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China shifting strategies through 2015

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New Delhi: China, world’s most populous country, scrapped its one-child policy in 2015, a year that also saw an upswing in ties with India with Prime Minister Narendra Modi visiting the country. The yuan was devalued, sending shock waves in stock markets across the world.

The country also witnessed two major tragedies when over 450 people were killed in a ship capsize in June and over 170 died in massive explosions in Tianjin city in August.

China came down heavily on the corrupt, with its crackdown seeing over 100 high-ranking officials being tried.

In a dramatic move, President Xi Jinping announced military reforms. A staggering 300,000 troops are to be cut, a move that was described as getting a step closer to China’s commitment towards peaceful development.

Parts of China and capital Beijing were left gasping as smog enveloped the region, leaving residents worried.

As the year comes to an end, China, one of the world’s biggest economies, saw an array of events.

One of the biggest developments for the country of 1.3 billion was allowing the two-child policy in an attempt to balance population development and offset the burden of an aging population.

It scrapped the one-child policy, a part of the family planning policy, introduced in the late 1970s. However, the plan will come into effect only from March 2016. It has been estimated that it would help raise the population to an estimated 1.45 billion by 2030.

On the diplomatic front, China reached out to its South Asian neighbours, including India. In February, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj visited China, paving the way for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit.

Modi visited China in May. He started his three-day trip from Xi’an where he held summit-level talks during which the border issue, the widening trade imbalance, connectivity issues and “strengthening trust” were high on the agenda.

While in Beijing, Modi held talks with his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang. A joint statement called for an early settlement of the boundary issue which should be pursued as a strategic objective and said that both countries were determined to actively seek a political settlement.

With India’s neighbour Pakistan, China’s relationship took a new turn with President Xi Jinping’s visit to Islamabad where he envisaged investments worth $45 billion and signed 51 agreements.

An important meeting was between President Xi and his Taiwanese counterpart Ma Ying-jeou, a first of its kind since the end of a civil war in 1949. The meeting took place in Singapore in November.

President Xi also made a state visit to the US in September where he along with his counterpart, Barack Obama, reached a consensus on cyber-security. He also visited Britain in October.

China’s strength, its economy, took a beating when the yuan was devalued on August 11.

The next day, it faced its second devaluation. These resulted in Chinese exports getting cheaper and imports into China more expensive. Stock markets around the world, including India, were hit.

This year, China has dealt sternly when it came to corruption as part of a campaign launched by President Xi when he came to power in 2013.

The low points were tragedies. The year began with a stampede at a New Year’s Eve celebration in Shanghai where 35 people were killed and over 40 injured.

On June 1, a ship with 456 people on board capsized in the Yangtze river following a tornado. A total of 442 were killed while only 12 survived. Two are still missing and presumed dead.

On August 12, a series of explosions ripped through a container storage station at Tianjin port. Fires caused by the initial explosions continued to spread uncontrollably throughout the next few days, causing eight additional explosions. It killed 173 people including firefighters, eight still remain missing and over 750 were injured.

In September, President Xi announced a cut of 300,000 troops. A round of military reshuffle in August saw the inclusion of younger officers. These changes were parallel with the military’s anti-graft campaign, which has so far removed 40 senior officers, as well as China’s increased efforts to modernise its forces.

This year, China made giant strides in science and technology. In November, the construction of the world’s largest ever radio telescope entered the final stage. China also manufactured the world’s first electric plane, started building its largest solar plant and built the world’s largest amphibious aircraft.

The Beijing residents coughed and rasped as the Chinese capital was shrouded in smog.

On the flip side, since late January, smog levels have increased at an alarming rate, prompting the government to adopt the world’s strictest emissions standards.

And, China’s campaign of island building in the South China Sea has caused concern among other regional players. China claims most of the South China and East China seas. (Karishma Saurabh Kalita, 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)