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2008: The Year in Review

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The end of the year is a special time in which editors and writers around the world recycle content from the previous twelve months and repackage it as new content. We at GoKunming are not above this practice, so here's our look at the people and events that shaped 2008 in Kunming and Yunnan.

The year began with the Yunnan government shelving its plans to dam Tiger Leaping Gorge, while not necessarily sparing the Jinsha River – the headwaters of the Yangtze – from several new hydropower projects. Kunming banned the use of car horns and the city seemed to be getting a little less horn-heavy for about two weeks. A few days later the city – which is adding an average of 560 automobiles per day to its streets – issued its 900,000th license plate.

Pretty much all of southern China except for Kunming was at the mercy of a winter storm that paralyzed domestic travel and left thousands of travelers stranded in Kunming. Shangri-la (Zhongdian) was hit by heavy snowfalls that destroyed much of the area's livestock and crops plus telecommunications and power networks.

Yunnan was hit by a rash of sulfuric acid spills in late January and mid-February with more than 70 tons of the toxic chemical spilling near rivers and most likely entering local water supplies.

Kunming Municipal Party Secretary Qiu He was making waves a few months into his new post, ordering local newspapers to publish the names, titles, responsibilities and phone numbers of local officials in early February and firing a Chenggong investment official who fell asleep during a meeting.

Hong Kong director Stanley Tong signed an agreement with Dianchi National Tourist Resort to build a 3 billion yuan (US$418 million) television and film base that would become 'China's Hollywood'.

Yunnan's first international highway opened, connecting it with Vietnam's Lao Cai province.

Construction of the 'turtleback' flyover at Xiao Ximen commenced, throwing Kunming traffic into chaos. Work on the flyover – which is mockingly referred to as 'the newly added slope' (新加坡), or 'Singapore' in Chinese - was finished four months later.

Tens of thousands of bottles of counterfeit beer were found in Kunming's Majie area. The beers are expected to be the tip of the iceberg in terms of the amount of fake booze being sold around the city.

China played Australia's Socceroos in a World Cup qualifying match in Kunming that ended in a 0:0 draw. The match looked like a sure victory for China when it was awarded a late penalty kick, only for kicker Shao Jiayi to kick a slow roller into Oz goalie Mark Schwarzer's waiting hands. Team China went on to fail to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

The old standby F visa option disappeared for foreigners living in China as visa restrictions tightened in the runup to the Beijing Olympics, while protestors vented nationalist anger at Kunming's Carrefour outlets.

The International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences World Congress, originally scheduled to be held in Kunming in July, was canceled - apparently due to Olympic-related security concerns.

On May 12, an earthquake measuring 8.0 in magnitude centered in Wenchuan devastated much of Sichuan province and killed at least 69,000 people. Yunnan did what it could to help its neighbor to the north by treating victims from the disaster zone, taking children into its schools and raising money for the relief effort.

The Yunnan white-handed gibbon was declared extinct.

Free plastic bags at retail outlets were banned in China.

The Olympic torch passed through Kunming. The torch was originally scheduled to pass through areas including Beijing Lu, Wenlin Jie and Yuantong Jie, but its route was altered at the last minute, keeping it out of the view of most Kunming residents. The torch continued through Yunnan to the cities of Lijiang and Shangri-la before heading to earthquake-battered Sichuan.

The third hydropower station on the Lancang River – as the upper reaches of the Mekong River in Yunnan are known – went online.

Yunnan announced a total ban on the production, sale and use of plastic bags across the province, beginning on January 1, 2009.

Jackie Chan announced that he would open a 'Jackie Chan Peace Garden' outside Kunming in the city of Anning. Meanwhile, Kunming was in the middle of planting 800,000 trees throughout the city.

Two people were killed and 14 injured in double bus bombings that took place on public buses on Renmin Xi Lu. A militant Islamic group took credit for the bombings, a claim which was refuted by local police. The bombings were not declared solved until the suspected bomber blew himself up while trying to plant a bomb in Salvador's Coffee House almost half a year later.

After an unprecedented buildup, China hosted the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and several other cities, winning 51 gold medals, more than second-place US (36) and third-place Russian Federation (23).

Kunming unveiled its 12-year development plan, detailing how the city intends to handle a major influx in residents and an increasingly important role in regional trade and transport.

It was announced that Yangzonghai Lake, one of the largest lakes in Yunnan, was suffering from heavy arsenic pollution, with the bulk of the blame placed upon Yunnan Chengjiang Jinye Industrial and Trade Company, which allegedly found it easier to pay the relatively low fines for not treating wastewater than to purchase and install the equipment necessary for cleaning wastewater. Shortly afterward, Yunnan established a special court for handling crimes against the environment.

A government study of HIV/AIDS infections in Yunnan revealed that that women and gay men had emerged as the fastest-growing demographics for new infections, replacing intravenous drug users. It was also noted that new infections were moving away from ethnic minorities in rural areas to Han Chinese in urban centers throughout the province.

A group of fossilized crustaceans from 525 million years ago found near Chengjiang were said to display the first example of collective behavior among animals.

Citing difficulties with the local business environment, Hong Kong-listed property giant Shui On Land pulled out of its Yunnan development projects.

Starbucks announced that it would market Yunnan coffee via its hundreds of mainland outlets.

Kunming Airlines announced that it would launch operations in January 2009, the first step in its quest to become a dominant regional airline.

A delegation of Yunnan officials and businesspeople visiting India asked the Indian government to establish a consulate in Kunming to facilitate the visa application process for Yunnan residents wishing to take advantage of the direct flights between Kunming and the eastern Indian city of Kolkata.

The famed Shaolin Temple announced that it would take over management of four Kunming temples for 20 years, during which time it would receive all of the temples' revenue. Shaolin Temple's abbot was accused of being a 'CEO monk'.

A man stabbed three women and took a nurse hostage at the Carrefour on Longquan Lu, before being lured to a door where some rice noodles had been placed for him and getting shot in the head by a police sniper, ending the five-hour standoff.

Ground was broken on the 'South Asian Gate', a 72-story, 316-meter tall building that will be completed in four to five years and will be the tallest man-made structure in Yunnan province. It is expected to serve as a hub for business between China, Southeast Asia and South Asia.

A bomb exploded in popular foreign-owned cafe and restaurant Salvador's Coffee House, killing the man who was wearing a backpack with an ammonium nitrate bomb in it near the rear bathroom. Nobody else was hurt. Police concluded that the man, 30-year-old Li Yan of Xuanwei, had also been behind the unsolved bombing of two buses in Kunming in July.

Direct flights opened between Kunming and Taipei.

The GoKunming team thanks everyone who visited the site in 2008 and wishes all of its readers a happy, healthy and prosperous 2009.

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Terrific summary of the year and I really appreciate it as I'm here part of the year but not always.

Actually, I love this site and am so glad you are doing it. I know it's a lot of work but I hope you will keep doing it anyway!

Great round-up, but didn't the China-Australia match happen in March? In any case, it doesn't matter.


going thru the summary; what a year it has been around YN! thank you for excellent observations and reporting.

One minor thing: the link with Starbucks coffee doesnt seem to be rite?

Thanks to CalMatt and Lulu - both errors have been corrected.


excellent round-up of events in & around KM & YN... my hubby thinks he's a Jackie Chan look-alike, so he'd be pleased that his "brother" was in town, although he'd missed the event!
also the Carrefour hostage-taking crisis, happened so near our neighbourhood, still sends shivers down my spine...

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