2021-05 22
View 342
A lifelong dedication to keep people fed: The life of Yuan Longping



Yuan died of organ failure in Xiangya Hospital of Central South University in the early afternoon, according to local newspaper Hunan Daily. Earlier this year, he was still conducting scientific research at the Sanya Hybrid Rice Research Base in China's southernmost province of Hainan. His health suffered after he fell down at the base on March 10. His dedication to rice production increase to feed the people dates back to the mid-20th century when China was going through a tough time. "My life goal is to help all people stay away from hunger." As a young teacher in Hunan's countryside, Yuan witnessed the devastation brought by a nationwide famine, with massive crop failures, which lasted from 1959 to 1961. On a day in 1960, Yuan went outside of the school and came across two scrawny corpses lying on the side of the street. The frames were so thin that they looked like skin being wrapped on skeletons. The scene deeply stirred Yuan, who felt that he must do something. "Something as small as a grain can save a country, while it can also make a country fall," he said during a television interview with CCTV.  He turned away from wheat and sweet potato breeding to rice because the climate in Hunan was not friendly to growing wheat and sweet potato was no more than a coarse food. For people living in south China, rice was the primary grain. Back then, rice was thought to be self-pollinating, which was an unarguable scientific theory. After a flurry of failed experiments to prove this theory, Yuan decided to challenge the "truth" and hence immersed himself in rice hybridization experiments, despite many calling him a "chairwarmer." He spent the next four years looking for a wild male-sterile rice variety till the summer of 1964 when he discovered such a plant. His experiments afterward showed that male-sterile natural species could be crossed with other plants. In 1973, he cultivated the world's first high-yielding hybrid rice strain, which could reach a yield of over 500 kg per mu (0.067 hectares) from previous 300 kg. Such rice varieties not only give higher yield but also reduce the plant area needed without sacrificing the quality of the rice. As a result, China's total rice output increased from 5.69 billion tons in 1950 to 19.47 billion tons in 2000. Nowadays, the hybrid rice is grown in almost half of China's rice paddies and its yield makes up for 60 percent of the country's total rice production. The hybrid rice yields 20 percent more than the common breeds, the annual increase of which feeds up to 100 million people. In 1994, Lester Russel Brown of the World Watch Institute published an article titled "Who will feed China" and came up with a book of the same name the next year, warning that the huge Chinese population would starve the world. In response, Yuan said, "Mr. Brown underestimated the potential of science and technology in field yield increase." Two years later, Yuan started developing super hybrid rice breeding. "If we can raise the utility rate of luminous energy by 2.5 percent, then we'll have a yield of 1500 kg per mu." He was confident and undaunted. And his effort paid off as the goal was achieved last year. According to China's second white paper on food security in 2019, China has basically achieved self-sufficiency in grain supply. In terms of rice, there's a surplus in production, the paper said. Yuan's biggest dream in life was to develop more hybrid rice varieties and use it to address famine that keeps happening in many parts of the world. Over the past 40 years, Yuan and his team continuously held seminars and courses which taught his methodologies to some 14,000 students from nearly 80 countries. The agronomist, when in his old age, still traveled to as far as Africa to help solve technical failures and boost harvests. So far, the hybrid varieties he developed have been grown extensively in over 40 countries, including the U.S., Brazil, India, Vietnam, the Philippines, Madagascar among others. In the meantime, he was also engaged in cultivating salt-alkali tolerant rice, bringing rice grown in diluted seawater to people's table. In 2019, Yuan, academician with both the Chinese Academy of Engineering and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, was awarded with Medal of the Republic, China's highest honor, for his groundbreaking research. A man of character Despite his success, which brought him unparalleled recognition and attention, Yuan kept a low profile for most of his life and kept the values of humility close to his heart. Yuan's colleagues at the agricultural bureau under Hunan's provincial government remember him as a man who wore casual clothing - too unembellished for his status as a national hero. Even his most expensive suit never exceeded 800 yuan, or roughly $125. When it comes to wealth, Yuan was even less sophisticated. He never took making money seriously, despite encountering countless opportunities to do so. "I don't like being a politician, and I'm not a businessman," he once said. The pioneering scientist would donate most of the proceeds from international rewards he received and research centers he set up to the fund established in his name which encourage innovation in agricultural technologies. Yuan's scientific achievements is increasingly highlighted in the world today, where nearly one out of eight people live in the fear of going hungry. Global food prices are at their highest since 2014, triggering warning from the United Nations about the threat posed by food insecurity. As events such as global warming and the COVID-19 pandemic continue to cause food prices to skyrocket, hybrid rice varieties will continue to be a key food source that keeps the world food insecurity crisis from worsening. Some anecdotes Yuan was born to a family of intellectuals in Beijing, called Peking at the time, which moved then from Tianjin to southwestern Chongqing and then to central Hubei during the chaotic years of WWII. Fluent in English, his mother often read Friedrich Nietzsche's works. He liked English, geography and chemistry while didn't like mathematics at school. While studying genetic breeding at Southwest Agricultural College, now part of Southwest University, in the early 1950s, Yuan was lax in discipline. He often slept late and left his bedding in a messy pile. His hobbies included volleyball and swimming.  When he became a teacher at Anjiang Agricultural College in Hunan upon graduation, Yuan played the violin he bought with his first-month salary to kill time. Yuan liked shopping for bargains. One day, he and his wife Deng Zhe found a shirt that sold for 10 yuan while shopping, so he bought 10 of them, saying this way he'd be able to wear shirts in farmland without worrying about getting one dirty. Yuan loved his wife deeply. Back when Yuan's family used charcoal to heat water for bathing, he would call his wife's name every two minutes for fear that she would succumb to carbon monoxide poisoning. When his wife finally learned to drive late in life, he wouldn't let her for fear that she would hurt herself. Yuan loved to help others. He instructed many PhD students. One student was quite poor, and there was this time when he called Yuan to ask for a bit of money to treat his sick father. Yuan gave the student 2,000 yuan, half of his salary. Source:CGTN Author:CGTN Date:May 22, 2021

2021-05 08
View 310
Ten years after Fukushima: Future of nuclear power in China



Humanity's fight against climate change requires a decisive rejection of energy produced from coal and hydrocarbons. However, today fossil raw materials still account for 84 percent of the world's energy production. China produces approximately 85 percent of its energy from fossil fuels. The peculiarity of China is that the use of hydropower as an alternative low-carbon source of energy often becomes both economically and environmentally disadvantageous. Most of the new dams are to be built in the ecologically sensitive southwestern regions.  For the population living there, the construction is becoming a big problem. Construction of dams may result in flooding of fertile land and increase the risk of flooding. As many river ecosystems have been damaged, environmentalists have called for a ban on major hydropower projects. The country is now turning to large-scale use of renewable energy sources. Considerable investments are going into constructing solar and wind power generators, but their use is also limited. Such generators have low power, depending on weather conditions, and occupy valuable land. When deployed in the western desert regions and transmitting solar and wind power over long distances, significant losses are incurred.  Experts argue that solar and wind power can only play an auxiliary role and be used to supply urban and rural enterprises and households but will not be able to provide enough power to newly developed industrial areas. The further development of nuclear power has become economically justified. As noted in a previous piece on the future of nuclear power, meeting the rapidly growing demand for low-carbon energy will require the rapid development of nuclear power, which should provide up to 25 percent of electricity by 2050. It means that over the next 30 years, global nuclear energy production will need to triple. Instead of declining, nuclear power production will skyrocket, and the Fukushima effect will steadily disappear. This piece focuses on the future development of nuclear power in China. As of the end of 2020, the top three nuclear-generating countries based on installed capacity were the U.S., which produced 98.2 GW (which was 20 percent of the country's total capacity), France, 63.1 GW (70 percent of the total capacity), and China – 47.5 GW (5 percent of the total capacity).  These numbers clearly show that to approach or exceed the global average nuclear power generation rate of 25 percent by 2050, China must accelerate its production of this type of low-carbon energy. What is the situation today, and what are the plans for the future? In the previous five years, i.e., between 2016 and 2020, a total of 20 new commercial nuclear power units were commissioned with an additional installed capacity of 23.45 GW. These figures show that the volume of commissioned capacities has doubled in just five years. And it's reported that 17 nuclear power units with a total capacity of 18.53 million kilowatts are currently under construction. According to GlobalData Plc, China will quickly rise in the rankings of the world's leading nuclear energy producers, overtaking France as the world's second nuclear power producer by 2022 and ranked first in the world by 2026. The country must have its most modern nuclear reactors to implement such ambitious plans. In 2015, China began constructing a new block of the Fuqing nuclear power plant for the first time, based on its technologies. The historic power-up of China's first Hualong One Reactor, the result of 30 years of research and development, took place in November 2020.  Commissioned by the National Energy Administration (NEA), these reactors were jointly designed by two nuclear companies – China General Nuclear Power Group and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC). They solved the problem of combining two reactor designs: ACP1000 and ACPR1000, based initially on the French M310 reactor. Thus, at the end of last year, China became the fourth country to develop its technology of third-generation nuclear reactors after the U.S., France, and Russia. This remarkable achievement means that China has broken the foreign monopoly on nuclear technology and has become one of the leading countries in this area. Each Hualong One power unit's installed capacity is about 1.2 GW, and the reactor can generate annually about 10 billion kWh of electricity per year.  One Hualong One power unit will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 8.16 million tons and reduce carbon consumption by 3.12 million tons annually. "China is capable of mass production of its third-generation Hualong One reactor, which can be seen as China's newest business model," said CNNC chairman Wang Shoudun. Work in this direction is one of the 16 key national scientific and technical projects. In the next 30 years, the total generated power of Chinese nuclear reactors must grow more than sevenfold. The world has never seen projects of this magnitude. It will take significant efforts from the state, scientists, engineers, and technologists to achieve such an ambitious goal. But without work on such an unprecedented scale, the global challenge of tackling climate change will not be possible. Source:CGTN Author:CGTN Date:May 8, 2021

2021-04 29
View 364
China-EU Relations: Wuttke: Hainan Province poised to be China's future healthcare services center



European investors and businesses are welcomed by China's domestic market. That's the sentiment from Joerg Wuttke, President of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China. CGTN's Omar Khan sat down with him earlier, discussing Beijing and Brussels' ongoing trade deal, environmental protection, and the impact of the current political climate.  JOERG WUTTKE President, EU Chamber of Commerce in China "The base load is positive, of course now the political trappings look pretty much ugly. Again, we tried to have this investment agreement despite American opposition, which we did, and I think it was a major achievement by our leaders, particularly Merkel and President Xi Jinping. So at this stage we are pretty much stuck on the political side. But on the economic side, China has made it very credibly clear to us that actually they want us here more than ever. So again, the base sound is good, it's not that the political negativity translates into problems in the economy." OMAR KHAN CGTN Reporter "So you look at those Q1 figures, over 18 percent year on year growth, obviously coming off a lower base because of the epidemic last year. For European businesses across China, not just in south China, what is sort of the future going forward? Is there still a sense that this is still the destination for investment, for manufacturing? Are you still seeing more companies coming here, how promising is that for European businesses?" JOERG WUTTKE President, EU Chamber of Commerce in China "The comeback story of China particularly in May and June last year, was just unbelievable. Many of us had double digit growth in volume as well as in value, and I think without the dividends remitted back home, many of the headquarters would be taking on water. China is in a comeback path, they have a quarter of the U.S. GDP per capita, so there's absolutely no reason to believe that China will not grow over the next years of 4 to 5 percent, in order to narrow that gap. I have great faith in that. Our calculations, China stands for 30 percent of global growth in the next 10 years." OMAR KHAN CGTN Reporter "Sustainable development, green tech – is one of the most promising areas of cooperation and development. Where can both sides benefit moving forward?" JOERG WUTTKE President, EU Chamber of Commerce in China "Well, China can definitely benefit from our technological advantages, because we started decades ago with tackling this, and developed technology. And we can definitely benefit from China catching up, we benefit from the Chinese demand story. Just imagine if Xi Jinping's pledge of carbon neutral China 2060 is incorporated, China has to shutdown 660 gigawatts of coal fire powered stations, 660 gigawatts is the entire power fleet of the European Union. So what China pledges is, we shut down the whole of Europe, and do it in renewable within 40 years. Of course there are lots of business opportunities and technology challenges to get there. So we definitely are going to benefit from the demand story, and China can benefit from our advantages developed over the last decades." OMAR KHAN CGTN Reporter "Hainan Province is meant to be the future. It's a free trade port as a whole, it has plans for 2035 and beyond, just had the Boao Forum for Asia conclude there, so many preferential policies to attract investment and trade. What does that mean for your members and European entrepreneurs?" JOERG WUTTKE President, EU Chamber of Commerce in China "I think the real story about Hainan is the healthcare equipment and healthcare services sector. Where our companies feel, that China will basically have less people traveling abroad for medical attention, dentists and so forth, and it will do it more in China and Hainan is the proper place to be. So I guess, that for us it's a major business opportunity in the part of China that's going to be the healthcare center in many ways." Source:CGTN Author:CGTN Date:April 29, 2021

2021-04 27
View 304
Addressing Climate Change: China takes further steps toward curbing carbon emissions



China's environment ministry says it's taking further steps and encouraging relevant industries to do the same to curb carbon emissions. CGTN's Huang Yue has more.  China's Ministry of Ecology and Environment says, in order to realize the nation's goal of achieving peak carbon emissions before 2030, it has been working with relevant industries-electricity, steel, and petrochemistry to name a few, to map out a practical path. LI GAO Director General, Department of Climate Change Ministry of Ecology and Environment "We are promoting the establishment of a national carbon emissions trading system. We've started with the electricity-generation industry, and plan to include other high-emission industries next. Building this system is an important way to curb carbon emissions." Li says before carbon emissions do finally peak, controlling carbon intensity – the amount of carbon dioxide emissions the country produces per unit of GDP – is a key starting point. LI GAO Director General, Department of Climate Change Ministry of Ecology and Environment "Starting from carbon intensity is in line with China's real situation. Many countries around the world have also put intensity targets first and foremost. In fact, China's greenhouse gas emissions are still growing. Controlling carbon intensity can better balance emissions reduction with economic development." China's carbon intensity had decreased by 48.4 percent by the end of 2020 compared with 2005. The country is now working on formulating an action plan for peaking carbon dioxide emissions before 2030. Li says in addition to upgrading traditional industries, and tapping into renewable energies, China is also pushing forward legislation on climate change. HUANG YUE Beijing "China has committed to moving from carbon peak to carbon neutrality from 2030 to 2060. 30 years - a much shorter time span than many developed countries might take. The official said cooperation across a broad range of areas is significant for China to fulfill the commitment. Source:CGTN Author:Huang Yue Date:April 27, 2021

2021-04 23
View 295
World leaders pledge to tackle climate change at summit



Leaders from dozens of countries and organizations attending the Leaders Summit on Climate via video conference pledged action and called for unity to tackle the climate crisis on Thursday. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressed at the summit the significance of climate change, calling for the international communities to translate the promises to concrete, immediate actions. He called on all the countries to build a global coalition for carbon neutrality, making a more ambitious plan to make a great shift in the following ten years, aligned with a 2050 net-zero pathway. "We need a green planet while the world is on red alert," he said, "We must make sure the next step in the right direction.  "So far, only 18 to 24 percent of pandemic recovery spending is expected to contribute to mitigating emissions, reducing air pollution, or strengthening natural capital."  Guterres said the trillions of dollars needed for COVID-19 recovery "is money we are borrowing from future generations." he said. "We cannot use these resources to lock in policies that burden them with a mountain of debt on a broken planet." The UN chief said the leaders of all countries need to work together to "overcome climate change, end our war on nature and build lives of dignity and prosperity for all." During the conference, dozens of country leaders shared their pledge to contribute to the fight against climate change. Chinese President Xi Jinping reaffirmed China's climate commitments to strictly limit its coal consumption and strive to peak carbon emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. U.S. President Joe Biden promised that America would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions "by half" from 2005 levels in this decade. "We have to take actions, all of us," he said. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised his nation's target for greenhouse gas reductions to 40 to 45 percent by 2030. U.K Prime Ministry Boris Johnson agreed that Xi's notion of "harmony" is vital, saying "If we are going to tackle the climate change sustainably, we have to deal with the disaster of habitat loss and species loss across the planet." Johnson said to achieve the goal, people need to be "constantly original and optimistic about new technologies and new solutions."  Source:CGTN Author:CGTN Date:April 23, 2021