March can be pretty cold in Chinaeven indoors, said Li Xing in Beijings China Daily. Thats because the nations central heating system, a remnant of the planned economy, shuts down in the middle of March by government decree, no matter what the weather. In a year like this one, with nighttime temperatures remaining below freezing in many areas, the arbitrary date can be not only frustrating but hazardous. And thats just for those lucky enough to be on the grid. Its worse in rural areas, off the grid, where the only option is to burn coal, causing countless cases of carbon monoxide poisoning each year. The entire fifth of the country south of the Yangtze River hasnt been hooked up, either. The temperature there hovers around 50 degrees in winter, which evidently is deemed warm enough. The reality is that the government simply cant guarantee heat as a right provided by the state. As China modernizes, we will have to pay for utilities ourselves. Thats why it will take years before most of us can even dream of enjoying central heating.