Freight trains draw China closer to the world

(file photo)

Freight trains have become an important link between China and European, Central Asian, and South Asian countries, as Lanzhou, capital city of northwest China’s Gansu province, gears up to become an international trade and logistics center along the Belt and Road.

In 2015, thirty-eight freight trains set out from Lanzhou, and the number increased to 104 in 2016. By mid-July this year, the number of freight trains had surpassed the whole number of last year, said Xu Chunhua, director of Lanzhou International Trade and Logistic Park.

The park, planned in 2013 and put into use in 2016, was aimed at becoming an international logistics pivot under the Belt and Road Initiative and an important platform to open up the country westward.

Last year, the park handled 5 million tons of cargo worth $300 million in total. This year, the park plans to complete 8 million tons of cargo valued at $1 billion, Xie said.

“The park has five core functions with a total investment of 10.5 billion yuan ($1.6 billion),” said Luo Zhe, deputy director of the park’s administrative committee. Other services, such as containers, special cargo, and bulk cargo have been formulated and put into operation, Luo added.

To date, more than 4,000 freight train journeys have been made between 28 Chinese cities and European and central Asian cities, and about 9 journeys are made per day, said Chang Ming, deputy director of the freight department under the Lanzhou Railway Bureau.

Lanzhou is the main junction of several railways and is a must-go spot linking Chinese cities with their European, Central Asian and South Asian counterparts, Chang pointed out.

In January 2016, the Gansu Government and the General Administration of Customs signed a memorandum on cooperation, agreeing to forge the Lanzhou Railway container center into a national station for China-Europe freight trains.

Under the framework of the Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, China has opened several freight services between Gansu and European and Central Asian cities in recent years.

In August 2015, a freight train service between Hamburg, Germany, and Lanzhou opened. It takes about 15 days to travel the track to Hamburg, fifteen days less than travel by sea.

In 2016, the Lanzhou International Trade and Logistic Park launched international freight train services to Central Asian countries, including Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Two to three journeys are made every week and 104 journeys have been made by 4,455 trains so far, delivering 103,000 tons of exports with a total value of $198 million.

China’s freight train services have also connected Nepal and Pakistan, and radiated India, Bangladesh, and other South Asian countries. Last year, 295 trains made 10 journeys between China and the South Asian countries, delivering over 10,000 tons of exports with a total value of $88.5 million.

Currently, Lanzhou is preparing to launch a second freight train service to South Asia. The new line will start from Lanzhou and travel through Kashgar in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region to the Gwadar Port of Pakistan.

Trump’s visit set to strengthen ties

The upcoming visit of US President Donald Trump will help yield positive results in Sino-US bilateral economic ties, experts forecast on Thursday.

In response to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s invitation, Trump is expected to pay a state visit to China this year, Geng Shuang, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said during a press conference on Wednesday.

During Trump’s visit, the two leaders will discuss long-term plans and the basis of China-US relations, He Weiwen, an executive council member at the China Society for the WTO, told the Global Times on Thursday. “Trump will bring up some urgent issues, such as the Korean Peninsula crisis. But in terms of the economy, the talks will center on trade, investment and global economic growth,” He said.

A key priority for Xi and Trump will be to further strengthen China-US strategic cooperation and to come up with a plan to bring North Korea back to peaceful dialogue and reduce military tensions in the Korean Peninsula, Rajiv Biswas, chief economist for IHS Markit Asia-Pacific, told the Global Times on Thursday.

However, the US government should realize that playing the North Korea card to put pressure on China over trade issues would be useless, He Weiwen noted. “The US holds the key to solving the Korean Peninsula crisis, not China,” he said. He also suggested that the two sides should keep trade issues separate from geopolitical ones.

The US has long had a trade deficit with China, and rebalancing bilateral trade relations has been one focus of the Trump administration.

The US’ exports to China recorded $115.6 billion in 2016 while it imported $462.6 billion worth of goods from China, according to the US Census Bureau, resulting in a trade deficit of $347 billion.

“China has never sought a trade surplus with the US. The current situation is completely market-driven,” Gao Feng, spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, told a press briefing on Thursday.

From January to August, China imported $100.4 billion worth of goods from the US, up 20.1 percent year-on-year, Gao noted. The growth rate was much higher than that of the overall bilateral trade volume or China’s exports to the US.

The upcoming visit of Trump to China will be an important opportunity to strengthen bilateral economic cooperation and improve understanding on a wide range of trade issues, Biswas noted.

Common ground

The meeting between Xi and Trump in the US in April set a good example for China-US dialogue, and the 100-day trade plan could be further extended, Diao Daming, an assistant research fellow at the Institute of American Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Thursday. Under the plan, China has allowed more market access to the US in sectors such as finance, agriculture and energy.

“China may have a trade surplus with the US, but the US gains most of the benefits,” Diao said, noting that US companies operating in China have gained growing profits, and some of them have played an active role in promoting stable China-US relations.

Some trade frictions exist in sectors such as steel and rubber, but this will not change the fundamentals of bilateral trade and investment, Diao said.

“The upcoming visit will also shed light on emerging sectors such as high tech, cyber security and intellectual property rights,” he remarked.

China’s rapid growth in technology has generated increasing benefits for domestic companies, which may become strong competitors for their US counterparts. “This is what the US government is really afraid of,” Diao noted.

More open market

An important focus for the two leaders will be to strengthen their commitment to liberalize trade in more goods and services under bilateral trade agreements, noted Biswas.

“Key areas where the US may be able to gain more access to the fast-growing Chinese consumer market are in agricultural commodities and processed foods, as well as in financial services,” he said.

“But the US should realize that it will be more and more difficult to grant foreign investors super-national treatment as China pursues economic reforms and sees rising labor costs,” he noted.

Still, experts forecast that talks on the Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) may not gain pace despite Trump’s visit. “The major obstacle to BIT negotiations comes from the US Congress,” Diao noted.

Source: Global Times

From coal minor to sand fighter: Old man persists in desertification control saying he wants to pay back the earth

Wang Hengxing, an 81-year-old rich business owner devoted to desertification control has turned a large area of desert in Miaomiao Lake Village, Pingluo County, northwest China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, into an eco-tourism area.

“All I have done is paid the debt to earth,” said Wang, who has invested all his hard-earned money into the undertaking.

Starting second career in seventies

Wang undertook his second career of deforestation control through planting trees in the 70s. Before then he was head of a coal enterprise with a fortune of over 100 million yuan ($15.3 million).

Despite no initial support from family and the difficult conditions of the desert, he persisted in his career.

The sand fighter unremittingly led people to plant trees, dig irrigation ditches, and lay drip watering pipes in the desert. Years of hard work also consumed his health.

To pay the debt to earth

The Miaomiao Lake Village was covered by a large area of desert in the past, while now it is an eco-tourism area with trees and lakes, offering more than 100 jobs to the locals.

When asked in an interview why he insisted on planting trees in the desert several years ago, Wang noted that he excavated a lot of coal during his lifetime, so he would like to plant as many trees as possible to pay the debt to earth.

Media reports brought him fame, as well as trouble. “You are just finding trouble for yourself. Desertification control is a public cause. Can you pay off the debt on your own?” said some people, especially other coal bosses who did not understand him.

To make things worse, Wang received many threatening phone calls asking for a large amount of money every day during that period of time, but he never gave in to the pressure.

Strong support from his children

Wang often worried that he has left a heavy burden on his children, as he invested more than 210 million yuan, almost all his money, in the career.

However, Wang’s children all understand their father’s good intentions and know that he wants them to achieve success through their own efforts and to repay society as he did.

His children even organized nearly 1,000 employees in their enterprise to help plant trees every April, even if they have to shut down the enterprise for a month.

Certainly, Wang’s career would have ended earlier without his children’s support. What he left them seems like nothing.

Forestation is not a cause that can be achieved once and for all, especially in the dry area of Miaomiao Lake Village, where forestry experts say even trees cannot survive.

Wang, therefore, invested money in building a hydraulic engineering system to draw water from the Yellow River. Even so, the water is not enough for the trees.

He had to adopt drip irrigation and the irrigation tapes need to be replaced every year because of the high temperatures and severe sand and dust storms. It can cost up to 6 million yuan each year to maintain the trees.

Wang used to take the money out from the enterprise to support the career. However, the cost became a burden for the enterprise due to the economic slump in recent years.

Fortunately, desert tourism, the breeding industry, and subsidiary agricultural products of the eco-tourism area are able to offset the financial strain to a certain extent.

Although it is difficult for them to take good care of the trees, Wang’s son said they will not let their father down, as that is the best way for them to show filial piety.

China takes the lead in launching facial recognition payment for commercial use

China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba has recently launched the world’s first facial recognition payment technology at a KFC restaurant in Hangzhou, signifying that China has taken the lead in the commercial use of the technology, Workers’ Daily reported on Sept.13.

It takes approximately 10 seconds for a costumer to pay their bill using the facial recognition service, greatly increasing payment efficiency.

CNBC, Reuters, Yahoo News, and other Western media outlets praised China for taking the lead and putting the technology into commercial use.

Data shows that the market size of the facial recognition industry in China exceeded 1 billion RMB ($153.3 million) in 2016, and is estimated to reach 5.1 billion RMB by 2021.

However, many factors from the amount of light and to different angles influence the accuracy of the technology, so this mode of payment cannot be the only way for user authentication right now, said Liu Yunhuai, an expert at the third Research Institute of China’s Ministry of Public Security.

In addition, the future of the payment service still depends on safety assessments by supervision departments, and the aided validation process limits its convenience, so it is difficult to promote the application of the technology widely, Li Junhui, a researcher at the China Institute of Political Science and Law, noted.

Despite various difficulties in promoting the service, Liu says that this mode of payment still has a bright future, as it is based on the data of users’ facial information and the application of artificial intelligence.

Chinese scientists develop new materials to lower solar power generation costs

Professor Liyuan Han and his team 

Chinese scientists have successfully fabricated the large-area perovskite films, an important step for achieving cheaper solar power generation, China News reported on Sept. 11.

The research achievement made by Professor Liyuan Han’s team at the School of Materials Science and Engineering, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, has recently been published in the international academic journal of Nature.

Silicon materials are commonly used nowadays in producing photoelectric materials for solar cells. Despite high conversion efficiency, fabricating the materials is costly, and a lot of chemical substances used in the process can harm the environment.

Han said his team spent three years developing the film, which increases the conversion efficiency of the perovskite solar cells and lowers fabricating costs.

Han added that the method of fabricating the large-area perovskite films provided a new development direction for mass production of the perovskite solar modules.

As for the next step, Han disclosed that his team will delve into the stability of perovskite solar cells to accelerate commercialization. The team hopes to lower power generation costs and alleviate energy crises together with other science researchers.

Survey says Chinese overseas returnees have advantages in starting own businesses

A recent survey conducted by China Youth Daily shows that 83.1 percent of the respondents say that Chinese overseas returnees have more advantages in starting their own businesses, cyol.com reported on Sept. 12.

Compared with domestic entrepreneurs, respondents say that returnees enjoy advantages in starting their own businesses, including international perspective and forward-looking vision, favorable policy support, and better foreign language communication skills.

Owing to the continuous increase of China’s comprehensive national strength and implementation of the innovation-driven development strategy, China’s demand for overseas returnees, especially high-level talents, continues to rise, said Lang Jing, vice president of the Chinese Returned Overseas Scholars Entrepreneur Parks’ Alliance.

Data shows that the number of Chinese overseas returnees has hit 2.65 million by the end of 2016, among which 432,500 Chinese overseas students chose to return to China in 2016 alone.

The returnees have become a new force in start-ups.

The fields favored most by the returnees include the Internet (60 percent), electronic communications (51.5 percent), and innovative technology (48.8 percent).

However, the survey also shows that returnees are faced with weaknesses, including a lack of understanding of the domestic market, operating experiences, as well as financing and capital support in starting their own businesses.

Lang, therefore, reminds that despite the favorable domestic entrepreneurial environment and preferential policies, returnees still need to promote their own strengths, better understand the domestic entrepreneurial environment, and make full use of the platforms to achieve success.

Chinese enterprises fined nearly 100 million yuan for suspicion of price fixing

Chinese enterprises have been fined a total of 93.3969 million RMB for suspicion of price fixing in the PVC (polyvinyl chloride) industry by Sept. 10, National Business Daily reported.

The enterprises that were penalized include Tianyuan Group, Ningxia Yinglite Chemicals Co., Ltd, Inner Mongolia Junzheng Energy & Chemical Group Co., Ltd, Erdos Group, and Elion Resources Group.

The enterprises were suspected of monopoly for attending occasional joint meetings and privately discussing product prices and reaching agreements on pricing in WeChat groups, according to China’s National Development and Reform Commission, saying that it is illegal for an operator to discuss commodity prices with competitors for the purpose of uniformly raising prices.

“Fluctuations in prices and productions of one leading enterprise in the PVC industry will influence the whole industry, let alone the collective power of all the enterprises,” an insider noted.

In addition, the enterprises occasionally attended joint meetings, which were established several years ago by chlor-alkali enterprises in northwest China to cope with the sluggish market.

Surgical robots perform over 40,000 operations in China

Surgical robots have performed more than 40,000 operations in China by February 2017 since the first one of its kind was introduced to China in 2006, according to Da Vinci Surgical Robot International Training Center, Shanghai-based Changhai Hospital, Xinhuanet.com reported on Sept. 11.

Wang Gongxian, vice director of the First Affiliated Hospital of Nanchang University introduced that the robot arm with the operating forceps can freely rotate 540 degrees, which is more flexible than human arms.

Wang added that the trauma caused in operations performed by surgical robots can be smaller and the treatment can be more precise compared with traditional operations.

Robot arms were designed according to the functions of human hands. They will not tremble even if a doctor’s hands shake, said Ou Yongsheng, a researcher at Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology under Chinese Academy of Sciences.

In addition, the robots will immediately stop working in case of an emergency, such as instable voltage or power failure, Wang noted.

According to regulations on robotic surgery, the surgeon, assistants, and nurses are all required to obtain qualifications by passing an examination before performing surgery to ensure the quality of operations.

However, Wang still believes that no matter how intelligent and advanced the surgical robots are, it is still impossible for them to replace human doctors, as robots lack the human intuition and emotions that patients really need.

China-initiated World Tourism Alliance officially established

The World Tourism Alliance (WTA) initiated by China was officially established during the ongoing 22nd General Assembly of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) held in Chengdu on Sept. 11. It is the first global, comprehensive, non-governmental, non-profit international tourism organization.

UNWTO Vice President Jason Westbury noted that the WTA will enhance communication between Chinese and Australian tourism industries. It is an economic cooperation that promotes people-to-people bonds, he added.

With the idea “tourism makes the world a better place,” the alliance aims to promote development, poverty reduction, and peace.

Eighty-nine members from 29 countries and regions, including China, the U.S., France, Germany, Japan, Australia, Malaysia, and Brazil participate in the alliance.

Chairman Li Jinzao of the China National Tourism Administration said the WTA serves as a platform for international tourism cooperation. It will further improve China’s influence in the international tourism industry by absorbing other countries’ advanced experiences, the chairman added.

China now enjoys an increasingly important position in the global tourism industry, becoming the largest country of outbound trips and the fourth largest tourism destination. Putting a great value on the country’s experiences and market, the world is expecting to enhance cooperation with China.

Secretary-General of UNWTO Taleb Rifai spoke highly of China’s role in the global tourism industry, stressing the country’s great contributions. “China has offered a best example – to take tourism as a developmental priority,” he said, adding that it has fully released its potential in terms of rural development and poverty alleviation.

“We believe that Chinese approaches and measures could also be applied to guide the development of other countries,” Rifai explained.

The UNWTO anticipates China will soon become the world’s largest inbound destination. Rifai expects China to lead the healthy, rapid, and sustainable development of global tourism.