The poor quality of the mainland's air has seldom been out of the headlines in recent weeks. But according to Elizabeth Economy, its water supply is equally problematic. In her blog at Asia Unbound she writes that, according to the Ministry of Water Resources, up to 40 per cent of the county's rivers were seriously polluted last year after 75 billion tonnes of sewage and waste water was discharged into them, while 20 per cent were rated too toxic to come into contact with.
Part of the explanation for this, she surmises, could be the 10,000 petrochemical plants along the Yangtze and 4,000 along the Yellow River.
The cost of all this in terms of human life is put at 60,000 premature deaths annually.
This is significant but some way below the 750,000 that die prematurely as a result of respiratory diseases related to air pollution, according to the Ministry of Environmental Protection.
Italians make fine jewellery as evidenced by their dominance at the Hong Kong Jewellery Show now under way at the Convention and Exhibition Centre. And having been subjected to a half-hour show of attractive women wearing expensive jewellery we are prepared to accept they may have a point.
Italian Consul General Alessandra Schiavo rose above the usual guff that accompanies these occasions with an engaging account of how it was that Italy emerged ahead of the pack, which had been content to adorn themselves with plumes, seashells, seeds, teeth and bones. As with many historical developments, she explained, it was a conjuncture of a number of circumstances, starting with the discovery of precious metals, in particular gold, prized for its affinity to the colour of the sun.
Italy was also strategically located at the crossroads of civilisation and developed close links with the Egyptians, Phoenicians and ancient Greeks, and later developed links with Asia through the likes of Marco Polo. Conquering Roman armies brought back artists and craftsmen to Rome.
Following the decline of the Roman empire, the jewellery-making tradition was sustained and spread by monasteries that began to produce ecclesiastical jewels.
This tradition was further boosted during the Renaissance and the emergence of Italian artists who were skilled in painting, as well as being sculptors and goldsmiths. The rest, as they, is history.
Jim O'Neill, rock star economist at Goldman Sachs, was as bullish as ever on the world economy at a recent conference in Britain. The Evening Standard reports him saying that China creates another Greece every 12½ weeks and in the past two years has created another India. But he added that comparing India with China, was as unfair as comparing Manchester City to Manchester United, of which he is famously a fan.
Desire for the home front
Mainland women are increasingly aspiring to be housewives and homemakers according to a recent survey. Indeed, the survey says there is a growing acceptance of both women and men to become homemakers. According to Y&R China research this is not so much a return to traditional values but a reaction against the time when women were driven out of the home and into the workforce.
Another trend in the survey, reports Marketing Magazine, "was a shift from flamboyance to balance as mainland Chinese see that the ability to manage a balanced life as more important for a sense of satisfaction rather than attaining wealth and authority".
It's no joke
The horse meat scandal in Europe has been a source of shock and awe. However, human nature being what it is, a number of jokes on the subject have emerged, some of which we are happy to relay to you.
A woman is taken into hospital after eating horse meat burgers from Tesco. Her condition is said to be stable.
A waitress in Tesco asked if I wanted anything on my burger. So I had £5 each way.
Tesco Quarter Pounders: The affordable way to buy your daughter the pony that she's always wanted!
Tesco is now forced to deny the presence of zebra in burgers, as shoppers confuse barcodes for serving suggestions.