Archive for ‘China alert’

18/03/2019

Hong Kong University, Japan’s Tohoku University sign agreement on AI, robotic technologies collaboration

HONG KONG, March 17 (Xinhua) — The University of Hong Kong (HKU) announced on Sunday that it has signed an agreement with Tohoku University, Japan (Tohokudai) to collaborate on the research of transformative AI and robotics technologies.

The signing ceremony was held on Saturday at the HKU campus. HKU and Tohoku University will combine their advantages and strengthen the application of AI and robotics in areas including manufacturing industry, construction industry and the development of smart cities. They are planning to establish the Center for Transformative AI and Robotics Technologies in Hong Kong.

Under the collaboration, top researchers from both universities will be brought together, forming a team to transform and upgrade the technologies of AI and robotics, to improve the automation technology and to develop smart and flexible robots with self-learning ability that are adaptable to different environment.

Zhang Xiang, president and vice-chancellor of HKU said both universities will strive to achieve pioneering world-class research projects, bring more learning opportunities for students, and build greater engagement with industrial partners.

“We are eager to further strengthen the tie between the two universities and closely work together in the field of transformative AI and robotics technology to create social innovation and solve social problems in Hong Kong and Japan,” Hideo Ohno, president of Tohoku University, said.

Nicholas Yang, secretary for innovation and technology of China’s Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government, also attended the ceremony. He said that true innovation comes from collaboration and by pooling together the world’s top scientific institutions to collaborate with local universities. Hong Kong is poised to become a hub for global research collaboration, he said.

Source: Xinhua

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18/03/2019

China Focus: Massive coal industry park cleans up “scars”

YINCHUAN, March 17 (Xinhua) — The largest coal chemical park in northwest China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region has launched a campaign to clean up over 120 small and disorderly coalfields.

The Ningdong Energy and Chemical Industry Base, one of China’s largest coal production bases and a coal-to-chemical industry base, is located close to Shaanxi Province and Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, areas with large coal deposits.

Since last year, it has shut down 127 disorderly coalfields which occupied over 533 hectares. Over 2 million tonnes of coal has been cleaned and 90 percent of the construction above ground has been dismantled.

The coalfields were a major logistical base that stored coal from the local area and Inner Mongolia, and then loaded them onto trucks to send to local fire power plants, boilers, and consumers in Yunnan and Jiangsu provinces. Annual turnover was 25 million tonnes, totaling 10 billion yuan (1.5 billion U.S. dollars).

These coal fields, however, were poorly managed. Most never met environmental requirements. The decision to close them was met with great resistance by the coalfield owners who paid a hefty rent to the villages and created jobs for the people living in the area.

“Money from the coalfields helped cover medical and social insurance costs for the villagers. One of the villages received four million yuan a year for leasing out the land to coal yard owners. Every family received a dividend of over 5,000 yuan,” said Yan Xinmin, an official with the base administration.

Yang Jia, general manager of Ningxia Xinwen Energy Technology Company, said he once had to hide from environmental inspectors because he did not have credentials for operation.

Yang was the first to shut down the old coal yard and move his business to new coalfield, an 133-hectare area at the southern part of the base.

Thirty-four companies have been chosen to move their coal storage facilities into the new coal field, which cost 600 million yuan to build.

Ma Sanqing, an official with the base administration, said the villagers will find new jobs and sources of income at the new coalfield.

The villagers will become shareholders of a special service company for the coalfield.

“If we have 1,000 trucks every day, the management of the trucks, dining and cleaning services will generate 5 million yuan every year,” said Ma.

“It is a necessary step to clean up the old coal yards,” said Yang Fu, head of the Huiminxiang village.

“We are planning to build parking lots, dining facilities, auto repair shops and other services,” he said.

Efforts are underway to clean the black slags and mud that blocked the flood discharge channels. Trees will be planted to restore the greenery at the coalfields, said Ma.

Construction of the Ningdong Energy and Chemical Industry Base began in 2003. Now it is home to around 130 enterprises. The gross industrial output value reached 117 billion yuan in 2017.

Source: Xinhua

18/03/2019

Across China: Top tourist city strengthens cultural protection

KUNMING, March 17 (Xinhua) — Every day, He Runyuan explains what happiness is to hundreds of tourists.

“Dongba symbols are used by China’s Naxi ethnic minority and one of the world’s only remaining pictographs. For them, happiness is a steaming hot pot of food,” He said. “As in the past, having a hot meal means everything.”

In a traditional Naxi costume of goatskin vest and a white robe, 42-year-old He guides tourists to learn the Naxi scripts, history, culture and tradition in his center of Naxi Dongba pictographs and paintings in the Old Town in the city of Lijiang, southwest China’s Yunnan Province.

“Peak seasons such as national holidays and summer and winter vacations see around 5,000 visitors a day,” he said.

“After explaining the symbols, I will ask the tourists to pick one they like and try to write it down,” he added.

As a Naxi minority, He grew up in the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with an 800-year history, which attracted more than 14 million tourists last year.

He has been learning Naxi painting and pictographs for about 30 years. “With a population of more than 300,000, less than 700 Naxi people now understand Dongba pictographs, and only a dozen can do traditional Naxi paintings,” he said.

“I think it’s my responsibility to pass down our culture and let more people know about it, which is so vivid and charming,” he said, adding that most Naxi people live in Lijiang. “That’s why I came back here after graduation. The origin of Naxi culture is here.”

His devotion of cultural protection is greatly supported by the local government which entrusted He to open the experience center in 2016 in the busiest area of the Old Town and gives him 400,000 yuan (about 59,600 U.S. dollars) a year for daily maintenance and other expenses.

“The local government offered us this two-story cultural courtyard with traditional Naxi characteristics as our center, covering about 300 square meters. We have separated it into several rooms for exhibitions and classrooms,” he said.

He and four other Naxi guides work 14 hours a day. “During peak seasons, we can barely take a sip of water,” he said.

“It’s hard, but it’s worth it. We are so proud of what we are doing,” he said.

By the end of last year, there were 17 free cultural courtyards in the Old Town of Lijiang, including He’s. With the support of the local government, a further 12 are expected to open to the public this year.

“I think the courtyard is a window for promoting the culture of Lijiang, as well as an important base for visitors to learn and try by themselves to have a more comprehensive understanding of our culture,” he said.

He’s experience center has also cooperated with travel agencies, summer camps and schools to offer free training classes on Naxi culture, receiving more than 7,000 students each year.

“Without the courtyard, nothing would even be close to possible,” he said.

To prevent the ancient Chinese city from over commercialization after years of tourism development, the local government has set up a specialized annual fund of 10 million yuan for cultural protection in the Old Town.

“Lijiang has long been China’s name card to the world with the Old Town as its core. For sustainable development, we must spare no effort in protecting our culture and make it one of the most attractive parts of the city,” said He Tang with the protection and administrative bureau of Lijiang Old Town.

All the buildings in the Old Town are required to maintain traditional ethnic characteristics. Dancing halls, Internet bars, and among others that are inconsistent with the ancient Old Town have all been closed.

A total of 299 traditional houses and 236 yards have so far been restored and renovated by the local government and the Global Heritage Fund.

“We also invite folk artists and culture inheritors to show their skills in the Old Town to get more tourists involved. On traditional festivals, we hold grand celebrations in the Old Town.” He Tang said.

More than 90 sets of books telling stories of Lijiang and the culture of Naxi have also been published.

“Our life is limited, but so long as everyone makes even an effort, the life of a culture can exist forever,” He Runyuan said.

Source: Xinhua

18/03/2019

Cash-strapped Chinese regions seek support from Beijing to meet costs of environmental clean-up

  • Delegates to recent National People’s Congress asked for more help from central government and warn of cost of fighting pollution
Beijing residents wearing masks on a smoggy day last year. Photo: Simon Song
Beijing residents wearing masks on a smoggy day last year. Photo: Simon Song

China’s cash-strapped regions are lobbying Beijing to loosen its purse strings to help fight pollution, saying they do not have the funds to follow state policies aimed at fixing the damage done by decades of unrestricted development.

The cost of environmental compliance was a major theme at this month’s annual session of the National People’s Congress, where thousands of non-binding recommendations submitted by delegates give an insight into the major preoccupations of legislators.

Beijing has been at pains to stress it will not ease up in the “war on pollution” launched five years ago by Premier Li Keqiang, even though the economy grew at its slowest rate since 1990 last year.

But with resources tight and controlling debt a priority, many parliamentary delegates called for more spending support from Beijing and a more “coordinated” approach to keeping pollution in check and the economy on track.

“We cannot stop or hinder economic development in order to pursue environmental protection,” said delegate Pei Chunliang from central China’s Henan province, which has struggled to find new sources of growth.

Provinces have been given a set of targets by central government to reduce emissions. Photo: Simon Song
Provinces have been given a set of targets by central government to reduce emissions. Photo: Simon Song

“In some regions the rules of economic development have not been respected,” Pei warned in a proposal calling for more support for environmentally friendly firms.

For regions under pressure to meet smog targets or resolve long-standing environmental problems while trying to meet growth targets, immediate relief is seen as essential.

Zhang said his city had spent hundreds of billions of yuan to tackle problems like land subsidence, but it was “far from enough”, and the state needed to establish a giant fund to help resource-dependent cities meet their goals.
China pollution pledge: Beijing to cut 60pc of power sector emissions by 2020

Many regions called for state aid to rectify such long-standing pollution problems, with delegates from coal-producing regions like Shanxi lobbying for tax and debt relief.

Other regions are also struggling to implement new directives to prevent agricultural pollution and clean up rivers.

“Due to insufficient local financial resources and historical debts, it is difficult to meet the funding requirements,” said delegate Yu Huiwen, head of the environment bureau in Sichuan province, which is responsible for protecting the upstream area of the Yangtze.

The finance ministry said in its report to parliament this month that it will allocate 25 billion yuan (US$3.7 billion) to a smog prevention fund this year, a 25 per cent increase on 2018, and 30 billion yuan to treat water pollution, up 45 per cent.

Environment Minister Li Ganjie, who acknowledged earlier this year that some regions were struggling with the “historical burdens” of polluting industries, also told a briefing during the parliamentary session that China would provide more support for local governments.

The government was “currently studying and preparing to adopt new measures”, he said, but added it wasn’t just about money, but also policies and technical guidance.

“Whatever the difficulties, we will help them find a reasonable solution,” he said.

Source: SCMP

18/03/2019

China’s crowded co-working industry turns to services amid funding crunch

HONG KONG/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Co-working space operators in China are shifting their focus from ambitious expansion plans to services such as customising offices for clients, as rising vacancy rates and tighter financing slow their exponential growth of the past two years.

The strategy shift marks a turn of fortunes for the Chinese co-working industry, whose rapid expansion has helped operators such as Ucommune, MyDreamPlus and Kr Space raise hundreds of millions of dollars.

The combined area of co-working space in four first-tier cities in China surged by almost 60 percent between the end of 2017 and October last year, according to industry association China Real Estate Chamber of Commerce.

However, 40 percent of the co-working centres were more than half empty as of October and 40 co-working brands had shut in the first 10 months of 2018, it added.

“There’s a shake-out in the flexible office space,” said Paul Salnikow, global CEO of The Executive Centre, which entered China in 2001 and currently operates 45 premium flexible working centres in nine Chinese cities.

“Since November, we’ve seen operators in China walking away from centres, trying to give it back to the landlord. We’ve been offered furniture from some of these people, saying they’re trying to raise money.”

A common solution for firms appears to be diversification into services that require less capital investment, such as office design and management.

“Our focus this year is ‘management output’,” Mao Daqing, founder of Ucommune, one of the largest co-working space operators in China, told Reuters.

The company expected to partner with enterprise clients and open another 30 flexible working centres for them this year, providing design and management services, from 15 currently, he said. Ucommune’s own branded centres would add five to 10 more to the over 200 already in place.

U.S.-based WeWork started providing such services in China last year and also plans to grow the business.

One industry executive who declined to be identified told Reuters the asset-light model helped to shift rental costs to clients, boosting income.

LANDLORDS AT RISK

A survey of Chinese flexible working space operators by real estate consultancy CBRE in January found that around 68 percent planned to slow or halt expansion this year.

But the rise in vacancy rates and operators dropping out of the business could also spell trouble for Chinese office landlords, especially in major cities like Shanghai where co-working is more common than the rest of Asia-Pacific.“Co-working operators need to go further asset-light and slow one-off CAPEX investment to stay in operation,” said Virginia Huang, CBRE Greater China managing director of advisory and transaction services.

“What this means is landlords also share some risks of this industry, not only the operators.”

Terms of underwriting co-operating operators are also changing, with landlords bearing more costs and risks.

Stanley Ching, Citic Capital’s head of property, said operators were increasingly seeking fit-out subsidies and leasing on profit-sharing models with landlords, as they become more reluctant to pay high rents to secure space.

LaSalle Investment Management, which rents space to co-working operators in China, said picking the right operators and limiting exposure was crucial.

“They’re not recession-proof yet; they haven’t gone through a recession, we don’t know who’s going to survive or who’s not,” said Elysia Tse, LaSalle IM Asia Pacific head of research and strategy.

“So we’ll make sure our portfolio of co-working tenants is a small minority portion.”

One positive trend for co-working operators is the growth in demand from larger corporates amid China’s broader economic slowdown.

“As companies’ outlook on the economy turns conservative and they want to save office costs, they turn to co-working space which provides flexibility,” said Ucommune’s Mao.

“Our clients for office design service also increased for this reason.”

Source: Reuters

17/03/2019

China sees forest travel boom in 2018

BEIJING, March 16 (Xinhua) — Forests have become popular travel destinations in China, with gross output of the industry hitting 1.5 trillion yuan (about 224 billion U.S. dollars) in 2018, official data showed.

In contrast, China’s forest tourism industry yielded an output of 1.15 trillion yuan in 2017.

The number of forest trips rose to 1.6 billion last year, a new bulletin issued by the national afforestation authority showed.

Last year, China unveiled 10 new travel routes in forests, the first batch of such routes.

The National Forestry and Grassland Administration has recently released a guideline promoting the forestry industry, vowing to expand forest tourism while conserving natural resources.

In 2018, trips to forests grew by 15 percent year-on-year to account for nearly 30 percent of total domestic travel in China.

Source: Xinhua

17/03/2019

China unveils new individual income tax rules for exemption

BEIJING, March 16 (Xinhua) — China Saturday announced specific rules concerning tax exemption to reduce the amount of individual income tax (IIT) paid on incomes earned overseas.

According to the rules jointly unveiled by the Ministry of Finance and State Taxation Administration (STA), individuals who have lived on the Chinese mainland for six consecutive years and have stayed there for 183 days or more each year will need to pay IIT on their overseas-sourced incomes. Otherwise, their incomes earned overseas will be IIT exempt.

The clock for the six-year period will be reset if the individual leaves the mainland for more than 30 consecutive days in a year, according to the rules.

The rules, coming into effect on Jan. 1, 2019, also stipulated that a stay of less than 24 hours on the mainland will not be counted as a day, and the count started from Jan. 1 this year.

The adjustment marked more generous tax exemptions on overseas-sourced incomes of foreigners and non-mainland citizens working in the mainland. The move will attract more foreign investment and overseas talent to work in the mainland, the STA said in a statement on its website.

Previously, the exemption was for tax residents who have lived on the mainland for less than five years.

Source: Xinhua

17/03/2019

U.S., Chinese experts discuss opportunities, challenges in smart energy application

SAN FRANCISCO, March 16 (Xinhua) — A group of U.S. and Chinese scholars and experts met Saturday in Silicon Valley to discuss opportunities and challenges in smart energy application and building smart villages in the United States and China.

Representatives from Microsoft Corporation, the Global Energy Interconnection Research Institute (GEIRI) North America, and other professionals in energy industry shared their experience and expertise on developing smart energy at a seminar launched by the U.S.-China Green Energy Council in San Jose, California.

Chen Xi, Chief Information Officer of GEIRI North America, affiliated to the State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC), said the SGCC, the largest electricity utility company in China, boasts advanced electricity technology and abundant experience in construction of power networks in the country.

The United States has accumulated a lot of experience on power market, high efficiency and the ability of profit-making of utility companies, which can be learned by China in developing a better and more efficient power network in the future, Chen said.

The seminar held two panels for in-depth discussions on smart energy cooperation between the United States and China, present and future challenges, artificial intelligent (AI) technology in power development, business development and building smart villages.

Panel speakers included Scott Mauvais, director of Microsoft Cities, who talked on AI for sustainability, Zhiwei Wang, president of GEIRI North America, and Professor Tom Kosnik, a partner of FoundersX Ventures, an early stage venture capital firm dedicated to investment in AI and big data.

Source: Xinhua

17/03/2019

Chinese vice premier addresses national spring agricultural production work conference in Xiangyang, China’s Hubei

17/03/2019

China’s Jiangxi Province, Bulgaria’s Sofia Region sign MoU on education cooperation

SOFIA, March 16 (Xinhua) — China’s Jiangxi Province and Bulgaria’s Sofia Region signed here on Saturday a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Educational Cooperation, the Sofia Region said in a press release on its website.

The memorandum aims to encourage and support respective educational departments as well as colleges and universities to conduct exchanges and cooperation.

“In order to train talents needed in bilateral cooperation so as to enhance mutual understanding and promote friendly exchanges and cooperation, Jiangxi Province plans to offer scholarship of Jiangxi Provincial Government to five students of Sofia Region in the second half of 2019,” the memorandum said.

“The specific matters concerning five students from Sofia Region coming to Jiangxi to study will be facilitated and supported by departments of foreign affairs and education of the two sides,” it said.

The memorandum was also signed with a view of promoting bilateral friendly exchanges and cooperation so as to further push forward the consolidation and development of sister province/region relationship, it said.

Source: Xinhua

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