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.

China to push forward sci-tech innovation

Workers manufacture engine boom lifts, which are developed by China and Italy engineers in cooperation, to be exported at a factory of Zhejiang Dingli Machinery Co., Ltd., Huzhou, east China’s Zhejiang Province, Jan. 21, 2021. (People’s Daily Online/Xie Shangguo)

A series of strategic arrangements on adhering to innovation-driven development strategy and building new development advantages were made in China’s Outline of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) for National Economic and Social Development and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035, mapping out a new blueprint for the country’s innovative development.

The outline emphasized the core position of innovation in the country’s modernization drive, and takes the commitment to independent innovation in science and technology as strategic support to national development. It says the country’s research and development spending is expected to grow by over 7 percent annually in the next five years.

According to the outline, China will also work for major breakthroughs in core technologies and build itself into one of the top innovative countries.

International observers said the outline mirrors the high attention placed by China on sci-tech innovation, and releases a clear signal that the country will push for high-quality development in a new stage of development.

Science, technology and innovation is a key engine for human progress, a powerful weapon in tackling many global challenges. “The impact of science and technology on a country’s future and the people’s wellbeing has never been so profound as today,” said Chinese President Xi Jinping.

A worker sorts cargos before 5G-based intelligent warehouse racks at a smart factory of Noblelift Intelligent Equipment Co., Ltd., Changxing County, Huzhou, east China’s Zhejiang Province, Feb. 2, 2021. (People’s Daily Online/Wang Jinyan)

Global challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic that comes with profound impacts, as well as the world economic downturn and climate change, must be taken seriously. To discover momentum for development in science and technology, and to find solutions to global challenges through sci-tech innovation shall be a common pursuit of all countries. By expediting the development of the country into a leading sci-tech power, China is showcasing its wisdom and responsibility.

China always takes innovation as the primary force of development, and is pursuing innovation to achieve high-quality growth driven by domestic demand with concrete efforts.

According to a recent survey of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), China filed 68,720 patent applications last year, up 16.1 percent from those in 2019, remaining the largest patent applicant of the world for another year.

As sci-tech innovation is generating new drivers for high-quality development, China has been turned from a world factory into a patent factory, foreign observers commented.

To benefit the whole mankind with technology and seek scientific breakthroughs for humanity from open cooperation has always been a pursuit of China. The outline further points out that China will implement more open, inclusive, and mutually beneficial strategies for international sci-tech cooperation, and stay more positive about integrating into global innovation.

Practices tell us that openness leads to progress, and open cooperation in sci-tech innovation remains an important impetus driving common development of the world. China has conducted joint research programs with over 50 countries and regions and joined a series of international big science research projects including the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. Under the “Belt and Road” Science, Technology and Innovation Cooperation Action Plan, over 8,300 foreign young scientists came to China for work and 33 joint research labs were established.

To build a community with a shared future for mankind, China is committed to coordinated innovation of global technology, taking an increasingly bigger part in global science and technology governance, and offering broad platforms for open global cooperation on science and technology. These efforts are welcomed by the international society.

Embarking on a new journey, China still maintains sci-tech development as a priority, and will give play to the crucial role of sci-tech innovation. It will definitely make more breakthroughs.

It is believed that through sincere cooperation with the rest of the world and by taking full advantage of sci-tech innovation, China is bound to inject more positive energy into economic and social development of mankind.

Production data are presented on a screen of a digital management system at a factory in Jindong District, Jinhua, east China’s Zhejiang Province, March 15, 2021. (People’s Daily Online/Hu Xiaofei)

China sees robust smart appliance market

A 5G-based robot makes coffee at the Mobile World Congress 2021, Feb. 23. (People’s Daily Online/Long Wei)

China’s smart home appliance industry embraced rapid development in recent years. Around 82.4 percent of Chinese families used smart appliances last year, up by 15.1 percentage points from 2019, according to data analytics firm All View Cloud.

Today, vacuum robots are freeing people from the daily grind of household chores; smart locks allow people to unbolt the doors with their fingerprints; intelligent speakers can play not only music, but also radio dramas upon voice command.

“We’ll have a peace of mind even when our kids and parents are home alone,” said a woman surnamed Wang living in Chaoyang District, Beijing who has recently installed a smart camera at home. The device enables her to see what happens in every corner of her house on a mobile application when she’s out, and she can even speak to her families through the camera.

According to statistics, China is home to a total of 5,759 firms related to smart speakers.

Smart appliances enjoy a very high reputation among Chinese consumers. Liu Qian, associate researcher with China Center for Internet Economy Research, Central University of Finance and Economics, explained that smart appliances, aiming to make home management more efficient, can tangibly improve the life quality of users.

“With the application of 5G technology, as well as the integration of artificial intelligence and internet of things, the functions of these appliances will be further enhanced, thus attracting more consumers,” she said.

A man surnamed Pan from Guigang, south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, was planning to buy a smart phone for his family. “I thought my parents wouldn’t agree, but the result was exactly the opposite,” he said.

In the era of internet, which features efficient and highly connected logistics networks, smart appliances are no longer exclusive to citizens in first- and second-tier cities. They are more and more accepted by users from lower-tier markets, including Pan’s parents.

According to a recent report issued by Tmall, an e-commerce platform under Alibaba, Chinese families in third- and lower-tier cities are now major consumers of smart appliances and moving forward at an accelerated speed.

It indicated a change in the consumption demand of many residents, said experts. Consumers, most of whom were pragmatists in the old days, are focusing more on whether products can improve their life quality. This marks a change of consumption value, and also reflects people’s attitude toward smart appliances.

Green consumption comes into fashion

Photo taken on Dec. 16, 2020, shows workers making biodegradable bags at the plant of a packaging company in Qingdao, east China’s Shandong province, Dec. 16, 2020. (People’s Daily Online/Liang Xiaopeng)

Green consumption is becoming a new trend in China as more and more Chinese people advocate the new consumption philosophy featuring environmental-friendly, low-carbon, healthy and safe consumption.

New energy vehicles, and household supplies, such as energy-efficient light bulbs and water conserving toilets, are increasingly popular among Chinese consumers. Meanwhile, the Chinese people tend to order smaller-portion dishes in restaurants and try not to use disposable tableware.

Pei Jing, a white-collar worker at an Internet company in Beijing, is an upholder of green lifestyle. While shopping at the Wanhui shopping mall in Chaoyang district of Beijing lately, Pei noticed that many customers carried biodegradable shopping bags. She then decided to buy and use such shopping bags herself.

According to Pei, the sales of some degradable shopping bags on certain e-commerce platforms have exceeded 100,000 items.

Green consumption refers to a way of consumption that caters for ecological conservation and protection, benefits people’s health while being conducive to ecological environment protection, and conforms to standards of people’s health and environmental protection, according to Chen Kai, a professor with the School of Economics and Management under the Beijing Forestry University.

The professor added that green consumption usually involves the purchase, use and disposal of products.

The State Council of China has recently issued a guideline, proposing that a green and low-carbon circular economic development system concerning production, circulation and consumption should be basically formed by 2025.

Green consumption became a new trend and highlight of China’s consumer market in 2020, said Zhu Xiaoliang, an official with the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) of China.

Before this year’s Spring Festival, which fell on Feb. 12, Fang Wen, a citizen in Guixi, east China’s Jiangxi province, purchased five bags of rice labeled “organic” while making holiday purchases at a supermarket.

According to Fang, she always checks the date of manufacture when buying food and prefers pollution-free agricultural products, green food, organic agricultural products, and agricultural products with geographical indications (GI). “I have a baby, so I care about the quality of food very much,” she said.

In January, the MOC released a circular on promoting the green development of e-commerce companies.

Various regions in China need to actively explore local green and high-quality agricultural products, and join hands with e-commerce platforms to boost the online sales of green agricultural products, especially certified pollution-free agricultural products, green food, organic food and agricultural products, as well as farm produce with GI, said the document.

In 2020, China’s sales of new energy vehicles grew by 10.9 percent over the previous year, thanks to the country’s policy on extending subsidies for electric vehicles and its campaign to promote the use of green cars in the countryside.

Meanwhile, washing machines, refrigerators, water heaters, and other household appliances with energy efficiency labels are also popular among consumers.

Data from Chinese e-commerce platform Pinduoduo suggest that the number of consumers and their expenditure on major energy-saving domestic appliances on the platform increased by 35 percent and 41 percent year on year in 2020, respectively.

Besides, the number of purchasers of and the amount of money spent on major water-saving home appliances via Pinduoduo saw year-on-year growth of 115 percent and 89 percent respectively, according to the platform.

Green consumption has become a booming trend, stressed Fu Yifu, a senior researcher at the Suning Institute of Finance, who pointed out that it not only covers categories like household appliances, food, clothes, personal care and beauty products and other daily necessities, but is increasingly integrated into service industries such as travel, catering, logistics, and packaging.

Fu believes that green consumption has accelerated the renewal or replacement of related products and services, and driven consumption upgrading.

Sharing economy thrives in China

A farmer promotes a homemade mutton dish via live-streaming in a shared studio in Nanxun district, Huzhou, east China’s Zhejiang province, Nov. 11, 2020. (People’s Daily Online/Zhang Bin)

The market turnover of China’s sharing economy stood at around 3.38 trillion yuan ($520 billion) in 2020, up 2.9 percent year on year, a recent report from the country’s State Information Center (SIC) showed.

Disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the market size of sharing economy forms involving offline activities, including shared transport, shared accommodation, and shared office, declined.

Sharing economy in the areas of knowledge and skill, health care as well as production capacity, meanwhile, saw substantial market expansion, with year-on-year growth rates reaching 30.9 percent, 27.8 percent, and 17.8 percent respectively, said the report on the development of China’s sharing economy.

Internet-based sharing of health care, which features efficiency and convenience, has benefited a great number of people amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

A citizen surnamed Wang in Dalian, northeast China’s Liaoning province, who had trouble sleeping after the COVID-19 outbreak, experienced in person the advantages of online health care while consulting doctors via a mini-program on WeChat.

After typing in a description of her condition and making online payment, she received messages or calls from the doctors, and purchased medicine on prescription online, according to the citizen. After some time, her condition got a lot better.

The rapid expansion of new business forms and models of shared services and consumption has played a key role in effectively satisfying the daily needs of residents, restoring the domestic service industry and consumer market, and ensuring the steady recovery of the economy.

Besides shared services and consumption, shared manufacturing based on industrial Internet has also entered a new stage of development.

Last year, the XCMG IT Hanyun Industrial Internet Platform made emergency deployment of online equipment for the construction of the Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan, central China’s Hubei province, in the fight against the novel coronavirus.

Foxconn Technology Group, a Taiwanese multinational electronics contract manufacturer, switched to medical supply production during the pandemic by taking advantage of industrial Internet platforms.

By employing computing capabilities, pooling high-quality resources, and adopting related models, China’s tech giants Aliyun and Huawei contributed to the screening and development of anti-viral drugs.

The COVID-19 has forced traditional manufacturing companies to actively explore and try new models of shared manufacturing with Internet platform companies to facilitate the resumption of work and production while combating the epidemic.

Last year, about 830 million people engaged in the sharing economy of China, of which around 84 million were service providers, an increase of about 7.7 percent year on year, according to the report.

It also noted that 6.31 million of the participants were employed by platforms in fields of the sharing economy, up 1.3 percent compared with the previous year.

While providing a large number of jobs and sprouting plenty of new occupations, sharing economy has significantly widened employment channels for job hunters and increased the income of workers.

New occupations such as ride-hailing service provider, food deliveryman, live-streaming salesperson, online consultant, and e-sports player are increasingly popular with young people in China.

Driven by the sharing economy, the traditional pattern of employment based on the relationship between companies and employees has been gradually replaced by a new employment pattern featuring work relationship between platforms and individuals, which has led to changes to the structure of the job market.

Flexible employment, including self-employment, work under short-term contracts, and part-time employment, is seeing an increasing proportion in all forms of employment, and significantly alleviating the structural problems in the job market.

Affected by the epidemic, some service companies went out of business and their employees had no work to do temporarily, while companies in such fields as e-commerce and logistics were suffering from labor shortage.

Against such a background, the model of “employee sharing” has enabled the effective flow of labor resources and helped companies in various fields achieve win-win results, becoming a new approach to addressing difficulties in the fight against the epidemic.

Yu Fengxia, deputy director of the Sharing Economy Research Center under the SIC, noted that new forms of employment brought about by the sharing economy are more inclusive, significantly lowered the employment threshold, and have improved employment efficiency for workers.

Sharing economy platforms have become a “reservoir” of employment and effectively helped stabilize employment during the special period of the epidemic, Yu added.

China’s sharing economy is expected to rebound anywhere between 10 to 15 percent in 2021, maintaining an annual growth pace of over 10 percent in the following five years, the report predicted.

Internet fuels innovation in film and TV

Photo taken on August 21, 2019, shows visitors at the 28th Beijing International Radio, TV and Film Exhibition, which displayed 4K/8K ultra-high-definition production technology, 5G transmission and development trends, progress in media convergence, AI, cloud computing, big data and other new technologies. (Photo by Guo Junfeng/People’s Daily Online)

China’s film and television industry has been deeply integrated with the internet in recent years. While online video platforms have become an important channel for the broadcasting of films and TV programs, film and television products also constitute a major part of the content on internet platforms.

The application of internet thinking and technologies is profoundly altering the forms of presentation, creative ideas and production practice of film and television art, and big data mining has proven effective in the development of film and television projects.

With the help of quantitative analysis of various types of big data, film and television makers are able to gain insights into the demands of the market, create a portrait of the target audience, determine the purpose and theme of products, optimize scripts, decide the style of images, music and editing, and find suitable directors and actors.

In The Longest Day in Chang’an, a famous web series in China, the actor playing the leading role “Zhang Xiaojing” was selected using artificial intelligence (AI) and big data based on comprehensive evaluation of the looks of actors, their resemblance to the role, as well as their performance in previous works.

Many online platforms have introduced intelligent script evaluation systems, which could automatically use a curve to show the development of the plots and conflicts in a script, and help verify whether the story has been appropriately designed.

It is a routine for many film and television projects to formulate targeted and differentiated communication strategies based on the characteristics of users.

Compared with television broadcasting, internet platforms can better recommend individualized film and television content to users according to their ages, genders, regions, and occupations.

Relevant technologies, which enable platforms to bring content to users with the help of algorithm and save users the trouble of searching for content, have been widely adopted, particularly by short video platforms.

Meanwhile, online film and television products are increasingly integrated with literature, education, e-commerce, cultural tourism, games and other fields.

The Chinese web series Cross Fire showed close interactions with a game with the same name; Once Upon A Bite, a popular food docuseries in China, has joined hands with brands from various sectors; Chinese short video platforms, such as Douyin and Kuaishou, have added functions to their apps to allow users to place orders for goods while watching videos. Such crossover cooperation helps film and television industry further extend the industrial chain.

Internet platforms are also able to monitor the broadcasting of film and television content throughout the entire process and provide feedback for content reproduction.

Online platforms can collect data from users in real time, and adjust the content layout timely through the viewing behaviors of users such as searching, fast forwarding and rewinding, and adjusting the pace up or down, and their evaluation shown by bullet screens, ratings, comments, and forwarding.

Internet means and information technology are supposed to support, instead of deciding, the development of film and television industry.

It is necessary to stay alert to and prevent artistic production that depends merely on technology, data, and market while ignoring the rules of literary and artistic creation.

With the deepening application of 5G, AI, cloud computing and other technologies, traditional film and television industry will be upgraded toward more intelligent production, and witness systematic improvement in the production mechanism, organizational structure, and process tools, which makes it more important to make good use of the internet to bring about development opportunities and innovation drivers for the industry.

 (Zhu Chuanxin is a professor at the School of Theater, Film, and Television under the Communication University of China.)

Courtyard economy bears sweet fruits

Photo shows a kiwi fruit industry demonstration park in Yunv village, Lingjiang township, Cangxi county, Guangyuan, southwest China’s Sichuan province. (File photo)

Cangxi county, Guangyuan city, southwest China’s Sichuan province, has achieved notable results in increasing residents’ income by promoting courtyard economy.

Since the 1980s, the county has been encouraging villagers to build small orchards, tea gardens, and fishponds, and plant various commercial crops on idle lands around their houses, which is known as the courtyard economy.

Local government has taken many measures to ensure that every household has the infrastructure facilities needed for developing courtyard economy, such as a sanitary water well, a small pool with a capacity of over 100 cubic meters, and a hardened road to the house.

In addition, Cangxi county has also promoted the construction of methane-generating pits and the upgrading of such facilities as livestock pens, toilets, and kitchens, laying a solid foundation for making the most of the space around people’s houses to plant fruits and vegetables while creating a pleasant living environment featuring birds’ twitter and fragrance of flowers.

Many rural households in Cangxi county have planted kiwi fruits on idle lands around their houses, with the combined planting area once reaching 5,000 mu (about 333.33 hectares), according to reliable statistics.

Besides kiwi fruits, people have also grown snow pear and walnut trees, as well as characteristic crops like Chinese medicinal plants, eventually making every village and each household have its own featured product or business.

So far, a total of 100,000 households in Cangxi county have engaged in courtyard economy, which increases the per capita annual income of the once-impoverished families by more than 5,500 yuan ($847).

“I see over 20 kilograms more walnuts in each of our trees next year,” Wang Libang, a resident in Changgang village, Yuedong township of Cangxi county, said happily while pruning walnut trees in his courtyard.

Courtyard economy is a great choice for Wang, as the man in his sixties is no longer suitable to become a migrant worker.

“Don’t you think less of the small pieces of land around people’s houses,” said Yang Jiarong, secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) branch of Linlang village, Hedi township of Cangxi county.

Some 50 percent of the once-impoverished households in Linlang village have planted kiwi fruit trees near their houses, Yang said, explaining that these trees could help increase the annual income of each of these households by 3,000 to 5,000 yuan, if calculated on the assumption that each family has grown 0.5 mu of kiwi fruits on average around their houses.

Zhang Fuquan, a once-impoverished resident in Zhiyuan village, Bamiao township of Cangxi county, thinks it a great idea to build a duck shed on the idle land in front of his house and have it connected with a methane-generating pit. “It’s both convenient and sanitary,” he said.

Zhang has built an environmentally-friendly duck shed covering an area of nearly 300 square meters with the help of a poverty-relief official named Chen Jichuan, who has also donated 150 ducklings to Zhang and invited technicians to provide the resident with guidance on duck farming.

“The feces in my duck shed can be directly disposed with the methane-generating facility constructed by the government. It’s easy and convenient for me to take care of the ducks as the shed is located near my home,” said Zhang, who now enjoys a more than 10,000 yuan increase in his annual income by raising ducks.

In recent years, Cangxi county has made efforts to promote the development of modern agricultural parks, and has brought the number of such parks covering an area of over 10,000 mu to 17. Still, courtyard economy in the county is thriving.

In an effort to lift the local courtyard economy to a higher level, Cangxi county has frequently invited expert groups from Sichuan Academy of Agricultural Sciences and Sichuan Provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs to further train local farmers in crop cultivation techniques.

Efforts have also been made to innovate livestock and poultry sheds and pens and new cultivation techniques like the techniques in the cultivation of virus-free seedlings.

The county has so far promoted techniques in soil testing for formulated fertilization among 75 percent of its rural population, popularized praticial technologies in farming in over 95 percent of its rural areas, and spread integrated techniques for the prevention and control of diseases, pests, and weeds among more than 85 percent of the farmers in the county.

Moreover, Cangxi county has formulated standards for eco-friendly and organic production of characteristics crops, including red-heart kiwi fruit, and introduced the identification of organic agricultural products to every household engaging in courtyard economy, thus bringing the proportion of local agricultrual products covered by quality traceability system to 85 percent.

“Vaccine nationalism” benefits no one

Pakistani President Arif Alvi receives a shot of COVID-19 vaccine produced by the China National Pharmaceutical Group Co., Ltd. (Sinopharm) in Islamabad, capital of Pakistan, March 15, 2021. (Photo/Official Twitter account of the Pakistani government)

It is an urgent task facing countries to promote COVID-19 vaccination as the epidemic is still spreading across the world and threatening the lives and health of people from all countries.

At such a critical moment, however, “vaccine nationalism” creeps in. While certain high-income countries are hoarding COVID-19 vaccines, many low-income economies are denied access to vaccines.

To make matters worse, some Western media outlets have tried to defend “vaccine nationalism” and hinder global anti-pandemic cooperation.

“Vaccine nationalism” mainly refers to the fact that the governments of some high-income countries have signed agreements with pharmaceutical manufacturers to ensure that these companies will first supply vaccines to their populations before providing vaccines for other countries.

The seemingly justifiable move is in fact selfish and narrow-minded, and is very likely to impose the law of the jungle upon the global fight against the virus.

The truth is that these high-income countries have ordered vaccines much more than needed by their populations, which has not only resulted in a relative surplus of vaccines in these countries, but put many poor countries into a predicament of not being able to obtain the COVID-19 vaccines in time.

“More than 39 million doses of vaccine have now been administered in at least 49 higher-income countries. Just 25 doses have been given in one lowest-income country. Not 25 million; not 25 thousand; just 25,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), in January at the opening meeting of the 148th session of the WHO Executive Board.

He expressed concern that the world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

As a matter of fact, “vaccine nationalism”, which is pursued by those with the “me first” mindset, will benefit no one.

The pandemic that has lasted for more than a year has taught the world that the lives and health of people in all countries have never been so closely connected as they are today.

Virus is the common enemy of mankind, and the only way to defeat it is to pull together with solidarity and cooperation.

If some high-income countries blindly hog COVID-19 vaccines, and make poor countries unable to access or afford the vaccines, the virus will continue to rage across the globe, and it will be more difficult for countries, including high-income countries, to defeat the epidemic.

“Vaccine nationalism” would slow progress in ending the COVID-19 pandemic and could erode economic growth for all countries—rich and poor, warned Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

“Vaccines are a powerful weapon against the virus and bring hope for saving lives. They should serve the entire world and benefit all humanity,” Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi told a press conference in March.

At the opening of the 73rd session of the World Health Assembly held in May, 2020, Chinese President Xi Jinping solemnly pledged that COVID-19 vaccine development and deployment in China, when available, will be made a global public good, and this will be China’s contribution to ensuring vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries.

China is a firm believer in making COVID-19 vaccines a public good as well as a committed front-runner in promoting international vaccine cooperation.

As a steadfast advocate for equitable vaccine distribution, the country has taken concrete actions to oppose “vaccine nationalism”.

China has joined the COVAX of the WHO, under which it has undertaken to provide an initial 10 million doses for emergency use in developing countries.

So far, China has donated or is donating COVID-19 vaccines to 69 developing countries in urgent need, and is exporting vaccines to 43 countries.

Responding to an appeal of the United Nations (UN), the country has donated vaccines to peacekeepers from various countries.

Only when countries work together to reject “vaccine nationalism”, promote fair and reasonable distribution, especially in developing countries, can they secure a final victory in the global fight against the virus.

Human beings live in a global village, and countries are increasingly interdependent and share a common future.

Only by abandoning “vaccine nationalism” and erasing “immunity gap” can humankind jointly defeat the virus and build a beautiful home.

AI improves parking efficiency in China

Photo taken on July 1, 2019, shows a sign for electronic toll collection (ETC) newly set up at a roadside parking space on Yangzhuang road, Shijingshan district, Beijing. Some urban areas of the city started to use ETC system for roadside parking spaces since July 1, 2019. (People’s Daily Online/Li Wenming)

Thanks to the application of an artificial intelligence (AI)-empowered roadside electronic toll collection (ETC) system, China’s capital city Beijing has seen significant improvement in the efficiency of parking fee collection, turnover of roadside parking spots, order in roadside parking, as well as traffic congestion.

As the city further deepens its roadside parking reform, the ETC system has almost covered all the roadside parking spaces in the city, with the proportion of vehicles parked on roads using the system exceeding 90 percent.

With the AI-empowered system, drivers can park their vehicles at the parking spots on the roadside, and then pay the parking charge via their mobile phones after they drive away.

“This road used to be full of cars, and even the normal lanes were occupied. You could hardly move a bit during the morning and evening commute time,” recalled a citizen surnamed Wang, who lives in Chaoyang district of Beijing.

“Since the summer of 2019, roadside ETC devices have been installed here. With all the cars being parked in designated parking spots on the roadside, the road now seems brighter and wider,” Wang said.

The smart roadside ETC system “AIpark Sky Eye” adopted by Beijing is developed, operated, and maintained by AIpark, a Beijing-based leading smart parking solution provider.

The company’s intelligent system has brought into full play the advantages of AI technologies and effectively addressed the shortage of parking spaces and the problem of irregular parking in cities. The system has therefore been listed among the country’s innovation projects that integrate AI deeply into the real economy in 2018 by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).

Traditional parking management equipment and monitoring devices have failed to meet the actual needs of cities due to limited application scenarios and technical capacity. There are many deficiencies in traditional parking systems. For example, magnetic devices cannot identify detailed information about vehicles; each video monitoring pile can only cover one parking spot; and manual collection of parking fees costs too much.

Such problems don’t exist in smart machines. The “AIpark Sky Eye” system boasts strong stability and high recognition rate. Besides, it can resist the interference of extreme weather conditions like rain, snow, and fog, and form complete graphic evidence based on wheel path of vehicles.

Each set of cameras of the “AIpark Sky Eye” system can monitor multiple parking spots at the same time for 24 hours a day. The data collected by front-end cameras are processed using multi-dimensional deep learning algorithm before they are uploaded on to an AI computing cloud platform for data enrichment. The platform then distributes identification results to transport authorities.

The most distinctive innovation in the technological package of the system is precision brought about by high-mounted parking system cameras, according to Xiang Yanping, senior vice president of AIpark, noting that the cameras can recognize more complex static and dynamic reality scenes.

“For example, the equipment can accurately identify irregular parking behaviors and state such as double parking and frequent maneuvers, precisely recognize detailed information including plate number and vehicle color, and make good judgment on the behaviors of drivers and pedestrians,” Xiang said.

Once the high-mounted parking system cameras are installed, they can help with many aspects of integrated urban governance, which represents another advantage of the “AIpark Sky Eye” system.

Besides managing parking fee collection, high-mounted camera system can also provide data for traffic improvements. The snapshots obtained from the camera system can help solve problems including illegal and inappropriate parking and vehicle theft.

So far, the smart ETC system of AIpark has been introduced into more than 20 cities in China, signaling increasingly important roles of AI in improving parking efficiency and order as well as new development opportunities for smart parking industry.