animals were too old and ate the mutton and beef themselves.
Milk and milk tea used to be the major drinks of the Mongols.
Now, Chichige and her family and their peers alike often buy soft
drinks and beer.
"We also eat vegetables and fish which we Mongols of the past
generations never ate," Chichige said. "We now pay attention to the
balance of nutrition."
It is hard for China's power grid to cover all people who live
in the vast remote areas of China. Lack of electric power has
remained a hurdle that keeps people from shaking off poverty and
having access to larges cities's industrial goods.
The Chinese government has exerted great efforts to promote the
research and development of wind power and solar energy and
encourage the use of clean energy in families in these areas in the
past two and a half decades since the 1980s.
As one of the research programs, a wind power and light
complementary electricity generating system for household use
passed expert appraisal recently. The government also grants
subsidies to encourage farmers and herdsmen in remote areas to use
Some international organizations, including the Global
Environment Facility (GEF), the United Nations Development Program,
the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, have granted support
to China's efforts to develop new and recyclable energy
The GEF, for example, has donated US$22 million to develop a
solar energy electricity-generating system which can serve 200,000
to 300,000 households in northwestern China.
Currently, China still has more than 30 million households
without access to electricity in the western region. The Chinese
government plans to enable these households to use electricity in a
short period of time in the future by using wind power and
photovoltaic technology to generate electricity.
Currently, China boasts 270 million kilowatts of wind power that
can be explored, mostly in Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang Uygur
Autonomous Region and Gansu Province in northwest China. Xinjiang
and Inner Mongolia boast a potential installed capacity of wind
power totaling 190 million kilowatts, equal to the installed
capacity of ten Three Gorges Projects. The Three Gorges Project is
a massive hydraulic power project on the Yangtze, the longest river
Experts estimate that the total solar radiation China receives
each year equals to 2,400 billion tons of coal. Two-thirds of
China's total land space of 9.6 million sq kms receives sunlight
for more than 2,000 hours annually. Some regions like Tibet receive
more than 3,000 hours of sunshine annually.
Indeed, while changing the life of people in remote areas,
electricity also brings a hard strike to traditions of some ethnic
groups in the outlying regions.
Even in the innermost areas of the Inner Mongolia Grassland,
ethnic Mongols no longer wear traditional Mongolian long gowns, but
jeans and sportwear, and pop songs popular among a growing number
of people have eroded the dominant position of the Pastoral Songs
of the Mongolia ethnic group. Young herdsmen also leave pastures
"It has become an urgent task to seek way for protecting,
carrying on and developing the pasture culture," said Hao Shiyuan,
a research fellow with the Mongolian Culture Research Center of the
Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
(Xinhua News Agency November 23, 2005)