August 2019

Meeting enhances cultural ties

BRICS countries will enhance cultural ties via new alliances of libraries, museums, art galleries and children’s theaters.

The combined efforts of national-level institutions from China, Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa were announced at the meeting of BRICS ministers of culture in Tianjin on Thursday.

People-to-people connectivity is crucial for the development of the relationships among BRICS countries, and cultural exchanges are an important way to enhance such connections, said Minister of Culture Luo Shugang. More concrete cooperation in cultural fields will better benefit ordinary people in the countries involved.

For example, after the Alliance of Libraries is set up, the five countries will map out a series of substantial cooperative projects concerning book preservation, document sharing and digital libraries.

Luo projected that cultural cooperation within the framework of BRICS will focus on fields including art performances, protection of cultural relics and development of the creative industry.

Mahesh Sharma, Indian minister of culture, said that the promotion of global economic partnerships and international peace and stability are key pillars of BRICS, and intercultural dialogue is the social foundation for cooperation.

More personnel exchange programs and training courses in the field of fine art will be set up, and BRICS art museum forums and fine arts exhibitions will be held every three years.

Vladimir Medinsky, Russian minister of culture, said that cinematic cooperation can play a pivotal role.

We can thus discover more shared values, he said. We also have some different values, but such coproduction can help to enrich each other’s culture.

Delegates from the five countries signed a detailed five-year action plan for the implementation of the Agreement between the Governments of BRICS States on Cooperation in the Field of Culture, which was first agreed upon at a previous meeting in Russia in 2015.

In the area of cultural relic protection, BRICS countries will jointly research the means to protect shared and trans-boundary cultural properties, and the possibilities of nominating these properties to be considered for inclusion in UNESCO’s World Heritage List, according to the action plan.

The parties will sign agreements on the prevention of illicit trafficking of cultural properties and monitoring their import and export, while cooperation among commercial sectors in the cultural industry, including animation, gastronomy and fashion, will be encouraged, it said.

Xie Jinying, director of the Ministry of Culture’s Bureau for External Cultural Relations, said that most previous international cultural cooperation with China was based on bilateral agreements.

However, more multilateral efforts are taking place now, Xie said. If bilateral cooperation is a duet, multilateral cooperation is a chorus.

Unlike other multilateral frameworks, which often involve China and other countries in a particular region, BRICS includes five representative countries from different regions.

It will thus create stronger international ties, he said.

Xie also revealed that the conference in Tianjin marked the start of an annual meeting among BRICS ministers of culture, with the next meeting to be held in South Africa in 2018.

Guardian angel of disabled orphans: An American’s journey in China

Brent Johnson and his wife Serena Johnson in 2016. Photo provided

When Brent Johnson first came to central China’s Shanxi province to learn Chinese history in 1990, he didn’t know it would be the start of a close bond with orphaned and disabled children.

Attracted by Chinese culture, Johnson, then junior at the University of South Carolina (USC), came to Shanxi University on a one-year student exchange program, where he met his future wife, Serena Johnson, an American who shares his affection for China. The couple’s deep concern for poor people made charity organizations their common dating sites.

One year in China greatly impressed Johnson and he never forgot his time there after returning to South Carolina for further study. After receiving his medical degree at the USC, Johnson and his wife moved to China in 1998 to commence their voluntary work with orphans.

Setting their feet on a series of places in northern China ranging from Heilongjiang and Shandong provinces to Hebei province and Beijing, they met and helped numerous sick children. The Johnsons have dedicated themselves to the well-being of children and charity work.

Johnson’s ties with orphans in Shanxi date back to April 2004, when he approached the dean of Taiyuan Social (Children) Welfare Institute, Geng Kaiwen, while attending a children’s foundation meeting in Beijing. He offered to fund treatment for the institute’s disabled children through the China Care Foundation, a charity dedicated to saving the lives of medically fragile orphaned children in China.

Though touched by Johnson’s sincerity and strong will, Geng hesitated because Johnson was a foreigner. But Johnson didn’t give up. He went to Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi province, in person and gave Geng a very thorough and convincing presentation. He also invited Geng to visit the foundation in Beijing.

The sound operation of the China Care Foundation eased Geng’s concern and he was moved by Johnson’s proposal to send sick kids to Beijing for medical treatment and return them to Shanxi after recovery.

“Many children didn’t get timely treatment due to lack of funds and the outdated condition in our institute. Johnson’s particular proposal would address our current problems and help those in need in a broader way,” Geng said.

During one business trip in Taiyuan in 2005, Johnson needed to catch the evening flight back to Beijing and Geng suggested they have dinner together. Considering the tight schedule and budget, he bought Johnson a bowl of rice noodles for 3 yuan (40 cents) on their way to the airport. Touched by Geng’s pragmatic and frugal behavior, Johnson decided to nail down the funding agreement with the Taiyuan institute right away. Neither expected that the final agreement would be sealed thanks to a bowl of rice noodles.

Besides addressing various issues faced by the institute, such as manpower shortage, funding and technology crunch, Johnson also established a Baby Home project in Taiyuan to provide children a cozy environment for post-treatment recovery.

New China-Europe freight train links China’s Jiangxi, Uzbekistan

NANCHANG — A new China-Europe freight train running between eastern China’s Jiangxi province and Uzbekistan has been launched.
The train loaded with steel coils, garments and daily items, valued at $1.8 million, departed from Ganzhou city Friday and is expected to leave China through Horgos in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, arriving in Tashkent 12 days later.

More than 4,000 freight train journeys have been made between Chinese and European and central Asian cities since August 2011, with the opening of the Chongqing-Duisburg Line, according to China Railway Corporation.

The trains currently operate between 28 Chinese cities and 29 cities in 11 European countries.

New homes assist relocated families

Five years ago, Wang Yelian and her husband had no room in their home for their son and his wife, so the newlyweds moved into a cramped rented room in the county seat of Yuexi, Anhui province.

Since then, the opportunity for a family reunion with her son and daughter-in-law has been hard to come by. But it finally became a reality during Spring Festival after Wang’s family moved into a new two-story house, subsidized by the government.

On Feb 13, two days before Chinese New Year’s Eve, Wang’s son and grandson returned to spend the year’s most important holiday.

Red lanterns hung on both sides of the doors, onto which couplets were pasted asking for happiness and good fortune.

On New Year’s Eve, dozens of dishes were laid out, including traditionally cooked chicken, duck and fish, and Wang brimmed with pride for being able to offer a favorite food to her grandson.

“It was a joyous occasion. I didn’t expect my son and his family would come back,” Wang said. “I’m grateful to our local government for helping build a new house and make a family reunion possible.”

Before the relocation, 51-year-old Wang lived with her husband and her youngest son, 12, in a rented house built with dirt and wood in Huangwei township. Their own house, about 10 kilometers away and even shabbier, collapsed after years of neglect.

Wang’s family was one of thousands of poverty-hit families relocated by the local government from impoverished mountainside regions to more inviting ones in rural areas.

Relocation is a key agenda for poverty alleviation. President Xi Jinping said on a number of occasions that the relocation of poverty-stricken families must be conducted in full, with each project carefully carried out to resettle families and lift them from poverty.

In the past two years, the county government moved more than 6,700 people in 2,131 poor families in far-flung places into new homes-1,300 people more than the target set by the Anhui government, according to official figures.

In the new neighborhood Wang and her husband reside in now, there are another 24 relocated families. Each was granted one story for free with 25 square meters of construction land per person.

If a family wants a bigger house, they can build an extra story on their own.

In the mountainous county, it was difficult to find appropriate places to relocate impoverished families.

After months of surveys, the local government decided to move these families to township seats, industrial parks and suburban areas near the county seat, where a large number of houses can be built.

Wang’s neighborhood is near a four-star scenic area, which brings opportunities for making an income to her and her neighbors.

Wang’s neighbor Du Yuxia, 44, said she can work for the scenic area or on a construction site to earn far more than before.

“Previously it was pretty hard for us to find a job, even on a construction site, because it was hard to get around on the roads. Now we can easily get to where we work,” Du said.

Team pulls its paper on gene editing

Chinese biologists to conduct more research at another lab

A biological research team from China said on Thursday it has withdrawn a controversial paper on a new gene-editing technique and will carry out further research at a third-party laboratory.

The team, led by Han Chunyu of Hebei University of Science and Technology, published the paper in May last year in the international science journal Nature Biotechnology.

The paper claimed the technique devised by the team may be more efficient and versatile than the CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technique, which has been used on a wide range of organisms, Xinhua News Agency reported.

After being published, the paper drew a flurry of attention from media and academia, with many questioning whether the experiment could be replicated.

Some researchers in China and other countries have tried to reproduce the original experiment based on its first description, but no one reported a success.

In December, Han’s team and several additional independent groups provided the journal with new data claiming to have reproduced the gene-editing technique, Nature Biotechnology said in an article published on Wednesday.

At the time, the team and new groups were asked to gather additional experimental evidence to bolster their claims.

So far, the independent groups that reported initial successes in reproducing the results have not been able to add to their preliminary data to a publishable level, the journal said.

According to the statement made by Han’s team on the university’s website, the decision to withdraw the paper was made to respect accuracy in scientific research.

Together with other researchers, the team will continue to do related research at a third-party lab, aiming to verify the effectiveness of the gene-editing technique and figure out why their original experiment could not be repeated with the same results.

The university also said it will carry out an evaluation of the paper.

An employee with the publicity department at the university said on Thursday that Han and his team might not want to give more information on the matter right now.

There are two problems to be solved-whether their experiment is reproducible, and if not, why, said Shao Feng, a researcher with the National Institute of Biological Sciences, who was quoted by The-Intellectual, an account on WeChat.

Disney, Netease to create Chinese superhero

SHANGHAI – The Walt Disney Company and China’s Internet company NetEase will work together to create a Chinese comics superhero, the two companies have announced.

Marvel, the comics giant under Disney, will cooperate with NetEase to create the first comics featuring a Chinese superhero.

Meanwhile, Marvel authorized Netease to release 12 legal copies of its comic stories online in China, including Guardians of the Galaxy, The Amazing Spider-Man and Captain America.

So far, movies based on Marvel comics have grossed more than 8 billion yuan ($1.18 billion) at China’s box office.

WTO told of ban on imported waste

China will block range of polluting materials, get tough on smuggling

China’s environmental watchdog confirmed on Thursday that it has notified the World Trade Organization about a ban on the importation of 24 types of solid waste, which will take effect at the end of this year. It also said it will get tough on waste smuggling.

By the end of 2017, China will forbid the importation of certain waste plastics, vanadium slag, unsorted wastepaper and certain textile materials, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said in its WTO filing, which was submitted on Tuesday.

To protect China’s environmental interests and people’s health, we urgently need to adjust the imported solid wastes list, and forbid the import of solid wastes that are highly polluting, it said.

Guo Jing, director of international cooperation at the ministry, said at a news conference on Thursday that the ban is part of a campaign to tackle pollution.

Some solid waste that could be used as raw material was imported to relieve the resource shortage in the country, Guo said. Many problems from the imported waste, however, have been exposed with China’s socioeconomic development. It not only contaminates the environment but also endangers people’s health.

He said China will also get tough on the illegal movement of waste into the country.

Some countries transfer solid waste to other countries by various means, and some even export illegally, he said-though it is against international conventions to export solid waste without the destination country’s approval.

Motivated by profits, some lawbreakers at home and abroad illegally export or smuggle solid waste into China, and some conceal waste among other goods imported into the country. This waste has resulted in many problems. We must crack down on this, Guo said.

He added that China will speed up the recycling of domestic waste because the Chinese public objects to imported waste.

The central government is stepping up the fight against pollution and environmental degradation, as decades of fast growth have saddled the country with air and soil pollution.

In April, a reform plan to improve the management of solid waste imports to protect the environment and public health was adopted by the Central Leading Group for Deepening Overall Reform, a group led by President Xi Jinping.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection launched a monthlong campaign on July 1 targeting pollution caused by the processing of imported waste.

The ministry announced on Thursday that it had inspected 1,162 companies as of Monday, and 751 of them-or 65 percent-were guilty of environmental violations.

It also noted that inspectors had suggested placing all the violations on file for investigation and prosecution.