China fortifies its biosecurity network

China will officially enact its biosecurity law on April 15. As the country steps up efforts to enhance public education on biosecurity, Chinese citizens are gaining an increasing awareness of preventing the import of harmful organisms and advancing ecological progress.

A customs office of Changsha, central China’s Hunan Province stationed at a post bureau for the first time seizes 21 living fish from incoming parcels. The fish are preliminarily identified as small tetras and have been detained according to law. (Photo from the official website of the General Administration of Customs)

Animal and plant quarantine at the customs is the first line of defense that safeguards national biosecurity. Last year, China’s customs districts seized quarantine pests in 69,500 batches from 102 countries and regions.

In the first two months of this year, they seized 172 types of pests in 7,942 batches, a 40.41 percent year-on-year surge in the number of interceptions.

In early January this year, Suzhou customs’ transaction organization stationed in the post office captured massive tulip seedballs when inspecting incoming parcels.

Tulip seedballs are a commodity that customers always purchase from overseas around February every year. However, these propagating materials might carry massive pests, such as Ditylenchus dipsaci, Pratylenchus penetrans and Arabis mosaic virus (ArMV), which are all high-risk pests inspected by Chinese customs in imported tulip seedballs.

For instance, the ArMV is extremely contagious, which would damage multiple cash crops once imported, and seriously threaten China’s agricultural safety.

On an early morning, a mail van pulled into a depot under customs supervision of the Hefei International Mail Exchange Bureau, east China’s Anhui Province, where parcels shipped from across the world gathered. Customs official Zhang Chengzhi, upon X-ray examination and out of the box audit, discovered several living insects in glass bottles.

“There are more and more such cases in recent years,” Zhang said. “The living insects didn’t go through any quarantine or approval procedure, and might carry parasites, viruses and bacteria that threaten people’s health and ecological security,” he explained, adding that these insects might pose a risk for local species.

A customs office of Beijing stationed at a post bureau seizes 27 insect specimens in two boxes, including a Titan beetle, one of the largest known beetles in the world. (Photo by Zhang Min, from the official website of the General Administration of Customs)

Sophisticated technologies are constantly enriching examining methods, significantly improving the capability of quarantining animals and plants.

“We don’t have any examining methods or materials for most of the invasive species here in China, so we must consult massive foreign documents. Meanwhile, we are equipped with large numbers of sophisticated equipment to increase the speed and accuracy of quarantine,” said Chen Yunfang with the technology center of Suzhou customs.

“Microscopes are our weapons. For instance, the scanning electron microscope can magnify the lips of nematodes, which are normally as small as 1 millimeter, by 30,000 times. It enables us to see clearly the heads of the nematodes,” Chen said.

Focusing on the identification of plant parasitic nematodes for over 20 years, Gu Jianfeng and his team from the technology center of Ningbo customs have built a smart identification system. “In the future, the time for identification will be shortened from a couple of days to minutes,” Gu said.

Suzhou customs’ transaction organization stationed in the post office handles nearly one million international parcels each year. An official with the organization told People’s Daily that the customs have established a multi-dimensional prevention and control network to prevent the invasion of exotic species.

Experts noted that many invasive species entered China due to the public’s lack of biosecurity knowledge, adding that non-trade channels are mostly how these species invaded.

Beijing aids Xinjiang with education

Over the past five years, Beijing has actively supported northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region with the construction of kindergartens and primary and middle schools, in a bid to lay the foundations of and bolster areas of weakness in Xinjiang’s education.

Students take a course at the Hetian Beijing Haidian Primary School, northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, March 30, 2019. On that day, the school celebrated the first School Open Day and invited parents to take part in the classroom activities. (Photo/People’s Daily Online)

From 2016 to 2020, Beijing allocated a fund of nearly 2.1 billion ($320 million) yuan to aid Xinjiang in improving schools. The city established, renovated, and expanded a total of 193 kindergartens and primary and middle schools, which cover an area of over 2.6 million square meters, and built a batch of demonstration schools including the Moyu Beijing Senior High School and Hetian Beijing Haidian Primary School in Xinjiang.

Beijing has significantly scaled up the various education infrastructure in Xinjiang and helped the autonomous region resolve the shortage of education facilities overall at this stage.

Meanwhile, Beijing has helped create over 150,000 places in the schools of Xinjiang, effectively guaranteeing the access to education for children who have reached school age.

Raziya Abdirehim, a six-grade student at the Hetian Beijing Haidian Primary School, enjoys rope skipping with friends at the tartan tracks of the schoolyard. “I really like the big playground as we can play games and do activities there,” said the student.

Before it bid farewell to poverty last year, Hotan prefecture in Xinjiang, where the Hetian Beijing Haidian Primary School is located, was one of the severely impoverished areas in China and was faced with a prominent lack of education resources.

For a while, the schools in villages and towns of the prefecture were equipped with rough wooden tables and chairs, whose colors didn’t even match; a teacher needed to take care of an entire class of 50 to 60 children in the kindergartens, which was pretty hard work; and in some schools, the walls fell into decay, and the ceilings of offices had cracks and started to peel.

As a key project of Beijing’s assistance with the education of Xinjiang, the Hetian Beijing Haidian Primary School took shape on an open space within merely over one year and officially started to enroll students in the autumn of 2018.

Wei Hengbo, a teacher of the Hetian Beijing Haidian Primary School, northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, poses for a photo in front of the school. When he was still in college, he already volunteered to teach in Xinjiang. (Photo/People’s Daily Online)

With novel designs and complete facilities, the modern school accommodating over 2,100 students now has become a star school in the area, and serves as an epitome of the fruits Beijing has achieved in assisting Xinjiang in the field of education.

When it started to enroll students, the Hetian Beijing Haidian Primary School was troubled by the lack of experience and professional skills among some local teachers though equipped with first-class hardware facilities.

Liu Quanhua, a teacher from Haidian district of Beijing in the Hetian Beijing Haidian Primary School, has encouraged fellows assigned by Beijing to instruct local teachers, which pushes the rapid improvement in their quality.

It is crucial to train a team of high-quality teachers for the area, and stimulate the vitality of local teachers so that they can independently animate the class and benefit the students, according to Liu, also the first principal of the school.

A teacher from Beijing teaches students English via multimedia means at the Hetian Beijing Haidian Primary School, northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. (Photo/People’s Daily Online)

Liu has devoted himself to the development of the school and couldn’t help but shed tears when he attended the flag-raising ceremony at the school for one last time before leaving the school and returning to Beijing last year.

Since 2016, Beijing has assigned 647 excellent teachers in four batches to help teach students in Xinjiang.

The teachers from Beijing have formed over 800 pairs in a master-apprentice relationship with local teachers in Xinjiang to improve their competences, staged demonstration courses for more than 1,500 times, and trained over 10,000 fresh hands in schools.

Beijing has also creatively launched a program to encourage college students across China to teach in the schools of Xinjiang. Since 2018, Beijing has invested over 200 million yuan, and recruited over 20,000 college students to teach in Xinjiang, effectively dealing with the insufficiency of teachers in the autonomous region.

China to enlarge middle-income group

Customers line up to pay for their purchases in front of a cashier’s counter at a duty free shop in Haikou, south China’s Hainan Province, March 26, 2021. (People’s Daily Online/Zhang Junqi)

China’s consumption has been on a continuous rise in recent years, and its consumption structure is also being optimized.

Last year, the country’s total retail sales of consumer goods reached 39.2 trillion yuan ($6 trillion), and final consumption contributed 54.3 percent to China’s GDP. As a result, China maintained its position as the second largest consumption market of the world.

New business forms such as online shopping and influencer marketing experienced rapid development. In 2020, a total of over 24 million livestream shows were aired on e-commerce platforms; online sales of national entity bucked the trend and grew 14.8 percent; the express delivery industry handled 31.2 percent more parcels than it did a year ago. China has become the world’s largest market of online retailing for eight consecutive years.

The robust recovery of China’s consumption, despite the severe impacts from COVID-19, showcased the strong resilience and huge development potential of the Chinese market.

As a major force of consumption, the middle-income group is a pillar of economy. At present, China has 400 million middle-income earners that account for around 30 percent of its population. In developed countries, the distribution of household income is always in an “olive shape” that is sharp at both ends and plump in the middle. In other words, middle-income group usually accounts for 60 percent to 70 percent of the population in developed countries. Such a structure is considered healthy and good for economic and social development. In contrast, China still has a long way to go to expand the size of its middle-income group.

Vice Minister of Commerce Qian Keming said that with 1.4 billion people, China boasts a super large market and huge development potential. In the next 15 years, the number of Chinese middle-income earners is expected to reach 800 million, which will generate robust momentum for consumption upgrading and bright prospects.

According to China’s 14th Five-Year Plan, China will work to increase the income for graduates of universities and vocational schools, skilled workers and migrant workers in the next five years. Experts believe that it’s both possible and necessary to include them in the middle-income group.

Graduates of universities and vocational schools come in huge size and are well educated and skillful, which makes them possible to become middle-income earners. “Most people from this group, with their degree of education and competence, will not work simple and repetitive jobs, so it’s possible that they become middle-income earners,” Su Hainan, a contract research fellow with China Association for Labor Studies, told People’s Daily during an interview.

According to the latest statistics from the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (MOHRSS), China has over 200 million skilled workers, who take 26 percent of its total jobs, up from 20 percent a few years ago. More than 50 million of them are highly skilled workers. In recent years, skilled workers are in a short supply in China, and their income keeps rising.

The MOHRSS recently issued a guideline, encouraging enterprises to institute annual salary system and offer special awards for skilled talents, especially highly skilled ones.

“Migrant workers are a major part of China’s workforce, many of whom are also well educated and skillful, and are able to work complicated and innovative jobs,” Su said.

Last year, the number of migrant workers in China reached 280 million, including 170 million who worked out-of-town. The average monthly income of them stood at 4,072 yuan. Many of them are getting close to the threshold of middle income if calculated in terms of household.

“To make a part of migrant workers middle-income earners is necessary for narrowing rural-urban income gap, improving the competence of workforce and accelerating rural vitalization, and it’s also feasible to do that,” Su noted.

As the income of these major groups rises in the future, the size of China’s middle-income group will be further expanded, turning the country’s household income distribution into the “olive shape.” By that time, China’s consumption vitality will have been further activated, and the country will also release more dividends to the world.

China improves education to ease poverty

Photo taken on Dec. 9, 2020, shows students enjoying free meals at a school in Wangxia township, Changjiang Li autonomous county, south China’s Hainan province. (People’s Daily Online/Yuan Chen)

As of the end of 2020, the number of dropouts during the nine-year compulsory education stage in China fell to 682 from over 600,000 in 2019, said data from the country’s Ministry of Education (MOE).

Meanwhile, the number of dropouts from registered impoverished families had been reduced to zero, down from more than 200,000, according to the data.

The Chinese government considers education a fundamental task and has always given top priority to improving education.

Since 2012, China’s government budgetary spending on education has maintained a proportion of over 4 percent in the country’s GDP, and has increasingly leaned toward rural areas, border areas, areas with large ethnic minority populations, old revolutionary base areas, and outlying and poverty-stricken regions.

“I like the big screen in our classroom. The teachers who give classes to us via the screen sing very well. Many students in urban areas take online classes together with us,” said Long Xinyu, a primary school student in Huayuan county, Xiangxi Tujia and Miao autonomous prefecture, central China’s Hunan province, who is excited about Internet-based online courses.

So far, all primary and high schools in China have access to the Internet, while in 2012 only a quarter of them used the Internet.

The proportion of schools with multimedia classrooms in China has risen to 95.3 percent from 48 percent in 2012.

“I didn’t want to come here at first, and now I don’t want to leave,” said Li Hui, a college graduate who became a teacher at a primary school in Wangtuan township, Lixin county, east China’s Anhui province. Li feels more content with her job as China has enhanced efforts to attract talents to rural areas.

With the support of local government, the school has built new teaching buildings, and teachers at the school have enjoyed higher salaries and better benefits, according to Li, who disclosed that they are also provided with dormitories.

In recent years, China has gradually nurtured a team of high-caliber village teachers that dedicate themselves to education in rural areas.

The country has recruited a total of 950,000 teachers for the compulsory education in rural areas, trained nearly 17 million teachers and principals for rural schools in the central and western regions under a national-level training program, provided subsidies for 1.27 million teachers from over 80,000 schools in contiguous poverty-stricken areas, and sent 190,000 volunteer teachers to schools in outlying and poverty-stricken regions, border areas, areas with large ethnic minority populations, and old revolutionary base areas.

Latest data show that the overall quality of village teachers in China has significantly improved, as 51.6 percent of them have at least completed undergraduate education, and 44.7 percent have been awarded mid-level professional titles and above.

China has provided institutional guarantee for the realization of its goal that “no child is denied schooling due to financial difficulties”.

The country has built a student aid system with Chinese characteristics for students in stages from pre-school to postgraduate education. Under the system, it has provided financial support for students from impoverished families for 641 million times, basically ensuring aid for all students in need.

To help increase the income of residents in impoverished areas, universities and colleges in China have given full play to their characteristic and comprehensive resources, and brought advanced ideas, talents, technologies and experience to poor counties based on accurate grasp of their practical needs, achieving noticeable achievements.

Data suggest that 64 universities and colleges under the direct administration of the MOE have spent and introduced funds worth over 2.5 billion yuan (about $380 million) on targeted poverty alleviation in poor areas, trained 463,200 primary-level officials and technicians, and purchased and helped sell agricultural products worth about 2 billion yuan for impoverished regions.

They have provided training courses for 96,400 teachers in poor areas, implemented 1,949 scientific research projects, and drawn a total investment of 15.16 billion yuan from companies into poverty-stricken regions.

Technology gives spring farming a leg up

Drones are spraying pesticides in a wheat field in Shenqiao village, Tongling, east China’s Anhui Province, April 2, 2021. (People’s Daily Online/Mei Jianguang)

As spring farming of this year kicks off, high-tech machines are being employed at a high-yield rice demonstration field, both in the air and on the ground, in Duhu Township, Taishan, Jiangmen, south China’s Guangdong Province, making the farm work much easier during the busy season.

Farmer Li Shengye, who contracted 800 mu (53 hectares) of land at the demonstration field, is freed this year from the tiring tillage that always tied him up in the previous years, thanks to the new agricultural machines.

“It took four people and one tractor eight days to spray the pesticide in the past, but now a drone does it all in just two days, which can be operated by only one single person,” Li told People’s Daily.

The secret to the improved efficiency lies in several “cuboids” in the field – a smart system that can identify pests, Li introduced.

These cuboids are lighted up at night to attract pests, and then take photos of the bugs and upload them to a cloud platform which gives recognition results in seconds, said Lin Xiaojun, project director of Greenagri, the developer of the smart system. The system can recognize around 20 kinds of common pests, as well as their amount, Lin introduced, adding that the system can reach 90 percent accurate.

“It analyzes the identification results and makes predictions. Once the results hit alarm value, the system would notify relevant management departments and farmers,” Lin said.

“For example, once the alarm value for rice planthoppers hits 100, notification is pushed to my mobile phone,” Li said.

“I’d always follow the suggestions of the others in the past and spray pesticides whenever there were bugs in the field. Now, with the help of the system, I know exactly when, how much and which pesticides shall be used, which not only reduces the total use, but also ensures food safety,” he noted.

In fact, the smart system is not the only high technology applied there. For instance, a small climate monitoring system is installed to check the illumination, temperature and wind velocity in the patty fields.

To monitor the growth of plants, agricultural microclimate, soil moisture content, and plant diseases and insect pests through an internet of things enabled by big data and cloud computing is like doing a physical examination for the rice and quantifying all the indexes, Lin said. The monitor results, combined together, are able to reflect the overall situation of the fields and offer a basis for farmers to make decisions, he added.

The No.1 central document of China issued this year proposed to develop smart agriculture, establish a big data system for agriculture and rural affairs, and advance the in-depth integration of a new-gen information technology and agricultural production and operation.

“We have satellites up in the sky, drones in the air, meteorological stations on the ground, and cameras in the fields, which offers us all-round and all-weather monitoring services. We can check the growth of the crops sitting at home instead of placing our feet in the muddy fields,” said farmers.

China sets role model for fighting poverty

Farmers pick strawberries in a greenhouse of a strawberry plantation in Guangshan County, Xinyang, central China’s Henan Province, Jan. 24, 2021. (People’s Daily Online/Xie Wanbai)

Poverty is a chronic affliction of human society and a common challenge faced by the whole world. China had long been plagued by poverty at a scale and a level of severity that has rarely been seen anywhere else in the world. As a result, the challenge of poverty alleviation in China almost defies imagination.

Over the past century, the Communist Party of China (CPC) has united and led the Chinese people in the battle against poverty with unwavering faith and will, making great historic achievements in eliminating extreme poverty, an issue that had bothered the Chinese nation for thousands of years. It is a great accomplishment that bears important significance for both the Chinese nation and the human society.

On April 6, the State Council Information Office released a white paper titled “Poverty Alleviation: China’s Experience and Contribution”, which records the course of the Chinese people’s great fight in eliminating extreme poverty from five areas, introduces China’s approach, and shares its experience and actions in poverty alleviation.

The white paper mirrors the firm conviction and practical actions of China to bring a better life to its people with a people-centered philosophy, and fully demonstrates the country’s responsibility to take an active part in global poverty management and make greater contribution to building a better world.

Governance of a country starts with the needs of the people. To eliminate poverty, improve livelihood and achieve common prosperity is an essential requirement of socialism and an important mission of the CPC.

Since 2012, China has fought a decisive battle against poverty that is unprecedented in scale and intensity, and has benefited the largest number of people in human history.

At the end of 2020, through eight years of hard work, China achieved the goal of eliminating extreme poverty – a key goal for the new era of building socialism with Chinese characteristics. The 98.99 million people in rural areas who were living below the current poverty threshold all shook off poverty; all the 128,000 impoverished villages and 832 designated poor counties got rid of poverty. China has eliminated poverty over entire regions and eradicated extreme poverty – an outstanding and historic achievement.

This great victory shows that the CPC has held fast to its original aspiration and mission, and demonstrates its ability to lead politically, to guide through theory, to organize the people, and to inspire society. It has given the people trust in their ability to build a better life.

A will to unite as one, do its best, set targets, adopt a pragmatic approach, be pioneers, innovate, tackle tough issues head-on, and live up to the people’s trust, has formed in the great endeavors of poverty alleviation. It has fostered a Chinese ethos and a readiness to respond to the call of the times, and will continue to inspire its people to create a better future.

China is home to nearly one fifth of the world’s population. Its complete eradication of extreme poverty – the first target of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – 10 years ahead of schedule, is a milestone in the history of the Chinese nation and the history of humankind, making an important contribution to the cause of global poverty alleviation.

Poverty eradication has always been a tricky problem bothering global development and governance. With its own practice, China has set a role model in reducing poverty. Bearing in mind its prevailing reality and understanding the nature of poverty and the status of poverty alleviation, China has adopted a series of bold policies and measures, established a whole set of effective policy, work and institution systems, and embarked on a path of poverty alleviation and designed an approach with Chinese characteristics.

China’s successful practice and valuable experience in eliminating extreme poverty have deepened human understanding of poverty alleviation trends, enriched and extended the theory of international poverty alleviation, and boosted the confidence of other countries, especially developing ones, in eradicating extreme poverty. They serve as reference for other countries to choose a suitable path of poverty alleviation, and offer China’s approach to solving the problem of modern national governance and creating brighter prospects for social progress.

The world today is experiencing a scale of change unseen in a century. The Covid-19 pandemic is still spreading around the world, and poverty, hunger and disease are undermining people’s pursuit for a better life. Everyone has the right to a decent life. All countries need to shoulder their responsibilities and work on poverty reduction, so that the sunshine of equity and justice can break through the haze of poverty and backwardness and illuminate a future of prosperity and development. China is ready to strengthen exchanges and cooperation with other countries on poverty reduction, support international poverty reduction, and act as an advocate, facilitator of and contributor to the international cause of poverty alleviation.

Facing the future, the CPC will always put the people before everything else, continue to work for people’s all-round development, and common prosperity and a better life for all, and closely link China’s future with that of the rest of the world, so as to make a greater contribution to building a global community of shared future that is free from poverty and blessed with common prosperity.

China to gradually raise retirement age

Zeng Huizhang, 65 years old, continues to teach Chinese calligraphy at a primary school in Kangjia village, Guobei township, Neijiang, southwest China’s Sichuan province, Sept. 7, 2020. (People’s Daily Online/Lan Zitao)

China will take small steps to raise the statutory age for retirement, says the country’s recently published Outline of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) for National Economic and Social Development and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035.

In doing so, the country will raise the retirement age by a few months every year, ensure flexibility, implement tailored policies for different groups, consider all factors, and make overall plans, according to the national development blueprint.

The decision to raise the retirement age is a result of China’s increasing average life expectancy, accelerating trend of population aging, growing average schooling years of working-age people, and changes in labor force structures, said Jin Weigang, head of the Chinese Academy of Labor and Social Security, in a recent interview with People’s Daily.

The average life expectancy of Chinese citizens rose to 77.3 years in 2019, from around 40 years when the People’s Republic of China was just founded. That of urban residents, which directly concerns the retirement age, has exceeded 80 years.

In contrast, the statutory age for retirement of China’s working-age population has not changed since it was determined in 1951. Therefore, it is necessary to make appropriate adjustments to the country’s retirement age in accordance with the increasing average life expectancy, so that the two match each another reasonably, Jin said.

At the end of 2019, the proportion of seniors aged 60 and above in China’s total population reached 18.1 percent, and the number of the country’s senior citizens is expected to surpass 300 million in the next five years, Jin pointed out.

Since China is witnessing a growing trend of population aging, its working-age population is going to decline day by day and the number of retired people will increase. This will place obvious impacts on social and economic development if the country decides to maintain the current retirement age, according to Jin.

The average number of years of schooling among the working-age population in China has generally grown over the past decades.

According to China’s Ministry of Education, the proportion of new entrants with higher education backgrounds to the country’s labor force exceeded 50 percent and their average number of years of schooling reached 13.7, which means people are starting working at an older age.

If the age for retirement remains the same, the reduction in average number of years of working would result in a waste of human resources and a lower utilization rate of human capital, Jin said.

China’s working-age population has declined since 2012, with the annual reduction exceeding three million people and the situation keeping getting worse, according to official data.

If the country can implement its policies on raising the retirement age in a timely and moderate manner and ensure good development and utilization of the human resources of its increasingly large senior population, it will be able to improve labor force participation and optimize the allocation of capital and labor force to some extent, Jin said.

By “taking small steps”, the country means that it will raise the retirement age through gradual reformation, and reach its goal step by step, with minor adjustments at a time, Jin said.

During the early stage of the reform, people nearing retirement age will only have to delay retirement for one month or several months, which won’t have major influence upon their work and life, Jin said, adding that although younger workers may have to work a few years longer, they have much more time to adapt to the change as their retirement is about a decade or two decades away.

The Outline of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) for National Economic and Social Development and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035 has emphasized flexibility in the country’s retirement age reform, which represents the country’s intention to allow people to choose the time for retirement according to their own situations, rather than forcing everyone to retire at the raised statutory retirement age, Jin said, noting that flexibility is the most distinctive and important feature of the reform.

According to the national development plan, China will implement tailored policies for different groups when carrying out the retirement age reform, which means it will ensure smooth transition between the current retirement policies and the future ones, Jin said.

The retirement age reform will be implemented in a differentiated and gradual manner and at a moderate pace for different groups, according to Jin, who explained that policy continuity will be guaranteed regarding current differences in retirement policies for different professions, regions, and jobs, so as to ensure orderly adjustment and smooth transition.

By underscoring the necessity to consider all factors and make overall plans, the country is saying that the retirement age reform is a systematic project involving a great number of related supporting policies and measures which need to be coordinated and planed as a whole, Jin said.

On the one hand, China needs to make adjustments to its existing policies on retirement age. On the other hand, the country must be prepared with relevant supporting measures to meet new opportunities and challenges to be posed by the reform, such as how to promote employment and entrepreneurship for older workers through better targeted skills training and assistance, according to Jin.

‘Ear economy’ booms in China

Photo taken on August 13, 2020, shows residents in Wangchang village, Wushan township, Hukou county, Jiujiang, east China’s Jiangxi province, enjoying reading in an audio library. (People’s Daily Online/Zhang Yu)

China’s online audio sector, or the “ear economy”, represented by online audiobooks, audio live-streaming, and pay-for-knowledge products has witnessed rapid development in recent years.

The country’s market size of long-form audio content is expected to reach 54.31 billion yuan (about $8.27 billion) by 2022, and the number of online audio service users in China will exceed 900 million in 2023, according to data from iResearch, an independent market research company.

For many people, listening to audio programs has increasingly become a part of their daily routine.

“I often listen to news programs during my commute to get information about the latest events, and spend lunch breaks during workdays taking audio courses in business and finance to improve myself. When I do laundry or cook at weekends, I always play an audiobook to relax myself,” said a woman surnamed Wang, a white-collar worker of an Internet company in Beijing.

Audio materials allow listeners to rest their hands and eyes while using the fragments of time for self-improvement or recreation, compared with videos, said Wang, a big fan of online audio content who has arranged various audio programs for different time periods of the day and different occasions.

According to a national reading report released by the Chinese Academy of Press and Publication (CAPP) in April 2020, audiobooks have attracted more and more readers and become a new growth point for the Chinese people in terms of their reading behaviors.

The report showed that 31.2 percent of Chinese citizens and 30.3 percent of Chinese adults often listened to audiobooks in 2019. Audiobook mobile apps were the most popular choice among Chinese adults who listened to audiobooks, with the adults who listened to audiobooks via such apps accounting for 16.2 percent of the total, followed by WeChat programs and radio channels, indicated the report.

Audiobooks represent the most popular category among users on audio content platforms, while radio dramas and content about quality lifestyle favored by young users, parent-child courses designed for mothers. Audio courses and materials on workplace skills, foreign language learning, as well as knowledge about business, finance, and economics are also among the top on the bestseller list.

The ways in which people listen to audio content are more and more diverse. Wang told the People’s Daily that she usually uses wireless earbuds connected to apps on her mobile phone to enjoy audio content during the commute, and plays such content via a smart speaker at home.

A jogger in Shenzhen, south China’s Guangdong province, who is surnamed Zhou, said that he listens to various podcasts via his smartwatch while running. Podcasts are good company during exercise and sometimes inspire him to think, according to Zhou.

Audio content platforms have made active efforts to develop external channels for distribution of products, reaching out to potential partners including operators of smart hardware, apps, mini-programs, and mobile websites, said an analysis report released by Analysys International, a Beijing-based marketing consulting company.

Popular online audio-sharing platform Ximalaya FM in China has carried out in-depth cooperation with tech giants like Alibaba, Xiaomi, Huawei, Baidu, and Samsung to make audio content available on various smart terminals and in many scenarios in people’s daily life. The platform has also launched relevant products including artificial intelligence-based speaker and earbuds.

Experts believe that with the advance in science and technology, the integration of audio content into smart hardware terminals like vehicle-mounted terminals, smart home devices, smart speakers, and smart wearables will bring audio products to various scenarios in life and further boost the development of the “ear economy.”

Technologies speed up tourism recovery

Visitors take a boat trip around Wuzhen, a historic scenic town in east China’s Zhejiang province. Since it resumed operation as the COVID-19 was gradually curbed on April 15, 2020, the West Scenic Zone of Wuzhen has introduced online ticket booking services and strictly managed and controlled tourist traffic. (People’s Daily Online/Wang Zhijie)

Modern information technologies are transforming the tourism industry and speeding up the recovery of the tourism market in China amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

While tourist destinations have introduced new technologies to enrich the experience of visitors and adopted intelligent management systems to improve services, new forms of business such as virtual travel, performances, and exhibitions have flourished.

Despite the attack of the virus, China’s tourism industry secured recovery and development in 2020. It is estimated that the number of domestic visitors received by tourist attractions across China and the country’s tourism revenue recovered by 79 percent and 69.9 percent during last year’s National Day and Mid-Autumn Festival holiday, respectively, on a comparable basis.

During the upcoming Tomb-sweeping Day holiday, or Qingming Festival, that falls on April 4 this year, China’s number of tourists is expected to return to the level of the same period in 2019, with 100 million trips to be made, as a research institute under Ctrip pointed out.

New tourism models brought about by the development of the Internet have grown rapidly in the country, further stimulating innovation in the modes of production, services and management, diversifying tourism products, and broadening the space for tourism consumption.

China is expected to witness its domestic tourism market receive average annual visits of 10 billion and tourist spending reach 10 trillion yuan ($1.52 trillion) in the next five years, according to a report released by the China Tourism Academy (CTA).

Noting that tourists are now able to search for travel agencies, travel tips, and book tickets to tourist destinations via online platforms, Dai Bin, director of the CTA, believes that modern information technologies symbolized by the Internet have driven constant innovation in traveling services.

The accelerated application of big data, cloud computing, mobile communications and smart terminals in the tourism industry has not only altered tourism consumption patterns, but brought changes to the way in which tourism services are supplied, Dai pointed out.

By digitalizing and improving services, scenic areas in China have allowed visitors to make reservations for tours at different periods of time, and ensured the monitoring and regulation of tourist traffic and smart parking, bringing more orderly and better traveling experience to tourists.

Meanwhile, tourist attractions have developed digital tour products and introduced smart services such as electronic maps, which have enriched consumers’ traveling experience.

In November 2020, ten government departments in China, including the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, jointly issued guidelines on improving the business environment for deepening the integration of the Internet and tourism and empowering and advancing high-quality development of the tourism industry with digital technologies.

The guidelines specified that scenic spots and holiday resorts should act faster to improve the 5G network coverage and build more digitalized and intelligent parking lots, tourist service centers, and guiding sign systems.

It encourages entities such as tourist attractions, restaurants, and museums to cooperate with Internet service platforms to fulfill functions such as ticket booking, tourism information display, and the sale of cultural and tourism creative product online.

Meanwhile, the country is going to support efforts to summarize experience in the development of the all-for-one tourism model and to promote the model across the country, in a bid to create a batch of world-class tourist cities and tourist routes, according to the document.

By pushing forward with innovative projects that integrate the Internet with tourism, the country can better meet the rising demand for tourism consumption and release greater consumption potential in the tourism sector, according to a researcher at the tourism research center of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

China creates green miracles with efforts

Photo taken on Feb. 23, 2021, shows people of Li ethnic group in Pai’an village, Chahe township, Changjiang Li autonomous county, south China’s Hainan province, working in paddy fields. (People’s Daily Online/Meng Zhongde)

China accounts for 25 percent of the global net increase in leaf area in the past nearly 20 years, leading the world in greening effort, and the country’s forest coverage rate has increased from 12 percent in early 1980s to 23.04 percent today, according to data.

Forty years ago, China’s top legislature, the National People’s Congress (NPC), passed a resolution on carrying out a public voluntary tree-planting campaign, a nationwide event that has been participated in and promoted by governments at all levels and in both urban and rural areas.

Tao Fengjiao, a fisherwoman in Changjiang Li autonomous county, south China’s Hainan province, has planted 5.88 million trees in quicksand with her female friends since 1992. The forests they have created cover an area of 33,800 mu (about 2,253 hectares), and have given a brand new look to the island province of Hainan.

On the Saihanba mechanical forest farm in north China’s Hebei province, three generations of residents covered 1.12 million mu of wasteland with green trees.

In the Greater Khingan Range in north China’s Inner Mongolia autonomous region, 16,000 forestry workers have changed their job from cutting down trees to protecting trees.

Many more areas in China, including Yulin city of northwest China’s Shaanxi province, Youyu county of north China’s Shanxi province, and Minqin county of northwest China’s Gansu province, are seeing more and more shelter forests be created and vegetated areas get better protection, while the “Green Great Wall of China”, the country’s Three-North Shelterbelt Forest Program designed to improve the environment in the Northwest, North and Northeast China, continues to extend across the country.

From finding the suitable tree species to preparing trees for inclement weather, changing people’s traditional views about exploitation, and protecting the growing environment of seedlings, Chinese people’s understanding of the relationship between human and nature has deepened constantly.

China has realized profoundly that it needs to correctly understand and handle the relationship between economic development and environmental protection, and should neither follow the way of developing economy at the cost of the environment nor slow down economic development for fear of environmental pollution.

As it turned out, afforestation is a wise decision of the country, as it has not only improved the natural environment, but also benefited the well-being of the Chinese people.

Many forestry workers, farmers, and herdsmen in the country have enjoyed significant improvement in their living standards after securing stable incomes, thanks to China’s endeavors to reduce poverty through the development of local industries and its ecological poverty-relief programs.

By developing ecological tourism, China’s seventh largest desert, Kubuqi Desert located in Ordos city of China’s Inner Mongolia, has seen a great number of visitors and thriving ecological industry, which have brought considerable economic benefits to the local people.

The Saihanba mechanical forest farm, where yellow sand could block out the sun and birds couldn’t find a single tree to rest on in the past, is now covered with boundless forests and witnessing an endless stream of visitors. The development of green and ecological industries of the locality has helped nearly 40,000 people embark on a path to a more prosperous life.

China’s remarkable achievements in promoting afforestation and miracles in economic development have fully demonstrated that guided by the philosophy of green development, the country has made ecological and environmental protection, economic development, as well as improvement in people’s livelihood inseparably interconnected with one another and supplement one another.

China aims to make new progress in building an ecological civilization, cut the energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) and its carbon dioxide emissions by 13.5 percent and 18 percent, respectively, continue to reduce the total amount of emissions of major pollutants, and raise its forest coverage rate to 24.1 percent during its 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-2025).

Such specific goals have pointed the way for the country’s endeavor to a kind of modernization that promotes harmonious coexistence of man and nature.

It’s believed that by surmounting difficulties and continuing to work hard, the country will not only realize its dream of building a beautiful China, but bring greater fruits to its people.