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  1. A test mission would launch around 2025 China’s space agency plans to send a spacecraft to slam into an asteroid, knocking it into a new — and hopefully safer — orbit. The prospective new mission will launch within the next four years, and was announced on Sunday by Wu Yanhua, deputy director of the China National Space Administration, according to Global Times, a state-run news outlet. The country hasn’t yet determined which asteroid to target. The mission was announced as one part of a larger new planetary defense effort, which will seek to catalog and monitor near-Earth asteroids, especially those that might pose a threat to our planet. The effort would include a new warning system as well. Eventually, the plan is to identify an asteroid that might threaten Earth, and send a spacecraft to crash into it, changing its orbit in the process. But it is still very early days, and the overall project has not been formally approved yet — it is “being reviewed for approval,” Global Times reports. The idea does appear to have been circulating for a while. Back in January, a white paper published by Chinese officials mentioned plans to study a planetary defense system, and last October, the country hosted a planetary defense conference, Andrew Jones reported for Space News. The planetary defense project would also set up software to simulate asteroid impacts, and would run rehearsals of what to do in the event of a potential impact. (NASA and the European Space Agency have held similar simulations.) NASA has its own asteroid-redirecting mission, which took off in November. But the agency isn’t targeting any potentially threatening space rocks just yet. NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) is aiming for the tiny moonlet of an asteroid called Didymos. It will try to knock the space rock, called Dimorphos, off-course on September 26, 2022. Data from that impact could help inform future planetary defense efforts — just in case they are ever needed in the future. Small space rocks hit our planet every day, raining down as meteorites and dust. It’s the bigger rocks that space agencies like CNSA and NASA are more worried about. Efforts to catalog near-earth objects have already found and tracked the vast majority of large (bigger than 1 km) asteroids in our vicinity. But smaller asteroids could still be catastrophic — and efforts to identify and track those chunks of rock are still ongoing. That’s why China, the US, and many other nations are interested in planetary defense — everyone wants to know not only what’s coming, but how to stop it when it does. China announces plans for a new asteroid-deflecting mission
  2. BEIJING (Reuters) - A Beijing district put itself on a “wartime” footing and the capital banned tourism and sports events on Saturday after a cluster of novel coronavirus infections centred around a major wholesale market sparked fears of a new wave of COVID-19. Forty-five people out of 517 tested with throat swabs at the Xinfadi market in the city’s southwestern Fengtai district had tested positive for the coronavirus, Chu Junwei, a district official, told a briefing. None were showing symptoms of COVID-19, he said, but added that 11 neighbourhoods in the vicinity of the market, which claims to be the largest agricultural wholesale market in Asia, had been locked down with 24-hour guards put in place. “In accordance with the principle of putting the safety of the masses and health first, we have adopted lockdown measures for the Xinfadi market and surrounding neighbourhoods,” Chu said. The district is in a “wartime emergency mode,” he added. The closure of the market and new restrictions come as concerns grow about a second wave of the pandemic, which has infected more than 7.66 million people worldwide and killed more than 420,000. They also underline how even in countries which have had great success in curbing the spread of the virus, clusters can sometimes easily arise. The entire Xinfadi market was shut down at 3 a.m. on Saturday (1900 GMT on Friday), after two men working at a meat research centre who had recently visited the market were reported to have the virus. It was not immediately clear how they had been infected. People are wearing face masks inside the Jingshen seafood market which has been closed for business after new coronavirus infections were detected, in Beijing, China, June 12, 2020. On Saturday, market entrances were blocked and police stood guard. Beijing authorities had earlier halted beef and mutton trading at the market and had closed other wholesale markets around the city. They plan for more than 10,000 people at the Xinfadi market to take nucleic acid tests to detect coronavirus infections. According to the Xinfadi website, more than 1,500 tonnes of seafood, 18,000 tonnes of vegetables and 20,000 tonnes of fruit are traded at the market daily. TOURIST SITES CLOSE A city spokesman told the briefing that all six COVID-19 patients confirmed in Beijing on Friday had visited the Xinfadi market. The capital will suspend sports events and tourists from other parts of China, effective immediately, he said. In Nanjing, capital of the eastern province of Jiangsu, a local association of restaurants said it would halt the serving of foods containing raw seafood or animal products. Some Beijing residents, including a man shopping at a Carrefour supermarket in Fengtai district, said they were confident authorities had the situation under control. “If I were worried, I wouldn’t come here to buy meat. I believe it has been quarantined,” said the man, who gave his surname as Zhang. Beijing’s Yonghe temple and National Theatre also announced they would close from Saturday, and the city government said it had dropped plans to reopen schools on Monday for students in grades one through three because of the new cases. One person at an agricultural market in the city’s northwestern Haidian district also tested positive for the coronavirus, Chu said. Highlighting the new sense of alarm within the city, health authorities visited the home of a Reuters reporter in Beijing’s Dongcheng district on Saturday to ask whether she had visited the Xinfadi market, which is 15 km (9 miles) away. They said the visit was part of patrols Dongcheng was conducting. And following reports in state-run newspapers that the coronavirus was discovered on chopping boards used for imported salmon at the market, major supermarkets in Beijing removed salmon from their shelves overnight. That concern also spread to other cities, with a major agricultural wholesale market in Chengdu, the capital of the southwestern province of Sichuan, saying it would remove salmon products from its shelves from Saturday. Slideshow of 8 images at the Source Source
  3. WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will meet China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi in Hawaii, trying to ease tensions between the world’s two largest economies over various issues, according to media reports. Pompeo was planning the trip “quietly” and the arrangements were not yet finalized, Politico said. Pompeo has been vocal in criticizing China on a range of issues from the origins of the coronavirus pandemic to its Hong Kong policy to the treatment of its ethnic and religious minorities. The U.S. State Department and the Chinese embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post newspaper cited an unidentified source as saying that Yang, a state councilor and member of the Communist Party Politburo, will represent the Chinese side for the meeting. Relations between the countries have deteriorated in recent months, and U.S. President Donald Trump has said he could even sever relations. Pompeo said last month that China could have prevented the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people around the world by being more transparent about the coronavirus and accused it of refusing to share information. He also said Chinese plans to impose national security laws on Hong Kong would be the “death knell” for the former British colony’s autonomy. Source
  4. China is about to launch a trio of spacecraft to Mars — including a rover Called Tianwen-1, the mission could elevate China’s space program The Long March 5 rocket at the Wenchang Space Launch Center that will launch Tianwen-1. Photo: Xinhua via Getty Images Early on July 23rd, China is slated to launch its most ambitious space mission yet, sending a trio of spacecraft to Mars — including a rover to explore the planet’s surface. If successful, China will become the second nation to land and operate a rover on the Red Planet. The mission is named Tianwen-1 — after the long poem “Tianwen,” which means “Questions to Heaven” — and it entails sending an orbiter, a lander, and a rover to Mars. The three spacecraft will launch on top of one of China’s most powerful rockets, the Long March 5, and then travel through deep space together to the Red Planet. While the orbiter studies Mars from above, the lander and rover will make the daring plunge to the surface. The lander is tasked with touching down gently on the ground in one piece, keeping the rover safe and providing a platform for the wheeled vehicle to roll out and explore. Tianwen-1 is the latest in a long line of increasingly complex space projects that China has tackled over the last decade. The country became the first nation in history to land and operate a rover on the far side of the Moon last year. China remains focused on lunar exploration, with plans to launch a mission at the end of this year to bring back samples from the lunar surface. Now, with Tianwen-1, China is embarking on what could be its first big interplanetary mission. It has even bolder projects planned for the future, such as visiting an asteroid and visiting Jupiter in the 2030s. “They’re definitely on a long-term quest for lunar and planetary Solar System exploration,” James Head, a planetary geoscientist at Brown University who has worked with scientists in the Chinese Space Program, tells The Verge. Of course, Mars missions are no easy feat, and China’s first attempt to reach the Red Planet didn’t even make it beyond Earth. In 2011, the country attempted to send an orbiter to Mars called Yinghuo-1, piggybacking on a much larger Russian spacecraft bound for the planet called Phobos-Grunt. But the launch of the vehicle on a Ukrainian rocket ultimately failed, destroying Phobos-Grunt and the Chinese spacecraft. China is handling both the launch and the spacecraft development for Tianwen-1. If the ambitious mission succeeds, China will become one of only a handful of countries to reach and orbit Mars. China’s goal of landing on the Red Planet during this trip is an even bigger move. Only the United States and the Soviet Union have ever landed on Mars, and only the US has successfully operated a rover on the planet. “It will demonstrate that China is a full-spectrum space power,” David Burbach, a professor at the Naval War College who studies China’s space program, tells The Verge, speaking in a personal capacity. “That they’re able to check all the boxes of what a major space power is able to do.” As is the case with most Chinese missions, details surrounding this launch are relatively scarce. But China has provided some general information about the overall structure of the mission. The three spacecraft will spend about seven months journeying to Mars, reaching the planet sometime in February 2021. That month will also mark the arrival of the United Arab Emirates’ Mars orbiter, which launched on July 19th, as well as the arrival of NASA’s new Perseverance rover, which is set to launch on July 30th. Once Tianwen-1 arrives, the trio will stay in orbit for about two to three months, while China surveys their potential landing site. “Basically they want to validate with their own data the characteristics of the site,” says Head, adding, “You build up confidence every day that you’re in Martian orbit until you reach a decision about when to proceed down to the surface.” China is aiming to land in an area of Mars known as Utopia Planitia, according to the mission’s chief scientist writing in Nature Astronomy. Utopia Planitia is the same region on Mars where NASA’s Viking 2 lander touched down in 1976. Tianwen-1’s rover has a long list of scientific tasks ahead of it, including mapping out Martian geography, looking for any water-ice in the Martian soil, measuring the climate of Mars at the surface, and more. The rover is equipped with six instruments, including its most exciting tool, a ground-penetrating radar that may be able to identify different rocks and even search for reservoirs of water-ice underneath the surface. To get to the surface, the lander and rover pair will perform an audacious seven- to eight-minute descent to the surface of Mars, according to China’s state-run media agency Xinhua News. The process will be similar to how NASA lands its spacecraft on Mars. First, the spacecraft will rely on Mars’ thin atmosphere to cushion their fall, slowing them down substantially after coming out of orbit. They’ll then deploy a parachute for about a minute and a half to slow down even further. Finally, the lander will ignite an onboard engine to hover over the surface for a few moments and then touch down gently. An artistic rendering of the Tianwen-1 rover and lander on Mars. Photo: Xinhua via Getty Images Confirmation about the landing’s success or failure will likely rely on official word from China. “They make a very big deal when things succeed; they’re relatively quiet until it’s clear that they’ve succeeded,” says Burbach. “If it goes into orbit, they’ll make a big deal about that. If the landing is successful, I’m sure there will be a lot of attention to that.” As for the orbiter, it will serve as a relay, providing communications between Earth and the rover. It’ll also attempt to survey Mars from above with seven of its own instruments. But first, the mission has to launch successfully. Airspace closures over the launch site at Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in southern China indicate the launch could occur around 12:45AM ET on July 23rd, according to Andrew Jones, a freelance journalist covering China’s spaceflight program. If the launch on the 23rd gets scrubbed, China will have until early August to try again. This launch will be just the fourth launch of the Long March 5, and its track record hasn’t been perfect. While its debut flight went relatively well in 2016, the second launch of the Long March 5 in 2017 ended in failure. China spent up to two years diagnosing the problem and redesigning the machinery in the engines responsible for the failure. Fortunately, the vehicle returned to flight successfully in 2019. If that launch had failed, it’s doubtful Tianwen-1 would have been able to go up this summer. “This new rocket was designed to take them to the next level,” Jones tells The Verge. “So they’ll be able to launch a space station, carry out a lunar sample return mission and start sending missions to the [lunar] South Pole.” Jones added: “If this launch had failed, they would have a lot of explaining to do as to why basically all these big ambitious space missions which were planned would be delayed again.” A successful mission would certainly bring even more prestige — and more attention — to China’s blossoming space program. In the US, it will likely renew heated discussions among lawmakers and space policy experts about China’s growing dominance in the space world. However, Burbach says a mission based on science should not be of concern to the US. “If you find a Chinese mission to Mars worrying, it means that you find it worrying that China is a competent science and engineering country, with a capable rocket program overall,” he says. He notes that China has done missions in space that have been cause for concern — such as conducting a test in 2007 to destroy a satellite, creating hundreds of pieces of debris. But a science mission is not something he worries about. “If anything I think it’s an opportunity to allow some additional cooperation with the Chinese technical community,” says Burbach. While Tianwen-1 could further elevate China on the global stage, the country also sees these missions as a way to inspire youth in the country, according to Jones. “Engaging in these kinds of really challenging high technology areas is something which boosts the economy,” he says. “It also inspires people, just like with the Apollo missions, to get involved in STEM and to pursue these kinds of these kinds of careers that can lead into exploration and all kinds of areas of science and technology.” Hopefully, if these spacecraft do succeed, we’ll also have a little more insight into Mars. “Every time we go to a different place on Mars we learn something completely new,” says Head. “That’s why it’s so important to have abundant surface exploration and rovers. It just provides a new area; it will be entirely new things, no doubt. And that will complement our overall picture of Mars.” China is about to launch a trio of spacecraft to Mars — including a rover
  5. Pocket Casts and Castro are gone from China’s App Store Apple has removed Pocket Casts, the popular iOS and Android podcast client, from the App Store in China. The Cyberspace Administration of China has determined that it can be used to access content deemed illegal in the country, and has demanded that Apple remove the app as a result. It’s the second major podcast app to be removed from China’s App Store this month. “We believe podcasting is and should remain an open medium, free of government censorship,” Pocket Casts says in a statement posted to Twitter. “As such we won’t be censoring podcast content at their request. We understand this means that it’s unlikely that our iOS App will be available in China, but feel it’s a necessary step to take for any company that values the open distribution model that makes podcasting special.” Pocket Casts tells The Verge that Apple didn’t provide specifics on which content violated Chinese law upon request, instead suggesting that the team reach out to the Cyberspace Administration of China directly. The app was removed around two days after Apple contacted the developer. China represented its seventh biggest market, Pocket Casts says, and it was considered to be growing. Castro, another iPhone podcast app, was also recently pulled from China’s App Store. The developers say China made up 10 percent of its user base, although it accounted for a smaller percentage of paying subscribers. Apple didn’t provide Castro with specifics on what content fell foul of Chinese regulations, either. The Verge has contacted Apple for more information on the matter, including which podcasts China considers illegal and what actions developers are expected to take, but is yet to hear back. Source
  6. China moves forward with COVID-19 vaccine, approving it for use in military Early trial data suggests that vaccine is safe, but efficacy still unclear. Enlarge / Chinese President Xi Jinping learns about the progress on a COVID-19 vaccine during his visit to the Academy of Military Medical Sciences in Beijing on March 2, 2020. Getty | Xinhua News Agency 31 with 28 posters participating China has approved an experimental COVID-19 vaccine for use in its military after early clinical trial data suggested it was safe and spurred immune responses—but before larger trials that will test whether the vaccine can protect against SARS-CoV-2 infections. This marks the first time any country has approved a candidate vaccine for military use. China’s Central Military Commission made the approval June 25, which will last for a year, according to a filing reported by Reuters. The vaccine, developed by biotech company CanSino Biologics and the Chinese military, is a type of viral vector-based vaccine. That means researchers started with a viral vector, in this case a common strain of adenovirus (type-5), which typically causes mild upper respiratory infections. The researchers crippled the virus so that it doesn’t replicate in human cells and cause disease. Then, they engineered the virus to carry a signature feature of SARS-CoV-2—the coronavirus’s infamous spike protein, which juts out from the viral particle and allows the virus to get a hold on human cells. The idea is that, when the harmless vaccine virus is injected into the body, it will essentially present the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein to the immune system, which can then develop anti-SARS-CoV-2 responses. Those include antibodies, which are Y-shaped proteins that surveil the body and detect previously encountered germ invaders by key features. Once a germ is detected, neutralizing antibodies can glom onto the germ and prevent it from sparking an infection. In a Phase 1 safety trial involving 108 people, the vaccine—dubbed Ad5-nCoV—proved safe and was able to spur the production of neutralizing antibodies and other immune responses. However, the study, published in The Lancet, also detected a potential foil for the vaccine candidate: in people who had been infected with Ad5 in their past, the vaccine didn’t generate as strong of a response to SARS-CoV-2’s spike protein. This may be because their immune systems quickly recognized the adenovirus and focused their responses on the viral vector, rather than the nefarious spike. CanSino said it had since completed a larger Phase 2 trial, looking at safety and efficacy, but has yet to release results, according to the South China Morning Post. The paper also noted that CanSino has reached an agreement with the Canadian government to conduct Phase 3 trials there. Those trials will look at efficacy and potential side effects in an even larger group of people. In the meantime, CanSino declined to say if members of the Chinese military would be required to receive the experimental vaccine or if it would be optional, according to Reuters. According to the latest tally by the World Health Organization, there are 17 COVID-19 vaccine candidates in clinical trials and 132 others in pre-clinical development. Many vaccines are being developed in China, but with the now-limited spread of the coronavirus there, researchers are working to conduct vaccine trials elsewhere, in areas still seeing heavy transmission. China moves forward with COVID-19 vaccine, approving it for use in military
  7. International Crisis — Apple can’t break up with China, Wall Street Journal report argues Sources say it's not possible to replicate Chinese supply lines elsewhere. Workers assemble and perform quality control checks on MacBook Pro display enclosures at an Apple supplier facility in Shanghai. Apple Inc. 113 with 68 posters participating A report in The Wall Street Journal published today provided new insights and analysis on Apple's heavy reliance on partners in China to manufacture its products. The piece is timed with fluctuating stock for Apple and serious concerns about its ability to meet its goals and ship products to its millions of customers as efforts to contain the coronavirus debilitate the company's supply lines. Twice in about a year, Apple's profits and market value have suffered because of problems faced in China. First, it was the United States' trade war with the country. Now it's the health crisis. Some Apple staffers, executives, and investors have in the past expressed concerns about the company's reliance on the region; generally, it's ideal business practice for a large multinational corporation to diversify and not become overly dependent on one market, region, or partner. Citing people familiar with the discussions, the WSJ story claims some Apple executives floated the idea in 2015 to assemble at least one product in Vietnam instead of China as a first step toward building out the needed infrastructure and base of workers to make a bigger transition over time. However, "senior managers rebuffed the idea." Apple has made some attempts to make products outside of China, though. It has tried making AirPods in Vietnam to skirt US-China tariffs, iPhones in India to avoid an Indian tax an imports for iPhones sold in India, and Macs in the United States in limited ways. But the report says these trial runs have "laid bare a number of difficulties." Speaking with experts such as researchers and former Foxconn executives, the article argues what others have previously argued: it's simply not possible for Apple to make the change frustrated investors and employees want it to make. For one example why, the article says: The population in China has allowed suppliers to build factories with a capacity for more than 250,000 people. The number of migrant workers in China, who do much of Apple's production, exceed Vietnam's total population of 100 million. India is the closest comparison, but its roads, ports, and infrastructure lag far behind those in China. Additionally, the Chinese consumer market accounts for a significant portion of Apple's product sales, and a dramatic move to cut ties could jeopardize that market for the company. Paraphrasing Strategy Analytics technology researcher Neil Mawston, the article goes on to say that "employing so many local workers helped the company gain access to the market and any reduction might weaken its standing with the government, which wields tremendous influence over how global brands are perceived." That said, Apple is already facing fierce competition in the region from local rivals like Huawei—in some cases because of an Apple boycott movement by Chinese consumers in response to rhetoric around the trade tensions between the US and China. When asked about the possibility of making big changes to the company's supply base in a recent Fox Business interview, Apple CEO Tim Cook responded: My perspective sitting here today is that if there are changes, you're talking about adjusting some knobs, not some sort of wholesale fundamental change. There are more details worth reading in the Wall Street Journal story, such as the history of Samsung's move out of China, more specific reasons it's so difficult to manufacture iPhones elsewhere, Apple's response to US President Donald Trump's combative trade policies with China, and Apple executives' and employees' concerns about labor practices in the country. Some of the Journal's sources are part of a chorus of analyst and researcher voices that generally agree that the symbiotic relationship between Apple, Foxconn, China, and the United States is vital and inescapable for a company in Apple's position. But that hasn't stopped investors from being worried about profits. Neither has it prevented watchdogs, consumers, and Apple employees from confronting complicated questions about labor rights in developing economies. To make matters worse, there has been a growing trend of anti-China sentiment or even outright Sinophobia in Western nations in reaction to relentless onslaughts of news stories in Western press outlets—some responsibly reported, some not—about labor crisis, the coronavirus, Hong Kong protests, controversial treatment by the Chinese government of indigenous Muslim populations, and US-China trade policies, among other concerns. Just as many economists argue that the economic futures of the United States, Europe, and many other regions are inextricably tied to China, analysts, researchers, and Apple leadership argue that Apple's future is inextricably tied to partners like Foxconn that have built operations in China that may be impossible to replicate elsewhere. Like many other US companies, the question for Apple can't possibly be whether or not to engage with China at all. Rather, it must be how to best weather the storms that inevitably come with that engagement. And it's a question that sits at the very heart of much of the world's current debates and upheaval about globalization, openness, trade, labor, the environment, and multiculturalism. According to The Wall Street Journal, there's no easy answer to the China question on the horizon for US tech giants, so grappling with these issues is going to be an existential challenge for Apple for a long time to come. Source: Apple can’t break up with China, Wall Street Journal report argues (Ars Technica)
  8. A report published Monday by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute claims that a large number of global companies are benefiting from the forced labor of Uyghurs and other minorities. A total of 83 companies are listed in the report, and some of those names are Microsoft Corp., Apple Inc., Amazon.com Inc., Google LLC, Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and Sony Corp. The report states that about 80,000 Uyghurs and a number of other ethnic minorities have been moved from the Xinjiang region in China and sent to work in factories that suggest “forced labor.” Besides being sent to work in dozens of factories for large global corporations, the researchers said the workers have also been part of a “re-education” campaign by the Chinese government. “In factories far away from home, they typically live in segregated dormitories, undergo organized Mandarin and ideological training outside working hours, are subject to constant surveillance, and are forbidden from participating in religious observances,” said the report. “Numerous sources, including government documents, show that transferred workers are assigned minders and have limited freedom of movement.” ASPI went on to say the 80,000 number was a conservative estimate, and it has so far identified 27 factories in nine Chinese provinces. The workers are said to have graduated from re-education camps where they were forced to denounce their religion. After graduation those workers were forcibly sent to work in factories, which was part of a government initiative called “Xinjiang Aid.” The Chinese government has denied mistreating the workers and had said the scheme has only been to “fight terrorism and separatism in Xinjiang.” It seems there’s a kind of double-speak going on, since China calls the camps and factories “vocational training centers,” while reports have surfaced that make the labor programs sound more like oppressive forced labor under constant surveillance. Indeed, when the Washington Post visited one such site where Nike Inc.’s products were being made, it described something that sounded more like a prison, with barbed wire fences and watchtowers. That report stated that workers were not allowed to go back to their province. In a statement to the media, Apple said it is “dedicated to ensuring that everyone in our supply chain is treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.” Microsoft said it would investigate the claims, adding that all forms of forced labor are banned by its supplier code of conduct. “Microsoft is committed to responsible and ethical sourcing,” the company said in a statement. “We take this responsibility very seriously and take significant steps to enforce our policies and code of conduct in support of human rights, labor, health and safety, environmental protection, and business ethics through our assurance program.” Source
  9. Tickler

    CoronaVirus: News and Updates

    The coronavirus has infected more than 1,700 healthcare workers in China, killing 6 of them As of Friday, 1,716 healthcare workers who were treating patients in China have been infected. Six are dead, National Health Commission Vice Minister Zeng Yixin said at a news conference, according to Reuters. A nurse wrote on Weibo that she is among almost 150 people who work at Wuhan Central Hospital and have either been infected or are suspected to have the coronavirus, CNN found. The nurse added that she holds her breath when her fellow healthcare workers enter the room to check on her, saying, “I’m afraid the virus inside my body will come out and infect these colleagues who are still standing fast on the frontline.” Of the infected medical workers, 1,102 are located in Wuhan alone, and another 400 became ill elsewhere in the Hubei province. Wuhan was the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in December and the threat level skyrocketed for multiple reasons, including a shortage of medical resources to handle the deluge of highly contagious patients.
  10. Vaccine passports to travel freely are still a dream—except in China After being cooped up for a year, people the world over are daring to dream about traveling internationally again. They see newly distributed COVID-19 vaccines as their long-awaited tickets to freedom, with the power to unlock closed borders and bypass soul-crushing hotel quarantines. Freddy Chua, a Singaporean financier living in Hong Kong, told Fortune in February that the prospect of returning home motivated him to get vaccinated on the first day of Hong Kong’s vaccine campaign. “[My wife and I] hope that we won’t have to quarantine for 14 or 21 days” when visiting Singapore, Chua said. But that fantasy will require paperwork: a so-called vaccine passport that will validate an individual’s inoculated status and liberate them from pandemic-era travel restrictions. Policymakers and health officials have teased such documentation and the freedom of movement it could bestow as reasons to get a COVID-19 vaccine. But the practical challenges of rolling out a vaccine passport—Should it be analog or digital? Is it universally recognized? What about privacy concerns?—mean its tantalizing promise is proving difficult to realize. In Europe, government officials are negotiating the details of a digital vaccine passport agreement but have hit snags on issues like how to ensure data privacy and the ethics of limiting travel among those who aren’t eligible for vaccines. In the U.S., airline and business groups are pressuring the Biden administration to be a “leader” in developing a vaccine passport system. President Joe Biden signed an executive order instructing a committee to investigate how a vaccine passport system might work in January, but the White House has yet to announce any results or publicly endorse such a scheme. In China, meanwhile, a vaccine passport system is already taking shape. Dubbed “international travel health certificates,” the scheme launched nationwide on Monday as a free app. China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi buried the announcement deep in an hour and a half long press conference on the sidelines of China’s Two Sessions annual political summit on March 7. Hours later, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released instructions on how to download the vaccine passport mini-program, built on China’s Tencent-owned WeChat messaging app. But the Chinese government, with the help of Tencent, developed the system in a black box, without input from any international organizations or foreign countries. Currently, China’s vaccine passports don’t have the power to permit international travel. And as other governments raise concerns about China’s data privacy practices and experts question the efficacy of China’s vaccines, it’s unclear if they ever will. Going global China’s international travel health certificates are QR codes displayed via a mini-program on WeChat’s app. When scanned, the certificates link to a record of the user’s vaccine and COVID-19 test history, collated by China’s National Health Commission. Its design is similar to the track-and-trace systems Chinese authorities devised last year to monitor citizens’ risk for COVID-19. Many track-and-trace systems designed by other countries either never got off the ground or failed altogether. A report issued on Wednesday by the U.K. Parliament found that the government’s national contact tracing scheme had “no clear impact” on reducing transmission despite its budget of $51 billion over two years. China’s track-and-trace system, on the other hand, was a success because it was all but mandatory for anyone wanting to visit a restaurant or enter a housing complex. Plus, the two platforms that facilitated the system’s QR codes—WeChat and rival Alipay—were already ubiquitous in China, making adoption almost frictionless. But China’s track-and-trace apps were built entirely for domestic use and never needed outside validation. Vaccine passports, meanwhile, are mostly useless unless other countries decide to accept them. On Wednesday, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson told reporters that “many countries and some international organizations” have expressed “readiness” to recognize China’s new vaccine passport, but currently no foreign authorities have signed on publicly. One potential hang-up is not necessarily the system itself but the soundness of what a Chinese vaccine passport professes to prove: that its holder is protected against COVID-19. “Given the lack of transparency [in Chinese vaccine development]…other countries may raise the concern of whether to recognize China’s immunity passport,” says Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations. Beijing has approved four vaccines for domestic use, two from state-owned vaccine maker Sinopharm and one each from the private firms CanSino and Sinovac. None of the manufacturers, however, have published data on their vaccines in peer-reviewed medical journals, a fact that has drawn criticism from foreign leaders like French President Emmanuel Macron. And therein lies the enormous challenge of any vaccine passport system. It asks countries to recognize another nation’s vaccine as legitimate and effective, even if it hasn’t authorized the vaccine itself—a big ask considering the global patchwork of vaccine approvals. Ben Cowling, an epidemiologist at Hong Kong University, says that it may be difficult for governments to make determinations on immunity given the varying efficacy rates of different vaccines. For example, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that’s being distributed in the U.S. and 70 other countries is 95% effective in preventing COVID-19 infections, while China’s Sinovac vaccine is just over 50% effective. “[Difference in efficacy rates] is a limitation specifically for vaccine passports because the idea is to prevent people from entering a country even if they have only a mild form of infection,” Cowling says, adding that the level of contagion in a visitor’s country of departure will be another risk factor. China says it will negotiate acceptance of its vaccine passports on a country-by-country basis, and it may find plenty of willing participants among the roughly 40 countries that have struck deals to use China-made vaccines. But there may also be limits to how much its vaccine passport program can scale via one-off deals with other governments. “[Vaccine passports have] to be coordinated at an international level, ideally, through multilateral means,” says Huang, noting that negotiating at a bilateral level is both costly and time consuming. But, thus far, multilateral discussions aren’t proving to be any easier, and the world’s leading health authority, the World Health Organization (WHO), seems reluctant to endorse such a system. “I think there are real practical and ethical considerations that countries will have to address [before introducing vaccine passports],” Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, said at a press conference on March 7, explaining that the WHO likely will not recommend the passports until vaccines are distributed widely and equitably. That could be a long way off. In January, the Economist Intelligence Unit estimated that 85 of the world’s poorest countries will not achieve widespread vaccination until 2023 or later. Off the ground But China isn’t the only nation pushing ahead with an independent passport scheme. On Monday, Singapore flag carrier Singapore Airlines announced it would be the first airline in the world to validate vaccine records using the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Travel Pass: a mobile app that verifies COVID-19 health and vaccination records to facilitate international travel. JoAnn Tan, divisional vice president of business transformation at Singapore Airlines, said in a statement that the pilot scheme—which Singapore Airlines is using on flights between Singapore and London from March 13 to March 28—could help create an “industry standard” for digital health certificates in international travel. “If the pilot is successful, we will explore enabling customers to store their COVID-19 tests or vaccination certificates in the SingaporeAir mobile app,” a spokesperson for Singapore Airlines tells Fortune. Despite the WHO’s reluctance to rush into the development of vaccine passports, the IATA, a trade group representing 290 airlines, is urging the WHO to craft international standards for verifying proof of vaccine for its Travel Pass. In a note to Fortune, IATA’s head of corporate communications Albert Tjoeng says that each day without the standards “means the challenge gets bigger” in creating a system that governments around the world will accept. “This process needs to be accelerated,” he says. Tjoeng clarified that the Travel Pass is not a vaccine passport but rather a tool governments can use to verify vaccine records. “IATA is not pushing for vaccine passports nor is the IATA Travel Pass a vaccine passport,” Tjoeng says. “We do not believe that vaccinations should be mandated for anyone to fly.” In the next year, Cowling, the epidemiologist, says he hopes that vaccine coverage expands to the point that people won’t need to “worry about vaccine passports anymore,” because the world will have reached herd immunity. “The whole [vaccine passport] thing may only be a short-term measure anyway,” he says. However complicated to implement, countries are likely to continue experimenting with vaccine passports because a successful system could jump-start tourism and hospitality, sectors of the economy that urgently need a lifeline. In total, the IATA estimates that the pandemic’s reduction in air travel inflicted a $1.8 trillion blow to global GDP. Vaccine passports or global acceptance of a similar system may be the fastest way to begin recouping some of those losses. “For governments to reopen international borders without quarantine and restart aviation they need to be confident that they are mitigating the risk of importing COVID-19 and have confidence in a passenger’s verified COVID-19 status, be it [through] testing or vaccination,” says Tjoeng. “Vaccines will have a role to play in the recovery of international travel.” Source: Vaccine passports to travel freely are still a dream—except in China
  11. China is about to try a high-stakes landing on Mars Tianwen-1, China’s first mission to orbit the red planet, is set to release a rover called Zhurong on a harrowing descent to the surface. China's Mars landing platform and Zhurong rover are seen in an illustration released in 2016 by the Chinese State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense. The rover is named after the god of fire in ancient Chinese mythology, which echoes the Chinese name of the red planet, Huoxing, meaning the planet of fire. ILLUSTRATION BY XINHUA VIA GETTY IMAGES China is all set to attempt its first landing on another planet. After months in orbit around Mars, the Tianwen-1 spacecraft will deposit a rover called Zhurong on the surface of Mars. If successful, China will become the second country in history to explore the Martian surface with a rover. Tianwen-1 arrived at Mars on February 10, marking the arrival of China’s first independent interplanetary mission. Since then, Tianwen-1 has been making close approaches to Mars every 49 hours as it flies in an elliptical orbit around the planet, each time taking high-resolution images of the landing site in Utopia Planitia, a vast plain that may once have been covered by an ancient Martian ocean. Chinese officials have said the landing attempt would take place in mid-to-late May, and a report on Twitter quoted Ye Peijian of the China Association for Science and Technology saying the landing will take place on May 14 at 7:11 p.m. ET. This aligns with estimates from amateur radio astronomers tracking the spacecraft. Landing zone China’s Tianwen-1 is targeting the broad, flat expanse of Utopia Planitia as its landing site. Matthew W. Chwastyk, NGM Staff Sources: NASA/JPL; CNSA/PEC Mission scientists have been analyzing the topography and geology of Utopia Planitia to guide the spacecraft’s landing attempt, and if they decide not to attempt a landing on May 14, they will have additional opportunities on May 16 and May 18. Named for an ancient Chinese fire god, the 529-pound Zhurong rover is similar in size to NASA’s Spirit and Opportunity rovers, which landed on the red planet in 2004 and sent back exciting images and data about the planet’s surface conditions. China’s rover could make additional important discoveries concerning water and past habitability on the planet, paving the way for future human missions to Mars. “Landing safely on Mars is a huge challenge, especially for China's first soft landing attempt,” says Long Xiao, a planetary scientist at the China University of Geosciences. “But it is a necessary step for Mars and deep-space exploration.” A harrowing descent Successfully descending to the surface of Mars is an extraordinary challenge. Only NASA has safely landed and operated spacecraft on the Martian surface; in 1971, the Soviet Mars 3 lander transmitted half of a photo before falling silent about 100 seconds into the mission. By landing and roving on Mars, China hopes to jump ahead of a number of spacefaring peers. But first, the Zhurong rover must make it through the so-called “seven minutes of terror,” the time from atmospheric entry to landing on the surface. The China National Space Administration (CNSA) can only watch the autonomous landing unfold from nearly 200 million miles away—so far away that it takes 18 minutes to receive a signal from Mars—and hope everything goes to plan. Zhurong sits attached to its orbiter companion, encased in an aeroshell designed to protect the vehicle on its way through the Martian atmosphere. After it gets released and endures a fiery atmospheric entry, a huge parachute will deploy to further slow the rover’s descent. Then a landing platform holding the rover will fire up rocket engines to make the final descent to the surface. A laser range finder and 3D scanner will provide altitude and terrain data while cameras are used to autonomously choose a place to land. As part of its Chang'e-3 mission to the moon, China successfully set down a robotic lander and deployed its first lunar rover in 2013. PHOTO MOSAIC BY CHINESE ACADEMY OF SCIENCES, CHINA NATIONAL SPACE ADMINISTRATION, THE SCIENCE AND APPLICATION CENTER FOR MOON AND DEEPSPACE EXPLORATION, EMILY LAKDAWALLA OF THE PLANETARY SOCIETY AND ANDREW BODROV, VIA GETTY IMAGES Mars is significantly harder to land on than the moon, says Michel Blanc at the Research Institute in Astrophysics and Planetology in France. But China has had a series of successful lunar missions that bode well for the Mars landing. Chang’e-4, history’s first landing on the lunar far side in 2019, required “high technological capacity” in artificial intelligence and autonomous hazard avoidance, Blanc notes. As well, the rocket engines on Zhurong are similar to those China used to safely land three spacecraft on the moon. Those technologies, along with the supersonic parachutes China has used to return astronauts from Earth orbit in space capsules, set up CNSA to make the attempt at a Martian touchdown. A new rover on Mars Once Zhurong’s six wheels roll off the landing platform and onto the Martian dust, the rover will expand its foldable, butterfly-like solar panels and explore the area for a primary mission lasting three months. The vehicle could work well beyond this conservative goal however—the solar-powered Spirit and Opportunity rovers had primary missions of about 90 days, and they each ended up exploring Mars for years. Utopia Planitia, thought to be the site of an ancient sea, has sedimentary layers that could contain evidence of past water. Even more exciting, these layers of rock could contain traces of any past life on Mars, says James Head III, a planetary scientist at Brown University. “Because the pre-selected landing site is close to an ancient ocean shoreline, and distinct from others, the science data will uncover more secrets of Mars,” Long says. The site compliments the research being carried out by NASA’s Curiosity and Perseverance rovers in the ancient lakes of Gale and Jezero craters, respectively, Head adds. The Zhurong rover carries a suite of six instruments. A pair of panoramic cameras and a multispectral imager will provide information about the terrain and its composition, while an instrument with a laser will vaporize rocks to analyze their makeup, similar to the laser spectrometers aboard Curiosity and Perseverance. A magnetometer will measure magnetic fields in tandem with an instrument on the orbiter, and a climate station will measure the local atmosphere, temperature, pressure, wind, and sound on Mars. One of the most exciting instruments aboard the rover, however, is a ground-penetrating radar, which will be used to search for pockets of water or ice below the surface. Head notes that NASA’s Viking 2 lander, which set down in a region slightly north of Zhurong’s landing site in 1975, imaged fascinating phenomena, including ice contractions and frosts on the surface of Mars, and polygon patterned terrain which may have been created by contractions of subsurface ice with changing seasons. Zhurong’s ground-penetrating radar will ping the surface with two different frequencies and pick up echo data from layers below, peering down to 33 feet to search for ices or briny waters underground. “Tianwen-1 is likely to be able to explore and detect any subsurface snow and ice using its payload,” Head says. Such pockets of ice could prove valuable for future crewed missions, and any pockets of water or brine, shielded from radiation on the surface, may provide habitats for simple lifeforms. The next chapter of Chinese space exploration China will openly share the data from Tianwen-1 and Zhurong the same way it has shared data from its lunar exploration missions, Long says, benefiting planetary scientists around the world. The mission will also set the stage for China’s next planned voyage to Mars—an audacious sample-return attempt scheduled to launch around 2028. Beyond Mars, the country has plans to launch a Jupiter probe, including a possible landing on the moon Callisto, to collect samples from a near-Earth asteroid, and to send a pair of Voyager-like spacecraft toward the edges of the solar system. “In the age of ocean exploration, China has a history of Zheng He's voyages to Southeast Asia and Africa,” says Zhang Xiaoping, associate professor at the State Key Laboratory of Lunar and Planetary Sciences of the Macau University of Science and Technology, referring to early 15th-century expeditions. Zhang views China’s Mars mission as a continuation of these Ming Dynasty journeys. Tianwen-1 and Zhurong, he says, are ”of great significance for studying the unknown universe, stimulating the scientific enthusiasm of young people, stimulating the creativity of the whole country, enhancing the ability to explore the unknown, and expanding the living space of humanity.” Source: China is about to try a high-stakes landing on Mars
  12. China census: Data shows slowest population growth in decades COPYRIGHT GETTY IMAGES captionThe results add pressure on Beijing to boost measures for couples to have more babies China's population grew at its slowest pace in decades, according to government data released on Tuesday. The average annual growth rate was 0.53% over the past 10 years, down from a rate of 0.57% between 2000 and 2010 - bringing the population to 1.41bn. The results add pressure on Beijing to boost measures for couples to have more babies and avert a population decline. The results were announced in a once-a-decade census, which was originally expected to be released in April. The census was conducted in late 2020 where some seven million census takers had gone door-to-door to collect information from Chinese households. Given the sheer number of people surveyed, it is considered the most comprehensive resource on China's population, which is important for future planning. What do we know about China's birth rate? Ning Jizhe, head of the National Bureau of Statistics revealed that 12 million babies were born last year - a significant decrease from the 18 million newborns in 2016. However he added that it was "still a considerable number". Mr Ning added that a lower fertility rate is a natural result of China's social and economic development. As countries become more developed, birth rates tend to fall due to education or other priorities such as careers. Its neighbouring countries Japan and South Korea, for example, have also seen birth rates fall to record lows in recent years despite various government incentives for couples to have more children. Last year, South Korea recorded more deaths than births for the first time in history, raising fresh alarm in a country which already has the world's lowest birth rate. Shrinking populations are problematic due to the inverted age structure, with more old people than the young. When that happens, there won't be enough workers in the future to support the elderly, and there may be an increased demand for health and social care. Hasn't China already been trying to improve this? Yes. In 2016, the government ended a controversial one-child policy and allowed couples to have two children. But the reform failed to reverse the country's falling birth rate despite a two-year increase immediately afterwards. Ms Yue Su, principal economist from The Economist Intelligence Unit, said: "While the second-child policy had a positive impact on the birth rate, it proved short-term in nature." There had been expectations that China might scrap the family planning policy altogether along with the new census results, but this did not happen. A report by the Financial Times in April also quoted people familiar with the matter as saying the census would reveal a population decline. This did not happen with the 2020 report but experts have told various media outlets that it could still happen over the next few years. "It will in 2021 or 2022, or very soon," Huang Wenzhang, a demography expert at the Centre for China and Globalisation told Reuters. COPYRIGHT GETTY IMAGES An ageing China may mean that there won't be enough workers in the future to support the elderly China's population trends have over the years been largely shaped by the one-child policy, which was introduced in 1979 to slow population growth. Families that violated the rules faced fines, loss of employment and sometimes forced abortions. What else have we learnt? China's working-age population - which it defines as people aged between 16 and 59 - has also declined by 40 million as compared to the last census in 2010. But chief methodologist Zeng Yuping said that the total size "remains big" with 880 million. "We still have an abundant labour force," he said. However, economist Ms Yue warned that going forward, continued drops in the labour force "will place a cap on China's potential economic growth." She added: "The demographic dividend that propelled the country's economic rise over recent decades is set to dissipate quickly." After a few extra weeks in which officials were reportedly working to "prepare" the numbers and help to "set the agenda" the bottom line is the number of Chinese in China is growing - just. Most of that is people getting older - and staying older. There was a small increase in the number of under 14s, a vindication of the decision to end the one-child policy in 2015, according to the government's census chief. But state media is already talking about the population beginning to fall next year. This is not a demographic change unique to China, but with the biggest population in the world and an economy that it's trying to make more reliant on domestic consumption, this is a particularly salient issue. China's Communist leaders have already said retirement age will need to go up to deal with those demands and costs. This could mean more work to come for the country's workers. Experts warned that any impact on China's population, such as a decline, could have a vast effect on other parts of the world. Dr Yi Fuxian, a scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said: "China's economy has grown very quickly, and many industries in the world rely on China. The scope of the impact of a population decline would be very wide." Source: China census: Data shows slowest population growth in decades
  13. NASA criticizes China's handling of rocket re-entry as debris lands near Maldives New York (CNN Business)NASA has lambasted China for its failure to "meet responsible standards" after debris from its out-of-control rocket likely plunged into the Indian Ocean Saturday night. "Spacefaring nations must minimize the risks to people and property on Earth of re-entries of space objects and maximize transparency regarding those operations," said NASA Administrator Sen. Bill Nelson in a statement released on the space agency's website Sunday. "China is failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris," he added. Most of the huge Long March 5B rocket, however, burned up on reentering the atmosphere, the China Manned Space Engineering Office said in a post on WeChat, before landing just west of the Maldives. It was unclear if any debris had landed on the atoll nation. The US Space Command said the Long March 5B had reentered Earth over the Arabian Peninsula. The rocket, which is about 108 feet tall and weighs nearly 40,000 pounds, had launched a piece of a new Chinese space station into orbit on April 29. After its fuel was spent, the rocket had been left to hurtle through space uncontrolled until Earth's gravity dragged it back to the ground. Generally, the international space community tries to avoid such scenarios. Most rockets used to lift satellites and other objects into space conduct more controlled reentries that aim for the ocean, or they're left in so-called "graveyard" orbits that keep them in space for decades or centuries. But the Long March rocket is designed in a way that "leaves these big stages in low orbit," said Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Astrophysics Center at Harvard University. In this case, it was impossible to be certain exactly when or where the booster would land. The European Space Agency had predicted a "risk zone" that encompassed "any portion of Earth's surface between about 41.5N and 41.5S latitude" — which included virtually all of the Americas south of New York, all of Africa and Australia, parts of Asia south of Japan and Europe's Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece. The threat to populated areas of land was not negligible, but fortunately the vast majority of Earth's surface area is consumed by oceans, so the odds of avoiding a catastrophic run-in were slim. The rocket is one of the largest objects in recent memory to strike the Earth after falling out of orbit, following a 2018 incident in which a piece of a Chinese space lab broke up over the Pacific Ocean and the 2020 reentry of an 18-metric-ton Long March 5B rocket. Despite recent efforts to better regulate and mitigate space debris, Earth's orbit is littered with hundreds of thousands of pieces of uncontrolled junk, most of which are smaller than 10 centimeters. Objects are constantly falling out of orbit, though most pieces burn up in the Earth's atmosphere before having a chance to make an impact on the surface. But parts of larger objects, like the Long March rocket in this instance, can survive reentry and threaten structures and people on the ground. "Norms have been established," McDowell said. "There's no international law or rule — nothing specific — but the practice of countries around the world has been: 'Yeah, for the bigger rockets, let's not leave our trash in orbit in this way.'" CNN's Paul LeBlanc contributed Source: NASA criticizes China's handling of rocket re-entry as debris lands near Maldives
  14. China's emissions now exceed all the developed world's combined Emissions , Bloomberg News China now accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions than all of the world’s developed nations combined, according to new research from Rhodium Group. China’s emissions of six heat-trapping gases, including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, rose to 14.09 billion tons of CO2 equivalent in 2019, edging out the total of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development members by about 30 million tons, according to the New York-based climate research group. The massive scale of China’s emissions highlights the importance of President Xi Jinping’s drive to peak carbon emissions before 2030 and reach net-zero by 2060. China accounted for 27 per cent of global emissions. The U.S., the second biggest emitter, contributed 11 per cent while India for the first time surpassed the European Union with about 6.6 per cent of the global total. Still, China also has the world’s largest population, so its per capita emissions remain far less than those of the U.S. And on a historical basis, OECD members are still the world’s biggest warming culprits, having pumped four times more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than China since 1750. “China’s history as a major emitter is relatively short compared to developed countries, many of which had more than a century head start,” the researchers said. “Current global warming is the result of emissions from both the recent and more distant past.” Source: China's emissions now exceed all the developed world's combined
  15. China's first 7nm GPGPU is ready to go against AMD and Nvidia Not for consumers, but definitely impressive on paper In brief: Tianshu Zhixin Semiconductor, a fabless joint venture between Via Technologies and the Shanghai municipal government, has revealed what appears to be China's first 7nm GPGPU, a gargantuan chip that's supposed to compete with the likes of Nvidia A100 and AMD MI100 in the data center. China is on a quest for "technological self-sufficiency," and the trade war with the US has only accelerated that process. China is capable of covering over 20 percent of the chips needed in the local industry, but the government plans to increase that number to 70 percent by 2025. One example of that is using aging chips while its semiconductor industry catches up, turning to Japan for etching equipment that would otherwise be considered obsolete. Last year, we saw the arrival of an impressive x86 CPU courtesy of government-backed Zhaoxin, which showed just how much progress has been made on that front. We've also heard about Huawei working hard to develop server GPUs, but things have been relatively quiet ever since the tech giant lost access to key suppliers such as TSMC. Tianshu Zhixin was known to be making progress on the first general-purpose GPU designed in China, dubbed "Big Island." The ongoing chip shortage only allowed the company to do a paper launch in March, but what's interesting about these chips is that they're supposedly able to compete with Nvidia and AMD's GPU at the highest end. Big Island GPUs aren't technically designed to go against RTX and Radeon gaming graphics cards, but instead they're geared towards machine learning, high performance computing, medical research, and security. This means they're meant to go against the likes of Nvidia's A100 and AMD's Instinct MI100, both of which are gargantuan chips designed for the data center and offer an order of magnitude the performance of previous generation architectures, while taking a lot less space and power to operate. Big Island was developed between 2018 and 2020, built using TSMC's 7nm process node and 2.5D CoWoS packaging. They also utilize TSMC's 65 nm silicon interposer, and feature no less than 24 billion transistors. Just like AMD and Nvidia, Tianshu Zhixin has equipped its GPGPU with 32 GB of HBM2 memory (1.2 TB per second bandwidth) and made it compatible with the PCIe 4.0 standard. The claimed performance of the Chinese GPGPU seems to be impressive. When it comes to FP16 (half precision math) performance, it is capable of 147 teraflops, which sits right between Nvidia A100's 78 teraflops and AMD MI100's 184.6 teraflops -- although it should be noted the A100's Tensor cores are capable of 312 FP16 teraflops. When it comes to FP32 workloads, Big Island should be capable of up to 37 teraflops, which is higher than both the A100 and MI100, which offer 19.5 teraflops and 23.1 teraflops, respectively. Power consumption is rated at 300 watts, and Tianshu Zhixin says the new GPU will offer a better price-to-performance ratio than competing solutions. Time will tell if this is indeed true and China has hit such an important milestone in its quest to reduce its reliance on foreign semiconductors. Source: China's first 7nm GPGPU is ready to go against AMD and Nvidia
  16. China may seek to leapfrog NASA in its return to the Moon. Enlarge / China's Long March 5 rocket made its debut in November, 2016. Xinhua/Sun Hao China appears to be accelerating its plans to land on the Moon by 2030 and would use a modified version of an existing rocket to do so. The chief designer of the Long March family of rockets, Long Lehao, said China could use two modified Long March 5 rockets to accomplish a lunar landing in less than a decade, according to the Hong Kong-based online news site, HK01. He spoke earlier this week at the 35th National Youth Science and Technology Innovation Competition in China. The full video can be found here. During Lehao's speech, he said one of these large rockets would launch a lunar lander into orbit around the Moon, and the second would send the crew to meet it. The crew would then transfer to the lander, go down to the Moon's surface, and spend about six hours walking on its surface. Then part of the lunar lander would ascend back to meet the spacecraft and return to Earth. Lehao's talk does not carry the official imprimatur of Chinese space policy—at least not yet. But he remains an influential figure in Chinese space policy, said Andrew Jones, a journalist who tracks China's space program. "It's a good indication of China working towards that plan to some degree," he told Ars. "There will apparently be an announcement on this rocket at the Zhuhai Airshow in late September or early October." The Chinese Moon plan would require several technology developments. The Long March 5 rocket, which has a capacity similar to that of a Delta IV Heavy rocket, would be upgraded to become the "Long March 5-DY." Lehao has previously described these upgrades, which would improve performance for lunar missions. China would also need a lunar lander and a next-generation spacecraft capable of deep space missions. Nevertheless, the use of an existing rocket that has already launched seven times would simplify the mission for China. Although the country's aerospace engineers are in the early stages of developing a super-heavy lift rocket named Long March 9, it probably won't be ready for test flights before 2030. By modifying an existing rocket, China could get to the Moon faster. This only adds further fuel to the idea that NASA and China are in something of a race to the Moon. The United States has created the "Artemis Program" for a lunar return. While this program has a nominal date of a 2024 human landing, that seems infeasible due to the lack of a finished lunar lander, space suits, and other technical problems. The year 2026 seems like the earliest possible date for a lunar landing, and of course that could slip further to the right. Both countries are also seeking to bring international partners along. The United States has already added a dozen signatories to the "Artemis Accords," including Australia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, and the United Kingdom. China has reached a deal with Russia to build a lunar research station and is also courting European partners. Former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin, who served under the George W. Bush administration, has long warned US policymakers that China could accelerate its Moon plans and beat NASA by using an existing heavy lift rocket. Speaking at a 2018 Users Advisory Group meeting of the National Space Council, Griffin said, "They never seem to be in a rush. They seem to be playing the long game. So I’m not saying they will be on the Moon in six to eight years, but if they wanted to be they could. And for them to be back on the Moon when the United States can’t get back on the Moon is a travesty." Now, China be in a rush. China may use an existing rocket to speed up plans for a human Moon mission
  17. China successfully launches three astronauts to new space station The astronauts are now en route to Tianhe CGTN A Long March rocket blasted off from China’s Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center today, carrying three astronauts to China’s new space station. The launch marks China’s first crewed mission in five years. The launch of the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft took place at 9:22AM local time on Thursday morning. The three astronauts, Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming, and Tang Hongbo, will be the first three people to board China’s space station, Tianhe. They will stay on Tianhe for three months, bringing the space station online. The core module of Tianhe, which contains the crew’s living quarters, was launched in April 2021. This first crewed mission is part of eleven planned missions during the space station’s construction phase — two more modules and several more cargo and crewed missions need to be completed before the space station is finished in 2022. China’s last crewed mission took place in 2016, sending astronauts to visit the country’s previous space station, Tiangong-2. That station deorbited in 2019. Since then, China has continued to push forward with an ambitious space program. It sent a sample return mission to the Moon and back again in 2020, and landed a rover on Mars earlier this year. Long-term, the country is building partnerships with Russia, with plans to land astronauts on the Moon in the next decade. China successfully launches three astronauts to new space station
  18. China’s Zhurong rover sends a selfie from Mars A ‘touring group photo’ with its landing platform China’s Zhurong rover with its landing platform. Image: CNSA China has released new images from its Zhurong rover, which began wheeling its way around Mars in late May. One of the photos is a lovely selfie of Zhurong posed next to its landing platform. The “touring group photo,” as the China National Space Administration calls it in a blog post, was taken with a small wireless camera that the rover placed on the surface before scooting back to line up for the shot like an excited parent. Zhurong also took a photo of the landing platform by itself, showing the ramp the rover drove down, the Chinese flag, and if you look closely to the left of the flag, the mascots for the Beijing Winter Olympics. Zhurong’s landing platform. Image: CNSA There are more photos in the Twitter thread below, linked here, including a panorama that shows the Red Planet’s horizon in the distance beyond the rover, along with marks on the surface from propellant expulsion during landing. Zhurong joined NASA’s Perseverance on Mars last month (though the rovers are over a thousand miles apart), making China the second country to land and operate a rover on the planet. It’s expected to keep exploring for about 90 days, and it will capture more images while it analyzes the Martian climate and geology. Perseverance also sent along some glamour shots of its own in April, though it used a robotic arm (a selfie stick, if you will) rather than setting a camera down and backing away from it. This one is a family photo of both the rover and its little helicopter companion, Ingenuity. NASA details how the selfie was made in this blog post with videos. Perseverance and Ingenuity in a selfie stitched together from 62 individual images. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS And here’s Perseverance’s “face” against the serene panorama of Mars. The planet might be a lonely place, but it makes for a rather scenic backdrop. Perseverance gazes into the camera. Image: NASA / JPL (panorama stitch by Joey Roulette / The Verge) China’s Zhurong rover sends a selfie from Mars
  19. Face masks are mandatory in at least two provinces in China, including the city of Wuhan. In an effort to contain the coronavirus strain that has caused nearly 500 deaths, the government is insisting that millions of residents wear protective face covering when they go out in public. As millions don masks across the country, the Chinese are discovering an unexpected consequence to covering their faces. It turns out that face masks trip up facial recognition-based functions, a technology necessary for many routine transactions in China. Suddenly, certain mobile phones, condominium doors, and bank accounts won’t unlock with a glance. Complaints are plentiful in the popular Chinese blogging platform Weibo, reports Abacus, the Hong Kong-based technology news outlet. “[I’ve] been wearing a mask everyday recently and I just want to throw away this phone with face unlock,” laments one user. “Fingerprint payment is still better,” writes another. “All I want is to pay and quickly run.” Most complaints are about unlocking mobile devices. Apple confirmed to Quartz that an unobstructed view of a user’s eyes, nose, and mouth is needed for FaceID to work properly. Similarly, Huawei says that its efforts to develop a feature that recognizes partially-covered faces has fallen short. “There are too few feature points for the eyes and the head so it’s impossible to ensure security,” explains Huawei vice president Bruce Lee, in a Jan 21 post on Weibo.”We gave up on facial unlock for mask or scarf wearing [users].” Subverting surveillance cameras Biometrics, including facial recognition, are essential to daily life in China, on a scale beyond other nations. It’s used to do everything from ordering fast food meals to scheduling medical appointments to boarding a plane in more than 200 airports across the country. Facial recognition is even used in restrooms to prevent an occupant from taking too much toilet paper. And beyond quotidian transactions, the technology is a linchpin in the Chinese government’s scheme to police its 1.4 billion citizens. Last December, the government passed a new law that forces anyone registering a new mobile phone SIM card to undergo a face scan, in the stated interest of protecting “the legitimate rights and interest of citizens in cyberspace,” as Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information puts it. The technology is also used in some schools, where a camera records student attendance and can offer predictions about behavior and level of engagement. Hong Kong’s government, incidentally, has been trying to install a “mask ban” for protestors participating in anti-government rallies. The anonymity afforded by surgical masks, gas masks, and respirators has somehow emboldened both police and demonstrators to act aggressively, without fear of being caught on camera. Facial recognition technology that can “see through” disguises already exists, but it’s far from perfect. Researchers at the University of Cambridge and India’s National Institute of Technology, for instance, demonstrated one method that could identify a person wearing a mask with around 55% accuracy. In 2018, Panasonic introduced commercially-available software that can ID people wearing surgical masks if the camera captures images at a certain angle. Despite its widespread adoption across China, it’s ironic that facial recognition technology in general has been found to be less reliable when processing non-white faces, observes Jessica Helfand, author of the new book Face: A Visual Odyssey. “The fact that surveillance is increasingly flawed with regard to facial recognition and Asian faces is a paradox made even more bizarre by the face mask thing,” Helfand says. A recent landmark study by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology revealed a racial bias in algorithms sold by Intel, Microsoft, Toshiba, Tencent, and DiDi Chuxing. It showed that that African Americans, Native Americans, and Asians were 10 to 100 times more likely to be misidentified compared to a Caucasian subject. Source
  20. Tech giants’ high-speed internet link to Hong Kong has become politically toxic Google and Facebook seem to have resigned themselves to losing part of the longest and highest profile internet cable they have invested in to date. In a filing with the Federal Communications Commission last week, the two companies requested permission to activate the Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN) between the US and the Philippines and Taiwan, leaving its controversial Hong Kong and Chinese sections dormant. Globally, around 380 submarine cables carry over 99.5 percent of all transoceanic data traffic. Every time you visit a foreign website or send an email abroad, you are using a fiber-optic cable on the seabed. Satellites, even large planned networks like SpaceX’s Starlink system, cannot move data as quickly and cheaply as underwater cables. When it was announced in 2017, the 13,000-kilometer PLCN was touted as the first subsea cable directly connecting Hong Kong and the United States, allowing Google and Facebook to connect speedily and securely with data centers in Asia and unlock new markets. The 120 terabit-per-second cable was due to begin commercial operation in the summer of 2018. “PLCN will help connect US businesses and internet users with a strong and growing internet community in Asia,” they wrote. “PLCN will interconnect … with many of the existing and planned regional and international cables, thus providing additional transmission options in the event of disruptions to other systems, whether natural or manmade.” Instead, it has been PLCN itself that has been disrupted, by an ongoing regulatory battle in the US that has become politicized by trade and technology spats with China. Team Telecom, a shadowy US national security unit comprised of representatives from the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Justice (including the FBI), is tasked with protecting America’s telecommunications systems, including international fiber optic cables. Its regulatory processes can be tortuously slow. Team Telecom took nearly seven years to decide whether to allow China Mobile, a state-owned company, access to the US telecoms market, before coming down against it in 2018 on the grounds of “substantial and serious national security and law enforcement risks.” Although subsidiaries of Google and Facebook have been the public face of PLCN in filings to the FCC, four of the six fiber-optic pairs in the cable actually belong to a company called Pacific Light Data Communication (PLDC). When the project was first planned, PLDC was controlled by Wei Junkang, a Hong Kong businessman who had made his fortune in steel and real estate. In December 2017, Wei sold most of his stake in PLDC to Dr Peng Telecom & Media Group, a private broadband provider based in Beijing. That sent alarm bells ringing in Washington, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal last year. While Dr Peng is not itself state-owned or controlled, it works closely with Huawei, a telecoms company the Trump administration has accused of espionage and trade secret theft. Dr Peng has also worked on Chinese government projects, including a surveillance network for the Beijing police. PLCN has been legal limbo ever since, with Google complaining bitterly to the FCC about the expense of the ongoing uncertainty. In 2018, it wrote, “[any further holdup] would impose significant economic costs. Depending on the length of the delay, the financial viability of the project could be at risk.” Google and Facebook finally secured special permission to lay the cable in US waters last year, and to construct, connect and temporarily test a cable landing station in Los Angeles. But while the network itself is now essentially complete, Team Telecom has yet to make a decision on whether data can start to flow through it. In the past, Team Telecom has permitted submarine cables, even from China, to land in the US, as long as the companies operating them signed what are called network security agreements. These agreements typically require network operations to be based in the US, using an approved list of equipment and staffed by security-screened personnel. Operators are obliged to block security threats from foreign powers, while complying with lawful surveillance requests from the US government. In 2017, for example, Team Telecom gave the green light to the New Cross Pacific (NCP) cable directly connecting China and the US, despite it being part-owned by China Mobile, the state-owned company it later denied US access to on national security grounds. “Normally there wouldn’t be so much fuss over a cable to China,” says Nicole Starosielski, a professor at New York University and author of The Undersea Network. “We’ve had cables to China for a long time and all of these networks interconnect, so even if they don’t land directly in China, they’re only a hop away. It is just one of those moments where it is more difficult to land a cable, no matter who the Chinese partner is, because of the political situation.” In September, Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), who sits on Senate committees for technology, communications and homeland security, sent a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai urging him to block PLCN. “[PLCN] threatens the freedom of Hong Kong and our national security,” wrote Scott. “This project is backed by a Chinese partner, Dr Peng Telecom & Media Group Co., and would ultimately provide a direct link from China into Hong Kong … China has repeatedly shown it cannot be trusted … We cannot allow China expanded access to critical American information, even if funded by US companies.” Google and Facebook saw the writing on the wall. On January 29 last week, representatives from the two companies – but not PLDC – met with FCC officials to propose a new approach. A filing, made the same day, requests permission to operate just the two PLCN fiber pairs owned by the American companies: Google’s link to Taiwan, and Facebook’s to the Philippines. “[Google] and [Facebook] are not aware of any national security issues associated with operation of US-Taiwan and US-Philippine segments,” reads the application. “For clarity, the [request] would not authorize any commercial traffic on the PLCN system to or from Hong Kong, nor any operation of the PLCN system by PLDC.” The filling goes on to describe how each fiber pair has its own terminating equipment, with Google’s and Facebook’s connections arriving at Los Angeles in cages that are inaccessible to the other companies. “PLDC is contractually prohibited from using its participation interest in the system to interfere with the ownership or rights of use of the other parties,” it notes. Neither company would comment directly on the new filing. A Google spokesperson told TechCrunch, “We have been working through established channels in order to obtain cable landing licenses for various undersea cables, and we will continue to abide by the decisions made by designated agencies in the locations where we operate.” A Facebook spokesperson said, “We are continuing to navigate through all the appropriate channels on licensing and permitting for a jointly-owned subsea cable between the US and Asia to provide fast and secure internet access to more people on both continents.” “I think stripping out the controversial [Hong Kong] link will work,” says Starosielski. “But whenever one of these projects either gets thwarted, it sends a very strong message. If even Google and Facebook can’t get a cable through, there aren’t going to be a ton of other companies advancing new cable systems between the US and China now.” Ironically, that means that US data to and from China will continue to flow over the NCP cable controlled by China Mobile – the only company that Team Telecom and the FCC have ever turned down on national security grounds. Source
  21. The US Army has banned the use of popular Chinese social media video app TikTok, with Military.com first reporting it was due to security concerns. "It is considered a cyber threat," a US Army spokesperson told Military.com. "We do not allow it on government phones." The ban comes in the wake of Democrat Senator Charles Schumer and Republican Senator Tom Cotton writing a letter to US Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire insisting an investigation into TikTok would be necessary to determine whether the Chinese-owned social media video app poses a risk to national security. "Given these concerns, we ask that the Intelligence Community conduct an assessment of the national security risks posed by TikTok and other China-based content platforms operating in the US and brief Congress on these findings," the letter said. The social media video app, known as Douyin in China and TikTok outside its home market, is owned by Beijing-based unicorn ByteDance. Senator Marco Rubio had previously claimed that the popular app has been trying to censor content in US in order to be in line with the interests of the Chinese government. "[Chinese apps] are increasingly being used to censor content and silence open discussion on topics deemed sensitive by the Chinese Government and Communist Party," Rubio said at the time. On the same day of the US Army announcing its ban, TikTok released its first transparency report that showed how many requests the company received from government bodies and law enforcement in markets in which the application operates. This first report covered the first half of 2019 calendar year. "We take any request from government bodies extremely seriously, and closely review each such request we receive to determine whether, for example, the request adheres to the required legal process or the content violates a local law," the company wrote in its transparency report. "TikTok is committed to assisting law enforcement in appropriate circumstances while respecting the privacy and rights of our users." The report revealed that law enforcement in India made the most total requests during the period with 107. Of those, 99 were legal requests and the remaining eight were for emergencies. However, of the information that was requested by the Indian government, TikTok only provided 47% of it. Meanwhile, the percentage of information produced to US law enforcement reached 86%, based on 79 total requests and 255 total accounts specified. For Japan, the country with the third most total requests at 35, 21% of requested information was produced. Of the total, 28 were legal requests. Countries where law enforcement agencies saw 100% of information produced based on their requests included Canada, Iceland, Israel, Singapore, and Turkey. When it came to requests by government bodies to remove content deemed as a violation of local laws, India topped the chart with 11 requests, while Japan had three, and both Australia and France had two. For the United States, there were six government requests, although a total of seven accounts were removed or restricted. There were, however, no take-down requests by the Chinese government or law enforcement. The transparency report also revealed that 3,345 copyright content take-down notices were issued and of those 85% saw some content removed. "Upon receiving an effective notice from a rights holder of potential intellectual property infringement, TikTok will remove the infringing content in a timely manner," TikTok said in its report. In October, the company hired global law firm K&L Gates LLP, including two former US congressmen Bart Gordon and Jeff Denham, to review its content moderation policies in a bid to further strengthen the platform's moderation policies and overall transparency. TikTok made the external hires to "further increase transparency around our content moderation policies and the practices we employ to protect our community," Vanessa Pappas, TikTok's US general manager, said at the time. Source
  22. WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Trump administration is finalizing a set of narrow rules to limit exports of sophisticated technology to adversaries like China, a document seen by Reuters shows, in a boon to U.S. industry that feared a much tougher crackdown on sales abroad. The Commerce Department is putting the finishing touches on five rules covering products like quantum computing and 3-D printing technologies that were mandated by a 2018 law to keep sensitive technologies out of the hands of rival powers. Before drafting the rules, Commerce sought industry comment last year on a raft of high-tech sectors that it could cover under the law, from artificial intelligence technology to robotics. That fueled concerns among U.S. businesses the department would craft broad, tough regulations that would stymy a host of exports to key customers. But the internal status update seen by Reuters shows for the first time that Commerce is finishing a first batch of rules that touch on just a few technologies that will be proposed to international bodies before taking effect, a reprieve for U.S. companies. “Based on their titles, the rules appear to be narrowly tailored to address specific national security issues, which should go a long way to calming the nerves of those in industry concerned that the administration would impose controls over broad categories of widely available technologies,” said Kevin Wolf, former assistant secretary of commerce for export administration. Commerce declined to confirm any details but said it has a number of proposed rules in the review process. Despite the apparent reprieve, Commerce could issue more rules in the future regulating sales abroad of cutting-edge items. The document failed to outline when the rule proposals would be made public or what the controls would look like for specific countries, buyers and uses. In a move that should appeal to U.S. firms, the rules will be submitted to international bodies for approval so that they may be implemented overseas, not just by the United States. That would establish a level playing field for U.S. companies abroad, but would also take much longer to review and go into effect, likely until mid-2021 at the earliest. Commerce is expected to seek industry comment on the rules before submitting them to the groups, a source said, adding that a sixth rule, covering artificial intelligence, will go into effect in the United States without a comment period. The revelations come amid growing frustration from Republican and Democratic lawmakers over the slow pace of the rule roll-out, with Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer urging the Commerce Department to speed up the process. In a statement to Reuters, Republican Senator Tom Cotton said he was “disappointed at the lack of political will” at the Commerce department, accusing it of a “troubling” lack of urgency. “While bureaucrats and industry shills twiddle their thumbs, the Chinese Communist Party continues to purchase sensitive U.S. technologies with clear military applications,” he said. “I will be digging deep into the Commerce Department’s actions.” “China firmly opposes the U.S.’ generalization of the concept of national security and abuse of export control measures to interfere with and restrict the normal communications and cooperation between businesses,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular briefing in Beijing on Wednesday, when asked about the rules. Limiting tech exports will not disrupt China’s innovation or development, said Geng. According to the status update, the agency plans to regulate exports of quantum diluted refrigerators, which are used to keep qubits cold in some quantum machines. Qubits are used in quantum computers to perform calculations that would take conventional computers thousands of years. Major makers of the refrigeration devices include U.K.-based ICE Oxford, Finland-based Bluefors and U.S.-based Janis Research. The rules would apply to exports of goods from the United States as well as shipments of items made abroad that contain a significant amount of U.S. technology or components. That rule was sent to the Commerce Department’s Office of Policy and Strategic Planning on Nov. 19, along with another rule regulating 3-D printing for explosives, the document shows. Another regulation on exports of the so called “Gate-All-Around Field Effect transistor technology, which is used to manufacture semiconductors, was awaiting comments from other agencies on Dec. 5. The transistors are expected to play a major role in newer, faster semiconductors that are under development by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Intel Corp Two other rules would regulate chemicals used to make Russian nerve agent Novichok and single-use chambers for chemical reactions. Source
  23. Microsoft said it got a court order to seize 50 websites used by a hacker group with ties to North Korea that targeted government employees, universities, human rights organizations and nuclear proliferation groups in the U.S., Japan and South Korea. The group, known as Thallium, uses the network of websites, domains and connected computers to send out “spear phising” emails. Hackers gather as much information on targets as they can to personalize messages and make them appear legitimate. When the target clicks on a link in the email, hackers are then able to “compromise their online accounts, infect their computers, compromise the security of their networks and steal sensitive information,” Microsoft wrote in a blog post. Microsoft showed an example of one of Thallium’s spear phishing messages. It looks very much like a standard notification that comes with signing into a Microsoft account in a new location. One big difference, Microsoft says, is the group combined the letters “r” and “n” in the domain name to look like the first letter “m” in “microsoft.com.” Microsoft, through its Digital Crimes Unit and Threat Intelligence Center, has positioned itself as an important line of defense against so-called “nation state” hacking organizations. Microsoft has in recent years taken on hacking groups with ties to China, Iran and Russia. The tech giant uses the information it gathers from tracking these hackers to beef up its security products. Microsoft recommended a number of actions organizations can take to better protect themselves, including enabling two-factor authentication on business and personal email accounts, training people to spot phising attempts and enabling security alerts about links and files from suspicious websites. Source: MSN
  24. The Chinese tech giant Huawei attacked The Wall Street Journal for a report detailing $75 billion in state aid that the outlet said underpinned its explosive growth. The Journal said that loans, grants, tax breaks, and discounted land sales had put the company in a stronger position than its rivals. In response, Huawei denied that state support for its work amounted to special or unfair treatment. It posted a long rebuttal accusing The Journal of using "false information" and a pattern of biased reporting, though it did not substantiate those allegations. Huawei has had a rocky 2019, which saw it blacklisted by the US government. Its chief financial officer spent the whole year under house arrest. It maintained a dominant market position nonetheless. A representative for The Wall Street Journal told Business Insider it stood by its reporting. Huawei launched an angry attack on The Wall Street Journal the day after it published an article laying out what it said was $75 billion in state support from China that helped fuel its growth. The article, published on December 25, ran under the headline "State Support Helped Fuel Huawei's Global Rise." It gave figures for four different ways the Chinese state helped Huawei in its explosive growth to become the largest telecom-equipment firm, which manufactures smartphones and is vying to build 5G networks around the world. Here are the numbers, according to The Journal's research (which it described in a separate article $46 billion in loans, lines of credit, and other financing from state lenders $25 billion in tax breaks for tech companies $2 billion in discounts on land purchases $1.6 billion in grants The total is $74.6 billion. Huawei said in a statement that The Journal relied on "false information" for its reporting and characterized it as part of a pattern of "disingenuous" reporting on the company. Huawei did not specify the information it alleged to be false or provide details to substantiate its claim of an ulterior motive behind The Journal's work. Huawei did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for more information. A representative for The Wall Street Journal told Business Insider that it stood by its reporting. Huawei's status as one of the most visible Chinese companies, and its relationship with the Chinese government, has plagued its role on the world stage. The company was in May placed on a US government blacklist, prohibiting most companies from doing business with it because of national-security concerns. The concerns are based on fears that Huawei could hand over network data to the Chinese government. The company has repeatedly denied that it would do that. The US government has also sought to persuade allied governments from freezing Huawei out of any role developing 5G data networks. On a more personal level, Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, also the daughter of CEO Ren Zhengfei, has spent all of 2019 under house arrest in Canada, where she was detained in December 2018 at the request of US authorities. Despite this, Huawei has maintained its dominant market position. In its rebuttal of The Journal's reporting, Huawei downplayed the significance of state support in its success. It instead cited very large expenditure on research and development, which it said far outstripped its rivals. While it did not deny receiving help from the Chinese state, Huawei said it got no "additional or special treatment" that other companies could not also have accessed. Source
  25. SHENZHEN, China (Reuters) - An art exhibition exploring the impact of facial recognition technology has opened in China, offering a rare public space for reflection on increasingly pervasive surveillance by tech companies and the government. A security personnel stands next to information on artists who applied for the "Eyes of the City" exhibition, as the part of a joint Hong Kong/Shenzhen Biennale of Urbanism and Architecture, at Futian train station in Shenzhen, China December 23, 2019 Hosted jointly by the southern mainland city of Shenzhen and its neighbour Hong Kong, the Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism and Architecture features more than 60 installations from Chinese and foreign artists exploring the loss of urban anonymity brought about by technological change. The “Eyes of the City” exhibition is being held at Shenzhen’s Futian station, the first mainland stop on a high-speed rail link that opened in 2018 amid apprehension in Hong Kong about its deepening integration with mainland China. “Stations have traditionally been a place of anonymity, but they’re becoming places where actually everything is known,” the show’s chief curator, Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Carlo Ratti told Reuters. “This is one of the things we want to discuss.” The exhibition comes at a sensitive time in China. Protests against China’s influence have rocked the former British colony of Hong Kong for months and the rapid spread of facial recognition technology has triggered debate about privacy. The New York Times reported in November that a Beijing arts centre cancelled Chinese-American artist Hung Liu’s show of antiwar paintings for no clear reason though she believed it was related to Hong Kong. Asked if he was surprised the exhibition had been allowed to open given the unrest in Hong Kong, Ratti said he “found an openness for discussion” in Shenzhen. “There’s probably not a better place to discuss these issues ... this is a global issue and the best way to deal with it is to open up these technologies and put them in the hands of the public,” he said. Reuters was unable to contact the event’s organisers and foreign media were not invited to an opening news conference amid concern they would ask about Hong Kong, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The exhibition features a facial recognition system that visitors can opt out of, to draw attention to the inability to opt out in public, Ratti said. Other works include facial monitors that track visitors’ emotional engagement with the exhibits and digitalized images of fishing boats in one of Shenzhen’s older harbours using advanced sensing technologies developed by artists Ai Deng and Li Lipeng and by architects INTACT Studio. Source
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