Zhejiang reports outbreak of African swine fever

Piglets are held in pens at a modern pig farm in Beijing on April 30. [Photo by Wu Bo/For China Daily] BEIJING — An outbreak of African swine fever has been discovered in the city of Wenzhou, East China’s Zhejiang province, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said Thursday. On August 17, a suspected outbreak was reported by pig farmers in Yueqing of Wenzhou. The case was confirmed Wednesday, the ministry said in an online statement. So far, 430 pigs have been affected, of which 340 were killed. The ministry has sent teams to Zhejiang, where local authorities have initiated an emergency response mechanism to block, cull, and disinfect the affected pigs. The situation is under control, said the ministry. Earlier this month, an outbreak of African swine fever was discovered in a farm in Shenyang, capital of Northeast China’s Liaoning province. It was China’s first outbreak of the disease. African swine fever is a highly contagious, viral disease that infects pigs. It does not affect humans or other animal species.

Digital media key to public awareness

[Photo/VCG] China’s news release system must better adapt to the development of new media to further increase its efficiency and impact in getting its message across to domestic and international audiences on the key issues that concern them, spokespersons of different government organs and State-owned enterprises said on Sunday. “China and the world are currently facing ever-changing, complicated situations, and communication technologies are also developing rapidly, so it is important to keep up with the changes by using new media and choosing the communication method preferred by the public to help them better understand China,” said Xu Lin, deputy head of the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and minister of the State Council Information Office. Xu was speaking at the China Spokespersons Forum, jointly held by the State Council Information Office and Peking University’s National Institute of Strategic Development in Beijing. The development of China’s news release system is closely linked with the country’s opening-up process. The system has now been institutionalized. Furthermore, timely release of information, especially in the event of emergencies, has become a general consensus, Xu added. To better reach the public, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ spokesperson office opened an account on the popular Chinese social media app WeChat in January, said Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the ministry. The ministry has consistently sought to improve the quality of the information released at its news conferences since the first one was held in 1983. Nowadays, it organizes more than 200 news conferences and issues 3,000 statements in different languages annually, Geng said. “Quality of information is the lifeline of news releases. We have been trying to combine what we want to say and what concerns the media, in addition to making diplomatic expression more down to earth for the audiences from home and abroad,” Geng said. The Ministry of Defense clearly understands that using new media in letting the public hear the voice of the People’s Liberation Army is a must, and it is determined to use it more efficiently in the future, said Wu Qian, a spokesman for the ministry. The Defense Ministry opened accounts on WeChat and China’s Twitter-equivalent Sina Weibo in 2015. The ministry also posts cartoons and videos on the accounts to attract the public’s attention to PLA, Wu said. Chinese State-owned enterprises have begun to attach greater importance to establishing a news release system for their branches abroad as they expand their overseas businesses, said Lyu Dapeng, a spokesman for China Petroleum Chemical Corp or Sinopec. The company now has a team of 50 spokespersons for overseas markets and has launched Facebook and Twitter accounts. Regardless of which media platforms or forms government organs choose to release news, the bottom line is that they should never try to cover up the facts or turn a blind eye to the public’s demand for truth, said Cheng Manli, director of Peking University’s National Institute of Strategic Communication.

A Nanjing village steps out of poverty

Guantang community in Jiangbei New Area in Nanjing, Jiangsu province. [Photo/VCG] Many residents of Nanjing, Jiangsu province, go to the Danian community at the foot of Laoshan Mountain on weekends to enjoy the fresh air and natural scenery. Half the people living in the community now work in the tourism sector, which welcomes 2 million tourists every year. “The community’s environment and local people’s lives have been improving greatly through the development of tourism,” said Liu Minghai, the village head. “Nobody expected that a poor village with 584 families would be living such a good life now.” “The community was known for its deep forests and bachelors, because no women wanted to marry poor men here,” Liu said. “But as neighboring villages have found ways to fight poverty in recent years, we realized we must take action to improve our own lives.” By repairing roads, renovating facilities and improving the environment, the community-which covers an area of 539 hectares-managed to attract tourists interested in rural culture. It also built Nanjing’s first village history museum, which exhibits various tools used in the 1960s and ’70s. Danian is one of many villages in Nanjing that have changed in 40 years of reform and opening-up. The city’s Jiangbei area, which includes Laoshan Mountain, lies north of the Yangtze River and occupies one-third of the city’s area, but it was often neglected because of its poor economy. “It was considered less developed in Nanjing, but now it has demonstrated the most potential,” said Luo Qun, deputy secretary of the Party working committee of Nanjing’s Jiangbei New Area. The area was established as China’s 13th national-level new area in 2015 to accelerate local development. The area’s GDP was 146.5 billion yuan ($21.1 billion) in 2015, but it reached 221.8 billion yuan last year, an increase of 51 percent. More than 140 large companies from around the world have established bases in the area in three years, and about 700 healthcare companies have clustered there to form Asia’s largest gene-sequencing base. The first bridge across the Yangtze connecting northern and southern Nanjing was not built until 1968, but the area now has 11 river crossings, including bridges and tunnels. Another 13 are planned. Luo said that besides GDP growth, Jiangbei New Area pays great attention to the environment, including some unique characteristics. It now has 94 kilometers of riverside scenery, many lakes and Laoshan National Forest Park, which covers 120 square kilometers. “Water and green mountains mean fortune,” Luo said. “We’ll continue to improve the environment and people’s lives as well.”

China renews alert as typhoon Jongdari approaches

BEIJING – China’s national observatory on Wednesday issued a blue alert for typhoon Jongdari which strengthened before its forecast landfall in the eastern coastal region. Jongdari, this year’s 12th typhoon, will make landfall at the coast between Xiangshan of Zhejiang Province and Qidong of Jiangsu Province as early as Friday morning, packing winds of up to 82.8 kilometers per hour, the National Meteorological Center (NMC) said in a statement. At 3 p.m. Wednesday, the eye of Jongdari was 445 km offshore from the city of Zhoushan, Zhejiang Province. The tropical storm will weaken after reaching land and continue to move northwest inland, the NMC said. China has a four-tier, color-coded weather warning system, with red representing the most severe, followed by orange, yellow, and blue. The NMC suggested local governments take precautions against disasters, ships in affected areas should return to port, and residents along the typhoon’s path are urged to stay indoors until it passes.

Kids crack the code to future success

Rise of artificial intelligence is encouraging parents to send children to programming courses, Zou Shuo reports. Children who are learning coding design games in a competition in Beijing. [Photo/Xinhua] Find a 5-year-old if you need help using a smartphone or tablet is advice that may soon ring truer than ever, with an increasing number of coding classes now available for children in China. As the country seeks to integrate artificial intelligence into everyday life, parents are becoming convinced that traditional extracurricular courses, like math and English, won’t give their children a competitive edge in the future job market. Chinese parents, so fond of sending their children to after-school training courses, have a new favorite subject: computer coding. As parents’ interest shifts toward tech-related skills, and with the formal school curriculum giving scant attention to coding, companies are emerging to fill the niche market. Most children are familiar with computers, tablets and smartphones and play digital games on them, but some have gone further than their peers and can create their own games and animation. “When you keep jumping, the basketball will never fall,” said Du Minxing, a 7-year-old from Beijing. He was playing a game he designed, Basketball Master, that requires players to jump constantly in front of the computer screen to keep a ball floating. For one jump, the players get one point. After about three minutes and a score of 144, Du stopped. Out of breath, the second-grader said, “The game can help me lose some weight.” He designed the game in just an hour at a summer coding camp in Beijing held by coding education platform Codemao. In just three days at the one-week camp, Du had designed four games. “I think I will be able to design eight games at the end of the camp,” he said. “When I perform well, the teacher allows me to take breaks and I use the time to design new games. “Coding is very interesting, and I want to become a professional coder when I grow up so I can design really complicated and interesting games.” Meng Deyuxuan, from Harbin, Heilongjiang province, is the youngest child at the camp and is known by his classmates for saying “no matter how many times you have failed (in coding), you need to keep trying”. The 6-year-old began to learn coding at a training institution run by his father about a year ago. Meng designed a piano game where players can compose tunes by typing one to seven on the keyboard, with each number representing a different note. “I never feel tired when I am coding, and I feel great pride when I solve all the bugs and successfully design a new game,” he said. As in most countries, Chinese students do not tend to learn coding unless they are studying a technology-related degree at university. But in a nation locked in an ever-closer embrace with AI, parents are recognizing coding is one of the best ways to prepare children for a future that cannot be easily predicted, and that there’s no better time to get their children hooked on coding classes.

China reports new African swine fever cases

Piglets are held in pens at a modern pig farm in Beijing on April 30. Wu Bo/For China Daily BEIJING — China has confirmed new outbreaks of African swine fever in four provincial level regions, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said Saturday. On a farm in Shanghai, 50 pigs were confirmed infected with the viral disease and 11 confirmed dead, the ministry said, citing a China Animal Disease Control Center report. Outbreaks were also confirmed in the provinces of Jiangxi, Yunnan and Sichuan, with at least 23 pigs confirmed dead, it added. Local authorities have initiated an emergency response to block, cull and disinfect the affected pigs. African swine fever is a highly contagious, viral disease that infects pigs but not humans or other animals. China reported its first case of the disease in August in Liaoning province. Later outbreaks were reported in several other provincial regions.

Govt mulls ways to aid sorting of waste

Sanitation workers weigh packed waste before it is sent to a recycling and renewable resources company in Wugang, Hunan province. [Photo/Xinhua] In 2013, 161.5 million metric tons of domestic waste were generated in 261 large and medium-sized cities across China. In 2017, though only 202 of those cities were assessed, the number had jumped to 201.9 million tons, according to the latest report on solid waste control from the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, the country’s top environmental authority. Given the dramatic rise, it is hardly surprising that the issue has attracted the attention of the central leadership. In an instruction published earlier this month, President Xi Jinping called for the ramping up of efforts to encourage people to understand the importance and necessity of waste sorting. It was the second time Xi had delivered such an instruction, with his previous intervention coming in late 2016, when he presided over a high-level meeting that mulled measures for a national waste-sorting mechanism. Meanwhile, in the past three years, the State Council, China’s cabinet, has published two guidelines related to the subject. In June, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development and eight other authorities published a circular ordering more than 300 major cities to introduce garbage-sorting programs this year and to complete the building of garbage-sorting systems by 2025. Though the earliest trash-sorting pilot program was introduced in 2000, China has yet to see marked progress in the field, but Xi’s latest intervention has encouraged the public and even made a topic as serious as waste disposal an online sensation. Challenges Experts said China still faces huge challenges to fully ensure public participation, and the government should involve and motivate people in a more detailed way, such as via opinion polls, to address the issue. They added that the central government must coordinate different regions to determine the types of waste low-end, labor-intensive waste-processing businesses can deal with, and implement an overall plan to make sorting and recycling workable. The biggest challenge is getting people to develop the waste-sorting habit and fully participate in it, said Liu Jianguo, a professor at Tsinghua University’s School of the Environment in Beijing.

Jiangsu eases public concerns over construction projects

Jiangsu province has been soliciting public opinion and inviting third-party companies to provide assessments before construction starts on major projects, according to top provincial officials. Liu Hua, chief of the Jiangsu People’s Procuratorate, said major projects can only start construction after they get people’s support and pass all risk assessments. “Jiangsu province has evaluated 51,431 projects since 2012,” she said. “Among them, 391 have been suspended and 115 denied. To get the projects approved, the workers visited about 2.8 million people over six years and solved 93,000 disputes to get their support.” Chen Yizhong, deputy Party chief of the Jiangsu Public Security Bureau, said the province has been paying more attention to assessments before starting construction on sensitive projects, such as garbage disposal plants, transformer substations and projects that require pulling down houses and moving people out. “The provincial social stability office examined 154 projects that may influence the environment in 2017,” Chen said. “The construction of eight garbage disposal facilities across the province won people’s support after we fully explained the projects.” The construction of the Xidong garbage disposal plant, located in Wuxi, was suspended for five years because of local objections. After a detailed assessment, many problems were resolved, and residents finally dropped their opposition. “The 22,000 people living nearby were concerned that the garbage disposal facility might affect their health,” said Yang Guangxue, director of the office’s information research department. “We visited each of the 6,150 families, listened to their concerns and tried our best to resolve their problems.” According to Yang, the Wuxi government hired residents as supervisors and workers to ease their worries. It expanded the distance from the factory to other projects from 300 to 700 meters to guarantee safety. Gardens have been created and trees planted to improve the environment. It also spent billions of yuan to help locals get social security, build roads and set up public welfare funds, Yang said. “Professional third-party companies will also be invited to assess all the risks in the second phase of the plant,” Yang said. “It won’t start construction until all concerns are dealt with.” The social stability office has established a third-party service platform for governments and companies to consult. The platform consists of more than 300 third-party organizations and 4,839 experts in various areas. Also, the office has given more than 2,000 lectures to the social stability offices in many counties and 13 cities since 2012. Liu Huanxin, a resident of Qiaogong village near the Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge, said he and many other neighbors were invited by a third-party organization to give opinions about the repair work on the bridge in 2016. The bridge, which has been closed for 21 month for repairs, will not be put back into use until December. The double-deck bridge, one of the main ways people can cross the Yangtze, greatly influences the lives of nearby residents. “We’re worried that it will be more difficult for us to bypass the bridge,” said Liu. “The noise of construction, the demolition of some houses near the bridge and the environmental restoration also concern us.” He said the local government provided detailed solutions for all the problems raised and is keeping people updated on the progress of repairs. “It is arranging for more subway cars under the Yangtze,” he said. “And it’s ordering more buses to take people from residential communities to subway stations and letting cars go through the Yangtze River Tunnel for free.” “We take people’s interests into account during the risk assessments and don’t deprive them of their rights,” said Shi Wei, director of the information research department of Nanjing’s social stability office. “People will understand our work if we care about their lives and solve their problems.”

Red Cross to improve trust

Organization plans better transparency and supervision of public donations The Red Cross Society of China will intensify efforts to improve public trust in the organization and improve its ability to provide humanitarian services, according to a plan to reform the society. It will improve its transparency, establish an information disclosure system to aid public supervision, and better protect donors’ and the public’s rights to access information, participate in society activities and supervise them, according to the plan, which was approved by the State Council, China’s Cabinet. The plan was released to the RCSC and its branches across China, the society said. The society will adhere to the principle of public service, including emergency rescue and relief, humanitarian assistance, blood donation and organ donation, the plan said. The society will give better play to the role of the internet in facilitating its work, it said. As part of the society’s reshuffling efforts, it will establish a board to supervise its council and executive committees, it said. The society said in a statement on Monday that it will release information to the public on its donations and spending, and it will encourage legislative bodies at various levels to intensify inspection of its branches. “With higher expectations from other countries of the role China plays in international affairs, … RCSC faces new challenges in meeting higher requirements for its ability and vitality,” Liang Huiling, the society’s Party chief, said at a meeting to implement the plan in November. Intensified reform is needed for the society to explore a highly efficient, transparent and regulated system to improve its capacities, she said. China has taken a number of measures in recent years to restore public trust in the organization, following an incident that greatly damaged the reputation of the society in 2011, when a woman calling herself Guo Meimei posted photos showing her extravagant lifestyle. A third-party investigation found the woman, who said she worked for an association affiliated to the RCSC, had no relationship with the society, and she was sentenced to five years in prison for organizing gambling. However, the incident caused a crisis of public trust in the organization, which resulted in donations to the society dropping by 60 percent in 2011, and an overall decrease of charitable donations from the public. In May last year, in response to public concern, an amended Red Cross Society of China Law contained new regulations on handling donations from the public and donors’ rights to supervision. The law also included regulations on punishment, including criminal punishment, for staff of the society found guilty of offenses including embezzlement and handling donations against donors’ wishes, so those responsible can be held accountable.

Legal pros call for more protection for private enterprises, entrepreneurs

[Photo/VCG] Legal professionals called for judicial authorities, such as the country’s top court, to offer more protection for private enterprises and entrepreneurs, in a move to support and increase development of the private sector. “Judicial protection for private enterprises and entrepreneurs must be enhanced in line with laws, as the nonpublic sector has contributed to and will be a key factor for our country’s economic development,” said Zhu Yonghui, a lawyer from the King and Capital Law Firm. He made the remark during a seminar on safeguarding property rights in accordance with laws, held by the law firm in Beijing on Saturday, noting “the more effective judicial authorities implement laws, the more sense of security entrepreneurs will have”. President Xi Jinping said in November that the country will unswervingly encourage, support and guide development of the nonpublic sector and support private enterprises. He demanded the implementation of policies and measures in six aspects to create a better environment for the development of private enterprises, such as better ensuring the personal and property safety of entrepreneurs. Chen Guangzhong, a law professor at China University of Political Science and Law, applauded the central leadership’s decision. During the seminar he said that it is significant for judicial departments to uphold the principle, “innocent until proved guilty”, when dealing with property-related cases. “We have to say there was misconduct by some entrepreneurs when running their businesses, but judicial authorities cannot declare them guilty based on insufficient evidence,” he said. “If the evidence is not strong enough to prove a crime, judges mustn’t punish them through criminal penalties.” Jiang Ping, another law professor from the university, agreed. He said it imperative to distinguish economic disputes from crimes, “and it is also important for judges to distinguish legitimate properties and family properties of entrepreneurs from their illegal properties and private properties”. Previously, some entrepreneurs’ legitimate properties also were confiscated when they were involved in economic disputes, “which was a harm to their legitimate rights,” he added. The legal specialists said they were glad to see the nation’s judicial authorities, including the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, had vowed to safeguard property rights since the central leadership highlighted that protection last month. But Xiong Qiuhong, a law researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said during the seminar that there still are some challenges in handling property-related cases in the legal practice. “For example, every judge now has been ordered to prevent economic disputes from being solved by criminal penalties, but there is no rule on handling cases that involve both criminal and civil aspects,” she said. “We’re not sure which aspect should be solved first.” Jiang Bixin, vice-president of the top court, said the highest judicial authority has paid attention to this issue. He added a new judicial interpretation to prevent courts from handling civil economic disputes through criminal punishment is being drafted, and a new group of such typical cases will be released soon to offer local courts specific guidance.