‘Pay to play with the panda’ policies draw criticism from animal lovers

It is said that one of the most peaceful places on China’s social media is the comment section below any post featuring pandas, where everyone sighs a collective “aww” regardless of age, birthplace or political views.

To cater to people’s enthusiasm, at certain breeding facilities around the country, visitors lucky enough to obtain ultra-exclusive tickets are allowed close contact with the pandas. However, most panda fans simply settle for live-streaming broadcasts or videos that follow the every move of their favorite pandas.

“We are addicted to pandas and like to follow all their movements on live broadcasts, but it should not be at the cost of affecting their life,” Renxin, a panda lover, told the Global Times.

Renxin, who follows news about pandas, said that she is particularly worried by a recent report which says that some pandas become exhausted due to improper live broadcasts from unprofessional photography teams.

Experts point out that pandas are becoming anxious and exhausted by the constant attention and the commercial bustle surrounding their enclosures.

Baby schema

Panda watching has indubitably become one of China’s most popular pastimes (their dining, playing, pooing, bathing and all), as the cute creatures exude a certain happiness, warmth and even magical power that tends to rub off on humans.

“I could spend a whole day simply watching the pandas in the zoo … watching them eat bamboo makes me feel the freshness of bamboo and watching them sleeping makes me feel like I’m in a dream too,” netizen Xiongsheng wrote on question-and-answer platform zhihu.com.

Fans from other countries who subscribe to panda videos on video-sharing sites even dream of coming to China to work as panda keepers. “I would be a much nicer guy if I was doing this job,” netizen Vinymilano wrote below a CGTN video showing how giant pandas create trouble as staff clean their home.

Qiu, an expert from the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda (CCRCGP), told the Global Times that pandas are beloved by so many mainly because they appear childlike and naive.

A pandas’ looks falls into what Austrian zoologist Konrad Lorenz called “baby schema,” which refers to facial and body features that make an animal appear cute – and thus makes others want to care for it. Many panda fans treat cubs like their own children, monitoring their growth and keeping track of their development.

There are also cultural factors leading to the enduring popularity of pandas, as Qiu pointed out.

“They look big but with mild characteristics. They could eat meat but are in fact vegetarian, leading people to associate them with the Chinese idiom ‘The butcher who lays down his knife at once becomes a Buddha.'”

“Their living philosophy fits the values and mindset of most Chinese people,” said Qiu, adding that in some regions of Sichuan Province, the main habitat for pandas, the animal is regarded as a mountain god. “When pandas curl up, they look like the picture of Taichi Altar in Taoism.”

Other fans love pandas simply for personal reasons. “They make me feel warm. I feel relaxed the second I look at them when I’m feeling bad,” said Renxin.

“I work in a profession where I could be driven crazy eight times one day. When I feel extremely bad and watch the photos of pandas, I feel cured because the world still has so beautiful things like pandas,” a netizen wrote on zhihu.com.

A woman is watching pandas on a live-streaming platform. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Booming business

But the popularity of pandas is a double-edged sword. With all this frantic enthusiasm, pandas often win the most attention from the public, the government and celebrities when it comes to financial support.

They are the winning card for every zoo in the world. Besides ticket sales and commercial merchandizing, some places also hold profitable programs and activities to attract die-hard fans.

At the Dujiangyan base of CCRCGP, volunteers who love pandas enough to be their house cleaners pay 700 yuan ($106) to spend the day as a “panda nanny,” cleaning up their droppings and feeding them bamboo.

For fans in distant provinces or other countries, online videos and live broadcasting are the best ways to panda gaze. Ipanda, hosted by CGTN, and Pandapia, owned by a Japanese company, are the two biggest live-streaming platforms in China providing panda videos all day every day.

Both sites are followed by millions of people globally. According to the People’s Daily, Ipanda attracts more than 200,000 viewers on a daily basis. Since Pandapia started a live broadcast in December of 2016, it has received over 1.5 million yuan in donations from smitten netizens.

“The live broadcasting of pandas helps disseminate the panda culture and lets more people engage in the protection of our national treasure,” said Qiu.

But meeting human demand sometimes comes at the cost of negatively affecting the pandas’ well being. To Qiu, the videos used by Ipanda are from surveillance cameras, which do not disturb the pandas.

But with more and more tourists showing up at zoos and breeding facilities wielding cameras, as well as photography teams with video recording equipment, many of the bears are suffering from anxiety and exhaustion.

“I watched a Pandapia broadcast and noticed the camera man deliberately teasing the cubs,” netizen yesterday-P complained on Weibo.

Occasionally there have been scandals saying pandas are forced to perform or pose with tourists for pictures. Some pandas are even appearing in Chinese reality television programming, much to the dismay of true panda aficionados.

Sarah, a panda lover from Guangdong Province, said she still feels pained about what happened last year to Qingqing, one of China’s newest panda cubs.

Qingqing was forcefully weaned and separated from her mother at the tender age of one (cubs usually are not weaned until after 18 months) just so he could star in a new TV show named Panda Story, in which Qingqing is taken care of by eight Chinese celebrities. The program was so controversial and distasteful that panda fans and general netizens alike united to call for a boycott.

“Commercial activities are understandable, but some just go too far. I don’t see why they think such activity will not affect the pandas’ life and living habits. Pandas are wild animals and not suitable to be too close to human beings,” said Sarah.

Striking a balance

Renxin once applied for the Panda Nanny program, which is when she says the service center told her “paying extra money will allow you to hug the pandas.” The center later denied her claim.

After a deadly canine distemper caused the death of four pandas in 2015, the State Forestry Administration issued a notice prohibiting tourists from getting close to endangered animals, particularly pandas.

But according to Sarah, this notice failed to stop many tourists from physically hugging panda cubs at certain conservation bases. Among panda watchers, it is an open secret that slipping some cash to the guards at some zoos and bases will allow visitors physical contact with a panda.

Sarah confirmed this with the Global Times by revealing a chat log with staff from a panda base in Sichuan Province showing that, in June, the base still provides a paid “panda hugging” service for 1,800 yuan per person.

Zhao Huawen, founder of the Eudemonia Bank, a Chengdu-based organization dedicated to protecting panda habitat, also confirmed this with the Global Times.

“There should be a balance. More effort needs to be made in figuring out how to avoid being too close to pandas and avoid disturbing pandas when carrying out commercial activities or live broadcasts,” said Zhao.

As an endangered species, there are only approximately 1,800 pandas still living in the wild and about 370 in enclosed protected spaces. Even though their numbers have started to climb in recent decades due to efforts from China’s government, their situation is still not ideal or optimistic due to their low reproductive efficiency and easily damaged habitat.

“The protection of pandas should focus not only on captured pandas but also wild ones. Protecting pandas means protecting tens of thousands of other species and the overall ecological environment,” Zhao said.

He said that there is plenty of room for improvement when it comes to breeding facilities and zoos. “In spite of their popularity and the government’s protection policies, some captured pandas live in poor conditions,” said Zhao. “The money they help earn these places fails to go back to them.”

Zhao suggested that knowledge about the protection of pandas should be further spread to the masses to let more people know how to love pandas properly. “Many fans are sensible, but just as many cannot tell right from wrong when showing their support for pandas.”

Source: Global Times

Fed move won’t affect China: experts

The US’ decision to reduce its $4.5 trillion balance sheet will not exert too much influence over China, although the yuan may weaken slightly against the US dollar in the short term, Chinese experts said Thursday.

The comments came after the US Federal Reserve announced Wednesday (US time) it would begin reducing its balance sheet in October, as the Fed said in a statement on its website.

A sum of $10 billion in securities holdings will be reduced in October and there will be further and larger reductions in the coming years, according to the statement.

With the US economy gradually recovering, the Fed is also expected to raise interest rates again before the end of 2017 and three more times in 2018, The Washington Post said Wednesday.

Following the Fed statement, the yuan’s central parity rate against the dollar weakened by 197 basis points day-on-day to a September low of 6.5867 on Thursday, data from the People’s Bank of China, the central bank, showed.

Spot gold slid 0.41 percent to $1,295.52 on Thursday, according to data from industry website cngold.org.

The Fed’s announcement was in line with market expectations, and UBS had already forecast it would raise interest rates in December, and twice or three times next year, Wang Tao, chief economist at UBS, told the Global Times on Thursday.

The Fed is expected to complete the plan to reduce its balance sheet within three years, and during this period rates will rise several times in accordance with market performance, Wang said, noting that the Fed is on track to phase out its previously extremely loose currency policies.

The Fed’s positive views of US economic growth as well as the expected progress of US President Donald Trump’s tax reform may help to boost the dollar against other currencies, according to a report sent to the Global Times by the financial research center under Bank of Communications (BoCom).

Thus, the exchange rate of the Chinese currency will face some pressure in the short term, which, combined with a slight fallback in the country’s short-term economic data, may result in two-way fluctuations of the yuan’s rate, the report continued.

Limited effect

But the Fed’s announcement will not put pressure on China’s capital outflows, experts noted.

“We can see that the country’s capital outflows have been relieved over the past few months thanks to tightened regulation and the yuan’s appreciation against the dollar,” Wang said.

Although the Fed’s move will have limited influence on China in terms of the exchange rate and cross-border capital flows in the short term, it might add uncertainties for the Chinese economy in the long run, according to Xu Gao, chief economist at China Everbright Securities Asset Management.

One or two years later, the effects of the reduction of the large-scale US balance sheet will gradually appear, along with the recovery of the US economy, and what impact that will bring for China is unknown at present, Xu told the Global Times on Thursday.

He added that China needs to maintain domestic economic stability in order to cope with such uncertainties in the future.

China is unlikely to follow suit and reduce its balance sheet, as China’s currency policy is largely independent and the Fed’s decision is just a move to make its currency supply return to normal, Liu Jian, a senior research fellow at BoCom, told the Global Times on Thursday.

After the global financial crisis in 2008, the Fed’s holdings of government bonds and mortgage securities rose from $900 billion to an unprecedented $4.5 trillion in a bid to ease the pressure on the US economy, according to The Washington Post.

Source: Global Times

China among safest countries in world

China has become one of the safest countries in the world, with an average of 6.2 murders for every 1 million people in 2016, the country’s top political and legal affairs official has reported.

The rate of major violent crimes in China dropped 43 percent from 2012 to 2016, the rate of major traffic accidents was down 56 percent, while the public’s satisfaction with social security rose from 87.5 percent in 2012 to above 91 percent in 2017, Meng Jianzhu, head of the Political and Legal Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, said at a meeting on public security and social management in Beijing on Wednesday.

In commenting on this, a People’s Public Security University expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Thursday, “While the country maintains strong control over society, it still manages to grow its economy at a considerable rate. The combination of the two is what leads to a low crime rate.”

China started overhauling its police force in 2015 to increase efficiency and improve its public image, with more than 100 reform measures, covering domestic security, administration, personnel and law enforcement.

In June, the People’s Public Security University worked with Peking University and a National Bureau of Statistics poll center on a survey of the results of reform measures. It showed a satisfaction rate above 90 percent in vehicle inspections and household registration.

Another assessment that is still going on includes the protection of lawyers’ rights.

These figures also show the social security improvements following the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2012. The 19th National Party Congress will be held in October.

At the Tuesday meeting, Meng laid out the tasks ahead, pointing specifically to economic risks that are likely to become public security threats.

In the past month, police across the country have been detaining people involved in a pyramid scheme called Shanxinhui, who got other people involved in pyramid selling schemes, then cheated them out of large amounts of money under the guise of helping the poor.

In July, some Shanxinhui members gathered in Beijing to protest against the treatment of Zhang Tianming, the organization’s legal representative, who was held on suspicion of organizing a pyramid scheme.

Intelligent detection

Meng also spoke about how crimes have become intertwined with the Internet, which was affirmed by the anonymous expert, who said that investigating Internet financial scams has been a recent focus of police work. He added, “Most of the online financial products that boast of a rate of return above 6 percent are fraudulent. These crimes touch a broad base of people and can easily trigger protests.”

Meng went on to propose that public security departments explore new ways to use AI to study terrorist cases and other public security problems, to find out how they evolve, and to use that to build mathematical models based on the data.

“To prevent security risks in places with a large number of people, we need to use intelligent sensing technology to detect sources of dangers,” Meng added, then called for a uniform database and the greater integration of surveillance resources at the township, county and city level.

Another expert from the People’s Public Security University, who also requested anonymity, told the Global Times that more than 50 percent of the cases solved by Chinese police now depend on surveillance.

“The most commonly used technology is surveillance cameras, fingerprint databases, and facial recognition, but the use of artificial intelligence for investigations is still at a primitive stage, but big data is the inevitable approach,” the expert concluded.

Source: Global Times

 

China releases international knowledge management platform CSpace 6.0

(Photo/Chinese Academy of Sciences)

CSpace 6.0, an international knowledge management platform developed by Lanzhou Library, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), was released to users at home and abroad on Sept. 20, Xinhuanet.com reported.

As the main platform for the Institutional Repositories Grid of CAS (CAS IR Grid), the knowledge base has been applied in more than 110 research institutions of CAS.

The CAS IR Grid has become one of the three major repositories in the world. It has collected and preserved over 780,000 scientific achievements, and more than 80 percent of them are available for users, said Zhu Zhongming, a researcher at Lanzhou Library.

Zhu added that the scale and influence of CSpace 6.0 in China makes it the main platform for Google Scholar and Web of Science to get access to Chinese documents, and it is widely promoted and applied in Chinese scientific institutions, universities, and enterprises.

“An open scientific knowledge network can be established based on CSpace 6.0, which will support the country’s scientific and technological innovation,” said Peng Yiqi, director of the National Science and Technology Center.

Insurance company says investors who inflate income can be identified through new technologies

(File photo of Sina.com.cn)

Investors who inflate their income can be identified through new technologies, said Yang Jun, deputy chief risk officer of the Ping An Insurance (Group) Company of China, Ltd., at a conference on Sept. 20, Thepaper.cn reported.

A senior executive of the company said that they can help financial institutions identify eligible investors using five technologies: biological recognition, big data and risk management, block chain, artificial intelligence, and cloud technology, as they have obtained data on 880 million Chinese users so far.

The new technologies can help match product risks with investors’ risk tolerance, Yang noted.

Chief product officer of the company, Ou Haiying, explained that the company can judge the credit line of customers based on collected data ranging from their ages, income levels, genders, and telephone expenses.

He added that the company is currently focused on research into intelligent cognition. Since biological recognition technology like fingerprint identification and facial recognition is likely to be broken, the company will try to integrate voiceprint recognition with facial recognition and identity information.

As for the next step, the company will be committed to doing research on micro expressions as a way to help financial institutions judge customers’ honesty. And in the future, it will be likely delve into biometric recognition technologies like vein recognition and iris recognition, according to Ou.

China’s leading AI enterprise iFlytek to develop health information technology

(File Photo)

China’s leading enterprise in artificial intelligence (AI) iFlytek Co., Ltd. is devoting itself to developing Wise Information Technology of 120 (WIT 120) after its smart input app reached 500 million users by August 2017, Thepaper.cn reported on Sept. 19.

The enterprise aims to apply deep learning to voice recognition, natural languages processing, machine translation, and data mining.

Voice Input, the app developed by the company, is able to convert voice messages in Chinese to English text messages, and English text messages into Chinese voice messages. It can also understand different Chinese dialects.

Apart from phone applications, iFlytek is committed to developing WIT 120.

The enterprise established cooperation with the Peking Union Medical College Hospital, inputting hospital medical records using voice recognition and inputting technology. The two also announced to set up a research center to jointly push forward the application of AI in basic medical and clinic research.

In addition, the enterprise established the country’s first WIT 120-equipped hospital in collaboration with Anhui Provincial People’s Hospital, where the voice assistant developed by the company can provide the patients with proper medical guidance.

Most importantly, the system is expected to provide AI-assisted remote medical diagnosis and treatment for 41 county hospitals after it is put into use, as it has learned nearly one million medical images and videos, 53 professional medical textbooks, two million medical records, and 400,000 medical documents and reports.

The guidance accuracy rate of the intelligent voice assistant has reached 84 percent based on data collected by the hospital since June, according to the company.

China to build 50 new cargo airports before 2020

China will complete over 50 new cargo airports before 2020, said Dong Faxin, deputy director general of the Development Planning Department of Civil Aviation Administration of China, at a press conference held on Sept. 18.

According to Dong, the country’s terminals will be expanded by more than seven million square meters. In addition, 68 runways will be constructed, together with 1,832 aircraft stands, and 26 traffic hubs.

By the end of July, China has constructed a total of 225 cargo airports and 310 general airports.

The country has invested 755.5 billion RMB ($114.5 billion) in civil aviation infrastructure since 2012, with 53 cargo airports, 48 runways, and 971 stands constructed.

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

Chinese spend billions of hours on social media, long enough to build 109 pyramids!

(Photo/China News Service)

Chinese have spent 39.8 billion hours on social media platforms in the first half of 2017, which is almost the time needed to build 109 pyramids, a professor of communication said on Sept. 15.

The first thing most people do when they get up in the morning is scan their smartphones, said James E. Katz, Feld Professor of Emerging Media at Boston University’s College of Communication, at a forum on media interconnection, innovation, and reform held in Beijing.

People’s Daily, the country’s largest newspaper, has integrated Weibo and WeChat platforms to strengthen its influence, according to Zhang Shouying, deputy editor-in-chief of the newspaper.

It is estimated that the daily viewers of People’s Daily have increased from 3 million newspaper subscribers to more than 600 million viewers, twice the population of the U.S., Zhang said.

Home to over 700 million netizens and over five million websites, China has become a major network country, according to an official with the country’s cyberspace administration. With the rapid development of emerging media represented by Weibo and WeChat, China’s media outlets are pursuing the integration of traditional and new media, Zhang said.

Weibo CEO Wang Gaofei said emerging media have completely changed the operation of traditional ones in terms of content production, content form, and publication. For instance, the South China Sea-related topic “China Won’t Budge One Bit” started by the People’s Daily last year was viewed 6.58 billion times and received 9.689 million comments on Weibo, a new high in terms of both width and depth.