Items tagged with: chinas
A largely empty urban district struggling with billions of dollars in debt demonstrates the breakdown of the Chinese economic growth model.
Article word count: 1346
HN Discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19636752
Posted by ilamont (karma: 25888)
Post stats: Points: 124 - Comments: 112 - 2019-04-11T17:08:52Z
#HackerNews #arrive #borrowed #but #chinas #have #heavily #manhattan #people #the #yet
A largely empty urban district struggling with billions of dollars in debt demonstrates the breakdown of the Chinese economic growth model.
Yujiapu Financial District in Tianjin, China, where four-fifths of the office space is empty and the government borrowed heavily to build.CreditCreditGiulia Marchi for The New York Times
Alexandra StevensonCao Li
By Alexandra Stevenson and Cao Li
TIANJIN, China — At a port in Germany, 150 Steinway pianos are waiting to be shipped to this gateway city for the grand opening of the Juilliard School’s second campus.
The air in Tianjin is so dry that the pianos will require climate-controlled rooms, helping to nearly double the cost of the state-of-the-art campus to $225 million.
The extra money is not coming from Juilliard. The local government is footing the bill. And that could become a problem for officials struggling with debt after an epic spending spree to develop a new commercial center from scratch.
Welcome to Yujiapu Financial District, which promotes itself as China’s Manhattan, but may better be seen as a monument to the breakdown of the Chinese growth model. Four-fifths of the office space stands empty. Construction on other buildings has stopped, leaving skeletons in the sky. A sprawling mall has few shoppers. Inside, a pet store has no animals.
The businesses and residents that local officials had hoped to attract have yet to show up. Juilliard, which is expected to draw in students and their families, will open its doors next fall, a rare Western institution taking a chance on this district.
Zhang Zhiyi works as a recruiter for an online education company in a nearby office building. The lonely landscape has translated into a good deal for commercial renters: New tenants get a full year rent-free. Deals abound, the 28-year-old said: “The other buildings aren’t really full, either.”
Chinese local governments are swimming in debt. By official accounts, that debt totals $4.5 trillion. By unofficial estimates, it could be as large as $10 trillion. No one knows for sure because much of the borrowing for projects like the Tianjin Juilliard campus is rarely disclosed.
China has long borrowed heavily to build and then counted on breakneck economic growth to pay it back. The script: Sell vast amounts of land to developers, borrow to subsidize construction, and jobs and new cities will result. It was a model that helped China build its skyscrapers and high-speed rail lines and ushered in an era of prosperity.
But China is not growing as fast as it used to, and it is not clear that the “build it and they will come” model will save Yujiapu and other places with big debts. The national government now must find other ways to spur growth — without making the debt problem worse.
The construction site of the Juilliard School in Yujiapu. The campus will open its doors next fall, the rare Western institution taking a chance on this district.CreditGiulia Marchi for The New York Times
“China’s economy has depended on building for the future, and there are considerable signs that they have overbuilt,” said Logan Wright, director of China research at Rhodium Group, a consulting firm, adding that debt and overcapacity could hold back growth.
“That probably means much slower economic growth in the next decade compared to China’s recent path,” he said.
Tianjin government officials did not respond to a request for comment.
Tianjin, a coastal city just a short train ride from Beijing, had one of the highest growth rates in China. Its success made headlines, and local officials credited “Tianjin spirit, Tianjin speed and Tianjin benefits.”
Then the economy slowed. And local officials in the Binhai New Area, a special economic zone of Tianjin that includes Yujiapu, admitted they overstated growth. They slashed $50 billion from its original figure for 2016, bringing economic output to $100 billion. Today, Tianjin is one of the slowest-growing regions of China and one of the most financially troubled.
By the broadest measure of borrowing in China, called total social financing, Tianjin’s government, corporations and households owe more than $760 billion, according to an estimate by Rhodium Group. The annual interest owed by all borrowers in Tianjin totaled 12 times its annual nominal economic growth, Rhodium said, citing the most recent numbers.
An empty underground shopping mall in Yujiapu.CreditGiulia Marchi for The New York Times
If Yujiapu really is the Manhattan of China, it has a way to go to catch up to the real thing. Its avenues, some nearly as wide as Broadway, are eerily quiet. Many buildings just a few blocks from the Tianjin Juilliard School remain unfinished. The finished ones are mostly empty.
On one recent weekday visit, the door to the sales office for a hulking, unfinished residential building several blocks from the Juilliard campus blew open in the wind. No one was inside. Many of the six-lane roads in the city lack crosswalk lights, in part because they are not needed.
Across the Hai River from Yujiapu is another ghostlike district, Xiangluowan, where the local government encouraged private Chinese developers to build on their own dime. They did, but no one came. Dozens of the buildings in this district are now collateral for huge overdue loans that are being held by local banks.
Zhang Zhiyi, a recruiter for an online education company, said the lonely landscape in Tianjin had translated into good deals for commercial renters. “The other buildings aren’t really full, either,” he said. CreditGiulia Marchi for The New York Times
For now, Tianjin can continue to borrow for projects like the Juilliard campus because it has a powerful patron in Beijing, said Victor Shih, an associate professor at the University of California, San Diego, and an expert on the Chinese economy. That official, He Lifeng, was once the No. 2 Communist Party official in Tianjin. Mr. He now heads the central government agency that approves all major development projects, meaning he can authorize banks to lend more money to Tianjin.
“If the political will collapses for the Binhai area, then the bank loans will begin to dry up and the whole area is in trouble,” Mr. Shih said.
Officials at the National Development and Reform Commission, the agency where Mr. He works, did not respond to a request for comment.
Itʼs quiet in the Yujiapu Financial District, which promotes itself as China’s Manhattan. Businesses that local officials hoped to attract have yet to show up. CreditGiulia Marchi for The New York Times
Despite the empty buildings, the local government keeps borrowing. Last year, Tianjin and entities related to the local government raised $36 billion through new loans, according to data from the People’s Bank of China, the country’s central bank.
Many residents believe Yujiapu’s problems have been overstated and try to cast its emptiness in a positive light. Mr. Zhang, who works for the online recruiter, said technology companies looking for alternatives to expensive places like Beijing and the southern city of Shenzhen could find Tianjin attractive.
“Now, there are quite a lot of internet companies, including some e-commerce platforms,” he said, speculating that these companies could move into his building in the future.
Michael Hart, a real estate consultant in Tianjin, said a resurgence of growth could save the city from its problems.
“It’s like going to see a five-act play,” Mr. Hart said, referring to Yujiapu’s critics, “and you’re halfway through Act 1 and calling it a lousy play.”
For Alexander Brose, the chief executive of the Tianjin Juilliard School, the district will soon benefit from the prestige of the Juilliard name to attract people. On a recent day, he toured the construction site, pointing to what he expected to see next year. Here, a 687-seat concert hall, he said. Over there, a recital space that can hold 299 people. And in the corner, a 250-seat black box theater.
He paused, looking at the hundreds of construction workers welding, hammering and moving steel, and said, referring to the local government, “I think they are looking at this as a feather in the cap of this new project.”
Alexandra Stevenson is a business correspondent based in Hong Kong, covering Chinese corporate giants, the changing landscape for multinational companies and China’s growing economic and financial influence in Asia. @jotted • Facebook
HackerNewsBot debug: Calculated post rank: 120 - Loop: 402 - Rank min: 100 - Author rank: 71
Article word count: 357
HN Discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19629464
Posted by chanind (karma: 551)
Post stats: Points: 159 - Comments: 50 - 2019-04-10T22:45:50Z
#HackerNews #996 #and #awakening #chinas #digital #github #rights #workers
Tech workers of the world, unite!
In China’s tech sector a peculiar uprising has begun: workers are demanding to be treated fairly. Even more fascinating is that the medium by which this movement is taking shape is via a single Github repo, which at the time of writing has over 200,000 stars making it one of Github’s most popular repos of all time.
China’s tech sector is notorious for treating workers like machines, with extremely long working hours being the norm. The phrase 996 refers to 9am - 9pm, 6 days per week, and is an unspoken rule in a lot of Chinese tech companies. The CEO of Youzan, a large Chinese e-commerce company, seemingly didn’t get the memo about keeping 996 as an “unspoken” rule, and surprised his employees at their 2019 yearly company party by telling them Youzan is officially switching to 996.
Ironically, given that China is a communist country, workers’ rights movements and unions are extremely uncommon, so it’s refreshing to see tech workers using their collective power to push back against abusive employers. The 996 Github page maintains a blacklist of tech companies that use 996 working hours, and a whitelist of companies that have reasonable working hours, and encourages tech workers to quit their jobs if their employers insist on the abusive 996 work schedule. The repo also has an anti-996 software license which projects can use which bans the software from being used by a 996 company. The license appears to be a modified MIT license with the addition of clauses restricting use by companies violating standard labor laws. The 996 website also points out that the 996 work-week is illegal under Chinese law, despite being so commonplace.
At the time of writing, the 996 website isn’t blocked in China, but greedy tech companies have decided to block it themselves. Tencent’s Wechat refuses to open the site, as does Alibaba’s UC Browser and Qihoo’s 360 browser. It seems Chinese tech companies don’t want their employees getting the idea that they should be treated fairly. Given the popularity of the 996 repo, though, it seems that the word is getting out.
Tech workers of the world, unite!
HackerNewsBot debug: Calculated post rank: 122 - Loop: 155 - Rank min: 100 - Author rank: 239
David Kong felt shattered after a recent business trip to Chongqing. ...
HN Discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19493033
Posted by alanwong (karma: 383)
Post stats: Points: 119 - Comments: 89 - 2019-03-26T16:01:06Z
#HackerNews #chinas #credit #doing #life #side #social #system #than #the #time #worse #wrong
HackerNewsBot debug: Calculated post rank: 109 - Loop: 306 - Rank min: 100 - Author rank: 58
Tech partnerships are empowering new methods of control.
Article word count: 1182
HN Discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19438052
Posted by malloryerik (karma: 1608)
Post stats: Points: 142 - Comments: 35 - 2019-03-20T01:34:31Z
#HackerNews #are #build #chinas #firms #helping #orwellian #state
When a Dutch cybersecurity researcher disclosed last month that Chinese security contractor SenseNets left a massive facial recognition database tracking the movements of over 2.5 million people in China’s Xinjiang province unsecured on the internet, it briefly shone a spotlight on the alarming scope of the Chinese surveillance state.
But SenseNets is a symptom of a much larger phenomenon: Tech firms in the United States are lending expertise, reputational credence, and even technology to Chinese surveillance companies, wittingly or otherwise.
The SenseNets database logged exact GPS coordinates on a 24-hour basis and, using facial recognition, associated that data with sensitive personal information, including national ID numbers, home addresses, personal photographs, and places of employment. Nearly one-third of the individuals tracked were from the Uighur minority ethnic group. In a bizarre juxtaposition of surveillance supremacy and security incompetence, SenseNets’ database was left open on the internet for six months before it was reported and, according to the researcher who discovered it, could have been “corrupted by a 12-year-old.”
The discovery suggests SenseNets is one of a number of Chinese companies participating in the construction of a technology-enabled totalitarian police state in Xinjiang, which has seen as many as 2 million Uighurs placed into “re-education camps” since early 2017. Eyewitness reports from inside the camps describe harsh living conditions, torture, and near constant political indoctrination meant to strip Uighurs of any attachment to their Islamic faith. Facial recognition, artificial intelligence, and speech monitoring enable and supercharge the Chinese Communist Party’s drive to “standardize” its Uighur population. Uighurs can be sent to re-education camps for a vast array of trivial offenses, many of which are benign expressions of faith. The party monitors compliance through unrelenting electronic surveillance of online and physical activities. This modern-day panopticon requires enormous amounts of labor, but is serving as a testing ground for new technologies of surveillance that might render this process cheaper and more efficient for the state.
Toward this goal, the party is leveraging China’s vibrant tech ecosystem, inviting Chinese companies to participate through conventional government-procurement tools. Companies built the re-education camps. Companies supply the software that watches Uighurs online and the cameras that surveil their physical movements. While based in China, many are deeply embedded in the international tech community, in ways that raise serious questions about the misuse of critical new technologies. Foreign firms, eager to access Chinese funding and data, have rushed into partnerships without heed to the ways the technologies they empower are being used in Xinjiang and elsewhere.
In February 2018, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced a wide-ranging research partnership with Chinese artificial-intelligence giant and global facial-recognition leader SenseTime. SenseTime then held a 49 percent stake in SenseNets, with robust cross-pollination of technical personnel. SenseNets’ parent company Netposa (also Chinese) has offices in Silicon Valley and Boston, received a strategic investment from Intel Capital in 2010, and has invested in U.S. robotics start-ups: Bito—led by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University—and Exyn, a drone software company competing in a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) artificial-intelligence challenge. This extensive enmeshing raises both moral and dual-use national-security questions. Dual-use technology is tech that can be put to both civilian and military uses and as such is subject to tighter controls. Nuclear power and GPS are classic examples, but new technologies such as facial recognition, augmented reality and virtual reality, 5G, and quantum computing are beginning to raise concerns about their dual applicability.
Beyond SenseNets, Chinese voice-recognition leader iFlytek may also be supplying software to monitor electronic communications in Xinjiang. A 2013 iFlytek patent identified by Human Rights Watch specifically touted its utility in “monitoring public opinion.” Nonetheless, like SenseTime, iFlytek recently established a multiyear research partnership with MIT. These partnerships lend reputational weight to activities that undermine freedom abroad.
Equally concerning is that the details of technical and research collaborations with Chinese companies can be opaque to international partners, concealing ethically objectionable activities. When Yale University geneticist Kenneth Kidd shared DNA samples with a scientific colleague from the Chinese Ministry of Public Security’s Institute on Forensic Science, he had no idea they would be used to refine genetic surveillance techniques in Xinjiang. Massachusetts-based company Thermo Fisher is also implicated: Until it was reported last month, the company sold DNA sequencers directly to authorities in Xinjiang for genetic mapping. Western companies and institutions must be far more vigilant in scrutinizing how Chinese partners are using their products, especially emerging technologies.
Facial recognition is a good place to start. The industry needs to establish global standards for appropriate applications—use that respects human rights and the rule of law. In the United States, Microsoft has been an industry leader in calling for regulation and has tapped employees, customers, public officials, academics, and civil society groups to develop a set of “principles for facial recognition,” which it plans to launch formally this month. When it comes to building out regulation, the devil may be in the details. But the principles—fairness, transparency, accountability, nondiscrimination, notice and consent, and lawful surveillance—are sound. Surprisingly, SenseNets lists Microsoft itself as a partner on its website, along with American chip manufacturer AMD and high-performance computing provider Amax.
In the case of SenseNets, these partnerships could be false claims by a company looking to boost credibility, unwitting collaboration on the part of U.S. tech firms, or true business relationships. “We have been able to find no evidence that Microsoft is involved in a partnership with SenseNets,” a spokesperson for Microsoft told the authors, “We will follow up with SenseNets to cease making inaccurate representations about our relationship.” But if these partnerships are real, they would violate all six of Microsoft’s principles. California-based Amax, which specializes in high-performance computing for deep-learning applications, touts a partnership with Chinese state-owned Hikvision, the world’s largest supplier of video surveillance products. AMD is also involved in a Chinese joint venture supplying proprietary x86 processor technology.
Despite a general awareness of the ways American companies and individuals are abetting surveillance in Xinjiang, U.S. Congress and government officials have yet to call for a review of the extent of U.S. investment and research partnership entanglements. The Commerce Department’s proposed rule-making on controls for certain emerging technologies is a start, but its scope remains unclear.
The international tech community can help guide the ethical application of its developments. After employee protests, Google reportedly suspended plans to launch Dragonfly, a censored version of its search engine custom-built for China, although there are suspicions the project may not be entirely dead. Authoritarianism has proven it can use emerging technologies to undermine democratic norms and freedoms. As such, U.S.-based research-and-development organizations should perform basic due diligence on partnerships to assess their connection to surveillance regimes.
International scientific exchange has yielded awe-inspiring achievements, from the discovery of the Higgs boson to the eradication of smallpox. And cooperation is growing faster than ever. But by taking basic steps to understand their partners, investors can mitigate some of the unintended risks of that cooperation. If they fail to do so, they will end up owning some of the responsibility for human rights abuses in Xinjiang and elsewhere.
HackerNewsBot debug: Calculated post rank: 106 - Loop: 144 - Rank min: 100 - Author rank: 35
To continue, please click the box below to let us know you're not a robot.
HN Discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19438252
Posted by jseliger (karma: 48056)
Post stats: Points: 131 - Comments: 108 - 2019-03-20T02:10:33Z
#HackerNews #cars #chinas #demand #dent #e-buses #electric #more #oil #than
To continue, please click the box below to let us know youʼre not a robot.
HackerNewsBot debug: Calculated post rank: 123 - Loop: 64 - Rank min: 100 - Author rank: 60
To continue, please click the box below to let us know you're not a robot.
HN Discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19350060
Posted by jonbaer (karma: 43186)
Post stats: Points: 91 - Comments: 45 - 2019-03-10T03:47:46Z
#HackerNews #chinas #finds #for #gdp #growth #inflated #nine #pace #study #was #years
To continue, please click the box below to let us know youʼre not a robot.
HackerNewsBot debug: Calculated post rank: 75 - Loop: 40 - Rank min: 60 - Author rank: 41
HN Discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19299129
Posted by stevefan1999 (karma: 149)
Post stats: Points: 148 - Comments: 42 - 2019-03-04T06:00:38Z
#HackerNews #apparently #are #chinas #databases #internet #leaked #network #social #surveillance
HackerNewsBot debug: Calculated post rank: 112 - Loop: 92 - Rank min: 100 - Author rank: 16
A massive expansion leads to the first ultrahigh-voltage AC-DC power grid
Article word count: 23
HN Discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19295838
Posted by shalmanese (karma: 8592)
Post stats: Points: 153 - Comments: 126 - 2019-03-03T18:12:54Z
#HackerNews #biggest #build #chinas #plan #supergrid #the #worlds
Photo: State Grid Corp. of China Big Picture: This Beijing dispatch center controls most of China’s ultrahigh-voltage lines and monitors renewable energy use.
Wind rips across an isolated utility station in northwestern China’s desolate Gansu Corridor. More than 2,000 years ago, Silk Road traders from Central Asia and Europe crossed this arid, narrow plain, threading between forbidding mountains to the south and the Gobi Desert to the north, bearing precious cargo bound for Imperial Beijing. Today the corridor carries a distinctly modern commodity: gigawatts of electricity destined for the megacities of eastern China. One waypoint on that journey is this ultrahigh-voltage (UHV) converter station outside the city of Jiuquan, in Gansu province.
Electricity from the region’s wind turbines, solar farms, and coal-fired power plants arrives at the station as alternating current. Two dozen 500-metric-ton transformers feed the AC into a cavernous hall, where AC-DC converter circuits hang from the 28-meter-high ceiling, emitting a penetrating, incessant buzz. Within each circuit, solid-state switches known as thyristors chew up the AC and spit it out as DC flowing at 800 kilovolts.
From here, the transmission line traverses three more provinces before terminating at a sister station in Hunan province, more than 2,300 kilometers away. There, the DC is converted back to AC, to be fed onto the regional power grid. Since it opened in mid-2017, the 26.2 billion yuan (US $3.9 billion) Gansu–Hunan transmission line has moved about 24 terawatt-hours.
The sheer scale of the new line and the advanced grid technology that’s been developed to support it dwarf anything going on in pretty much any other country. And yet, here in China, it’s just one of 22 such ultrahigh-voltage megaprojects that grid operators have built over the past decade. In the northwestern region of Xinjiang, China recently switched on its largest UHV link: a 1,100-kV DC circuit that cost over 40.7 billion yuan. The new line’s taller transmission towers and beefier wires parallel the Gansu–Hunan line through the Gansu Corridor, before diverting to Anhui province in the east.
Photo: Xu Yu/Xinhua/Redux Power Shift: This station in Zhejiang province imports hydropower from Sichuan province as direct current and converts it to alternating current.
The result of all this effort is an emerging nationwide supergrid that will interconnect China’s six regional grids and rectify the huge geographic mismatch between where China produces its cleanest power (in the north and west) and where power is consumed (in the densely populated east). By using higher voltages of direct current, which flows through conductors more uniformly than does alternating current, the new transmission lines dramatically reduce the amount of power that’s lost along the way.
But even as China celebrates the completion of more than 30,000 km of UHV lines, power engineers are struggling to master the resulting hybrid AC-DC transmission system. They must ensure that the new long-haul DC lines don’t destabilize China’s regional AC grids. For example, if the 8-gigawatt DC line from Gansu were to unexpectedly go off line, the power shock could cause widespread blackouts in Hunan and beyond.
To minimize the threat, the State Grid Corp. of China, a state-owned company that runs most of China’s transmission and distribution grids, intentionally limits the line’s throughput to no more than 4.5 GW. In practice, the line has carried less than one-quarter of its design capacity on average. That’s one reason why over one-third of Gansu province’s theoretical wind output and one-fifth of its solar potential went unused in 2017. Other UHV lines in neighboring regions have similarly operated below capacity. And eastern provinces don’t have sufficient incentive to import the cleaner power that the UHV lines offer.
The ultimate solution to both issues, according to State Grid engineers, is to double down on UHV. They argue that the country must move far more energy via UHV DC to maximize the use of renewable energy while slashing reliance on coal. State Grid is also building a world-leading set of ultrahigh-voltage AC lines, to help eastern China’s regional AC grids absorb the output from those massive lines.
“The UHV AC power grid is like a deep-water port, and the UHV DC is like a 10,000-ton ship. Only the deep-water port can support the 10,000-ton ship,” says Qin Xiaohui, vice director of power system planning with State Grid’s China Electric Power Research Institute, in Beijing.
Illustration: Erik Vrielink
Meanwhile, power authorities everywhere are watching. Gregory Reed, a DC transmission expert who runs the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Energy, says China’s UHV grid puts it far ahead of the rest of the world. “They’re investing significantly, and they’ve gone right to the highest levels of technology capability from day one. There’s no comparison anywhere else in the world. It’s like we’re all still pedaling our bicycles, while the Formula 1 race car goes flying by.”
China’s UHV movement was born of a limo ride. It was late 2004, and Liu Zhenya, then president of State Grid, was sharing a car with Ma Kai, minister of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the powerful state body that regulates China’s growth and major investments. As Chinese policy expert Yi-chong Xu describes in her 2017 book Sinews of Power (Oxford University Press), Ma complained of the crippling power shortages of the day. Liu blamed “weak and fragmented” grids, ones ill-equipped to exchange bulk power. And he proposed a bold solution: massive cross-country power lines utilizing the most advanced UHV technologies.
Within a year, Ma’s NDRC had approved an ambitious and comprehensive plan that embraced Liu’s vision. It combined UHV DC lines, which excel at moving bulk power from one spot to another over long distances, and a UHV AC backbone to reliably distribute that power to consumers. State Grid would lead the engineering and ensure that domestic suppliers would manufacture 90 percent of the UHV equipment, thus building up a new high-tech export sector for China.
Over the next decade, Liu delivered. He put some 2,000 State Grid engineers on the project and funded more than 300 professors and 1,000 graduate students at Chinese universities to conduct power-grid-related R&D. State Grid expanded and refocused its research centers to attack specific UHV issues, including how to safely handle the higher electromagnetic fields and the more potent impulses during switching and faults.
In January 2009, State Grid energized its first UHV demonstration line—a 650-km, 1,000-kV UHV AC transmission line that linked the North China and Central China regional grids. Ten years on, State Grid has completed 19 of 30 proposed UHV lines.
Photo: Imaginechina/AP Nimby: Coal plants in Inner Mongolia feed this station near Shanghai, reducing the megacity’s air pollution.
That aggressive build-out has helped fast-growing urban centers such as Shanghai stave off power shortages despite delays in the expansion of China’s nuclear power capacity and constraints on local coal power due to air-quality concerns. The new UHV grid is also helping the country lead the global transition to renewable generation, moving 161.5 terawatt-hours of hydro, wind, and solar energy in 2017 alone.
ABB, Siemens, and other international power-technology companies have been instrumental in developing and validating key components of the Chinese UHV grid. But State Grid has insisted on sharing the intellectual property for the technologies developed at its behest.
In a 2014 interview, Executive Vice President Liu Zehong described one tense episode in 2006 when State Grid asked international suppliers to help develop 6-inch-diameter thyristors capable of handling more current than 5-inch thyristors could. The suppliers initially balked, said Liu, but ultimately relented because of State Grid’s “determined attitude” and the “huge market opportunities” of the Chinese market. Two years later, Chinese firms were manufacturing the resulting 6-inch switches.
For all of State Grid’s progress, its UHV deployment remains uneven and incomplete. China could end up with just half of the 89,000 km of UHV lines that its plans called for by 2020 and none of the anticipated UHV links to Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and Russia. Many proposed projects—particularly for the UHV AC backbone—have failed to gain the NDRC’s blessing. As a result, many areas still have no UHV AC lines, and both types of UHV are delivering well below expectations.
What has blocked full implementation is an intense debate over the future of UHV. Some Chinese grid experts question the hundreds of billions of yuan spent on UHV projects and what they see as State Grid’s monopolization of grid engineering and manufacturing. Provincial officials have chafed at the centralization of grid planning and operation that UHV requires.
Photo: ABB Supersized: Pushing UHV technology to 1,100 kilovolts requires upscaled components like this 800-metric-ton transformer.
Some experts have also criticized Liu’s ultimate goal for the UHV AC backbone—linking up and synchronizing China’s regional grids—as far too risky. Han Yingduo, a member of the prestigious Chinese Academy of Engineering and a professor at Tsinghua University, in Beijing, has warned that unifying China’s grid would make it far more vulnerable to cascading blackouts, like the one in 2003 that knocked out power in the northeastern United States and Canada.
Because no other country has ever built a hybrid UHV AC-DC grid, State Grid engineers are having to feel their way along. In a traditional lower-voltage network, the grid operator typically reserves emergency power to cover the sudden loss of the grid’s largest asset. That may mean keeping a gigawatt or two of extra power generation at the ready.
Now add multiple UHV lines to your network, each carrying 8 to 12 GW, and your requirements for reserve power rise dramatically.
Maintaining the ideal voltage on a UHV grid is also enormously challenging. Thyristor-based UHV converters consume what’s known as reactive power—found in AC systems in which the current and voltage are out of phase. (By contrast, active, or real, power is the power that’s actually consumed by the grid’s loads; its current and voltage waves are aligned.) By consuming reactive power, the UHV converters tend to pull down the voltage of surrounding AC lines, so converter stations have equipment to supply reactive power and prop up the AC voltage.
But if an AC line’s voltage sags, nearby converters will consume even more reactive power, pulling voltage down further. A voltage sag can also disrupt the thyristors’ ability to switch from one current path to another, a process known as commutation. A severe commutation failure [PDF]will cause the converter to shut down, deepening the AC voltage drop and starting a potentially destructive feedback loop that could end in a blackout. “Successive DC commutation failures will trigger a chain reaction,” says Qin, the system planning expert at State Grid’s Beijing research institute.
Photo: VCG/Getty Images Crushing It: China’s newest UHV line from Xinjiang to Anhui has set world records for transmission distance, power, and voltage.
The resulting blackout could travel far and fast, notes Zhang Fang, a system operator in State Grid’s National Electric Power Dispatching and Control Center, in Beijing. When a UHV DC circuit goes off line unexpectedly, it creates a power surge hundreds or thousands of kilometers away, on the AC grid that feeds it. “The UHV DC line is actually acting as an amplifier. A small AC disturbance in the receiving end can become a large AC disturbance in the sending-end grid,” says Zhang.
To minimize the risk of multiple converter failures and cascading blackouts, engineers for State Grid’s East China regional grid have deployed a fiber-optic control network that automatically rebalances supply and demand. If necessary, it can boost line voltage within 200 milliseconds of a voltage drop, using a set of fault responses that have been built into the East China grid’s AC-DC converters. As soon as the fiber-optic network flags an outage on a UHV DC line, the converters pull up to 10 percent more power over the remaining DC lines to keep the grid operational. The optical control scheme can also restore balance by releasing power from pumped hydro plants, which store energy by pushing water uphill. And it can trigger small controlled blackouts, shutting off some distribution feeders to reduce demand while sparing hospitals and other essential loads.
These measures have enabled a trio of UHV DC lines that deliver hydropower from the Southwest China grid to operate continuously at their combined 21.6-GW design capacity. The result is an electrical trifecta: Greater Shanghai, China’s most densely urbanized and industrialized region, gets more clean power; the Yangtze River Delta’s megadams spill less excess water during flood season; and State Grid earns more revenue from its UHV investment. Even so, Shanghai still runs short of power for several weeks each summer, forcing State Grid to pay big customers to idle their factories. Keeping pace with growth may require tripling Shanghai’s electricity imports within a decade.
At the national control center, in Beijing, mounting pressure to push more clean power through State Grid’s UHV lines is hard to miss. The main screen displays the status of the AC and DC trunk lines, providing a real-time view of the entire system. Dominating the left wall are warning lights tracking renewable energy curtailment in each of 25 provinces—and who should be fixing it. Green lights mean that all of the potential solar and wind power is being used. Blue, yellow, and orange lights indicate renewable energy waste, which State Grid’s provincial, regional, or national controllers, respectively, must try to stop.
“We are determined to consume the renewable energy to the maximum extent. That’s our job,” says Zhang. Controllers may reroute power from a province with low electricity demand to another where demand is higher. Or they may steer electricity to one of State Grid’s 21 pumped hydro plants, which collectively can soak up 19 GW.
Photo: Peter Fairley Modern Imports: A trio of UHV DC lines traces the Silk Road in China’s Gansu province.
In theory, Chinese law has long required grid operators to prioritize renewable energy. But in practice, each province has its own plans and priorities, which tend to favor electricity generated locally. For instance, in Zhejiang province, south of Shanghai, significant opposition to importing electricity has hampered the operation of an 8-GW UHV DC line from Ningxia province, according to analysts at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
On the windy, sunny day when I visited Gansu’s DC converter station last year, its UHV line was carrying just 3 GW of its 8-GW capacity. That was the cumulative output from several renewable plants. But the province also has an additional 15 GW of solar and wind that’s connected to the new line but not yet authorized to feed power into it.
Change is coming. Two months after my visit, power companies in coastal Jiangsu province struck a deal to buy power from Gansu’s largest wind farm via another UHV DC line. And last November, State Grid began building a UHV DC line from Qinghai province to move even more of Gansu’s renewable generation. Meanwhile, the NDRC is stoking demand by mandating minimum rates of renewable energy use by each region.
State Grid’s long-term goal to interconnect its regional grids should also reduce curtailment, experts say. Zhang Ning, an authority on renewables integration at Tsinghua University, points out that the Southwest grid’s hydropower can balance the fluctuations in the Northwest’s wind and solar output. “If we interconnect the West, curtailment of wind power there can be reduced from more than 20 percent to 5 percent,” he estimates, and both regions’ use of coal can also be cut.
Even as State Grid irons out the kinks in its UHV grids, the company is pushing its equipment and expertise abroad. It has led the creation of nine UHV standards through the International Electrotechnical Commission and the IEEE—a move that researchers at Argonne National Laboratory, in Illinois, warned would help Chinese suppliers “crowd others out of the global market” [PDF].
State Grid is already working on its first international UHV DC project: a pair of 800-kV lines to move power from Brazil’s Belo Monte megadam. But subsequent UHV sales have been slow to materialize. That may be because most countries do not yet need, or cannot afford, a 1,000-kV AC or DC line.
Undaunted, former State Grid chairman Liu is now crusading to build transcontinental and intercontinental UHV grids. The same technology that went into building the 1,100-kV line from Xinjiang to Anhui could efficiently move power up to 5,000 kilometers. “If we just turn that line around to point west, we are getting close to Europe. So the technology is available,” says Magnus Callavik, general manager of ABB Sifang Power System, a Beijing-based joint venture between Swiss power-engineering giant ABB and China’s Sifang Automation.
Callavik says he is convinced that continental-scale UHV DC will happen, sooner or later. In a world that must decarbonize, figuring out how to balance variable energy supplies such as solar and wind generation with regional loads is a growing concern. “Transmission is a very cost-efficient way of doing that,” says Callavik.
In China the question is how quickly State Grid will overcome the technical and political obstacles that are holding back UHV’s carbon-slashing potential. If the country continues to rely heavily on coal power, importing that power over thousands of kilometers will help clear the air in China’s eastern megacities. But the country’s carbon footprint will remain unchanged, and the benefits for the global climate will be nil. Mobilizing gigawatts of renewable power over a UHV grid, on the other hand, promises a real change, for China and the world.
This article appears in the March 2019 print issue as “A Grid as Big as China.”
HackerNewsBot debug: Calculated post rank: 144 - Loop: 328 - Rank min: 100 - Author rank: 59
The “front page of the Internet” is the latest battle ground in the fight over control of global culture. Chinese tech giant Tencent recently invested $150m in Reddit. This investment sparked virtual…
Article word count: 1153
HN Discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19166794
Posted by theNJR (karma: 408)
Post stats: Points: 92 - Comments: 107 - 2019-02-14T22:42:38Z
#HackerNews #american #and #chinas #control #culture #protests #reddit
The “front page of the Internet” is the latest battle ground in the fight over control of global culture. Chinese tech giant Tencent recently invested $150m in Reddit. This investment sparked virtual protests and outrage across the social platform, with images of Tiananmen Square flooding Reddit’s front page. The threat of Chinese censorship was feeling all too real on a site that had historically embraced the extremes of free speech.
Reddit CEO Steve Huffman assured users that “Our governance didn’t change during this round, which means we didn’t add anyone to the board, and our policies won’t be changing either.”. That is likely true…for “this round”. The truth is, to really understand China’s influence over U.S. culture, Silicon Valley just needs to look south.
Hollywood is the original cultural capital, broadcasting American ideals and cultural norms to the rest of the world since the late 1930’s. Over the last decade, Chinese firms have been making substantial investments in Hollywood. As part of China’s influence strategy, these investments typically follow a three step process:
1. Chinese investors provide a welcome source of financing for U.S. film studios. In an effort to appease their financiers, U.S. studios self-censor and ensure their films are less critical of China. According to the New York Times, “As recently as two decades ago, major Hollywood movies were sharply critical of China. “Seven Years in Tibet,” which depicts Chinese soldiers brutalizing Tibetans, was one of the top 100 grossing movies of 1997”. Once the Chinese investment rolled in to Hollywood, however, the criticism stopped.
2. In order to release U.S. blockbuster films in China, studios are often asked to add Chinese movie stars and locations to their productions. This request is seemingly harmless, and even a logical business choice. Plus, it’s the law in China.
3. Chinese censors will review US scripts for unsanctioned material and request rewrites (or reshoots) if they don’t find the material acceptable. After a few rounds of this process, most producers, writers and directors knowingly exclude “forbidden” concepts without even being asked. The 2010 remake of Red Dawn, for example, created an uproar from Chinese state-run news after a script leak revealed that China was to be depicted as the enemy.
The North Korean flags in Red Dawn were all added in post production.
Eventually, the studio digitally removed all references to the Chinese army in the film, and replaced them with the North Korean army. According to the The Global Times, a state-run Chinese newspaper, ”Without a single word from Chinese authorities, the U.S. studio spent another $1 million to re-edit its film. One cannot help but marvel about the rising power of China, even though it is sheer market power this time.” One cannot help but marvel at the state-run communication brinkmanship either.
For China, these Hollywood investments aren’t specifically about censoring. Censorship is a feature of the larger strategy: to spread the story of China (China’s version, of course) and make it an important part of the global culture. The New York Times reported that “President Xi Jinping has repeatedly emphasized the need to ‘tell China’s story well’ — to make sure a coherent, compelling and, most important, Communist Party-sanctioned narrative of China’s rise to power reaches global audiences.”
Want a jet in your film? Just ask!
To be clear, the United States has utilized a similar strategy for decades. If you want an F-22 fighter jet to appear in your blockbuster film, the U.S. Military reviews the script and makes changes, if necessary. Look no further than the global box office for the past four decades to see how those U.S. government-sanctioned stories spread globally, and at an unprecedented scale.
Media and entertainment are the primary non-violent means to uphold and instill American values locally, and spread them globally. America is an expert at telling the story of capitalist democracy — and it’s big business too. The global Media & Entertainment (M&E) market reached $1.9 trillion in revenue in 2016. China is the second largest consumer of U.S. M&E, spending $190b in 2016, right behind the United States.
Furthering Xi’s goal to tell China’s story, Chinese tech companies (with Tencent leading the pack) have made significant investments in major U.S. entertainment technology platforms, including:
Animated GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
* Riot Games, makers of League of Legends (100% owned by Tencent) * Supercell (100% owned by Tencent) * TikTok (100% owned by ByteDance via its Music.ly acquisition) * Epic Games, makers of Fortnite (40% owned by Tencent) * Snap (17% owned by Tencent) * Spotify (7.5% owned by Tencent) * Reddit (5% owned by Tencent)
These investments are the first step in China’s playbook to spread its cultural influence. Between League of Legends, Fortnite, Spotify and Reddit, Tencent has significant influence over American youth (Gen Z in particular). These entertainment properties represent over half a billion monthly active users, and millions of minutes watched on YouTube and Twitch, in the case of Riot and Epic.
In September 2018, the General Administration of Press and Publications (GAPP), a Chinese censorship office that vets new games for inappropriate content, stopped approving all new games. Their stated goal was to identify ways to limit the time kids spent playing games, citing a concern about eyesight problems. Because of this ban, Fortnite isn’t yet allowed in China.
While the proclaimed eyesight concerns are dubious, Chinese officials clearly have a different perspective on video games than most U.S. citizens and politicians. When there is a difference in values, the second step in China’s strategy begins. This is already in play with Google, Microsoft and Apple, who have made major concessions in order for their products to be available on the Chinese market. Alphabet, for instance, has been working on a censored version of Google search for China. This Google project has been highly criticized, because Americans see this action as going directly against American culture and values.
Culture is a slippery concept in our paradoxical world, where a handful of mega corporations control our entertainment diet. However, pervasive individualism is a defining feature of the Millennial generation. American culture is just as much NASCAR as it is Marie Kondo or Fortnite, with little overlap. But culture is also a set of shared values, however nebulous. Beneath these values is a commonality that stems from living in a liberal democracy. The liberal democratic order is what likely allows for easy cultural exchanges between countries like Japan and the European Union. With China, that commonality just isn’t there.
There’s no doubt that entertainment has the power to change society. People like to think of societal changes as slow, organic movements, instead of calculated influence campaigns. They want to experience other cultures, while basking in the safety of our familiar American ideals and norms. Do we have a right to be subsumed by the culture of our choice, or does culture just sweep through society, unable to be controlled? Ultimately, if America is no longer the top exporter of culture, what becomes of our identity?
HackerNewsBot debug: Calculated post rank: 97 - Loop: 322 - Rank min: 80 - Author rank: 49
Last week TechCrunch reported that Reddit was raising $150 million from Chinese tech giant Tencent and up to $150 million more in a Series D that would value the company at $2.7 billion pre-money or…
Article word count: 429
HN Discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19140056
Posted by theBashShell (karma: 2018)
Post stats: Points: 127 - Comments: 110 - 2019-02-12T00:55:29Z
#HackerNews #300m #chinas #confirms #led #reddit #series #tencent #value
Last week TechCrunch reported that Reddit was raising $150 million from Chinese tech giant Tencent and up to $150 million more in a Series D that would value the company at $2.7 billion pre-money or $3 billion post-money. After no-commenting on our scoop, today Reddit confirmed it has raised $300 million at $3 billion post-money, with $150 million from Tencent.
The deal makes for an odd pairing between one of the architects of China’s Great Firewall of censorship and one of America’s most lawless free-speech forums. Some Redditors are already protesting the funding by trying to post content that would rile Chinese’s internet watchdogs, like imagery from Tiananmen Square and Winnie the Pooh memes mocking Chinese President Xi Jinping’s appearance.
Reddit is raising a huge round near a $3 billion valuation
The round brings the Conde Nast-majority owned Reddit to $550 million in total funding. Beyond Tencent, the rest of the round came from previous investors potentially including Andreessen Horowitz, Sequoia and Fidelity. Apparently frustrated that we had disrupted its PR plan, Reddit today handed confirmation of the round to CNBC, which re-reported our scoop without citation. While CNBC reported in June 2018 that Reddit would top $100 million in revenue, a reliable source tells us Reddit only brought in $85 million in 2018 revenue.
Reddit’s CEO Steve Huffman has had his own problems with attribution after the exec was caught editing users’ comments to mislead viewers into thinking they were insulting their Subreddit’s moderators. Huffman managed to get off with just an apology and vow not to do it again, though he seemed to laugh off and excuse the abuse of power by saying “I spent my formative years as a young troll on the Internet.”
Reddit cracks down on abuse as CEO apologizes for trolling the trolls
Reddit will have to compete for ad dollars with the Google-Facebook duopoly despite having less information about its users, who are often anonymous. Reddit sees 330 million users per month across its Subreddit forums for discussing everything from news and entertainment to niche types of pornography, conspiracy theories and other highly brand-unsafe content. Meanwhile, users may be concerned that Reddit’s policy views could be tightened as it cosies up to Tencent.
Reddit has struggled with staff departures and user revolts over the years as it tries to balance freedom of expression with civility. The hope is the cash could help it pay for experienced leaders and more moderation staff to maintain that balance. But without proper oversight, the cash could simply scale up Reddit and its problems along with it.
HackerNewsBot debug: Calculated post rank: 121 - Loop: 84 - Rank min: 100 - Author rank: 76
Despite being restricted to just 30 counties and cities, artificial intelligence system has already helped snare 8,721 officials
Article word count: 1234
HN Discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19072433
Posted by rakkhi (karma: 865)
Post stats: Points: 124 - Comments: 64 - 2019-02-03T21:46:15Z
\#HackerNews #being #chinas #corruption-busting #efficient #for #off #too #turned
What would you do if you had a machine to catch a thief? If you were a corrupt Chinese bureaucrat, you would want to ditch it, of course.
Resistance by government officials to a groundbreaking big data experiment is only one of many challenges as the Chinese government starts using new technology to navigate its giant bureaucracy.
According to state media, there were more than 50 million people on China’s government payroll in 2016, though analysts have put the figure at more than 64 million – slightly less than the population of Britain.
Xi Jinping tells judiciary and law enforcement agencies to ‘scrape away the poison’
To turn this behemoth into a seamless operation befitting the information age, China has started adapting various types of sophisticated technology. The foreign ministry, for instance, is using machine learning to aid in risk assessment and decision making for China’s major investment projects overseas.
Beijing has been developing a nationwide facial recognition system using surveillance cameras capable of identifying any person, anywhere, around the clock within seconds. In Guizhou, a cloud system tracks the movements of every policeman with a live status report.
Major Chinese telecommunication companies such as ZTE have won government contracts to develop blockchain technology to prevent the modification of government data by unauthorised people or organisations.
President Xi Jinping has repeatedly stressed the necessity of promoting scientific and technological innovations such as big data and artificial intelligence (AI) in government reform.
Anti-corruption teams installed at China’s state banks, insurance companies
The challenge is implementing that vision on the ground. Look no further than an anti-corruption AI system dubbed by the researchers working it as “Zero Trust”.
Jointly developed and deployed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Communist Party’s internal control institutions to monitor, evaluate or intervene in the work and personal life of public servants, the system can access more than 150 protected databases in central and local governments for cross-reference.
According to people involved in the programme, this allows it to draw sophisticated, multiple layers of social relationship maps to derive behaviour analyses of government employees.
This was “particularly useful” in detecting suspicious property transfers, infrastructure construction, land acquisitions and house demolitions, a researcher said.
The system is not without its weaknesses, however.
“AI may quickly point out a corrupt official, but it is not very good at explaining the process it has gone through to reach such a conclusion,” the researcher said. “Although it gets it right in most cases, you need a human to work closely with it.”
Police chief kills himself after two colleagues detained in corruption probes
The system can immediately detect unusual increases in bank savings, for instance, or if there has been a new car purchase or bidding for a government contract under the name of an official or one of his family or friends.
Once its suspicions have been raised it will calculate the chances of the action being corrupt. If the result exceeds a set marker, the authorities are alerted.
A computer scientist involved in the programme who asked not to be named said that at that stage a superior could then contact the person under scrutiny and perhaps help him avoid “going down the road of no return with further, bigger mistakes”.
The Zero Trust experiment has been limited to 30 counties and cities, just 1 per cent of the country’s total administrative area. The local governments involved, including the Mayang Miao autonomous county in Hunan province, are located in relatively poor and isolated regions far away from China’s political power centres.
Another researcher involved in the programme said the idea was to “avoid triggering large-scale resistance among bureaucrats”, especially the most powerful ones, to the use of bots in governance.
Since 2012, Zero Trust has caught 8,721 government employees engaging in misconduct such as embezzlement, abuse of power, misuse of government funds and nepotism.
‘Crushing victory’: what’s next for Xi Jinping’s war on corruption?
While some were sentenced to prison terms, most were allowed to keep their jobs after being given a warning or minor punishment.
Still, some governments – including Mayang county, Huaihua city and Li county in Hunan – have decommissioned the machine, according to the researchers, one of whom said they “may not feel quite comfortable with the new technology”.
None of the local authorities responded to requests for comment.
Zhang Yi, an official at the Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Chinese Communist Party in Ningxiang, Hunan province, said his agency was one of the few still using the system.
“It is not easy … we are under enormous pressure,” he said, insisting that the main purpose of the programme was not to punish officials but to “save them” at an “early stage of corruption”.
“We just use the machine’s result as reference,” Zhang said. “We need to check and verify its validity. The machine cannot pick up the phone and call the person with a problem. The final decision is always made by humans.”
Zhou Yongkang, Bo Xilai among elite prisoners in China’s ‘tigers’ cage’
Since Xi rose to power in 2012, more than 1.4 million party members and government employees are estimated to have been disciplined, including leaders like former security tsar Zhou Yongkang and former Chongqing strongman Bo Xilai.
A party disciplinary official in Xiushui county, Jiangxi, who took part in the Zero Trust project said no government officials were willing to provide the necessary data.
“But they usually comply with a bit of pressure,” said the official, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the technology.
Disciplinary officials need to help scientists train the machine with their experience and knowledge accumulated from previous cases. For instance, disciplinary officials spent many hours manually tagging unusual phenomenon in various types of data sets to teach the machine what to look for.
Some officials might fabricate data, but the machine can compare information from different sources and flag discrepancies. It can even call up satellite images, for instance, to investigate whether the government funding to build a road in a village ended up in the pocket of an official, the researchers said.
Xi Jinping takes aim at more top generals as anticorruption drive rolls on
The system is still running in Xiushui, but its fate is uncertain. Some officials have questioned the machine’s right to access a sensitive database because there is neither a law nor regulation authorising a computer or robot to do so.
No wonder the system is being decommissioned by counties and cities that had signed up, and those still using it are facing enormous pressure, with the researchers seeing little or no hope of rolling it out nationwide.
The Zero Trust hump notwithstanding, artificial intelligence’s foray into other government sectors continues as the government is determined to use cutting-edge technology to its advantage. AI clerks, for example, have been recruited in some courts to read case files and help judges process lawsuits with higher speed and accuracy.
Last month, a court in Shanghai became the first ever in China to use an AI assistant at a public hearing, Xinhua reported.
The machine, code-named “206”, has the ability to record conversations, show evidence such as surveillance camera footage when mentioned by lawyers, and compare testimonies to help judges spot discrepancies, the report said.
One judge was quoted as saying it would reduce the likelihood of a wrong verdict.
HackerNewsBot debug: Calculated post rank: 104 - Loop: 189 - Rank min: 100 - Author rank: 24