Explainer: Why Beijing Gets Central Heating Yet the South is Left in the Cold

By Ned Kelly, November 5, 2021

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The Explainer is where we explain an aspect of Chinese life. Simple. So now you know.

Brrr. It's getting a little nippy out there. But for people living up north (i.e. Beijingers), the long wait is over – November 6 is Gong Nuan Ri (供暖日), or ‘Heating Day.’

Meanwhile, down south in places like Shanghai, Suzhou, Guangdong and Shenzhen, folk remain shivering under their air con units, as warm air wafting out ineffectually intermingles with the clouds of condensation they are breathing out.

Ever wondered wei shen me?

The allocation of central heating is actually tied into the period of central planning (1950-80) when the Chinese government established free winter heating of homes and offices via the provision of free coal for fuel boilers as a basic right.

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Image via infzm.com h/t CRI English

Due to budgetary limitations, however, this heating entitlement was only extended to areas to the north of the geographical dividing line between northern and southern China – the Huai River-Qin Mountains Line. 

The logic being that they have a longer winter, which lasts for at least 90 days (meteorologically, a winter day is defined in China as when the average daily temperature falls below 5 degrees Celsius).

So while those in the north get cosy, the rest are left out in the cold. Or in in the cold, as it were...

READ MORE: 15 Tricks to Keep Your Apartment Warm During the Winter in China


For more of The Explainer, click here.

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