China switches roles with Japan in wood trade following afforestation endeavor

The Japanese once joked that 99 percent of their disposable chopsticks were imported from China, but now the two countries have switched roles, as Japan has become China’s largest wood exporter.

According to a report by, Japan has become China’s largest wood supplier after China banned the cutting down of trees and forests and people’s environmental awareness was raised.

In 2016, Chinese enterprises imported 48 percent more wood from Japan than in 2015, most of which was used to manufacture furniture. In China, about 314 million cubic meters of wood was needed in 2007 for construction, interior decoration, and furniture building and the figure jumped to nearly 800 million cubic meters in 2016, according to

According to a forestry white paper released by the Japanese government, the total value of Japanese exports of wood reached 23.8 billion yen ($21 million) in 2016, four percent higher than the previous year and up 150 percent from 2011, Japan’s Kyodo News Agency reported.

In 2016, Japan’s sold $8 million worth of wood to China, the largest volume to a foreign country and almost 3.8 times compared to five years ago, Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries announced. Japan started to sell wood to China on a massive scale in 2013.

China has the world’s largest forest area. By the end of 2015, China’s forestry area reached 208 million hectares, with the percentage of forest coverage at 21.66 percent, according to a white paper released by the Information Office of the State Council in December 2016.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, China had the largest net increase of forest area in the world from 2010 to 2015, with 154.2 million hectares being added each year.

The New York Times reported that China’s added forest coverage of 168,000 square kilometers from 2000 to 2010 was even larger than the total area of the US state of Virginia, citing official data from the UN.

The report estimated that China had invested nearly $100 billion in the afforestation project from 2000 to 2010, saying the endeavor would not only benefit future generations but also make its due contribution to reduce climate change.

While the Amazon deforestation reached 532,000 square kilometers from 1990 to 2015, China’s forest area increased by 512,000 square kilometers in the same period, The World Bank said on World Forest Day in 2016.

China’s afforestation efforts are applauded by the country’s netizens, with many saying that the endeavor has brought positive environmental changes to their hometowns.

Speculation on virtual currency is a pitfall: experts

(File Photo)

Experts say that speculation on Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and other virtual currencies is a pitfall due to great legal and economic risks, People’s Daily reported on Sept. 18.

Virtual currency should not circulate in the market like normal currencies, as it is not issued by monetary authorities, according to a document released by seven Chinese departments, including the Central Bank, Cyberspace Administration of China, and Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

The document also pointed out that the issuance, circulation, and transactions of virtual currencies are essentially an illegal financing behavior.

China’s National Internet Finance Association also warned against the risks of virtual currencies, saying that virtual currency has no real value and is likely to become a tool for money laundering, drug trafficking, smuggling, illegal fund-raising, and other criminal activities.

Regulation in the economy is extremely important. Virtual currency, compared with traditional financial products and activities, is not only likely to be a protective umbrella for shadow and black markets, but is likely to result in various risks due to lack of regulations and its subjective value. The result is that the virtual currency will influence the sustainable and healthy development of Internet finance, said Jin Yu, dean of economics under the School of Economics, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics.

Jin added that, it does not mean that virtual currency should be completely rejected, as it also has certain innovative value. However, developers and operators of the currency have the responsibility for popularizing an algorithm’s value to make sure market demand is based on consumers’ real understanding of it, rather than speculation that eventually leads to a pitfall of bubble bursting.

The expert further pointed out that, facing rapid development of Internet finance and financial technology, China needs to pay attention to risk prevention and controls, while also encouraging innovation.

Jin, therefore, suggests that China establish an organization or adopt additional supervision measures for innovative products like virtual currency, in order to standardize their development and ensure transactions are based on real value.

Hard-to-get Marathon tickets indicate huge business opportunities

Hard-to-get tickets, growing demand for participating in marathon races, as well as strong support from the government for holding the races, all indicate huge business opportunities in the marathon industry, Beijing News reported on Sept. 15.

Nearly 100,000 runners signed up for the 2017 Beijing International Marathon to be held on Sept. 17, while the quotas are limited to 30,000 people. Those who fail to buy tickets for the race will pay 2,000 yuan ($305) on black market for a ticket valued at only 200 yuan.

Many cities in China have been scrambling to bid for holding marathon races to increase their popularity, as the races are a boost to local catering and tourism businesses.

Statistics show that a total of 328 marathon races were held in 133 Chinese cities in 2016. Nearly 2.8 million people took part in the races, up 1.3 million compared to 2015.

In addition, Chinese runners spent 3,601 yuan on sports equipment per capita in 2015, and experienced runners spent 4,594 yuan on high-end sports equipment, including smart watches and sports bracelets, said a report released by the Chinese Athletic Association and the global market research company Nielsen in 2015.

Many departments in China, including the National Development and Reform Commission, the General Administration of Sport, and the Ministry of Public Security also issued a scheme on July 13, 2017, to promote the development of national sporting events in China through strengthening policy support.

Tao Shaoming, a well-known marathon agent who has formed a business in the industry, established the “TaoCamp” in Africa in early 2012 to cultivate athletes for the races, attracting lots of African runners.

Tao disclosed that the camp usually deducts 10 to 15 percent from the runners’ income.

He also set up a sports match management company in 2016 with Sun Yingjie, the three successive championship winner of the 2016 Beijing International Marathon.

“What we have done is only the beginning. We hope to cultivate top Chinese runners for international marathon races in the future through the platform,” Tao noted.

Chinese banks launch cash machines using facial recognition technology

Many banks in China have recently launched ATM machines equipped with facial recognition technology to improve customer experience, Beijing News reported on Sept. 15.

The machines launched by branches of China Construction Bank (CCB), Agricultural Bank of China (ABC), and China Merchants Bank (CMB) are able to identify and authenticate users who are even twins, have light make-up, or had mini face-lift according to bone shape and eyebrow spacing, an employee noted.

It takes less than a minute to withdraw money from the machines and daily withdrawals for each user are limited to a maximum of 3,000 RMB ($458), according to the banks.

Apart from the first step of facial recognition, customers also need to input their ID number or mobile phone number for identity verification and an account password to withdraw money.

There have been no problems since the service was launched, an employee at CMB noted, adding that the technology can tell if the account holder matches the user and judge whether or not it is a real person.

“Facial recognition technology has been applied to payment services for a long time. The banks using the technology only offer it as an alternative service to improve the customer experience,” said Dong Ximiao, a senior researcher at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China.

Dong added that more banks are likely to adopt the technology for their ATM machines in the future if the cost is reasonable and the technology is mature, but that also depends on the needs of customers.

China aims to build over 40 world-class universities in new higher education funding program

Yunnan University (file photo)

The “double first-class” project university list, a new impetus for the development of China’s higher education sector, will soon be announced by China’s Ministry of Education (MOE).

Even before the final list has officially come out, some universities have already informed the public that they are on the list, including Xinjiang University, Yunnan University, Harbin Institute of Technology, and Shanghai Jiaotong University.

The term “double first-class,” which refers to “world-class university” and “world-class discipline,” was approved by the MOE, Ministry of Finance, and China’s deepening reform lead group in 2016. The project, in the form of five-year plans, envisages China having some 40 universities and a number of majors recognized as world-class by 2020.

It is the third effort of its kind after two earlier programs: Project 211 and Project 985, the government-funded endeavor to strengthen advanced higher education institutions and key disciplinary areas. However, the “double first-class” project is more than just another version of the two previous projects, as it is a brand new plan, said Chen Baosheng, Minister of Education.

On Sept. 13, the National University of Defense Technology (NUDT) said via its official WeChat account that it is China’s only military academy on the list. Chinese President Xi Jinping has encouraged NUDT to work harder to make key technological breakthroughs in order to build a world-class institution of higher education.

Some of the chosen institutions are member universities of Project 211, such as Southwest University and Southwestern University of Finance and Economics, while others, including Harbin Institute of Technology, Shanghai Jiaotong University, Chongqing University, and Sichuan University, are Project 985 universities.

China now one of world’s top-3 shale gas producers

China has become the world’s largest shale gas producer along with the U.S. and Canada, the country’s Ministry of Land and Resources (MLR) recently announced.

From drilling the first shale gas well in 2010, to producing more than 10 billion cubic meters of shale gas annually, China has successfully made a significant and strategic breakthrough.

Shale gas is a natural gas found trapped within shale formations that is green and has high calorific value.

Yu Haifeng, an MLR official in charge of mineral reserves, said that the proven reserves of shale gas in southwestern China’s Sichuan Basin and its surrounding stratum totals 764.3 billion cubic meters. Fuling Shale Gas Field, which is located in this region, has become the world’s second largest shale gas field following North America.

Currently, natural gas only makes up less than 7% of China’s primary energy consumption. Experts said that the promotion of shale gas exploration and natural gas supply is of great importance to China’s efforts to revolutionize the country’s energy production and consumption, structural optimization of resources, and energy security.

Though China is a late starter in shale gas exploration, it has experienced rapid development. “Fuling Shale Gas Field and Changning-Weiyuan Shale Gas Field, two major national-level pilot zones, have both achieved fruitful results,” said Zhang Dawei, director of Mineral Reserve Review Center under the MLR.

“It has proved the potential of China’s shale gas development, and we should be confident about it,” he added.

The exploitation was not an easy task for China. A batch of wells had to be drilled with advanced technologies from major European and American companies, but the theory was not perfectly applicable to China’s complicated geological conditions.

With a spirit of innovation and perseverance, technical barriers have been broken down by Chinese companies represented by Sinopec and Petro China. “After learning from foreign technologies and from our own innovation, we grasped the basics of how to design and construct such devices,” said Liu Yaowen, director of Sinopec Jianghan Oilfield’s shale gas development department.

The recoverable volume of China’s shale gas stands at around 20 trillion cubic meters, but proven reserves only make up less than 1/20 of the total amount, according to the MLR.

This year, many state departments, including the National Development and Reform Commission, have proposed to promote natural gas exploitation, hoping to make natural gas a major resource in the country’s modern system of clean energy. It is hoped that natural gas will make up 10% of the country’s primary energy consumption in 2020.

Upcoming Chinese National Day holiday not a straw for sluggish South Korean tourism

The upcoming week-long National Day holiday in China will not be the straw for South Korean tourism to clutch at, said South Korean media.

According to Yonhap News Agency, group tours from China almost stopped since March, leading to a drastic downturn in the South Korean tourism industry. Consumption by Chinese tourists in South Korea during the upcoming “Golden Week” will likely experience a 30% drop, the news agency estimated.

South Korea will embrace a 10-day holiday starting from early October. Though domestic tourists will contribute to the country’s overall consumption, it’s still far from the level of consumption by Chinese tourists.

Citing China Daily, Yonhap said that some six million Chinese tourists will travel abroad for the upcoming holiday, but South Korea is no longer a favorite destination.

With the impact of the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, only 7.76 million Chinese people visited South Korea in the first seven months of 2017, a 20.9% drop compared with the same period of the last year.

People in the tourism industry in South Korea predict escalated tension between the two countries upon the completion of the temporary deployment of the system. The number of Chinese tourists will keep dropping during the upcoming holiday, they said.

“We have suffered great loss because of the decreased number of Chinese tourists, and the deployment of the additional four launchers will worsen the situation,” said an insider. “The golden week was a money time for us last year, but now I have no expectation,” he added.

High school student in Harbin organizes TEDx event

A TEDx event was organized by a high school student at Harbin No. 3 High School on Aug. 21. With the theme of “blooming,” the event received warm responses from the students.

Jiang Zhuowen, the organizer of the activity, invited intelligent transportation expert Wang Yinhai, Australian psychologist Shen Yi, and U.S. film director Chen Jianying to deliver speeches.

Harbin No. 3 High School is the only high school in northeast China that is qualified to host TEDx events.

It was the third TEDx program held by the school. Thanks to Jiang’s personal achievements and his public welfare contributions, reputable speakers have been invited to the school.

In addition to a series of titles, such as president of school debate society, provincial champion of a national high school debate tour, and first-prize winner in a national high school physics competition, Jiang is also an enthusiastic volunteer teacher.

He founded an association for volunteer teaching at his school, and 200 students participated. They have conducted both online and offline activities, helping a total of nearly 10,000 students from local middle schools. It is inspiring that some of the students have entered top high schools under their assistance.

Jiang’s experience has earned him a chance to apply for a TEDx license. Because of his extraordinary performance, he has won the hearts of interviewers and has been qualified.

On Aug. 21, the three famous speakers made excellent speeches to the students with the theme of “blooming,” covering a wide range of topics, including self-adjustment, life choices, and future lifestyles.

“This event was the brainstorm of the three speakers, and also exactly what I think of when I think of ‘blooming,’” he said.

“I want to be a promoter of cultures who introduces new ideas to people, and brings knowledge and information through activities, such as volunteering and TEDx,” Jiang noted, adding that he will continue this path in the future.

Triplet daughters cry before daddy’s peacemaking mission in Africa

Sept. 9, triplet daughters of a military physician from Chengdu Military General Hospital cried before their father left for the Democratic Republic of the Congo for a peacemaking mission.

It is serviceman Liu Xi’s second peacemaking mission. He was sent to Lebanon six years ago.

Now a father of three girls under 2 years old, Liu once again faced a choice between family and service. Though his daughters were unwilling to part from him, his wife still encouraged and supported him.

Traditional Chinese medicine introduced to elementary school curriculum in Zhejiang

Fifth-grade students in elementary schools of eastern China’s Zhejiang province will learn traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) starting from this semester, Qianjiang Evening News reported on Tuesday.

Zhejiang is the first and only province in China that has introduced TCM to the curriculum of elementary schools.

The innovation has triggered heated debate among Chinese netizens. Parents in favor of the act believe that TCM is a treasure of Chinese culture and it will benefit the children by helping them develop a healthy lifestyle. However, some parents hold a different opinion, saying that TCM is totally beyond the young students’ ability to comprehend.

“We parents care more about the actual effect of the course,” said a man surnamed Wang, adding that it might be eliminated because students usually have a very tight schedule especially at this grade.

According to Fang Jianqiao, the chief editor of the TCM textbook, the proposal to incorporate TCM into the curriculum of elementary and middle schools was raised by a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in 2011.

Fang believes that TCM has made unique contribution to China’s 5,000-year history. Before western medicine entered China around 100 years ago, TCM provided the major therapeutic approaches, and Chinese people should be proud of it, he added.

In addition, China has laid great importance on the development of TCM at the national level. According to the Outline of the Strategic Plan on the Development of Traditional Chinese Medicine (2016-2030) issued by the State Council last year, TCM should be widely promoted on campuses and in communities, villages, and families.

The textbook is specifically designed for 5th-grade-level students, Fang said. “We have invited Chinese teachers to examine it to ensure that the textbook is readable,” he explained.

Fang also slammed those who doubt the reliability of TCM, saying that it’s not scientific for them to belittle the discipline when they themselves don’t understand the discipline.