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ENVIRONMENT

By Tanner Brown / Jul 22, 2019 09:32 AM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

China’s outbreak of African swine fever this year has driven home the point that the world’s resource-gobbling production of animal meats may not be able to keep up with demand. The epidemic forced the culling of millions of hogs in China, slashing pork supplies. A 20% decline in pork production this year will result in a supply shortfall of more than 11 million tons that could be filled by other meats and meat alternatives.

Enter faux meat — which looks and smells just like a pink and juicy beef burger when patties are grilled, but is made from plant-based substitutes.

Though much of the product is being designed and created in the U.S., China is the market to watch.

In 2018, the country’s total meat consumption exceeded the combined amount of the United States and the European Union, with per capita consumption of 60 kilograms.

“It is the only path for China and the world,” said one expert. “There is no other choice.”

Read the full juicy story here.

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ENVIRONMENT

By Ren Qiuyu / Jul 19, 2019 02:05 PM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

They’re short, wriggly, and chomping through swaths of China’s farmland.

Since it was first recorded in the country in January, the fall armyworm moth — an invasive species that has previously decimated crops in Africa and southern Asia — has spread to multiple Chinese provinces and autonomous regions.

The moth larvae feed voraciously on a number of crop plants, particularly corn, and then pupate in the soil below. Adult specimens can fly up to 100 kilometers per night, allowing them to spread rapidly.

While Chinese farmers are mostly dealing with the invasions by liberally spraying their crops with pesticides, an alternative approach might help the authorities better control the insects’ spread: high-temperature lamps that attract, trap, and kill them under cover of night.

In a photo essay, Caixin reporter Chen Liang visits southwestern China’s Yunnan province to examine how researchers from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences are using the lamps to monitor the fall armyworm invasion in the small town where the moth was first found.

Read the full story on Caixin later today.

Contact reporter Ren Qiuyu (qiuyuren@caixin.com)

Related: Frost, Fever, and Worms Sow Inflation in China’s Supermarkets

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By Han Wei / Jul 18, 2019 05:12 AM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Beijing reported the lowest level of air pollutants in the first half this year since the city started recording related data 35 years ago, reflecting years-long efforts to combat air pollution.

The city’s average concentrations of PM2.5 — super tiny particles that can easily be inhaled — dropped to 46 micrograms per cubic meter in the first half of this year, down 13.2% from last year and the lowest level recorded in more than three decades, according to data from the Beijing Municipal Ecological Environment Bureau.

Concentrations of other pollutants, including PM10, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, also dropped to record lows. Air quality reached the required standard for 113 days in Beijing, or 62.4% of the January-to-June period, according to the bureau. Heavy pollution in the first half was noted on three days in Beijing, five days fewer than in the same period last year.

The capital city is stepping up efforts to meet its pollution control targets as part of a nationwide campaign to clean up smoggy air. During the first six months, the city has removed 25,000 heavy-duty diesel trucks with substandard emissions while adding more than 30,000 purely electric-powered vehicles, according to the Ecological Environment Bureau. The city also closed more than 300 highly polluted plants during the period.

Related: Hitting Air Pollution Target Could Save China $2.4 Billion a Year, Study Says

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By Matthew Walsh / Jul 17, 2019 01:26 PM / Environment

Photo: IC Photo

Photo: IC Photo

Researchers at China’s Peking University published a paper Monday outlining a new gene-editing technology that may have profound effects on the treatment of certain diseases.

Known as LEAPER, the method — described in the British journal Nature Biotechnology — concerns the use of certain cellular molecules that play major roles in gene coding and expression, and avoids several of the pitfalls of the best-known existing gene-editing technology, CRISPR-Cas9.

Check caixinglobal.com later today for the full story.

Contact reporter Matthew Walsh (matthewwalsh@caixin.com)


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By Yang Rui, Ling Chen, Zhan Kun and Han Wei / Jul 16, 2019 01:34 AM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

More than 200 households in southeast Beijing reported symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea among family members in a suspected outbreak of norovirus, also known as “winter vomiting bug.”

Chaoyang district authorities received reports of spreading symptoms among residents in several communities since Saturday, the local government said Monday on social media. Tests of 79 samples collected by the disease control department detected norovirus from 52 samples.

Forty-nine people were hospitalized as of late Sunday, while more than 100 reported similar symptoms.

Additional people have been struck down by suspected norovirus, Caixin found in interviews. Data compiled by a social networking group managed by homeowners in one community in southeast Chaoyang district showed that 208 households in the community reported vomiting and diarrhea symptoms among family members as of Monday, Caixin learned. In another community in the same area, 72 households reported similar symptoms.

Residents in the affected communities said they suspect the virus was spread by contaminated tap water.

Norovirus is the most common cause of gastroenteritis and is highly contagious. It commonly spreads through food or water.

Local authorities said investigation has been launched on the cause of the outbreak and measures have been taken to control it from spreading further.

Related: Sixty-Nine Patients Infected With Hepatitis C at East China Dialysis Center

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By Ren Qiuyu and Ling Chen / Jul 09, 2019 01:27 PM / Environment

Photo: Google Maps

Photo: Google Maps

The structure of the world’s largest hydroelectric dam has changed since its completion in 2006 — but the thousands of people living downstream have no cause for concern, the dam’s builder says.

China Three Gorges Corporation made the statement after a Twitter user questioned the structural integrity of the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River. Satellite photos from Google Maps showed distortions in the dam’s structure that could cause it to break, with  catastrophic effects for downstream residents, the user said. A screenshot of the post circulated on Weibo, prompting worried comments from Weibo users.

The dam’s structure has shifted just a few millimeters, due to changes in the water level, temperature, and uneven distribution of gravity, Three Gorges Corporation said.

The government response has been slightly different. On Monday, two days after the statement from the Three Gorges Corporation, the central government released its own statement saying the problem was with the satellite imaging — not the dam itself. 

Google did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Contact reporter Ren Qiuyu (qiuyuren@caixin.com)

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By Zhao Runhua / Jun 06, 2019 05:41 PM / Environment

Photo: IC Photo

Photo: IC Photo

China released policies Thursday aiming to spur the purchase of electric vehicle (EV) amidst historically bad times for the auto industry.

The policies demand that local governments cease restrictions on EV sales or driving, according to an official plan co-released by the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, and the Ministry of Commerce.

Many cities have been implementing quotas on the issuance of new license plates, in attempts to control congestion and pollution — though the rules often extend to even more environmentally friendly EVs.

Release of the plan comes after a major domestic automobile trade group requested stimulus policies, including relaxing license-plate limits, to alleviate the industry’s weak performance.

Related: Shenzhen, Guangzhou to Ease Car Ownership Restrictions

Contact reporter Zhao Runhua (runhuazhao@caixin.com)


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By Wen Simin and Zhao Runhua / Jun 06, 2019 04:11 PM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

A Hong Kong medical center has suspended operations and its staff are being investigated after allegations it administered unregulated HPV vaccines, mostly to women from the Chinese mainland seeking easier and safer access to the shots.

AMH Medical Diagnostic Group was reportedly offering injections of the Gardasil 9 vaccine, which prevents some types of human papillomavirus (HPV), a common sexually transmitted disease which can cause cervical cancer.

The company said its bank accounts had been frozen and its staff were in legal strife after several Hong Kong media outlets reported the allegations.

U.S.-based Merck Sharp & Dohme, which makes the vaccines, said in a statement in May that AMH had not acquired them from authorized dealers. Reports alleged the company had smuggled the product into Hong Kong.

The vaccine itself has been proven safe and effective in preventing cases of HPV, but smuggled vaccines are sometimes stored at the wrong temperature which can render them ineffective. It is also hard to guarantee they are genuine.

AMH is not alone in facing smuggling allegations. The Hong Kong government said it suspects about 20 medical centers have engaged in similar activities. An investigation is ongoing.

The reports follow multiple scandals on the mainland involving substandard vaccines.

Related: Dozens Injected With Unauthorized HPV Vaccines at Hainan Hospital

Contact reporter Zhao Runhua (runhuazhao@caixin.com)


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By Zhao Runhua and Zhou Tailai / May 30, 2019 06:16 PM / Environment

CFC-11 used to be commonly found in refrigerators. Photo: VCG

CFC-11 used to be commonly found in refrigerators. Photo: VCG

China’s environmental ministry has denied that the country is responsible for the large-scale release of a banned ozone-destroying gas, after a paper published in Nature blamed the country for a recent spike in emissions.

CFC-11, a type of chlorofluorocarbon historically used in fridges and spray cans, was effectively phased out internationally by the 1987 Montreal Protocol because of its damaging effect on the atmosphere’s protective ozone layer. But global emissions of CFC-11 appear to have increased in recent years, with emissions in Shandong and Hebei provinces possibly accounting for “at least 40% to 60%” of the increase, the recent article says.

At a Wednesday press briefing, China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) called the findings in the article unsubstantiated by national inspection results and domestic data. MEE spokesperson Liu Youbin said some experts had found “relatively major uncertainty” in the article’s methodology, without providing further details.

As a signatory to the Montreal Protocol, China has been taking emission issues seriously, and is willing to assist scientists with related research, Liu said.

Related: Delegate Criticizes Local Governments for Contributing to Global Warming

This post has been updated to correct the name of the 1987 Montreal Protocol.

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By Ren Qiuyu and Liu Yukun / May 27, 2019 02:12 PM / Environment

The carmaker that caused a stir last week when it said it has developed technology that would allow vehicles to run on water responded this weekend to the brouhaha. 

The problem? It didn’t really say much.

Youngman Automobile Group claimed last week it has successfully developed an engine that uses a chemical reaction to convert water into hydrogen to fuel the car. However, experts and scientists remain dubious of the claim for various reasons, such as confusion over the required additional energy source to derive hydrogen from water and doubts over the cost of such an engine.

Youngman’s response was a bit thin. We did learn, however, that in 2006 the company teamed up with a professor at the Hubei University of Technology and that in 2010 the project was approved by the Ministry of Technology. The engine itself was demonstrated last week on May 22.

Youngman also clarified that the engine uses an aluminum alloy for the reaction, according to interviews with CEO Pang Qingnian in Chinese media. A local official confirmed to Xinhua News that the car was only a prototype.

Pang as recently as last week would not reveal whether they would apply for a patent, but in the official company statement this weekend they said the technology had been patented.

The state-run Global Times reported that the auto group has been listed as a “dishonest enterprise” 95 times and Pang has been listed as “dishonest” more than 100 times, citing the Supreme People’s Court credit information disclosure system.

Stay tuned for more in-depth coverage of Youngman’s “hydrogen engine” and media reactions.

Related: Just Add Water, Physics-Defying Car Company Claims


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by Ren Qiuyu and Chen Shuning / May 24, 2019 04:20 PM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Fall armyworms, an invasive agricultural pest, have now marched into 14 province-level regions in China, according to government news agency Xinhua.

The armyworms, a type of moth caterpillar, can cause critical damage to crops like maize, rice and sorghum. As of May 21, more than 923 square kilometers of crops have been destroyed by fall armyworms in China — an increase of more than 200 square kilometers in under two weeks.

Agricultural experts expect that the armyworms will reach northern China next month, starting an annual migration cycle that could devastate farms. Local officials as far north as eastern China’s Shandong province have issued warnings to farmers about the pests.

Some pesticides recommended by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization have been tested in China and have been effective so far, Wang Zhenying, a director at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, told Caixin. However, he noted that populations of fall armyworm can easily become resistant to specific pesticides, which means pesticide use will need to be strictly controlled.

Hot summer weather could also bring new challenges — high temperatures and high humidity provide the perfect climate conditions for fall armyworms to reproduce, a plant protection expert interviewed by provincial newspaper Hunan Daily said.

Related: China Tells Farmers to 'Grab Crops From the Mouth' of Armyworms

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By Chen Xuewan and David Kirton / May 23, 2019 05:59 PM / Environment

The training wheels are finally coming off China’s renewable energy industry, with the government announcing 20.8 gigawatts of projects that will compete with coal and other forms of generation without subsidies for the first time.

The country will build 20.8 gigawatts (GW) of clean energy projects across 16 provinces, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and the National Energy Administration said Wednesday.

Solar power projects will account for the bulk — 14.8 GW — of projects, while wind will make 4.51 GW. Project owners will only profit from selling the electricity they generate at prices equal to or less than coal power, and will not receive a boost from the government, as they had before.

China incubated its renewable generators for almost a decade, offering generous subsidies to promote the development of technology that offered an alternative to high-polluting coal power and which had high potential for export. The country’s installed solar capacity rose tenfold in just six years to 174 gigawatts (GW), while nine out of 10 of the planets biggest solar panel exporters call the country home.

The industry’s haphazard development led to a major buildup in subsidy payments, and the government unexpectedly pulled the plug on solar subsidy support at the end of last May, sparking panic among panel makers and solar farm owners. Since then, the government has vowed that new renewable projects will have to stand on their own feet.

The provinces of Guangdong and Heilongjiang will be home to the lion’s share of subsidy-free projects, developing 3GW each. Shaanxi and Henan provinces, and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, are also strongly represented, with 2GW of projects each.

Related: China Puts Another Nail in the Coffin of Renewable Power Subsidies

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By An Limin and David Kirton / May 23, 2019 01:57 PM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Beijing should steer Chinese cities toward clean air by banning the sale of new gas-powered vehicles by 2030, a think tank has said.

The capital could galvanize the rest of China’s megacities by becoming the first to ban the sale of new fossil fuel-run buses, logistics vehicles and taxis in the coming years. It should then ban the sale of new fossil fuel-powered private cars by 2030, the Innovation Center for Energy and Transportation said in a new report.

The report forecasts that gas vehicles’ days are numbered, with sales expected to peak around 2025. Hybrid and pure electric vehicles will take the lead from that point on, with pure electric models likely to make up 85% of the market by 2050. Banning new gas vehicles would speed up the process while helping to clear the capital’s air, the report said.

Read the full analysis later today at caixinglobal.com.

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By Teng Jing Xuan / May 20, 2019 10:46 AM / Environment

The Xiangshui explosion left a crater measuring 100 meters in diameter. When Caixin reporters visited the site at the end of April, the crater was still filled with a pungent mix of black, green and red liquids.Photo: Yang Rui/Caixin

The Xiangshui explosion left a crater measuring 100 meters in diameter. When Caixin reporters visited the site at the end of April, the crater was still filled with a pungent mix of black, green and red liquids.Photo: Yang Rui/Caixin

Ironically, the Jiangsu Tianjiayi Chemicals factory was about to undergo a safety inspection the day an explosion destroyed the fertilizer and pesticide plant.

County inspectors had gathered in the compound in eastern China’s Jiangsu province. The heaviest-polluting workshops had been shut down by workers who had been tipped off about the upcoming inspection, and rainwater drains usually used for secretly dumping liquid waste had been scrubbed.

Then, at around 2:30 p.m. an explosion ripped through the compound, killing at least 78 people and leaving a 100 meter crater.

Read our in-depth look into the toxic mix of safety violations and cost-cutting that led to the deadly March 21 explosion.

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By Zhao Runhua and Chen Shuning / May 16, 2019 02:33 PM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

First it was swine fever — now Chinese farmers are racing to fight outbreaks of an invasive insect pest called the “Fall Armyworm” that threatens their crops.

Signaling the danger posed by the innocuous-looking grub to China’s corn, cotton and soybean industries, a major pest prevention center under the country’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MOA) on Tuesday warned of a "visible increase" in the pace of the invasion, and urged farmers to “grab crops from the mouth of the pest.”

The insects were first detected on the Chinese mainland in January in the southwestern border province of Yunnan. They are believed to have passed from Southeast Asia into China, where they have ravaged around 1,080,000 mu (720 square kilometers) of farmland in 13 provincial-level regions.

Those figures, from the MOA unit, are far higher than the 127,000 mu figure given in a U.S. government report last week.

The pest, which is most active in southern China, is expected to spread north as corn grows and temperatures increase into the summer. There are concerns the insects will take root in China and reproduce, the MOA unit’s notice said.

The government has established an emergency response.

Related: China OKs Imports of More Genetically Modified Crops

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By Chen Shuning and Ren Qiuyu / May 13, 2019 03:14 PM / Environment

Photo: Ministry of Ecology and Environment

Photo: Ministry of Ecology and Environment

Environmental officials are returning to problematic areas in parts of the country to check if violations have been “rectified,” and the results for Shandong province, at least, aren’t good.

In 2017, in a first round of inspections, a number of chemical engineering projects in Shandong were found to be in violation of regulations and were required to immediately suspend production and dispose of the chemicals.

So-called “look back” inspections took place last November, and the results have just been released. Many of the projects that were initially found to be in violation had indeed been punished, the report found, but the issues were not resolved, or once the rectification processes began, they swerved off course or became less effective.

The latest inspection in Shandong also found that Dongping County had failed to stop illegal sand mining in a wetland nature reserve, and that the Weitan River remained polluted, with sewage overflows and chemical waste stored near the river. Tests found that the water quality was the worst on the measurable scale.

Overall, the report shows that four central government-led environment inspection groups returned to Anhui, Guizhou, Shandong, Sichuan, Hubei, Hunan, and Shanxi provinces in November.

Read all of Caixin's environmental coverage

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By Zhou Tailai and Zhao Runhua / Apr 23, 2019 06:05 PM / Environment

Photo: IC

Photo: IC

Government officials in the city of Wanning have been punished for a land-reclamation project that damaged the local environment, the provincial government in China’s island province of Hainan announced Monday.

In 2015, Wanning’s municipal government allowed for a piece of coastal land originally designated for tourism to make way for residential real estate projects. The provincial government statement did not specify any real estate developments in particular.

Top local officials Zhang Meiwen, Wanning’s Communist Party Secretary, and mayor Zhou Gaoming have been given “significant demerit points,” a typical punishment for Chinese public servants that prohibits them from any promotions or pay increases for the following 18 months.

Other officials involved in the case, including those from local marine and fishery departments, have been given punishments ranging from warnings to being removed from posts.

Related: As China Builds More on the Sea, Nature’s Beauty Gets Buried

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By Fran Wang / Apr 23, 2019 12:55 PM / Environment

Photo: IC

Photo: IC

China has lifted a ban on the transport of pigs and pork in and out of a total of 23 provinces after African swine fever outbreaks in those areas eased, a senior agricultural ministry official said Tuesday.

The resumed production and transportation of live pigs in the regions are “picking up,” Wei Baigang, head of the Department of Development Planning of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, told reporters at a press conference.

China reported the first outbreak of the deadly pig disease in last August, and a total of 1.02 million pigs have been culled nationwide since then, Wang Junxun, a deputy chief of the ministry’s Veterinary Bureau, said at the briefing.

Both Wei and Wang warned that pork prices may spike in the second half of this year due to tight supply, fueling consumer inflation.

“Affected by the African swine fever outbreaks, large-scale pig farms are cautious about increasing the number of pigs they raise while small, individual farmers are withdrawing (from the sector) at a faster pace than before,” Wei said, adding that the year-on-year fall in the number of both live pigs and fertile sows has exceeded 10% for three straight months.

“We expect pork supply to go tight in the second half of the year and its prices to go up sharply, as the piglet rearing cycle is typically six months,” he said.

Related: More Pigs Die in China’s Last Mainland Province to Get Swine Fever

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By Tang Ziyi / Apr 22, 2019 12:39 PM / Environment

Photo: IC

Photo: IC

The island province of Hainan had been the last holdout in the Chinese mainland of the devastating spread of African swine fever — which has resulted in the death or culling of over a million pigs nationwide.

But following the spread of the disease there last week, reports have now emerged of additional deaths in Hainan, with another 146 pigs dying in recent days, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said on Sunday.

The epidemic, which is fatal to pigs but does not affect humans, was first observed in August in Northeast China's Liaoning province and began to spread rapidly across the country, wreaking havoc on China’s most important supply of meat. Pork prices might increase by over 70% year-on-year in the second half of 2018, according to a Ministry spokesperson at a press conference last week.

Related: Lack of Recompense Could Leave Pig Farmers Struggling After Swine Fever

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By Tang Ziyi / Apr 15, 2019 05:28 PM / Environment

Photo: Caixin

Photo: Caixin

Seventeen more people have been implicated in last month’s deadly chemical explosion in east China, bringing the total number to 26.

The March 21 explosion at an industrial park in Jiangsu province’s Xiangshui county killed 78 and injured hundreds. It produced an enormous fireball and registered as a 2.2 magnitude earthquake.

Most detainees are from the firm at the center of the explosion, Jiangsu Tianjiayi Chemicals, as well as an intermediate agency, police said.

For first-hand details of the massive blast and its aftermath, read our “Reporter’s Notebook: Xiangshui Blast Leaves Wounds and Scars That Won’t Fade

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