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Migratory bird nearly extinct

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 09:30
Yellow-breasted bunting. [Photo/VCG]

The yellow-breasted bunting, a once common migratory bird, has been driven to the brink of extinction in recent years as a result of illegal hunting.

The species was reclassified as “critically endangered” on the red list of threatened species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature on Tuesday. The status is one step from the highest level of “extinct in the wild”.

The decline of the population, which may have become extreme in the past 11 years, is likely to be driven by excessive trapping at migration and wintering sites, according to the red list of IUCN.

Back in 2000, the species was listed under “least concern”, the lowest level on the six-grade alert system.

Every year, yellow-breasted buntings migrate from Siberia southward to wintering grounds in south China and southeast Asia in a journey spanning up to 4,000 kilometers.

In South China’s Guangdong province, where the yellow-breasted bunting is considered a delicacy, there were records of consumption of the bird as early as the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

Once restricted to a small area of southern China, the practice of cooking yellow-breasted buntings has become more widespread and popular due to increasing affluence, and now hunters have to travel widely to find sufficient birds, according to the IUCN.

Despite a ban on selling the bird introduced by the Chinese government in 1997, illicit trading has been rampant, driving the species to the verge of extinction.

A bird protection volunteer told Beijing Youth Daily that through undercover investigations, it was found that most of the birds sold in Guangdong were transported from north China.

A man surnamed Liu from the northern province of Hebei told Beijing Youth Daily that back in 2000, more than 400 yellow-breasted buntings could be captured in one net; and in 2008, he could still catch more than 50 birds in one day. But today, only one or two can be caught in a day.

Liu said bird hunting is a lucrative business: a net costs only 15 yuan ($2.3), while a yellow-breasted bunting can be sold for about 20 yuan.

Liu said after the birds were captured, they would be put into cages to be fattened up for around 20 days. Then they would be suffocated in a sealed bag before being sold to south China.

And according to bird protection volunteers, sales of the yellow-breasted bunting in Guangdong have gone underground in recent years as a result of the government’s crackdown campaigns.

In some restaurants, where one yellow-breasted bunting is priced at up to 60 yuan, its name on the menu would be replaced with “rice bird” to avoid inspection from authorities.

Media reports show there are 28 cases of illegal hunting of yellow-breasted bunting in China from 2000 to 2013. In one case, more than 100,000 yellow-breasted buntings were seized by authorities in Guangzhou and Shaoguan, two cities in Guangdong province.

Despite its popularity among diners, the yellow-breasted bunting is not much different from other birds in terms of nutrition value.

The yellow-breasted bunting differs little from pigeons or quail in nutrition, said Zhu Yi, a food science professor with China Agricultural University. And as a migratory species, the birds may host unidentified viruses and many illegally captured ones may be poisoned to death, threatening the health of diners, he said.

Retired Beijing doctors provide long-distance relief

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 09:06

Retired doctors from Peking Union Medical College Hospital are providing long-distance medical treatments via the internet to poor patients at clinics in northeastern China.

About 100 top medics have joined a project organized by Beijing Union Clinic Partners, a private medical service provider, to help over 100 poor patients with illnesses in 29 hospitals across Heilongjiang province.

“County hospitals help identify patients and report the details to us. We then organize a video conference in which doctors in Beijing will talk with patients and local doctors,” said Wang Rui, founder of the Beijing Union Charity Foundation, which was set up to fund the project.

Many county hospitals in China have the infrastructure and equipment to match those in major cities, and governments provide primary medical insurance. Yet many personnel lack experience, Wang said.

The biggest demand is medical expertise; local doctors need guidance from experts at top hospitals, he added.

“Most of the doctors who are participating in the project are retired, but they are healthy and capable,” Wang said. “They enjoy helping the poor because it gives them a strong sense of achievement. It’s also a good opportunity for local doctors to learn.”

Ex-addict in Chengdu sues over false HIV diagnosis

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 09:06

A former heroin addict has filed a lawsuit against two centers for disease control in southwestern China he says wrongly diagnosed him as HIV positive almost 10 years ago, thepaper.cn has reported.

Zhong Xiaowei, 54, is demanding an apology and compensation from the Chengdu CDC and Sichuan CDC over a positive result in late 2008 that he says ruined his life.

Due to his financial status, he is receiving legal aid from Ouyang Jiu and She Yong, attorneys with Sichuan Yingji Law Firm.

Thepaper.cn quoted Ouyang as saying the lawsuit was filed with a district court in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, on Tuesday.

Zhong had kicked his drug habit and was preparing to marry when he tested positive in late 2008, which ended his relationship. Depressed, he decided to come off the prescribed medication to “die quicker”, but when his condition did not deteriorate, he decided to get retested. He was given the all clear in 2015.

Chengdu CDC and Sichuan CDC have said they retested the original blood sample and got the same positive result. This has led authorities to conclude the sample does not belong to Zhong, possibly due to a mix-up caused by the fact people taking HIV/AIDS test are not required to register using their real ID.

Ouyang said the court has suggested mediation.

Zheng Yumeng contributed to this story.

Luneng Group promotes Party building through internet

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 08:34

Luneng Group, a real estate and new energy developer, is taking advantage of internet to promote Party building and learning about the Communist Party of China.

The company set up an online platform and an app to guide and communicate with the 142 Party branches in the group.

Luneng Group also established a digital library to include all the relevant materials to meet the needs of staff members in other provinces.

“Through the online platform and the app, we could also learn about the experience of other Party branches in organizing activities,” said Wang Jin, a manager at Luneng Group.

Luneng’s efforts in Party building is in a response to the government’s call to better use the internet and information technology to strengthen the capabilities of the Party, which is mentioned in the report of the 19th Party Congress earlier this year, the company said in a news release.

Caught on tape

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 08:31

During a recent visit to Shenzhen, Guangdong province, filmmaker JT Singh noticed how the sound of packing tape can be heard at all times throughout Huaqiangbei, the massive electronics hub located at the heart of the city.

In this digital age where Chinese are furiously shopping online, workers at places like Huaqiangbei pack hundreds of boxes of customer orders every day, and in the process expend massive amounts of packing tape.

This incident has since spurred Singh to produce a short film to explore how this practice affects the environment.

Xi calls for respect to developing countries' will in human rights development

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 06:43

BEIJING - President Xi Jinping has called on the international community to respect and reflect the will of the people in developing countries in human rights development.

Xi made the remarks in a congratulatory message to the South-South Human Rights Forum, which opened in Beijing Thursday.

He extended "warm congratulations" on the convening of the forum, which will discuss the promotion of human rights in developing countries and the world.

Human rights must and can only be promoted in light of specific national conditions and people's needs, the message read.

Xi'an scenic spots offer 50% discount with bullet train tickets

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 06:12

Tourists can now buy tickets at half price in 26 scenic spots in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, until the end of March in 2018, as long as they show their tickets of the newly opened Xi'an-Chengdu high-speed trains, the paper.cn reported on Wednesday.

The promotion is jointly organized by local departments including Xi'an Railway Bureau and Xi'an Tourism Bureau to boost the city's tourism as the new bullet train service linking Xi'an and Chengdu went into operation on Dec 6.

Many famed attractions such as Tang Paradise, Xi'an City Wall, as well as Banpo museum are on the list.

Northern cities get OK to restart using coal to heat homes

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 05:14

Some areas in northern China have been given permission to resume using coal or other available fuels to guarantee winter heating services for residents, according to a report on Thursday.

In a document released on Monday marked “extra urgent”, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said areas within or neighboring the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei cluster could restart consuming coal “if their projects to replace coal-powered heating units with gas and electricity facilities were not finished”, news website The Paper reported.

The document, which was sent to 28 cities, including some in Henan, Shandong and Shanxi provinces, stressed that “the priority is to guarantee heating service for residents”.

Some places have been left without heat due to a failure to complete new clean-energy boilers in time for the start of winter, resulting in freezing homes and schools, media have reported.

Burning coal for central heating services has been a major contributor to the severe smog experienced in northern China in recent winters. Therefore, replacing coal-powered facilities with cleaner units is essential to easing air pollution, the ministry said.

Guangxi fraud suspect captured in the Philippines

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 05:10

A Chinese fugitive who fled to the Philippines with his lover in the late 1990s was repatriated on Tuesday, according to a Guangxi News Net report.

The fugitive, identified only as Pan, is suspected of being involved in scam worth 16.2 million yuan ($2.44 million) in Nanning, capital of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

He was captured by Nanning police and Philippine immigration officials in an unfurnished apartment in an eight-story building in Manila on Nov 10.

Pan is accused of defrauding the Guangxi Civil Affairs Department and other organizations in June 1997. He was placed on the most-wanted list in October that year.

According to police, the suspect said he was cheated shortly after arriving in the Philippines and had lost some of the stolen assets. His lover returned to China, and he eventually ran out of funds and had to take odd jobs, such as collecting garbage, to make ends meet, the report said.

“Foreign lands are not a haven to escape punishment,” Xing Fujiang, deputy director of the Guangxi Public Security Department, was quoted as saying. “For those who turn themselves in, they will be given lighter punishment.”

Qiu Weiyi contributed to this story.

Life of reed farmers in Baiyangdian Lake

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 04:11

 

Farmers carry the reeds they just harvested to an iron ship in Baiyangdian Lake in the Xiong'an New Area of Baoding, North China’s Hebei province, Nov 19, 2017. [Photo/IC]

Farmers make a living by harvesting reeds in Baiyangdian Lake in the Xiong'an New Area of Baoding, North China’s Hebei province.

Aerial view of the reeds in Baiyangdian Lake. [Photo/IC]

The reeds in Baiyangdian Lake have fallen dramatically from 8,000 hectares in the 1980s to around 5,000 hectares in 2014, according to statistics produced by satellite remote sensing technology.

A farmer loads reeds onto a tractor near Baiyangdian Lake. [Photo/IC]

All the reed farmers are locals whose families have been in the profession for generations, but many leave their hometowns to work as migrant workers for good part of the year due to the low price of reeds in recent years.

A farmer piles up the harvested reeds in his yard in Baoding, North China’s Hebei province, Nov 19, 2017. [Photo/IC] Reed farmer Feng Huanle visits his mom after harvesting reeds in Baiyangdian Lake. [Photo/IC]

One tenth of a hectare of reeds sells for around $415 (1,000 yuan), but if the reeds are made into mats, farmers can earn over 2,400 yuan, according to Feng Huanle, a local reed farmer.

View of a pile of mats made of reed in Baoding. [Photo/IC]

 Making hand-woven mats is not an easy process as reeds have to be peeled and washed first before they are turned into mats. To make matter more difficult, plastic has replaced reeds in recent years.

View of a farmer’s worn-out shoes made from cow leather in Baoding. [Photo/IC]

Though harvesting reeds takes a lot of time and energy, local farmers still spend two to three months a year doing it because of the connections they have with Baiyangdian Lake.

 

5.2-magnitude quake hits Xinjiang: CENC

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 03:34

BEIJING -- A 5.2-magnitude earthquake jolted Yecheng County in Kashi Prefecture in northwest China's Xinjiang at 7:29 a.m. Thursday, according to the China Earthquake Networks Center.

The epicenter was monitored at 35.69 degrees north latitude and 77.46 degrees east longitude. The quake struck at a depth of 87.0 km, the center said.

Shanghai metro to introduce QR code payment by early 2018

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 02:53
A man shows how to pass the subway entrance gate by scanning his face in Shanghai on Dec 5, 2017. [Photo/Chinanews.com]

QR code payment will be available across the whole subway network in Shanghai by early 2018, according to a report from thepaper.cn.

Shanghai began to pilot QR code payment for its maglev train service on Oct 30, and this technology is planned to be expanded to all the 17 metro lines in the city by early 2018.

Through “Metro Metropolis", an app developed by the Shanghai subway, passengers will be able to pay for their tickets via Alipay by scanning the QR code at the entrance and exit.

Unlike traditional online payment, this technology can still function when there is no wireless signal on users’ mobile phones or no money on their Alipay accounts as delayed payment is acceptable.

Other technologies, such as facial recognition, voice recognition and Intelligent Traffic Monitoring System, are also expected to be integrated with the city’s metro system in the near future.

Compared with traditional fare gates, the new ones have an additional screen, which allows people to travel by scanning their faces, which only takes a few seconds. In this way, Shanghai residents will be able to take the subway by scanning transportation cards, QR codes, or their faces.

Voice recognition technology enables people to book metro tickets by saying their destinations to smart ticket machines. Intelligent Traffic Monitoring System also will be installed to improve traffic regulation in the metro system.

Xi vows more openness for business

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 02:48
Vice-Premier Wang Yang (front, center) and prominent political, economic and academic leaders attend the Fortune Global Forum on Wednesday in Guangzhou. FENG YONGBIN / CHINA DAILY

Transparency to increase, global leaders assured

China will not close its door to the world, and will only become increasingly open, with its business environment becoming more open, transparent and regulated, President Xi Jinping said.

Xi made the pledge in a message sent to convey his congratulations on the start on Wednesday of the Fortune Global Forum in Guangzhou, in which more than 1,100 prominent political, economic and academic figures from around the world are participating this week.

China’s economy has the foundation, conditions and impetus to maintain stable growth and sound momentum, Xi said.

China will continue to forge global partnerships, expand common interests with other countries and further liberalize and facilitate trade and investment, the president said.

Xi welcomed global businesses to invest in China to share the opportunities brought by the country’s reform and development.

The country will further comprehensively deepen its reform, spur innovation capability in all walks of life and unleash the dynamics of development, Xi said.

Also, China will develop the open economy to a higher level and promote the Belt and Road Initiative, and the country will create more opportunities and make a greater contribution to the world, he said.

Vice-Premier Wang Yang spoke at the opening ceremony of the forum, and said that China will deliberate on a timetable and a road map for expanding the opening-up in some priority areas.

The whole country will ensure that before foreign investors enter the market they will get treatment at least as favorable as that accorded to national investors, that there will be a negative list and that there will be greatly lowered thresholds for their market entry, according to Wang.

A negative list specifies areas where investment is prohibited; all other areas are presumed open.

China will further protect the legal rights and interests of foreign investors and create a business climate that offers treatment based on equal footing and fair competition, Wang said.

Leaders attending the forum also hailed Beijing’s renewed commitment to boosting trade, openness and interconnectivity.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “When it comes to trade and international cooperation, China and Canada share the belief that more openness and more collaboration is the right way forward, indeed, the only way forward.”

Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said his country, like others, will benefit from the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road plans, first proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013, as it “will connect our businesses more fully with China and the wider global market”.

It “further creates potential for us to develop effective solutions to the real world problems we face today”, he added.

Xi vows more openness for business

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 02:47
Vice-Premier Wang Yang (front, center) and prominent political, economic and academic leaders attend the Fortune Global Forum on Wednesday in Guangzhou. FENG YONGBIN / CHINA DAILY

Transparency to increase, global leaders assured

China will not close its door to the world, and will only become increasingly open, with its business environment becoming more open, transparent and regulated, President Xi Jinping said.

Xi made the pledge in a message sent to convey his congratulations on the start on Wednesday of the Fortune Global Forum in Guangzhou, in which more than 1,100 prominent political, economic and academic figures from around the world are participating this week.

China’s economy has the foundation, conditions and impetus to maintain stable growth and sound momentum, Xi said.

China will continue to forge global partnerships, expand common interests with other countries and further liberalize and facilitate trade and investment, the president said.

Xi welcomed global businesses to invest in China to share the opportunities brought by the country’s reform and development.

The country will further comprehensively deepen its reform, spur innovation capability in all walks of life and unleash the dynamics of development, Xi said.

Also, China will develop the open economy to a higher level and promote the Belt and Road Initiative, and the country will create more opportunities and make a greater contribution to the world, he said.

Vice-Premier Wang Yang spoke at the opening ceremony of the forum, and said that China will deliberate on a timetable and a road map for expanding the opening-up in some priority areas.

The whole country will ensure that before foreign investors enter the market they will get treatment at least as favorable as that accorded to national investors, that there will be a negative list and that there will be greatly lowered thresholds for their market entry, according to Wang.

A negative list specifies areas where investment is prohibited; all other areas are presumed open.

China will further protect the legal rights and interests of foreign investors and create a business climate that offers treatment based on equal footing and fair competition, Wang said.

Leaders attending the forum also hailed Beijing’s renewed commitment to boosting trade, openness and interconnectivity.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “When it comes to trade and international cooperation, China and Canada share the belief that more openness and more collaboration is the right way forward, indeed, the only way forward.”

Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said his country, like others, will benefit from the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road plans, first proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013, as it “will connect our businesses more fully with China and the wider global market”.

It “further creates potential for us to develop effective solutions to the real world problems we face today”, he added.

Innovative ideas boost high-speed travel experience

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 02:40
A bullet train heading from Chengdu in Sichuan province to Xi'an, Shaanxi province, passes through the Qinling Mountains area on Wednesday. [Photo by Yuan Jingzhi/For China Daily]

Innovative designs have enabled the introduction of high-speed railways into mountainous regions and enhanced passengers' travel experiences.

The Xi'an-Chengdu high-speed railway, which opened on Wednesday, is the first high-speed line traversing the Qinling Mountains in Shaanxi province.

As the dividing line between China's north and south regions, the Qinling Mountains have complex geological conditions and a diverse ecological environment.

Thus, 94 percent of the new railway in the area is composed of tunnels and bridges.

"The mountains are steep. The mouths of tunnels in the Qinling Mountains are usually located at the bottom of valleys and form a V shape with precipitous slopes on both sides. The steepest slope at the mouth of a tunnel is about 80 degrees," said Liu Shuangjin, general chief designer of the line's Shaanxi section, from the China Railway First Survey and Design Institute Group.

When trains travel between tunnels they are at high risk of being hit by falling rocks, which introduces a serious safety hazard, he said.

To solve the problem, Liu and his team built shields between tunnels to protect the trains from falling rocks.

The shields are disguised to make two tunnels look like a single unit.

The additional section also relieves passengers' ear discomfort when passing through tunnels.

"When a train enters and exits tunnels frequently, the air pressure changes quickly, which causes discomfort to passengers' ears," Liu said.

Another challenge for trains passing through the Qinling Mountains is the long inclines. A 45-kilometer uphill climb on the route is the longest continuous incline in the country.

The train climbs 25 meters for every 1 km it progresses. On the 45 km slope, the train climbs 1,100 meters, equivalent to a 375-story building, said Wu Bo, deputy chief designer of the railway's Shaanxi section.

"It is challenging for the bullet train and the driver," he said.

Thus, a new type of bullet train, CRH 3A, has been adopted with unique brakes that allow it to stop on steep hills without rolling backward.

According to Liu and Wu, the trains benefit from 2G, 3G and 4G reception along the line.

"A special cable has been hung in the tunnels, functioning as a signal tower, to allow passengers internet access in the mountainous region," he said.

Rail design keeps wildlife safe

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 02:39
A passenger poses for a photo with a performer in a panda costume at Chengdu East Railway Station in Sichuan province on Wednesday. The Xi'an-Chengdu high-speed railway opened on Wednesday. Lyu Jia / For China Daily

A new railway design is allowing the latest high-speed rail line to pass through national natural reserves while causing only minor disturbance to local wildlife.

The Xi'an-Chengdu high-speed rail, which opened on Wednesday, is the first bullet train to cut though the Qinling Mountains, in Shaanxi province, which are home to many rare wild animals including the giant panda, golden monkey, crested ibis and golden takin.

It is one of three major habitats for the wild giant panda, with about 345 of China's 1,864 wild giant pandas living there, according to the fourth National Survey on Giant Pandas released in 2015.

The railway will also pass through a major Tianhuashan Mountain reserve, a giant panda habitat.

"When researching the railway route, we avoided laying tracks more than 1,500 meters above sea level, where the majority of wildlife gathers," said Lai Wenhong, an engineer from the China Railway First Survey and Design Institute Group, who is in charge of the railway's environmental design.

At less than 1,500 meters above sea level, tunnels and bridges pass through the mountain range, according to the group.

More than 90 percent of the railway through the Qinling Mountains is tunnels and bridges, said Liu Shuangjin, general chief designer of the line's Shaanxi section from the China Railway First Survey and Design Institute Group.

"The merit of tunnels is to reduce vibration when a train passes by," Lai said.

The average depth of the tunnels is 400 meters, and the deepest is 1,000 meters.

"Urban subways cause vibration in a radius of 20 to 30 meters. At 400 meters deep, it would be rare to sense vibration," Lai said.

Bridges are constructed to link tunnels. Protective shields have been placed at the mouths of tunnels in the Qinling Mountains to keep wild animals from falling. During construction, the company avoided setting up temporary facilities in wildlife habitats.

Dirt excavated from building tunnels and bridges was removed regularly and construction crews used low-noise equipment to avoid disturbing wildlife.

During operation, trains are forbidden from using horns in wildlife habitats.

The line also passes through the Yangxian county reserve, home to crested ibis, a rare bird.

"Only one kilometer of the high-speed rail traverses the reserve for the crested ibis. But 33 kilometers of protective nets have been built to minimize its influence on the vicinity," Lai said.

The 4-meter-high mesh on the sides of bridges higher than 10 meters will prevent the birds from flying into the path of trains, which is safer for the birds and the trains.

A forest fortress built over 3 generations

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 02:34

 

 

The sun rises over Qixing Lake in the Saihanba National Forest Park on the border of Hebei province and the Inner Mongolia autonomous region. Zou Hong/China Daily

Vast woodland project prevents desert sands from burying Beijing, as Zhao Xu reports from Saihanba National Forest Park, Hebei province.

Two centuries ago, Saihanba was a royal hunting ground, probably one of the largest in the world. The landscape was beautiful, boundless, lush with plants and alive with wild creatures.

Sixty years ago, the same expanse of land, near Chengde, Hebei province, was barren, plagued by sandstorms and forbidding winters. Nature was merciless.

Today, the area, radiant with greenery, is known as the “Emerald of North China”.

The story of Saihanba National Forest Park, on the border of Hebei and the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, is one of salvation and redemption through human efforts, and can best be described as heroic and multigenerational.

A lifelong commitment

Although more than half a century has passed, Yin Guizhi still remembers how excited she was when she boarded a truck heading to Saihanba in September 1962.

Tourists ride horses near the Luan River in the park. Zou Hong/China Daily

“We were told that the country was going to build a national forest there and we would be part of it,” she said.

Yin was on the road for two days. When the nonstop jolting eventually ceased, she found herself in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by yellow earth sparsely dotted with clusters of grass.

It took less time for Yin’s enthusiasm to chill than she had imagined. When winter began in October, she and her colleagues, who were mostly young graduates, shivered in makeshift tents.

“We lived in improvised shelters propped up on tree trunks and covered with twigs and straw. The glassless windows were covered with paper, and in place of doors we used large planks of wood that left big gaps on both sides,” Yin recalled. “That was where we entered and exited the shelters, and where the winter winds came howling in.”

Occasionally at night, a sleepless Yin caught glimpses of the glinting green eyes of wolves, which prowled around the shelters but didn’t enter.

Yin is now 73. Back then, she was 18. “I had just graduated from a vocational school in Chengde, about 150 kilometers from Saihanba. “I was prepared for romance, but life put me to the test … and I passed that test,” she said.

Despite the harsh conditions, Saihanba was romantic. In Mongolian, the name means “beautiful highland”, and rightly so: the area, composed mainly of boundless forests and grassland dotted with crystal-clear plateau lakes, first became a royal hunting ground in the 10th century and continued to be so until the 1860s.

That was when the fortunes of the Qing (1644-1911), China’s last feudal dynasty, began to wane. As a result, the land was opened to the public, so farmers and herders moved in. In the decades that followed, trees were felled, the forests and grassland disappeared and the beauty of Saihanba vanished.

By the 1950s, Saihanba had long ceased to be a beautiful highland area 280 kilometers north of Beijing. Instead, it had become a corridor through which the wind carried sand from the deserts of Inner Mongolia down to the capital. According to the bleakest predictions, the sand would bury Beijing within a few decades.

Yin’s job was to halt the process. She was not alone: 127 graduates — mostly forestry majors — arrived from two technical schools and a college to join the 242 workers who were already on site.

In the first two years, 90 percent of the seedlings planted by the team died.

Rangers patrol the woodland. Zou Hong/China Daily

Looking back to the events of 1964, Yin recalled the attitude of her colleagues. “We wanted to make one last attempt,” she said.

“It was the campaign of my life,” she said. “Two hundred people were in the mountains for 40 days continuously, preparing the earth for the planting of the seedlings. Ice formed on our clothes. It made a clunking sound with every move we made, turning our clothes into armor under which we sweated. Many of us, me included, developed severe rheumatism as a result.”

When July arrived, the workers were overjoyed to discover a soft carpet of green shoots. That year, the seedling survival rate was more than 90 percent.

By the end of 1982, the area under cultivation was estimated to be 63,000 hectares. Today, the figure is 68,000 hectares. The conifer trees planted during that fateful spring 53 years ago are now about 20 meters high and they cover 34 hectares.

A tower in a sea of green

Liu Jun said he is lucky because he doesn’t have to live in the type of makeshift tent his father occupied during his time as a fire watcher in the forest. The second-generation Saihanba resident has decorated the interior walls of his home-cum-workplace with black-and-white photos of the old structures, including his father’s tent.

“To live in Saihanba is to live with history, there’s almost nothing that meets the eye that isn’t evocative,” he said, referring to the forest that rolls in front of him every time he peers outside.

“Understanding how this greenery was born is both elevating and humbling.”

Every spring and autumn, the seasons in which fires are most likely to occur, Liu picks up his binoculars every 15 minutes during daylight and once an hour at night to scan the forest for the slightest hint of smoke that might wreak havoc if left unattended. He has done this for the past 12 years.

His workplace, a 16-meter-high tower atop the highest peak in the forest, stands 1,940 meters above sea level. The howling wind provides a contrast to the forest below, calm as a waveless ocean.

It is easier to endure the wind than the cold, though. Throughout the year, the average temperature is about -2 C, but in the depths of winter it can plummet to -44 C.

Electricity became available in the early 2000s, but there was no hot water until three years ago. “Every October, I would haul as much firewood as I could into the tower. I had to rely on it for the following six months,” he said, recalling how he had to scrape at the frost-covered windows to glimpse the solitude outside.

However, the situation was better than during the 1960s and ’70s, when the occupants of the tower had nothing to drink during the long winter but meltwater that reeked of tree sap.

Fire watchers Liu Jun and his wife Qi Shuyan in their watchtower in the forest. Zou Hong/China Daily

Of all the challenges they faced, loneliness was the one they dreaded most.

“Before, people had tried raising animals to provide desperately needed company. But it was hard,” Liu said. “Although there were cases where geese weathered the winter before laying their eggs in spring, in other cases, rabbits lost their long ears to the biting cold.”

Liu is lucky because his wife, Qi Shuyan, has been with him throughout his time in the isolated forest.

“It can be extremely boring, but boredom shared by two is boredom halved,” said Qi, who calls Liu “My big brother”. However, boredom halved is still boredom. That’s why she has devoted herself to embroidery over the past few years, while Liu paints.

“I started painting in 2009, four years after I came here. All my earliest works were painted on the paper we used to cover the slim openings between window panes in winter,” Liu said. “I never expected them to last.”

Back in the 1960s, Liu’s parents were among the first generation of fire watchers. Until the mid-1980s, they worked on the same spot as Liu does now. “When I was young, I often felt neglected by my parents. I was lonely, even resentful. Now I know that we share a lot more than any of us thought, including the greenery in front of us,” he said.

The next generation

Guilt resulting from their neglect of their children haunted the first and second generations of Saihanba residents. Yu Lei is not immune to the feeling either.

“I came — I should say ‘came back’ — to Saihanba in 2006, after graduating from the Beijing Institute of Technology, and have worked in the fire-monitoring center since then,” the 36-year-old said.

Yu’s father was just 2 when he arrived at Saihanba in 1962, accompanying his father.

“My father went on to work at Saihanba, and so did all my uncles. Altogether I have 14 relatives working here. I am the latest addition,” said Yu, the third generation of his family to work in the forest.

Yu married in 2008, and his wife now works at Saihanba, too. They have an 8-year-old daughter.

“A few weeks ago, when I last went home, my mother, who is taking care of my daughter, told me that the girl correctly answered a very difficult math question, but no one else in her class did,” he said.

“I asked my daughter how she did it, but she said she couldn’t remember. I feel I am missing out on her growing up, just as my parents did — to their regret.”

Changes have taken place during the past 55 years, but they are not big enough for Saihanba to become one of the places sought out by young ambitious graduates aiming for rapid career advancement or quick money.

The winters are still cold, the working hours are still long, the separation from family life is still hard and the loneliness is still haunting.

Now, much less land is left for cultivation than before, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the work has become easier.

“There is almost no flat land left, so over the past five years we’ve been trying to plant trees on rocky mountain slopes, where the topsoil is less than 15 centimeters deep,” said Fan Dongdong, 33, who arrived in Saihanba in 2007, immediately after graduating from Hebei Agricultural University, 500 km away.

“We chose Scots pine, a species accustomed to cold, arid climates. Once established, its ever-extending roots reach deep between the rocks. But before that, we have to give the saplings a home by digging holes about 40 cm in depth and 70 cm by 70 cm in cross section.”

The process isn’t as easy as it sounds. The rocks are so large that earthmovers are used to move them. When the machines hit the rocks, sparks and plumes of white smoke can be seen from the foot of the mountain.

“The space left is filled with black soil we take from another part of the forest. The soil is so precious — in many other parts of Saihanba you get white sand under a thin layer of soil — that we put it in our cupped hands and pour it carefully into the hole, not wanting to waste even a pinch,” Fan said. “The mountain slope is too steep for the kind of tree-planting machines used here in 1964. Everything must be done by hand.”

According to Fan, hand-planted trees account for 90 percent of the forest’s total. He married last year, and his wife now lives in the forest with him. Despite the hardship, they are excited.

“Why have I decided to stay?” he said. “It’s because I want to be part of something epic.”

Ministry demands action over delayed school heating

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 02:26

The Ministry of Education demanded "immediate" action on Wednesday to ensure school classrooms are warm enough after media reports said a delayed heating supply in Hebei province resulted in students showing symptoms of frostbite.

China Youth Daily reported on Tuesday that the heating supply in some rural primary schools in Hebei's Quyang county has been delayed, forcing students to attend classes outside in the sun in a bid to keep warm.

Some primary school students were seen standing up reading books and others kneeling or sitting on the ground, using stools as desks, in a China Youth Daily video.

"We felt sorry for the children after reading the report and were worried about them," ministry spokeswoman Xu Mei said at a news conference in Beijing.

She said the ministry attaches great importance to the issue, and senior officials have demanded "practical" and "efficient" measures to urge local authorities to provide heating in these schools immediately.

The State Council's Office of Education Steering Committee has handed notifications to relevant provinces to supervise the handling of the issue and demanded these provinces ensure normal school services, she said.

"When it comes to children, nothing is trivial," she said.

The publicity department of the Quyang government said on Wednesday that heating had been supplied to students from 11 rural schools as promised by Quyang Party chief Wang Peng.

The delay in the heating supply occurred because some schools failed to transform coal-fueled heating facilities to electricity-fueled ones on time, which is part of a campaign to replace coal with clean energy as a heat source in the province.

Coal has long been burned for heating in northern China, but it is blamed for smog in winter. Hebei vowed in September last year to ban bulk coal consumption in 18 counties adjacent to Beijing by the end of this year.

 

 

 

Net gains for new manufacturing

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 02:13

Internet integration will give production a modern boost

China is enhancing its efforts to integrate industry and the internet by issuing a three-step timetable to accelerate the development of the internet working in conjunction with advanced manufacturing to boost innovation and entrepreneurship and upgrade the economy.

The State Council, China's Cabinet, unveiled a guideline on Nov 27 for developing the "industrial internet", the integration of industry and the internet.

The guideline is the latest move to encourage industrial internet development since the State Council's executive meeting on Oct 30 chaired by Premier Li Keqiang.

The guideline has set the goal that by 2025, an industrial internet infrastructure covering all regions and sectors will be basically accomplished, and by 2035, China is expected to lead the world in key sectors of the industrial internet. By the middle of the century, China should be among the top countries in terms of the overall strength of its industrial internet.

"We should create a vibrant and enabling environment for the internet, working with advanced manufacturing by further streamlining administration, enhancing compliance oversight and improving government services. This will enable the industrial internet to develop in a more open and integrated manner and put China at the forefront of the new round of the industrial revolution," Li said at the meeting.

Chen Zhaoxiong, vice-minister of industry and information technology, said at a news conference in November that the development of the industrial internet is a must for the manufacturing sector amid international competition.

The national guideline has set the direction for industrial internet growth for a certain period of time, and related policy incentives are expected to come out in the future, said Wang Jun, professor at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges.

The industrial internet refers to computerized interconnection of machinery, big data and the internet of things that analyzes data from machinery and adjusts its operation.

"China has seen robust development since its reform and opening up, but the country's manufacturing industry lags far behind many developed countries, particularly with its limited integration of industry and information technology," Wang said. "This has severely restricted China's manufacturing competence as well as its international competence in this regard."

He said at present, China has an opportunity to catch up.

"A deep integration of industrialization and information technology will be a key feature for China's economic development in the near future, as domestic demand for industrial upgrading is huge and the industrial structure worldwide is also in the process of restructuring," he explained.

"With accelerated development of the industrial internet, this will also provide a good opportunity to upgrade our manufacturing industry."

He pointed out that currently, China lags behind major countries in terms of the industrial internet in three aspects.

"First, many companies are not fully aware of the importance of developing the industrial internet. Second, there is still a lack of platforms, such as technology parks and innovation incubators, to boost industrial internet development," he said. "Third, there is still a lack of talent in the area of the industrial internet, and the country needs to enhance efforts in training such personnel."

He called for further efforts in combining research and application, while efforts in training technical workers working on the frontline must be strengthened.

"Currently, technical workers working in the frontline still have comparatively low incomes and limited choices of development of their career path," Wang said. "It is important for the government to come out with more policy incentives and to build a population of technical professionals that can meet the demand for China's industrial internet development."

It was made clear in the guideline that to achieve the targets, the country will further upgrade its network, increase internet speed while reducing fees, expand internet coverage and develop the IPv6-based internet.

It also said that China will accelerate the construction of an industrial internet platform, build a standard system for it, and apply the platform into full use. A data protection system will be set up to guarantee internet security, and related technology will be enhanced.

To ensure the implementation of the measures, the State Council has also urged related departments to improve related laws and regulations, create a healthy market environment by simplifying administration and power delegation, increase financial support and cultivate more talent in this field.

zhangyue@chinadaily.com.cn

 

 

 

China, Japan bolster marine ties

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 02:06

Nations pledge to enhance trust and maritime affairs cooperation

China and Japan agreed to enhance cooperation in various maritime affairs, including joint rescues, environmental protection and fighting transnational crime, according to a statement published on Wednesday.

The two countries also pledged to strengthen communication and mutual trust between their military authorities, taking another positive step toward building an air and maritime communication system between the two militaries.

These agreements were reached during the eighth round of high-level consultations on maritime affairs between government officials from the two countries. The meeting was held from Tuesday to Wednesday in Shanghai.

Officials from China's Foreign Ministry, Defense Ministry and Ministry of Environmental Protection, as well as from Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Cabinet Office and Maritime Safety Agency, attended the meeting.

Both sides emphasized the importance of keeping bilateral communication in maritime policy and law. They will expand cooperation in cracking down on transnational crimes such as smuggling and drug trafficking, the statement said.

Both nations will also increase cooperation in maritime research and rescue, and plan to hold a meeting of experts on marine waste in 2018.

The two countries exchanged their views regarding issues on the East China Sea and agreed to hold the next round of high-level consultations on maritime affairs in Japan in the first half of next year.

Feng Wei, a researcher at the Center for Japanese Studies of Fudan University, said the goal of Sino-Japan maritime relations is to reduce tension in defense and increase cooperation in other maritime affairs.

"Both China and Japan are striving to become maritime powers and have a strong desire to expand their maritime reach," he said. As a result, dialogues are necessary to reduce miscalculations and friction between the two countries, especially in regard to maritime security and defense, he added.

"Eased relations in maritime security between the two countries can help promote cooperation in other maritime fields," he said. "Hence it is high time China and Japan establish an air and maritime communication mechanism to enhance dialogue between the militaries and avoid accidents."

Sun Cheng, a researcher on Japanese foreign relations at the China Institute of International Studies, said maritime security is the core issue plaguing Sino-Japanese relations, and solving it requires a stable and long-term solution, which the security communication system provides.

"China and Japan need to have such a system, or else economic cooperation will have a difficult time moving forward," he said. Sino-Japanese relations are gaining positive momentum due to a visit from Japan's largest economic delegation to Beijing in late November, he added.

"The security communication system will be beneficial for both countries," he said. "But the overall political climate is still not favorable enough, so both sides need to further increase mutual trust."

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