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China building artificial islands and airstrips in South China Sea

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YANGJIANG, CHINA - DECEMBER 22: (CHINA OUT) Two maritime affairs officials show the Chinese national flag as the wreck of the 800-year-old sunken merchant ship "Nanhai No.1" (or "South China Sea No. 1") is raised by a specially designed steel basket from the bottom of the sea in the background, on December 22, 2007 in South China Coast near Yangjiang of Guangdong Province, China. The 30 metres (about 100 feet) wooden vessel, discovered in 1987, containing thousands of gold, silver and porcelain trading goods. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)
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Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)
Two maritime affairs officials show the Chinese national flag (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)

By NewsGram Staff Writer

China has claimed that it built artificial islands on reefs in the Spratly Islands — which are also claimed by Vietnam and the Philippines — to improve weather forecasting.

The official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, People’s Daily, published two interviews with two scientists — Ding Yihui from the Chinese Academy of Engineering, and director of China Meteorological Administration Zheng Guogang — to back up this claim.

The argument comes a day before US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue on Tuesday in Washington.

The meeting is expected to address the issue of Chinese structures on the islands.

Both scientists defended the new facilities as aimed at enhancing weather forecasts, in a region with extreme climatic conditions.

“The construction of infrastructure for observation and communication is the first step towards enhancing and improving marine meteorological monitoring, warning, forecasting, prediction and scientific research,” Ding said.

According to Zheng, better weather forecast is a responsibility that China owes the region, to help neighbouring countries avoid ravages of typhoons and dangerous natural phenomena, and increase security for dense fishing and maritime traffic in the area.

Those same neighbouring countries, however, had expressed alarm last year seeing Chinese activity on regional islands and reefs, a concern backed by Washington.

Beijing has repeatedly stonewalled Washington’s request to stop building on these islands.

Meanwhile, South China Morning Post on Monday quoted analysts as saying that China could use such facilities to deploy its J-11 fighter-bombers in the area, a model developed between 1990 and 2009 from the Soviet Su-27.

The J-11 has a flight range of 1,500 km, expandable with the installation of additional fuel tanks under its wings.

With such devices in the area, China could extend the presence of its air force by an additional 1,000 km to the south.

In fact, in one of the islands, a three-km track is being readied (which can be used not only by a J-11 but also by transport aircraft), and together with its aircraft carrier, ‘Liaoning’, it would allow Beijing to expand its air influence to defensive operations in mid-ocean for the first time.

(With inputs from IANS)

 

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Shanghai Airport Gets Check-In With Facial Recognition Machines

Increased convenience may come at a cost in a country with few rules on how the government can use biometric data.

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Shanghai,
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection facial recognition device is ready to scan another passenger at a United Airlines gate. VOA

It’s now possible to check in automatically at Shanghai Hongqiao airport using facial recognition technology, part of an ambitious rollout of facial recognition systems in China that has raised privacy concerns as Beijing pushes to become a global leader in the field.

Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport unveiled self-service kiosks for flight and baggage check-in, security clearance and boarding powered by facial recognition technology, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

Similar efforts are under way at airports in Beijing and Nanyang city, in central China’s Henan province.

Shanghai,
Face recognition tool was first launched in 2012

Many airports in China already use facial recognition to help speed security checks, but Shanghai’s system, which debuted Monday, is being billed as the first to be fully automated.

“It is the first time in China to achieve self-service for the whole check-in process,” said Zhang Zheng, general manager of the ground services department for Spring Airlines, the first airline to adopt the system at Hongqiao airport. Currently, only Chinese identity card holders can use the technology.

Spring Airlines, Shanghai said Tuesday that passengers had embraced automated check-in, with 87 percent of 5,017 people who took Spring flights on Monday using the self-service kiosks, which can cut down check-in times to less than a minute and a half.

Shanghai,
Rana el Kaliouby, CEO of the Boston-based artificial intelligence firm Affectiva, demonstrates the company’s facial recognition technology, in Boston, April 23, 2018. VOA

Across greater China, facial recognition is finding its way into daily life. Mainland police have used facial recognition systems to identify people of interest in crowds and nab jaywalkers, and are working to develop an integrated national system of surveillance camera data.

Chinese media are filled with reports of ever-expanding applications: A KFC outlet in Hangzhou, near Shanghai, where it’s possible to pay using facial recognition technology; a school that uses facial recognition cameras to monitor students’ reactions in class; and hundreds of ATMs in Macau equipped with facial recognition devices to curb money laundering.

Also Read: Facial Recognition Technology Catches A Person With Fake Passpost At The US Airport 

But increased convenience may come at a cost in a country with few rules on how the government can use biometric data.

“Authorities are using biometric and artificial intelligence to record and track people for social control purposes,” said Maya Wang, senior China researcher for Human Rights Watch. “We are concerned about the increasing integration and use of facial recognition technologies throughout the country because it provides more and more data points for the authorities to track people.” (VOA)