Zhangjiajie’s Terrifying New Glass Bridge Thrills Visitors

Hovering seemingly in mid-air, a remarkably exposed glass walkway now allows adventurers to challenge their fear of heights in one of China’s national parks.

The aptly named Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Skywalk extends 450 meters across a vertigo-inducing canyon, transporting daredevils 300 meters above the ground. Since opening in July 2023, the transparent footbridge has attracted throngs of tourists and photography enthusiasts.

An Unnerving Stroll Among the Clouds

For acrophobes, the bridge elicits panic from the very first steps. Gripping the glass side rails, many inch tentatively along the walkway, avoiding downward glances that reveal the stomach-churning drop below.

Others lay down spread eagle, dangling over the precipice for snapshots certain to thrill social media followers. Handstands, cartwheels, and high-kicks without a safety harness capture the boundless escapades the bridge enables.

The scariest part? Only five centimeters of crystal-clear glass separate visitors’ feet from the yawning canyon, though engineers assure the sturdy panes can each withstand 40 tons of weight.

Surmounting Fear for the Views

The Skywalk specifically entices the most daring sightseers. Yet even individuals with pronounced vertigo steel their nerves to overcome acrophobia, if only for a few memorable minutes.

“It flips my stomach upside down,” one anxious man remarks, before steadying himself and marching forth. The transparent passages hover above spires of weathered limestone, like walking trails embedded in the sky.

For endless photo opportunities without risking a deadly fall, the bridge requires safety harnesses. Visitors seeking an even bigger adrenaline rush can further challenge their limits on adjacent cliffside paths.

Zhangjiajie’s Breathtaking Landscapes

The glass bridge supplements Zhangjiajie National Forest Park’s portfolio of awe-inspiring attractions like:

  • The mountainous pillar run made famous by the Avatar films
  • Tianzi Mountain’s towering sandstone peaks reaching 1,200 meters
  • Golden Whip Creek’s pristine 11-kilometer watersource trail
  • Yuanjiajie’s rocky lookouts and hiking routes through subtropical forest

Experience the Vertigo

As long as acrophobia doesn’t immobilize you completely, anyone up for confronting their fear of heights should visit the remarkable Zhangjiajie Glass Bridge. Just expect some jelly legs, clammy palms, and a racing heart atop the transparent deathtrap in the clouds!

China’s Young Urbanites Flee Cities for Rural Living

Escape. Tranquility. Clean air. These desires drive a growing exodus amongst China’s youth, abandoning crowded metropoles for serene country living.

Urban Fatigue Sets In

After decades of rapid urbanization, China’s major cities are bursting at the seams. Layers of concrete and steel crowd the skies. Gridlocked traffic and air pollution choke the streets. Workweeks stretch brutally long.

Stress, noise and contamination overwhelm citizens, especially younger generations. Seeking reprieve, more urban dwellers like 30-something banker Lao Hu opt to construct modern, minimalist homes deep in the countryside.

Spacious living areas, floor-to-ceiling windows, wraparound decks – rural properties allow breathing room and closeness to nature impossible in urban environments.

New Countryside, New Lifestyle

Over 80% of new single-family homes now build in rural areas to meet demand. “Young people today desire meaningfully different lives from past generations,” explains architect Xiong Yongkang.

His firm fields dozens of commissions annually from urban escapees. “They want the tranquility of the countryside with all the conveniences of modern city living.”

Eco-friendly construction, smart home technology, and modish interior design attract cosmopolitan aesthetics to unlikely settings. Solar power and geothermal heat enable low-environmental impact.

Youths disillusioned with cities require “an oasis where nature surrounds the home,” Xiong states. [H2] Why Countryside Over City?

Multiple motivations propel China’s rural shift:

  • Pollution: Smog, traffic, noise, and construction make cities inhospitable. Rural areas offer clean air and serenity.
  • Stress: Hectic commutes, long work hours, and congestion tax mental health. The countryside promises relaxation.
  • Affordability: Despite higher property costs, rural homes remain cheaper than urban equivalents. Mortgages are accessible for middle-class citizens.
  • Technology: Remote work enables location flexibility. High-speed broadband reaches farther, facilitating the move.
  • Wellness: Nature contact and organic food appeal after city living. Rural settings promise healthier lifestyles.

The Allure Endures

Despite challenges like social isolation or limited amenities, China’s rural resettlement trend persists. The desire for tranquility continues driving urban youths countryside-bound.

Homebuilders oblige demand for modern, eco-friendly rural living. “Urban refugees” may someday outnumber city dwellers as populations decentralize.

For now, China’s concrete jungles witness the continuing exodus chasing cleaner air, open skies and the elusive pastoral idyll.

China’s Baidu Launches AI Chatbot, Avoids Sensitive Topics

China’s leading internet company, Baidu, has unveiled its latest artificial intelligence (AI) creation – a conversational chatbot named Ernie Bot.

The bot, released on August 31st, 2023, represents China’s answer to popular Western chatbots like ChatGPT.

However, unlike its foreign counterparts, Ernie Bot comes with some unique limitations imposed by the Chinese government.

The Rise of Conversational AI in China

Ernie Bot’s launch signals a new phase in China’s ambition to lead the world in AI by 2030. The natural language model can converse primarily in Mandarin, but also understands English questions.

Baidu stated that Ernie Bot is now “fully available to the wider public,” following approval from Chinese authorities. Several other Chinese tech giants like Sensetime and Zhipu AI have also launched chatbots after government vetting.

Strict Censorship Around Sensitive Topics

While Ernie Bot can handle casual chit-chat, its responses are carefully filtered around topics deemed inappropriate by the Chinese Communist Party.

During tests, the bot avoided engaging in substantive discussion when asked about:

  • The 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests and massacre
  • Taiwan’s status and autonomy
  • The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama

Instead, Ernie Bot redirects users away from prohibited subjects. When pressed on Taiwan’s sovereignty, it repeats the party stance that Taiwan is an inseparable part of China.

This censorship aligns with China’s strict internet regulations and online speech control. The government maintains authority over technology companies to censor content and surveil users.

AI Ambitions Meet Reality

Ernie Bot represents both the potential and limitations of AI in China. While Baidu and its peers possess formidable technological capabilities, the government curtails unfiltered conversation.

For Chinese tech firms, the pragmatism is simple – obey censorship directives or risk being shut down. However, experts question whether restrictive chatbots can rival uncensored Western versions that allow greater nuance and depth.

Nonetheless, China remains laser-focused on leading the AI race. Chatbots like Ernie Bot are one pillar of its national strategy, even if conditioned conversation and total openness remain mutually exclusive for now.

The Future of AI Chatbots

  • China will likely make conversational AI like Ernie Bot ubiquitous through integration with popular apps and widespread adoption.
  • Chinese tech companies will continue releasing new chatbots, competing for market share locally while aiming to expand globally.
  • Government oversight and censorship of chatbots will persist, limiting the scope of their autonomous learning and conversational abilities.
  • There are concerns that chatbots like Ernie Bot normalize government censorship and surveillance for Chinese citizens.
  • With China’s headstart in many AI spheres, it may set the standard for chatbots and other AI – for better or worse. This could see restrictive practices adopted in other countries.

The launch of Ernie Bot and China’s proliferation of conversational AI merits continued observation. Its future development and adoption will have far-reaching impacts on technology, censorship, and the AI landscape worldwide.

Environment: China launches its carbon market

Aware of the environmental and societal risks posed by global warming, the Asian country, the largest investor in new energies, intends to be one of the world leaders on the climate issue.

China, which is committed to peaking its carbon emissions (by 2030) and then becoming “carbon neutral” (by 2060), is expected to be a major player at the UN climate summit in Glasgow in November (COP26).

In concrete terms, the new Chinese carbon market launched on Friday will force thousands of companies in the country to reduce their polluting emissions, or risk suffering economic losses. But how does this system work?

Ambitions lowered

For the first time, it sets pollution caps for companies. If they are unable to meet these quotas, they must buy “rights to pollute” from other companies with a smaller carbon footprint.

Questions remain, however, about the scale (smaller than the original plan) and effectiveness of the system (with a low price assigned to pollution).

China has been talking about the idea of a carbon market for a decade. But progress has been steadily hampered by the coal industry and by government policies that favor rapid growth at the expense of the environment.

The system will initially cover 2,162 Chinese power producers, Huang Runqiu, China’s environment minister, announced Friday.

Coal factory in China

Rising power

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), these companies generate about one-seventh of the world’s carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels.

The American bank Citigroup estimates that 800 million dollars worth of “pollution permits” will be bought this year in China, and 25 billion by 2030.

The Chinese carbon market is then expected to be about one-third the size of the European Union (EU) carbon market – currently the largest.

According to the New China News Agency, however, China’s new emissions trading scheme is already “the largest in the world” in terms of the amount of emissions covered.

Originally, however, Beijing’s scheme was intended to be much broader in scope, covering seven sectors, including aviation and petrochemicals.

Ten times cheaper than in Europe

But the government has “scaled back its ambitions”, as economic growth is seen as a priority in the context of the post-Covid recovery, notes Lauri Myllyvirta, an analyst at the Clean Air and Energy Research Centre (CREA).

Another concern for environmentalists is the low price of pollution. The first trade on Friday morning was 52.7 yuan ($8) per ton of carbon.

And the average price is only expected to be around $4.60 this year in China, well below the $49.40 in the EU, according to a recent note from Chinese bank Citic Securities.

According to the British organization TransitionZero, the distribution of free pollution permits and the imposition of modest fines for non-compliance will keep prices low.

In short, while China’s environmental policy now appears to be aligned with its climate goals, “there is still a long way to go,” says Zhang Jianyu of the U.S.-based environmental group Environmental Defense Fund.

But Beijing has stressed that the carbon market is still in its infancy.

The risk of job losses

The program will be extended to cement producers and aluminum manufacturers as early as next year, said Zhang Xiliang, designer of the new system.

“The goal is to cover up to 10,000 emitting companies, responsible for about 5 billion tons of additional carbon emissions per year,” he said.

Other factors that could slow progress include a lack of technical know-how and pressure from powerful coal and steel lobbies.

Provinces that rely on coal and high-carbon industries for growth have been dragging their feet, notes Huw Slater of the China Carbon Forum (CCF).

“(Local) policymakers fear that if they cut pollution too quickly, it could lead to job losses and therefore social instability,” according to Slater.

China’s remarkable breakthrough in future technologies

Gone are the days when China was content to manufacture low-end products: it now threatens the world’s tech giants.

Hate waiting in line at the supermarket? Be patient! One day, you’ll just have to nod your head as you walk past a payment terminal with your shopping cart and that’ll be it. After scanning your face and verifying that it matches the photo on your ID card, the device will automatically debit your account. This service is not yet available in France, but it is already being tested in a handful of hypermarkets. In Japan? In South Korea? In Silicon Valley? No, in Mao’s country! Researchers from the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba have designed it. Everything is not yet perfected: for the moment, a double verification (you have to enter your phone number to confirm your identity) is required by the state, which slows down the process. But customers are reportedly very appreciative of this new service.

If you stopped at the episode where the Middle Kingdom was a simple screwdriver nation flooding the planet with plastic gadgets and endlessly duplicating inventions from Western research labs, you are going to be surprised. Because Alibaba is far from the only Chinese firm to make sparks fly with its scientists. Thousands of other local companies have embarked on a mad dash for technology. And, as always in this unusual country, they are thinking big. Drones, computers, electric vehicles, robots, smartphone apps, airplanes, satellites… their design offices are ploughing all kinds of terrain. For those who think it would take more to shake our Airbus and Boeing totems: in a few years, China will be able to market its first airplane.

AI robot made in China

800% increase in R&D spending

One figure is enough to measure the revolution underway in the land of chopsticks: in ten years, R&D spending has increased by 900% and is expected to reach $400 billion by 2022. The world’s major scientific journals are now filled with studies written by Chinese researchers, and the list of inventions and scientific advances made in China is growing. According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), China now ranks second in the world for the number of patents filed, just behind the United States, but ahead of Japan. If Xi Jinping’s country continues at this pace, it should take the gold medal from the United States within three years. Before we were looking at Silicon Valley, now we are looking at China: it has gone from being a follower to a leader.

The Chinese are, for example, particularly well placed in the race for artificial intelligence (i.e. all the techniques that allow machines to imitate the cognitive processes of human beings), which, after the steam engine, electricity or computers, will most certainly be the engine of the next industrial revolution. And for good reason! The government has put 13 billion euros on the table since 2017 to boost this sector and has drawn a plan inspired by the American one last year. The result: half of the world’s investments in this technology have been made between Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou! “This summer, at the World AI Conference in Melbourne, a third of the papers were made by Chinese laboratories.” The country even has its own “Silicon Valley” in Zhongguancun, a district of Beijing.

The state has launched the “Made in China 2025” plan.

But how on earth did the world’s most populous nation transform itself so quickly into a tech giant? For one thing, the state is taking an incredibly proactive approach there. “The government clearly wants to take the lead in all these new sectors.” Competing with even more low-cost countries in its position as the world’s factory, the Asian giant has chosen to follow the example of its Japanese and Korean neighbors, who have long since converted to sophisticated industry. The state has a very strong hold on the economic sphere. Once the decision has been made, all it has to do is launch a new five-year plan to completely reorient its economy.

After having put a lot of emphasis on research activities, developed the training of its engineers on a large scale, encouraged the brains that had left abroad to come back to the country and showered companies with money to buy technological nuggets, the authorities accelerated the pace in 2015 with the launch of the “Made in China 2025” plan. The aim: to hasten the automation of factories and develop strategic sectors to wean itself off dependence on foreign technologies.

China tech industry

E-commerce, smartphones… powerful Chinese companies

The second reason for China’s fantastic breakthrough is that the country has an extremely powerful and dynamic industrial fabric with considerable financial capacity. Starting with its web giants, the BATX (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, Xiaomi), the Chinese equivalent of Gafam (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft). Unlike those of the European Union, Chinese leaders have chosen to block some of the American platforms at the border, which has allowed the emergence of local companies, able to invest a lot of money in the technologies of the future thanks to their mountain of cash. Like their American counterparts, these companies are on the lookout in all areas. Alibaba, the Chinese Amazon, is an example: the group’s main activity is still e-commerce, but the company has expanded its field of activity to include payment, “new retail”, logistics, cloud, smart cities and autonomous vehicles.

The Huawei conglomerate is also a perfect example of the incredible dynamism of Chinese companies. Along with ZTE (China), Intel (USA) and Mitsubishi (Japan), it is one of the four companies that filed the most patents last year. Not content with having established itself as the third largest cell phone vendor, this telecoms champion has launched a race for innovation against Samsung and Apple. And not just to make up the numbers! At the time of writing, the young dragon seemed to be on the verge of beating the Korean behemoth by being the first to release foldable smartphones. With the casualness of challengers, the group had the luxury of announcing that it would create the first intelligent assistant capable of empathy.

Chinese people are fond of high-tech

Alongside these giants, the Middle Kingdom is teeming with start-ups, accounting for nearly a third of the world’s unicorns (young companies valued at more than $1 billion). One of them, SenseTime, specialized in artificial intelligence for facial recognition, has just raised nearly 600 million dollars! The growth of these technological nuggets is extremely rapid: according to a report by the Boston Consulting Group, Chinese start-ups need only four years on average to become unicorns, compared to seven in the United States.

A willing state, giant companies bloated with cash, an incredible fabric of start-ups… And one last player to ensure success: the population. In addition to being numerous (1.4 billion), constituting a gigantic market and being very well trained, the Chinese are indeed particularly fond of new technologies. While we in France are still struggling with contactless payment, they are already converting to mobile payment on a massive scale. To the point where they have practically ousted cash in their country. In China, the population has switched to the most innovative payment methods by skipping the credit card stage. Moreover, it is the young, more inclined to buy new technologies, who have money there, and not the older ones as in the West.

China under technological pressure from Washington

The American plan, approved by the Senate on Tuesday, to counter China in the technological field is not just another chapter in the Sino-American trade conflict. It is a major turning point that could have profound implications for Beijing, explain several experts.

Washington wants to put nearly $250 billion on the table to fund its technology war against China. The Senate overwhelmingly approved on Tuesday, June 8, a vast bill to remain “competitive” in the 21st century, investing heavily in advanced technologies while trying to slow down Beijing’s efforts to catch up or even overtake the United States.

“Do we want the world of tomorrow, shaped by those who will master the technologies of the future, to reflect our democratic vision, or are we going to let an authoritarian model like the one advocated by Xi Jinping [the Chinese president] take over?” said Chuck Summer, the Senate Democratic majority leader. “We are engaged in a competition to win the 21st century and the starting gun has been fired,” added Joe Biden, the US president.

Semi-conductors: a major issue

This very aggressive tone has strongly displeased the Chinese officials, who were quick to express their “deep indignation”. “We resolutely denounce this American vision of China as an enemy,” said Wang Wenbin, spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, interviewed by Reuters.

Beijing also has reasons to be upset by the content of the American plan. Especially by the commitment to release 54 billion dollars to develop the American semiconductor industry. The current shortage of these chips, which impacts a wide range of sectors – from the automotive industry to the manufacture of washing machines, smartphones or even electronic toothbrushes – has amply demonstrated their crucial role in the global trade chain.

Chinese semiconductors

But it has also become a major issue in the economic clash between China and the United States. “These semiconductors are essential for the equipment needed to deploy 5G; and control of this technology at the heart of applications such as connected cities, electronic cars or artificial intelligence, is one of the main battlegrounds between Washington and Beijing, “said Mary Reynard, a specialist in the Chinese economy at the University of Dakota.

For the time being, China remains very dependent on American know-how in this field and must, moreover, import these chips from countries allied to Washington, such as Taiwan and South Korea. Beijing has decided in recent years to invest in this sector, but the U.S. announcement “probably means that China will have to spend even more money if it hopes one day to catch up and gain some independence in this regard,” says Zeno Leoni, a specialist in Sino-American relations at King’s College London.

The plan voted by the Senate also includes provisions to counter certain Chinese companies in particular. The text provides for no longer importing drones built by Chinese groups “with a link to the military sector”, and wants to prohibit members of the U.S. administration to download TikTok, the social network created in China that is all the rage among young people.

Provisions that may seem anecdotal, but “it is a clear signal to Beijing that the time of vexatious measures against Chinese companies were not an anomaly of the Trump era,” said Andrew Small, a specialist in Chinese foreign policy at the German Marshall Fund in Berlin.

The state back as “in the cold war era

Beyond its content, the very existence of the text and its general philosophy pose a threat to China. Chinese authorities “might have hoped that the strong political polarization in the United States would complicate the adoption of any major text, but the large majority that supported this plan demonstrates that on the issue of competition with China, there is a bipartisan consensus,” notes Andrew Small.

This is all the more significant because this bill illustrates a change in the United States’ approach to countering China. “Until now, Washington has adopted a reactionary strategy that consisted of piecemeal sanctions on companies or the introduction of tariffs. With this plan, the United States is moving towards a more proactive approach, where the State is more involved in defining the strategic sectors to be supported – such as quantum computers, artificial intelligence and automation,” summarizes Zeno Leoni.

“We haven’t seen the U.S. government get so involved in defining priority technology sectors since the Cold War,” says Andrew Small. For Mary-Françoise Renard, “on many points, this program resembles an American version of the ‘Made in China 2025’ plan, which in 2015 set out Beijing’s roadmap for becoming the world leader in technology.

Beijing is thus faced with a new reality in which the American superpower is somehow copying the Chinese dirigiste model to increase its technological advantage and limit Chinese companies’ access to its innovations. In short, “this means that more than ever, China will have to invest so that the technology it needs is Chinese”.

From a financial point of view, this is not a problem since Beijing’s pockets are deeper than those of any other country. “But it also means that China will have to train more people to conduct the necessary basic research, and this is not easy, because it has some catching up to do and it is not the most attractive sector in terms of remuneration for young researchers,” notes the expert from the University of Dakota.

In the short term, this new U.S. strategy to counter China could penalize Beijing in this technological race. But if the Asian superpower succeeds in adapting to it, “it may be beneficial in the longer term because it is forced to accelerate its process of economic transformation to become technologically independent,” concludes Zeno Leoni.

A brief introduction of Suzhou

As you may or may not know, I use to live in Suzhou as I was studying in Soochow University when I first came to China in 2011 (check this page for info related to studies in Suzhou). Often referred as the “Venice of the East”, Suzhou is a beautiful city just 40 minutes away from Shanghai by train. Here is a brief intro of this gorgeous city, hope it will make you want to visit it.

Master of Nets Garden in Suzhou

Suzhou is the second largest city in Jiangsu Province with a population of over 10 million. Wu culture originated here with Suzhou’s establishment dating back to 514 BC. After the completion of the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal in 618 AD, Suzhou became situated on an important trade route. From 1130 to 1937, Suzhou experienced many invasions and takeovers. Suzhou is now known for its beautiful gardens and silk.

Where is it?

Suzhou is in the Eastern part of China in the Yangtze River Delta. Suzhou is situated on and around a number of lakes, the largest being Lake Tai, Yangcheng Lake, and Chenghu Lake. It is located about 100 km from Shanghai and 200 km from Nanjing. Suzhou has a humid subtropical climate with four distinct seasons: a damp and cold winter, hot and humid summer, and a dry and fair autumn and spring. The weather is comparable to southern states in the US like Georgia or Alabama.

How to get there?

Suzhou is a popular tourist destination creating the need for accessible transportation. Suzhou has two railway stations: Suzhou Railway Station and Suzhou North Railway Station. Both stations offer high speed trains to a number of cities, including a 25 minute trip to Shanghai and an approximately two hour trip to Nanjing. For air travel, Suzhou is served by the Sunan Shuofang Airport, Hongqiao International Airport, and Pudong International Airport. None of the airports are directly situated in Suzhou; Sunan Shuofang Airport is in between Suzhou and Wuxi while Hongqiao and Pudong International Airports are in Shanghai. Both Hongqiao and Sunan Shuofang offer primarily domestic flights, while many international flights are offered at Pudong Airport.

China’s cannabis industry growing but prohibition persists

China has a latent contradiction between its industrial use of cannabis and the maintenance of stringent anti-cannabis laws. The world leader in hemp production, it produces about a third of the world’s hemp and exports significant quantities to the United States. Although it shows a growing economic interest in the plant, its consumption remains a social taboo.

China – Israel partnership to be discussed

Last week, China sent a delegation to Israel. Including agricultural entrepreneurs and researchers, the Chinese delegation is expected to meet with its Israeli counterparts working in the medical cannabis industry. This visit marks the intention to initiate scientific collaboration between the two governmental sectors, according to A. Shmulewitz, CEO of Therapix Biosciences Ltd, who is accompanying the Chinese group. His company, based on the outskirts of Jerusalem, is working on the development of pharmaceutical products composed of cannabinoids.

The delegation will meet the eminent figures in research and industry who are currently working to create new products and discover new therapeutic applications for the plant. Israel is a world leader in cannabis R&D. About 70 Israeli startups are currently developing cannabis-related technologies or products. Moreover, the country’s government has just approved an export law. On the other hand, thanks to its large hemp production, a dynamic business sector, and many scientists, China has the potential to become a super-powerful cannabis power. It could greatly benefit from Israeli expertise in this field.

Chinese cannabis factory

China’s cannabis industry fast growth

Despite the taboo on cannabis in China, Chinese companies are already positioned to reach foreign markets in Europe and America. In the Xishuangbanna Industrial Eco-Park in Yunnan Province, for example, CannAcubed produces CBD and hemp clothing for export to Europe. The Chinese investors stock market analysis site also announced that it was investing in the XiBiDi laboratory, which is to produce cosmetics and pharmaceutical products based on CBD. Chinese investors have also launched their own website which is responsible for delivering products containing CBD to all countries where it is legal. With the legalization of hemp at the federal level in the United States, the American CBD market promises to explode.

Chinese companies are also looking to develop new pharmaceutical products for patenting. Beijing-based investment firm HIG announced a partnership with the army to create CBD-based products that could treat post-traumatic stress disorder. The demand for such a product is extremely high in the United States, where veterans have been campaigning for several years to obtain cannabis legalization as a medical treatment. HIG has also partnered with Health International Industry Group, a Hong Kong-based pharmaceutical company, to develop new cannabis drugs. “We estimate that the sector will become an industry of 90 billion yuan (15 billion US dollars) for China within five years,” says HIG President Lan Bin.

China maintains stringent drug laws

Despite China’s emerging cannabis industry, its use (even outside the country) and especially its trafficking remain punishable by stringent laws, including life imprisonment and the death penalty. In a 2017 annual report, Amnesty International estimated that China had executed more people than the rest of the world combined, even though the number of executions remains classified as a state secret. China sometimes conducts public theatrical trials where it stages these convictions. In 2018, the public trial of 10 individuals sentenced to death attracted thousands of Chinese people to a stadium. Of the ten convicted, seven were charged with drug trafficking.

Since 2010, at least a dozen foreigners have been executed in China for drug trafficking. The most recent conviction is that of a 37-year-old Canadian, Robert L. Schellenberg, convicted of drug trafficking in a court in the northern city of Dalian. He had appealed against his first sentence (15 years in prison), but in the context of the deterioration of Chinese Canadian diplomatic relations, he was sentenced to death.

The Chinese attitude is, in some respects, reminiscent of Colombia’s contradictions, but in a much more extreme way. The latter has sought to attract the international cannabis industry and has gradually become a production platform. However, it has recently identified the use of small amounts of cannabis. This kind of posture is a sign of a gap between the economic and social vision of marijuana and shows that a form of liberalism does not necessarily accompany the development of the cannabis industry.

Get more information on this topic at www.ganjatimes.fr/

China Social Credit System makes Black Mirror a Reality

In 2020, China will be the first country in the world to have placed its population – 1.300 billion people – under close surveillance. Through a system called “social credit”, which is supposed to distinguish between “good” and “bad” citizens, the authorities record and spy on all their actions. The latter are classified according to scores ranging from a triple A to a D, which are eligible for rewards or sanctions. A state educational film announces the color: “Social credit is your passport in society, your note is your second identity card. “Exemplary citizens receive bonuses, gifts, become members of the Party, access line cutters in administrations. “Untrustworthy”, the “bad” ones are on blacklists. They are prohibited from traveling, taking out credit, putting their children in a private school, or buying a car. Points can be lost by throwing a paper on the floor or running a red light; by winning by reporting an offender or by donating blood. Sanctioned persons have their photos projected on cinema screens and are assigned a special telephone ring tone. What a beautiful means of control!

For Lin Junyue, the theorist of this social credit, the only purpose of this system would be to “civilize” the Chinese population. “We want to rebuild morality, to reach the same level of civility as developed countries. Everyone must be honest, honest, and respect contracts. “Human rights defenders, like the opponent Hu Jia, denounce an unprecedented decline in freedoms: “Under the guise of restoring morality, social credit is a tool to consolidate the power of the Communist Party further. The citizen is shaped and shaped to be a slave. The Chinese integrate its rules and become the little soldiers that the Party would like them to be. “In 1949, George Orwell had imagined Big Brother in “1984”. Seventy years later, China, with its highly advanced digital technology, is establishing an even more effective totalitarian regime.

My guide to renting an apartment in Shanghai

In this post, I will share my experience about finding housing in Shanghai. After a few year in this amazing city and a few apartments rented out, I find this is the right time for me to give you advice and tips for your next accommodation. Whether you are looking for a roommate or an entire place for your family, this article provides you with the keys to a successful home search in Shanghai.

A four-bedroom apartment in Xuhui district, Shanghai

What types of accommodation in Shanghai

 Apartments in Shanghai are usually parts of compounds which may provide facilities such as a gym and a swimming pool. If you wish to experience a more “local” life, you can rent a lane house, this typical Shanghai housing consisting of small 2-storey houses located in small alleys. You can find them mostly in the former French Concession and Jing’an. These accommodations sometimes work as communities, and you may have to share toilets or kitchen with other tenants for instance. For those who have big families and big money, there are also real houses called villas, but they are located in compounds in outskirts of Shanghai (Hongqiao, Qingpu, Jinqiao), not ideal for young people.


Generally speaking, property prices in Shanghai are overvalued due to the persistent real estate bubble. In the centre of the former French Concession, a 1-bedroom apartment costs on average 6,000 to 10,000 RMB, and two bedrooms from 10 to 20,000 RMB. If you move away from the FFC and go to Jing’an or Xujiahui, you may found cheaper places. Basically, the further you go from the FFC/Jing’an, the cheaper it will be. Also, the longer you plan to rent your apartment, the more you can negotiate the price. If you have kids and live in one of these expat compounds, rentals go as high as 40 or 50,000 RMB per month. In short, despite the low purchasing power of most Chinese, Shanghai remains a very expensive city when it comes to real estate, and you won’t find much difference from the rent you use to pay back home.

Housing quality standards in Shanghai

It really depends on the place you will view or rent, but there are two main situations. In high-end apartments, furniture and amenities are often in very good condition. In more affordable apartments, the quality of amenities might be lower and the flat not very well maintained. One big problem that affects both high-end and standard properties is the lack of insulation. Shanghai is considered as a city of Southern China, which means it does not benefit from central heating like cities in Northern China. To heat your home up in winter, you will have to use air conditioning which all living room and bedrooms are equipped with. It is fairly expensive and not the most efficient way to heat up but you will have to deal with it. Some fancy apartments, nevertheless, have floor heating or radiators, but they are rare.

Flat sharing

This is very widespread in Shanghai, and you will have no trouble finding a room in a shared apartment as fresh ads are posted every day. For a master bedroom (include a large bedroom with private bathroom) in the city centre of Shanghai, expect something around 4500RMB.

Tenancy in Shanghai: passing over your lease

In Shanghai, ads from landlords to tenants do not really exist. When it comes to rent Shanghai apartments, you will in most case either take the lease of a previous tenant and go through a property agency. When you take someone’s lease, you pay the deposit back to the former tenant and, most of the time, you will need to find a replacement when you want to move out too. Otherwise you may never see your deposit again.

Real estate agencies in Shanghai

Most agencies practice the same price: for rentals lower than 10,000 RMB per month, you will need to pay 35% of the rent as a commission to your agent. Above 10,000 RMB, you won’t pay anything as the agency will charge the landlord instead. The number of agencies in Shanghai is spectacular, just take a walk downtown, and you will see dozens of them. Some are very local and barely speak English; others are fully dedicated to foreigners. You can also have a look at some websites with property classified such as SmartShanghai or ShanghaiExpat.

Why using an agency is better?

I would recommend to anyone who is new to Shanghai to use the services of a real estate agent. They will surely make your life easier when problems come, and they happen more than you would like. Any issue regarding internet, gas, electricity, broken equipment and son on, you just need to give your agent a call, and he/she will sort it out for you. For those who speak very well Chinese, however, you may not need agents as you can directly speak to your landlord.

Typical “expat” compound with high-end facilities such as swimming pool (Pudong district, Shanghai)

Other tips

The first tip I would give, be patient my friend. The search of a home may be a long quest in Shanghai. You may have the most precise criteria regarding the type of apartment you want, you will still get a lot of irrelevant offers. So be firm with agents showing you properties that don’t match your requirements.

Second tip, do not hesitate to negotiate. China has a huge culture of negotiation and bargaining so you should always give it a try. It doesn’t mean you will succeed as they are fierce negotiator but at least you will have a taste of local culture! If you can’t change the price, maybe you can make your landlord replace a few furniture. Don’t forget to ask him or her to clean the flat before moving in! And twice if needed, as it will most likely be roughly cleaned.

Finally, don’t expect to have the actual size given by the landlord. To get closer to the reality, deduct 20% of the total floor size as Chinese people usually include the common parts of the building such as the elevator and corridor. Do not forget to read (twice) the lease contract, always written in Chinese and English, and note everything that is wrong in the apartment: stain on the wall, hole in the ceiling and so on. This may avoid you inconvenience in the future.

I hope this post will give you a clearer idea of the property rental situation in Shanghai, don’t hesitate to leave a comment if you have any question. And remember, stay calm, smiling and patient during your home search!


Introducing “The Northern Capital” Beijing

In today’s post, I will introduce Beijing, China’s capital and a city with one of the richest history in world. I have traveled five or six time in Beijing and I think it is the most interesting city in China, due to its heritage.

Gate of Heavenly Peace (Tian’an Men) with portrait of Mao

A bit of History

Beijing is the capital of the People’s Republic of China and is the second most populous city in China, behind Shanghai. It is the country’s political, cultural, and educational centre. It is the last of the four great ancient capitals of China – Nanjing, Luoyang, and Chang’an (Xi’an) – and has been the political centre of the country for most of the last 800 years.

Location and climate

The furthest north of China’s big cities, Beijing is surrounded by mountains which protect it from the encroaching desert steppes. The Great Wall of China also runs through the north of Beijing municipality which was built to prevent invasions from the north. In terms of latitude, Beijing is level with Turkey and Greece as well as Central American states. Beijing has a fairly dry, monsoon-influenced humid continental climate (Köppen climate classification Dwa), characterized by hot, humid summers because of the East Asian monsoon, and generally dry, windy,  cold, winters that reflect the effect of the huge Siberian anticyclone. Spring and autumn are usually short, but dry and hot.


Beijing’s Capital Int’l Airport is the second busiest airport in the world, with almost 90,000,000 passengers a year; it is only behind the Hartsfield-Jackson International Atlanta airport. It was recently renovated for the 2008 Olympics, with the newly built third terminal being one of the biggest terminals in the world. A second international airport, named Beijing Daxing International Airport, is currently under consturction in Daxing District, and is expected to be ready by 2017. From Beijing you can connect to any Chinese city with regular air passenger service. It takes just about two hours to fly to Shanghai, and just under three to Guangzhou and Hong Kong. Internationally, it takes 10 and a half hours to London, 14 hours to New York and 11 and a half hours to Sydney.

Things You Should Do and Should not Do in China

Chinese business card etiquette

Being a tourist can be amazing when you have understood about the custom of the country you have visited. There are many Asian countries you can visit and learn the culture. One of the oldest and most unique countries in Asia is China. Their culture is just amazing, and you should face it when you have come to China. You have to know the culture, language a little bit and tour guide if you don’t have any skill in speaking Chinese. The language barrier is something common, but when it has come to custom, you should understand first. Here are things you should not do and should do when you are in China.


  • When you have met an older people, you have to greet them first because the oldest person should be greeted first as a symbol of high respect to the Chinese culture.
  • Tap twice the table when you are drinking a toast.
  • It is necessary to do a handshake because it has been a common thing in non-verbal greeting in China.
  • When you are wrapping gifts in China, use red packages or wrappers and avoid using white or black because it is a symbol of death.
  • Keep calm whenever something weird happens in front of your face.


  • Business cards are a very big deal in China. When someone is giving you his business card with both hands, you must take it using both hands in return.
  • Never spit into the bowl, and when you are going to spit using tissue, you should place it at plate and not your food bowl.
  • If you are offered a toast, you must drink with the person who is inviting you as a mark of respect
  • Never stick your chopsticks in your bowl of rice as it is highly associated with death and funeral.
  • Never open the gifts in front of the giver when you are receiving gift and wait until they take their leave.
  • When you come to Silk Road, you should not bring any non-halal foods to keep it respect.
  • If you meet old people, you have to ask permission first when you want to photograph them.

As you can see, the Chinese have their own beliefs and I highly recommend to get informed of what is considered respectful and disrespectful in China before traveling there, this may avoid you big misunderstanding and even trouble !

Have you ever experienced cultural differences that surprised you in China? If you want to share your experience, feel free to leave a comment!


Studying in China (Part 2)

As I mentioned in the first part of my previous post “Studying in China”, I’ve met a fair amount of Western students for whom living in China was nothing but a painful experience. To be homesick when you live thousands of kilometers from your country is not a surprise, but often it took dramatic proportions. When I was studying in Nanjing, there was some sort of game to predict which foreign student will be the first to go home. It is sad when you think about it, as they had a great opportunity to get to know a new culture and open their mind to new ways of doing and thinking, but will only take bitter memories back home.

So think twice before coming to China!

First of all, don’t be misled by the apparent modernity of major cities such as Shanghai or Beijing. Most of the country is still very poor and rural and people have a much lower level of education. Hygiene, food poisoning, lack of manners… be prepared to meet another world. Most Chinese don’t speak English so having good mandarin basis is essential in everyday life.

I will write an article about learning mandarin and what is the best approach to master this language. Making Chinese friends is the best way to quickly improve because without practice, you will be stuck in a basic level. It will help you to better integrate in the Chinese society. Most foreigners don’t even try to learn mandarin or make Chinese friends. They usually stay among their own people or at least among westerners.

I am not saying it is essential to avoid western people, but if you came to speak English with Americans or Europeans, maybe China is not the right destination.  Don’t mix up traveling and studying one year in China. Even if you will have many opportunities to travel while you are living there, you will still spend most of you time in the city you are studying in. A year in China is a long time! Those who are having a good time and enjoy living in China are those integrated and with a genuine interest in the country and Asian culture in general.


I may have been a bit negative in this post, but my intention is really to warn potential students and spare them from what is happening too often in China: disappointment and bad memories.

If you feel this is a challenge for you, don’t hesitate and go! Learn to speak Chinese, make friends, and explore another world! With motivation, we can overcome the culture shock and have incredible experiences.



Studying in China (part 1)

Entrance gate of Beijing University

The purpose of this article is to give you a good understanding of the student life as a foreigner in China. The views expressed in this post are solely based on my own experience.

Why going to China for studies?

There are a few different reasons to study in China:

– To experience another culture, live in a totally different environment. Many foreigners talk about “getting out of their comfort zone”, “challenge yourself” and simply become more open minded. China’s rich culture has a lot to offer to achieve this objective, whether you want to learn traditional arts such as calligraphy or to practice kung fu. More than just an academic background, studies are made to shape your thinking and immerging into another culture can definitely help this.

– As part of your professional project: China has been developing like no other country before for the past 15 years. Despite the recent economic crisis that has hit the country, China’s economy remains strong and work opportunities are still abundant for foreigners. Learning Chinese can therefore be a serious asset when doing business with China.

– To travel one of the largest and the most fascinating countries in the world. China has everything you can imagine in terms of monuments and landscapes: from the world’s highest mountains in Tibet to the tropical beaches in Hainan along with ancient villages and the futuristic megalopolis in Shanghai. The country is home to 56 different ethnic groups with their own dialect, traditions and cuisine.

– China is very affordable. Most students are not rich and living in a country like China might allow them to live a life they couldn’t afford back in their home country. Food, accommodations, transportation… pretty much everything is cheap in China. Not cheaper, just CHEAP. You can easily have a meal for $2 to 3. A taxi starts at $1.5 in Shanghai, half this price in a second-tier city.

Be open minded and adaptable

A terrace along the river in Guangxi province, Southern China

Living in another country, especially one with a very different culture, is something that any young person should experience, providing that you are adaptable and flexible enough to embrace and enjoy this other culture. Facing a culture shock can only be beneficial as long as you have an open mind and a thirst for discovery. If you manage to overcome the language barrier and cultural differences, you will make the most of your stay in China and come home with a very rewarding experience that will be useful for the rest of your life.

It is important for me to insist on this point, as I have met quite a few students who didn’t manage to overcome this culture shock and did not have a great time in China. I will go into this a bit more in depth in next week’s post.