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China introduces pioneer AI Challengers’ Games

(Photo/thePaper.cn)

The first AI Challengers’ International Games were introduced on August 14 by three innovative Chinese companies including Sinovation Ventures, the early stage venture capital firm. Thepaper.cn reported that prizes for the competition are 2 million yuan.

 

The campaign includes five competitions, namely English-Chinese simultaneous interpretation, English-Chinese machine translation, scene classification, human skeletal system key point detection and image captioning in Chinese.

 

From September 4, competitors will have free access to massive data including 10 million English-Chinese language pairs, more than 300,000 images with Chinese captions, and so on. The competition lasts till mid-December.

 

Having free access to massive data was hard to imagine three decades ago. AI Challengers’ Games is committed to providing massive datasets and professional guidance by academia and AI industrial experts. Kai-Fu Lee, founder and CEO of Sinovation Ventures, one of the three initiating companies, said they will also help top talents to grow.

 

Over 10 million yuan will be invested in the next three years to build China’s largest datasets for scientific studies and a world-class competition platform. Larger scale high quality datasets will cover various AI industries such as automatic driving, smart healthcare, smart finance and robot.

Beyond Wangjing

Wangjing, the famous Korea Town in Beijing, is a place where many South Korean companies are located. But as more South Korean businesspeople become increasingly familiar with other areas in or bordering Beijing, some are considering moving their offices or starting their businesses in these areas to pursue low costs. But wherever South Korean companies are located in Beijing, they inevitably face increasing competition from local firms, especially in the Internet sector.

Wangjing, known as Beijing’s Korea Town, is no longer the only choice for South Korean companies to start their businesses in the Chinese capital city.

ROBOTIS China, a branch of South Korean robot manufacturer ROBOTIS, was established in September 2016 in Wangjing and sells actuators and servos that enable the creation of various robots and kits.

“The President of our Chinese branch, Noah Kim, has deep love and familiarity of China as he frequently comes to China to learn and do business. So our parent company chose to start the business branch in Wangjing,” Xie Luo, General Manager of ROBOTIS China, told the Global Times Thursday.

Over the past year of development, the company has become bigger in business scale and has established many business partners in cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and in East China’s Jiangsu Province. It has also opened a chain store in Changying, a rising suburb located at the southeastern part of Wangjing.

In the past year, Xie has felt growing competition from the company’s Chinese counterparts. “As the domestic robotics industry and local brands rapidly develop, we are feeling heavy pressure,” she said, noting that the company now has to step up efforts in the research and development of products and needs to improve services to win over more Chinese customers.

In Wangjing, two small South Korean companies engaged in medical facilities and liquid crystal display installation services both told the Global Times in separate interviews last week that they almost folded, but they did not want to disclose the factors that lead to this failure.

Xie said ROBOTIS China will consider moving its office to other areas in Beijing that are conducive to their development, such as places near its chain store in Changying.

“As familiarity with our Chinese chain increases, we will attach more importance to lowering costs to develop the market,” she said.

‘Second Korea Town’

As operation costs rise in Wangjing, many South Korean companies are reportedly choosing to establish businesses in regions neighboring Beijing, especially Yanjiao, a bordering town in North China’s Hebei Province.

Convenient transportation, industrial parks and low labor costs make Yanjiao the first choice for South Koreans to develop “the second Korea Town,” The Beijing News reported on August 6.

“Dubbed as ‘Small Wangjing,’ Yanjiao is also home to many South Koreans and ethnic Koreans. That’s why we chose to start our business in the area,” a staff member of a South Korean Internet firm in Yanjiao told the Global Times Friday on condition of anonymity.

Many people in China can speak Korean and labor costs are comparatively lower here than they are in South Korea, she said.

Besides Yanjiao, many South Korean companies are setting up offices in areas such as the Haidian and Shunyi districts of Beijing, information from cn-kr.net shows, a job-hunting website for Korean speakers in China.

The manager of a China-South Korea joint venture told the Global Times Friday on the condition of anonymity that the company’s business has been seriously impacted by Terminal High Altitude Area Defense deployment tensions and has accordingly made some business adjustments to improve operation. “We reduced imports from South Korea and laid off six South Korean staff members at the beginning of this year,” the manager said.

The joint venture, located in the Beijing Economic-Technological Development Area in Yizhuang, Daxing district, sells food products imported from South Korea.

A South Korean man surnamed Kim, who is a swimming coach at a fitness club in Wangjing, told the Global Times that many of his South Korean friends and colleagues have moved back to South Korea because of Beijing’s rising living costs, such as higher rent prices, or because they can find better jobs in their home country.

Local rivalry

According to Xie, the majority of South Korean companies have faith in pursuing business projects in China, but they often struggle to gain access to the market.

“For example, among 40 corporations that wish to expand their businesses in China, only four or five of them will survive,” she said, citing rising local competition and different modes of thinking among businesspeople.

Domestic companies’ vitality is effectively stimulated and their competitiveness has improved, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said Thursday.

According to a statement on the website of the NDRC, the number of newly registered companies in China grew 11.1 percent year-on-year, reaching 2.91 million in the first half of 2017.

Different modes of thinking between South Korean and Chinese businesspeople also make it difficult for South Korean companies to develop in the country’s market, Xie said.

For example, two kinds of marketing strategies may be enough to gain customers in South Korea, but 10 marketing strategies may be needed to effectively expand a business in China, considering the country’s huge population and vast territory, she said.

To avoid headwinds while entering the Chinese market, ROBOTIS President Byoungsoo Kim and Noah Kim made considerable preparations when introducing ROBOTIS’ products to China, such as staff training.

Xie noted that the company hopes to continue bringing high-quality robot products to China.

Three other companies that were reached by the Global Times all said their businesses in Wangjing are doing well and have no intention of moving to other areas. But it seems that it is becoming more difficult for small South Korean companies in the area to gain a foothold these days due to a new round of economic competition.

As China’s Internet sector continues to boom, an increasing number of domestic Internet companies have entered Wangjing in recent years.

Chinese Internet firms account for 90 percent of the total amount of firms that have set up offices in Tower 3 of Wangjing SOHO, a mixed-used office complex of three towers, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

However, there is only one or two South Korean companies in the tower, a guard of the tower told the Global Times, which echoes the concerns of Xie regarding challenges faced by South Korean companies.

Source: Global Times

Veteran lawyer brushes off criticism of being a ‘toady,’ ‘fence-sitter’

His supporters praise him for pushing forward China’s legal advancement. His opponents criticize him for being a “fence-sitter” who curries favor with the government. Chen Youxi is probably the country’s most controversial and divisive lawyer.

Chen, founder of China’s leading legal firm The Capital Equity Legal Group, has recently found himself in the national spotlight.

In the most recent controversy, he has been accused of being a toady by “diehard” lawyers, named for their willingness to take cases that oppose the government. These diehard lawyers dubbed him with the slur “a lawyer assigned by officials” for his role representing diehard lawyer Wang Quanzhang in a case brought against Wang by the government.

According to Chen, Wang asked Chen to represent Wang in court. But later Wang’s wife said in a statement that Chen had been assigned by “officials.” Wang had been detained for allegedly organizing illicit activities disruptive of social order.

“I harbor strong antipathy for lawyers assigned by officials. Lawyers should have independent thinking and conduct independent defenses. We’re only responsible for the facts, evidence and law,” Chen told the Global Times.

Chen said he only decided to offer Wang his assistance after seeing his personal signature on the letter of attorney.

“One of the biggest differences between me and those diehard lawyers lies in the fact that I would never demand to be someone’s lawyer, but always wait for the accused to find me,” he said.

Chen admitted that he doesn’t think much of those so-called “diehard” lawyers, believing they only “shout slogans” and oppose the government in every matter just to garner attention. They are not seeking truth from facts, he said.

Unlike most lawyers in China, Chen has 16 years’ experience holding important positions in several provincial-level judicial organs in Zhejiang, including in the public security department and the province’s higher people’s court. Now as a lawyer, he said he tries to survive between the cracks. “On the one hand, I stand up to injustice and corruption within judicial system. On the other hand, when cases of judicial injustice happen, ordinary people like to blame me and believe that it’s my fault for these bad results,” he said.

From politics to law

Chen, 62, graduated from Zhejiang University in 1982. Upon graduation, he was chosen as one of 200 talented young people to be given government positions.

In his early days, Chen showed promise as a politician, rising rapidly through the ranks. In his second year after graduation, he become the vice director of the Ninghai county police department. Several years later, he became the secretary for the director of Zhejiang Province’s higher people’s court.

“In today’s environment, people tend to think that I had to have connections to be promoted so quickly, but I’m just the son of a farmer,” he said.

Chen had set himself the goal of becoming a provincial-level cadre by the age of 40, but the 1989 political turmoil upset his plans. “I was relegated to limbo afterwards,” he said.

Unable to see any future for his career path in government, Chen became a lawyer in 1999. “I did not expect to become so successful as a lawyer. I only wanted to support my family back then,” he said.

Chen himself is now a billionaire and his law firm has revenues of billions of yuan.

Sticking to his road

Chen has four rules he follows when choosing his cases. The first is that the case has to have social impact and can help push forward China’s legal development. The second is that he must believe the client has been wrongly accused. The third rule is it must be lucrative. The fourth rule is that the case must be challenging.

He said that at this stage, the biggest obstacle for him is a lack of time, lamenting the number of goals he has yet to accomplish.

“I want to use a single case to push forward the country’s legal development and also I want to put down my personal wisdom and experiences into systematic works for the country’s legal construction,” he said.

Last year, he represented Lei Yang, a Beijing citizen, in a case which was believed to be a milestone in judicial history. Lei was accidentally killed during a police raid on a Beijing massage parlor last May, arousing nationwide attention on the law enforcement tactics of police.

Chen told the Global Times that Lei’s case was significant in restricting the abuse of power by some policemen, even though he didn’t achieve the ideal result. “The relative gave up the lawsuit. As a lawyer, I can do nothing more,” he said.

Lei’s family members dropped their case after being given an undisclosed amount in compensation.

During interviews, he made clear that he battles injustice and undesirable elements within the judicial system, but there are still many positive aspects which should be endorsed.

“What I do is resonate with the righteous people within the system to make a change,” he said.

Chen believes this is a useful weapon for him in his various cases. “Compared with most lawyers, I have a better understanding of how the judicial system works in government. Therefore, I can deal with them better,” he said.

Chen used to provide such suggestions for those diehard lawyers, but only succeeded in incurring their criticism. Now he says he tries to keep his distance from them.

However, he is still attacked by them for being a “royalist,” “fencesitter” and a “lawyer assigned by officials.”

Chen has more than 6 million followers on Sina Weibo. On the days he isn’t banned from posting, he posts retorts to people who have attacked him.

“I think the Internet is an important public opinion platform. We don’t have time to make incidents on the Internet. But if I am misunderstood, slandered or attacked, it’s necessary for me to clarify things and fight back,” he said.

However, he does have some degree of understanding of the people who attack him.

“Due to my posts being deleted and my inability to make my voice heard on some sensitive questions in the cases I have defended and to reveal more inside stories, many people can’t know about the truth and attack me as a result,” he said.

Source: Global Times

 

How much rent does an expat pay and are they happy renting in the capital?

Helena Javitte, 28, from France has just moved into her new apartment in Xinyuan Xili in Chaoyang district. It is her third apartment in her four years in Beijing.

For Javitte, who works at Sanlitun SOHO and commutes via scooter, a convenient location is the top priority, followed by the apartment and its price in that order. Her rent is about 40 percent of her wages, but she thinks it’s worth the convenience.

“I’m willing to spend more money than average on the apartment,” she said.

According to a recent report released by Shanghai-based E-house China R&D Institute, the average rent-to-income ratio in Beijing is as high as 58 percent, followed by Shenzhen, Guangdong Province with 54 percent, Sanya, Hainan Province with 48 percent and Shanghai with 48 percent.

The figure has triggered discussions. Many people find it hard to believe that rent can eat so much out of an individual’s wages, while others argue that it’s not news. They see it as a natural outcome of the high housing costs. Yan Yuejin, director of the institute, said that non-salary income, anything of monetary value given to an employee that is outside their base salary, such as health insurance, is not included in the calculation, which causes the number to be higher.

Nonetheless, renting in the city is becoming costlier for young Beijingers.

Metropolitan asked expats living in Beijing what percentage of their wages is their rent and whether there were any financial and cultural factors behind their choices. Several expats from different backgrounds shared how much they are willing to pay for apartments in Beijing, what they look for in apartments, what matters the most when renting, and how their living habits have changed since living in China.

Helena Javitte Photo: Yin Lu/GT

Getting your priorities straight

“I’m not looking for a house. I’m looking for a home,” Javitte said. She checked out 30 apartments over three months before finding the one she just moved into.

Her friends are often impressed by how much she invests in a rented apartment. She has been cleaning and rearranging things until 2 am every day for two weeks. The apartment is in a building built in the 1990s. It has two rooms, and Javitte is trying to convert one of them into a living room.

She is not surprised that the ratio is as high as 58 percent. What surprises her is the fact that some of her friends earn 20,000 yuan ($3,001) a month and would pay no more than 4,000 yuan for rent. According to her, some of her friends just want a place to stay, while others focus more on the quality of their friendship with their flatmates.

“It’s pretty rare when I spend time at home. So, when I arrive home, I really need to feel very good, really cozy,” said Javitte. On top of her full-time job, Javitte runs French Lab, a community for young French professionals in Beijing.

“There are a lot of new arrivals in Beijing who expect cheap rent. I don’t expect that,” Javitte said.

According to her, “a decent ‘foreigner standard’ place in Dongzhimen,” a popular choice among new expats which is located between Gulou and Sanlitun, costs about 8,000 yuan per month.

When she first arrived in Beijing, Javitte chose to share a three-bedroom apartment with two other expats in Shuangjing, Chaoyang district.

“What I wanted was to make friends then,” she said.

Renting on a budget

Di, 26, a PhD student from Kazakhstan who majors in mathematics at the Beijing Institute of Technology, sees cost as one of the most important factors when choosing an apartment but said having a roommate whom she gets along well with is also crucial.

“I need someone like-minded. Nationality, age, work place and others are not important for me,” she said.

Just like many other foreign newcomers to the city, Di’s first roommate was also an expat, her classmate from Cambodia. They communicated largely through gestures in the beginning and later became very good friends.

Di moved to the university’s campus in Fangshan district for the second year of her PhD program.

“Apartments in Fangshan are not very expensive. So, I decided to have more space and freedom,” she said. She shared a two-bedroom newly renovated apartment near the campus at with a Chinese classmate. It cost them 2,500 yuan a month.

She recently found a nice two-bedroom apartment at 4,800 yuan in Chaoyang district. It is not very close to her university, but it suits her needs, she said.

“I just want a comfortable and not noisy home surrounded by trees, where I can relax after study,” she explained.

For her, the current rent-to-income ratio is about 50 percent.

As for facilities, Di puts a nice kitchen ahead of everything else. “In Beijing, I miss my country’s food,” she said.

The rent situation in Kazakhstan is different from in Beijing, Di said. There’s no deposit, and the rent is paid monthly. People don’t go to agencies to get apartments. In Beijing, an agency’s commission is often one month’s rent.

Di found her previous apartments via agencies, but this time she decided to save the money and avoid agents. Not to mention that the rent is much pricier in Beijing.

“But I can understand why. It’s because it is Beijing, one of the biggest cities in the world,” she said.

The majority of the expats living in Beijing see their rental as more than just a place to lay their head, says insider. Photo: IC

What money can buy

Although their budgets are very different, Serge Platkovskiy shares the same priorities with Di. For Platkovskiy, a Russian and a chef who has been living in Beijing for more than 20 years, having good roommates is the most important.

“It (being roommates) is a commitment,” he said.

He and his old roommate are both tidy people who are willing to invest in the apartment and renovate it. He has been living in the same apartment in Shuangjing for four years. The two-story, two-bedroom apartment with a view of CBD on the rooftop has gone through multiple renovations. The rent is 14,000 yuan each.

“I always overpay for apartments because I need to have friends over, make new friends, and host events with musicians and artists,” he said.

As somebody who values the quality of his living space, Platkovskiy understands why people pay so much for their rent, and he is not surprised that the rent-to-salary ratio in Beijing is as high as 58 percent.

Part of the reason Beijing has the highest ratio, he said, is the rental market.

“Houses in Beijing are very bad, and a lot of them are bought but not kept as actual spaces to live in. They are just an investment,” he said.

By contrast, the market and rent culture in Shanghai is more mature, he said.

“Construction is super cheap in China, But Beijingers still don’t really care. People have spoiled the landlords in Beijing,” he said.

Platkovskiy plans to continue renting a while. He might buy a property eventually, but there is no rush. “I think it’s too late to invest. You cannot get much margin as you did 10 years ago,” he said.

But he thinks the traditional mindset about owning property is changing, and a lot of young Chinese have started to care less about owning property.

Do expats spend more on rent?

Platkovskiy is currently looking for a new roommate, somebody who also plans to spend a long time here. He is looking mainly via WellCee Rental, a rental information platform.

“Expats are willing to spend more on rent,” said Lu Junzuo, the founder of WellCee, which has been up and running since January. The agency-free platform currently caters to 20,000 landlords, leaseholders and apartment seekers in Beijing, mostly through WeChat groups. Half of them are expats from more than 100 countries.

How people from different countries view rented apartments varies, he explained.

“Many Chinese see a rented apartment as no more than just a bed, while many foreigners see it as a very important part of their lives. Expats attach great importance to the condition of the public spaces, including the kitchen and the living room,” Lu said.

He added that although many expats prefer sharing an apartment with friends, sharing one bedroom or even a bed still only exists among Chinese renters.

Saving money is very important for many Chinese, and their savings will often go into buying houses, Lu said, while “most expats are willing to spend on living, even though it might mean they have to live and eat in a simple way.”

“But the rent culture is slowly changing in China,” Lu said. New policies come up, incomes grow, and the young generation, mostly the post-1980s and 90s, have developed more personalized needs and form the majority of the market.

Related policies have been announced to cool down the housing market and give tenants the same rights as homeowners so that the rental market will develop in a healthier way. On July 20, nine government bodies, including the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, jointly announced a pilot program to ensure that renters enjoy the same rights as homeowners, including the opportunity to enroll their children in schools in the area.

The rising rent in downtown areas and their need to socialize have been driving expats out of some traditional expat neighborhoods, such as Sanlitun, Gulou and Wudaokou, into more remote areas.

According to Lu, a few new expat communities are forming in several locations, including several neighborhoods in Shunyi district and Shaoyaoju and Sunhe in Chaoyang district. He is confident that rental prices will be more reasonable.

“It will be slow. Changing user habits like this takes time,” Lu said.

Source: Global Times

Curator-turned-artist Wang Huangsheng makes professional debut with new exhibition

Installation work Boundaries by Wang Huangsheng Photo: Xu Liuliu/GT

The opening ceremony for Wang Huangsheng’s exhibition Boundary/Space at the Beijing Minsheng Art Museum on Thursday was an important moment for the former curator as it marked the first time in his career he was introduced as a professional artist.

Just two months ago, Wang left his position as the curator of the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) Art Museum, where he worked for eight years, to focus on his career as an artist.

“Painting is an important part of my life,” Wang told art site HiArt before the exhibition.

“Having been an ‘amateur’ for years, I finally have time to work on the art that I aspire to. In the past, during my time as a curator, I looked at exhibitions from a critical and technical perspective, which made art less fresh to me. But now, that feeling is returning.”

With the help of curator and art critic Wu Hung, also a professor at The University of Chicago, Wang has reorganized all the artworks he has created over the years for the new exhibition in order to present his previous “amateur” art career to visitors.

“The visual impact that Wang’s works bring is one of the main reasons that we chose to showcase them. But what’s more, we want to explore the questions that the artist has in his mind. I ask visitors to contemplate how the artist transits between boundaries and spaces,” Wu explained at the opening.

The exhibition not only features paintings, but also includes some new installation and video works such as Boundaries and Lights.

“Boundaries are everywhere, both visible and invisible, between here and there, now and then, reality and aspirations, safety and adventure,” Wu wrote in the preface to the exhibition.

“Wang’s artistic experiments are rich with exploration, and attempts to probe boundaries and space.”

Due to the artist’s years of experience with traditional Chinese ink wash painting, the brushwork in the artworks have been bestowed with powerful spatiality.

Wang is also known for his concern for and exploration of social realties like war, poverty, illness and religious feuds. Among some of his new works, gauze and wire fences play an important role.

“Gauze represents wounds and wire fences represent violence. One work features gauze that has been dyed red to express complicated feelings of pain and atonement,” Wang said, explaining that he was inspired by a trip to Jerusalem last year.

“When standing facing the Wailing Wall, I could feel the mixed feelings that the wall possessed. So I decided to build a wall of human feelings using pieces of gauze, which are a metaphor for injury, isolation, bleeding and healing,” he added.

The exhibition is set to run until September 9.

Source: Global Times

Local govts push for SOE reforms

China’s plans to reform its massive State-owned enterprises (SOEs) could see an increase in pace in the second half of the year, as more and more local governments have been pushing for hastened reforms, according to media reports.

However, experts cautioned that the government should establish clear goals for SOE reforms, in order to let market forces play a bigger role in the companies’ decision-making mechanism.

According to a report on financial news site cs.com.cn on Monday, about a dozen provinces in China have convened meetings to deploy SOE reform plans for the second half of 2017, with frequent activities seen in places such as Shanghai, South China’s Guangdong Province and North China’s Tianjin.

For example, the Guangdong branch of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) has formulated a plan to improve the SOE layout in the province by integrating assets in industries like finance and high-speed railways, according to the cs.com.cn report. About 36 SOEs in Guangdong will be “streamlined,” the report noted.

East China’s Jiangsu Province also issued a guideline that says the provincial government will push forward SOE restructuring through measures such as establishing a provincial port group and a comprehensive tourism group.

Some SOEs have also accelerated the reform process on their own. China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), for example, has stressed that the company and its subordinate SOE companies must complete reforms by the end of November, China Economic Net reported on Monday.

Two methods

Dong Dengxin, director of the Finance and Securities Institute at Wuhan University of Science and Technology, told the Global Times on Monday that many Chinese SOEs are in the “disaster areas” of heavy industries burdened with severe overcapacity, and SOE reforms, such as mergers between major industrial competitors, can help improve the situation by transferring companies’ focus from malign competition to improving efficiency.

“Usually, there are two methods for SOE reforms. One is industrial mergers such as the merger between Shanghai Baosteel Group Corp and Wuhan Iron and Steel (Group) Corp to create Baowu Steel Group,” Dong said.

As of Friday, a total of 59 SOEs listed in the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock markets have suspended trading due to major asset restructuring, according to the cs.com.cn report. Most of the companies are in industries like real estate and steel, the report noted.

Dong said that the other method for reforms is for SOEs to acquire companies in relevant industries so as to enrich their upstream and downstream businesses, but this is not always feasible, especially in industries like steel.

Many local governments also have made listing a focus for the SOE reforms for 2017. For example, the branch of SASAC in East China’s Shandong Province issued a guideline noting that more than 10 provincial SOEs in Shandong should get listed by the end of 2020, and the rate of asset securitization should reach above 60 percent by then, the cs.com.cn report noted.

Clear goals

Liang Jun, a research fellow at the Guangdong Academy of Social Sciences specializing in SOE reforms, said that the government should be clear about the goals for the SOE reforms and the efforts to make them more market-oriented.

“Mixed-ownership reform is one of the ways, and one which is quite suitable for China. But in many cases, private investors do not really have a say in SOEs’ management mechanism. This is not right. I think after reforms, private investors should have a seat on an SOE’s board, allowing them to vote on major decisions,” he noted.

“I think if the private investor’s opinion is contrary to that of other board members, it can send a signal to the regulators that the company has drifted away from market needs,” Liang said, adding that a third-party supervision mechanism for SOE leaders should also be established.

According to Liang, some of the current SOE reform measures should be cut, like employee stock ownership plans. “Those plans might spoil SOE employees,” he said.

An employee in a Shanghai-based SOE told the Global Times on Monday that if she gets a certain percentage of her company’s shares, her use of them would depend on her company’s business.

“If the company’s market performance is bad, I would sell the shares,” she said.

Source: Global Times

 

Proper city planning crucial for healthier citizens

China’s progress over the past 40 years has led to one of the most rapid urbanization processes ever. Today some 55 percent of the Chinese population lives in cities, and it is projected that this will reach 70 percent in the near future.

There are many benefits that accrue from living in cities, but there are also costs. One of them has to do with health. As China aims to keep the size of its cities at a manageable level and slow down migration from small and medium-sized cities to the first-tier ones, it ought to keep this in mind.

One of the most exciting fields in urban studies today is that of the relationship between urban planning and design and health. Our health is to a large degree determined by our lifestyle, which in turn depends on how we move about our daily lives.

Humans were not made to sit all day in front of a computer screen, nor to sit in a car several hours a day. First, we were hunters and gatherers, moving about, roaming in the forests looking for fruits or animals. But even as we moved from nomads to farmers and then to city dwellers, we would always walk – to the market, to the school, to the temple, to the public square.

In fact, until 100 years ago or so, cities were made for pedestrians, and to lesser degree for horse carriages. It is only in the last century that cities have been planned for something else – for cars.

This conception of the city, based on the use of fossil fuels to provide it with energy, on the car as the main means of transport, and on the high-rise tower as the preferred form of housing has reached a crisis point.

Let me point out to you the example of Santiago, the capital city of Chile. Blessed with a Mediterranean climate, in a beautiful valley at the foot of the Andes Mountains, surrounded by some excellent agricultural land, crossed by the Mapocho river, it has much going for it, and was considered until not too long ago a high-quality-of-life city. Yet, in the past few decades, it has been affected by what is known as urban malaise – pollution, traffic congestion, excessive noise, too much cement and not enough green spaces.

Thus, over the past three years the governor of Santiago’s Metropolitan Region, Claudio Orrego, has applied a different set of policies, aimed at making Santiago a city for people, not for cars.

We still have a long way to go, and Santiago is far from being a paragon of a healthy city. But it confronts challenges similar to the cities here in China, and there are some experiences that can be shared. If China wants to keep its small- and medium-sized cities attractive and livable, it should keep these propositions in mind.

The first is about transport and mobility: aim for multimodal transport systems, not for car-centered ones. Transportation systems are to a city what the blood circulation system is to the body. And making cities for cars, clunky, inefficient vehicles that take up enormous amounts of space to transport often no more than a single individual, and are used no more than 5 percent of the time, has meant that the arteries of our cities are more and more clogged, leading to the waste of many hours of commuting every day. As the saying goes, “You are not stuck in traffic. You are traffic.”

As Jan Gehlen has pointed out, an automobile consumes 60 times more energy than a bike, and up to 20 times more than a pedestrian. Neither bikes nor pedestrians produce traffic jams. Their space demands are much smaller. In two bike lanes of two meters wide each, you can accommodate up to 10,000 bikes per hour. A two-way traffic street can accommodate no more than 1,000 to 2,000 automobiles per hour, at peak times. Thus, promoting cycling has been a key activity of Orrego, and the building of a 42-kilometer bike lane along the Mapocho river a showcase project.

The second has to do with space: reclaim streets for pedestrians. The most valuable commodity in a city is space. Yet, much public space today is allocated to roads and thus to cars. If you can avoid it, don’t build highways through your cities. It only destroys them and the urban fabric. Cities are about streets, not roads. The measure of the quality of a city is the degree to which it invites you to walk in it. And the challenge for mayors today is how to make streets more attractive and enticing.

And here Orrego has come up with another alternative, what is known as “plazas de bolsillo,” or pocket squares, a weapon within the arsenal of what is known as “tactical urbanism.” In an ideal world, mayors would build as many green spaces, including parks and plazas, as they could. In practice, they are often constrained by all sorts of factors – regulations, budgets, ownership of the land.

Yet, there are often empty, unused lots in cities, that may or may not be built up in the foreseeable future. Why not use these empty spaces to create temporary, but attractive plazas, with no permanent structures, where people congregate for lunch outdoors, where children can play, and that otherwise provide some color and life to the concrete jungle that passes for downtown in many cities? These pocket squares have been a great success in downtown Santiago.

A third proposition is about density: medium density is better than high-density. Yes, in principle, urban density is better than urban spread – it is in the end cheaper, and makes for more enriching and rewarding environments. High rises, and even skyscrapers, are here to stay, and they perform and will perform a significant role in responding to the housing needs of our city dwellers in the new century. But this does not mean that towers are the only response. Between the high-rise tower and the suburban villa with a front and a back yard there are many intermediate solutions – four-story apartment buildings and townhouses, among others. The random emergence of towers in former garden city neighborhoods has a highly deleterious effect on whole city areas, and is often the result of developers run amok.

Land planning is a critical tool here. We have found this in the western part of Santiago, which until the 1990s had a very traditional type of Spanish-style housing. It was deregulated for greater density, and has ended up with monstrous 20-story towers that destroy whole neighborhoods, with a loss of sunshine and privacy as a result. The key point is that medium-density urban design works better than high density.

Human scale is what livable, high-quality-of-life, healthy cities are all about.

Source: Global Times

 

Beijing, Washington partners, within limits

During the 2016 US presidential campaign, China was perhaps the most important topic of Donald Trump’s speeches on diplomacy and the economy. Chinese media estimated that Trump talked about China as many as 235 times, making this bilateral relationship relevant as the international landscape changes.

All US presidents set American interests as their first priority.

Trump is blunter than the others. He believes that the US stands to lose in trade due to its huge trade deficit with China, and that China has not helped much in strategic issues.

His various remarks regarding China during his campaign show his commitment to reset trade, economic, military and political relations with China so that they will evolve to favor the US.

This reflects the long-term US supremacy over other countries. But as the strength gap between China and the US narrows, the potential conflict of interests between the two may rise. Trump will continue to push for a good bargain for his country, and how tensions will develop depends on China’s approach.

In the past 45 years, China has managed its ties with the US with a good temper. Unlike Russia that adopts a tit-for-tat approach in dealing with US provocations, China always plays down US criticisms and works on bilateral relations in a down-to-earth manner.

In recent years, China has been developing its military and some Western scholars claimed China wants to seek “peace through strength,” a famous phrase which has been used by many US presidents from Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump, suggesting that military power can help preserve peace. But under the different contexts of China and the US, this doctrine serves different purposes.

While the US always flexes its muscles through its alliance system to maintain dominance in the world, China holds that it will only resort to military means when its core interests are threatened. China is prone to realize peace through economic relations and multilateral cooperation.

Currently, both China and the US need to feel out the new policy that Trump is offering China. The US has seen China as a main rival since 2010 under the administration of Barack Obama. Obama’s strategy of rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific was a major shift of US foreign policy.

Obama adopted a “four-track” approach to implement his strategy. Militarily, the US has planned to position 60 percent of its air and navy forces in the Asia-Pacific region by 2020. Economically, Obama pushed forward the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal together with Japan to encircle China.

At the same time, the US pursued “smart diplomacy” that aimed to drive a wedge between China and its neighboring countries, especially those with which China has maritime territorial disputes. The disputes began to emerge in the 1960s but were put under control by China and relevant stakeholders, but since 2010 the South China and East China Seas became flashpoints thanks to a US backstage role.

Meanwhile, then US secretary of state Hillary Clinton promoted “Internet diplomacy” to use technology in ways that would support democratic institutions advocated by the US.

When it comes to Trump, things are different. The US used to have three strategic focuses in the Eurasian continent, namely Europe, the Middle East and East Asia, yet Trump has not decided which should be his priority. In terms of the North Korean nuclear issue, the Obama administration adopted a “strategic patience” strategy, putting aside the issue while focusing on counterbalancing China. By contrast, Trump attaches immense importance to the nuclear issue, for which he must seek China’s help. Although he will continue to deploy US air and navy forces to the Asia-Pacific region, Trump’s strategic hostility toward China is not as high as it was in the Obama era.

But on the other side of the coin is that Trump may employ the rash diplomatic tactic of denouncing the one-China policy, which Obama was wise to avoid. This may lead to the deterioration of China-US relations.

Economically, Trump scrapped the TPP trade deal; instead, he has imposed pressure directly on China in trade talks. He is expected to direct the US trade representative to open a 301 investigation into China’s alleged violation of US intellectual property rights, signaling a tougher trade stance on the part of the administration.

The “smart diplomacy” policy remains in place. The US is currying favor from Japan, India, Australia and Vietnam to form a quadrangle alliance to keep China in check. The US has realized that the relationship between China and the Philippines has been improving and it is difficult to sow dissent between China and ASEAN. On August 6, China and ASEAN adopted a negotiating framework for a code of conduct in the South China Sea. So Washington woos Tokyo and New Delhi to counterbalance Beijing in the region.

The US under pragmatic Trump does not favor any ideological tool, yet it does not like narratives from China either. China has proposed the concept of a new type of major power relations, yet the US only sees it as a “heart-warming slogan” that it neither accepts nor rejects.

The current China-US relationship is more like a partnership with limits. The two nations have many interests that have converged and manageable conflicts, and can cooperate on concrete global issues such as fighting terrorism and nuclear proliferation, but there will not be an alliance under the construct of international law.

Source: Global Times

Chinese vice Premier makes Independence Day’s show most impressive

ISLAMABAD, August 14 (INP): Chinese vice Premier Wang Yang made the main independence Day function here at the jam-packed convention center most impressive by his presence and warm-hearted speech, that received thunderous applause from the audience.

Wang was the main focus at the function who made his heart open before the Pakistani nation on their 70th independence day, stating that China considers its friendship with Pakistan even stronger than iron. Chinese peoples’ love and affection with Pakistan was truly reflective from his speech that covers wide-ranging matters relating to Sino-Pak decades’ old deep-rooted strategic cooperative partnership.

President Mamnoon Hussain, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and other dignitaries present on the occasion especially acknowledged his words of high appreciation and love for Pakistan. Wang Yang headed a special high-level delegation representing his country at the function on the directions of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Chinese ambassador Sun Weidong was also present on the occasion. His speech was broadcast and telecast live by all channels of Radio Pakistan and Television with its Urdu translation.

Wang Yang congratulated Pakistani nation on its 70th Independence Day, conveying his country’s commitment that they will stand by each other in difficult times and “this friendship will stand the test of time and last for generations to generations”.

“Our friendship is higher than the mountains, deeper than the oceans, stronger than steel and sweeter than honey,” he repeated the historical phrases that convey the depth of relationship and sentiments to each other.

While praising high Pakistan’s peaceful role World-wide and its sacrifices rendered during war against terrorism, Yang said Pakistan has become a key player in the international arena. China considers it to be a key player in the development of the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) project.

He recalled that both countries had helped each other in the hour of need. This spirit will be kept high in the years to come.

“We will never forget that after the earthquake in Schichuan province, Pakistan was the first country to send aid via helicopters to the affected areas.”

Paying rich tributes to Pakistani nation for its glorious achievements, the Vice Premier said, “Over the past seven decades, the courageous and unyielding Pakistani people have resolutely defended their national sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity against hegemony, power politics and external interference, achieving one heroic success after another in safeguarding the country’s core interests and national dignity.

Over the past seven decades, “the hard-working and talented Pakistani people have made self-reliant and painstaking efforts to develop their country despite enormous difficulties. The country has taken on a new look, with much improved infrastructure, leapfrog advances in science and technology and notably enhanced comprehensive national strength.

With its GDP soaring from some two billion US dollars to more than 300 billion US dollars, Pakistan has joined the ranks of the top 50 economies in the world, and its people have made great leaps from poverty to subsistence and to initial prosperity”, he added.

Wang Yang noted that Pakistan has been committed to the path of peaceful development and to pursuing external relations on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence.

He went on to add, Pakistan has been actively involved in the international fight against terrorism and UN peacekeeping operations, and made enormous sacrifice for and great contribution to peace and stability of this region and beyond.”

Wang Yang said, China is ready to strengthen all-round economic cooperation with Pakistan. China sees Pakistan as an important in the Belt and Road Initiative, and all will take forward the building of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor in line with the principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits and launch more early harvest projects to enhance Pakistan’s capacity for independent development and deliver tangible benefits to the people along the route.

The Chinese State leader added, China is also ready to strengthen all-round people-to-people exchanges with Pakistan. “ We will expand cooperation in areas including education, science and technology, culture, health and sports, and encourage exchanges between think-tanks, media, universities, social groups and non-government organizations to enhance public support for China-Pakistan friendship and cooperation and promote closer heart-to- heart communication between our people.”

INP/JAVED

Chinese medical student invents machine for detecting epilepsy seizures

(Photo/thePaper.cn)

Yin Xu, a 22-year-old medical student from Lianyungang, east China’s Jiangsu province, has invented a gadget to enable his grandmother detect epilepsy seizures. There is possibility of the device undergoing trial production, thepaper.cn reported on August 14.

 

The device includes a silica gel tooth socket that does not only avoid tongue bite due to seizure, but also sends an alarm signal to others via a built-in circuit, Yin, a junior student majoring in clinical medicine in Nanjing Medical University, told thepaper.cn.

 

Yin’s grandmother experiences seizures every month, often at midnight. Having found no real-time alarm by epilepsy developers, Yin decided to invent one before proceeding on internship.

 

After two months’ trial, the device was successfully designed in June by Yin and his team members, spending less than 500 yuan. They will further improve it by connecting to an APP to record every seizure and its period, and then provide guidance for medical treatment.

 

Already, some equipment manufacturers have expressed interest in carrying out trial production of the device. Yin hopes the invention can help more epilepsy patients like his grandmother.