In a sparkling white cap and oversized sunglasses, 55-year-old retiree Zhang Yongli and dozens of neighbours liven up a Shanghai park by doing the jitterbug, part of a public dance craze that has become China national pastime.
Every day, an estimated more than 100 million people — dubbed “dancing aunties“ as they are primarily older women — take over squares and parks to tango, waltz, and grind out everything from flamenco to Chinese traditional dance.
Complaints over speakers blaring late at night have ensued. But toes are tapping to an ever-quickening beat as “square dancing” — as it is known in China — booms.
Teams are competing in dance-offs featuring thousands of contestants, while a thriving market of dance-related paraphernalia and mobile apps catches the attention of the business world. Even the government has jumped on the bandwagon to extol the health benefits.
“Square dancing happens wherever there is a square,” said Wang Guangcheng, a fitness instructor and choreographer who helps the government devise dance routines and is widely known as China’s “Square Dance Prince”.
Over 240 million Chinese are 60 or older, a number expected to double by 2050.
Zhang “was sitting at home, doing nothing” after retiring five years ago undergoing treatment for diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol.
“Since I started dancing, my (health) indicators are now normal. I no longer need medication,” she said.
A 2016 national fitness plan stresses “square dancing” as a team sport to be “vigorously developed” and last year it became an official event at China’s National Games.
Shanghai retiree Li Zhenhua‘s team worked with a professional instructor for weeks, enduring the winter chill and the summer heat of their local square to train for a months-long citywide contest that culminated in August.
The team, drawn mostly from China‘s ethnic Korean minority, took the title with their traditional Korean dances, beating out 750 other troupes. But it has really taken off lately as an increasingly prosperous China finds more leisure time, and nearly every neighbourhood park or square today is enlivened by dancers availing themselves of the free exercise.
Apple is expecting more cooperation with China on clean energy as it released its 2019 Environment Report that outlines its climate change solutions ahead of Earth Day, which falls on April 22.
In the “Environmental Responsibility Report”, Apple has set an ambitious goal to “make products without taking from the Earth” and vowed to adopt “big steps” to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide from its business operations.
Apple said 44 of its suppliers have committed to 100 per cent renewable energy for their production of Apple products, Yonhap news agency reported late on Thursday.
Among them, “the majority of clean supply chain, clean energy suppliers are in China in terms of both attaining the clean energy goal and cooperation in the use of safer materials and smarter chemistry”, Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives, said at a recent event promoting the company’s environment initiative.
As one of Apple’s biggest manufacturers and markets in the world, China is critical to success in all of Apple’s environmental initiatives, she said.
“I think it’s important to know Chinese manufacturers can be partners in the innovation because the Chinese manufacturers have real expertise and applications which they can bring to the table,” she added.
In order to promote circular economy, Jackson said Apple is working with a number of partners including the China Association of Circular Economy to enable the movement of materials in a way that not only “protects the environment, protects innovation, but also moves us forward in reusing materials”.
Apple announced that it will quadruple the number of outlets in the US to recycle used iPhones returned by US customers, which will be disassembled by its recycling robot, Daisy.
Daisy can disassemble 15 different iPhone models at the rate of 200 per hour, according to Apple.
In response to a question over whether Apple is planning to deploy the Daisy robot system in Asia, especially in China, Jackson said Apple is looking at unique recycling solutions in China “because we have manufacturers there”.
“We need to do a lot more work in China. We need to work really closely with governments to move materials around,” she said.
“I would expect that we’re going to have some unique recycling solutions for China, and that would be great,” Jackson added.