Archive for ‘Change’


China’s first lunar leaf dies after Chang’e scientists forced to cut power to stop battery running low

  • Cotton seed that became first plant to come to life on the surface of the moon dies after being exposed to far side’s extreme temperatures
  • Lander did not carry any spare batteries, so power to biosphere had to be cut off
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 January, 2019, 7:09pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 January, 2019, 7:48pm

China’s dream of a moon harvest has died young. Just two days after they announced that plant shoots had to come to life on the moon, the Chang’e team said a lack of battery capacity meant they had been forced to cut off the power supply that kept them alive.

The decision proved fatal for the cotton seeds that produced the “first leaf” on the moon after they were exposed to temperatures of 120 Celsius (250F) by day and minus 170 Celusis by night.

The extreme conditions on the far side of the moon also killed three other plant seeds, yeast and fruit fly eggs that had been carried inside the lunar lander’s biosphere.

On Tuesday the team behind the mission announced the success of the first ever biology experiment to be conducted on the moon with the release of pictures of a sprouting cotton seed inside the biosphere.

The Chang’e probe, carrying the seeds and eggs in an airtight aluminium cylinder, touched down on the far side of the moon on January 3, but the team did not say when the seeds had started to germinate.

However, the researchers would have known that any success would prove fleeting.

The only battery available in the spacecraft, a solar cell, could not afford to keep the temperature inside the biosphere under control and the plants were doomed to die once the temperatures on the moon went beyond what life on Earth could endure.

“Because of the weight limit of the Chang’e launch, we were unable to bring a battery to the moon,” Liu Hanlong director of the experiment and vice-president of Chongqing University in southwest China, told Inkstone, a sister publication of the South China Morning Post.

It was not clear why additional batteries were not carried on the lander if the survival of the plants on the moon depended on battery-powered temperature control.

“Without temperature control, the plants and animals would not survive,” said Liu.

The mini ecosystem contained in the cylinder also included rapeseed and potato seeds, which had also sprouted, and these are certain to have met the same fate as the cotton sprout once the power went out.

It was not clear how long any of the seeds had survived.

The Chinese public, however, seemed far from discouraged by the news judging by the reaction on social media.

Despite comments expressing surprise at the lack of sufficient battery power to carry on the experiment, most posts on the social media network Weibo were overwhelmingly positive.

“What a pity, but we should not give up. We should keep trying,” wrote one Weibo user. “Eventually we will grow a complete plant [on the moon] in the future,” read another post.

Chinese researchers shared their optimism, saying the data they had obtained from the sprouting, however short, would provide them with valuable information onto how to grow crops under low-gravity, high-radiation conditions – an insight which might one day prove invaluable in sustaining a manned base in space or even on the surface of the moon.

“We have given consideration to future survival in space. Learning about these plants’ growth in a low-gravity environment would allow us to lay the foundation for our future establishment of space base,” Liu told a press conference on Tuesday.

Source: SCMP


China’s staggering 40 years of change in pictures

Forty years ago, China introduced major economic reforms – lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and leading to it becoming the second-largest economy in the world.

Here’s the story of how China changed – in pictures.

1. Wheels and more wheels

This is what Chang’an Avenue – a major street in the capital Beijing – looked like in 1978.

Four decades on, the street looks pretty different.

Car ownership in China has soared – there are now over 300 million registered vehicles in the country – while bike ownership has dropped.

It’s a result of China’s urbanisation and economic growth – but has also come at a price.

Frequent traffic jams in many cities have led to licence plate quotas being imposed.

And the World Health Organization says more than a million people in China die every year due to air pollution.

2. Money money money

Compare a 1978 shop window…

… with one from this decade.

As China’s gross domestic product (GDP) has skyrocketed, its shopping habits have changed too.

Chinese shoppers are among the world’s highest consumers of luxury goods.

President Xi Jinping emphasised China’s economy – and how it had transformed people’s lives – during a long speech on Tuesday marking the anniversary of the economic reforms.

“Grain coupons, cloth coupons, meat coupons, fish coupons, oil coupons, tofu coupons, food ticket books, product coupons and other documents people once could not be without have now been consigned to the museum of history,” he said.

“The torments of hunger, lack of food and clothing, and the hardships which have plagued our people for thousands of years have generally gone and won’t come back.”

Image captionApple is a popular brand in China – though not as popular as Huawei

There’s even a political element to this. As Chinese consumers have grown richer, they’ve become increasingly influential.

Several companies have been forced to apologise after offending Chinese sensibilities, and while foreign brands are generally coveted in China, more and more shoppers are starting to say they prefer local brands.

It’s a sentiment that Mr Xi also touched on in his speech, when he said: “China is increasingly approaching the centre of the world stage.”

“No-one is in a position to dictate to the Chinese people what should or should not be done.”

3. Families and children

Life has changed significantly for children of the 2010s, compared to children of the 1970s.

Image captionA family enjoy tea in a park in Guangzhou, 1978

For starters, they are likely to live longer – China’s life expectancy was 66 back in 1978, and is now about 76.

They’re also more likely to have a better education – literacy rates increased from 66% in the early 1980s to 95% in 2010.

For most Chinese children in the 1970s, going on an overseas holiday would have been almost unthinkable. Today China has the world’s largest number of outbound tourists – who spend billions of dollars while abroad.

Image captionA girl celebrates the golden week national holiday with her dad in October 2018

Chinese students are now also more likely to end up studying abroad.

According to Chinese government figures, China is currently the world’s largest source of international students.

One thing hasn’t changed as much as the government would like though – the birth rate.

In 1979 – a year after starting economic reforms – the government imposed a one-child policy to try and curb population growth.

Birth rates were declining anyway – but the controversial policy was harshly enforced in some cases.

Couples who violated the policy could face punishments ranging from fines and the loss of employment to forced abortions and sterilisation.

China’s population, like those of many other developed countries, is now ageing.

In 2015, the government decided to end the one-child policy and allow couples to have two children.

There is even speculation that the policy may be relaxed further – to allow three or more children – in the near future.

But many Chinese millennials see having more children as too expensive – or a burden on their careers.

4. To market, to market

As economies change, so do people’s diets, and what they want to spend their money on.

Here’s a marketplace in the central city of Xi’an, back in 1978.

And here’s what some of Xi’an’s street markets look like now.

Many of the signs are advertising meat dishes – and statistics show meat consumption in China has risen significantly over the past few decades.

Pork, for example, used to be considered a luxury food reserved for special occasions – now, figures suggest the average Chinese person will consume about 40kg of pork per year.


House-for-pension stirs Chinese debate on elder care

This post and another on China‘s labour force posted today illustrate how fast China is catching up with developed nations, not always for the better.

China Daily: “For 71-year-old Li Yuzhen, a life taking care of a sick husband and a mentally-disabled son in their two-bedroom apartment in the East China city of Hefei has not been easy.

The family of three nets a monthly income of 3,000 yuan ($487), but spends one third of it on medicine. They barely make ends meet with the rest of the money.

Li said they could not afford a nursing home, and she has to stay at home to look after her son, a man in his 40s but still unmarried due to his condition.

In an effort to explore elder care solutions for China’s rapidly aging society, the State Council, China’s Cabinet, vowed last week to complete a social care network for people over age 60 by 2020, when the age group is expected to reach 243 million. This group’s population had already reached 194 million by the end of 2012, giving China the largest senior population on earth.

One solution proposed is the house-for-pension program.

“The plan allows you to deed your house to an insurance company or bank, which will determine the value of your house and your life expectancy, and then grant you a certain amount every month,” said Meng Xiaosu, former CEO of Happy Life Insurance Co, Ltd.

“You can still live in your house, but the company or the bank has ownership,” Meng said.

The program, while only a suggestion, has drawn widespread concern and met with mixed views.

Zhan Chengfu, director of the division on social welfare and charity of the Ministry of Civil Affairs, said the program benefits both the elderly and insurance companies and banks as it can ease elderly care fund shortages, revitalize housing resources and expand the insurance business.

According to a joint study by the Bank of China (BOC) and Deutsche Bank last year, the aging population will leave China with a shortfall of 18.3 trillion yuan in pension funds by 2013 and create a heavy fiscal burden for the country.

Zheng Bingwen, a social security researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, likened China’s pension system to a pyramid with the ground level being the basic pension pool, the middle level being companies’ supplementary pensions, and the top level being individuals’ commercial insurance. But the proportion of the total pension funds to gross domestic output is small compared to other BRICS nations.

“We need different channels to supplement funds shortage, and house-for-pension is likely to be a plausible way for elder care,” Zhang said.

However, the proposal stirred a heated public debate, especially among people whose parents have property and fear losing the inheritance.

via House-for-pension stirs debate on elder care[1]|

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Exposure via internet now China’s top weapon in war on graft

SCMP: “The internet has become the primary tool for exposing corruption on the mainland, “removing a corrupt official with the click of a mouse”, according to a leading think tank’s analysis.


In its Blue Book of New Media, researchers from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) said that 156 corruption cases between 2010 and last year were first brought to light online – compared with 78 cases to resulting from reports in traditional media.

Forty-four cases involving disciplinary violations were first exposed in some form online, while 29 cases followed print and broadcast stories. Sixteen cases citing abuses of power were exposed online; 10 were revealed in traditional media.

Among the latest officials to fall from grace thanks to online revelations was Liu Tienan , a former deputy chief of the National Development and Reform Commission.

Liu was sacked in mid-May, more than five months after an editor of the influential Caijing magazine used his microblog account to expose allegations against him.

The report said revelations online, and the rise in interest in public affairs the internet had engendered, were the main reasons more people were participating in anti-corruption efforts.

However, the report cautioned that such efforts still had a long way to go. Only five officials of above departmental rank were brought down via online exposures last year – just a fraction of the 950 officials of that level who were probed for crimes.

The mainland had 564 million internet users at the end of last year, including 309 million microbloggers, according to the China Internet Network Information Centre. The Blue Book said the online community would likely exceed 600 million this year.

The new-media boom has posed an unprecedented challenge to Communist Party rulers, experts warned, due to the easy spread of information, including rumours. The report blamed the online rumour mill on governments’ declining credibility and growing concern on the part of the public.”

via Exposure via internet now China’s top weapon in war on graft | South China Morning Post.

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* State of Paradox

NY Times: ““‘India’ and ‘change’ were once virtual antonyms: old India hands returned again and again in large part because the subcontinent was so dependably different from the West,” Geoffery C. Ward writes in The Sunday Review section of The New York Times. “But since 1991, when a financial crisis forced India’s government to devalue the rupee, lower import barriers and relax controls on private investment, things have nearly reversed themselves.”

“As the journalist Akash Kapur demonstrates in his lucid, balanced new book, ‘India Becoming,’ his homeland now seems almost synonymous with change,” Mr. Ward writes. Mr. Kapur is especially qualified to “assess the contrasts and contradictions all that change has brought,” he writes. “The son of an American mother and an Indian father, he was raised on the outskirts of Auroville, a utopian international community in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.”

via State of Paradox –

See also: How close will India be in 25 years?

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