China News - Spring 2017

Africa’s first electric railway

The first electric railway in Africa was launched connecting Djibouti and Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. The Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Hailemariam Desalegn said it was an historic moment and the pride of our nation and people. Amongst those present at the launch were African leaders, tribal singers and a number of European diplomats. The railway is 466 miles long, took six years to build and cost $4 billion. It was built by Chinese engineers and was funded mainly by Chinese banks. The Chinese rail industry is at present involved in several other international projects: supplying carriages for the subways of Chicago and Boston, $5 billion on Indonesian railways, a link from China to Laos and a freight train link from Beijing to London. (From The New York Times, via the internet 7/2/17)

From the British press

Chinese interest in Premier League

It seems that a cash-rich Chinese economy is in the process of exerting an enormous influence on the European football industry. Carlos Tevez, who will be 33 next month, is to be paid nearly more than Messi and Ronaldo combined (both earn £360,000 per week) by a club in Shanghai in the Chinese Super League. Shortly after, another offer was talked about concerning Ronaldo being connected with another unnamed Chinese club willing to pay him £85 million per year! However, the Chinese interest is already in Britain as well as Spain, Italy and France. There is every reason that China will strengthen its position during 2017. In 2016 alone, four established names in English football, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Aston Villa, Birmingham City and West Bromwich were bought by Chinese owners, with two other clubs, Liverpool and Southampton strongly linked to Chinese buyers. In addition, a Chinese consortium has bought a 13% stake in Manchester City for about £320 million.

Around Europe Chinese buyers have been involved in around 20 full or part acquisitions of clubs over the last couple of years, including buying stakes in such prominent clubs as Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan and Lyon. The English clubs are seen as viable long-term investments, thanks in part to lucrative television revenues. Most clubs in the higher leagues are soundly run businesses and make money. At the last count, 17 of the Premier League’s clubs made a profit. Buying a football club raises a business’s global profile and buying an underperforming club which can be turned around and capitalised on the higher valuation is good business. It is also a way for Chinese companies to transfer money overseas. Xi Jinping, the Chinese President is a football fan and visited Manchester City in the autumn of 2015. He has a desire to bring the World Cup to China and eventually see China win the tournament. The richest man in China, Wang Jianlin is believed to have an ambition to create a football league that supplants the Champions League. (From I (Independent 6/1/17)

In the Times (24/1/17), Yaya Toure (age 33 years) of Manchester City has categorically dismissed any suggestion of his ending his career in China. He has rejected a £430,000 per week offer from a club in the Chinese Super League in favour of staying at Manchester City. Last year he was offered £520,000 per week from an un-named club in Jiangsu.

Chinese threat to Premier League?

Antonio Conte (football manager of Chelsea) believes that his player Oscar’s amazing £52 million move to China is just the start of China asset-stripping the Premier League. The 25-year-old will become one of the best-paid footballers in the world on an astonishing £400,000 a week. Oscar has barely figured for Chelsea in recent games, but manager Conte says he will be sorry to see him go. Conte warns that the vast sums of money being offered by Chinese clubs is a major danger to the Premier League and all teams in the world, not just Chelsea. (From The Daily Express 17/12/16)

Chinese ‘tread’ all over French in wine-tasting competition

China took another step closer to becoming a wine superpower after a team of wine-tasters beat the French at their own game at an international competition in Provence. The Chinese team, which was 13th last year, took first place this year in the same competition in a field of 21 nationalities. The French were second, the US third and the UK came in at number 11. The competition took place at the Chateau du Galoupet, near the Mediterranean, and is one of France’s biggest wine estates. Organisers described the result as a ‘thunderbolt’ in the word of wine.

The Spanish and the Belgians, who took fourth and 10th places respectively, were favourites to win, but the French coach of the four-strong Chinese team said he was not at all surprised by his team’s victory. The Chinese team conceded that in blind tasting, 50% is knowledge and 50% luck. The Chinese victory will boost China’s rapidly growing wine industry. China now dedicates 799,000 hectares to growing grapes; more than that of Spain. In an experiment to strengthen China’s wine industry, a cache of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir vines were taken into space on the Tiangong-2 space laboratory. The objective was to see if space will trigger mutations that will make vines better suited to some of the harsh climates in parts of China. (From The Daily Telegraph 10/10/16)

Police and motorway staff help cyclist home

Police in Wuhu stopped a young man cycling south along the expressway. He was determined to get home for Chinese New Year, but had no money. He had been cycling for a month, but was in fact going in the wrong direction. Instead of fining him, police and motorway toll staff held a collection to buy the young man a ticket for him to get home in time for New Year. The young man’s family live in Qiqihar in the northern province of Heilongjiang, where the night temperature can be -18 degrees C, and he had set out from Rizhao in Shandong province, to cycle 1,030 miles north. Hundreds of millions of Chinese will be braving huge crowds and bad weather to get home in time for the New Year and reunion dinners. Officials estimate that three billion journeys will be made between January 13th and February 20th. (From The Times 26/1/17)

Chinese buy pub visited by Xi Jinping

The Chinese company, SinoFortone, has bought the Plough pub at Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire, where David Cameron took the Chinese President for a pint and fish and chips. SinoFortone is involved with the London Paramount theme park and also Crossrail 2 projects. (From BBC News, internet 5/12/16)

Strong growth for renewable energy, especially in China

A BP report states that renewable energy sources for electric power generation will grow by 7.6% per year and by 2035 will account for 20%. At present the figure is about 7%. Made up from wind, solar, biomass and geothermal methods of power generation. China is stated as adding more renewable power than the European Union and the US combined as it restricts the use of polluting coal. The strong growth forecast was underpinned by the view that the competitiveness of both solar and wind power will improve significantly, especially wind power. (From Th e Times 26/1/17)

Nanjing massacre denial

The APA hotel group of Japan have placed a book in their guests’ rooms which denies that the Nanjing massacre took place and is a fabrication. The book claims that 300,000 people could not have been killed because the population of Nanjing was only 200,000 at the time. There have been vigorous protests by Chinese government officials, newspapers and in social media, but the hotel group say they have no intention of removing it from guest rooms. About 40% of the hotel chain rooms are used by foreign guests. (From The Guardian 18/1/17 via the internet)

Chinese robotic mishap

A robot appeared to run amok at a technology fair in China, damaging property and hospitalising an innocent bystander, but the problem could have been caused by simply pressing the wrong button. The £1,200 Xiaopang or ‘Little Fatty’ was designed by a Chinese company and can serve as a butler, sing songs, help tutor children or give messages. However, at the China Hi-Tech Fair in Shenzhen, it appeared to launch itself at a neighbouring exhibition booth, sending glass splinters flying and leaving a passer-by with superficial cuts. The event organisers have said that a simple human error was to blame as Xiaopang’s operator hit the forward button instead of the reverse. The incident has caught the public imagination in China, where robots are proliferating due to the rising costs of human labour and ever-cheaper technology. However, robots are still some way behind humans. One restaurant chain earlier this year, using robowaiters to replace staff, found that they were ‘incompetent’. (From The Times 21/11/16

Trump appoints China critic as trade council chief

President-elect Trump has named Peter Navarro, an economist who has supported tariffs on Chinese goods, to head a newly formed White House National Trade Council. Mr Navarro is a Harvard-educated academic who was behind a documentary called ‘Death by China describing China’s threat to the US economy and a warning about China in the Asia region. The president-elect’s team praised Mr Navarro as a ‘visionary’ economist who would ‘develop trade policies that would shrink our trade deficit, expand our growth and stop the exodus of jobs form our shores’.

He is a 67-year old professor at the University of California, Irvine, and advised Mr Trump during the campaign, describing what he sees as America’s losing economic war with China. Mr Navarro has also highlighted concerns over environmental issues related to Chinese imports and the alleged theft of US intellectual property. Whilst the president-elect has praised the ‘clarity’ of Mr Navarro’s arguments, few other economists have endorsed his ideas. (From The Daily Telegraph 23/12/16)

World’s highest bridge opens to traffic

The bridge is 564 metres over a gorge of the River Beipan in a remote part of south-west China and was opened to traffic yesterday. It took three years to build and will cut journey times between the city of Xuanwei in Yunnan province and Shuicheng county in Guizhou province from more than four hours to about an hour. (From I (Independent) 30/12/16)

British universities help clean Beijing

Beijing began 2017 with its longest spell of air pollution since air records began in 2007, however, the struggle for cleaner continues. China has been drawing on the UK’s long experience, especially in fighting the Great London Smog of 1952, which killed over 12,000 people. In a £2.6 million research project, a consortium of seven UK universities led by Birmingham is collaborating with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Tsinghua University and others. As well as working with overseas scientists, Beijing has once again set targets for the new year. The mayor of Beijing said that they will try to keep PM2.5 at an annual average of around 60 micrograms per cubic metre. However, this is still over twice the WHO standard for acceptable air quality. (From Chinareport 1/2/17)

China aims to take on world at rugby

There are plans for a million rugby players and an £82 million investment by AliSports (the sporting division of Alibaba) in the sport over the next 10 years. China is hoping to have one million registered players by the year 2022, increased from the present 76,000. There are also plans for 30,000 coaches and 15,000 rugby officials in China by 2020. There is already significant interest in the sport; 44 million people in China watched the Olympic Sevens. By 2020, China expects both their men’s and women’s teams to qualify for the next Olympic Games and by 2027, China may well bid to host the Rugby World Cup. (From The Daily Telegraph 4/1/17)

Chinese rich learn how to get richer

The 7,000 Chinese millionaires who descended on Hainan Island are expected to focus on increasing their wealth, estimated at £35 million each. They are attending a ten-day client appreciation event hosted by Noah, China’s largest independent wealth management firm. One wealth manager commented that everywhere else in the world, people listen a morning of presentations and then go out to the golf course or go drinking at the bar. Here he started a presentation at 10.30 pm to a packed room. The audience took notes and asked good questions. Despite the slowdown in growth, the absolute number of dollar millionaires over the past two decades in China is probably unprecedented.

They are probably less academically educated that their western counterparts, but are streetwise, have business sense and are hungry for knowledge. They are always willing to hear about new ideas and concepts and show interest in investing abroad. Noah’s clients see the UK as a good long-term investment and a place to send their children to study and perhaps even work. (From The Times 21/11/16)

Trump picks Xi’s old friend as ambassador to China

Donald Trump made a conciliatory move towards China yesterday by picking Terry Branstad, the Iowa governor who first met the Chinese leader in 1985, when Xi was an official from Hebei province who was in America to study American agriculture. Mr Branstad, who is a champion of free trade, is said to have bonded with Mr Xi over 30 years ago, with a shared interest in pig farming. In July, Mr Branstad, who has travelled to China four times in the past five years to promote Iowa exports said that Mr Trump was ‘not really anti-trade, he s just against stupid decisions’. (From The Times 8/12/16)

Trump meets Jack Ma

Trump agreed to meet Jack Ma of Alibaba on 9 January and posed for a photograph with him in front of the gold lift in Trump Tower. Ma had promised to create one million jobs by allowing small businesses, especially in the rural Midwest to sell directly to the growing Chinese middle class. Alibaba is China’s Amazon, but bigger. It began in 1999 as a website connecting Chinese exporters with international businesses and now 80% of all goods bought online in China are sold via Alibaba. It now includes the shopping website, Taobao, which sells branded goods. However, there may be problems because the Office of the US Trade Representative added Taobao to its list of ‘notorious markets,’ saying that it turns a blind eye to counterfeit goods. (From The Sunday Times Magazine 5/2/17)

‘Yellowface’ theatre protest

The actress Gemma Chan has hit out at a theatre which casts white actors in Chinese roles, saying; ‘Any kind of yellowface in this day and age is not OK.’ Chan, the star of Channel 4’s hit science-fiction drama ‘Humans’ was shocked that the performance of, ‘In the Depth of Dead Love’, which opened this week in London, chose an all-white cast for the play, which is set in ancient China. She joined Hollywood actor Benedict Wong to protest outside the Print Room Theatre at Notting Hill at a press launch. They claim that ‘yellowface’, a term for the exclusion of east Asian actors is an unacceptable practice. Chan has a Chinese-Scottish mother and a father from Hong Kong. About 100 protesters brandished placards. From I (Independent) 21/1/17)

China promises to ban ivory trade by end of 2017

China has the biggest ivory market in the world, some estimates suggesting it is 70% of the world’s total. However, it has been announced that China will ban all ivory trade and processing activities by the end of 2017. Elly Pepper, of the National Resources Defence Council, praised China for its great leadership. The price of ivory can reach $1,100 (£850) per kilogramme in China and this has increased the killing of elephants by illegal poachers, resulting in the rapid decline of elephant populations in Africa. (From I (Independent 31/12/16)

From the Chinese Press

China’s growth in 2016

Statistics are expected to show that China’s economy grew by about 6.7% in 2016. GDP is expected to have exceeded 70 trillion yuan ($10.1 trillion) in 2016, an increase of 5 trillion yuan ($722.5 billion). This is within the government target of between 6.5% and 7.0% for the year. Steady growth and the performance of new sectors have discredited predictions that China’s economy will collapse or face a hard landing.

A report issued by the IMF said that China is likely to have remained the top engine of global growth by contributing 1.2 percentage points or over 30% of the world’s economic growth in 2016 compared to the 0.3 percentage points expected for the US. (From Beijing Review 19/1/17)

Digital jobs in China to increase dramatically is predicted

The digital economy is predicted to create over 400 million new jobs in China by 2035, according to a report of the Boston Consulting Group issued on 8 January at an economic summit sponsored by Alibaba. The internet-based economy could be worth $16 trillion by that time. Alibaba, China’s largest online trader is expected to create 100 million of those jobs; 30 million have been created in 2016. As jobs are created, digital technology such as cloud computing and artificial intelligence will replace more and more manpower. Within the next decade, 20% of the world’s population could become self-employed or freelance via the internet, according to Gao Hongbing, Alibaba’s Vice-president. He added that the digital economy will surpass the manufacturing sector in scale and account for a quarter of global economy. (From Beijing Review 19/2/17)

Shanghai’s 100 millionth passenger

The 100 millionth passenger arrived at Pudong International Airport on flight MU592 on 12 December. Mr Mao Weiying was greeted by the media and presented with an award. Shanghai, which has two international airports, is now the fifth busiest city for air travel, after London, New York, Tokyo and Atlanta. (From Beijing Review 22/12/16)

Care of the elderly

China is to fully open its elderly care system by 2020. The objective will be to improve care services and increase the supply of related products. When the system is fully opened, the demand-supply structure is expected to be more balanced. In addition, China’s related legal system and quality control standard schemes will be further improved. China’s credit system is expected to be established by then and the market supervision mechanism should be operating effectively. With further opening up, restrictions on foreign investments will be relaxed and foreign investors will be encouraged to open both profit and non-profit nursing institutions for the elderly. Foreign founded institutions will enjoy the same preferential policies as local ones. China will also provide targeted financial services for the aged and will guide and regulate financial institutions, including banks and insurance companies to develop suitable wealth management and insurance products for elderly people. (From China Today February 2017)

China’s long-term Health Plan

On 26th August, the Communist Party of China’s top leadership adopted a plan to improve the healthcare sector of China in the next 15 years. The blueprint, ‘Healthy China’, aims to further improve people’s health. It is also an important part of China’s efforts to engage in global health governance and implement its commitments to the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The main aim is to enhance health with institutional reform and innovation by promoting healthy lifestyles, optimising health services, improving health security and building a healthy natural environment and by developing healthcare industries. (From Beijing Review 29/12/16)

UN recognition for Chinese Heritage

At UNESCO’s 40th session in July held at Istanbul, the World Heritage Committee announced the addition of China’s Zuojiang Huashan Rock Art Cultural Landscape and the Shennongjia Nature Reserve to the World Heritage List. The Huashan rock art is located in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and was created 200 million years ago. Shennongjia, in Hubei, is renowned for its high plant diversity and is a treasure house of wildlife. These additions bring the number of entities in China on the World Heritage list to 50.

The 24 solar terms, part of the traditional Chinese calendar, that guided agriculture, religious and social events were added to the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity on 30 November 2016. This brings the number of Chinese items on this list up to 31. (From Beijing Review 29/12/16).

World’s largest outbound tourism

China is now the world’s largest outbound tourist market with 117 million outbound tourists going to 151 countries according to the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA). Chinese tourists are known for their strong purchasing power and are granted visa waiver or visas on arrival in 57 countries and regions. Data shows that Chinese have been the world’s biggest spender on outbound travel for the last four years in a row. To meet the demand of more sophisticated Chinese tourists, some Chinese companies have formed partnerships with foreign counterparts to better penetrate the market. Last December, Figgy, an online platform with the Alibaba Group, reachd an agreement with VisitBritain whereby Figgy will help to promote British cultural experiences and travel amongst Chinese internet users. CNTA has figures to show that China’s tourist industry revenue hit 4.13 trillion RMB in 2015. There are plans to raise this to 7 trillion RMB by the year 2020. (State Council five-year plan 2016-2020. (From China Today February 2017)

Green intelligent building design

The real estate development branch of the Metallurgical Corp. of China (MCC) signed a cooperation agreement with Tsinghua University and Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd in Nanjing to develop systematic and integrated technical solutions for the construction of green intelligent buildings. The challenges faced include the high costs of development and operation and poor user experiences. Advanced technologies and applications encompassing the Internet of Things, sensor networks, cloud computing and community resources can be efficiently coordinated and also community resources can be improved. So far MCC Real Estate has applied technologies like haze prevention, degerming and dynamic temperature control in some property development projects in large cities such as Beijing, Tianjin, Nanjing and Guangzhou. (From Beijing Review 12/1/17)

China’s first charity law

The first charity law was passed on 16th March 2016, to prevent corruption and mismanagement of charities. This come after a series of scandals which eroded public trust. The law which took effect in September, clarifies the responsibilities and liabilities of different parties in charitable activities. It eases some restrictions and operational activities and offers tax benefits. It tightens supervision on the internal management of charitable organisations. Annual donations to registered charities in China soared from 10 billion yuan ($1.44 billion) to 100 billion yuan ($14.38 billion) over the past decade. The charity sector is supporting the government’s poverty alleviation campaign, which aims to lift all people above the poverty line by 2020. (From Beijing Review 29/12/16)

Efforts to narrow the urban-rural income gap

China will intensify policy support in the next five years to narrow the urban-rural income gap and double famers’ 2010 average per-capita income by 2020. Investment in agricultural infrastructure will be increased and also financial services in rural areas will be strengthened. More policies will be unveiled to support rural residents to explore entrepreneurship and innovation. More training will be provided to farmers in agricultural skills. Other measures include encouraging private investment in rural areas to broaden opportunities for farmers to increase their income, deepen the reform of rural collective property rights and inject new vitality into rural areas. The social safety net in rural areas will be improved, helping farmers to shake off poverty and live comfortably. China spent 20.36 billion yuan ($3.2 billion) in 2015 on developing modern agriculture; evidence of the nation’s efforts to deepen rural reform. (From Beijing Review 15/12/16)

China’s population target

China’s population is expected to be 1.42 billion by 2020, according to the National Health and Family Planning Commission. At the end of 2015, the population was about 1.37 billion. By 2020, the gender ratio of births is expected to fall to about 112 boys for every 100 girls with an overall annual growth rate of 6 per thousand persons. The commission called for more support for women returning to work after giving birth and encouraged employers to support a balance between work and family. (From Beijing Review 16/2/17)

Job creation and facilitation

The State Council, China’s cabinet plans to create over 50 million new urban jobs by 2020. Employment structure and quality will be improved and the urban unemployment rate kept below 5% in the same period of time. China will produce proactive employment policies and support those sectors which create plenty of jobs and promote entrepreneurship. Efforts will be intensified to help college graduates, farmers and those workers who are affected by overcapacity-cutting activities. Efficiency improvement, enhancing workers’ professional skills are also planned. Latest official figures show that 13 million urban jobs were created in 2016 and unemployment in cities was 4.02% (From Beijing Review 16/2/17)

Shanghai’s 100 millionth passenger

The 100 millionth passenger arrived at Pudong International Airport on flight MU592 on 12 December. Mr Mao Weiying greeted by the media and presented with an award. Shanghai, which has two international airports is now the fifth busiest city for air travel, after London, New York, Tokyo and Atlanta. (From Beijing Review 22/12/16)

White paper on traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)

The Chinese Government published is first white paper on TCM on 6th December 2016, detailing policies and development and highlighting its unique value in a new era. TCM has created unique views on life, fitness, disease and treatments in its very long history. As ideas about fitness and medical models have changed and evolved, TCM has become more and more profound in its value. TCM is now able to offer health services covering the whole life cycle. TCM and Western medicine have different strengths and they work together in China. By 2015, China had 3,966 TCM hospitals, 42,528 TCM clinics and 452,000 TCM practitioners and assistant practitioners.

They played an important role in the prevention and cure of major epidemics such as SARS, HIV/AIDS and Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease. With its relatively low costs, TCM provides a relatively high share of medical services in relation to resources. There were 900 million visits in 201 to TCM medical and health service units across the country. To date 60,000 TCM and ethnic minority medicines have been approved and 2,088 pharmaceutical enterprises have been licensed to manufacture Chinese patent medicines. (From Beijing Review 15/12/16)

Fuel standards upgraded

New standards for petrol and diesel fuel will be introduced nationwide in 2017 to cut emissions. From January, fuels must comply with the National V standard, which is equivalent to the European Euro V standard. Sales of substandard fuels will be halted. The National V standard was introduced before 2017 in major cities, but it was not made mandatory in most inland regions. It is hope that this measure will improve air quality.

Winter smog is commonplace in northern China and vehicle emissions are a major cause. More than 20 cities issued smog red alerts in December 2016. It is planned that the tougher National VI emission standard will be adopted by July 2020. (From China Today February 2017)

Electric vehicle (EV) chargers in China

The State Grid will build more charging facilities and expand public fast-charge networks. There are plans to provide 10,000 charging stations and 120,000 charging poles by 2020. The public fast-charge networks in major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou will have charging facilities each within a kilometre of each other. By 2015, the State Grid had built fast-charging networks covering 11,000 km of highways between major cities and there are plans to expand the networks to cover another 36,000 km of inter-city highways by 2020. An online system which helps EV drivers locate charging facilities has been connected to more than 80,000 charging poles. Altogether, China had 107,000 charging poles at the end of October 2016. This was an increase of 118% over a year before. China plans to have a nationwide charging system to meet the demands of five million EVs by 2020. (From Beijing Review 22/12/17)

The city of Hangzhou had by 29 December 2016 established an electric vehicle power charging network of 2,563 charging poles and 28 charging stations. (From Beijing Review 12/1/17)

Beijing bans polluting vehicles

From 15 February 2017, high-emission vehicles, that fail to meet the National Emission Standard III, will banned from entering the area within the fifth ring road of Beijing. Violators will be fined 100 yuan for every four hours they are in violation. Sub-standard cars will be taken off the road by annual inspection checks and new cars are now required to comply with the Beijing VI standard. This is higher than the National Emission Standard V and is equivalent the Euro VI, the strictest in China. Beijing’s vehicles 5.7 million vehicles account for 31% of the locally generated PM 2.5 particle matter, although the average density of this matter in the air during 2016 was 73 micrograms per cubic metre, 9.9% lower than the year before. (From Beijing Review 23/2/17)

The integrity of discipline watchdogs

Anti-corruption efforts targeting officials responsible for inspection and supervision departments will be toughened, in accordance with a Central Commission for Discipline Inspection session on 6-8 January 2017. The objective is to strengthen Party discipline. Discipline inspection officials are not immune to corruption and a documentary film on CCTV revealed the risk of officials becoming corrupted and the weak points in the governance of discipline inspection departments. Discipline inspection officials who violate Party discipline should not and will not receive special protection. Instead higher standards and stricter requirements should be imposed on these individuals. This will maintain the integrity of such inspection departments and gain the people’s trust. (From Beijing Review 26/1/17)

Robotics in China

Security officer AnBot on patrol at Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport stands out because it is China’s first ‘robotcop’. It came into service in August 2016 and can move at 18 km/hour. It has four security cameras, can track its own routes, can communicate with people and can recognise faces. When its battery is low, it can find a charging point and when fully charged, it can remain on patrol for eight hours. In an emergency, human officers can guide it by remote control to disable or disarm a target. In 2014, 212,590 service robots were sold in China, accounting for less than 5% of the world’s total, but this is changing rapidly. This is fuelled by strong support from national and provincial governments and rising demand from China’s rising middle class. Zhou Jie, a professor of mechanical engineering at Harbin Institute of Technology believes there will be an ‘explosion’ in the sale of robots. They will be used in the healthcare, education, entertainment, medical and defence industries - more than $4.4 billion (£3.5 billion) worth of robots by the year 2020. (From China Daily European Weekly 2-8/12/16)

The creator of pinyin passes away

The linguist, Zhou Youguang, who created the system of writing the pronunciation of Chinese characters using the Roman alphabet passed away on 14 January 2017, one day after his 111th birthday. He was born in Changzhou in Jiangsu province on 13 January 1906. He studied economics at St John’s University in Shanghai in the 1920s and then worked for a while in a bank in China before being sent abroad to work in London and New York in the 1930s and 1940s. On returning to Shanghai in 1949 he became a professor of economics at Fudan University and Shanghai University of Finance and Economics before becoming a linguist. In the late 1950s he joined a Beijing-based national committee to develop an alphabetical system for reading Chinese characters - the result was pinyin. Since then the system has become the method of writing Chinese characters using the Roman alphabet and a key tool for learners of modern standard Chinese. (From Beijing Review 26/1/17)

Research to find formaldehyde-based glue alternatives

Formaldehyde is present in certain adhesives used in building materials and furniture. It is widely believed that it is three to 15 years before all traces disappear (by evaporation) after the adhesive has been used. Exposure to relatively high levels may lead to cancer, but the exposure to lower levels is less clear. In China, the amount of formaldehyde coming from products made using formaldehyde based adhesives is capped at 1.5 milligrams per litre of air. This is more lenient than the limit in force in European, American and Japanese legislation, but many furniture companies still fail to meet it. Some furniture manufacturers are trying to find alternative products, not formaldehyde based, which can still allow furniture quality standards to be met. (From Beijing Review 26/1/17)

Coal burning to decrease

Joseph Jacobelli, a senior analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence stated on 5 January that China has set an annual target of clean and renewable energy consumption that is equivalent to the energy generated from 580 million tons of coal, according to the National Energt Administration. (From Beijing Review 19/2/17).

Electricity charging facilities for cars

Electric charging networks will be built in 11 cities in Zhejiang province and by the end of 2017, there will be a charging station every 2km in the urban districts of the 11 cities. At the end of 2016 there were 404 charging stations across the province in addition to charging facilities set up in service stations on the province’s major expressways. China is encouraging a switch to electric cars as part of the shift from coal burning to renewable energy sources for power generation. One of the main obstacles in this is the lack of charging facilities. (From Beijing Review 2/2/17)

Coal liquefaction

The world’s largest coal liquefaction plant went into production on 28 December 2016 in northwest China’s Ningxia Autonomous Region. It is able to turn more than 20 million tons of coal into 4 million tons of oil products each year. China is rich in coal, but lacks oil and gas. At present, more than 60% of its oil is imported. (From Beijing Review 5/1/17)

Cleaner energy

By the end of November 2016, 633 villages in Beijing had replaced coal with clean energy according to the Beijing Municipal Commission of Rural Affairs. Coal was replaced by electricity and natural gas in 574 and 89 of the villages respectively. The coal reduction contributed to a reduction in air pollution in the city, cutting about 3,400 tons of sulphur dioxide and 3,100 tons of nitric oxide during 2016. Beijing plans to replace coal with cleaner energy in a further 700 villages in 2017. In addition, coal burning will be phased out during 2017 in the following districts of Beijing: Chaoyang, Daxing, Fangshan, Fengtai, Haidian, Shijingshan and Tongzhou. (From Beijing Review 5/1/17)

Rural fibre optic network

The fibre optic network in China now covers more than 82% of rural villages. The objective is to raise this to 90% in the second half of 2017. In November 2015, more than 61 million rural households had access to the network, which was a 90% increase from one year before. In 2016, China began the huge task of installing fibre optic cables in more than 100,000 villages nationwide including 31,000 villages considered to be impoverished. Funding came from the public and private sectors and totalled 30 billion yuan ($4.4 billion). This year, a further 30,000 villages will be connected. Besides e-commerce, the installation of broadband internet will allow villages access to online healthcare, education and agricultural resources. (From Beijing Review 2/2/17)

Air purifiers in schools

Education authorities in Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei province are to install air purifiers in schools to protect students from pollution. Shijiazhuang is one of the most polluted cities in China. The pilot scheme will involve some kindergartens, primary and middle schools. More may be added to the scheme later. In mid-January, Zhengzhou, capital of Henan province announced that it would install air purifiers in all of its schools and kindergartens. Beijing has also urged its districts to begin the installation of purification systems in its schools. (From Beijing Review 2/2/17)

Social media playing a useful part in awareness in China

According to Patrick Haverman, Deputy County Director of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in China, social media is playing an increasing role in encouraging public participation in public welfare causes. Weibo’s significant media and celebrity resource and active user-interaction can make sustainable development goals (SDG) a public topic. He was referring to a $2.9 million partnership between Chinese microblogging platform, Weibo and the UNDP to promote SDGs. (From Beijing Review 26/1/17)

Paid leave for parental care?

Fujian province has recently issued a regulation stipulating that from 1 March employers will offer a maximum of 10 days’ paid leave per year for employees who are only children, to allow them to take care of their hospitalised parents who are above the age of 60 years. Although this is only a local regulation, it has been well received and hailed as a humane and caring act for one-child families. However, some have reservations about this issue and wonder whether it can actually be implemented. In addition, some believe that employers, who abide by this ruling, should get some compensation for any losses caused by people being absent from work. (From Beijing Review 16/2/17)

Gravitational waves telescope

China plans to construct the world’s highest gravitational wave telescope in Tibet. It will be capable of receiving the faintest echoes resonating from the universe and so reveal more about the Big Bang. Construction has already started 30 km south of Shiquanhe Town, Ngari Prefecture. The telescope, code-named Ngari No 1, is 5,250 metres above sea level and is expected to detect primordial gravitational waves in the Northern Hemisphere. The high altitude of the location and presence of minimal human activity makes it an ideal site for the telescope which, together with a second phase development, is expected to cost 130 million yuan and should be operational before 2021. A second phase development code-named Ngari No 2 involves a series of telescopes at an altitude of 6,000 metres. Although gravitation waves were first predicted by Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, 100 years ago, they were not actually detected until last year. (From China Today February 2017)

A Chinese radio telescope in Antarctica?

Chinese astronomers are applying for government funding to begin construction of a radio telescope in Antarctica. The proposed facility would be on a giant ice cap known as Dome A and would observe in the terahertz band of the electromagnetic spectrum. The waves in this area are too weak for ground-based observation. Temperatures at Dome A can fall as low as minus 80 degrees C but the extreme environment would be perfect. Dome A was set up by the Polar Research Institute of China and its partners. (From China Daily European Weekly 16-22/12/16)

SinoFile is compiled by Walter Fung.

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