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Chinese tourists’ growing passion to travel to the Polar Regions draw environmentalists concerns

Chinese tourists’ growing passion to travel to the Polar Regions draw environmentalists concerns

It is hard to name a place where there is no Chinese. They travel, study, work, and live in almost all countries and regions across the globe; and some even set their eyes to the universe.

As the so-called last “frontier” on the Earth, the Polar Regions – Antarctica and Arctic – naturally welcome many Chinese tourists as well. And the number has been rising, which has made experts concerned over the possible impact of the increasing population on the fragile regions – some of whom are ill-prepared for Polar expeditions.

Ever growing market

Speaking at the China Adventure Tourism Forum on Sept. 20, China Tourism Association (CTA) Secretary General Zhang Rungang said that China has become the world’s second largest country of passenger sources to Antarctica. In 2016, the number of Chinese tourists who traveled to Antarctica was 3,944, some 15 percent of the total.

Tens of thousands of tourists head to the Arctic region every year and about 1/4 or even half of those landing on the North Pole are Chinese, while tourists from East Asia heading to Greenland saw a 6 percent increase, according to Yao Songqiao, an expert polar explorer and environmentalist, at the forum held in Beijing by CTA and All-China Environment Federation.

That number could continue to grow, and travel agencies are readying themselves for the rising fervor. Several travel agencies reached by People’s Daily Online expressed their expectations on the sidelines of the forum, after they all claimed to have witnessed the rising number of customers heading to the Polar Regions.

Hurtigruten Cruises, a renowned ferry company from Norway, will launch a new cruise ship called the “MS Amundsen” to its cruise list for Antarctica trips in 2018, making it the company’s third Antarctica cruise ship.

Between 2015 and 2016, the only cruise ship of Hurtigruten, the “Fram,” hosted 186 Chinese passengers, while between 2016 and 2017 two cruise ships the “MS Midnatsol” and the “Fram” hosted 677 Chinese tourists.

With a full capacity of 500 passengers, the new cruise ship is expected to better meet the demand of the rising number of Chinese tourists, Liu Jie, manager of Hurtigruten China Representative Office, told People’s Daily Online.

According to Zhang Yong, chief design officer of Alibaba’s Fliggy, the company’s cooperation with Hurtigruten will bring up to 2,500 Chinese to Antarctica, and Fliggy is mulling the possibility of building its own cruise ship in the year after next.

“Price no longer constitutes a decisive role in the trip planning for many Chinese tourists. It is only natural to see more businesses setting their eyes on exploration of the Polar Regions for profits,” Zhen Hao, senior vice president of Chinese outdoor brand Toread, said at the forum.

With the world’s second largest tourist population to the Polar Regions, China currently has no cruise ships heading to the two poles. Cooperation with cruise companies like Hurtigruten is the only option.

“China should set up its own cruise or airliner to Antarctica so as to better cooperate with Chile or Argentina,” Zhang Qingsong, a researcher from the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said at the forum.

In addition, Zhang, one of the pioneers in setting up China’s first research stations in Antarctica, suggested that those stations, especially the Changcheng Station located at the northernmost part of Antarctica, should be open to Chinese visitors to respond to their patriotism and to better provide science education.

Passionate, not prepared

According to Fan Na, chief operating officer of luxury travel company Abercrombie & Kent in China, such a model is already in place, because tourists can visit some US research stations in Antarctica on their trips. Founded in 1962, the company began offering cruise trips to the Polar Regions in 1991 and has since been boasting professional guidance on various themed trips including climate change.

That is exactly what China has been missing.

“Polar Regions are for disciplined people only. It may not be the right time to be open for public visitors,” cried Zhang.

Even Zhen, a senior company executive with a background in higher education, admitted at the forum that he watched Chinese TV dramas during his first trip to Antarctica on the cruise, as he could not fully understand the English-speaking guidance on the ship. “China should participate more actively in expeditions to the Polar Regions, including introducing more experts to train tourists on such trips,” he added.

According to Yao, the Polar Regions are threatened not only by global warming, but by human activities elsewhere on the Earth. For example, carbon dioxide emissions could cause ocean acidification and gradually corrode shellfish and coral reefs – opening a Pandora’s Box that could jeopardize the food chain and ecological balance.

Meanwhile, melting sea ice in the Polar Regions would indicate a possible change in cruise stops. On the one hand, changes would mean more safety assessments by travel agencies and cruise companies, but on the other seeking a new cruise stop could also have an impact on wildlife and the habitat, she added.

The more immediate threat comes from tourists, even with the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty. It remains unclear how people’s “observations” on wildlife in the Polar Regions will shape the environment. Worse, there are some trips to the Polar Regions still promoting sales of local wildlife, and it is likely these animals were hunted and processed illegally, Yao noted.

The good news is that China is already taking steps to better regulate activities in the Polar Regions, including trips to Antarctica. Professor Dong Yue from Ocean University of China revealed at the forum that a regulation on non-scientific research activities in Antarctica is expected to be released later this year or early next year.

In May, China issued a regulation to assess the environmental impact of scientific expeditions in Antarctica.

“The call to environmental protection among tourists must go way beyond Polar Regions. The goal is to make them change their daily activity and live a carbon neutral life,” Yao said.

E-commerce boosting crab sales

Many domestic online-shopping sites such as JD.com Inc and Alibaba Group’s Tmall launched various sales promotion events on Saturday to mark the beginning of the season for freshwater crabs from famous lakes such as Yangchenghu in East China’s Jiangsu Province.

Boasting fast delivery that guarantees freshness, domestic e-commerce giants have driven up sales for crabs and fueled the formation of a market worth billions of dollars backed by the rising spending power of China’s middle class. However, competition is also on the rise, which some claim has harmed quality.

Tmall said in a statement on Sunday that during a pre-sales event on Thursday, it sold 140,000 hairy crabs within a minute, which it said was a new record for China’s fresh grocery industry. The statement added that China’s hairy crab market is now worth 100 billion yuan ($15 billion) and said that Yangchenghu crabs have become a national brand.

JD.com launched a pre-sales event in the week starting on September 11 and sold gift cards for two million crabs within the first 24 hours, according to a press release it issued on September 13. JD.com said it would deliver the crabs after the harvest began to more than 300 cities within 48 hours and 150 cities within 24 hours.

Fishermen in Jiangsu Province have said sales of their crabs are continuing to rise.

Dai Zezhi, a hairy crab farmer based in Xinghua, Jiangsu Province, told the Global Times over the weekend that sales had been “quite robust” in the past two days as demand peaks before the National Day Holiday and Mid-Autumn Festival.

“Compared with the same period of last year, sales of hairy crabs have soared, and there has been a rising trend for several years,” Dai said.

Another Jiangsu-based crab farmer surnamed Ming agreed. “Consumers and merchants from neighboring cities have been rushing to purchase Yangchenghu hairy crabs over the last two days, and we have sold about 1,500 kilograms so far, a significant increase over the sales volume last year,” Ming told the Global Times on Sunday.

Rising competition

Also on the rise is price, which is partly due to the fact that environmental issues have resulted in a smaller harvest of the crabs, according to Ming.

This is not entirely good news for Ming. He expressed concern about rising competition from other areas, such as crabs from nearby lakes that have been on sale for several weeks.

“Also, demand generally dives after the National Day Holiday, which may put pressure on profits,” Ming said.

According to media reports, the size of the farm in Yangchenghu, the origin of the famous hairy crabs, was cut by half this year and output has also seen significant declines. But hairy crabs from other lakes in Jiangsu and other provinces have been filling the massive market, thepaper.com reported on Sunday, adding that online shopping sites have signed up about 17 lakes that produce hairy crabs to sell the goods on their platforms.

“Obviously, with such fast-rising demand, especially in major cities across the country, there aren’t enough Yangchenghu crabs, so now we have all these different brands of hairy crabs emerging,” Liu Dingding, a Beijing-based independent Internet analyst, told the Global Times on Sunday.

Liu said he received 15 crab gift packages over the weekend. “Honestly, I got more hairy crabs than moon cakes,” he said, referring to the traditional cakes eaten during Mid-Autumn Festival, which falls on October 4 this year. “So of course, not all the Yangchenghu crabs out there are authentic and of high quality,” Liu said.

He said that while the rise of e-commerce business might have brought intensified competition for Yangchenghu crab fishermen, the overall trend is a good one for the industry and the economy, given its crucial role in expanding the market and boosting domestic spending.

“E-commerce has helped local crab farmers to reach a massive market that was out of reach for them before,” Liu said. “The demand comes mostly from the fast-growing middle class.”

But more importantly, with various sales promotion events, the online shopping sites have “really stimulated consumption, which is the key for our country’s economic growth as we move away from relying too much on [investment and exports] to spur growth,” Liu said.

Source: Global Times

Father and daughter admitted to same university

Fifty-one-year-old Peng Xianghu and his daughter from Hebei province were both admitted to the School of Science of Environmental Law at Hebei University of Environmental Engineering, Beijing Youth Daily reported on Sept. 25.

Peng dropped out of high school in 1983 because of family poverty. It has been hard for him to get a decent job without an education.

Peng decided to prepare for the National College Entrance Examination with his daughter, and fortunately, his dream came true.

A teacher at the college surnamed Wu noted that Peng is the oldest student that has ever been enrolled by the college.

Peng said that he discourages his daughter from establishing a romantic relationship during her three years at the college, adding that he hopes she will put more efforts in her study and they will encourage each other in the years to come.

As for future plans, Peng said he will take additional courses after his three years of study at the technical college and try to become a lawyer.

Seismic isolation technique being developed by China can eliminate most seismic energy

(The seismic isolation bearing under test   Photo/Thepaper.cn)

Seismic isolation based on space technology being developed by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) can effectively protect people’s life and property by eliminating 80 percent of the seismic energy, Science and Technology Daily reported on Sept. 22.

The traditional method is to tightly connect the building to its foundation, while the earthquake energy, transmitted to the superstructure, usually leads to vibration and deformation, You Junfeng, the chief expert researching solid rocket engines at CASC, introduced.

(Photo/Thepaper.cn)

The expert explained, however, that the bearing can firmly hold the building in place and effectively eliminate the deformation that is caused by the building moving back and forth with the transverse wave motion of the earthquake. This means the building can still be used afterward.

The technique is to install a seismic isolation bearing that is highly deformable between the superstructure of the building and its foundation, without altering its architectural design.

The product has passed the inspection of Huazhong University of Science and Technology and has reached an advanced level in China. And the technique has won international recognition for its ability to isolate vibrations and because of its relatively low cost.

Statistics show that the utilization rate of the technique has reached 10 percent in the United States and Italy and over 50 percent in Japan.

Pet boarding business booms in China before National Day break

(File photo)

The pet boarding business is booming in China thanks to the upcoming 8-day National Day holiday break, starting from Oct. 1. According to Guangzhou Daily, pet sitting services at many pet clinics or pet stores are already fully booked.

Statistics from Jiangsu Small Animal Veterinary Association showed that 8% of families in first- and second-tier cities of China are keeping pets.

Though pet sitting services are in high demand right now, most places have not raised their prices.

However, the Guangdong Pet Industry Association has reminded people to pay attention to boarding contracts, since pet boarding is still an immature business in China that lacks regulations and codes of practice.

An employee of a pet store told Guangzhou Daily that it only receives small-sized pets of less than 10 kilograms, but the service has been fully booked for the National Day holiday. The employee said holidays are the peak time for such services and advanced booking is necessary.

Most of the boarding service providers only offer less than 20 boarding rooms for pets, and those for large pets are in even more limited supply because they take up too much space.

Pet boarding services offers a convenience to pet owners, but many still adopt a wait-and-see attitude. Some of them worry that their pets may not adapt well to the new environment, while others express their concerns over the sanitary condition of the boarding platforms.

China dispatches 2,609 policemen for UN peacekeeping missions, most among permanent members

China has sent 2,609 policemen for United Nations peacekeeping missions so far, dispatching the largest number of peacekeeping personnel among the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

China sent its first peacekeeping force of 15 policemen on January 12, 2000, to East Timor, finishing the “debut” of its UN peacemaking mission.

Seventeen years later, China’s peacekeeping forces have left their footprints in nine countries: Afghanistan, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Kosovo, Cyprus, Liberia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Haiti.

The security of a country relies on world security, and it is not supposed to be established on the insecurity of other countries. The comprehensive participation in international police affairs, joint promotion of global security governance, and cooperation to maintain world peace and stability have become an inevitable development of history.

All of the 300 members of China’s standby police force of UN peacekeeping missions have been incorporated into the UN Peacekeeping Capability Readiness System, which means the force is ready to be deployed for overseas peacemaking missions at anytime.

Political instability, warfare, harsh climates, and medicine shortages are routine issues for peacekeeping troops. But these difficulties have never discouraged Chinese peacekeeping troops.

Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations of the UN, lauded Chinese peacekeeping troops after inspecting a drill of the force at the end of June. He believes that the Chinese force will do well and set an example for future missions.

China to face shortage of 3 million robot operators by 2020

China, the world’s largest market of industrial robots in the past 5 years, is estimated to face a shortage of around three million robot operators by 2020, said a guideline on the development of the country’s manufacturing talents.

The guideline, jointly issued by the country’s Ministry of Education (MOE), Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (MHRCS), and Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), predicted that the shortfall will further expand to 4.5 million by 2025.

“Automated production is not to merely replace workers with robots, but to introduce more skilled operators of the machines,” said Wang Xiwen, director of a smart manufacturing institute under the MIIT.

The scarcity of highly skilled technicians has become a barrier for the transformation and upgrading of China’s manufacturing industry, he added.

“The development of enterprises has been seriously hindered by the inadequate skills of robot operators,” said Wu Bin, general manager of a factory engaged in the manufacturing of precise instruments based in Dongguan, Guangdong province.

Technical upgrades have never been a problem for Wu in the past decade, but the man is now worried about recruitment.

Statistics show that the number of professionals in Chinese manufacturing enterprises above the designated size only account for less than 10% of the country’s working population. In addition, the number of highly-skilled personnel with a master degree or above only makes up 2% of the total.

According to Su Hainan, vice president of the Chinese Association for Labor Studies, industrial environment, educational system, salary system, and social traditions all contribute to the improvement of labor force skills.

“The insufficient number of qualified technicians is the main reason for the recruitment problem,” Su said.

On the other hand, frontier jobs in workshops are not the first choice for most of the highly-skilled professionals.

A fresh graduate from Quanzhou College of Technology named Wang Xiaofu told Xinhua News Agency that most of his classmates would rather be engaged in marketing than to be working in a factory, believing that being a worker is an unpromising job.

Related departments have made plans to improve the ratio of highly educated personnel in manufacturing to 22% by 2020, and the highly skilled employees will make up to 28% of the total labor force.

However, to fill the three million shortfall in three years is not an easy task. Experts believe that enhancing the education of skilled technicians is the key to solving this problem.

Su said, the current education methods and curriculums of most of the vocational colleges are not able to meet the demands of the modern manufacturing, adding that reform is imperative.

China’s grain possession per capita surpasses world average by 47 kilograms

China’s grain possession per capita surpassed the world average by 47 kilograms in 2016, with its total grain output reaching 600 billion kilograms for four consecutive years, said Han Changfu, China’s Minister of Agriculture, on Sept. 21.

Han made the remarks at the opening ceremony of the 15th China International Agricultural Trade Fair (CATF).

The minister hailed the great development of the country’s rural economy. The per-capita disposable income of farmers increased by 8% annually, reaching 12,000 RMB ($1,820) in 2016.

With the deepening structural adjustment of agriculture, the country cut nearly 2 million hectares of corn production in 2016 and scaled up 56% of the husbandry industry.

Green agriculture also saw a big leap over the last year, with zero growth of pesticide use and near-zero growth of fertilizer use.

In addition, the number of new-type agricultural entities has reached 2.8 million in 2016, with a rural e-commerce transaction volume of over 220 billion RMB, Han introduced, adding that the revenue of leisure agriculture and rural tourism totaled 570 billion RMB.

CAFT has been held for 15 years annually since 2003. The business volume of the fair increased to 69.9 billion RMB in 2015 from 15 billion RMB 15 years ago, making the event a significant symbol of China’s market-oriented agriculture.

Combustible ice discovered in South China Sea

Chinese scientists discovered combustible ice in the South China Sea for the first time during an expedition to the region conducted by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, China’s state television broadcaster CCTV reported on Sept. 22.

The natural gas hydrates, exposed at two points on the seabed 1,100 meters below the sea, were discovered by a deep-sea laser probe carried by the unmanned submersible “Faxian.”

Statistics show that the rapidly generated natural gas hydrates contain substantial amounts of free gas such as methane and hydrogen sulfide. It is also the first time for scientists to reach the conclusion through in-situ data of Raman spectra.

The scientific result has been published in the scientific journal Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems on Friday.