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.”