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Chinese Make Move to Better Housing
The improvement in housing during the past two decades is perhaps the best description for Chinese people of what a "xiaokang life," or a well-off life, means.

Twenty years ago it was not unusual to find a family of three living in one basic apartment or room, without even a bathroom and kitchen.

Few people at the time could expect or demand more because all were dependent on the country's welfare housing system, under which rooms or apartments were distributed as a social benefit.

But along with dramatic changes in every aspect of life, housing has also witnessed a revolution.

Now, in a very much a market-orientated system, many Chinese people, whose income has continued to soar, are able and willing to get on the property ladder by buying their own homes.

"My principle of buying a living place is the larger the space, the better," said Dong Shuren, a 52-year-old Beijing resident.

Dong, who is currently living in a 100-square-metre apartment, is planning to buy a 200-square-metre property in the suburbs.

During the past few years the average living area for China's citizens has experienced a sharp rise.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the average living space of the urban population reached 15.5 square metres last year. In 1990, the figure was only 9.9 square metres.

The area of living space is not the only criteria. People demand housing that more and more caters to differing tastes and lifestyles, efficient utilities and good community services.

"My future suite should be in a community that has a hospital, a school and a kindergarten," said Li Wenping, a 30-year-old Beijing resident.

Once established in their abode, this new breed of Chinese homeowners are beginning to cast their eyes outward, towards their surroundings.

In recent years, environmental protection has gradually become one of the most popular phrases in China.

It has become a daily must for Li to get an idea of what the air quality will be like from the television or newspaper.

"I must pay attention to the environment I live in because the quality of environment is an important part of the quality of life," she said.

The idea is now widely accepted among the Chinese.

Given that, it is no wonder that the media, never slow to react to public demand, have started to report or forecast environment-related issues such as air quality and pollution figures.

Prior to 1997 there were no air quality reports published for the public in Beijing.

The first change came in 1998 when a weekly report on air quality was launched, one year later it became a daily report, and by 2001, an air-quality forecast system was begun in the city.

(China Daily November 6, 2002)

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