Trump reportedly approves US Navy’s annual operation plan in South China Sea

US President Donald Trump has reportedly approved a plan to give the US navy more freedom to carry out patrols in the South China Sea, but an expert said that the US might be wasting its time.

The Trump administration approved an annual plan for when US navy ships will sail through the contested waters, giving greater freedom to the US navy, according to Breitbart News, a far-right American news site.

The plan was submitted to the White House in April by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, an anonymous US official revealed. The official claimed the White House would be aware of all planned “freedom of navigation operations” so it would not be “a surprise” when requests came up the chain of command, and they would be approved faster than before.

The faster approval process would mean operations could be conducted on a “very routine, very regular” basis, as a part of a program to keep the waters open, rather than as a “one-off event,” the official said.

This move is a clear sign that the US is planning on stepping up operations in the South China Sea, Zhu Feng, dean of the School of International Studies at Nanjing University, told Global Times on July 23.

However, the US may not reach its goal, as stepping up such operations goes against the trend of stability, cooperation, and dialogue in Asia-Pacific region.

The US military’s annual plan aims to send a message to US allies that the US remains committed to securing the Asia-Pacific region, especially East Asia, and will not back away from containing China, Zhu said.

The scholar also noted that the approved plan will impact China-US relations.

In fact, the US Congress has debated what impact the plan would have in the South China Sea.

Some have realized that so-called “freedom of navigation” exercises will not put an end to China’s claims over the South China Sea, which are based on sovereignty and jurisprudential evidences. The unilateral move by US navy will just put more pressure on China and further aggravate the situation in the South China Sea, which is something that the international community, including ASEAN countries, is reluctant to see, he added.

China to return 820,000 hectares of farmlands to forests in 2017

China plans to return about 820,000 hectares of farmlands to forests and grasslands in 2017, according to the State Forestry Bureau on July 24.

The figure will increase the total coverage of farmlands returned to forests and grasslands to 5.3 million hectares since 2014, when the country carried a new round of land reclamation work, aiming to return almost 2.83 million hectares of farmlands to forests and grasslands by 2020.

In May 2017, the State Council approved a project to return about 2.5 million hectares of farmlands to forests and grasslands in 18 provincial regions and in parts of southwest China’s Yunnan province.

Bike-sharing helps alleviate China’s traffic congestion: report

China’s famous bike-sharing industry is more than just convenient; it has also been getting a lot of credit for alleviating traffic congestion in the country’s major cities.

China News reported on Tuesday that traffic problems in China’s cities have declined significantly in the second quarter of 2017, partly due to bike sharing.

Last year, the Scientific Research Institute under China’s Ministry of Transport and the Tsinghua-Daimler Center for Sustainable Transportation Research released a report showing traffic conditions have eased in almost 80 percent of China’s cities on year-on-year basis.

According to the report, the amount of traffic congestion in 15 cities has dropped by more than 8 percent, most notably in the cities of Tianjin, Qingdao, and Wuhan.

The amount of fuel saved through using shared bicycles in short distance travel is projected to reach 1.4 million tons in 2017, accounting for 1.1 percent of total consumption, according to the report.

Aside from bike sharing, the report has also attributed the improving traffic conditions to ride-hailing services, urban traffic network improvements, and better traffic management.

Bike sharing and ride-hailing are parts of China’s booming sharing economy, which is enabling people to share things like cars, bikes, beds, and boats directly from other people online.

Trump reportedly approves US Navy’s annual operation plan in South China Sea

US President Donald Trump has reportedly approved a plan to give the US navy more freedom to carry out patrols in the South China Sea, but an expert said that the US might be wasting its time.

The Trump administration approved an annual plan for when US navy ships will sail through the contested waters, giving greater freedom to the US navy, according to Breitbart News, a far-right American news site.

The plan was submitted to the White House in April by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, an anonymous US official revealed. The official claimed the White House would be aware of all planned “freedom of navigation operations” so it would not be “a surprise” when requests came up the chain of command, and they would be approved faster than before.

The faster approval process would mean operations could be conducted on a “very routine, very regular” basis, as a part of a program to keep the waters open, rather than as a “one-off event,” the official said.

This move is a clear sign that the US is planning on stepping up operations in the South China Sea, Zhu Feng, dean of the School of International Studies at Nanjing University, told Global Times on July 23.

However, the US may not reach its goal, as stepping up such operations goes against the trend of stability, cooperation, and dialogue in Asia-Pacific region.

The US military’s annual plan aims to send a message to US allies that the US remains committed to securing the Asia-Pacific region, especially East Asia, and will not back away from containing China, Zhu said.

The scholar also noted that the approved plan will impact China-US relations.

In fact, the US Congress has debated what impact the plan would have in the South China Sea.

Some have realized that so-called “freedom of navigation” exercises will not put an end to China’s claims over the South China Sea, which are based on sovereignty and jurisprudential evidences. The unilateral move by US navy will just put more pressure on China and further aggravate the situation in the South China Sea, which is something that the international community, including ASEAN countries, is reluctant to see, he added.

Explosive detection dogs on duty in scorching heat in E China

Outside the temperature is 39 degree Celsius. But four police dogs are on duty sniffing for hidden dangers at a long-distance bus station in Shanghai, where there are about 30,000 daily passengers and almost 50,000 visitors each day. The police dogs check 2,500 suitcases and bags in the waiting hall and boarding areas every day. If there is anything unusual, they will give a warning to the police.

Their noses are 1,000 times more sensitive than that of human being. Dogs are born with thick skin and lack sweat glands. Therefore, they need lots of attention when working in hot weather. Every 15 minutes the police dogs are given water to drink and are wetted with a towel and ice. After a whole day’s work, their handlers will give them a bath as a reward, Zhang Jun, the handler of explosive detection police dogs told thepaper.cn. 

Pillar-like thunderstorm lights up the afternoon sky in east China

An unusual pillar-like thunderstorm that seemed to connect heaven and earth dazzled folks in Longyan City, east China’s Fujian province, late in the afternoon of July 21, according to CCTV news.

The spectacular sight was actually a thundershower caused by a strong convection of rising moist air. The video was shared online and has attracted various comments from netizens. Some even made fun of it, comparing it to adding spices while cooking.

Joint China-Russia naval maneuvers not aimed at anyone, expert says

Chinese navy frigate Yuncheng leave the port for the drill.

The military exercise held by China and Russia in the Baltic Sea from July 21 to 28 does not target at any third party, a military expert told Global Times after groundless accusations by the West concerning the drill.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) also paid more attention to the drill to be held in Europe’s “hinterland.”

According to the schedule, the joint military exercises would involve 10 warships, more than 10 fighter jets and helicopters, with the objective to improve their research-and-rescue capability and strengthen the comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination between the two countries.

Three Chinese warships and Russia’s flagships will take turns to hold the maneuvers so as to improve the two naval forces during exercises, military expert, Li Jie told Global Times.

According to an anonymous source, the Baltic Sea has been a hotspot since some Baltic countries joined NATO and shrank Russia’s strategic space. However, the joint China-Russia drill is just a regular activity held every other year and is not aimed at any third party or current situations.

The drill aims to develop China’s and Russia’s comprehensive strategic partnership, deepen friendly and pragmatic cooperation between the two armed forces and improve capability to jointly cope with threats to maritime security by ensuring joint rescue and joint protection of maritime economic activities, China’s Ministry of National Defense said previously.

An observer noted that NATO was friendly to China when the participating fleets passed the North Sea, judging from the message released by NATO’s Maritime Command. China’s use of the North Sea area is lawful and reasonable. NATO probably feels defensive in the face of the joint maneuvers and certainly wishes China-Russia cooperation weakened, the observer said.

China is open to military exchanges with other countries, Li said. China hopes the US will maintain a more open mind during the 2018 Rim of Pacific naval drill, said Shen Jinlong, China’s naval chief when meeting with Scott Swift, commander of the United States Pacific Fleet.

The forthcoming overseas joint military exercises will the farthest from China for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, the anonymous person told Global Times. “It’s not only a test of capability for the PLA Navy, but also an embodiment of confidence and power.”

Hello, Halo!

An all-people photography and graphics design “contest” started in the morning of July 19 when a rare halo occurred in the sky of Ningbo, Hangzhou and other cities of Zhejiang province in eastern China. Citizens posted photos on social media of this spectacular scenery taken from different angles and even designed a creative series of funny pictures about the halo.

Chinese smartphones enjoy huge patronage, earn little profits

Domestic mobile phone brands are shipped abroad in large quantities, but with small profits to show.

The shipment of Chinese mobile phone brands reached 216 million in the first two quarters of 2017, said China’s Mobile Phone Domestic Market Operation Analysis Report in June 2017. The report was recently released by the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT).

On the contrary, the profit margins of Chinese brands in the first quarter are less than 5 per cent, according to data from Strategy Analytics.

Chinese brands will continue to suffer supply chain problems as a result of weaknesses in independently developing key mobile phone components, an expert said.

For a long time now, key smartphone components, including clip, screen, internal storage, flash memory and camera clip, have been monopolized by some international brands. China still lacks domestic suppliers of key components like Sonny and Samsung, a telecoms expert, Bo Song, said.

The cost of key components accounts for 60 percent to 70per cent of the total cost of a smartphone. If there is shortage of components or hike in prices, profit margins of mid-low end phones are further shrunken, said an insider. A supply chain dealer estimates that 15 percent net profits for the mobile phone industry in China are hard to achieve.

The development of domestic brands is still limited by supply gap, though the local smartphone industry is striving for self reliance, chinanews.com reported.

Bo suggested that upgrading supply chain also plays a role in improving industrial chain. China should urgently improve its supply chain instead of struggling to cope with supply shortage, he added.