China Replaces Delivery Men With Robots

China is the world’s biggest online shopping market with more than half of its population making at least one smartphone purchase per month, according to professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. This compares to 14 per cent in the rest of the world.

Whether buying electronics or toilet paper, avocados or clothes, Chinese are used to simply tapping a button on their smartphone and getting a home delivery — sometimes several per day.

Along a quiet residential street on the outer edges of Beijing, a yellow and black cube about the size of a small washing machine trundles leisurely to its destination. This “little yellow horse” is an autonomous delivery robot.

It ferries daily essentials like drinks, fruit and snacks from the local store to the residents of the “Kafka” compound in the Chinese capital.

Equipped with a GPS system, cameras and radar, the robots are seen by their creator as the future of logistics in China, where he says one billion packages will eventually be delivered every day.

Travelling at a less than overwhelming three kilometres (two miles) per hour — a slow human walk — the robot has room for improvement, said one customer as she removed a packet of nuts from its bowels.

“The weak point is that it cannot deliver directly to the door like a human,” said the customer, who does not live on the ground floor.

“But it’s still quite practical. The robot delivers relatively quickly,” she said.

The robot takes advantage of Chinese consumers’ love of cashless payments and smartphone shopping.

To get a delivery via the “little yellow horse”, the customer selects the desired products, taps in the address and pays via their phone.

The supermarket staff place the items in the robot, and the robot bustles off.

Liu Zhiyong, founder and CEO of Zhen Robotics, which manufactures the robot, sees a bright future for his yellow creation.

“At the moment, there are 100 million packages delivered every day in China. It will be one billion in the future,” Liu told AFP.

“There will not be enough humans to make the deliveries. We need more and more robots to fill this gap in manpower. And to reduce costs,” added the CEO.

These costs are especially high in the last kilometre of a delivery, where precision is key and a customised service is required to get the product to the front door.

At the moment, the yellow robots in the Kafka compound have little to trouble them, moving along a wide pavement with no obstacles — and no cars.

EU Calls for Peace among US, China and Russia to Ease Global Tensions

The European Union on Monday urged the United States, China and Russia to work together to ease worsening global trade tensions, warning that they could otherwise spiral into “conflict and chaos”.

The comments from EU Council President Donald Tusk come as Washington and Beijing stand on the brink of a trade war which many fear could hammer the global economy, while the US has also picked fights with allies in Europe and Canada.

“It is the common duty of Europe and China, but also America and Russia, not to destroy (the global trade order) but to improve it, not to start trade wars which turned into hot conflicts so often in our history,” Tusk said in Beijing.

“There is still time to prevent conflict and chaos.”

Tusk spoke at an annual EU-China summit held Monday against the backdrop of the deepening trade discord.

The EU — the world’s biggest single market with 28 countries and 500 million people — is trying to buttress alliances in the face of the protectionism unleashed by US President Donald Trump’s “America First” administration.

The meeting between Chinese and European officials in Beijing, which also included European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker, came as Trump prepared to hold talks in Helsinki with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Trump fuelled the rising rancour in a interview aired Sunday in which he labelled the EU, Russia and China as “foes” of the United States.

– ‘Multilateralism under attack’ –

Tusk said the world needs trade reform and not confrontation.

“This is why I am calling on our Chinese hosts, but also on Presidents Trump and Putin, to jointly start this process from a thorough reform of the WTO (World Trade Organization),” Tusk said, without specifying the reforms.

“Today we are facing a dilemma: whether to play a tough game, such as tariff wars and conflict in places like Ukraine and Syria, or to look for common solutions based on fair rules,” Tusk said.

In a meeting later with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Juncker said that “multilateralism is under attack, an attack unprecedented since the end of World War II.”

“We cannot accept that through unilateral attacks, the multilateral system should be damaged,” he said, also stressing the need for WTO reform.

French President Emmanuel Macron had called in late May for talks on overhauling the WTO at a time when European companies were bracing for punishing US tariffs on steel and aluminium imports that ultimately went into effect on June 1.

Besides the steel and aluminium tariffs on the EU, Russia and major US trading partners, Trump earlier this month implemented tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese imports, drawing a tit-for-tat response from Beijing.

Washington last week threatened yet more measures on another $200 billion in Chinese goods.

Beijing has said it would retaliate for that, and on Monday the Commerce Ministry said it had added the $200 billion tariff threat to existing WTO complaints which it has lodged against Washington.

The back-and-forth has heightened fears that trading powers will hunker down into a destructive all-out trade war that could hit global growth.

China said on Monday that its economic growth rate had slowed slightly to 6.7 percent in the second quarter of this year, from 6.8 percent the previous quarter, and a government spokesman warned that a trade conflict threatens all the countries concerned.

“The China-US trade friction unilaterally provoked by the United States will have an impact on the Chinese and US economies,” said Mao Shengyong, a spokesman for the national statistics bureau.

“Now that the world economy is deeply integrated, industrial chains have become globalised, and many related countries also will feel an impact.”

China’s RBI – Before We Are Left Behind Again

By Olawale Rasheed
The Chinese conceived  the grand Road and Belt Initiative(RBI) as a strategic agenda to change developmental politics of the world. Almost five years after ,the BIR is yielding results that even worst of critics are now acknowledging.
RBI is truly disruptive of existing order;it was a daring subtle attacks on the Washington consensus which many experts agreed is not working. While RBI is not about Beijing Consensus,it fills a vacuum of what appears missing in the world developmental terrain-A win win cooperation where stakeholders are regarded as equals.It contrasts with the Western practices which prescribe harsh austerity measures which further pauperises the recipient and which eventually yielded little or no developmental returns.
RBI emerges at a time the world is yearning for fresh impetus to addressing world developmental inequality.Fact was the gap between rich and poor nations  were widening.Existing western institutions appear overwhelmed or stucked in dominance and exploitative mode of the past that they fail to see the frustration of Africa and the developing world.
The public private partnership that later emerges also fail to fully answer the question of development without immediate eye on profits. Projects executed with PPP end up passing huge cost onto consumers ,the already impoverished citizens.The investors is fixated on profits. The world was at a cross roads  with many leaders of developing world  desperately searching for alternatives.
On the horizon then emerged a China that lifted close to 500 million of her citizens out of poverty.Beijing is openly unstopably  on the ascension as acknowledged even by top western experts and academics.The balance of economic power appears shifting and leaders of poor world find a new ally who few years ago was one of them.The switch to the East was dramatic.There was an electric realization that homegrown innovative  development is possible.
The immediate rush to accept Chinese credit and offers was motivated by several factors some of them already listed above.The key one however is that Beijing gives a vision of poor nations moving out of poverty ,having a strong infrastructures that can drive the growing- out -of poverty efforts . Hence unthinkable roads,railways,ports and power projects were proposed and financed with such ease.Many landlocked countries got unbelievable infrastructure designs and plans which they privately thought is impossible dreams.And many are coming to pass.
Many have lamented likely second colonization of Africa.There is a campaign and advocacy against emerging debt diplomacy by Beijing.Excessive lending critics warned may plunge developing world into a new round of slavey. Certain practices of the Chinese have also been questioned.Many legitimate questions are been raised.Many western experts spend much time these days warning Africa to beware of China and her RBI.
What amuses me mostly on this campaign and advocacy was the hypocrisy behind it all.Before China helpline,developing world were wallowing in deep poverty and infrastructure run down without any hope of redemption.Developmental pains were tied to fiscal measures such as withdrawal of subsidies,austerity measures and wage squezee,all inhuman conditions that have produced no positive results in the last three or so decades.Even when many things may be bad with the Chinese option,leaders of Third World are eager to taste something new as long as it produce a new results.
And new results are emerging.The Ethiopia-Djibouti high speed rail is marvelous.The East Africa ambitious standard guage railway powered by China is extraordinary.Several landmarks projects are ongoing across the continent. The projects are life changing ,moving Africa out of stone era infrastructure to modernity.
Still on the hypcrisy of China bashing over RBI,It is not just developing world that are logging into the  web of RBI. It should amazes many in the developing world how even western governments are flocking to Beijing to partake in the RBI economy.In the last two months,top French,British and German ministers have visited China to strike deals and businesses related to the RBI.Europe as a whole is also inking projects related to the silk road and OBOR.Western companies are forming alliances and partnership with Beijing to partake in the multibillion dollar contracts and value chains.
But why all these stories.I am having the feeling we are been left behind.We are succumbing to the blackmail while other parts of the world are reaping hugely from RBI.Nigeria and West Africa should avoid being left out.There is an emerging new world order where destinies of nations  are been shaped.Nigeria appears to be sleeping and the rest of west Africa seems cowed by France from pushing for mutual benefits from RBI.
Southern and East Africans appear smarter
For one , the RBI incidentally covers parts of East Africa.Their regional leaders pushed and lobbied for it.West Africa is largely left out.Bugged down by western pressure,Francophone West Africa remains a drag on any ambitouus opening up to China. For the Anglophone even Sierral Leone got a rebuke for romancing the Chinese .ECOWAS leaders are stucked in decades of paper works with no developmental manifestation.
Nigeria on her part is torn between her closeness to the Western world and the pulling need for Chinese credit.Instead of forging strategic partnership like the Pakistanis and The Ethiopians,Nigeria opts for occassional loans which carry no advantage of strategic friendship with Beijing.The Abuja light rail project epitomizes how unimaginative Nigeria has been in tapping into the Chinese lifeline.
But it is not late.If urgent steps are not taken,East and Southern Africa may leave West Africa behind in term of growth,poverty alleviation and infrastructural developments.Already,East Africa leaders are in competition as to roads,rail and ports projects.
Dwindling national earning  compels innovative  sourcing of alternative funding for national development.Waiting on the West is foolhardy as western capitals are also romancing China.Depending on private capital is  unhelpful as profit motive is incompatible with developmental pressure facing our people.The Chinese offer with rigorous negotiation seems a way out many developing nations are rewardingly accessing.While our experts continues to pontificate on dangers  of purported second slavery,many parts of the world are logging unto an RBI that is encircling and positively transforming the world.
As we squandered the huge opportunities of the petro dollars,will posterity forgive us if we sleep off while the world joins a new developmental world order ?
* Olawale Rasheed ,Publisher of Sahel Standard ,sent this piece from Abuja.

China Expresses Regrets Over U.S Decision

China has expressed regret over the U.S decision to withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council saying the image of the United State as a defender of rights was “on the verge of collapse”.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, announced the decision to pull out of the Council on Tuesday over what she said was a chronic bias against Israel and a lack of reform. Rights groups have criticised the decision as sending a message that the U.S. was turning a blind eye to abuses across the world.

According to Foreign Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, China expresses regret at the U.S. decision to withdraw from the U.N. Human Rights Council.

“China will continue working with all sides to make its contribution to the healthy development of human rights around the world via constructive dialogue and cooperation,” Geng said.

Asked about U.S. criticism of China’s rights record, Geng said the U.S. was ignoring the facts and that anyone, who was without prejudice, could see the enormous progress China had made on rights.

The official publication of China’s top anti-graft watchdog said in a commentary the U.S. decision to leave the council “has put the American peoples’ boastful image of being a defender of human rights on the verge of collapse’’.

“The separation of immigrant families on the U.S.-Mexico border showed the hypocrisy of the U.S. and that it cannot and should not criticise other countries’ rights record,’’ it said.

Human rights have long been a source of tension between the world’s two largest economies, especially since 1989 when the U.S. imposed sanctions on China after a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

A report says China regularly rejects criticism of its human rights record and points to its success at lifting millions out of poverty.

However, the ruling Communist Party brooks no political dissent and since President Xi Jinping took office, dozens of rights lawyers and activists have been arrested or jailed in a crackdown that activists say is worse than any in decades.

Beijing also releases an annual report, lambasting the U.S. for its rights problems, invariably citing racism, political standards and gun violence.

Trade War: China Mocks Trump

Chinese media have mocked U.S. President Donald Trump over plans to impose 25 per cent tariffs on 50 billion dollars worth of Chinese goods, saying “wise men build bridges but fools build walls”.

Mr Trump announced the tariffs on Friday, accusing Beijing of intellectual copyright theft.

China retaliated, saying it would impose an additional 25 per cent tariff on 659 US goods worth 50 billion dollars.

Stock markets fell after the announcements amid fear of a trade war.

The US had earlier warned that it will impose even more tariffs should China retaliate.

President Trump said the tariffs were “essential to preventing further unfair transfers of American technology and intellectual property to China, which will protect American jobs.”

The Chinese product lines that have been hit range from aircraft tyres to turbines and commercial dishwashers.

US Fears Rumored Sonic Weapons Resurface

A US health alert issued for China over a mysterious illness has revived fears of a rumoured sonic weapon that first surfaced after a scare involving American diplomats and their families in Cuba two years ago.

Staff who fell ill after hearing strange sounds are being examined by doctors at a consulate in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, with several evacuated to the US and at least one diagnosed with brain trauma.

The new cases eerily echo the odd noises and subsequent illnesses suffered by 24 US diplomats evacuated from Cuba since 2016, deepening a baffling medical enigma.

But the incident also poses a diplomatic conundrum — how to respond to what some fear may be a deliberate attack against Americans by shadowy foes on Chinese soil.

According to a New York Times report, US officials have privately raised questions about whether China, or Russia, might have separately or in tandem targeted the diplomats.

Washington has so far taken care not to implicate Beijing, which has told US officials it is investigating the incident.

“Until they are certain of the cause, it seems premature to make accusations,” said Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “I don’t think the US is calling it an ‘attack’.”

It is in stark contrast to the US handling of the Cuba case, when the State Department lashed out at Havana for failing to protect its diplomats.

Washington expelled 15 Cuban diplomats, arguing the authoritarian state must have either carried out the assaults or known who was behind them. President Donald Trump said he held Cuba responsible, although Havana denied any involvement.

There are clear reasons for the US to avoid rocking the boat so readily this time.

As a rising superpower, Beijing possesses significantly greater clout than impoverished Havana, with the cases coming at a precarious moment in US-China relations.

Ongoing talks to avoid a full-blown trade war are balanced on a knife edge, and Beijing’s cooperation is likely to be key if hopes for North Korea’s denuclearisation ahead of next week’s summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un are to be realised.

– Many theories, no proof –

Still lacking proof to support allegations against Cuba, US officials could also be facing up to claims there were no “sonic attacks” after all.

Although the American victims heard strange noises — described as static or the sound of metal sheets waving — studies have cast doubt on the “acoustic weapon” hypothesis.

A University of Pennsylvania team examined 21 affected staff from the Cuba embassy, and found they suffered symptoms typical of concussion such as headaches and memory loss.

“There is no known mechanism for audible sound to injure the brain,” said study author Douglas Smith. “We are pretty certain that it was not the sound itself that caused the injury.”

A Canadian investigation into similar illnesses among its own diplomats in Cuba in April said a sonic attack was “now considered unlikely”, while FBI agents sent to Havana reportedly found no evidence to support the theory.

This has not stopped speculation about other possible weapons potentially using microwaves, infrasound or ultrasound, despite technical difficulties in projecting these types of energy over long distances and through structures.

A University of Michigan study in March posed an alternative theory, suggesting the illnesses could be caused by bugging or surveillance jamming devices.

The study showed ultrasonic signals from such devices could clash with each other to create the strange sounds heard by diplomats.

Importantly, this theory would suggest there was no malicious intent — and even that the US’s own equipment could be the cause.

Others have claimed the illness may simply be psychological and dismissed the whole affair as mass hysteria.

– China sceptical –

In China, analysts have queried the absence of a suitable motive for an attack.

“If the Chinese government did it, then why?” said Zhu Feng, a professor of international relations at Nanjing University. “Is it happy to drive the diplomats out of China? I can’t see the reason behind it.”

“The Chinese government will not express its dissatisfaction with the US in this way,” added Wu Xinbo, a US politics expert at Fudan University.

“I think the whole event is nonsense.”

Chinese Bank Chief Found Dead In Office

The Chief of a major Chinese bank has been found dead in his office.

According to a report from the state media reported on Monday, Yin Jinbao, the Chairman of Tianjin Rural Commercial Bank, was found dead on Saturday afternoon with his wrists slit, in an apparent suicide, according to the news app Jinyun News.

A potential murder was excluded after preliminary investigations. Yin, 54, had also served as a Communist Party secretary at the bank.

A party-led discipline commission had started investigating the bank on May 2, according to the report.

China’s communist leadership under President Xi Jinping has led a sweeping anti-graft campaign, punishing more than 1.3 million officials since Jinping came to power, in 2012.

Other officials have previously committed suicide under the campaign’s pressure.

Zhang Yang, a member of the Central Military Commission, a top military leadership body, killed himself at his home in Beijing while under investigation, authorities said in November 2017.

Northeast China Province Suffers From Drought

Reports have revealed that Northeast China’s Jilin Province is suffering from a drought which has affected 1.36 million hectares of crops.

According to local authorities, the province has received 31.4 millimeters of precipitation since mid-April when spring plowing started, down 46 per cent from average levels in more than 10 years.

The city of Songyuan is the worst-hit area, with just 3.8 mm of rainfall, down 90 per cent from average levels.

Higher-than-average temperatures and windy weather worsened the drought conditions in central and western Jilin, said the provincial flood control and drought relief headquarters.

Amid a series of measures to relieve the drought, local residents have dug 3,272 wells and built and renovated 238 river dams, the office said.

Meanwhile, local authorities have dispatched 23 planes and fired 662 rockets in an attempt to seed clouds to increase precipitation.

China Launches Privately Built Rocket

China has it’s first privately built rocket which had a test launch on Thursday.

This is set to be the latest step in the country’s push to open its space programme to private companies. Beijing-based start-up OneSpace said its carrier rocket, named Chongqing Liangjiang Star, blasted off from a base in north-west China, state media reported.

The 9-metre-long rocket reached a height of 42 kilometres and an outer space at 100 kilometres above sea level, according to convention.

The rocket, weighing 7,200 kilogrammes, reached five times the speed of sound and travelled a distance of 273 km.

OneSpace, which was founded in 2015, said it independently designed and developed the rocket engine’s technology with an investment of 78.5 million dollars but observers were questioning that claim, as it would generally take longer to build the technology from scratch.

The Chinese Government started encouraging private companies to invest in state-run space industry several years ago, as they had already done with considerable success in the United States.

Similarly to companies such as SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, OneSpace could aim to send tourists to space or help with satellite launches.

“SpaceX has inspired China’s space industry,’’ OneSpace founder, Shu Chang, told Xinhua.

The Chinese Government wanted firms to develop satellite applications for the private sector, expected to see a surge in demand in coming years, according to the Xinhua news agency.

Online Psychological Aid Platform To Be Launched In China

An online psychological aid platform is about to be launched in China. The Chinese Academy of Sciences is already making plans to launch the online platform for psychological trauma interventions this year to overcome skills shortage.

Liu Zhengkui, researcher at the institute, and Deputy Secretary-General of China Psychological Society, announced the plan on Tuesday, saying the online platform would increase health knowledge.

Zhengkui also said that the online platform would track user symptoms, and offer consultation services with new technologies, including wearable devices, virtual reality and artificial intelligence.

The platform would marshal resources about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from post-disaster psychological aid from the academy’s Institute of Psychology and the U.S. National PTSD Centre.

 

Since the Wenchuan Earthquake in May 2008, the academy has trained about 1,500 psychological professionals, who had alleviated the psychological wounds of nearly one million people.

But they cannot meet the needs of psychological assistance across the country.

“The online platform is expected to make up for the lack of training and professionals,’’ said Zhengkui, who also revealed a three-year training programme for professionals.

The platform would be launched at the end of this year and start by offering free services to university students.

CBN Signs $2.5bn Currency Swap Agreement With China

Following two years of intense negotiations, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Peoples Republic of China (PBoC) have finally signed a $2.5 billion worth of currency swap deal.

At a ceremony, which held in Beijing, China last Friday, Governor of the CBN, Mr Godwin Emefiele, led CBN officials while PBoC Governor, Dr Yi Gang, led the Chinese team.

According to a statement signed by CBN Spokesman, Isaac Okorafor, the official ceremony was “a culmination of over two years of painstaking negotiations by both Central Banks.

“The transaction, which is valued at Renminbi (RMB) 16 billion, or the equivalent of about $2.5bn, is aimed at providing adequate local currency liquidity to Nigerian and Chinese industrialists and other businesses thereby reducing the difficulties encountered in the search for third currencies.”

According to Okorafor, this agreement will among others provide Naira liquidity to Chinese businesses and provide RMB liquidity to Nigerian businesses respectively, thereby improving the speed, convenience and volume of transactions between the two countries.

“It will also assist both countries in their foreign exchange reserves management, enhance financial stability and promote broader economic cooperation between the two countries.

“With the operationalisation of this agreement, it will be easier for most Nigerian manufacturers, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and cottage industries in manufacturing and export businesses to import raw materials, spare-parts and simple machinery to undertake their businesses by taking advantage of available RMB liquidity from Nigerian banks without being exposed to the difficulties of seeking other scarce foreign currencies.

“The deal, which is purely e foreign an exchange of currencies, will also make it easier for Chinese manufacturers seeking to buy raw materials from Nigeria to obtain enough Naira from banks in China to pay for their imports from Nigeria.

“Indeed, the deal will protect Nigerian business people from the harsh effects of third currency fluctuations.”

With last Friday’s agreement, Nigeria becomes the third African country to have such an agreement in place with the PBoC.

Both the Nigerian and Chinese officials expressed delight at the conclusion and signing of the agreement and expressed the hope that it would boost mutually beneficial business transactions between Nigeria and the Peoples Republic of China, Okorafor disclosed.