Nicola Davison is a British freelance writer and editor based in London.
The Guardian
'Our purity is above 99%': the Chinese labs churning out legal highs for the west

‘Our purity is above 99%’: the Chinese labs churning out legal highs for the west

At midnight on a recent Friday, in a backroom at Chemsun Global pharmaceutical laboratory in Shanghai, a Chinese chemist who called himself Terry was eager to close a deal. Outside in the lab a bright yellow liquid whirred around a flask. The smell of fumes was so intense it left a bitter, chemical aftertaste. The...
3D-printed cities: is this the future?

3D-printed cities: is this the future?

The words “we print architecture’s future” adorn the wall of a showroom on the outskirts of Suzhou, a rapidly urbanising city in eastern China. Arranged around the room are samples of odd-looking concrete wall of varying thickness. Outside, across the car park of this otherwise unremarkable industrial estate, is a grand, neoclassical mansion that recently...
China's obsession with vertical cities

China’s obsession with vertical cities

In late September, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, a non-profit organisation that keeps the world’s largest database on skyscrapers, held its annual conference in Shanghai – two years after its last meeting there. “We’ve never done that before, gone back to the same city,” says Antony Wood, the council’s executive director. “But right...
Momo, the Chinese app that exposes sex and generational divides

Momo, the Chinese app that exposes sex and generational divides

When Chen Xiaozhe downloaded the smartphone application Momo, his intentions were clear. “My principal motive was to try to have sex with a wide variety of girls,” said Chen, 27, who runs an online shop. To attract potential dates, Chen updates his profile with photos of his BMW or selfies in posh restaurants. It is easier to...
Visitors flock to China's 'kingdom of women'

Visitors flock to China’s ‘kingdom of women’

LUGU LAKE — As the tourist bus trundles towards the lake nestled in the roots of the Himalayas, a sign arcs the road. It carries an image of two women in traditional dress paddling a boat. Colours radiate from the sign with lurid urgency: the water is aquamarine, the surrounding mountains neon and the women’s...
China's wine boom of little profit to giant pandas and small farmers

China’s wine boom of little profit to giant pandas and small farmers

XIAOJIN — In 1985, Li Hua visited a valley in the foothills of the Tibetan plateau. The area was better known for its panda population, but the oenologist realised that its high altitude, hours of sunshine, sandy soil and low precipitation also offered ideal conditions for growing grapes. Li’s findings gave local authorities an idea,...
China bird flu scare: 'My family and I don't dare to eat anything these days'

China bird flu scare: ‘My family and I don’t dare to eat anything these days’

Among the bustle of morning trade at Yanqing food market, one corner remains quiet. Wedged between the beef and fish counters, where traders in galoshes cheerily hack the heads off wriggling carp, the poultry stalls are boarded, their freezers taped shut. A handwritten notice from the management offers: “All chicken products have stopped being sold, sorry for...
Rivers of blood: the dead pigs rotting in China's water supply

Rivers of blood: the dead pigs rotting in China’s water supply

JIAXING — Standing on the quay, Mrs Wu jokes that there are more pigs than fish in Jiapingtang river. But she isn’t smiling. The 48-year-old fisherwoman, who lives in Xinfeng, a sleepy country village, recalls splashing about in the river as a child on sticky summer days. Today it is inky black, covered in a...
China loves pork too much

China loves pork too much

SHANGHAI — Over the last fortnight, more than 16,000 dead pigs have been recovered from tributaries of the Huangpu, the river that arcs through Shanghai. Mottled and swollen, adult hogs and piglets were first spotted upstream in Henglaojing creek, their bellies forming pearlescent domes among the river debris. Finding a dead hog in this creek isn’t an...
China's taste for pork serves up a pollution problem

China’s taste for pork serves up a pollution problem

Fan Jianjun points to a concrete pipe jutting from the lake bank. Sludge spews from its mouth and arcs across the water, the surface bubbling with the bodies of flies. Fan has lived in Houtonglong village all his 31 years. The water was clear, he says, before the pig farm was built and people’s health began...
WeChat: the Chinese social media app that has dissidents worried

WeChat: the Chinese social media app that has dissidents worried

  Angela Zou hardly writes text messages now. Sitting at her office desk in a plush advertising agency, Zou asks her iPhone where they should go to eat. When it buzzes seconds later, she lifts it to her ear for her colleague’s reply. The conversation goes back and forth through these snippets of Mandarin before...
Yangtze finless porpoise: China's national treasure disappearing fast

Yangtze finless porpoise: China’s national treasure disappearing fast

YUEYANG and WUHAN – It’s been an hour and the group of volunteers aboard the rickety fishing boat are still yet to spot a Yangtze finless porpoise, known as jiangzhu or “river pig”. Thirty years ago, when they numbered 2,000, the mammals could be seen from the shore here dancing on Dongting Lake in the sludge-coloured...