Sun Guiqin bicycles in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, on March 15. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Over the past two weeks, Sun Guiqin and her three fellow travellers have finished an approximately 800-kilometer bicycling journey in East China’s Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces.

Starting from Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, the four bicyclists, who vary in age from 63 to 74 and hail from Harbin, capital of Northeast China’s Heilongjiang province, aimed to finish a 2,000-kilometer bicycling journey along the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal in 25 days.

Aerial photo taken on March 27, 2019 shows the site of the International Horticultural Exhibition 2019 Beijing China (Expo 2019 Beijing) in Yanqing district of Beijing, capital of China. The 2019 Beijing International Horticultural Exhibition is slated to kick off on April 29, 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]

BEIJING – A total of seven major highway projects aimed at improving traffic conditions for the upcoming 2019 Beijing International Horticultural Exhibition have been completed.

According to the city’s transport department, the newly-built highways will not only relieve traffic pressure on the previous national highways leading to the exhibition site but also promote development and tourism in the neighboring relatively poor areas.

Slated to kick off on April 29, the 162-day expo is poised to impress an expected 16 million visitors from home and abroad, with a huge collection of plants, flowers and eye-catching pavilions, as well as ideas for green development.

A record-breaking 110 countries and international organizations as well as 120 non-official exhibitors will participate in the event.

The marriage rate dropped from 9.9 per 1,000 people in 2013 to a five-year low of 7.2 per 1,000 people in 2018.[Photo/VCG]

BEIJING – China’s marriage rate has been declining for five years in a row as the younger generation delays or has given up on marriage.

The marriage rate dropped from 9.9 per 1,000 people in 2013 to a five-year low of 7.2 per 1,000 people in 2018, according to the National Bureau of Statistics and the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

The figures vary in different regions. The more developed regions have lower rates of marriage.

Tying the knot is no longer a “necessity” for today’s young adults, with many preferring the single life.

“I’d prefer a high-quality single life to a low-quality marriage” is a common refrain.

The increasing costs of living and child education constitute another factor for the downward trend in the marriage rate, according to experts.

The decrease is also closely related to the changing demographic structure, said Shi Zhilei, associate professor with the School of Public Administration of the Zhongnan University of Economics and Law.

People between the ages of 20 and 24 had the highest record of marriage registrations before 2012, while people between the ages of 25 and 29 became the mainstay in 2017, accounting for 36.9 percent of all registered couples, according to MCA statistics.

“The attitude toward marriage and giving birth is changing among those born in the 1980s or 1990s, with more choosing to marry late or not to marry,” said Lu Jiehua, professor of sociology with Peking University.

“In an increasingly tolerant society, marriage is not the only option,” Lu added.

A self-driving tractor sows cotton seeds in the field at Yaha township of Kuqa county, Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, March 23, 2018. [Photo/Xinhua]

BEIJING — “Sometimes, I just sit here, scrolling through my phone, playing a game or making calls.”

Jiang Liqing is not an office slacker, but an experienced tractor driver at Xinhu Farm in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

Tractor engines still hum steadily, but the introduction of self-driving vehicles has changed the way Jiang works.

Unlike city roads, the wide croplands of Xinjiang have no white or yellow lines to keep tractor drivers in check. To keep a straight path, Jiang once spent up to 40 minutes marking out an 800-meter-long field before starting.

Self-driving tractors only need two marks and Jiang does them on a motorbike in five minutes. With a few taps on the control screen, the tractor eases into motion while Jiang sits back in the cabin, checking his phone.

From northwestern Xinjiang to Jiansanjiang, a major grain growing base in northeastern Heilongjiang province, to an automated farm in Xinghua, eastern Jiangsu province, China is exploring precision agriculture, a new way of farming that might one day lead to no farmers.

As more people move to the cities, getting skilled labor is a major challenge in agriculture. The Global Harvest Initiative in the United States estimated that from 2005 to 2019, the agriculture workforce fell by 58 million people or 11 percent.

Meanwhile, severe weather caused by climate change is expected to affect crop yields. How to feed the growing population with fewer workers while adapting to changing weather? Precision agriculture is emerging as the answer.

Shen Jun, chief scientist at Beijing Unistrong Science Technology Cooperation, said precision agriculture applies technologies like global satellite navigation systems, remote sensing and automatic control systems over the whole farming process.

The deployment of the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System, the Gaofen remote sensing satellites and 5G networks enables China to leverage precision agriculture technologies.

In Xinjiang, for instance, the best time for spring planting usually lasts 10 days. An experienced tractor driver can plough, fertilize and sow about 133 hectares in this time. With a self-driving tractor, that goes up to about 200 hectares.

My parents grew up in Pingtan county, but they later moved to Quanzhou, Fujian province. I was born and raised in Quanzhou, and I didn’t visit the county until 2016.

Several years ago, I started hearing about Pingtan on news programs after the government said the county would be built into a center for tourism.

In 2016, I saw a TV report about the opening of Lin Jhih-yuan’s homestay (“Singing Stones” in Beigang, a village on Haitan Island).

In the video, a musician from Taiwan performed “stone music”. I was attracted by that, and also by Lin’s ideas, so I contacted him and he invited me to visit the homestay.

When I traveled to Beigang, it was the first time I had visited Pingtan. At the time, Lin’s homestay had only been open for about two months, and the scale was small.

Lin needed more people and I liked his ideas, so I quit my job and moved to Beigang. My parents didn’t know about the village, even though they grew up in Pingtan, and they were very unhappy that I had given up a stable job and moved to the countryside.

In the past three years, we have extended the homestay, bit by bit. In the early days, we were the only homestay in Beigang and there was less competition. That gave us time to do something we liked and make it the best.

The team consists of 10 people, half from the mainland and half from Taiwan.
We are of similar ages and are passionate about our work.

In 2016, there were hardly any youngsters in the village, so when young people arrived from Taiwan and started renovating the old houses, they attracted a lot of attention from the local media.

The local people in the team have good relations with the villagers. Now everything is on track, Lin doesn’t stay here all the time, so I am in charge of running the homestay.

Lin Yanhua spoke with Zhang Yi.

Girl’s father accused of storming into classroom to attack alleged bully

The stabbing death of a third grade boy by a father who said the boy had bullied his daughter shocked the public over the weekend. It also renewed concerns that not enough is being done to contain school bullying.

The Shangrao police in Jiangxi province are looking into accusations that a 41-year-old man stabbed his daughter’s primary school classmate following a dispute between the two students, a statement by local authorities said on Saturday.

The statement, released by the government of the city’s Xinzhou district, said the suspect, who was identified only as Wang, confessed and was detained. The head of Shangrao No 5 Primary School, where the killing took place, has been suspended from work.

The statement came a day after Wang was held on the school’s campus, shortly after the stabbing early on Friday.

According to local media, Wang stormed into the classroom and stabbed the 10-year-old boy, surnamed Liu. The boy was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he died despite efforts to save him.

Local authorities declined to provide details on Wang’s motives, saying an investigation is ongoing. But screenshots of text messages circulating online claimed that Wang stabbed the boy multiple times in anger for bullying his daughter, surnamed He.

The screenshots said Wang had complained in a group chat to parents and teachers about He’s experience in school, claiming he and his wife, also surnamed He, had attempted to persuade the boy to stop what they said was abuse of their daughter, but failed to have any effect.

Wang also said he and his wife had quit their jobs to take care of their daughter, and he threatened to confront the boy after school, according to screenshots.

File photo: Vehicles wait at the Langdong Tollgate on the Guiin-Beihai Highway in Nanning, capital of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. [Photo/Xinhua]

BEIJING – The number of traffic accidents across China saw a 38-percent decrease year on year during the Tomb-Sweeping holiday from April 5 to 7, according to the Ministry of Public Security.

The death toll caused by traffic accidents was down 35.3 percent from the same period of last year, a statement from the ministry said, attributing the decrease partly to increased efforts of traffic police in emergency response, road patrols, and safety awareness campaigns.

According to figures from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, China saw 100 million domestic trips during the holiday, up 8.3 percent from last year’s holiday.

Tomb-Sweeping Day, also known as Qingming Festival, is an important occasion for Chinese to honor their ancestors. Many also spent the three-day holiday on leisure travel.

More than 9.7 million Chinese visited cemeteries to honor their deceased relatives during the holiday.

[Photo/VCG]

BEIJING — China will encourage standardized, regular culture and tourism-related volunteer services in 2019, according to a plan by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism that includes three initiatives.

Of the three, the “Spring Rain Project” encourages volunteering at “civilization practice centers” across the country, in border regions and areas mainly inhabited by certain ethnic groups, as well as seeks volunteers from primary level cultural institutions and those willing to help promote responsible tourism.

The “Sunshine Project” aims to recruit 1,200 volunteers for 1,200 villages in central and western China for a one-year program of cultural promotion.

The “Dreams Come True Project” intends to recruit 610 volunteers, who are leading lights of culture and art or work in intangible cultural heritage, to give training classes and tutoring to students in poor rural areas.

The plan requires that the legitimate rights and interests of volunteers be safeguarded.

[Photo from web]

A new national safety standard for bouncy castles and other inflatable amusement devices will take effect on July 1 in the wake of several fatal accidents.

Released in February by the State Administration for Market Regulation and the Standardization Administration of China, the new rules address several key risk areas and lay out clear requirements for anchoring and ballasting to stabilize the structures and keep them grounded.

Inflatable amusements such as bouncy castles and slides are popular with children and can be seen in many playgrounds, public squares and residential communities. However, there has been little safety regulation of the inflatable products, resulting in frequent accidents, the administration said on its website. It added that quality and safety had become pressing issues.

On the afternoon of May 2, a whirlwind flipped an inflatable castle in a public square in Laiyuan county, Hebei province, killing two children and injuring seven.

Three people were detained by the police.

“A whirlwind lasts a short time, moves fast and is hard to monitor with sensors,” a meteorological station staff member from Laiyuan county told China National Radio. “The bouncy castle is usually very light and can be easily lifted up in such weather.”

A similar incident occurred on March 31, when a whirlwind struck in Yucheng county, Henan province, and blew a bouncy playhouse high into the air. Two children died and 20 other people were injured, including two adults, local officials said.

The previous safety regulations on inflatable amusement equipment mainly addressed issues such as height and speed, failing to take into account the dangers.

“In recent years, amusement equipment such as bouncy castles have become popular, and so the risks have become apparent,” Zhang Yong, one of the main drafters of the new standards, told China Quality Daily, an official newspaper of the State Administration for Market Regulation.

He added that it was urgent to have strict rules for the production and supervision of such facilities.

After studying recent accidents at home and abroad, the drafting team concluded that wind resistance is the biggest problem. The inflatable structures act like giant kites, so they must be anchored to the ground.

The new standards set clear requirements for anchoring and ballast systems, as well as for structural integrity, electrical installations, player limits, safety labeling and emergency procedures.

Zhang said the new rules will promote standard procedures for small operators and the entire industry to improve safety.

Several parents from a Beijing kindergarten reported to local police about what appear to be similar needle marks found on their children’s bodies, Beijing Youth Daily reported on Monday.

Police authorities said they have started to investigate the case by collecting evidence, and the kindergarten, Xinghe International Kindergarten in the city’s Tongzhou district, is cooperating with police in that investigation.

The education commission of Tongzhou district said that it also is looking into the case.

The alleged abuse was first discovered by the mother of a 4-year-old girl, nicknamed Cheng Cheng, during the three-day Tomb Sweeping holiday, which started April 5.

Cheng Cheng’s mother said when she took out needles and thread to sew clothes for her daughter, the child suddenly burst into tears and hid behind the door. A few probing questions led the toddler to say that her teacher had recently pricked her hips with the needles, and told her to keep “it as a little secret between the teacher and her”.

After the mother shared a photo of her daughter’s needle marks on an online group chat of parents from the same class, the picture received wide attention.

By Monday morning, at least six parents had discovered and reported similar marks on their children’s bodies.

Examination reports from a local hospital showed that needle pricks have been found on the faces, hands and buttocks of four children from the kindergarten.

A private school, Xinghe International Kindergarten divides its classes into two types, ordinary and international. Tuition for international classes is 3,800 yuan ($565.60) per month, more than four times than the ordinary classes. Students reporting suspicious marks are from its international classes, according to Beijing Youth Daily.