Modernization of rural China

China’s ongoing trend of agricultural upgrades is creating diversified jobs in rural areas including drone operators and livestream broadcasters, and their participation is not only drastically improving production efficiency but also boosting agricultural product sales.

Wu Di, a 20-year-old drone operator at Jiuyang Agricultural Machine Cooperative in Heling township, East China’s Jiangxi Province, is a rising star in the country’s modern agriculture industry.

Wu, after substantial training and practice, now operates three farming drones to spray pesticides over a total of 1,300 mu (86.7 hectares) of farmland that is owned by the cooperative.

“A drone is able to cover 200 mu to 300 mu of land every day, which means [the workload of the cooperative’s 1,300 mu of farmland] can be completed by three drones within just two days,” Wu explained.

That compares with the past situation, when five rural workers collectively could only spray pesticides on 100 mu of farmland a day, according to the cooperative’s president Li Xiaojun.

“Sometimes workers are also exposed to risk of sunstroke and intoxication, and we also have a hard time recruiting farmers in busy seasons,” Li was quoted as saying in a report by the Xinhua News Agency, noting that the new jobs of drone operators, therefore, could help save time and labor costs.

Meanwhile, drones have gradually been gaining market recognition. And Wu noted that they are now “in great demand.”

Unimaginable production

In addition to drones, the application of smart technologies is also reshaping the way agricultural products are being cultivated across China.

In a planting base in Gao’ao, Jiangxi, cameras and wireless sensor systems have been installed above and underneath every five to 10 mu of farmland, which can collect and monitor in-time crop data.

The data then serves as a basis for big data analysts to help them achieve precision fertilization and irrigation so as to improve farming efficiency.

Xiao Wen, president of Jiangxi Bafulo Eco-agricultural Science and Technology Co and manager of the planting base, said that the sensors boast the advantage of ultra-low power consumption, with a battery life as long as 20 years.

“In traditional agriculture, farmers live at the mercy of [natural disasters and erratic weather], but in modern agriculture, it’s all about using technologies to maintain precision management in farming,” said the 51-year-old manager.

Experts also noted that after agricultural products go into the market, further big data is collected to guarantee the establishment of a sound product safety traceability system.

Such data is collected when customers actually purchase the products in supermarkets. For example, consumers can scan the QR code attached to vegetable and fruit packaging to learn about the growing process of the plants as monitored by the cameras. This is also an efficient way to lift sales.

In the high-end market, consumers can also view information about the climate conditions and surrounding environments of products when scanning the QR code, for example the average duration of sun exposure of a vegetable, Lei Yingguo, a rice farmer in Jiangxi’s Leifang, was quoted as saying in the Xinhua report.

And because of such detailed information, Lei is able to sell his rice at 37.6 yuan ($5.8) per kilogram, higher than the market average of 10 yuan per kilogram, according to Lei.

Promotion strategies

With regard to market sales, poor rural workers have also come up with creative marketing strategies to attract consumers and promote product sales.

“Dear friends, please check out and learn how our farmers are making delicious local dried bamboo shoots here – I’m drooling,” Jiang Jinlin said as he began livestreaming via a mobile application in Jiangxi’s Hengfeng county over the weekend.

Thanks to his accent skits and humorous impersonations, his livestreaming attracts thousands of fans in just the first few minutes of every broadcast.

The 39-year-old farmer is seen as an “internet celebrity” in the agricultural sector and promoting local crops to his fans has become a daily routine.

And through his livestreaming, the agricultural products of 200 households in 500 nearby villages have been sold elsewhere in China.

More and more agricultural internet celebrities like Jiang are now budding across China, opening more sales channels for agricultural products while reflecting a shift in the mindsets of farmers toward the rising internet economy, the Xinhua report said.

Tourist attraction

At the same time, village tourism in rural Jiangxi is also becoming a new source of revenue, as more residents in villages change their professions.

Wan’an county in Jiangxi is home to dozens of farmer painters, with more expected to join the industry in the coming years. In 2013, local authorities invested more than 70 million yuan so art teachers could go to villages and train local residents. That money also went toward the building of relevant facilities.

In 2017, Wan’an’s booming farmer painting sector attracted 500,000 tourists, helping local families that provide home stay services to rake in lucrative profits.

Xiao Qun, a local farmer painter whose paintings feature local landscapes and capture the scenes of harvesting, made 100,000 yuan by selling paintings in 2017, according to the Xinhua report.

Similar to Wan’an, the talents of farmers in Jiangxi’s Genling village are attracting tourists from major cities and helping to generate bigger incomes, thanks to the village’s 500-year-old traditional paintings that depict autumn harvesting. Those paintings are created when farmers use rice as the underpainting and colorful agricultural products as the pigment.

“We now can make 2,000 yuan a month, much more than our incomes from farming, and it’s also easier,” said a local villager named Cao Xiuyun.

Source: Global Times

 

North Korea’s tourism sector set to thrive as country develops coastal regions

The Wonsan-Kalma area in North Korea’s Kangwon Province, best known for its four-kilometer sandy beach resort called Myongsasipri and its modern international airport that was completed in 2015, is helping to drive the country’s coastal tourism.

According to the Korean Central News Agency, a tourist resort taking up hundreds of hectares is being built in the area. And such facilities including a dozen hotels, beaches, open stages and national culture experience zones are to become available there.

About 180 kilometers away from Pyongyang, Wonsan, a rising port city with both beautiful natural sights and well-developed urban infrastructure rarely seen in the country, is expected to become the second most popular city after the capital, the Korea Economic Daily reported.

North Korea’s development plans for Wonsan were initiated as early as 2014. Containing 160 pages in nearly 30 brochures, the plans were released by the Wonsan Zone Development Corporation in Korean, Chinese, Russian and English in 2015 and 2016, Reuters reported in October 2017.

South Korean experts have said that the reason why Wonsan is being rapidly developed is because it is the best place in the country to be transformed into a sightseeing spot within a short period of time.

Griffin Che, founder of INDPRK, a travel company that runs tours to North Korea, told the Global Times that the country’s coastal cities have huge potential.

Take Wonsan as an example. Because it boasts obvious advantages in terms of urban planning, location and population quality, it is a suitable tourist resort, Che said.

At the moment, there are only three coastal cities that have been developed in North Korea – Nampo, Wonsan and Rason, with many other coastal cities and small islands to be developed in the near future.

According to naenara.com.kp, the official web portal of the North Korean government, North Korea considers tourism development as significant to strengthening mutual understanding and cultural exchanges between the country and people from around the world as well as to contributing to the nation’s economic development on the basis of freedom, peace and friendship.

The website divides the nation’s tourism resources into nine different categories including Pyongyang – the center of politics, economy and culture – Mount Kumgang and Mount Myohyang, where picturesque mountains lie as well as the aforementioned coastal cities.

New travel trend

“I think traveling to North Korea made me look like a cool person,” a Chinese woman surnamed Shan told the Global Times, recalling her travel experience to North Korea with her parents from Dandong, a border city in Northeast China’s Liaoning Province, in the summer of 2016.

“In my heart, North Korea is a country full of mystery where Westerners find it difficult to enter,” Shan said, noting that her parents wanted to see “what the other socialist society looked like,” which is sometimes dubbed “China in the past.”

Che from INDPRK said the majority of Chinese tourists traveling to North Korea are middle-aged and the elderly, most of whom feel nostalgic about China prior to economic reform, while some are the family members or descendants of Chinese volunteer soldiers who fought in the Korean War.

Other international North Korea travel groups are operated by and attract youngsters who are curious about the isolated country, which is very different from most countries in the world, Che noted.

“Of the more than 100,000 international tourists that travel to North Korea on an annual basis, those from China roughly account for 80 percent,” he said.

Simon Cockerell, general manager of Koryo Tours, a British-run company specializing in DPRK travel, was quoted as saying in a New York Times report that of the 4,000 to 5,000 Western tourists who visited North Korea each year, 20 percent came from the US before a ban on American travelers on September 1, 2017.

For the majority of travel agencies running tours to North Korea, their itineraries typically include Kim II-sung Square, Juche Tower and the Mangyongdae Revolutionary Museum in Pyongyang as well as Kaesong’s Panmunjom, where the historic Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Reunification of the Korean Peninsula was jointly signed by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in on April 27.

“These traditional tour routes have stayed basically unchanged over the past decade,” Che noted.

However, some novel “specialized tour routes” have been emerging in recent years, including an in-depth tour during the International Workers’ Day holiday, said Che.

During the newly launched specialized tour, tourists this year can set foot on North Korea’s farmlands to experience “new socialist villages” plus a visit to the dormitories of textile mill workers to learn about their daily lives.

Still, only authorized tours are permitted in the country.

“No matter which route you take, whether it be a customized tour by two persons or a group tour, it is largely restricted,” Che said, noting that every tour needs at least two local tour guides and all trips outside the set tours are prohibited.

Rich in tourism resources

North Korea raked in between $30.6 million and $43.6 million from tourism in 2014, the year the country’s GDP stood at just $30 billion, CNBC reported in 2015, citing a report by the Korea Maritimes Institute, a think tank based in South Korea.

North Korean tourism has huge growth potential, seeking to attract 2 million visitors each year by 2020, the CNBC report said.

Zheng Liaoji, a professor at Eastern Liaoning University in Dandong, told the Global Times that North Korea has rich tourism resources, including beautiful natural resources and cultural relics such as the historical architecture built during the Koryo Dynasty (918-1392).

“In fact, North Korea is a suitable place to develop all-region tourism. The [current] travel itinerary does not have to focus only on Mount Kumgang and Kaesong [capital city during the Koryo Dynasty] since other areas also have good views,” said Zheng.

“The biggest advantage of North Korean tourism is its ‘controversial’ features, which enable tourists to feel a different political and social atmosphere,” Che noted.

Shan, the aforementioned Chinese traveler, also told the Global Times that “quite a few postcards sold in North Korea feature the country’s unique revolutionary slogans.”

Tourism “will drive investment and consumption, as it’s beneficial to improving the country’s image,” Che believes.

However, development restrictions also exist. As far as Zheng is concerned, poor infrastructure, especially in the transport sector, tends to be a major obstacle.

“The reception ability of [the resorts] is also limited,” Shan said.

Zhao Juecheng, Mang Jiuchen and Ding Yuqing contributed to this story.

Source: Global Times

Scientists reveal panda’s long-lost lineage after extracting DNA from ancient skull

Chinese scientists revealed long-lost panda lineage by extracting DNA from a 22,000-year-old skull, and this discovery may help unearth the species’ evolution.

Scientists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology discovered the mysterious relative in South China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, according to a statement sent to the Global Times by the institute.

It said the panda’s relative was located in Cizhutuo. It is the oldest panda that has received gene sequencing so far.

Researchers analyzed the fossil using DNA fragments. By comparing its outer membrane or mitochondria with 138 present-day bears and 31 ancient bears, scientists discovered that the Cizhutuo panda shares the closet genetic relationship with current giant pandas.

And results also show that the split between ancestors of Cizhutuo panda and the ancestor of present-day pandas goes back about 144,000 years.

The research also shows that the Cizhutuo panda belongs to a different mitochondrial lineage.

Fu said that a comparison between the Cizhutuo panda’s nuclear DNA to present-day genome-wide data would allow a more thorough analysis of the evolutionary history of the Cizhutuo panda, as well as its shared history with present-day pandas.

The discovery is of vital importance to obtaining the giant panda’s ancient nuclear DNA, which is significant to accurately determine the species’ evolutionary history, the institute said.

As the population of giant pandas drops, gene rebuilding alone is impossible to describe the evolutionary history of this species, it noted.

We also need to sequence more DNA from various ancient pandas to capture how their genetic diversity has changed over time, and how did these changes relate to their current, much more restricted and fragmented habitat, Fu said.

She said getting genome-wide data also helps us understand what happened to them in the past.

Fu said her next goal is to get the nuclear genome of the southern giant pandas, whether it be from the Guangxi skull or from related fossils.

Today, pandas only live in China’s southwestern subtropical bamboo forests. The animal is considered a national treasure in China, yet few people really know how the giant panda evolved, the Xinhua News Agency reported in January.

Since giant pandas are confined to China, many researchers had assumed China to be the origin of the panda family. Some fossils support this idea.

In the 1980s, Chinese scientists discovered dental specimens of the primal panda in Lufeng in China’s southwestern Yunnan Province. The fossils, dating back eight million years, suggest the primal panda was the oldest known panda and gave rise to the panda line.

Source: Global Times

 

China’s economy heads toward high-quality development

China has made new achievements on its way to high-quality economic development as indicated by economic data released in May. Since the beginning of 2018, the Chinese economy has maintained stable performance with good momentum for growth.

The country’s macro economy is shown to be developing in a stable manner. The country’s GDP, for example, has kept a growth rate between 6.7% and 6.9% for 11 consecutive quarters. As a result of deepening structural reform, The utilization rate of industrial capacity by enterprises above designated size reached 76.5% in the first quarter of 2018, 0.7% higher than the previous year. In addition, the unemployment rate in urban areas dropped by 0.1% to 4.8% on both a yearly and monthly basis.

Micro economy in the country has also been growing steadily. Indicators including the total electricity consumption and volume of railway freights kept growing, reflecting the continuous expansion of Chinese enterprises.

By mid-March, the number of market entities in China had exceeded 100 million, over 31 million of which were enterprises.

From January to April of this year, the total profit of enterprises above designated size increased by 15 percent, thanks to a series of beneficial tax policies which have lowered the cost of real economy and injected more energy to push forward the transformation and upgrading of the country’s economy.

Along with the vigorous development came an enhanced confidence of the market. The entrepreneur confidence index climbed to 75.8% in the second quarter, up from 74.2% in the first three months of 2018, according to the People’s Bank of China (PBOC). By the end of May, Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) in manufacturing sector had stayed above the threshold of 50.0 for 23 consecutive months.

China’s economy fundamentals have stayed positive thanks to resilience and having enough room to maneuver, said Du Feilun, director of the situation analysis department at the Macro Economic Research Institute under the National Development and Reform Commission of China.

With solid foundations and enormous potential for sustainable development, China’s economy will continue to rise amid dynamic and balanced development.

Bullet train drivers from Belt and Road countries train in Wuhan

Over 60 train drivers from 13 Belt and Road countries arrived in Wuhan, central China’s Hubei province, on June 12 to receive driver training for high-speed rail.

They are studying at a training center that has offered courses to almost 400 professionals in 14 separate batches since 2015. For many of them, it’s not the first time they have been to the training facility.

The center has 15 simulated driver cabins that are built to a real life scale. Real-action 3-D animations are displayed on the “window shields” of the cabins. Using these cabins, the trainees can get an authentic experience of what driving a bullet train is like.

“This is an amazing experience that I’ve dreamed about,” said a driver from Sri Lanka, “I’ll share it with my family, friends, and colleagues when I get home.”

“We want to give our foreign friends a comprehensive and accurate introduction to China’s high-speed trains so they have a better knowledge of our country and the technology,” said Ren Haiyun, director of the center’s teaching research department.

Mahjong course offered in Australian elementary school

An elementary school in Brisbane, Australia recently started a Mahjong course for students’ parents, Global Times Online reported.

The course is taught by a Chinese parent named Jing Ning, aiming to introduce Chinese culture to and provide leisure activities for other parents. Jing has even bought a Mahjong table from Taobao, an online shopping site under China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba.

As a matter of fact, online shopping is gradually changing the Australian lifestyle. Last July, Alibaba’s e-commerce platform Tmall entered Australia, enabling local consumers to order goods directly from China.

In addition, e-commerce is also a channel to export Chinese culture. An Australian recently bought a dragon boat as a gift for the upcoming Dragon Boat Festival, a traditional Chinese festival commemorating fealty and filial piety.

Chinese enterprises invest $835 million on advertising for 2018 World Cup

Chinese enterprises have invested $835 million on advertising for this year’s Russia FIFA World Cup, according to statistics released by Zenith Group, a firm that provides top echelon services in market research information and data analysis.

This figure accounts for nearly 35 percent of total sponsorship deals signed for this year’s quadrennial football competition.

Zenith said that the 2018 FIFA World Cup is a grand event for Chinese brands, even though the Chinese team won’t be competing this year.

“China plays a significant role in our strategy to promote global development of football, and its participation is indispensable,” said FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura. According to Samoura, in FIFA’s 2.0 strategy, it has proposed to increase participation in football to 60 percent of the global population by 2026. Therefore, FIFA must focus its attention on China, a country with 1.4 billion potential soccer fans.

The World Cup has always been the top money-making sports event. According to leading global information and measurement company Nielsen, about 55 percent of people are willing to buy products from World Cup sponsors, and 60 percent of them believe in the influence of these brands.

For Chinese enterprises, sponsoring the sporting event is like being given a giant key to the overseas market, that will gain them more access to global consumers. More and more Chinese brands have begun their promotion in the sporting field, and this high input can always be turned into profit.

Chinese male clothing brand DIKING is on the sponsors list for this year’s World Cup. It is the world’s first formal wear brand to sponsor the event. President of the company, Lyu Qi, said that sponsorship not only reflects the company’s strategy of overseas expansion, but also suggests that Chinese brands have comparable power to international first-class companies. The formal wear company plans to double its revenue within a year through the World Cup sponsorship.

Chinese property and entertainment conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group is now a top-tier partner. It signed a $150 million sponsorship deal in 2016, which will allow the company to enjoy all advertising and marketing rights of FIFA World Cup matches in 2018, 2022, 2026 and 2030.

Four pieces of precious ornament returned to Old Summer Palace

Four pieces of precious white marble ornament were returned to China’s Ruins of Yuanmingyuan, known in English as the Old Summer Palace, on June 12. A returning ceremony was held in Beijing the same day.

The four pieces were discovered at a construction site in Qinghe, Haidian District of Beijing, and kept by the local subdistrict government. The Old Summer Palace later confirmed that these pieces did in fact come from the Palace and requested their return.

The Old Summer Palace was a complex of imperial palaces and gardens during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), and is well-known for its exquisite architecture and works of art. It was completely destroyed in 1900 when the forces of the Eight-Nation Alliance invaded Beijing.

China’s transport aircraft Y-20 completes next level of training

China’s largest domestically-developed transport aircraft Y-20 recently completed its first airborne jump and airdrop training together with airborne troops of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, said the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), Ltd. on its official micro-blog page on June 11.

The PLA Air Force’s official micro-blog account had previously released similar news on May 8, and this post by AVIC is more like a confirmation. However, the photos released by the AVIC indicate that the aircraft has now conducted heavy equipment airdrop training, which was not concluded in the previous report.

Military experts say that heavy equipment airdrop tests are of great significance to the PLA airborne troops in improving their combat capability, since airborne troops are consistently a “trump card” in real battle.

The term “heavy equipment airdrop” refers to airdropping heavy weapons and equipment weighing over one ton. It’s essential for the remote maneuverability and fire assault capacity of modern airborne troops.

The Y-20 is able to airdrop an eight-plus-ton ZBD-03 airborne armored infantry fighting vehicle (IFV). The aircraft is designed to carry multiple airborne combat vehicles and airdrop heavy-load equipment. However, further drills are needed to test such capability.

Chinese e-commerce indispensable to Russian consumers: Putin

Chinese e-commerce platforms have become an indispensable part of life to Russian consumers, Russian President Vladimir Putin told the China Media Group in a recent interview.

The Russian President spoke highly of China’s achievements in digital economy, saying he was impressed by the country’s internet of things and e-commerce.

AliExpress, an online retail service provided by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, is currently the most popular e-shopping site in Russia. One in every six Russian residents has made at least one purchase on the site.

It is the largest e-commerce platform in Russia, and has even “forced” the development of local infrastructure such as logistics and payment.

The Russian government is now determined to develop its own digital economy after seeing the changes brought by e-commerce. For three consecutive years, chairman of Alibaba Jack Ma has been invited to important Russian forums. His viewpoints in digital economy, cross-border e-commerce and globalization of small enterprises have made a splash in Russian society.

Russia is currently ramping up attention to its own digital economy and deepening cooperation with Chinese enterprises like Alibaba. Last October, Prime Minister of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev, said that the country will share Alibaba’s experience in digital economy and globalization, and will work to embrace more changes.