Archive for ‘China alert’

26/05/2019

China Focus: Rare all-white panda spotted in China

CHINA-SICHUAN-ALL-WHITE PANDA (CN)

Infrared camera image taken on April 20, 2019 shows an all-white giant panda in the Wolong National Nature Reserve in southwest China’s Sichuan Province. A rare all-white panda has been captured on cameras in the Wolong National Nature Reserve in southwest China’s Sichuan Province, the reserve management authorities said on Saturday. (Xinhua)

CHENGDU, May 25 (Xinhua) — A rare all-white panda has been captured on camera in the Wolong National Nature Reserve in southwest China’s Sichuan Province, the reserve management authorities said on Saturday.

The panda was captured in mid-April by an infrared camera about 2,000 meters above sea level in the wild, the authorities said.

The panda has no spots on its body and its eyes look red. It was crossing the forest at the time.

“Judging from pictures, the panda is an albino, one to two years old,” said Li Sheng, a researcher with Peking University and a specialist in bears, who studied the pictures.

The panda is a rare all-white individual in wild pandas, which showed that the albinism genes exist in the wild population of giant pandas in Wolong, he said.

“The panda looked strong and its steps were steady, a sign that the genetic mutation may not have quite impeded its life,” Li said, adding that the gender of the panda cannot be decided based on current data.

Albinism exists in different vertebrate species. The albino mutation inhibits melanin synthesis in animal’s body. Albino usually does not affect animal’s physical makeup and functions. It could make them easier to be discovered and more sensitive to direct sunlight, Li said.

The albino mutation is a recessive gene. Only when the parent pandas both carry such gene, can the baby show the albino traits.

If this white panda would mate with a normal panda, their first generation babies will still be black and white. But their babies, carrying the albino gene, will possibly give birth to all-white pandas if their partners also carry such genes, Li said.

In order to better protect the ecosystems, the Wolong nature reserve has been using infrared cameras to monitor the distribution and activities of wild animals in its seven demonstration areas.

Previously, some rare brown giant pandas were found in China’s Qinling Mountains. The cause of the brown fur color was also considered as genetic mutation by some researchers.

Source: Xinhua

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26/05/2019

China’s robot censors crank up as Tiananmen anniversary nears

BEIJING (Reuters) – It’s the most sensitive day of the year for China’s internet, the anniversary of the bloody June 4 crackdown on pro-democracy protests at Tiananmen Square, and with under two weeks to go, China’s robot censors are working overtime.

Censors at Chinese internet companies say tools to detect and block content related to the 1989 crackdown have reached unprecedented levels of accuracy, aided by machine learning and voice and image recognition.

“We sometimes say that the artificial intelligence is a scalpel, and a human is a machete,” said one content screening employee at Beijing Bytedance Co Ltd, who asked not to be identified because they are not authorised to speak to media.

Two employees at the firm said censorship of the Tiananmen crackdown, along with other highly sensitive issues including Taiwan and Tibet, is now largely automated.

Posts that allude to dates, images and names associated with the protests are automatically rejected.

“When I first began this kind of work four years ago there was opportunity to remove the images of Tiananmen, but now the artificial intelligence is very accurate,” one of the people said.

Four censors, working across Bytedance, Weibo Corp and Baidu Inc apps said they censor between 5,000-10,000 pieces of information a day, or five to seven pieces a minute, most of which they said were pornographic or violent content.

Despite advances in AI censorship, current-day tourist snaps in the square are sometimes unintentionally blocked, one of the censors said.

Bytedance declined to comment, while Weibo and Baidu did not respond to requests for comment.

SENSITIVE PERIOD

The Tiananmen crackdown is a taboo subject in China 30 years after the government sent tanks to quell student-led protests calling for democratic reforms. Beijing has never released a death toll but estimates from human rights groups and witnesses range from several hundred to several thousand.

June 4th itself is marked by a cat-and-mouse game as people use more and more obscure references on social media sites, with obvious allusions blocked immediately. In some years, even the word “today” has been scrubbed.

In 2012, China’s most-watched stock index fell 64.89 points on the anniversary day here, echoing the date of the original event in what analysts said was likely a strange coincidence rather than a deliberate reference.

Still, censors blocked access to the term “Shanghai stock market” and to the index numbers themselves on microblogs, along with other obscure references to sensitive issues.

While companies censorship tools are becoming more refined, analysts, academics and users say heavy-handed policies mean sensitive periods before anniversaries and political events have become catch-alls for a wide range of sensitive content.

In the lead-up to this year’s Tiananmen Square anniversary, censorship on social media has targeted LGBT groups, labour and environment activists and NGOs, they say.

Upgrades to censorship tech have been urged on by new policies introduced by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC). The group was set up – and officially led – by President Xi Jinping, whose tenure has been defined by increasingly strict ideological control of the internet.

The CAC did not respond to a request for comment.

Last November, the CAC introduced new rules aimed at quashing dissent online in China, where “falsifying the history of the Communist Party” on the internet is a punishable offence for both platforms and individuals.

The new rules require assessment reports and site visits for any internet platform that could be used to “socially mobilise” or lead to “major changes in public opinion”, including access to real names, network addresses, times of use, chat logs and call logs.

One official who works for CAC told Reuters the recent boost in online censorship is “very likely” linked to the upcoming anniversary.

“There is constant communication with the companies during this time,” said the official, who declined to directly talk about the Tiananmen, instead referring to the “the sensitive period in June”.

Companies, which are largely responsible for their own censorship, receive little in the way of directives from the CAC, but are responsible for creating guidelines in their own “internal ethical and party units”, the official said.

SECRET FACTS

With Xi’s tightening grip on the internet, the flow of information has been centralised under the Communist Party’s Propaganda Department and state media network. Censors and company staff say this reduces the pressure of censoring some events, including major political news, natural disasters and diplomatic visits.

“When it comes to news, the rule is simple… If it is not from state media first, it is not authorised, especially regarding the leaders and political items,” said one Baidu staffer.

“We have a basic list of keywords which include the 1989 details, but (AI) can more easily select those.”

Punishment for failing to properly censor content can be severe.

In the past six weeks, popular services including a Netease Inc news app, Tencent Holdings Ltd’s news app TianTian, and Sina Corp have all been hit with suspensions ranging from days to weeks, according to the CAC, meaning services are made temporarily unavailable on apps stores and online.

For internet users and activists, penalties can range from fines to jail time for spreading information about sensitive events online.

In China, social media accounts are linked to real names and national ID numbers by law, and companies are legally compelled to offer user information to authorities when requested.

“It has become normal to know things and also understand that they can’t be shared,” said one user, Andrew Hu. “They’re secret facts.”

In 2015, Hu spent three days in detention in his home region of Inner Mongolia after posting a comment about air pollution onto an unrelated image that alluded to the Tiananmen crackdown on Twitter-like social media site Weibo.

Hu, who declined to use his full Chinese name to avoid further run-ins with the law, said when police officers came to his parents house while he was on leave from his job in Beijing he was surprised, but not frightened.

“The responsible authorities and the internet users are equally confused,” said Hu. “Even if the enforcement is irregular, they know the simple option is to increase pressure.”

Source: Reuters

25/05/2019

Uzbekistan, China agree to cooperate in preschool education

TASHKENT, May 24 (Xinhua) — Uzbek and Chinese experts discussed innovative approaches to the education of preschool children at a forum held here on Friday.

The one-day forum opens a new direction in cooperation between the two countries, said Agrippina Shin, minister of preschool education of Uzbekistan.

It has become an effective platform for comparing notes, she said in her opening speech.

The forum was held as the two sides are implementing the consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries and are advancing cooperation in people-to-people exchanges and education, said Jiang Yan, Chinese ambassador to Uzbekistan.

Source: Xinhua

25/05/2019

Service trade between China, B&R countries surpasses 120 bln dollars

BEIJING, May 25 (Xinhua) — China’s service trade with countries and regions along the Belt and Road (B&R) reached over 120 billion U.S. dollars last year, according to the Ministry of Commerce (MOC).

In 2018, the import-export volume of the service trade between China and Belt and Road countries and regions amounted to 121.7 billion U.S. dollars, accounting for 15.4 percent of China’s service trade, said Wang Bingnan, vice minister of the MOC.

China has been the world’s second-largest country in service trade for five consecutive years, with the total volume reaching 5.24 trillion yuan (759 billion U.S. dollars) in 2018, up 11.5 percent year on year, MOC data showed.

The share of service trade in China’s total foreign trade went up from 11.1 percent in 2012 to 14.7 percent in 2018, according to the MOC.

China has established bilateral cooperation mechanisms on service trade with 14 countries, endowing the country with a more diversified service trade market, said Wang.

The 2019 China International Fair for Trade in Services will open on May 28 in Beijing and last for five days, attracting 130 countries and regions and 21 international organizations.

Among the delegations, 98 come from the Belt and Road Initiative partner countries. A series of themed activities will be held during the fair, including forums on service trade cooperation.

Source: Xinhua

24/05/2019

China, Russia vow to strengthen cooperation along Yangtze, Volga rivers

RUSSIA-CHEBOKSARY-WANG YONG-VOLGA-YANGTZE-COOPERATION-MEETING

Chinese State Councilor Wang Yong (L) and Igor Komarov, Russia’s Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the Volga Federal District, co-chair the third meeting of the Council of Cooperation between the upper and middle reaches of the Yangtze River and the Volga Federal District in Cheboksary, Russia, May 23, 2019. (Xinhua/Bai Xueqi)

CHEBOKSARY, Russia, May 23 (Xinhua) — China and Russia pledged to strengthen cooperation along the Yangtze and Volga rivers as local governments from these areas on Thursday signed an array of cooperation deals.

The third meeting of the Council of Cooperation between the upper and middle reaches of the Yangtze River and the Volga Federal District was co-chaired by Chinese State Councilor Wang Yong and Igor Komarov, Russia’s Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the Volga Federal District, in the Russian city of Cheboksary.

Wang said that both sides should work to achieve more outcomes from local governments cooperation and make such partnership a new growth area for China-Russia relations.

Komarov said the unique “Volga-Yangtze” mechanism has been fruitful in trade and investment cooperation as well as people-to-people exchanges, and Russia is ready to work with China for more achievements.

Source: Xinhua

23/05/2019

Boeing 737 Max: China’s top airlines seek compensation

China’s three biggest airlines are demanding compensation from Boeing over its grounded 737 Max fleet.

Air China, China Southern and China Eastern have filed claims for payouts, according to state media reports.

China’s regulator was the first to ground the fleet in the wake of two deadly crashes involving the US-made aircraft.

It comes on the eve of a meeting of global aviation regulators that will provide an update on the troubled jets.

The Chinese airlines are seeking compensation for losses incurred by the grounded fleet, as well as delayed deliveries of the 737 Max jets, according to reports.

China operates the largest fleet of Boeing 737 Max aircraft and was the first country to take the jets out of service after the Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max 8 crash in March.

The disaster killed all 157 people on board. In October, 189 people were killed in a Lion Air crash involving the same model.

Both crashes were linked to the jet’s Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System, a new feature on 737 Max planes, which was designed to improve the handling of the jet and to stop it pitching up at too high an angle.

Last week, Boeing said it had completed development of a software update for its 737 Max planes.

The planemaker’s entire global fleet of 737 Max aircraft has been grounded since March and the firm is anxious to prove it is safe to return to the skies.

The move by China’s top airlines to seek compensation comes ahead of a closely watched summit of aviation regulators in Texas on Thursday.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is due to provide an update on reviews of Boeing’s software fix and new pilot training.

The meeting in Texas will involve 57 agencies from 33 countries, including China, France, Germany and the UK, as well as the European Union Aviation Safety Agency.

But it is unclear if the planes will be back in the air before the end of the critical summer travel season.

Source: The BBC

23/05/2019

China Focus: China honors amputee demining soldier

BEIJING, May 22 (Xinhua) — Du Fuguo, a soldier who lost his eyes and arms in an explosion during a mine clearance operation, was honored by the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee on Wednesday.

Du, who was a demining soldier of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), was awarded the title “role model of our times” at a ceremony in Beijing.

Du’s family members and fellow soldiers, as well as representatives from all walks of life, attended the award ceremony.

The 28-year-old soldier was seriously injured in the landmine explosion trying to protect his fellow soldier during the operation in southwest China’s Yunnan Province in October last year.

Du would have finished his military service in December 2018, just two months after the explosion.

In 2015, Du and over 400 fellow soldiers started clearing mines in the border area in Yunnan, where over 100 minefields were located.

“I couldn’t stay calm after getting to know the villagers living in the area suffered three explosions within 10 years,” said Du, who volunteered to participate in the demining operations in 2015.

Du’s father wished to become a solider at an early age, which was not fulfilled, while Du Fuguo joined the PLA in 2010.

“I am reflecting what kind of life is truly meaningful and valuable, and the only standard is what has been done for the country and for the people,” Du wrote in his application submitted for mine clearance operations.

“When the people are in need and the country is calling upon us, there is not even half a step that I can retreat,” he responded when being told mine clearance was dangerous.

A minefield Du worked has deterred local people from growing crops and picking tea. They beat gongs and sounded drums to welcome the arrival of the mine clearance group.

Over the past three years, Du has entered minefields over 1,000 times, defusing more than 2,400 mines and bombs.

“I feel like it is my destiny to carry out this mission and there was a voice calling me to clear the mines,” he wrote in his application.

While various equipment has been developed for mine clearance, it is believed that manual demining remains the most efficient method, albeit the most dangerous.

The explosion happened in an afternoon when Du and a fellow soldier tried to defuse a bomb, but it suddenly exploded and Du quickly protected his colleague who was left with only bruises.

“Step back and I’ll do the job,” Du said before he started the defusing work in which he lost his forearms and eyes.

One month later, in November last year, Du’s team members confirmed that the minefield where the explosion took place was safe to be used as farmland, meaning that the three-year demining operation had finished.

In the area where Du was injured, people have named tea picked this year as “Fuguo.” They are hoping that Du could come back to have a taste of his eponymous tea.

“Despite my lost hands, I have legs to continue chasing after dreams; despite my lost sight, as long as the sun can rise in my heart, my world remains blazing with color,” Du said.

Source: Xinhua

23/05/2019

Ozone layer: Banned CFCs traced to China say scientists

home insulationImage copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Much of the CFC-11 gas has been used in home insulation

Researchers say that they have pinpointed the major sources of a mysterious recent rise in a dangerous, ozone-destroying chemical.

CFC-11 was primarily used for home insulation but global production was due to be phased out in 2010.

But scientists have seen a big slowdown in the rate of depletion over the past six years.

This new study says this is mostly being caused by new gas production in eastern provinces of China.

CFC-11 is also known as trichlorofluoromethane, and is one of a number of chloroflurocarbon (CFC) chemicals that were initially developed as refrigerants during the 1930s.

However, it took many decades for scientists to discover that when CFCs break down in the atmosphere, they release chlorine atoms that are able to rapidly destroy the ozone layer which protects us from ultraviolet light. A gaping hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica was discovered in the mid 1980s.

Media caption Twenty-five years of ice loss in the Antarctic

The international community agreed the Montreal Protocol in 1987, which banned most of the offending chemicals. Recent research suggests that the hole in the Northern Hemisphere could be fully fixed by the 2030s and Antarctica by the 2060s.

When was the CFC problem discovered?

CFC-11 was the second most abundant CFCs and was initially seen to be declining as expected.

However in 2018 a team of researchers monitoring the atmosphere found that the rate of decline had slowed by about 50% after 2012.

graphic
Image caption Monitoring stations in Korea and Japan were key to detecting the mystery sources of CFC-11

That team reasoned that they were seeing new production of the gas, coming from East Asia. The authors of that paper argued that if the sources of new production weren’t shut down, it could delay the healing of the ozone layer by a decade.

What did investigators find on the ground?

Further detective work in China by the Environmental Investigation Agency in 2018 seemed to indicate that the country was indeed the source. They found that the illegal chemical was used in the majority of the polyurethane insulation produced by firms they contacted.

One seller of CFC-11 estimated that 70% of China’s domestic sales used the illegal gas. The reason was quite simple – CFC-11 is better quality and much cheaper than the alternatives.

So what does this latest study show?

This new paper seems to confirm beyond any reasonable doubt that some 40-60% of the increase in emissions is coming from provinces in eastern China.

Using what are termed “top-down” measurements from air monitoring stations in South Korea and Japan, the researchers were able to show that since 2012 CFC-11 has increased from production sites in eastern China.

home insulationImage copyright GETTY IMAGES

They calculated that there was a 110% rise in emissions from these parts of China for the years 2014-2017 compared to the period between 2008-2012.

“This new study is based on spikes in the data on air that comes from China,” lead author Dr Matt Rigby, a reader at the University of Bristol, told BBC Inside Science.

“Using computer simulations of the transport of these gases through the atmosphere we can start to put numbers on emissions from different regions and that’s where we come up with this number of around 7,000 tonnes of extra CFC-11 emissions coming out of China compared to before 2012.

“But from the data, all we just see are the ultimate releases to the atmosphere, we don’t have any information on how that CFC-11 was used or where it was produced, it is entirely possible that it was manufactured in some other region, some other part of China or even some other country and was transported to the place where they are making insulating foams at which point some of it could have been emitted to the atmosphere.”

Where are the rest of the emissions coming from?

The researchers are not sure. It’s possible that the missing emissions are coming from other parts of China, as the monitoring stations just can’t see them. They could also be coming from India, Africa or South America as again there is very little monitoring in these regions.

Does this have implications for climate change?

Yes – the authors say that these CFCs are also very potent greenhouse gases. One tonne of CFC-11 is equivalent to around 5,000 tonnes of CO2.

“If we look at these extra emissions that we’ve identified from eastern China, it equates to about 35 million tonnes of CO2 being emitted into the atmosphere every year, that’s equivalent to about 10% of UK emissions, or similar to the whole of London.”

Will China clampdown on the production?

The Chinese say they have already started to clamp down on production by what they term “rogue manufacturers”. Last November, several suspects were arrested in Henan province, in possession of 30 tonnes of CFC-11.

Clare Perry from the Environmental Investigations Agency (EIA) said that the new findings re-affirmed the need to stamp out production.

“I think with this study, it is beyond doubt that China is the source of these unexpected emissions, and we would hope that China is leaving no stone unturned to discover the source of the CFC-11 production.

“Unless the production of the chemical is shut down it will be near impossible to end the use and emissions in the foam companies.”

The study has been published in the journal Nature.

Source: The BBC

23/05/2019

U.S. Navy again sails through Taiwan Strait, angering China

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. military said it sent two Navy ships through the Taiwan Strait on Wednesday, its latest transit through the sensitive waterway, angering China at a time of tense relations between the world’s two biggest economies.

Taiwan is one of a growing number of flashpoints in the U.S.-China relationship, which also include a bitter trade war, U.S. sanctions and China’s increasingly muscular military posture in the South China Sea, where the United States also conducts freedom-of-navigation patrols.

The voyage will be viewed by self-ruled Taiwan as a sign of support from the Trump administration amid growing friction between Taipei and Beijing, which views the island as a breakaway province.

The transit was carried out by the destroyer Preble and the Navy oil tanker Walter S. Diehl, a U.S. military spokesman told Reuters.

“The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Commander Clay Doss, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet, said in a statement.

Doss said all interactions were safe and professional.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Beijing had lodged “stern representations” with the United States.
“The Taiwan issue is the most sensitive in China-U.S. relations,” he told a daily news briefing in Beijing.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said the two U.S. ships had sailed north through the Taiwan Strait and that they had monitored the mission.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said there was no cause for alarm.
“Nothing abnormal happened during it, please everyone rest assured,” she wrote on her Facebook page.
U.S. warships have sailed through the Taiwan Strait at least once a month since the start of this year. The United States restarted such missions on a regular basis last July.
The United States has no formal ties with Taiwan but is bound by law to help provide the island with the means to defend itself and is its main source of arms.
The Pentagon says Washington has sold Taipei more than $15 billion in weaponry since 2010.
China has been ramping up pressure to assert its sovereignty over the island, which it considers part of “one China” and sacred Chinese territory, to be brought under Beijing’s control by force if needed.
Beijing said a recent Taiwan Strait passage by a French warship, first reported by Reuters, was illegal.
China has repeatedly sent military aircraft and ships to circle Taiwan on exercises in the past few years and worked to isolate it internationally, whittling down its few remaining diplomatic allies.
The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency released a report earlier this year describing Taiwan as the “primary driver” for China’s military modernization, which it said had made major advances in recent years.
On Sunday, the Preble sailed near the disputed Scarborough Shoal claimed by China in the South China Sea, angering Beijing.
The state-run China Daily said in an editorial on Wednesday that China had shown “utmost restraint”.
“With tensions between the two countries already rife, there is no guarantee that the presence of U.S. warships on China’s doorstep will not spark direct confrontation between the two militaries,” it said.
Source: Reuters
22/05/2019

China plans to remove all expressway toll booths by end of 2019

BEIJING, May 21 (Xinhua) — China has unveiled a guideline to meet the goal of removing all expressway toll booths at provincial borders by the end of this year.

Local governments should work to improve toll collecting systems and promote the application of non-stop electronic toll collection systems, according to the guideline released by the General Office of the State Council.

Meanwhile, related laws and regulations should be optimized, said the guideline.

Through the move, China aims to help solve the issue of expressway traffic congestion, enhance traffic efficiency and reduce logistics costs.

Source: Xinhua

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