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From The Editors Travel

China –The Modern, Mysterious, and Exotic Red Dragon

The pull of the mysterious Orient has never been stronger than now, as more and more people are drawn to China. According to the World Tourism Organization, China is well on its way to becoming the world’s most popular tourist attraction in the not too distant 2020.

And why not! From ultra high-tech megacities to mesmerizing off-the-beaten-path destinations and everything in between, China’s versatility as a tourist destination and the splendor of its myriad sights and sounds will not fail to impress even the fussiest of travelers.

First-time visitors to this vast and diverse country, generally, head for the glitz and glamour of the big cities – the new face of China.

Experienced and adventurous travelers, on the other hand, spread out in other directions to soak in the natural beauty and awesome sights of this ancient land of the Ming, and the Yuan, and the Qing dynasties, to name a few.

Not far from the punishing pace of the gleaming cities and extending to the far reaches of this great country, awaits a different and vastly diverse China; a China of colossal palaces, ancient cliff-top temples, giant Buddha statues, beautiful pagodas, intricately terraced paddy fields hugging the hills and mountain slopes, and much more – it’s truly a painter’s dream come true!

Based on the aforementioned, we present to you the best of both Chinas, if you will, in our selection of seven top places to visit in this country of many surprises – almost all of them pleasant.

Shànghăi

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No matter how many times you have been to Shanghai or how well you think you know the place, be prepared for a shock. Shanghai has grown ten years for every year you have been away.

The Shanghai you return to is nothing like the Shanghai you remember from an earlier trip, even if it was just a year back. It’s this rapid growth that makes Shanghai one of the most amazing places on earth.

If you are seeking a super-city getaway, there’s no place like Shanghai, what with its state-of-the-art modernity, art deco architecture, and an ever-evolving skyline.

Shanghai Attractions

The Bund – The Bund is a famous 1500-meter-long waterside promenade with awesome city views.

Yu Garden – Yu Garden is a 16th-century garden featuring Ming dynasty pavilions, ponds, rockeries, and arched bridges.

Jade Buddha Temple – The Jade Buddha Temple is known for its large, ornate jade Buddha sculptures.

Shanghai Museum – The Shanghai Museum is a science and technology-themed museum, with educational programs, multimedia exhibits & theaters.

Longhua Temple – The Longhua Temple is a reconstructed 3rd-century Buddhist temple complex featuring towers, a library, and a traditional garden

Shanghai Zoo – The Shanghai Zoological Gardens is a storied zoo featuring thousands of native & exotic animal species, an aviary, and a reptile house.

Shanghai Natural History Museum – It is a museum on human civilization and animals, including ancient species including dinosaurs.

Shanghai History Museum – The Shanghai History Museum exhibits city’s past with photos & artifacts

Confucian Temple of Shanghai – The Confucian Temple of Shanghai is a rebuilt temple complex honoring Confucius, with pavilions, a towering pagoda, sculptures & gardens.

Gongqing Forest Park – The Gongqing Forest Park is a sprawling urban park with picnic & BBQ facilities, plus a kids’ playground & boat rentals.

Zhongshan Park – The Zhongshan is a serene park featuring a lush array of plantings, including roses & lotus flowers

Lèshān Giant Buddha

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“The Mountain is a Buddha and the Buddha is the Mountain.” Nothing can be better said about the Lèshān giant Buddha than this local Chinese saying.

Near the city of Lèshān in the Sichuan Province of China, sculpted out of a cliff face, sits the colossal Lèshān Buddha.

Not only is it an important site for Buddhist pilgrims from around the world, this great ancient wonder – a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1996 – attracts millions of tourists from across the world every year.

Construction of the 230-foot-tall statue, by far the largest and tallest of its kind in the world, was ordered by a monk named Hai Tong during the rule of the Tang Dynasty.

The project commenced in 713 AD and it took thousands of workers 90 long years of chipping away at the cliff face before it finally finished in 803 AD.

The overall immenseness of the statue can be gauged from the fact that 100 people can sit on the statue’s 30-foot instep, while the 79-foot-wide shoulders almost as big as a basketball court.

Skilfully embedded in the Buddha’s head are 1,021 coiled buns of hair. The ears are made of wood with a layer of mud decoration on their surface, each 23 feet long. The nose is 20 feet long while each eyebrow is 18 feet in length.

The Rivers Min and Dadu converge at this point and flow below the giant feet of the awesome Buddha, making it an even more spectacular sight.

Lìjiāng

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A popular destination in the north-western part of the Yunnan Province, Lìjiāng is a fairyland of majestic snow mountains, gurgling streams, and crisp fresh air.

While Lìjiāng is modern and new, its twin town – the Lìjiāng Old Town – is brimming with history and attracts huge numbers of tourists every year.

The Old Town is a UNESCO Heritage site with a history dating back more than 1000 years. It is a quiet, charming destination with some of the best preserved ancient buildings and a rich Naxi culture.

The Old Town was once the center of Lìjiāng and still retains the original flavor from way back, including the architecture and organized system of bridges and waterways.

Bĕijīng

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Beijing – a sprawling, vibrant, and constantly-evolving high-tech modern city – is the capital of China and the second most populous city in the world.

Formerly known as Peking, Beijing has transitioned into one of the world’s most modern cities and, needless to say, it’s a continuing metamorphosis.

However, the grandeur of its imperial legacy and its impressive socialist realism are evident from its historic landmarks, labyrinthine alleyways, ancient temples, and more.

The new has been made to blend seamlessly with the old and there lies the charm of this great world capital!

Some of the top Beijing attractions

The Forbidden City – The Forbidden City is a massive palace complex and museum featuring art exhibits, guided tours, and restaurants. It served as the Chinese imperial palace between 1420 and 1912 – right from the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty.

Summer Palace – This lakefront palace complex is known for its ornate temples, works of art, and extravagantly landscaped gardens. It is a popular tourist attraction and recreational park in Beijing.

Tiananmen Square – Located in the heart of the Chinese capital, Tiananmen Square is a massive city square and meeting place of great historical significance.

Temple of Heaven – A renowned temple complex from 1420 AD featuring distinctive circular buildings set in a popular park.

Ming tombs – Tombs of 13 Ming Dynasty emperors are housed in this ancient complex also featuring impressive statues and enchanting pathways.

Beijing National Stadium – The Beijing National Stadium is a modern sporting complex with a seating capacity of 80,000. Also known as the Bird’s Nest, it was built for the 2008 Summer Olympics. It is now used for concerts and sporting events.

Yonghe Temple – Built in 1694, the Yonghe Temple is an Ornate Buddhist temple complex housing bronze statues and incense burners.

Prince Gong Mansion – It is a grand, well-preserved, historic 18th-century mansion with courtyards and gardens.

Wangfujing – Located in the Dongcheng District of Beijing, Wangfujing is a famous, largely pedestrianized shopping area popular with locals and tourists alike.

Mausoleum of Mao Zedong – Also known as the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall, it is the final resting place of Mao Zedong as well as a museum dedicated to the great leader.

Great Wall of China – We have covered this epic landmark separately.

Great Wall of China

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The Great Wall of China is the ultimate tourist experience – an absolutely awesome place to go to, notwithstanding some hassles you may experience reaching this wonder of the world.

Viewed from Badaling, the world’s largest man-made construction snakes majestically across misty mountains, rising and dipping with the contours of the terrain it traverses.

Original sections of the wall are believed to have been built in 888 BC, during an era when walls were made from compressed clay and palisades. It was built as a fortification against invasions from the north.

Further sections of the wall were completed during the reign of Emperor Shi Huangdi, thereby, creating an almost continuous wall that extends from Dandong in the east to Lop Lake along a gigantic arc.

Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces

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The Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces, also known by the names Longsheng Rice Terraces and Longji Rice Terraces, are located in the southeast portion of the Longsheng County.

Layers and layers of terraces coil up the slopes, starting at the foot of the mountain and rising all the way to the top, landscaping the mountain slopes into layers that change dramatically with every passing season.

If you happen to visit the terraces in spring you’ll be treated to a view of layer upon layer of shimmering water which will change to layers of refreshing green rice shoots in summer. Ripening millets in autumn decorate the slopes with layers of and layers of gold, while during the winter months the slopes transform into layers of frost.

In addition to the scenic bonanza Longji affords, it is an excellent place to experience the culture of China’s ethnic minority, largely the Zhuang people and a scattering of Yao nationalities.

Xī’ān

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Xī’ān is the capital of the Shănxī province and one of the oldest cities in China. It is the oldest among the four great ancient capitals of the world and was once the starting point of the Silk Road – or you could call it the end of the Silk Road, looking from the opposite perspective.

It was a thriving capital under some of the most historically significant dynasties including the Qin, Sui, and Tang dynasties, among several others.

The archaeological sites from times gone by lie scattered around Xī’ān, making it an important destination for the historically inclined.

Some of the archaeological wonders include an excavated Neolithic village, many royal graves including the tomb of Qin Shi Huang and the world-famous Terracotta Warriors.

China’s march towards modernity is even evident in this ancient capital. Of late, Xī’ān has emerged as an important tourist hub and cultural center, what with its grand museums, ancient pagodas, an interesting Muslim Quarter and a surprisingly vibrant nightlife.

Source – Google, Remote Traveler

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From The Editors Technology

Facebook Secretly Introduces Its Moments-Like App in China minus the Branding

Despite the fact that Facebook apps are almost entirely banned in China, Facebook has covertly launched a photo-sharing app in the country minus the ubiquitous Facebook brand – understandably so, considering the ban.

According to a New York Times report, the American networking giant authorized a local company called the Youge Internet Technology to launch the app in the country in May. The app is named “Colorful Balloons” and, while it may not have the Facebook brand name attached to it, it has been designed along the lines of Facebook Moments.

The last active Facebook product in the country, the popular messaging application WhatsApp, got partially blocked as China enforced an online clampdown last July in a bid to tighten its control over cyber security. The move has served as a catalyst in shoring up the popularity of China’s indigenous messaging app WeChat owned by Tencent and the micro-blogging service, Weibo.

In an email response to an AFP inquiry, a Facebook representative said Friday:

“We have long said that we are interested in China, and are spending time understanding and learning more about the country in different ways.”

“Our focus right now is on helping Chinese businesses and developers expand to new markets outside China by using our ad platform,” the statement further said.

According to the NYT, it is not yet known if China’s internet regulatory authorities are aware of the new app.

The Times also reports that the app cannot be downloaded from a shared link; it has to be downloaded from an app store.

acebook chief and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg has made high-profile visits to China. PHOTO COURTESY: MARK ZUCKERBERG/FACEBOOK
Facebook chief and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg has made high-profile visits to China. Photo; Mark Zuckerberg/Facebook

Back in February, Zuckerberg had ruled out any expansion plans in the People’s Republic, saying there would be “no news at all in the near term.” However, the fact that he has made some “high-profile visits” to China meeting with leaders with political clout and even studying Mandarin, is kind of contradictory to his February statement.

The New York Times sums up its piece rather well, saying that the surreptitious “release of an app by a major foreign technology company in China is unprecedented.”

“It shows the desperation — and frustration — of global tech companies as they try to break into the world’s largest online market. It also underscores the lengths they are willing to go and their increasing acceptance of the idea that standards for operating in China are different from elsewhere.”

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From The Editors Politics

China Ready For Retaliation if Trump Starts Trade War

On Wednesday, a U.S. business group acknowledged that they had information that China was ready with retaliatory measures to be adopted should Donald Trump start a trade war with the Asian giant.

Lester Ross, head of the American Chamber of Commerce in China’s policy committee, said, “To our knowledge, China is already preparing measures in the event of actions by the new administration … should [they] impose restrictions on trade and investment with respect to China.”

These comments from Ross came during the unveiling of the outcome of a business survey conducted by the group. The survey results are rather bleak in that the report talks about the growing protectionism, limited market access and vague regulations in China.

Notably, China has been relatively quiet to Trump’s anti-China rhetoric continuing since his campaigning days.

However, on January 17, speaking at the World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland, the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, expressed that a trade war would be an exercise in futility – there would be no clear-cut winner.

His speech was cleverly worded and is believed to be a subtle retaliatory threat to President-elect Donald Trump if he were to adopt his anti-China policies.

President Xi Jinping, in his address, warned against protectionism appealing to the 3000 attendants, mostly entrepreneurs and the political crème de la crème to stand up against protectionism and also said that the blame game ought to stop.

“Those who push for protectionism are shutting themselves inside a dark house. They have escaped the rain and clouds outside, but also missed the light and air,” the Chinese premier philosophised. “A trade war will only lead to suffering on both sides.”

China’s President Supports Free Trade at World Economic Meeting
China’s President Supports Free Trade at World Economic Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, January 17

China claims to be ready for a trade war if Trump were to implement any of the anti-China policies he’s been babbling about since his campaigning days.

Aside from its, apparently, rigid stance on a trade war with the United States, China is even more serious about its “One China” policy which is “non-negotiable” and “no one can change it” the Chinese media reported on Monday.

The two countries came apart in 1949 as an apparent, consequence of a civil war, and ever since Taiwan has considered itself an independent nation with its own constitution, an electoral presidency, and its very own armed forces.

China, on the other hand, is stubborn about unifying the island nation with the Chinese mainland, as it considers the island nation of Taiwan, referred to as the “Taiwan Authority”, illegitimate – China may even consider taking over the island nation by force if it ever came to that.

Donald Trump’s telephonic interaction with the Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen, was seen as a major deviation from the One-China policy America has supported since 1979 – read more about Trumps controversial calls on our earlier article Decades of Diplomacy in the Dumps Due to Trump’s Calls to World Leaders

The call between Trump and the Tsai Ing-wen in early December last year was kept under wraps by Taiwan but Donald Trump brought it out in the open surprising the American diplomatic circle no end.

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From The Editors Politics

China Seizes U.S. Navy Underwater Drone – Pentagon Demands Return

The U.S. China relationship took another hit when a Chinese naval ship intercepted and seized a U.S. Navy drone in international waters when it surfaced for retrieval by the USNS Bowditch, an oceanographic and surveillance vessel of the United States Navy.

President-elect Trump, added fuel to fire when he made a rather uncalled for statement tweeting that it was an unprecedented act by China to take away the U.S. Navy drone.

“China steals United States Navy research drone in international waters – rips it out of the water and takes it to China in unpresidented act,” Trump had said which was later deleted and the misspelled word “unpresidented” was corrected in a retweet.

Well, it certainly was an “unpresidented” comment as Trump is not yet officially the President of the United States and his statement is likely to irk China, a second time around, after his telephonic conversation with the Taiwanese president, a blatant disregard of America’s one-China policy over three decades.

Trump’s vitriolic message came after China’s foreign ministry said that negotiations were on with the United States over the captured UVV.

According to Pentagon Press Secretary, Peter Cook’s, statement on Friday, the UVV was seized on Thursday about 50 nautical miles north-west of Subic Bay in the Philippines, just when the USNS Bowditch was about to retrieve one of the two “ocean gliders” employed in the region for survey purposes.

Peter Cook said that the Bowditch did make radio contact with the Chinese warship after the seizure of the “glider” and requested its return.

“The radio contact was acknowledged by the [Chinese] navy ship, but the request was ignored,” the Pentagon Press Secretary said in his statement.

“The UUV is a sovereign immune vessel of the United States. We call upon China to return our UUV immediately, and to comply with all of its obligations under international law.”

The Chinese foreign ministry has taken exception to the unnecessary “hyping up” of the issue and has said it was inappropriate for an amicable resolution.

A statement on the Chinese ministry website said: “China decided to return it to the US side in an appropriate manner, and China and the US have all along been in communication about it.”

“During this process, the US side’s unilateral and open hyping up is inappropriate and is not beneficial to the smooth resolution of this issue. We express regret at this,” the website added.

In his final press conference of 2016 at the White House, President Obama had a word of advice to the incoming president Donald Trump with regards to Unites States’ relations with China.

“The idea of ‘one China’ is at the heart of their conception as a nation,” Obama said, “and so if you are going to upend this understanding, you have to have thought through what are the consequences.

“Because the Chinese will not treat that the way they will treat some other issues. They won’t even treat it the way they treat issues around the South China Sea, where we have had a lot of tensions. This goes to the core of how they see themselves and their reaction on this issue could end up being very significant.”

“This looks like signalling from the Chinese in response to Trump’s Taiwan call,” said Bonnie Glaser, the director of the China Power Project at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

“It is hard to believe this is the action of an independent commander. The Chinese now have much better control over the military, particularly the navy. It is in China’s interest to send signals before Trump is inaugurated so that he gets the message and be more restrained once he is in office.”

According to a US official, the captured underwater drone was deployed for collecting oceanographic data, including salinity, temperature, and clarity of the water.

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From The Editors Technology

$36 Billion Railway Plan Approved by China – “Jing-Jin-Ji” Megacity The Long Term Target

Before we discuss the colossal railway expansion plan estimated at $36 billion, let’s first talk about the existing railway network in the People’s Republic of China. Like many other countries, China’s rail transport system has an important role to play in long distance travel and transportation.

According to stats from 2015, China is reported to have 121,000 km of railway, the second largest railway network after the United States of America and this number includes 20,000 km of high-speed rail (HSR).

It may be the second largest railway in the world in terms of distance covered, however, the 20,000 km of HSR tracks is second to none as of September 2016. It would be good to know that any train with a potential speed of 200+ km/h is internationally categorized as High-Speed Rail (HSR).

China’s HSR tracks are the longest in the world and may equal the rest of the world’s HSR tracks combined. The pan-China HSR covers twenty-eight of the country’s thirty-four provinces and regions, over 85percent of the combined provinces and divisions – no mean feat!

China Railway High-speed bullet train Linking the cities of Beijing,Tianjin,and Hebei.
China Railway High-speed bullet train Linking the cities of Beijing,Tianjin,and Hebei.

To add to the already one of the world’s largest railways, the recent approval of 247 billion Yuan ($36 billion) by the country’s top economic planning agency is aimed at enhancing rail transport connectivity between capital Beijing, the port city of Tianjin, and cities in the Hebei province up north.

The long-term vision is to integrate the three regions into one mega-city and HSR is an important cog in the wheel of a larger plan – the so-called megacity Jing-Jin-Ji.

The initial phase of the plan includes widening of services and network, up gradation of stations in smaller cities to bring them at par, better cooperation between national and provincial networks, among various other measures.

The immediate effect of the approval, however, seems to be the rise observed in the share market. China State Construction Engineering Corp closed 10 percent higher, China railway Grouping registered more than 5% up, while, China Communications Construction Co surged 6.5 percent including companies that plan to benefit from the mega plan.

The project, with an overall size of 1100 km (683 miles), will be completed over a span of 9 tasks, as announced on the internet by the Nationwide Improvement and Reform Fee, one of China’s reputed financial planners. The reported timeline for these projects is said to be 2020 and can extend up to 2030 to achieve the long-term goal of a well-connected megacity.

It’s a welcome announcement considering factors like:

Substantial reduction in travel time between the three cities and provinces in question.

Ease of doing business as a result of the drastic cut down in travel time.

Will encourage more of tourism traveling between the regions, thereby contributing to the economy and culture, as well.

According to Steve McCord, research head at real estate service firm Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), “It was not possible to go all the way from Beijing to Binghai and that’s a one-hour trip now. It’s now also possible to go between Tianjin and Tangshan in less than 30 minutes, which was previously several hours’ drive,” he said.

“I think there are few places in the world that have that kind of integration. It has made it much easier to do business.” He added.