Today’s oddest press conference came courtesy of the European Union and the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR), which staged an event inside the International Bamboo and Rattan Tower in Beijing’s Wangjing development area.
If you haven’t heard of it, the International Bamboo and Rattan Tower is a hotel with a special bamboo theme. One guest rather uncharitably remarked on a forum that it is “comfortable only if you like sleeping on a board”. The IBR, however, describes itself as “fresh as green bamboo. Natural, refined, innovative, enterprising and dedicated, developing a style of its own in the hotel industry”.
Anyway, the Bamboo hotel is the headquarters of this intergovernmental organisation, INBAR, and also the base of China’s Bamboo and Rattan department at the State Forestry Administration.
The press conference was called “Sustainable Revival of Livelihoods in Post-disaster Sichuan” and drew some pretty big hitters, including Zhong Mian, the vice governor of Sichuan. I imagine Mr Zhong was in town for the recent National People’s Congress meetings.
INBAR argues that the bamboo industry will help rebuild Sichuan in the wake of the 2008 earthquake, pointing out that the province is home to a third of the country’s bamboo species and has an industrial bamboo output of more than 7 billion yuan ($1 billion) a year. In addition, INBAR wants to see more buildings in China made out of bamboo, which is better at coping with shocks and so on.
With an Eu1.9 billion grant, INBAR is going to train small and medium businesses to produce bamboo and use it to rebuild Sichuan’s towns and cities. It reckons the industry will create 12,000 jobs. Sounds like bad news for the pandas.
Which is all excellent news, since bamboo is a fantastic product, very environmentally friendly, and we should all use more of it. The question is: why does China, the world leader in the bamboo industry, need a leg up in the form of an EU grant?