"How do you like Wuhan?"
"Oh, it's nice here, but a bit cold".
"Yeah, in Beijing they have heating ( 暖气, *nuanqi*), but here we don't".
It is mid-January, it's around -5 C (20F) outside, and hardly much
more than +5C (40F) in the office. Everyone involved wears a winter
coat, and some (at least me) a winter hat too.
And indeed, unlike northern China (such as Beijing), indoor heating of
any kind is viewed as merely an *option* (a somewhat extravagant one,
at that) in the cities of China's Yangtze valley, such as Wuhan and
Nanjing. The region is at roughly 30 degrees latitude - the latitude
of Los Angeles or Morocco - but the climate is a lot more continental.
It is very hot in the summer (these two cities, along with Chongqing,
are known as China's "three furnaces"), but the winter is decidedly
"wintery" - it feels about as cold as in Southern Indiana or in some
parts of British Columbia. I am not sure what the traditional way of
heating the living space in winter in this region was - maybe burning
coal brickets in small stoves, or something like that - but these
days, the only available option in most modern buildings here would be
turning on their air conditioners in the "heating" mode. This, as I
understand, is considered a rather extravagant thing to do, at least
by the older generations, often even in fairly fancy offices or
apartments. And of course even when the A/C heating is on, it's not
very effective: it gives you a stream of dry hot air blowing through
the room, the rest of the place still being pretty cold.
I am not familiar with the local electricity prices, but budget hotels
here sometimes offer the use of A/C (for heating in winter) as an
option, for Y10-20 per day per room - something that would amount to
Y300-600 (US$50-100) a month.
From the environmental point of view, I suppose we all should be
grateful to the people of Jiangnan for not turning their heating on,
as the extra electric energy needed for that would come from burning
coal - and it probably would take more coal to heat the homes in the
region from Chengdu to Shanghai than any European country uses....