Headlines from China
Shanghai Daily Nation
Updated: 8 hours 49 min ago
In a room with a professional camera and lighting, people choose costumes, props and accessories, then snap quality shots of themselves with the help of a small remote control instead of a skilled photographer. The selfie studio has arrived as the new entertainment in China’s cities.In such a studio in Shenyang, capital of northeast China’s Liaoning Province, Wang Sijia, wearing a cropped blue cheongsam top and black skirt, takes photos with her boyfriend. “It’s a novel way to celebrate the fifth anniversary of our romantic relationship,” says Wang.She spends around 150 yuan (US$23) for one-hour service in the studio, which offers different backdrops, props and accessories. “I won’t be manipulated by photographers. I’m my own photographer and model. The studio gives me the power and freedom to control my own pictures,” says Wang.She snaps more than 200 photos within an hour and downloads all the photos onto a USB flash drive.Taking selfies is hugely popular in China, as smartphones and social media services make photos easy to snap and share. Selfie takers are no longer satisfied with merely making a “V” sign in front of their smartphones. They need more variety in how they can take pictures of themselves, and the selfie studios offer them exactly that.“After I had tried taking selfies in a selfie studio, I opened one by myself,” said Liu Na, who owns a studio in Shenyang. Liu frequently changes the theme of her rooms, costumes and props to make sure her studio stays competitive. “I won’t disturb customers unless the camera or lighting needs to be adjusted. I think this is why they like such studios.”Wang Jinshan, a culture scholar with Inner Mongolia University of Finance and Economics, agrees: “The selfie studios give customers a chance to capture themselves when no one is around. They can express themselves in a natural and unrestrained way.”Piao Guangxing, a sociologist with Minzu University of China, attributes the popularity of selfies to Chinese people’s consumption shift from material desires to leisure and entertainment.“Selfies, as a special personalized symbol, meet people’s psychological demands to show their individual appearance and personality,” says Zhao Huiying of Liaoning Normal University. “For selfie fans, a picture is worth a thousand words.”
Zhou Li walked into the Qingguo bookstore decorated in the ancient Chinese garden style, ordered a drink and spent a relaxing afternoon, reading a book. “I will have dinner here later,” she said. The bookstore, decorated with bamboo, old bricks and tiles, opened in a corner of the larger Xinhua bookstore in Changzhou City, the eastern Jiangsu Province, to attract customers at a time when brick-and-mortar bookstores are losing out to e-reading and online shopping.Zhu Jingtao, manager of Qingguo, said the bookstore hosts art saloons and reading sections apart from selling books. In 2017, Qingguo’s book sales volume nearly equaled that of its other businesses.Founded in 1937 in Yan’an of northwest China’s Shaanxi Province, the main base of the Communist Party of China in revolutionary times, the Xinhua bookstore was once the largest state-run publisher in China.The four Chinese characters “Xin Hua Shu Dian” on the signboards of the Xinhua bookstores, written by Chairman Mao in the 1940s, form a collective memory for generations of Chinese readers.Decades ago, Xinhua was the only choice for book buyers in many Chinese cities. The four characters have become a cultural symbol.However, the rise of e-commerce and private bookstores that put more emphasis on customer experience have overshadowed the Xinhua bookstores, leaving them desolate, evoking a sense of nostalgia.Unyielding to the change of times, the old publishing giant now is exploring a new life.In Baoding City of Hebei Province, a Xinhua bookstore is called “the most beautiful bookstore” by some due to the idyllic atmosphere it creates.In northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province that borders Russia to the north, a Xinhua bookstore in Mudanjiang City was renovated into a China-Russia communication platform with many Russian language books available and cultural gatherings involving Chinese and Russian readers are held.Feeling the punch of booming e-commerce, the Xinhua bookstores now turn to the virtual world to expand their businesses. Changzhou Xinhua bookstore established an e-commerce department at the beginning of 2013. Luo Kai with the e-commerce department still remembers how thrilled he and his colleagues were when receiving the first order. “Several of us volunteered to deliver that book together,” he says.However, the online business was not as good as they expected. The store could only receive three to four orders a day. Inspired by other online sellers, they cooperated with a popular writer, asking her to post the link of the store on her Sina Weibo account. It received more than 1,000 orders in the following three days, so the store started doing promotions targeting online buyers. The Changzhou store has seen its sales volume exceeding 400 million yuan (US$61.5 million) in 2017, ranking first among all Xinhua chain stores in the 13 major cities in Jiangsu.“We should not just sit there blaming others about changing habits in reading and consumption,” said He Zhifeng, general manager of the Changzhou store. “Sometimes it only takes a different approach to make a fresh start.”
A woman has been fined 2,000 yuan (US$300) for “obstructing the operation of a train service” in the eastern Anhui Province.The woman surnamed Luo tried to stop a high-speed train from leaving by blocking its door last Friday, said Anhui Railway Police.Luo claimed that she had to wait for her husband and refused to step aside as conductors tried to make her move.The incident happened in Hefei when the G1747 train was set to leave for Guangzhou in Guangdong Province.Though Luo’s husband successfully boarded the train, her behavior delayed the train and sparked an outcry among Internet users after a video clip went viral online.Luo, a teacher at a primary school in Hefei’s Luyang District, was suspended from her job on Tuesday.Some web users criticized the woman’s disrespect for the rules, while others questioned the station staff’s decision to let them on board.If someone breaks the rules, law enforcement must be strict. Otherwise it constitues an act of connivance that would damage public interest, said a commentary run by the People’s Daily
Beijing will continue to finance the renovation of a section of the Great Wall with original wall bricks.The Jiankou Great Wall in Beijing’s Huairou district is one of the most delicate and “wildest” parts of the wall in the city.The renovation will start in May, said Guo Dapeng of the Huairou Cultural Commission. A 1,000-meter section has already been renovated. The commission plans to finish renovating the 7.7km section with 51 watchtowers by 2022 at a cost of 155 million yuan (US$24 million).It is a very difficult project as most of the work has to be done manually, with workers climbing the mountain slopes carrying the bricks by hand, said Cheng Yongmao, a contractor on the renovation program. Cheng’s firm, Huairou Construction Group, has 14 years of restoration experience with the Great Wall.According to a Beijing Great Wall survey in 2006, the remaining Great Wall sections in the city are 573km long, of which 526km is from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
PRESIDENT Xi Jinping yesterday called for more anti-corruption efforts to “fundamentally improve the political ecosystem of the Communist Party of China.” Xi, also general secretary of the Party and chairman of the Central Military Commission, made the remarks at the second plenary session of the 19th Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the CPC. “All-round efforts should see the Party’s political building enhanced, its theory strengthened, its organizations consolidated, its conduct improved, and its discipline enforced, with institution building incorporated into every aspect of Party building,” Xi said. “Socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era, and the CPC’s leadership is a must for the country to advance its great cause.” Xi said “the Party itself and its members have gone through essential and profound changes,” which required higher quality of Party management and enhanced political and organizational functions of Party organs. “We should push forward the campaign with heroism, and take the bull by the horns with a fighting spirit that never steps aside in face of an enemy,” he said. “Senior Party members should be subject to higher and more rigorous standards and placed under tighter scrutiny, though all Party members should follow the rules.” Noting that senior officials should fulfill their duties fully and responsibly, Xi stressed that they should show strong commitment in bearing their political responsibilities and will be held accountable if failing them. Xi asked Party officials to remain loyal to the Party “at any time, and under any circumstance.” Decisions and plans made by the CPC Central Committee should be implemented in full, “by each and every Party organization,” Xi said. He demanded close monitoring to spot hedonism and extravagance in new forms and asked heads of Party committees and governments at each level to assume overall responsibility for correcting the behaviors of formalities for formalities’ sake and bureaucratism. To maintain close ties with the people, Xi said Party officials should “resolutely oppose privilege-seeking and work with and among the people to resolve their pressing concerns.” Xi required measures to address both the symptoms and root causes of corruption to secure a “sweeping victory in the fight against corruption.” He said strict Party governance should be expanded to the grassroots level and work should be done together with the crackdown on gang crime to uproot both the gangs and the “protective umbrellas” above them. He also called for more international cooperation in the anti-corruption field. “Those who work in disciplinary agencies must discipline themselves first,” Xi stressed. He urged all discipline inspection and supervision organs to follow higher standards and stricter discipline, and called on their staff to be loyal, resolute, responsible and maintain discipline and law, ensuring that the power bestowed by the Party and the people would not be abused.
AUTHORITIES in Shanghai yesterday closed down Marriott International’s Chinese website for a week, punishing the world’s biggest hotel chain for listing Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Tibet as separate countries in a customer questionnaire. The Shanghai Cyberspace Administration said it was also shutting the Marriott’s mobile phone application, in a move that would disrupt bookings. The American company was also ordered to conduct a thorough scrutiny and rectification. The administration said it would take further action based on the rectification. In a Chinese-language questionnaire sent out to customers a few days ago, Marriott listed Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and the Tibet Autonomous Region as separate countries. China claims sovereignty over the four regions. Huangpu District authorities have launched an investigation into Marriott, whose China headquarters are registered in the district, for its alleged breach of China’s Internet security and advertising laws. Huangpu’s Internet and market regulators held meetings with executives of the hotel chain on Tuesday and Wednesday, urging them to remove all “relevant content” from their various platforms. China National Tourism Administration ordered Shanghai’s tourism watchdog to make investigation yesterday. Marriott, which owns hotel brands including JW Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Sheraton, Westin and W Hotels, apologized yesterday, restating it respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China. “We sincerely apologize for any actions that led to misunderstanding on the aforementioned stance,” the company said in a statement on its official Weibo account. “We don’t support separatist groups that subvert the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China,” it said, adding that the hotel chain had suspended all questionnaires and corrected its app. Marriott said it would actively cooperate with the authorities’ investigation. The hotel group, however, caused anger after online users discovered yesterday that Marriott Rewards gave a “like” to a message on Twitter that stated: “Friends of Tibet congratulate global hotel chain Marriott International for listing Tibet as a country along with Hong Kong and Taiwan.” It is still unknown whether the “like” was an individual act or done by the hotel group itself. Chinese social media users raised the alarm after the hotel group had listed Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Tibet as countries in an e-mail questionnaire to its members. The same error also appeared on its smartphone app. Initially Marriott merely attributed the listing as a “system glitch,” without further elaborating, according to a report by Thepaper.cn on Tuesday. One netizen using the name Zhongjusaodi was the first whistleblower, whose post has since been forwarded over 20,000 times and received more than 40,000 “likes.” Many Chinese members of Marriott have said they will boycott its hotels. “Such practice is totally unacceptable and hurts the feeling of Chinese, and I will turn to other hotels as a result,” Li Xin, a Marriott member for two years, told Shanghai Daily.
CHINESE President Xi Jinping said yesterday that China has always supported the improvement of relations between South Korea and North Korea, as well as their reconciliation and cooperation. In a phone conversation with his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in, Xi said China supports the two sides in promoting inter-Korean dialog and exchanges to gradually advance settlement of the Korean Peninsula issue. Currently, challenges and opportunities co-exist on the Korean Peninsula, Xi said, expressing the hope that the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics will not only bring about opportunities for inter-Korean dialog, but also help to improve the situation on the peninsula. Xi said China is willing to enhance communication and cooperation with all sides concerned, including South Korea, to pursue a positive outcome of the situation. Moon said Seoul attaches great importance to China’s important role in solving the dilemma on the Korean Peninsula, and appreciates China’s support for inter-Korean dialog and efforts to push for settlement through dialog and safeguard peace and stability on the peninsula. In their conversation, Xi recalled that Moon paid a recent successful state visit to China, during which both sides reached consensus on developing the China-South Korea strategic cooperative partnership and enhancing coordination on regional and international issues. Noting that the two countries have also strengthened mutual trust and cooperation during Moon’s visit, Xi said China is pleased with the improvement of bilateral ties. China is willing to work with South Korea to boost strategic communication, promote practical cooperation, properly address sensitive issues, strive for greater achievements in bilateral relations, and jointly promote regional peace and stability, Xi said.
Chinese offshore supply ship Shen Qian Hao sprays foam on the burning oil tanker Sanchi off the coast of east China, as firefighting vessels yesterday resumed attempts to put out the blaze aboard the Iranian-operated vessel, in a disaster that it is feared may have killed all 32 crew, 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis. Rescuers on Tuesday found a body believed to be from the Sanchi, but there has been no sign of any survivors. Chinese officials have warned that the tanker could explode and sink, possibly triggering an environmental disaster. The Sanchi was carrying nearly 1 million barrels of condensate, a type of gassy, ultra-light oil, when it collided last Saturday evening with Chinese freighter CF Crystal carrying American grain 300 kilometers off Shanghai’s coast and caught fire. Intense flames, bad weather and poor visibility have hampered rescue efforts. The cause of the collision remains unclear. — AFP
RESCUE crews were forced to retreat from the stricken Iranian oil tanker in the East China Sea yesterday following an explosion on the ship as a fire raged for a fourth day after a dramatic collision. The blast happened on board the tanker yesterday afternoon after rescue crews were dousing the ship with foam in an attempt to put out the fire, China’s transport ministry said. The cause and damage to the tanker from the incident were not clear. The ship was carrying condensate, a highly flammable ultra-light crude, to deliver to South Korea when it collided with a Chinese freight ship last Saturday. Dozens of rescue boats from China and South Korea have been battling strong winds, high waves and poisonous fumes to comb a 3,100-square-kilometer area for 31 missing sailors and tame the fire, amid growing concerns the listing ship may explode or sink. The lashing winds are expected to ease today, the transport ministry said. Iran’s Navy joined the effort yesterday, a government official said. The tanker Sanchi, run by Iran’s top oil shipping operator, National Iranian Tanker Co, collided with the CF Crystal, carrying grain from the United States, about 300km off China’s coast near Shanghai. The tanker was carrying condensate equivalent to about 1 million barrels and worth some US$60 million. Iranian officials said there was still a chance of finding survivors among the 31 remaining crew, who are all Iranian nationals except for two Bangladeshi citizens. The body of a crew member was found on Monday in the water near the tanker. “If the crew have been able to reach some place like the engine room, then the chances of their rescue are high,” said Hassan Qashqavi, a senior Iranian foreign ministry official. “But if, God forbid, they have been caught up in explosions because of flames inside the ship, then the chance of their rescue is small.” Authorities and environmentalists worry though the ship is increasingly vulnerable to breaking up and sinking the longer the blaze rages. Ultra-light crude is highly volatile when exposed to air and water. A Chinese marine surveillance plane has discovered a small area of suspected oil spill near the collision site, according to the State Oceanic Administration. South Korea’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries warned yesterday the tanker could burn for up to a month, potentially expelling the tanker’s bunker fuel, or the heavy fuel oil that powers a ship’s engines and contaminating the waters. “We believe flames would last for two weeks or a month considering previous cases of oil tank accidents,” said Park Sung-dong, an official at the ministry. Bunker fuel is the dirtiest kind of oil, extremely toxic when spilled, though much less explosive. The Zhoushan fishing ground where the collision occurred is known as one of the biggest in the East China Sea, particularly for mackerel.
CHINESE Premier Li Keqiang said yesterday that leaders of the Lancang-Mekong countries reached consensus relevant to their shared future at the second Lancang-Mekong Cooperation leaders’ meeting in Phnom Penh. The meeting was chaired by Li and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who were joined by leaders from Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar. The six agreed to deepen cooperation with the principle of equality, inclusiveness and real action, Li said at a press conference held after the meeting. The leaders agreed in a joint statement, the Phnom Penh Declaration, to enhance connectivity between their countries to accelerate industrialization, urbanization, trade and financial integration. They also called for greater cooperation in managing and utilizing water resources. The stated goal of the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation forum, created by China in 2014, is to promote sustainable development and boost the quality of life for the millions living on the waterway. The framework spans connectivity, production capacity, cross-border economic cooperation, water resource management, and agriculture and poverty reduction, benefiting dozens of millions of people. The Lancang River originates on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in southwest China. It is called the Mekong River as it flows through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam before emptying into the South China Sea. The river is vital to Southeast Asia, where more than 60 million people rely on it and its tributaries for food, water and transport. The world’s 12th-longest river, the Lancang runs nearly 5,000 kilometers. The river’s basin is home to up to 1,700 fish species, making it the most diverse basin after the Amazon and Congo. Since the forum’s establishment, China has set aside billions of dollars to support 45 projects including water resource research centers and cooperation on connectivity projects, industrial capacity, border trade, agriculture and poverty alleviation. Discord often arises among countries on the upstream and downstream of a river, Li said, noting that China wants to effectively handle the relationship of such kind and accommodate interests of all countries to build a community with a shared future for the Lancang-Mekong nations. “China needs a peaceful neighboring environment to facilitate its modernization drive and poverty reduction. We propose to build the LMC mechanism due to the high complementarity between China and the other five countries,” he said. Emboldened by the rapid evolution of the LMC from its nurturing stage into its current growth period, the leaders intended to further strengthen the cooperation in the five priority areas of connectivity, production capacity, cross-border economic cooperation, water resources, agriculture and poverty reduction, and aim to collaborate on larger sub-regional projects so as to jointly build a LMC Economic Development Belt. They pledged to cooperate in the fields of politics and security; economy and sustainable development; social, cultural and people-to-people exchanges; as well as cooperation supports.
CHINESE President Xi Jinping yesterday ordered the armed police force to uphold the absolute leadership of the Communist Party of China. Xi, also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, made the remarks at a ceremony by the CMC to confer a flag on the armed police force. Xi asked the armed police force to resolutely follow the CPC’s instructions and fully implement the Party’s thought on building a strong army in the new era. At the ceremony, Xi presented the flag to Commander Wang Ning and Political Commissar Zhu Shengling of the armed police. Xi stressed the significance of placing the armed police under the unified leadership of the CPC Central Committee and the CMC. The adjustment in the leading and command system of the armed police force is “an important political decision” the CPC Central Committee made to fully realize the absolute leadership of the Party over all armed forces and to develop “a socialist military system with Chinese characteristics,” Xi said. “The move has vital and profound effect on building a strong military for the new era and modernizing the country’s system and capacity for governance.” In accordance with a statement by the CPC Central Committee released late last month, the armed police force would be put under the command of the CPC Central Committee and CMC from January 1 and would no longer be under the authority of the State Council. Stating that the armed police force is an important part of the people’s armed forces led by the CPC, Xi said the armed police force bears major responsibility in safeguarding national security and social stability, as well as protecting people’s life. “The armed police force plays an important role in safeguarding political security, especially the security of the political power and system,” Xi said. The president asked the armed police force to accelerate its integration into the joint combat system of the armed forces, enhance reform and innovation, and strive to build a strong and modern armed police force.
FRENCH beef producers have hailed a deal reached by Chinese President Xi Jinping and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron to end China’s 2001 embargo on French beef. The accord would allow French producers back into the huge Chinese market within six months. The ban was imposed over a decade ago as China started closing off its markets to all European and later American beef imports in the wake of the “mad cow” disease scare. Paris has been working for years to promote the safety of its meat and open new markets for its ranchers, who were hit hard by the “mad cow” scare of the 1990s. “Our beef currently has no access (to China) for sanitary reasons. But with French beef consumption falling 5 percent a year, we have to find new markets,” said Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire, who was traveling with Macron. “It will allow for higher prices that will better compensate cattle ranchers,” the French minister added. Beef is rapidly becoming more common on Chinese tables as the middle class expands, with imported meat particularly prized. “Excellent news for France’s beef producers, who consider the potential of the Chinese market a strategic opportunity,” the Interbev producers’ association said. Interbev said China imports nearly 1.1 million tons of beef a year. Ninety percent of China’s imports currently come from Brazil, Uruguay, Australia and New Zealand. “There is market share for France to take in China,” said Jean-Marc Chaumet, an economist who specializes in China at the French Livestock Institute in Paris. “But it won’t be an Eldorado. It will be hard and take time, because France will be entering a very competitive market already open to the US, Uruguay, Canada and Australia,” he said. “And they’ll need to invest, because the Chinese don’t know about French beef,” Chaumet added. French officials also said talks were continuing about China’s ban on French poultry, imposed in 2015 after an outbreak of bird flu.
Police in Guizhou Province have destroyed 7,488 bottles of fake Moutai, a famous Chinese liquor brand, the public security bureau of Tongzi County said yesterday.Police seized some fake Moutai in a local township in March 2016. Following on the leads, they raided several fake Moutai workshops in Beijing, Chongqing, Zhejiang, Hunan and Guizhou’s Guiyang and Renhuai, seizing 3.7 tons of fake Moutai during the course of last year.Moutai is a sorghum-based spirit produced by Kweichow Moutai Co Ltd and is China’s top brand of baijiu (clear spirit). The retail price of a 500ml bottle of 53% Feitian Moutai, its flagship product, is currently 1,499 yuan (US$231). Due to short supply, some retailers charge even higher prices, prompting some to produce counterfeit Moutai for hefty illegal profits.
A Hong Kong ivory trader fined this week for illegal possession of ivory resigned yesterday from a government advisory panel to protect endangered species, a potentially embarrassing blow for a city fighting to stamp out smuggling of ivory.Hong Kong has the largest retail market for ivory, which it has traded for more than 150 years. The territory is a prime transit and consumption hub, with more than 90 percent of consumers from China’s mainland.Lau Sai-yuan will step down from his position, broadcaster RTHK said. His term was to have run until September 30. Lau pleaded guilty on Tuesday to illegal ivory possession and was fined HK$8,000 (US$1,022). The conviction came less than two weeks after China enforced a total ban on ivory sales.“This entire debacle demonstrates just how rotten and corrupt the Hong Kong ivory trade has become, which is why lawmakers need to hurry up and pass the ivory ban and maximum penalty review,” said Alex Hofford, a campaigner for non-government body WildAid.Hong Kong is considering increasing penalties.
Bidding farewell to days of thick black dust, dozens of mines have halted production in the coal-rich province of Shanxi in north China despite huge economic losses.As many as 27 coal mines were shut down last year, with production capacity totaling 22.7 million tons, according to the provincial coal industry association.The province also stopped renewal of mining permissions for 25 mining companies, banning their operations in the province’s nature reserves.Shanxi is a vital energy base. By the end of 2015, it held 270.9 billion tons of known coal reserves, accounting for 17.3 percent of the country’s total.Coal mining has caused serious air pollution and severely damaged the groundwater system, resulting in a mined-out area of 5,000 square kilometers.Excessive mining, a water-consuming industry, has also led to shrinking or dried-up natural springs in the province.The province is prioritizing economic transformation to improve Shanxi’s industrial layout and detach itself from the traditional coal mining industry. Sales, transportation and use of coal have been banned in the provincial capital of Taiyuan since last October. China’s State Council issued a guideline last September to support the region’s “green” transformation.“The government is offering money, land and preferential policies to create a favorable business environment for emerging industries,” said Li Yonghui, deputy general manager of a clean energy company, Jinneng.Li said annual solar cells production capacity of his company almost tripled to 1,300 megawatte between 2014 and 2016, surging sales revenue from 290 million yuan (US$44.7 million) to 1.86 billion yuan.Due to intensified measures and government support, coal’s contribution to the region’s GDP is decreasing.More than 40 million tons of coal production capacity were eliminated in Shanxi in the past two years, provincial data showed. It also cut coal production by 143 million tons in 2016, accounting for around 40 percent of China’s total cuts.The added value of non-coal sectors now accounts for more than half of the total, according to Sun Xiuling of the Shanxi Academy of Social Sciences.Shanxi has also listed electric vehicles as its potential leading industry in the future. Chinese carmaker BYD also opened an electric car production base in Taiyuan.According to the government, Shanxi plans to spend 5.2 billion yuan installing 190,000 charging facilities for an estimated 200,000 electric vehicles expected to be on the roads by 2020. Taiyuan replaced all its 8,000-plus cabs with electric ones about a year ago, the first city ever in China to eliminate fuel cabs. The city also plans to add 1,000 electric buses this year to further cut emissions.
NUO opera, a religious ritual to ward off evil spirits, has transformed fortunes in southwest China’s Guizhou Province. In rural Dejiang County, Wang Guohua teaches the carving of ferocious Nuo opera masks to several apprentices. “I was not respected by other villagers who did not see carving masks as a decent job,” Wang, 52, said. “Now, it is big business.” The Nuo ritual has been practiced for thousands of years. Sacrifices and ceremonies paid tribute to ancestors, gods and goddesses while exorcizing demons. It spread among people of various ethnicities along the Yangtze and Yellow river valleys and southwestern areas. Nuo rituals were widely performed at Lunar New Year holidays to expel evil spirits. Accompanied by drum and gong, Nuo performers equipped with whips, dance to mysterious tunes. They wear colored masks — black, white and red — bearing varied expressions — amiable, ferocious or fearful. In recent decades the ceremony has become little more than a theatrical performance. In Wang’s workshop, wood, tools and masks of all kinds are strewn everywhere. Wang has been carving masks for 36 years, having created more than 4,000 masks. Guizhou is famous for its variety of Nuo opera. Wherever there is a performance in an outlying village, farmers trek dozens of kilometers along hillside paths to watch. Many men in Guizhou have left home to seek work, leaving the elderly, women and children behind. When Wang started making masks, no one understood why he did not find a “decent job,” not even his wife Qin Zhichan. “Rural people were supposed to work in the fields instead of doing ‘business.’ I felt I could not depend on him and we quarreled a lot,” Qin recalled. The wheel of fortune did not turn for Wang until 2003, when an international seminar on Nuo culture was held in the county. Foreigners were instantly drawn to Wang’s masks. “I made 2,000 yuan (US$310) with my masks at that time,” Wang said. With the money, he bought a color TV. Suddenly, his wife and the other villagers started to take his business seriously. With his amazing craftsmanship, business soared. In 2006, he was honored as “master of Nuo masks in Guizhou” and took his masks to exhibitions in France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Japan. In 2010, he registered a company, and recruited some apprentices. The mask business easily took them out of poverty. Lu Changhong, once a poor villager, was one of the first apprentices. In Wang’s studio, he can make 200 yuan by carving a mask, 30 yuan for polishing a mask and 15 yuan for coloring. Lu left poverty behind two years ago. In the past three years, Wang has made more than 2 million yuan and bought two cars, but he cares more than just money. He has memorized more than 200 mask models and can create them on the spot. He has also made his own variations, reinventing the masks. “He is always thinking about new, different masks,” said Zhou Guozai, another of Wang’s apprentices. “Making masks seems to be more important to him than eating meals.” Wang is also very picky about the materials he uses. He says: “Making a mask is not easy. There are more than 20 steps, and everything is done by hand. Each stroke of the chisel is important,” he said. In Wang’s spare time, he goes to a local school to teach pupils how to carve masks, just to “pass on the tradition.” He also helped establish a gallery of Guizhou’s ethnic handicrafts. “We need to find a way to attract young talent to the craft,” Wang said. “Only in this way can we guarantee the survival of the tradition.”
CHINESE President Xi Jinping and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron oversaw the signing yesterday of business deals worth billions of dollars in nuclear, aviation and other key sectors. China and France also agreed to further advance their comprehensive strategic partnership and promised closer cooperation on climate, counterterrorism and other issues. “Together we will cope with global challenges such as climate change and terrorism,” Xi said. The Chinese leader said the two countries would hold more high-level talks on trade. He also welcomed Macron’s endorsement of his cherished Belt and Road initiative, a US$1 trillion revival of ancient Silk Road land and sea trading routes. “We believe that this visit will enhance mutual trust and cooperation between our two countries,” Xi said. “We are at a crucial point in the world,” Macron said alongside Xi after overseeing the signing ceremony, pointing to the common challenges presented by climate change and terrorism. The French leader said Xi agreed to work with France to prepare a spring conference on fighting terror financing, adding that they share the belief that “only a political settlement” of conflicts in Africa, Syria and Iraq can end this threat. The deals included a memorandum of understanding for French energy giant Areva and Chinese counterpart CNNC to build a 10-billion-euro (US$12 billion) nuclear spent fuel reprocessing plant in China. European aerospace giant Airbus announced an agreement with Chinese partners to increase production of its A320 jet in Tianjin to six aircraft per month. But it did not announce any new plane orders from China. Chinese online retailer JD.com announced plans to sell French goods worth 2 billion euros to Chinese consumers over the next two years, including wine and cognac. China also agreed to lift a 16-year-old embargo on French beef within six months, Macron said. The French president, accompanied by some 50 French business leaders, has laid on the charm during his visit, giving Xi a horse from the Republican Guard as a gift. He also delighted Chinese social media users by releasing a video of him learning to say his climate slogan — “Make the planet great again” — in Mandarin. China and France yesterday agreed to further advance their comprehensive strategic partnership and promised closer cooperation on climate, counterterrorism and other issues. Xi and Macron reached the consensus during their talks in Beijing. Xi told Macron that China stands ready to promote exchanges and enhance mutual trust and cooperation with France in order to inject new impetus into the development of the China-France comprehensive strategic partnership. “Both sides should accommodate each other’s core interests and major concerns, and properly handle differences in order to make sure the bilateral ties develop steadily on the right track,” Xi said. He called on the two countries to promote cooperation in emerging areas including agriculture and food, health and medical services, urban sustainable development, green manufacturing and finance. Xi also urged strengthening innovative cooperation, and achieving common development in the areas of digital economy, artificial intelligence and advanced manufacturing industry.
WOMEN who work night shifts in Europe and North America may face a 19 percent higher risk of cancer than those who work during the day, according to a study of Chinese researchers. These heightened risks were not apparent among female night-shift workers in Australia and Asia, said the meta-analysis in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. “Our study indicates that night-shift work serves as a risk factor for common cancers in women,” said study author Ma Xuelei, an oncologist at the West China Medical Center of Sichuan University in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu. “We were surprised to see the association between night-shift work and breast cancer risk only among women in North America and Europe,” he added. “It is possible that women in these locations have higher sex hormone levels, which have been positively associated with hormone-related cancers such as breast cancer.” The review incorporated 61 previously published studies on the topic, spanning 3.9 million participants from North America, Europe, Australia and Asia and more than 110,000 cancers. One drawback to the study was that the different definitions of long-term night shift work — with some of the papers describing it as “working during the night” and others saying “working at least three nights per month.” But the association was stark. While overall long-term night-shift work increased the risk of cancer by 19 percent, the risk of certain cancers were even higher, according to Ma’s study. Female night-shift workers saw a 41 percent increased risk of skin cancer and a 32 percent higher risk of breast cancer. The risk of gastrointestinal cancer was 18 percent higher than in women who did not perform long-term night-shift work. A subset of female nurses was also highlighted in the study, which showed “those who worked the night shift had an increased risk of breast (58 percent), gastrointestinal (35 percent), and lung cancer (28 percent) compared with those that did not work night shifts.” Ma noted it was possible that nurses might be more likely to undergo screening, since they work in the medical profession. “Another possible explanation for the increased cancer risk in this population may relate to the job requirements of night-shift nursing, such as more intensive shifts,” he said. When it came specifically to breast cancer, the risk rose by 3.3 percent for every five years of night-shift work, said the study. Previous research has shown that night-time work can disrupt the body’s circadian rhythms, causing hormonal and metabolic changes that may boost the risk of cancer, diabetes, obesity and depression. “The results of this research suggest the need for health protection programs for long-term female night-shift workers,” said Ma. “Long-term night-shift workers should have regular physical examinations and cancer screenings.”
CHINA has reacted quickly to contain oil leaking from an Iranian tanker stricken off its eastern coast yesterday amid warnings the burning ship could spark an environmental disaster. The Sanchi was carrying 136,000 tons of light crude oil when it collided with a cargo ship on Saturday and erupted into flames about 300 kilometers east of Shanghai. If all the cargo from the Panamanian-flagged 274-meter tanker spills, it would be the biggest oil slick from a ship in decades and could kill marine life across a vast area, analysts said. China’s transport ministry said the vessel was still burning yesterday. It released a photo of the Sanchi enveloped in smoke and flames. “With the ship on fire, it is expected that much of this condensate oil will burn off rather than enter the water,” Greenpeace East Asia said. “If the ship sinks before the oil burns off, the clean-up procedure would be extremely difficult. What is important now is to understand how much of that oil has burned off, and how much is leaking into the sea.” China’s foreign ministry said on Monday that cleaning ships had been sent to prevent “secondary disasters.” Authorities widened the search yesterday for 31 missing crew members, with 13 search-and-rescue vessels. The efforts were hampered by poor conditions at sea, the transport ministry said. The tanker “is in danger of explosion and sinking, and the toxic gas ... is very harmful to rescue workers on the scene,” authorities warned. The Sanchi was on its way to South Korea when it collided with the CF Crystal, a Hong Kong-registered bulk freighter that was transporting grain. The Crystal’s 21 Chinese crew members were rescued. A “preliminary assessment” by China’s transport ministry determined that a body found on Monday with a protective garment on it belonged to one of the Sanchi’s crew members.
A former chief of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s joint staff department was referred to military prosecutors on suspicion of bribery yesterday, making him the latest high-ranking target of China’s campaign against corruption in the armed forces. Fang Fenghui’s case has been transferred to the PLA’s prosecution body, Xinhua news agency said. He was suspected of both giving and taking bribes, a common route for corrupted officials to gaining promotion and potentially amassing enormous riches. Fang, 67, dropped out of public view last autumn, leading to speculation he was under investigation. Fang was replaced as chief of the Joint Staff Department of the PLA in August. He was subsequently replaced as a member of the Central Military Commission at the Party’s national congress in October. China’s military has been an important focus of President Xi Jinping’s battle to stamp out corruption.