Xi’s upcoming visits to usher in new chapter of China-Europe ties

Chinese President Xi Jinping will pay state visits to Italy, Monaco and France from March 21 to 26.

Xi was invited by Italian President Sergio Mattarella, Head of State of the Principality of Monaco Albert II and French President Emmanuel Macron.

The Chinese President’s first overseas trip this year, scheduled at the spring equinox, heralds hope and vitality, and bears the earnest anticipation from the heads of state and people of the three countries.

Planting a seed of friendly relationship between China and the three countries, the visits will definitely further boost China-Europe ties.

Both China and Italy are ancient civilizations closely bonded by the ancient Silk Road – a bridge for the exchanges of western and eastern cultures.

In recent years, the two countries maintained frequent high-level exchanges, as well as people-to-people exchanges at all levels. The Belt and Road construction also establishes a bridge for bilateral friendly cooperation in each field in the new era.

A recent special exchange of letters delivered a warm message to the public. Eight students from Italian boarding school Rome Convitto Nazionale Vittorio Emanuele II and its president Paolo M. Reale wrote Xi a letter to express their eager expectations for his visit and their willingness to promote friendship between Italy and China.

In the response letter, Xi encouraged the students to be cultural ambassadors between the two countries, and become modern-day Marco Polo.

This year marks the 15th anniversary of comprehensive strategic partnership between China and Italy. Xi’s upcoming visit to the European country will take China-Italy ties in the new era to a new high.

Though China and Monaco are geographically far apart, the two countries maintained sound development of bilateral relationship based on mutual respect, equality, and win-win cooperation, setting an example for the friendly ties and common development between big and small countries.

In recent years, China-Monaco relations enjoyed stable and healthy development under the personal guidance from the heads of state of the two countries, with progress continuously being made in trade and economy, culture, and environmental protection.

The two countries held an economic and trade forum during Prince Albert II’s state visit to China last year.

They also held frequent cultural exchanges in recent years. China’s Palace Museum displayed cultural relics at the Grimaldi Forum Monaco, and 271 collections from Monaco were also exhibited at the Palace Museum.

The increasingly frequent cultural exchanges have reinforced public support for further consolidation and development of bilateral friendly cooperation. It is believed that fruitful results will be achieved for China-Monaco friendship during Xi’s visit.

This year marks the 55th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and France.

Over the past 55 years, the two countries upgraded their comprehensive partnership to comprehensive strategic partnership, and then the close and enduring comprehensive strategic partnership.

China-France ties have always been at the forefront of China’s relations with major countries in the west.

In Xi’s speech at the Meeting Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Establishment of China-France Diplomatic Relations held in 2014, the Chinese President described the spirit of the bilateral relationship with “independence, mutual understanding, strategic vision and win-win cooperation”.

In January, 2018, Macron became the first head of state visiting China in 2018, and also the first European state leader to visit China after the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. The Chinese and French Presidents agreed to carry forward their traditional friendship, and ensure the long-term stability of the close and enduring comprehensive strategic partnership between China and France.

Today, Xi chose France as an important destination of his first overseas trip in 2019. His state visit to France will point clear direction and draw a blueprint for the future cooperation between the two countries in each field.

During Xi’s first visit to Europe as the Chinese President in March, 2014, he proposed to link the two strong forces, two big markets, and two major civilizations of China and the European Union (EU), and build China-EU partnership for peace, growth, reform and civilization, pointing out the strategic direction of the development of China-EU relationship.

During Xi’s following visits to European countries, he made great efforts to draw new blueprints for China-Europe relations and vitalize China-Europe cooperation.

At the end of last year, Chinese government issued its third policy paper on the EU, defining its EU policy objectives in the new era and its major measures to enhance China-EU dialogues and cooperation for a time to come. The policy paper endowed China-EU ties with new connotation.

Under the complicated international situation, the stable development of the relationship between China and Europe, two of the world’s major stabilizing factors and major economies, conforms to the common interests of both parties, and will also inject certainty to the world.

It is expected that Xi’s first overseas trip this year will deepen China-Europe cooperation and create more positive energy for global win-win cooperation.

Commentary: Facts reveal hypocrisy behind US claims on human rights

The US, in the 2018 country reports on human rights practices released by its State Department on March 13, once again acted as a self-styled “human rights defender”.

It continued pointing fingers at over 190 countries and slandering their human rights situations groundlessly, as if the US had done a perfect job in this regard. However, facts and data are clear enough to reveal its own serious human rights problems.

The US claims that it values the right to life of every person, but statistics indicates that the safety of American citizens has been seriously threatened.

The US reported 57,103 incidents of gun violence in 2018, resulting in 14,717 deaths, 28,172 injuries, including casualties of 3,502 juveniles.

Chicago was named as one of the most dangerous metropolis in the US, as hundreds of people were murdered annually in recent years. On August 4 and 5 last year, 74 people in the city were shot, and 12 of them killed.

The Huffington Post reported on December 6 that gun violence has shortened the life expectancy of Americans by nearly 2.5 years, with shooting driving down the average lifespan of African-Americans by 4.14 years, based on official data on gun deaths between 2000 and 2016.

A 2018 report issued by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said drug overdose deaths among US residents exceeded 70,000 in 2017, or 200 per day. The rate had increased on average by 16 percent per year since 2014.

According to an article published on USA Today on December 18, 2018, the suicide rate of the US had climbed 33 percent since 1999. In 2017, more than 47,000 Americans committed suicide.

The US boasts its freedom of speech, but it is unprecedentedly controlling public opinions and pressuring news media.

A total of 89.7 percent of American colleges maintained policies that restricted student and faculty expression, said a report issued by Foundation for Individual Rights in Education(FIRE), a non-profit, non-partisan group founded in 1999 that focuses on civil liberties in academia in the United States, after analyzing written policies at 466 of America’s top institutions of higher education for their protection of free speech. In 11 states, at least half of colleges received the worst rating for “clearly and substantially” restricting free speech rights.

The Columbia Journalism Review reported that the US arrested journalists 34 times in 2017, 29 of whom were arrested for protest, and nine were accused of felony. Forty-four journalists suffered from personal attacks.

A Pew Research Center survey on American democracy and the political system showed 53 percent said the US did not respect “the rights and freedoms of all people.”

The US labels itself as a role model regarding democratic politics, but what has been presented by statistics and facts is money politics.

The 2018 midterm elections were proved to be by far the most expensive midterm elections on record. The final cost of 2018 elections stood at $5.2 billion, a 35 percent increase over 2014 in nominal dollars, the Center for Responsive Politics said on November 8, 2018.

Records were also set by the more than $1.3 billion spent by outside groups – those other than the candidates’ campaign committees – and the $98 million in so-called dark money, said a USA Today report.

The Guardian reported on August 7, 2018 that US elections were widely seen to be corrupt by the public. Members of Congress were viewed to be captured by corporations, wealthy donors and special interests groups. The average cost of winning a Senate seat was $19.4 million while winning a House of Representatives seat would cost at least $1.5 million on average.

According to a report released by Philip G. Alston, special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights for the UN, the combined wealth of the US cabinet reached about $4.3 billion, turning the US government into the spokesperson of the rich people.

The US took a vow of equal protection of everyone’s dignity, but the dignity of American women and children have long been trampled on.

An online survey done by non-profit organization Stop Street Harassment found that 81 percent of women interviewed had experienced some form of sexual harassment during their lifetime. Another industry-wide survey by USA Today suggested that 94 percent of the surveyed women would have experienced some form of harassment or abuse during their career.

As reported by Gallup on November 12, the percentage of the US women who say they worry about being a victim of sexual assault has edged up to 36 percent, the highest figure bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbsince 2011.

More than 300 Catholic priests in Pennsylvania committed sexual abuse against a large number of children over the past 70 decades, with more than 1,000 victims, while senior church officials took steps to cover it up, said a CBS report.

According to a report by Star-Telegram on December 9, 2018, 168 clergies from fundamental Baptist churches spanning 40 US states were accused of committing sexual crimes against children, with as many as 45 of them continuing in ministry.

Nearly 40 percent of American middle-schoolers said they’d been bullied while 27 percent of high-schoolers said the same, said a report issued by nonprofit group YouthTruth.

The US poses as a country attaching high importance to racial equality, but recent data indicated increasingly serious racial discrimination and ethnic violence have been prevalent in every field of the social life.

A report released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said hate crimes rose by about 17 percent to 7,175 cases in the US in 2017. Offenses motivated by racial prejudice made up about 60 percent of hate crimes, with African-Americans being targeted in nearly half of them.

According to the analysis of homicide arrest data on Washington Post, in the past decade, 63 percent of suspects who killed white victims were arrested, while the percentage of suspects who killed black victims was only 47. A 2017 survey by Pew Research Center indicated that 81 percent of African-Americans believe racial discrimination to be a serious issue in today’s world, up from 44 percent 8 years earlier.

The US promises to guarantee human rights protection for countries around the globe, but is indeed following unilateralism under the banner of “America first”.

It broke its faith by flagrantly withdrawing from the UN Human Rights Council, the UNESCO, the Paris Climate Agreement, and Iran nuclear deal. In addition, it rejected to ratify core UN human rights treaties such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Facts and statistics evidenced the hypocrisy and dual-standards of the US government on human right issues. The US takes human rights as a tool to slander and attack other countries, and protect the capital interests of the privileged class, which fully exposed the duplicity of its clarification on human rights practices.

(Chang Jian, director of the Center for Human Rights Studies, Nankai University) 

Palace Museum, Huawei work together to build digital museum

The Palace Museum in Beijing signed a strategic agreement with Huawei on March 15 to build a more digital, informationized and smart museum.

The Palace Museum (Photo/Chinanews.com)

Under the agreement, Huawei will connect the Palace Museum with 5G technology, build a smart zone within the museum and hold artificial intelligence (AI) contests at the museum.

The Chinese telecom giant will use innovative technologies such as 5G, cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT) to advance the Palace Museum’s goal of becoming a first-class global museum.

The cooperation with Huawei has drawn the museum closer with technology, said Shan Jixiang, the museum’s curator.

Shan envisions a high-tech-backed Palace Museum that presents visitors faster network speeds, high-definition video content, as well as an instant display of information about ancient buildings and cultural relics on display in the Palace Museum.

With the support of 5G technology, the museum will also be able to monitor the storage, restoration, transportation and exhibition of cultural relics, invite cultural relic doctors and archeologists from around the world to conduct remote consultations on cultural relic restoration and archeological investigations.

The AI technology is also expected to provide a more comprehensive platform for student education, Shan said.

Chinese ministers respond to key issues at the Two Sessions

Chinese ministers have responded to a number of key issues during interviews at the sessions of the country’s top legislature and political advisory body.

Journalists conduct interview at the Ministers’ Corridor of the Two Sessions (Photo/Chinanews.com)

1. Medicine, health care, and elderly-care

Ma Xiaowei, director of the National Health Commission

To build medical service centers in 500 counties, making sure that 90 percent of diseases caught by rural residents can be treated directly in the counties.

Hu Jinglin, head of the National Healthcare Security Administration

To include more life-saving medicines into the country’s medical insurance system, and lead the fight against insurance fraud as a top priority.

Zhang Mao, chief of the State Administration for Market Regulation

To strictly manage the market and punish manufacturers and sellers of fake products, until fake products are phased out from the market entirely. It will be a long-term task to regulate the market of medical care products.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Han Changfu

This year, toilets will be upgraded in 30,000 villages, or 10 million households.

Minister of Culture and Tourism, Luo Shugang

To take only two more years to solve the restroom shortage and improve sanitation.

Minister of Human Resources and Social Security, Zhang Jinan

To make sure that pensions are paid in full and on time. The country has decided to continue to increase the basic retirement pension in 2019.

2. Housing, transportation and communications

Minister of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, Wang Menghui

To take great efforts to cultivate and develop the rental market, with a focus on providing homes for new residents. This year, the ministry will carry out a garbage-sorting campaign in cities above prefecture level.

Minister of Industry and Information Technology, Miao Wei

Chinese mobile users will get to enjoy complete number portability by the end of 2019, and the average unit price of mobile Internet will be reduced by more than 20 percent.

Head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, Feng Zhenglin

To maintain the on-time rate of flights to above 80 percent, and make sure that food provided at airports is of the same quality and price as is offered elsewhere in the same city.

Minister of Transport, Li Xiaopeng

To remove cross-provincial tollgates on expressways in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, the Yangtze River Delta, and major provinces in northeast and southwest China this year.

Minister of Natural Resources Lu Hao

To implement the reduction of time required for immovable property registration. The ministry is confident that they will complete this task together with relevant departments.

3. Culture, technology and education

Minister of Education, Chen Baosheng

To release a guideline for reduction of the amount of schoolwork.

Minister of Science and Technology, Wang Zhigang

To work with relevant departments to combine the contract system of scientific research funds and the reforms to streamline administration and delegate powers, improve regulation, and optimize services.

Liu Yuzhu, head of the National Cultural Heritage Administration

Boundless energy is needed and apathy is unacceptable in museum protection, and opinions on the implementation and development of museum reforms will be enacted within the year.

Gou Zhongwen, director of China’s General Administration of Sport

To implement The Overall Plan of Chinese Soccer Reform and Development with unswerving effort, enhance youth training and assist leadership change of the Chinese Football Association.

Head of the State Intellectual Property Office, Shen Changyu

To further reduce the trademark review period to five months, actively cooperate with the NPC in revising the Patent Law and establish a punishment system for infringement.

4. Economy, finance and investment

Minister of Finance, Liu Kun

To fully implement the plan to cut 2 trillion yuan worth of taxes and fees for enterprises.

Wang Jun, head of the State Administration of Taxation

To welcome and actively cooperate with relevant departments in the implementation of tax and fee reductions and supervise in a concrete and forceful manner, so that the favorable policies yield good results.

Minister of Commerce, Zhong Shan

To renovate and upgrade a group of pedestrian zones, optimize distribution patterns of convenience stores and implement a unique action plan to promote efficient delivery services in urban and rural areas.

Guo Shuqing, chairman of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC), Party secretary of the People’s Bank of China

It’s an attainable goal that large-scale commercial banks will grant 30 percent more loans to small and micro businesses.

He Lifeng, head of the National Development and Reform Commission

To lower market access for private investors, and help them solve problems such as the difficulty to finance.

Xiao Yaqing, head of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council

To work to ensure that all targets set for SOE are realizable this year, unveil a supervision and management list and devote energy to promoting mixed-ownership reform and diversification of equity.

Governor of the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), Yi Gang

The bank governor believes that the market-driven RMB exchange rates will make the Chinese yuan a desirable currency that can be used freely.

5. Ecology, environmental protection, poverty alleviation

Liu Yongfu, director of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development

To work hard to lift 10 million people and 300 counties out of poverty.

Ecology and Environment Minister, Li Ganjie

Efforts should be made to bring down PM2.5 concentration, reduce the number of heavily polluted days, improve air quality, and create more blue skies for the people to enjoy.

Minister of Water Resources, E Jingping

To regulate 12,000 sites of rural water sources and visit at least 3,000 villages, in a bid to provide clean water for 60 million rural residents who have difficulties in accessing drinking water.

Ni Yuefeng, head of the General Administration of Customs

Initiate the Blue Sky 2019 campaign this year to resolutely crack down on foreign garbage smuggling.

Zhang Jianlong, director of the National Forestry and Grassland Administration

To further improve the system and mechanism of pilot national parks, and make sure the lives of people living within the parks are undisturbed and improved.

6. Judiciary and foreign affairs

State Councilor and Foreign Minister, Wang Yi

To encourage Chinese enterprises and citizens to guarantee interests with legal weapons; to upgrade the 12308 smartphone app, and to make mobile payment available in overseas Chinese embassies and consulates.

Minister of Justice, Fu Zhenghua

To use the most stringent regulatory measures and the most strict punishment to promote the continuous improvement of food and drug safety.

Minister of Veterans Affairs, Sun Shaocheng

The law on the welfare of military veterans will be submitted to the top legislature for deliberation in the second half of 2019.

Tong Jianming, deputy procurator-general of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate

To promote the establishment of mechanisms such as grading punishments of juvenile criminal cases and critical prevention through a particular department set up last year to deal with cases involving minors.

Jiang Bixin, vice-president of the Supreme People’s Court of China

To correct wrongful convictions, and protect the rights of entrepreneurs and private enterprises by law.

China’s outbound tourism ranks first in the world

Chinese tourists visiting the ruins of Ephesus in Turkey. (Photo/China.com.cn)

Chinese people made about 150 million overseas trips last year, up 14.7 percent compared with the previous year, according to a report jointly released by the China Tourism Academy and online travel agency Ctrip, Chinanews.com reported recently.

In 2018, China became the source of the largest number of outbound tourists in the world.

Thailand, Japan, Vietnam, Singapore, the US, Russia, Australia, Italy, the UK, France, Germany and Spain were among the top 20 most visited countries among Chinese travelers, the report indicated.

Last year, 10 countries emerged as new destinations favored by Chinese people, including Myanmar, Serbia, Laos, Argentina, Spain and Cambodia.

In 2018, Chinese mainland tourists spent $120 billion overseas, with the average consumption per person per trip hitting 5,400 yuan.

The report revealed the top 10 shopping destinations for Chinese mainland tourists were Hong Kong, Dubai, Osaka, Macao, Tokyo, Paris, London, Singapore and Kyoto.

An expert with Ctrip’s outbound travel studies said that due to consumption upgrading, Chinese people are now more willing to spend money on high-quality overseas travel experiences.

Dai Bin, president of CTA, said China’s overseas travel market has maintained a growth rate of above 20 percent over the past 10 years, and this double-digit growth is expected to continue in the future.

China’s emerging first-tier cities become talent magnets: report

China’s three emerging first-tier cities – Hangzhou, Wuhan, and Chengdu, are becoming strong talent magnets, witnessing a huge inflow of talented professionals, said a report published Wednesday.

The report, released by Chinese online job-hunting platform Zhipin.com, said the net outflow rate of talents from first-tier cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, to emerging cities and provincial capitals was 0.61 percent from January to February 2019, 0.08 percentage points higher than that the same period last year.

Wuhan and Xi’an have also become attractive destinations for the labor force over the past 20 months thanks to their favorable policies, geographical advantages, and high investment in technology, the report indicated.

Industries including pharmacy and medical services, artificial intelligence, internet of things and 5G technology saw the highest demand for professionals.

In many cities, there is not much space left for new talents in industries such as the internet, education, finance, and professional services, but senior personnel in these sectors is still in high demand.

Data released by Zhipin.com showed that the average expected salary in new first-tier cities rose to 7,799 yuan ($1,162) in the first two months of this year, 5 percent higher than that in the same period of 2018.

China to establish e-sports commission for better industrial management

The Internet Society of China (ISC) announced that it will establish an e-sports commission at a meeting held at Tsinghua University on March 2.

The tasks of the e-sports commission were detailed at the meeting, which was held together with an e-sports summit themed with “e-sports and smart economy”.

Guests show their signatures and handprints at the ISC meeting, March 2, 2019. (Photo by Xu Zijian from Xinhua News Agency)

The commission will assist competent authorities to enhance management of the e-sports industry, promote the combination of e-sports and national education strategies, guide favorable and sustainable development of e-sports industry in China, and prepare for smart city construction.

It will also integrate industrial resources, organize relevant enterprises and institutions to carry out e-sports activities, and publish industrial data and surveys.

Other tasks of the commission are conducting domestic and international industrial communication and cooperation, participating in global e-sports policy making and setting international standards and specifications.

“Enjoying sound development in China, e-sports are creating high economic benefits,” said Song Mao’en, deputy secretary-general of the ISC.

Now the commercialization and internationalization of the industry have been put on the agenda, to accelerate the “bringing in” and “going global” process of the industry, Song added.

At Asian Games held in Jakarta last year, e-sports for the first time had a presence at a major sporting event. Team China took the first-ever gold medal of e-sports at the event, delivering an outstanding performance by winning a total of 2 gold medals and one silver medal at the games.

Visitors experience e-sports products at China Cyber Games Summit, May 31, 2018. (Photo by Fan Jiashan from People’s Daily Online)

According to the 2018 China E-sports Development Report, China had 250 million e-sports gamers in 2017, more than half of the global total. China’s e-sports market value reached 5 billion yuan ($746 million), and was still rising.

In 2016, China’s Ministry of Education listed “e-sports and management” as a college major, marking the official inclusion of the training of professional e-sports personnel in the country’s higher education.

32.6 percent of Chinese gaming enthusiasts said they were willing to take jobs in the e-sports industry, and nearly a quarter of parents voiced support for their children in this regard.

Two sessions, a window for world to explore synergetic development with China

The two sessions, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and the National People’s Congress (NPC), have become a “must-do” for global China experts to explore the country’s development trend and observe the indicators of China’s relations with the world.

“Will China still serve as the engine of global economy as it places more importance on high-quality development?” “How will China keep contributing to global development against the complicated international situation?” “What signals of further opening up will China release to promote globalization?”

More and more questions about the country are being raised in the international community, as China has just raised the curtain of this year’s two sessions.

What signals will the two sessions release this year? The answer lies in the data of China’s development.

The Chinese economy expanded to over 90 trillion yuan ($13.45 trillion) in 2018, contributing nearly 30 percent to the global economic growth. As a country with nearly 1.4 billion people, China has over 400 million middle income earners, nearly 900 million laborers, and more than 700 million employees.

The large size of the economy, the broad market, the continuously upgrading consumption demand, and the powerful productivity all inject confidence and resilience to China’s economy, making the country a favorable destination for global investors.

A British expert noted that China not only boasts the large size of the economy, but also the strong connectivity of its economic ecology.

According to a recent report on China’s business environment released by the American Chamber of Commerce in China, 62 percent of the organization’s member enterprises viewed China as a global priority for investment.

Nobody wants to be absent from China’s development, as it is a country where miracles always happen. A Brazilian journalist who stationed in Beijing said what China has acchieved in the last 14 years normally took a century for other countries to accomplish.

A Spanish chess instructor who has visited China for times noted that in 1990s, even sci-fi writers were not able to predict the explosive growth of vehicles in China. “China’s transition in technologies, society and education is probably the fastest in all the countries ever established in human history,” he added.

Such remarks by foreigners authentically reflect China’s magnificent development.

The first-ever 5G coverage at the press center of the two sessions has drawn wide attention from global media. After China sent its Chang’e-4 lunar spacecraft onto the dark side of the moon, German newspaper Die Welt commented that China was demonstrating the greatest renaissance is history.

In sectors such as clean tech, AI, smart manufacturing, fintech, and information and computer technology – amongst others – China has been driving global innovation, said Policy Forum, a platform for policy discussion run by the Australian National University.

What triggered the global attention on China are not the country’s outstanding achievements, but also the key it holds to development and its tireless efforts to march toward the future.

In today’s world, the malfunction of western democracy is frequently happening, resulting to mounting populism, failures of election politics, intensifying opposition of political parties, and fragmented political patterns.

Faced with such rising governance crisis, many people have sensed the need to make policies from new perspectives, even in the western world. Casting their eyesight eastward, they found China’s two sessions a window through which they can learn Chinese wisdom and acquire new enlightenment.

By observing the general trend, focusing on the big picture and devoting to practical work, China is showcasing excellent governance capability and its leadership in steering development, offering significant reference for the development of other countries.

Humphrey Polepole, ideology and publicity secretary of Tanzanian ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi, remarked that China has set a good example in national governance for Tanzania to learn. China has continuously fulfilled its people’s appeals and wishes under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, and the progress of the country also comes from the support of its people, he noted.

2019 marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, and also a decisive year for the country to achieve its first centenary goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects.

In this critical year, the international society is expecting to find out how the world can develop together with China, and seek for confidence and enlightenment to tackle challenges through Chinese philosophy and wisdom.

Online Tree-planting Campaign Popular in China

A child plants a sapling under the help of his parents at a park in Lianyungang, eastern China’s Jiangsu province, Mar. 3, 2019. (Photo by Si Wei, People’s Daily Online)

More and more Chinese citizens are contributing to China’s forestation efforts with the help of online platforms, as the country hastens its steps to green its land and seek environment-friendly development.

Wuhan, capital city of central China’s Hubei province, has been encouraging voluntary forestation for years. It makes creative attempts by organizing tree-planting campaigns under the themes of charity, environmental protection, birthday parties, family reunions and public services.

Different from previous years, when the tree planters had to register and pay for saplings in person at designated spots after got information from radio, television and newspapers, the voluntary planters now can register and get saplings free-of-charge via online channels like website and social media platforms.

The certificate of honor for voluntary tree planting has also transferred to electronic version from hard copy.

The convenient and professional online platforms have given a boost to the citizens’ aspiration to plant a tree. In 2018, over 50,000 residents in the city registered to be a planter via online platforms, the highest in history.

After the municipal government published this year’s planting plan on Feb. 22, the saplings soon ran out of quota due to the passion of the citizens. According to the arrangement, 21 spots in 15 districts were designated as planting areas.

Citizens in Chongqing municipality plant trees, Mar. 4, 2019. (Photo by Chen Xingyu, People’s Daily Online)

“Over 100 saplings were claimed in just seconds”, said citizen Wei Wenfang, adding that it was lucky for her son to have successfully claimed one.

Wei said that she was motivated by a piece of TV advertisement on voluntary tree planting in 1999, and her family’s tree planting tradition has lasted for 20 years.

She still kept several old photos of her family in front of a platanus orientalis sapling they planted 20 years ago, when her son Wu Jiahao was only 5 years old. The little boy has grown up, and the sapling is now a tall tree towering by the street.

Wuhan is not the first Chinese city to green land with help of online platforms. After China launched an internet platform of voluntary tree planting, 10 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities including Beijing, Inner Mongolia, Anhui, Shaanxi and Hubei have started pilot programs under the “Internet Plus” drive by opening their respective online platforms.

Online registration for tree planting also offers a solution to address the challenges faced by large-scale campaigns, which usually cost a lot but ended with low survival rate since most of them took place in areas far from the cities due to the reduction of urban land.

Ecological progress has been made one of the integral components of the development strategy for socialism with Chinese characteristics together with economic, political, cultural, and social progress since the 18th Communist Party of China (CPC) National Congress in 2012.

Photo taken on Aug. 28, 2018 shows blossoming crape myrtles and maples dressing up a hill at Yueliangpo village, Huaying, southwest China’s Sichuan province. The city has made huge efforts to green its landscape and finally recovered its hills with forests, bringing a turnaround to its desertification. (Photo by You Qing, People’s Daily Online )

The CPC is the first political party, especially ruling party in the world to include ecological progress in its guideline. China has become an important participant, contributor, and torchbearer in the global endeavor for ecological civilization.

According to data collected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the US, since the turn of the new millennium to 2017, the earth’s green leaf area increased by 5 percent, which was equivalent to the area of the Amazon rainforests.

China was the source of over a quarter of the increase in green leaf area, ranking the first in the world, the statistics indicated.

China to see more smart restaurants

A robot delivers food in a restaurant in the National Exhibition and Convention Center in Shanghai. (Xinhua/Fang Zhe)

More Chinese companies are now opening smart restaurants in a bid to attract more customers, including famous hot pot restaurant Haidilao and e-commerce giants JD and Alibaba.

Haidilao opened its first smart restaurant in October 2018 to entice more customers, where a wall-length screen, QR code games, and an automatic reservation checker greet customers.

Inside the restaurant, a number of screens display cherry blossom forests, snow-capped mountains and shooting stars.

Robotic arms pick out the correct dishes from a constant temperature warehouse in the kitchen, and cute little AGV (automated guided vehicle) robots whiz around the restaurant to deliver orders to customers. The RFID chip, located on the bottom of plates, records food information to help the restaurant identify expired food.

Technological progress, high labor costs, and greater service demands are behind the popularity of smart restaurants, said Fen Enyuan, vice chairman of China Cuisine Association.

Application of robots and intelligent technologies can cut costs, improve efficiency and attract customers as the catering industry faces challenges in operating efficiency and customers’ changing needs, said Tang Siyu, head of JD X future’ restaurant.

Experts also pointed out that the smart catering industry is not just about cooking robots and AGV robots, which are both still in the initial stages of development.