Three rice scientists honored for boosting nation’s agricultural development

Three projects on rice are winners of the State Natural Science Award for 2017, a testimony to the nation’s growing research capabilities in fundamental science, Xinhua reported on Jan 10.

They include Yuan Longping’s hybrid rice innovation team, bioengineer Li Jiayang’s team, which discovered the molecular mechanism that decides the quality and yield of rice, and frigid rice breeding by Pan Guojun with the Rice Research Institute of Heilongjiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences in northeastern China.

China is committed to feeding 20 percent of the world’s total population with less than 8 percent of the global arable land. Therefore, food security always guides the country’s agricultural development.

Last year was a big year for Yuan Longping and his team. The maximum yield of sea rice on saline-alkaline soil developed by the team has reached 620.95 kilograms per mu (0.07 hectares), a historic high.

In October 2017, super hybrid rice, known as Xiangliangyou 900, achieved an average yield of 1,149.02 kilograms of rice per mu of farmland, setting a new world record.

Last year, Yuan’s team launched 31 super hybrid rice test fields in 13 provinces and cities.

Now, China is planting 240 million mu of hybrid rice per year, 57 percent of the total coverage of rice fields. The annual yield of hybrid rice is increasing by 2.5 million tons per year, which could feed 70 million people per year.

Li Jiayang’s discovery has allowed scientists to create an ideal rice crop that is nutritious and tasty and produces a high yield. The new discovery has spurred a new agricultural revolution.

“The new discovery has made China one of the world leaders in agricultural biology research. Just like assembling a computer, scientists could combine related genes to create better rice,” Li explained.

Frigid rice breeding has long been dominated by Japan, and Pan’s team, which created high-quality frigid rice with higher yields, has greatly promoted development in this area.

The report to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China stated clearly that China’s food security must be ensured, so that the people always have control over their own food supply.

By constantly innovating technologies, these Chinese scientists are making real efforts to protect food security.

Story of an expert who boosts population of red-crowned cranes from 5 to 131

Zhao Shiwei and his colleagues are raising 131 red-crowned cranes at a breeding center in Panjin City of northeast China’s Liaoning Province. The number accounts for 1/5 of the country’s total population of wild red-crowned cranes.

Zhao, who is in his 40s, has been feeding the cranes a bucket of fish for 24 years.

“They are just like us, thinking only about eating when they were young, about having fun when they are older, and about finding a mate when they are fully grown up,” Zhao said, adding that after years of observation he knows the cranes very well.

When Zhao graduated as an animal husbandry and veterinary student in 1993, Zhaoquanhe Wildlife Reserve, where he got his first job, was home to only five red-crowned cranes. That number was inadequate for natural breeding.

Zhao started to put more efforts on artificial breeding in 1996.

From then on, he moved to the incubation house to better look after the eggs so that they could hatch successfully. He waited for 30 days and nights till the first three chicks came out of their eggs. At that moment, Zhao burst into happy tears.

Now, the fertilization rate of the eggs is 80 percent and the survival rate remains above 90 percent. From 1996 to 2005, the crane population grew from five to more than 30.

But Zhao wanted to let more birds breed naturally.

After seeing some of his cranes fall in love with wild ones, Zhao started releasing the captive ones so that they could be together.

Some wild cranes decided to stay at Zhao’s base after finding that they had fell behind the group because they were too busy wooing their captive darlings.

From 2005 to 2015, the number of red-crowned cranes rose to 80. From 2015, Zhao started to train the cranes to survive in the wild. “I always kept away from them, because they would come to me once they knew I was nearby,” Zhao said.

“Releasing them into the wild is easy, but the point is to teach them how to survive. I will feel that my job is done when they learn how to survive in the wild,” he added.

Approaching 30 years with the cranes, Zhao expects that it will take another 5-10 years to see the results of his training. “When their population reaches 300, their release will prove more useful to boost the whole species,” Zhao is confident.

Red-crowned cranes are currently listed as an endangered species in China. The government has created multiple breeding programs to help keep these majestic birds from becoming extinct.

Chinese average life expectancy increases to 76.5 years

The average life expectancy for Chinese in China rose to 76.5 years in 2017, according to a news briefing of the National Health and Family Commission (NHFC) on Tuesday, reported.

Medical reform made periodical headway in 2017, including comprehensive reform of public hospitals, elimination of drug price markups, and direct settlement of trans-provincial medical expenses, said an official with the NHFC.

Currently, the country has 999,000 medical organizations and 11.2 million health workers, figures from the commission showed.

In 2017, more than 4.2 million patients from impoverished families have been aided. The proportion of health care expenses borne by individuals dropped from 34.3 percent to 28.8 percent.

Maternal mortality dropped to 19.9 per 100,000 persons; and infant mortality declined to 7.5 per 1,000, according to the NHFC.

In addition, the major health indicators for Chinese residents were generally higher than people in medium- and high-income countries in 2017.

In 2018, the commission will continue deepening medical reform, promoting a hierarchical medical treatment system, consolidating the result of cutting off the channel of making money through over-prescription, and further boosting the medical insurance system.

Family doctor services will be extended to more families. Meanwhile, traditional Chinese medicine education will be further promoted.

First Chinese team to row across Atlantic

Four Chinese girls have withstood Atlantic storms and large waves when they rowed across the ocean, an adventure of nearly 5,000 kilometers, or 3,100 miles, according to a news site based in southern China’s Guangzhou.

The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is the most difficult rowing event in the world, challenging one’s offshore physical limits.

Bad weather had made the four nervous. But thanks to timely guidance, they made it through. On Christmas Eve, they received words of blessing and encouragement from Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing and an official with the Li Ka Shing Foundation.

The Kung Fu Cha Cha team is the first Chinese team to row across the Atlantic by oar. They are competing with 24 teams.

The team departed from San Sebastian de La Gomera, Canary Islands, Spain, and will reach the Caribbean island of Antigua in North America.

In February 2017, after one-year of training at their university, the four girls took a challenge of rowing from Shantou, a coastal city in southeastern China, all the way to Hong Kong. The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is a continuation of their passion for adventure.

“Snow boy” receives nationwide aid

“Going to school isn’t hard. My classmates told me my hair was completely covered in snow and then I made a face at them,” said Wang Fuman, the boy who touched many hearts for trekking to school in freezing colder weather on Jan 8.

Wang’s father, Gangkui, a 28-year-old migrant worker, is the only wage earner in the family. He supports the family with a monthly income of over 2,000 yuan ($307).

The family also raises two pigs as an additional source of income. After school, Fuman is in charge of attending the pigs.

After the boy’s story went viral, the family received many calls from warmhearted people across the country, wanting to offer the poor family a hand.

The father didn’t refuse the help. “I gave them our address and my phone number. I really appreciate their help,” he said.

The boy, who is good at math, said when he grows up, he wants to become a policeman to catch bad guys, or a scientist.

The family will move into a new house built by the local government soon. They said the new one is much closer to the school.

Like Wang, many children in the rural areas of Zhaotong, Yunnan Province, are impoverished.

On Wednesday, local provincial authorities and a youth development fund launched a program to provide winter clothes to Wang and other children in the area. About 100,000 yuan (about $15,000) of charitable donations has been sent to Wang’s school and other nearby schools.

Each of the 81 students at Wang’s school received 500 yuan as winter heating allowance.

Wang became known by more people after a picture of him with his hair covered in ice after hour-long walk to classes in freezing temperatures was widely shared on social media.

Wang had walked 4.5 kilometers (about 2.8 miles) from his home to school when his teacher took that now famous photograph.

Longer-term plan needed to reach economic goals

While the Chinese economy grew at an annual rate of about 6.7 percent in recent years, its potential economic growth has been on the decline, falling by 0.1 to 0.2 percentage points annually.

From 2013 to 2015, the central government formulated several major economic strategies. Top leaders said in 2013 that the Chinese economy was undergoing a “triple transition.” In 2014, the economy was said to have entered a “new normal.” In 2015, supply-side structural reform was proposed.

However, with no fundamental changes seen in the pursuit of economic expansion, the debate over growth rates still had an impact on economic policies, as many still believed in boosting GDP through stimulus plans. This thinking explains why China’s leverage ratio has continued to rise since 2012.

The IMF and the Bank for International Settlements said in a 2013 study of financial crises that the credit-to-GDP ratio had exceeded its long-term trend by 10 percent in the three years preceding 50 percent of those crises and in the five years preceding 75 percent of these crises.

But China has exceeded the threshold since 2012, with its credit-to-GDP gap already above 20 percent. The international community has been concerned about economic developments in China and worried about a “Minsky Moment,” and that in turn has affected the confidence of some Chinese companies, especially private ones.

In 2013 and 2015, the Chinese economy saw problems such as liquidity crunches, stock market plunges and capital outflows. However, since 2016, the economy has resumed steady growth, accompanied by a continuously optimized structure, the moderate reduction of financial risks and a slightly lower leverage ratio. Several factors have contributed to these macroeconomic improvements.

First, supply-side structural reform has achieved results. Second, the proactive monetary and fiscal policies implemented since 2015 have provided support to investment. Third, export demand has picked up due to gradual recoveries in the US, EU, Japan and other economies amid stable global financial markets, rising commodity prices and recovering international trade.

While China’s economic performance has stabilized to a certain extent, such problems as overcapacity, real estate bubbles and expanding local government debts persist. So do problems related to shadow banking, internet finance and illegal fundraising. These problems have pushed up the macro leverage ratio in China, which could seriously affect the country’s financial stability and economic development.

In light of this situation, the central government took strict measures in four areas in 2017. Strict oversight was applied to the financial sector; strict curbs were put on the real estate sector; strict controls were adopted for local government debts; strict standards for environmental protection were executed.

As a result of these steps, investment in infrastructure and real estate is expected to have declined moderately in 2017.

Meanwhile, short-term liquidity may be somewhat volatile and financing costs may be relatively high. Also, tighter environmental controls may lead to increased production costs for manufacturers. In this sense, goods prices will rise in general, with the nominal GDP growing relatively fast and the leverage ratio basically stable.

Against this backdrop, there are three suggestions for China’s macro control policy in 2018. First, China should maintain its expansionary fiscal policy, particularly in regard to increasing special-purpose debt issues by local governments to maintain the necessary investment for infrastructure. Second, monetary policy should be neutral with a bias toward tightening. Third, the yuan’s exchange rate should be properly devalued in 2018, while authorities should tighten capital controls to strengthen the independence of China’s monetary policy.

As the economies of the US, EU and Japan recover and the US tightens monetary policy, China should use the opportunity to appropriately devalue its currency against the US dollar, the euro and the yen, with the aim of supporting exports and maintaining general economic stability to create conditions for domestic structural adjustment and deepening reform.

The biggest challenge facing China in the years to come is to stabilize its GDP growth at about 6.3 percent to create the foundation to achieve the goal of building a comprehensively prosperous society. The government should also guard against and address financial risks, putting the leverage ratio under control. It is also necessary to improve the quality and efficiency of economic growth.

To achieve a balance among the goals of stabilizing growth, preventing risks and improving quality, a three-year plan is needed that should include the liquidation and debt resolution of “zombie” companies, the disposal of implicit local government debts and the reform of financial institutions, financial supervision, capital injections and financial aid.

Source: Global Times

Food delivery by drone expected to become reality

Food delivery by drone is expected to become a reality in the foreseeable future, as the Beidou open laboratory in Chongqing has recently been set up to improve positioning accuracy of China’s Beidou Navigation Satellite System, Chongqing Evening News reported.

The lab was unveiled at the Beidou IoT Global Launch Conference & IoT Innovation and Development Conference held in Shapingba District, Chongqing, on Jan. 8.

The director of the lab introduced that it will integrate Beidou’s communication and navigation technology with its ground-based augmentation system to improve positioning accuracy.

Food and parcel delivery is now technically possible, but more tests are needed before the service is widely promoted, the director said, adding that the world’s first IoT (Internet of Things) modules based on Beidou’s communication technology have been developed, accurate to the centimeter level.

In addition, the director noted that Beidou Aerospace Group also launched a map based on the Beidou system to provide users with accurate navigation and positioning services and life services. The map app is expected to be available for users in May 2018.

Compared with Gaode Maps and Baidu Maps, the Beidou-based map will provide positioning accuracy at the sub-meter level, and will be compatible with the GPS system to achieve indoor positioning and location-based services, said the director.

China-ASEAN booming fruit trade boosts fruit processing industry

The booming fruit trade between China and ASEAN countries boosts the fruit processing industry in the border areas, China News reported on Jan. 10.

A total of 950,000 tons of fruits with the value of $620 million were imported through the ports in southern China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in 2017, respectively up 5.6 percent and 36.3 percent compared with the previous year, according to statistics released by Guangxi Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau on Jan. 10.

Tropical fruits such as watermelon, pitaya, longan, banana, litchi, rambutan, and wax apple are much favored by Chinese. And fruits grown in China including grapes and apples sold in Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia are also popular among the local residents.

Currently, five ports in Guangxi have been approved to inspect and quarantine 50 types of fruits imported from 44 countries and regions, Fang Min, a director at the bureau introduced.

Owing to convenient logistics channels and bright prospect for trade of agricultural products between China and ASEAN countries, 1,730 overseas food enterprises from ASEAN countries have registered in China in recent years, and Chinese well-known fruit processing enterprises have set up branches in Pingxiang, one of the major ports.

The cross-border labor cooperation between China and Vietnam launched in February 2017 has provided jobs for over 70,000 Vietnamese, which not only helps them increase their income, but also solves the problem of short supply of labor resources in Pingxiang, Liao Shisha, director at the human resources and social security bureau of Pingxiang in Guangxi disclosed.

In addition, China’s entry-exit inspection and quarantine department launched an online supervisory platform for border trade, via which people can efficiently go through the declaration formalities through fingerprint recognition and ID verification, Wei Jianneng, director at the Pingxiang Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau noted.

The director added that at present, an estimated 6,000 people are involved in cross-border trade through the Pingxiang port each day.

Experts say this winter’s virus won’t evolve into flu pandemic

The predominant virus strain this winter has caused a particularly aggressive flu season in China. But the outbreak won’t develop into a flu pandemic, as no mutation has been detected in the strains that could affect virus transmission, says an official at National Health and Family Planning Commission.

The high season for the outbreak will continue until the winter school vacation, said Jiao Yahui, deputy head of the commission’s medical administration and management bureau, at a press briefing on Tuesday.

The outbreak is already showing signs of weakening in some parts of the country, Jiao said, attributing the outbreak to multiple reasons, such as temperature changes and the dominance of the B/Yamagata strain, which had not been prevalent for many years.

Experts recommend vulnerable people get flu shots as an important way to prevent the H1N1, H3N2, and B/Victoria strains, the three dominant strains last year.

However, these vaccines have limited effect against B/Yamagata, said Li Zhongjie, who is with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC).

China CDC is encouraging the development of vaccines that can prevent all four strains, and at least one mainland company might be able to produce such a vaccine this year, said Feng Zijian, a deputy head of China CDC.

The country has 557 monitoring sites and more than 400 online labs to detect, report, and identify the flu virus, said Liang Xiaofeng, another deputy head of China CDC.

Jiao said domestically produced medications are effective to cure the flu, adding that the commission has asked local medical institutions and health and family planning departments to open up temporary channels for local medical institutions to procure drugs in order to ensure adequate supply of the medicine.

Chinese construction enterprise builds landmark projects in Russia

China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) constructed lots of landmark projects in Russia in recent years, displaying “China speed” to the world, Li Jingyuan, minister counselor at the Chinese Embassy in Russia told the Global Times.

A delegation composed of influential users on social media and media journalists were recently invited by (Chinese-language website of the Global Times) to visit the projects in Russia in late 2017.

After overcoming various difficulties, CSCEC finished renovating the permanent exhibition hall of the conference site of the 6th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in Russia in 2016, ten days ahead of schedule.

The life expectancy of the exhibition hall is about 300 years, said Ren Runbin, deputy secretary of the project, adding that they not only finished the renovation project efficiently, but also made it a classic one.

In addition, the Chinese Trade Center in Moscow, constructed by CSCEC, was also recognized by the city as high-quality sample project.

The center, with a building area of 125,000 square meters, includes a 21-story high-end office building, a 22-story five-star hotel, serviced apartments, multi-functional business centers, and a traditional Chinese garden.

“We are building it into a well-known brand along the Belt and Road, hoping the project can play an exemplary role in Europe,” said Guan Peng, deputy general manager of China Huaming International Investment Corporation, one of the project proprietors.

The Chinese enterprise has advantages over Russian enterprises in high-end projects and those on tight schedules. Some of its techniques are also adopted by enterprises from other countries as reference as the enterprise goes global.

Chen Wenfeng, deputy director general of CSCEC, disclosed that the enterprise will continue to seek better overseas development by cooperating with financial institutions.

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