(The Sanquan factory in Zhengzhou, China, which produces frozen dumplings and frozen glutinous rice balls. Photo by Massimo Vitali for The New York Times)
When Chen founded Sanquan, fewer than one in 10 of his fellow citizens even owned a refrigerator. In the eastern megacities of Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou, it wasn’t until the late 1980s — as electrical grids became more reliable and families had more disposable income — that refrigerators became a fixture of most homes. For second- and third-tier cities, like Zhengzhou, they arrived even more slowly. But in the 12 years between 1995 and 2007, China’s domestic refrigerator-ownership numbers have jumped to 95 percent from just 7 percent of urban families.
An artificial winter has begun to stretch across the country, through its fields and its ports, its logistics hubs and freeways. China had 250 million cubic feet of refrigerated storage capacity in 2007; by 2017, the country is on track to have 20 times that. At five billion cubic feet, China will surpass even the United States, which has led the world in cold storage ever since artificial refrigeration was invented. And even that translates to only 3.7 cubic feet of cold storage per capita, or roughly a third of what Americans currently have — meaning that the Chinese refrigeration boom is only just beginning. (New York Times)