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Environmental laws to be strengthened

China has been giving importance to environmental protection since 2012, implementing stricter laws and actively participating in global environmental governance.

Experts said this is in line with China’s need for economic restructuring.

China has strengthened efforts to preserve the ecological balance since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 2012 with new energy development and anti-smog regulations, Ning Jizhe, head of China’s National Bureau of Statistics, told a press conference on Tuesday.

“Among the 338 monitored cities, 24.9 percent achieved the air quality standard in 2016, 3.3 percentage points higher than in 2015 … Water samples from 73.4 percent of the monitoring points achieved national first or second level in 2016, four percentage points higher than in 2012,” Ning said.

“Ecological protection has been given priority since 2012 because it affects people’s health, sustainable development and the welfare of the next generation. China’s pollution problem could no longer be ignored,” Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, told the Global Times.

Ma said regulators have taken unprecedented measures to protect the environment since 2012 because the public has been demanding clean air and water.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said at the sixth group study session of the Political Bureau of the 18th CPC Central Committee in 2013 that “the 18th National Congress of the CPC listed ecological progress along with economic, political, cultural and social progress as the five goals in the overall plan for the cause of Chinese socialism.”

Xi also noted that “our efforts for ecological and environmental protection will benefit future generations. We must be aware that it is an urgent and challenging task to protect the environment and control pollution.”

“China has achieved some progress on environmental protection, including the passing of new laws, enhancing law enforcement, and conducting nationwide inspections to get local governments involved,” Ma said, adding that the public has benefited from these measures.

China’s revised Environmental Protection Law, considered the toughest in history, took effect in January 2015. It slaps additional daily fines on companies or factories that fail to correct violations, and provides for penalties on local officials who fail to fulfill their duties.

China has also drafted other laws related to environmental protection, including the Air Pollution Control Law, the Water Pollution Prevention and Control Law, China’s Environmental Impact Assessment Law and the Nuclear Security Law.

Ma added that regulators have encouraged greater public involvement in environmental protection since 2012. This includes exposing environmental protection violators.

A draft regulation on the environmental information disclosure of enterprises and public institutions states that those who provide bogus data or refuse to release data in accordance with regulations could be fined up to 30,000 yuan, the Xinhua News Agency reported in September.

Lasting priority

Stressing the need for environmental protection and low-carbon development is consistent with China’s ongoing economic restructuring and clean energy campaign to help lift some remote areas from poverty, Yang Fuqiang, senior adviser on climate and energy at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told the Global Times.

Aside from tackling domestic environmental issues, China has also been involved in global environmental governance, which includes faithfully implementing the Paris Agreement after the US withdrawal.

Environmental protection will continue to be given priority, with additional measures expected in the next five years after the 19th CPC National Congress, scheduled to begin on October 18, experts said.

Source: Global Times

Chinese satellites capable of providing high-resolution images for foreign clients

China’s remote sensing satellites have started to provide “sub-meter” images for foreign clients by using continuously upgraded technologies, stdaily.com reported on Tuesday.

On Monday, China launched Venezuela’s remote sensing satellite, the VRSS-2, into a preset orbit from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China’s Gansu province.

The satellite will be used by Venezuela to evaluate land resources and for environmental protection, disaster monitoring and management, crop yield estimation, and city planning.

Scientists with the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), developer of the VRSS-2, said the satellite will outperform its predecessor, the Venesat-1, Venezuela’s first satellite launched by China in 2008. The better performance is mainly attributed to two cameras installed on the satellite, a high-resolution camera, and an infrared camera.

The high-resolution camera, which is about the same size as a study table, has a resolution of less than one meter, according to its chief designer with CAST. This resolution allows viewers to tell the difference between a bus and a small car.

The infrared camera, which is about the same size as an A3 printer, enables the VRSS-2 to capture images 24 hours a day at minus 215 degrees centigrade, according to its chief designer. To make sure the infrared camera works, the developers have installed a refrigerator to control heat.

The VRSS-2 satellite was launched by a Chinese Long March-2D carrier rocket designed by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology.

(The story is also published on People’s Daily Online)

China’s gene sequencing tech hits world class

China’s second-generation gene sequencing technology has achieved breakthroughs and now leads the world, the National Development and Reform Commission said through its official WeChat account on Oct. 9.

In recent five years, highly accurate and affordable gene testing has been embraced by more people in China, and its market could reach 6 billion yuan (around $911 million) in 2016, which is more than five times than that in 2012, topping the world with its annual compound growth rate of 50 percent.

Chinese companies and research institutions have broken the monopoly on sequencing devices and reagent manufacturing by independently developing BIGIS, the first second-generation sequencers in China. Some types of domestic sequencers have been approved by the China Food and Drug Administration to enter the market.

Moreover, BGI, a domestic frontier institution of life science and a leader of gene sequencing in China, has developed DNA-based single-cell sequence technology, indicating that China has started research on third-generation sequencing technology.

China’s fast development of gene science has been one of the main achievements in the hi-tech field since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. Now the gene industry has been a driving force for China’s economic growth and attracting a high amount of attention from the capital markets.

(The story is also published on People’s Daily Online)

China’s Engel’s coefficient stands at 30.1%, close to UN well-off line

China’s Engel’s coefficient in 2016 stood at 30.1%, down by 2.9% over 2012, said Ning Jizhe, head of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) at a press conference held by the country’s State Council Information Office on Oct. 10.

According to Ning, the figure is close to the well-off line of 20 to 30 percent set by the UN.

The Engel coefficient, the proportion of money spent on food in household expenses, is seen as an indicator of a nation’s standard of living.

The average disposable income of Chinese citizens increased by an annual average of 7.4% since 2012 to 23,821 RMB ($3,611), Ning noted.

The proportions of expenses on transportation and communication, education, culture and recreation, and health care and medical services to the consumption expenditure increased by 2.0%, 0.7%, and 1.3%, respectively, as compared with those in 2012.

In addition, targeted poverty alleviation has also achieved fruitful results. The impoverished population in rural areas numbered 43.35 million in 2016, or 55.64 million less than that in 2012; and the impoverishment rate decreased to 4.5 percent, down by 5.7 percentage points compared to that of 2012.

In addition, from 2013 to 2016, the per capita disposable income of rural households in impoverished areas grew by 10.7 percent annually in real terms, 2.7 percentage points faster than that of the country’s total rural households.

According to the NBS chief, the social security system was established and improved. In 2016, the proportion of personal health payments to total health expenditures dropped to less than 30 percent. Basic health insurance achieved full coverage and a social security system covering urban and rural residents was basically established.

Furthermore, social undertakings enjoyed comprehensive development. The average number of years of schooling received by the population aged 15 and over increased from 9.05 years in 2010 to 9.42 years in 2015. China’s average life expectancy increased to 76.34 years in 2015 from 74.83 years in 2010.

(The story is also published on People’s Daily Online)

Road built by villagers along cliff dubbed world’s 9th largest miracle

Guoliang cliff corridor (photo/the Paper.cn)

Guoliang cliff corridor, a 1,000-meter-high, 1,200-meter-long road built along a cliff, is dubbed as the world’s ninth largest miracle for its difficult and dangerous construction.

The corridor is located in Guoliang Village, Huixian County, central China’s Henan province. In the past, the village was cut off from the rest of the world and its residents had to walk through a valley surrounded by steep cliffs before they went down the mountain.

In 1972, the villagers decided to dig the tunnel road themselves. Fourteen of them, led by the village Party Secretary Shen Mingxin, began to chisel and hammer a real road to the outside.

Without any training, the construction was very dangerous. They had to work with explosives on the steep cliffs. Some of them even died in fatal accidents, but they kept on digging. Construction of the miraculous road was completed in 1977.

Guoliang cliff corridor (photo/the Paper.cn)

The corridor has now become a convenient path between the village and the rest of the world and the story of the 14 road builders has become a tourist attraction, bringing considerable income for villagers.

The villagers are also using the corridor to publicize the spirit of self-reliance and self-improvement of the road builders among visitors.

(The story is also published on People’s Daily Online)

Americans rush to buy Szechuan sauce at McDonald’s across US

Thousands of Americans on Saturday rushed to buy Szechuan sauce at McDonald’s restaurants after the fast food restaurant chain announced that it was bringing back the sauce for one day only, thepaper.cn reported on Oct. 9.

According to The New York Times, McDonald’s first launched the sauce in 1998 for promotion of the film “Mulan,” and brought the sauce back after it was mentioned on the popular American animated science-fiction sitcom “Rick and Morty” shown this April.

Many people failed to get their hands on the sauce after lining up for hours because of limited supply and chaotic scenes unfolded at restaurant chains across America.

McDonald’s later responded to the snafu and said they felt sorry about failing to supply customers with enough sauce and promised to bring it back once again this winter. The sauce will be available at many McDonald’s restaurants.

Another 3 Chinese ancient water conservancy projects included on World Heritage list

The irrigation projects in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region

Another three Chinese ancient water conservancy projects were included on the world irrigation engineering project heritage list at a meeting of the International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage (ICID) held in Mexico City on Oct. 10, CCTV.com reported.

The three irrigation projects in Shaanxi Province, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, and Fujian Province bring the total of such projects included on the list in China to 13.

Since 2014, ICID has chosen irrigation engineering projects that are better than others of the same era in terms of engineering design and construction technology and which have more than 100 years of history.

Asia’s largest airline catering center is under construction in Beijing

Construction has started on Asia’ largest airline catering center at Beijing New International Airport, China News reported.

The center will occupy 68,170 square meters of land in southern Beijing and will mainly offer food to flights of China Southern Airlines Co., Ltd. and its agency airline companies at the airport.

Daily supply of the food is designed to reach 65,000 with varieties including Chinese food, western food, Japanese food, Indian food and vegetarian meals.

The Chinese airline company, which owns the center, has the largest number of airplanes in China, the most developed air lines, the largest passenger volume, and covers most areas. Its air transportation scale tops Asia and ranks fourth in the world.

China Construction First Building (Group) Co., Ltd., which ranks 24 on the Fortune Global 500 list for 2017, is responsible for construction of the project.

China’s ice breaker returns after first Arctic rim circumnavigation

Researchers on the ice breaker Xuelong, which means “Snow Dragon”, finally arrived in Shanghai on Tuesday after completing their 83-day rim expedition at the Arctic.

During the expedition, they studied navigation, marine bio-diversity, hydrology, biology, geology, chemistry and pollution around the Arctic, collecting first-hand materials and data for the analysis of the Arctic channels and the local ecological system.

With 96 members on board, the ice breaker traveled over 20,000 nautical miles, including 1,995 nautical miles in the ice zone. The ice breaker departed from an exploration base in Shanghai on July 20.

The journey, China’s eighth Arctic expedition, is a milestone in the country’s polar exploration attempts. It is the country’s first circumnavigation of the Arctic rim. The ice breaker travelled the northwest shipping lane along the Arctic rim for the first time, while the team conducted China’s first survey on the Labrador Sea and Baffin Bay.

To date, Xuelong has transited all three Arctic sea lanes, a breakthrough believed to be useful in promoting commercial utilization of the maritime passageways and accumulating experience for future voyages of Chinese vessels.

The expedition also reflects China’s efforts to promote the construction of the Silk Road through the Arctic Ocean. In July, China proposed building an “Ice Silk Road” between China and Russia, pledging to make joint efforts and utilize maritime passageways.

The Xuelong, built in Ukraine and put into use in 1994, is mainly designed to carry out polar research and transport supplies to China’s research stations. The ship can break ice up to 1.2 meters thick.

Source: Global Times

Forbidden City in drive to bring people closer to traditional culture

Beijing-born photographer Lyu Yang is fascinated by everything about the Forbidden City. The 35-year-old has taken pictures of the century-old imperial complex every week for the past decade, and often volunteers to tell stories about the museum’s history and cultural objects to foreign visitors.

In recent years, the Palace Museum has been revitalized and gained fame online.”China’s economic growth has brought better lives for Chinese people, yet modern life has alienated many from traditional culture. What the museum has done is to creatively attract people to get closer to traditional treasures,” said Lyu.

Public access

In 2012, curator Shan Jixiang launched a comprehensive field research project on the museum.

As the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world, the museum is among the most visited attractions in the world.

“But do these facts matter?” Shan said in a recent interview with Xinhua. “If 70 percent of its space is not open to the public and 99 percent of its relics are not showcased to patrons…it is not a museum that people can enjoy from the bottom of their hearts.”

In five years, the museum has increased the proportion of the area of the Forbidden City open to the public to 76 percent. The 2,800-square-meter Yan Chi building of Wu Gate used to be a storehouse, but has now been renovated into an exhibition hall to showcase precious historical relics from other countries.

The first exhibition of Afghan cultural relics in China as well as exhibitions featuring French jewelry from the 18th century and cultural relics from the Maritime Silk Road have been held this year.

“We have built 20 viewing platforms that enable visitors to ascend to the top to take a close look at the structure of ancient buildings and the delicate paintings on them. We have even opened the walls to the public so tourists can look out over the Forbidden City and watch a 25-minute VR film to learn how the Palace Museum was built from thousands of pieces of wood and without even one single nail,” said Shan.

Sharing experience

After visiting many countries with ancient civilizations, Shan came to realize that all cultural traditions are passed down through generations and deserve respect.

“Every single person in the world is responsible for protecting and preserving cultural relics and passing on cultural diversity. However, many glorious civilizations have faced various threats,” said Shan.

In 2015, Shan went to Afghanistan, but was unable to visit local historical relics because of social unrest.

That’s when he got the idea to build a dialogue platform for countries with ancient civilizations to work to preserve them despite natural disasters, war, terrorism, illegal sales and improper protection methods.

With the support of the Chinese government, the first and second Taihe Forum were held in Beijing on two consecutive years starting in 2016. The theme of this year’s forum was “Echoes of the Ancient Civilizations”. Delegates from 21 countries and three international organizations attended.

Shan said that the museum has sponsored a Taihe Forum Fund to provide academic and technical support for countries like Syria and Iraq facing war and terrorism, or those that have faced natural disasters, such as Mexico.

Olga Orive, an archeologist and member of the Executive Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS, Mexico), was impressed by the restoration skills of the museum.

“Similarly, we have a ‘relics hospital’ in Mexico, but our techniques, equipment and specialized conservators are in short supply. Mexico and China should collaborate more in such fields,” said Orive.

Maintaining diversity

“The Palace Museum has built a communication mechanism for all countries. Three decades ago, you could hardly imagine conservation experts talking about how to combat threats together,” said Giora Solar, Israeli architect and urban planner and a member of ICOMOS. “Such exchanges are quite necessary in a globalized era.”

Maintaining cultural diversity under globalization faces growing challenges, and countries have tried to find their own methods for preservation.

The Papantla Indigenous Art Center in Mexico is one such attempt. The center consists of 16 “house-schools,” each specializing in one of the arts of the Totonac people, including ceramics, textiles, painting, the art of healing, and traditional dance.

In 2012, the center was added to the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices for intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO.