Anti-Chinese students witch hunt in the USA

This video from the USA says about itself:

A New Witch Hunt? FBI Calls Chinese Students a Threat

24 February 2018

Calling China “a whole-of-society threat”, FBI Director Christopher Wray recently claimed that Chinese students in the US may be conducting espionage. Law professor, author, and Committee of 100 chair Frank H. Wu, says the FBI is reviving a racist legacy.

A much-promoted book published this week calls for Australia to join a US-led war against China, supposedly as the only way to stop the country from becoming a “tribute state of the resurgent Middle Kingdom.” Silent Invasion: China’s Influence in Australia, by Clive Hamilton, a former Greens election candidate, now a university professor, is a rabid anti-Chinese diatribe. In the filthy traditions of the racist White Australia policy, he depicts many of Australia’s 1.2 million people of Chinese descent as tools of Beijing, casts suspicion over the country’s 130,000 Chinese students and every academic “of Chinese descent,” and alleges that many business and political leaders are “fifth columnists”: here.

Unique plants discovered in Chinese caves

This video says about itself:

3 October 2013

A group of explorers discovered a cave in China that is so big that it has its own weather system.

From Royal Botanic Gardens Kew in England:

New research reveals plant wonderland inside China’s caves

February 7, 2018

Summary: Over five years (2009-2014) researchers have delved into the depths of some of China’s most unexplored and unknown caves in the largest ever study on cave floras. Surveying over 60 caves in the Guangxi, Guizhou and Yunnan regions, they were able to assess the vascular plant diversity of cave flora in more detail than ever before.

Exciting new data on cave flora has been published today in PLOS ONE in a paper by researchers from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the Guangxi Institute of Botany in China.

Over five years (2009-2014) the researchers delved into the depths of some of China’s most unexplored and unknown caves in the largest ever study on cave floras. Surveying over 60 caves in the Guangxi, Guizhou and Yunnan regions, Kew’s Alex Monro and his colleagues from Guangxi were able to assess the vascular plant diversity of cave flora in more detail than ever before.

From the 1950’s to the 1970’s, forests in SW China were virtually wiped out due to the demand for charcoal associated with rapid industrialisation during China’s Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. This study documents 31 species known only from caves, leading the team to speculate that cave populations are all that remain of species which once grew in the ‘understory’ (the layer of vegetation between the forest canopy and the ground), which has been wiped out by recent deforestation. This discovery makes these caves and their flora significant and valuable for species conservation in South West China.

Lead researcher Alexandre Monro, at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew says; “This collaboration with the Guangxi institute of Botany in China is a first attempt to document the presence of vascular plants in caves in Southeast Asia. Before we started we had no idea of the diversity of plants in caves, or that so many species are known only from caves. We hope that this work will lead to a greater interest in caves amongst botanists, and also to a greater interest in plants amongst cave biologists, prompting more study of cave-rich landscapes in Southeast Asia.”

Over the course of the study, 418 species of vascular plants were recorded, with 7% of these species being endemic to caves and 37% of the species endemic to China. Once all caves have been samples in the region, the real figure is likely to be between 500 and 850 species, based on modelling conducted by this team.

The other conclusion of the study is that the twilight zones in caves can be considered distinct biomes for plants based on a combination of constant and aseasonal climate, as well as very low light. The authors document plants growing in some of the lowest light levels recorded for vascular plants, suggesting a broad range of plants can photosynthesise at much lower light levels than originally thought.

Whilst exploring the entrance caverns, the team observed that almost half of the caves sampled were impacted by tourism or agriculture, with tourism being the more frequent and impactful.

China stops anti-migratory bird land reclamation

This video from Asia says about itself:

31 October 2016

The intertidal mudflats of the Yellow Sea contain the most important stopover sites for migratory shorebirds in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway – a flyway that has transported birds from breeding grounds in the Russian and Alaskan Arctic to wintering areas in Southern Asia, Australia and New Zealand for hundreds of thousands of years. The productivity of the Yellow Sea’s mudflats and the food they provide to migratory birds are critical to the survival of many species.

This film provides a primer on the basic biological principles of migratory shorebird ecology and why the Yellow Sea is a critical international hub for bird migration.

Film is also available in Korean, Mandarin, Japanese and Russian.

Filmed and narrated by Gerrit Vyn
Edited by Tom Swarthout

“Trip”, “Long Road”, “Ways”, Ehrlich, Loy (SACEM) Kosinus APM (ASCAP), courtesy APM

From BirdLife:

Great news for shorebirds! China to halt coastal land reclamation

The Chinese government has announced that it will halt all ‘business-related’ land reclamation along its coast. This is a massive boost to the tens of millions of migratory shorebirds along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway that depend on the east coast’s intertidal mudflats, including the Spoon-billed Sandpiper (Critically Endangered).

By Terry Townshend

This article originally appeared on Terry Townshend’s blog Birding Beijing.

Two English-language articles reporting the change in policy were published in the Chinese media this week – one on Xinhua, China’s largest news agency, and one in The China Daily.  Significantly, the latter was posted on the website of the State Council, China’s ‘Cabinet’, indicating the high level of support for the new policy.

The news articles reported on a 17th January 2018 press conference hosted by the State Oceanic Administration (SOA), during which Lin Shanqing, Deputy Director of SOA, outlined several important elements of the new policy.

First, the government would “nationalise reclaimed land with no structures built on it, and will halt reclamation projects that have yet to be opened and are against national policies.”

Second, all structures built on illegally reclaimed land and that have “seriously damaged the marine environment” will be demolished.

Third, “the central government will stop approving property development plans based on land reclamation, and will prohibit all reclamation activities unless they pertain to national key infrastructure, public welfare or national defence”.

And fourth, perhaps most significantly in terms of the future of China’s east coast, “local authorities will no longer have the power to approve reclamation projects”.

Gu Wu, head of SOA’s National Marine Inspection Office, said that:

“In the past, land reclamation, to a certain extent, helped to boost economic development by mitigating the land shortage in coastal regions and providing space for public infrastructure and industry parks. However, illegal and irregular reclamation activities caused a number of problems to marine ecosystems and lawful businesses”, and that “those effects have become a major public concern, so the administration decided that reclamation would be closely looked at in its annual inspection last year.”

The press conference on 17th January was preceded by two media articles criticising coastal provinces for their mismanagement of land reclamation projects, revealed by SOA’s 2017 inspections.  Hebei Province (home to Beidaihe, Nanpu and Happy Island) was admonished in this article which revealed, among other violations, that “Tourism, aquaculture and ship-building had all been allowed in a national nature reserve in Changli County.”

And Jiangsu (home to Rudong and Taozini) and Liaoning (home to Dandong and Dalian) were subject to finger-pointing in this article. …

SOA’s announcement of the new policy on land reclamation came as something of a surprise (albeit a very welcome one) to the conservation community. However, those with experience of working in China will know that policy development often works in this way. The process of policy formulation is opaque, and when a new policy is announced it is not uncommon for the announcement to be the first information to emerge from the government that a policy review is taking place.

Nicola Crockford, Principal Policy Officer for BirdLife International and the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK), sees the potential for great things with this new legislation. “This exceptionally good news brings the best hope yet that the extinctions of waterbird species, such as spoon-billed sandpiper and great knot, that were beginning to seem inevitable, can actually be averted.”

Now the hard work begins

Of course, announcing a new policy is one thing; implementation is another, as can be seen from the above list of violations of existing regulations outlined by SOA’s inspections. It remains to be seen whether this policy will be enforced with the rigour required to ensure the integrity of the remaining intertidal mudflats.

What’s more, halting reclamation is a necessary but not sufficient step to slow the decline in populations of shorebirds of the East Asian Australasian Flyway.  The priority now is to ensure protection for, and effective management of, the key sites for migratory shorebirds – and that’s what conservation organisations will be focusing on over the next months and years.

Nevertheless, at this stage, there is no reason to think that implementation will not happen – in fact, I am optimistic; the new policy is consistent with the high-level rhetoric of President Xi and the recent strengthening of environmental regulations. At this stage, it would be churlish to say anything other than “Well done, China”.

Ice and snow sculpture in Harbin, China

This video says about itself:

20 December 2017

The residents of Harbin, China brighten the long, frigid months by carving fantastical frozen sculptures for the International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival that takes place in January and February. Once a mostly regional affair, the festival has grown to be a major international event and competition. So bundle up and pull on your sturdy boots to explore.