Daylight savings time and China’s single time zone policy

This morning most of the US went through the dreary routine of setting their clocks back one hour to revert to what is called Standard time, after having set it one hour forward in the spring to create Daylight Savings Time. This biannual routine is inevitably accompanied in the media by various explanations for its origins plus complaints about it and demands that we stop this disruptive practice that seems to produce little benefit.

But I was interested in the case of China. It not only does not do this clock-shifting, the entire country has just one time zone though the normal rules for zones (shifting one hour for every 15o of longitude) would require it to have five of them, two more than the contiguous states of the US. The country time is set by Beijing time which is +8 hours from UTC. This article gives the history of how it came about.

I am not sure how the implications of a one-zone policy work out. Since the daily routine is usually associated with sunrise and sunset, do different regions compensate for the single time by having different times for the daily routine, say the work day that is 9-to-5 in Beijing becoming 11-to-7 in the westernmost regions and 7-to-3 in the easternmost regions? And similarly for school days.


  1. rjw1 says

    Daylight savings seems a completely pointless exercise, particularly in low latitude countries. In Australia, states with extensive sub/tropical areas ignore DST while the rest adopt DST. The result is that states on the same longitude can have different time zones.

    I wonder if one time zone for China was Mao’s idea.

  2. robert79 says

    As someone who tends to wake with the sun (I seem to notice sunrise, no matter how thick and black my curtains are…) I rather enjoy it that time is fiddled with a bit so that sunrise roughly matches the time my alarm clock goes off.

  3. says

    The most annoying thing is when a country has multiple time zones but not everywhere in that country does DST. In Canada, Saskatchewan and a couple of places in BC don’t (and to complicate things further, most of BC is on Pacific Time but part of it is on Mountain Time). Don’t even get me started on Newfoundland being a half hour off the rest of the country.

    I know there are some places in the US that also don’t do DST.

    So not only does most of the country have to shift twice a year, but if you have a business that requires times to be relevant, you also have to synchronize with those places that aren’t shifting.

  4. says

    The whole business of time zones and daylight savings is just a consequence of the Industrial revolution and the need to control production and transport. In the future humans will have only two time states, Online and Offline, everything else is a distraction to instant gratification. The smart machines will run everything important all round the clock.

  5. jrkrideau says

    # 3 Tabby Lavalamp
    I once heard an interview on Radio Netherlands with a Canadian who was explaining Canadian time zones and the Standard Time vs Daylight Savings Time distinctions.

    The Canadian, naturally started with Newfoundland and worked her way west as any good Canadian should do. One could sense the interviewer was struggling with the —”and a half an hour later in Newfoundland— but rallied as they moved into Atlantic and Eastern time zones.

    Things dissolved into total confusion as they hit the Central time zone and the “Daylight Savings, except Saskatchewan of course” line.

    If I remember correctly the interviewer seemed to give up at that point and we never got into the finer points of Mountain and Pacific Times.

    For a Canadian who has grown up with these absurdities and takes them as normal, it was an hilarious interview though I was a bit sorry for the poor interviewer.

    By the way, do you know if Labrador is on Newfoundland or Atlantic time.

  6. efogoto says

    “I know there are some places in the US that also don’t do DST.”

    Arizona and Hawaii. Now if only the rest of us could stop doing it.

  7. Holms says

    This is especially ridiculous when it puts South Australia half an hour ahead of Queensland, and a full hour iirc in front of the Northern Territory.

  8. sonofrojblake says

    Check your privilege.

    If you live below about 45deg North and have a cushy, flexible job that you drive to, I’m sure DST seems like a pointless pain in the backside.

    If you walk to school in Inverness, or have to catch a bus to the warehouse where you pick stock on strict hours for minimum wage, being able to make at least one of those journeys in daylight provably makes a statistical difference to whether you live to see thirty.

    These sorts of articles always crop up at this time of year, usually written by people in the former, privileged minority. Civilised societies in the 21st century run on the backs of people who don’t get to pick their hours and have to walk across roads to get to work.

    (And those societies grew on the backs of people who had no use for clocks, because the cows/sheep/goats/crops don’t know or care what time you’re calling it).

  9. Dauphni says

    @sonofrojblake #9
    DST is bullshit, and I’m saying that as someone who lives in the dark north.

    As a kid I frequently saw the sunrise and sunset while on my 45 minute bicycle ride to school. Whether or not you have DST doesn’t make a fucking difference when your work or school day is eight hours long but you only have seven hours of daylight.

    And that’s not even considering that DST is in effect in summer, not winter as you seem to believe.

  10. says

    There has been a recent push here in Alberta to abandon DST. What came with it was a discussion about which time zone we would permanently adopt.

    Also, I walk to work so I cross streets in the dark in winter. As of yesterday it’s a lot lighter but that’s not going to last long.

    Also also, it’s often people in lower paying jobs who are heavily affected by losing an hour of sleep and could lose their jobs just by being an hour late because they forgot to change their clocks.

  11. Trickster Goddess says

    Saskatchewan observes Central Time, but longitudinally, it belongs in the Mountain Time zone. So although they are on CST all year round, in reality they are actually on MDT year round.

    If we are going to to stop changing clocks, I would prefer to remain on Daylight time where I can enjoy more daylight hours when the work day is over. Sadly, Saskatchewan, lacking an ocean and mountains (and having cold winters) is not where I would want to live.

  12. Dunc says

    @10: Yeah, the only real difference that DST (or BST) makes at high latitudes is that it doesn’t get dark until stupidly late at night during the summer.

    In winter, in Scotland, it’s pitch dark at both ends of the day no matter what you do with the clocks.

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