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RFA: Safety of China’s Construction of New Nuclear Power Plants Is Questioned

Radio Free Asia reported that China claims that its new round of nuclear power construction will use domestic technology. On Thursday, January 31, the authorities approved the construction of four nuclear power plants in Huizhou, Guangdong and Zhangzhou, Fujian.They are expected to use the “Hualong No. 1” technology, which is known as independent research and development. However, some experts have questioned whether this so-called domestic technology was actually derived from a bankrupt U.S. company.

The Hong Kong Public Professionals Alliance has been following the safety of nuclear power plants in mainland China. Its policy spokesman, Li Guangde, told RFA that, although China claims to have independently developed the “Hualong No. 1” technology, in fact, Westinghouse Electric AP1000 technology developed its prototype before it filed for bankruptcy. Although the China Nuclear Safety administration approved these technologies, there has never been a disclosure of the technical documents and there has been no public participation in the approval process. According to Li, China is well aware that, in its future energy strategy, the focus is on renewable energy, including solar energy and hydropower. China already has this type of infrastructure, which is not fully used. The nuclear power industry could represent a big interest group, Li said, the battle between renewable energy and nuclear power will continue.

Source: Radio Free Asia, February 1, 2019

A Researcher: Search Engine Baidu Has Died

Fang Kecheng, a PhD candidate at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania, and former news reporter for Southern Weekend (a relatively liberal media in Guangzhou), published an article in which he stated that Baidu is no longer a search engine for the public but rather a media promoting its own contents.

According to an experiment that Fang conducted, the first page of Baidu’s search results lists links to Bai Jiahao, Baidu’s own content platform. For example, when searching “British Brexit,” there were seven results on the first page. The first one was Baidu Baike (Encyclopedia), the second, fourth, fifth, and seventh were all Bai Jiahao articles. Searching “U.S. government shutdown,” half of the 8 links on the first page, including the first and second, were Bai Jiahao links. In a search for “Trump,” the links on the first page were: Baidu Baike, Baidu Tieba (Forum), Bai Jiahao, Bai Jiahao, Bai Jiahao, Bai Jiahao, Sina, Bai Jiahao, and Baidu Baike.

The quality of Bai Jiahao’s articles is questionable. For example, it published an article claiming that the CIA admitted that Bin Laden was not related to the “9-11” attack and apologized to his family. That article had been read 400,000 times.

Fang gave his analysis on why Baidu has become so “off the mark”:

One, China’s Internet has fierce competition and those mega companies, such as WeChat, Microblog, and Taobao, do not let Baidu search their contents, so, Baidu’s results are narrow.

Two, Baidu does not want to be a search engine anymore. It just wants to be a marketing platform, so it converts all people using its searches into traffic intended for its own site and then it will make money.

Fang argued that it is not a sustainable business model. Once people discover that they can’t find what they need, they will use it less and less. Baidu’s strategy was equivalent to spending all its money before doomsday.

Baidu’s Counter and Fang’s Rebuttal

Baidu responded to the article and claimed that contents from Bai Jiahao represent less than 10 percent of Baidu’s total search results.

Fang rebutted, “It is meaningless to use the total research results as a measure (and also, aren’t Bai Jiahao’s contents at 10 percent already too big a share of the total result)? People normally just look at the first and second page. It would be more meaningful if Baidu released the percentage data on the first page.”


1. Aboluo, January 24, 2019

World’s Second Largest Mobile Operator Put Huawei Equipment on Hold

Well-known Chinese news site Sohu recently reported that (the British conglomerate) Vodafone, the world’s second largest mobile network operator, announced its policies on Huawei equipment. It will put all the core network deployment of Huawei equipment on hold until the western countries resolve their issue and concerns on Huawei products. However, Vodafone also explained that if a permanent ban on Huawei is put in place, the impact on the European communications industry will be quite tangible. It may cause increased costs and delays on network deployments. A Huawei’s spokesperson expressed his understanding of Vodafone’s temporary decision and his appreciation of Vodafone’s support. The two companies started their partnership in 2007. It seems Vodafone is surrendering to the pressure from the governments. Vodafone’s 2018 third quarter performance was not satisfactory.

Source: Sohu, January 27, 2019

China’s ‘Deadbeat Map’ App Exposes Social Credit of People Nearby

Chinese authorities are testing a new application that allows mobile phone users to check the social credit of people nearby. This is China’s latest effort to use technology to implement a social credit system for its 1.4 billion citizens. The beta version of the app, known as the “Deadbeat Map” released on China’s most popular mobile platform WeChat, was tested in Hebei Province last week. The user can use the program to detect, within 500 meters of range, those who do not pay their debts.

With a click on a person’s icon on the map, the app will display that person’s personal information, including name, part of the address, and the offense.

Beijing Youth Daily, an official newspaper in Beijing, has praised this practice. The author said that the innovative measures of using technology to expose the deadbeats accurately are worthy of praise. The article said that, although the court arbitration dealt with those found untrustworthy, they had many evasive methods to escape from the court. The social platform can subject them to ethical pressure from acquaintances.

Critics are concerned that citizens’ privacy is violated. Delia Lin, a lecturer at the University of Melbourne in Australia, told the Daily Telegraph that those unable to pay their debts due to poverty will find themselves “subjected to this kind of surveillance and this kind of public shaming.”

WeChat users can also report the untrustworthy people through this small program. If they find leads about the “deadbeat’s” property, they can report it to the app’s editor, and the information will be submitted to the back-end administrator and then to the court enforcement authorities.

China began to develop a social credit system in 2011, giving credit scores to individuals and companies. The scores are used to determine whether someone can use specific services such as a loan application or transportation services.

The New York based Human Rights Watch, however, sees this as part of a massive surveillance plan of the Chinese government. The practice of using technology to collect public information, such as the widespread use of facial recognition technology and the installation of tracking chips in student uniforms has also drawn public criticism.

Source: BBC Chinese, January 25, 2019

China’s Internet Czar Deletes 7 Million “Harmful” Posts

According to the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), the central Internet regulator and censorship agency of China, between January 3 and January 23, the Special Action of Internet Ecological Control cleaned a total of more than 7.09 million pieces of harmful information, closed 308,000 illegal accounts, suspended 733 websites, and removed 9,382 mobile applications.

Since 2016, the Chinese authorities have stepped up control of the Internet. In November 2018, in response to a series of “chaotic problems” in self-media accounts, CAC closed more than 9,800 accounts that were “transmitting politically harmful information, maliciously tampering with the history of the party and history of the country, impairing the nation’s image, circulating rumors, and spreading false information”.

Source: Voice of America, January 23, 2019

Alibaba Cuts Costs on Hiring and Travel Fronts

Well-known Chinese technology news site Tencent News recently reported that, since the US-China trade war started, China’s economic crisis has impacted the top Chinese Internet giant, the Alibaba Group. Signs are showing that the impact intensified very recently. According to anonymous sources, new hires have been told they could not start their work before the next fiscal year begins in April. Some new hires said the Alibaba Group is reducing headcounts across the board. All business lines are now having hiring freezes. The Group is also cutting business travel funds even for management personnel. For example, now one can only use business class for air travel once every five trips and these trips have to exceed 20 hours per round trip. The Alibaba Group (NYSE: BABA) is China’s largest online service provider. In 2015, Alibaba’s online trade volume exceeded RMB 3 trillion (US$442 billion), making the Group the largest retailer in the world. Alibaba Group’s financial health is often seen as a barometer of the Chinese economy.

Source: Tencent News, January 18, 2019