China: Technology adds eyes and ears to old building preservation



Technology adds eyes and ears to old building preservation

Toward a people-friendly environment

Li Qian / SHINE

Local officials use a drone to check the condition of historical buildings in the Yuhua Xincun neighborhood in Jing’an District.

Li Qian / SHINE

Sensors have been installed on historical buildings to detect any illegal construction activity.

Officials in downtown Jing’an District are tapping into modern technology to save the old.

Jing’ansi, a subdistrict with many historical buildings, has installed sensors on old buildings to hear disruptions and uses surveillance drones as eyes to ensure that heritage is protected.

Stretching over 1.57 square kilometers — from Fumin and Changde roads in the east, Zhenning Road (west), Changle Road (south) and Xinzha Road (north), about 85 percent of the area features more than 370 landmark structures and is part of the city’s protected historic and cultural zone.

It’s not an easy task to preserve historical buildings when they are inhabited by people, according to Hong Xuegang, deputy director of the subdistrict.

“Owners often move out and rent their units,” he said. “When we need to have documents signed related to maintenance or renovation, or to gain access for inspections, we can’t always find the owners easily.”

One concern is illegal construction that damages the original heritage of a building. Officials can’t just barge their way into an apartment if they get a tip about possible violations but have no direct proof.

Now, historic buildings can speak for themselves.

Since last November, the subdistrict has installed nearly 300 sensors on the facades of 37 historic buildings. Each sensor is the size of two matchboxes and is connected to a big data analytics platform.

Alerts are triggered if vibrations in a building are detected.

“Officials will rush to check whether the alarms signal illegal construction or other violations,” said Hong.

So far, community officials have intervened in 23 valid alerts, arriving in time to prevent damage to buildings.

In addition to the sensors, there are two drones that fly over the historic buildings as part of routine patrols. They can capture and record violations.

“We often can’t just step into residents’ gardens or climb up to rooftops,” Hong said. “The drones do surveillance for us and can provide photographic evidence of violations.”

In one recent example, local officials learned of construction going on inside a protected building. When they went to check, the owner said he was just repairing a leaking roof.

Drones were flown overhead to take photos. By comparing the pictures with archived plans of the building, officials were able to ascertain that the owner wasn’t destroying a heritage roof.

Hong admitted that some people fear loss of privacy when drones are used in surveillance.

“Indeed, there are some concerns,” he said. “We don’t fly drones close to people’s windows. We always use drone operators who are trained and licensed.”

Sensors and drones may be high-tech “eyes” on old buildings, but local residents are still the gatekeepers. Neighborhood volunteers patrol around the buildings daily to ensure that violations like illegal construction don’t occur.

“Previously, many residents weren’t aware that they were living in a building of historical importance,” Hong said. “But now they know, and they clearly value their homes even more.”

Shi Xianghong, 61, is one of the more than 10 volunteers who keep an eye on illegal construction. The volunteer team was set up more than a year ago and has proved to be a success.

“I have lived in Yuhua Xincun neighborhood for more than 30 years, and love the historical buildings and the nostalgic ambience here,” she said.

“Some of my neighbors have rented out their units to others who don’t value the historical facades and the old interior decorations. They like modern decoration and replace the old with new.”

“Once we found iron rods in the lane and we reported it to the authorities. On investigation, they found that the tenant was preparing to build an attic without getting approval. We helped to prevent it,” she said.

Jing’an has three protected historical and cultural zones, and 265 immovable cultural heritage objects.

“At present, work to protect these relics isn’t perfected,” said district director Lu Xiaodong. “We have to pay more attention to preventive measures instead of just relying on rescue efforts in the aftermath.”

In March, Shanghai’s first district-level government body on cultural-relic protection was set up. The Jing’an Cultural Relics Protection Management Center is responsible for collecting and storing archives, making identification cards for historic buildings and repairing heritage structures.

This year, 170 historic buildings in Zhangyuan Garden will be given ID cards that provide information on their age, history and condition. Work on Jing’an Villa, Anlefang and Garden Apartment will start in coming months.

The district is also tapping the memories of older residents to record the history of old buildings and neighborhoods.

The Jiangning Road Subdistrict compiled a book based on interviews with local residents. It included 37 paintings of 24 missing or surviving iconic spots.

The Shimen Road No. 2 Sub-district collected family treasures from residents and displayed them in the city’s first museum of lane house heritage.

‘Lies’ Of Western Powers—(So Says China And Syrian Governments)



‘Lies’ of Western powers


SYRIA’S Assistant Foreign Minister Ayman Sussan said Saturday that investigating the chemical weapons allegations in Damascus’ eastern district of Douma will expose the lies of the Western countries.

In an interview with Xinhua, Sussan said it was the Syrian government who invited the inspection experts of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to look into the allegations about the use of chlorine gas in the battles in Douma on April 7 ahead of the withdrawal of the rebels and their families to northern Syria.

“The Syrian government has declared in its invitation letter (to the OPCW), and after the arrival of the (inspection) team, that it will fully cooperate and offer all facilitations for the inspection team to carry out its mission,” he said.

The remarks of Sussan come as the OPCW inspection team arrived in Damascus last Saturday afternoon, just hours after the US, France and Britain launched a series of missiles strikes on Syrian positions in retaliation for an alleged toxic gas attack on the rebels in Douma on April 7.

The Syrian government has condemned the US strikes while denying carrying out such an attack, saying the militants and their foreign allies were making fabrications to justify a strike on Syria. The security team of the UN has entered Douma to assess the situation on the ground as the actual entry of the inspectors hasn’t taken place yet.

In a statement on April 18, the OPCW said the UN security team came “under small arms fire” while conducting a reconnaissance work in Douma and went back to Damascus. The team was spotted entering Douma again on Friday, with no details about the actual visit of the inspectors. In his interview Saturday, the Syrian official said that the decision of visiting Douma by the inspectors is the decision of the OPCW, not the Syrian government, adding that “we respect their justifications.”

“The OPCW team in Damascus has held several meetings with Syrian government, and met with a number of witnesses from inside Douma, including locals, doctors or the medical cadres working in hospitals,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sussan slammed the US and its Western allies for overstepping their boundaries by making their allegations and attacks on Syrian positions ahead of the international investigation into the chemical weapons’ allegations.

“If they are saying that chemical (weapons) were used in Ghouta, and if (US President Donald) Trump or France and Britain really wanted to know the truth, they should have provided appropriate conditions for the OPCW to carry out its mission as it’s the organization involved in this matter, and not to encroach upon the work of the international institutions and launch accusations and verdicts and then implement punishments,” he said.

He stressed that the Western countries will not stop making allegations and claims because they want to thwart the work of any organization.

“The US-led strike aimed to hinder the work of the inspection mission and the West wanted that because the work of the mission will expose their lies,” he said, adding that “the Western powers thought that the strike on Syria would push the Syrian government to react by preventing the mission from entering Douma and that this would indicate that the Syrian government won’t cooperate.”

China’s premier calls for ecological efforts



China’s premier calls for ecological efforts


Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Tuesday called for efforts in greening and prevention and control of forest fires, floods and droughts to ensure socio-economic growth and the building of an “ecological civilization.”

Li made the remarks in a written instruction to a teleconference on national work in land greening and prevention and control of forest fires, floods and drought held in Beijing on Tuesday.

He instructed governments at all levels to carry out solid work in greening as well as disaster prevention and control, which are pivotal for sustainable development and the security of lives and property.

Extensive land greening programs should be carried out to build a green shield, meeting the annual goal of adding 100 million mu (about 6.7 million hectares) of forests, Li said.

Work in forest fire prevention should be done in a scientific way, while strictly following procedures and preventive measures.

He also called for efforts to enhance preparation for flood and drought by improving water infrastructure and disaster prevention and control abilities.

Vice Premier Hu Chunhua said at the meeting that green resources should be increased via multiple channels, including key forestry projects, and called for efforts to improve ecological protection and develop green industries.

Hu also called for intensified safety supervision and monitoring, urging improvements in emergency planning for disaster prevention and control.

China eyes 9 areas to upgrade manufacturing capability



China eyes 9 areas to upgrade manufacturing capability

China will enhance key manufacturing technologies in nine areas as the government aims to drive the country to be a top manufacturer in the world by accelerating technology upgrading.

The National Development and Reform Commission, the country’s top economic planner, has made three-year (2018-20) targets for railway transport, advanced shipping and maritime engineering, intelligent robots, smart cars, modern agricultural machines, advanced medical devices and medicines, new materials, smart manufacturing and key equipment. The targets are aimed at catapulting China into the top league of manufacturing.

China expects to succeed in producing maglev trains that can run at 600 kilometers per hour and automating the operations of railways in the next three years. It also expects to “realize significant achievements in producing large cruise ships” and building a vessel capable of carrying 22,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units), which will be the world’s largest container ship.

China is expected to expand its global market share in advanced agricultural machines.

The NDRC aims to cut domestic medical expenses by introducing at least 10 new medicines to the domestic market and has plans to sell them abroad.

The targets also include intensifying the development of key components for smart manufacturing, such as programmable logic controllers and robots. Development of artificial intelligence and augmented reality will also be vital under the plan.

New materials such as graphene, specialty steel, advanced organic and composite materials are identified to help the development of advanced machines, save energy and cut carbon emissions.

China needs to deepen efforts on technology upgrading to enhance its manufacturing capability, the NDRC said, adding that the country hopes to rapidly integrate Big Data and AI with manufacturing.


China must accelerate implementation of big data strategy: Xi



China must accelerate implementation of big data strategy: Xi


Chinese President Xi Jinping has urged the country to accelerate implementation of big data strategy to better serve social and economic development and improve people’s lives.

Efforts should be made to advance national big data strategy, improve digital infrastructure, promote integration and sharing of digital resources, and safeguard data security, Xi said during a collective study session of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee’s Political Bureau on Friday.

“We should target cutting-edge technology and mobilize prime resources to make breakthroughs in developing core big data technology, and accelerate building an independent and controllable industrial chain, value chain and eco-system of big data,” said Xi, who is also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee.

He called for building high-speed, mobile, ubiquitous and safe information infrastructure, integrating government and social data resources, and improving the collection of fundamental information and important information resources in key areas.

The market should play a key role in the mission, and data must work as a bridge to integrate production, study and research. A group of pioneering companies and a varied and diverse talent workforce should be established, he said.

Xi underscored the importance of building a digital economy with data as a key factor, highlighting the fact that research on and use of big data is indispensable in building a modern economy.

The Internet, big data and Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the real economy should be interconnected. Industrialization and the use of information should be integrated deeper, according to Xi.

Xi also emphasized the necessity of using big data to improve governance. A nationwide information-sharing platform should be set up with the use of e-government and smart city systems.

He also ordered efforts to improve Internet governance and clean up cyberspace.

Xi urged better use of big data in improving people’s wellbeing, calling for the advancement of “Internet plus education,” “Internet plus medical treatment” and “Internet plus culture” to further ensure citizens’ equitable access to public services.

He stressed solving problems, especially prominent problems concerning people’s wellbeing, urging the widespread use of big data in areas such as education, employment, social security, medicine and the healthcare system, housing and transportation.

Big data should also be used extensively in implementing targeted poverty reduction and environmental protection, he added.

Efforts should be made to safeguard the nation’s data security, Xi said, urging strengthened ability to protect the nation’s crucial data resources, speed up relevant legislation, and improve protection of data property rights.

Protection of technical patents, digital copyrights and individual privacy should be enhanced to safeguard people’s interests, social stability and national security, said Xi.

He stressed increasing research on international data governance rules.

He urged leading officials at all levels to intensively study big data and improve their ability to use big data in their work.

Xi-Trump phone talk a good first step in fostering China-US dialogue


Xi-Trump phone talk a good first step in fostering China-US dialogue

THE phone talk held by Chinese President Xi Jinping with his US counterpart Donald Trump is a good first step in fostering the China-US dialogue and provides a platform for further cooperation, US experts said Friday.

“The phone call was a good first step…for fostering dialogue between Presidents Trump and Xi,” Dan Mahaffee, an analyst at the Center for the Study of Congress and the Presidency, told Xinhua in an interview.

Trump and Xi held a lengthy and “extremely cordial” phone conversation Thursday night on numerous topics, during which they agreed that the two sides will engage in discussions on various issues of mutual interest.

“The fact that it was cordial, and the discussion’ s tenor reflects that both leaders understand that while differences remain, they need to be addressed through dialogue and diplomacy,” Mahaffee said.

Douglas Paal, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International peace, told Xinhua that the call “was very important to provide a foundation of stability in the US-China relations as well as a platform for further wide-ranging cooperation and the management of emerging tensions.”

The call was the first between the leaders of the top two economies in the world since Trump’s inauguration in late January. Before Thursday, Trump had already talked on the phone with about 20 foreign leaders except Xi, fueling concerns that the absence of contact between the two leaders could lead to renewed tensions in the China-US ties.

The Xi-Trump phone conversation was important to break the ice in the China-US ties, Darrell West, vice president and director of Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, told Xinhua in an interview.

“The call helped to open the door on high-level consultation, which is good for both countries,” West said.

“It is important that China and the US remain in close contact. They are the two leading nations in the world and it is crucial that there are open communications so there are no misunderstandings or (something) that could spiral out of control,” he added.

The experts agreed that Trump’s affirmation of the one-China policy, the bedrock of the China-US ties, paved the way for the phone call, which probably came after Trump and advisers concluded that the costs of not doing so could bring greater costs than benefits.

Trump had previously aggravated China by taking a call from Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen after winning the US presidency last November and telling the US media in December that the one-China policy was open for negotiation.

“The fact that Trump now embraces the one-China policy will allow the relationship to unfold more naturally,” West said, citing that resolving the issue was a prerequisite for addressing every other issue.

If Trump continues to question the one China policy, there would be no basis for President Xi to interact with him, said Paal, a former director of the American Institute in Taiwan.

Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Xinhua that Trump probably was convinced by his top aides that it was necessary to make the one-China statement “in order to move forward with the US-China relationship in other areas.”

“The costs of not adhering to the one China policy were very high,” Glaser said, though adding that this should not be seen as Trump making a concession.

Media reports revealed that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had said in written answers to questions after his Senate nomination hearing that the US should adhere to the one-China policy.

As China and the US start negotiations to address their frictions and advance cooperation on various issues of mutual interest, there is a broad range of issues that demand early attention, the experts said.

They include the nuclear program of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, US trade deficit with China, mutual investments and boosting American exports, Paal said.

Mahaffee said at the top of the agenda of the China-US talks should be the issues of maritime disputes in the South and East China Seas, cyber security, as well as trade, investment and currency.

“I think there can be discussions aimed at avoiding miscalculation between the nations in the sea, air, space and cyber domains, and I also think that agreements on trade and investment could be reached that would make it easier for companies from either country to invest in the other,” he said.

Indonesia’s Mount Sinabung Volcano Blows It Top

(This article is courtesy of the Shanghai Daily News Paper)


Mount Sinabung erupts


Shanghai China’s HD Surveillance Cameras Catching Drivers On Their Phones

(This article is courtesy of the Shanghai Daily News Paper)


HD surveillance cameras ready citywide to catch drivers using phones illegally

TRAFFIC surveillance cameras are being used citywide to catch drivers using mobile phones while driving from today, and violators will face a fine of 200 yuan (US$30.3) and two license demerits, Shanghai traffic police announced today.

About 70 high-definition surveillance cameras used to catch such offence are located at some expressways, Chenhai Highway and Huqingping Highway in the city, and the scope of application will be expanded gradually, according to police.

“In the past, the violation was mainly caught at the scene by traffic officers, and the use of surveillance cameras will significantly improve efficiency,” said Xia Liang, a police officer.

“Other offences which threaten driving safety such as WeChat use, eating and failure of fastening seatbelts will be covered by the traffic surveillance cameras gradually in the future,” he said.

Dialing and answering phones with Bluetooth devices will not be punished, according to regulations.