Mongolian Wild Sheep

Argali wild sheep in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. Photo: AFP / Biosphoto / Eric Dragesco

Animal rights activists have slammed Donald Trump Jr after it emerged he killed an “endangered” sheep in Mongolia and was retroactively issued a “hunting permit” by the country’s authorities, raising questions about whether he received “special” treatment.

The US president’s eldest son, who has come under fire in the past for his “big-game” hunting hobby, shot an Argali sheep during a week-long trip in August when he was accompanied by his son and supported by security details from both countries, according to a report by ProPublica.

Donald Trump Jr. rides a horse in the Mongolian countryside during his hunting trip this summer. (Instagram)

With its giant, curving horns, the species is considered a “national treasure” of Mongolia, and the right to hunt is controlled by a “murky” permitting system beholden to “political and financial” influence, according to experts quoted by the US news outlet.

ProPublica said that Mongolian authorities issued a “rare” permit to Trump Jr on September 2, “after he had left the hunting region.”

Trump Jr. dressed in traditional Mongolian garb with Jandos Kontorbai Ahat, a member of the Mongolian president’s political party. (via Facebook)

He later met privately with the country’s president, Khaltmaa Battulga, before departing for the United States, according to an official quoted in the report.

Kitty Block, the president of the Humane Society of the United States, wrote in a blog post that there are only 18,000 “argali” sheep left in the Mongolian wilderness, but between 2008 and 2018 US hunters imported 254 hunting trophies from the species from Mongolia.

“If Mongolia and other range nations continue to hand these animals out as prizes to the wealthy and the well-connected, there is no doubt we will soon see the last of this endangered animal,” she said.

Others said the Mongolian government may have hoped to “curry favor with the US.”

Trump Jr. posted this photo on his Instagram of himself with his son, Donnie, outside a Mongolian yurt. (via Instagram)

“What are the chances the Mongolian government would’ve done any of that to someone who wasn’t the son of the United States’ president?” Kathleen Clark, a professor specializing in legal ethics at Washington University in St Louis said to ProPublica.

Trump Jr, who documented his trip on Instagram, was widely “criticized” on Twitter. Many users mocked his hunting a ruminant as “cowardly.”

He and his brother Eric are avid “big-game” hunters and photos of the pair posing with animals they killed, including an “elephant, buffalo and leopard”, resurfaced during the 2016 presidential campaign.

US law allows hunters to import animals on the US endangered species list if its killing is shown to be “beneficial” to the species overall, even though President Donald Trump has called the practice a “horror show” in the past and created an advisory group in 2017 to shape policy.

Republican donor Kevin Small with the argali he killed in Mongolia in a photo posted in August, around the time of Trump Jr.’s trip to the country. Trump Jr. commented, “Amazing sheep and amazing guy.” (via Instagram)

In September, the administration allowed a Florida man to import the remains of a “Tanzanian lion” for the first time since it was listed in 2016, according to a freedom of information request obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity.

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The Truth About Bibles in China  

The Truth About Bibles in China

Please scroll down to watch a short video from China that is sure to touch your heart.

Dear Friends,

We hope the new decade has started well for you and it will be a fruitful year for your live as the kingdom of God spreads through you.

In 2019, by the grace of God we were able to print and distribute more than 1.1 million full Chinese Bibles to the house church Christians, which is an increase of 42.4% on the previous year, and the highest number since 2014. We thank the Lord for this, and we appreciate everyone who prayed and gave so that the believers in China can access God’s Word. In the present tense and oppressive environment in China, each copy of the Scriptures is a miracle.

We have been contacted by people seeking an explanation, because the Amity Press in China has been publicizing that they recently passed the milestone of printing 200 million Bibles inside China. Obviously if those claims are true then there would be little need for our project.

We would like to take a moment to explain the reality behind that extraordinary number. Some of you who have read our newsletters for years will already know, but for others this information will be brand new.

The Amity Press in China is by far the biggest printer on earth, secular or Christian. It’s a massive business making many millions of dollars profit each year.

Yes, they may have produced 200 million Bibles over the last 30 years, but what they and their partners The Bible Society deliberately fail to mention is that at least TWO-THIRDS are exported out of China. If you go to most Christian bookstores in your country to buy a Bible, chances are that it was printed in China by the Amity Press. Then print millions of Bibles each year in all kinds of languages: Spanish, French, Swahili, Korean, English, and dozens of others.

Therefore over the last 30 years perhaps 60 million Chinese Bibles printed by Amity Press were permitted to remain in China. However, they are ONLY available to registered Christians in Three-Self (government-approved) churches. The 60 million or more house church believers that we serve are strictly forbidden from getting a single crumb of them.

And by the way, the Communist Party has now slashed the quota they allow Amity to print domestically to about 1/3 of what it was a few years ago, so even the registered churches are facing a huge shortage of God’s Word.

Finally, instead of us writing more words, it is probably more effective to share the below short video (56 seconds), showing the reaction of Chinese house church Christians when they first received a shipment of Bibles. Although the video is not new, it sums up how precious God’s Word is to them, and why we feel so privileged to serve God’s people who are so desperate for His Word. Thank you for joining us in this strategic endeavor.

May our Heavenly Father continue to provide the Scriptures to all His children in China!

God bless you,
The team at Asia Harvest
www.asiaharvest.org

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Coding Revolution

China’s pre-teens are at the forefront of a coding revolution. Photo: AFP

Coding appears to be “child’s play” for China’s pre-teens.

Wearing a pair of black-rimmed glasses and a red T-shirt, Vita an eight-year-old Chinese boy is logged in for an “online coding lesson” as the teacher.

Since August, Vita has set up a “coding tutorial channel” on the Chinese video streaming site Bilibili and has so far garnered nearly 60,000 followers and over one million views.

Zhou Ziheng helping his son Vita create a game with coding on his laptop at their home in Shanghai on November 7, 2019. (Picture: AFP)

He is among a growing number of children in China who are learning “coding even before they enter primary school.”

The trend has been fueled by parents’ belief that “coding skills” will be essential for Chinese teenagers given the government’s “technological” drive.

“Coding’s not that easy but also not that difficult – at least not as difficult as you have imagined,” Vita, who lives in Shanghai, said.

China has invested heavily in “Robotics” and “Artificial Intelligence” in the past two years. In 2017, an AI development plan was rolled out in “primary and secondary schools.”

Last year, Beijing published its first “AI Textbook” while eastern Zhejiang province listed “programming” as one subject for its “college entrance examination.”

For Vita, his father, Zhou Ziheng, who is a freelance translator of “scientific and technical” books, has been the driving force in this brave new world of coding.

“I learned coding when I was young, so I always believed that my son learning coding at this age was something normal,” he said.

When Vita was four, they started off by playing some “coding” related games together. But this summer, Vita surprised his father by successfully rewriting the “codes in an app” which didn’t work in an updated system, by himself.

“I suggested to him to record how he rewrote these codes,” Zhou said and the idea for “online” classes was born.

Most comments on Vita’s online videos express “amazement” that he can write code and even teach other children.

“I just learnt how to use the computer when I was eight,” wrote one.

Parents, who don’t have the skills to help, can send their children to “coding agencies”, which are booming among China’s middle-class. The market was worth 7.5 billion yuan, or US$1 billion, in 2017 but is now predicted to exceed 37.7 billion yuan next year, according to Analysys, a Chinese internet analysis firm.

Pre-teens are in the vanguard of the coding revolution in the world’s second-largest economy.

“China’s programming education in public school starts very late compared to developed countries, so our after-school tutorial agency makes up for this shortage,” Pan Gongbo, the general manager of Beijing-based Tongcheng Tongmei, a coding education center.

The school’s youngest student is only three years old. For children under six, the agency offers a special program that includes activities such as “Lego” building, which also uses coding knowledge and skills.

According to Pan, children at six or seven are fully capable of learning to code in cognitive development. “Don’t underestimate the learning speed of children. In some of our courses, they learn even faster than our adults,” he said.

Ten-year-old Ji Yingzhe has been studying the coding language “Python” for half a year at the agency. Before that, he took a semester-long course on fundamental “robot” building, which he felt was too simple.

“The codes have already been written for you, and all you have to do is to organize these code blocks in order,” he said.

Ji’s father sent him to learn programming because he was spending too much time playing “video” games. Now, he “creates” his own.

As for Vita, in November he competed in a “coding competition” for primary students, held by the Shanghai Computer Society.

Zhou Ziheng and his son Vita walking home in Shanghai. Picture: AFP

He spent two months learning the “coding language C++” for the competition, with the help of his father, going all the way to the “final” despite being among the youngest competitors.

In terms of what the “future” holds, Zhou said it will depend on Vita’s “interest and ability” but he wants to keep his son down-to-earth.

“I told him ‘you haven’t done anything remarkable. This is just one step of his coding learning,” Zhou said.

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Chinese Love Pets

There are about 38 million dogs and cats in China. The pet economy has reached 4.5 billion yuan, with domestic and export sales of about 60 billion yuan. Credit: China Pet Market.

Urban residents in China are estimated to spend a total of 202.4 billion yuan (about US$28.8 billion) on their pet cats and dogs in 2019, up 18.5% year on year, according to a report jointly published by Goumin.com and Pet Fair Asia.

The number of pet dogs and cats kept by urban residents in China is projected to reach nearly 100 million, an 8.4% increase from a year ago, according to the study on China’s pet industry.

People born after 1990 are the main consumers, it noted, adding that the proportion of pet owners with high incomes and educational backgrounds has risen further.

Ms. Hou, 28, lives in the city of Chengdu, capital of southwest China’s Sichuan province. She spent 6,000 yuan on her two cats last year, with food the greatest expense.

“I purchased tinned cat food from the United States, New Zealand, Japan and Thailand, and meat paste made from drumsticks, ox liver and pork to provide better nutrition and flavor,” said Hou.

People born after 1990 are the main consumers, it noted, adding that the proportion of pet owners with high incomes and educational backgrounds has risen further. Credit: Psychology Today.

“If I have time, I cook for them with recipes I find online,” she said.

“An aging society and fewer children are among the main reasons for more Chinese to keep pets,” said Liu Xiaoxia, chief executive officer of “Goumin.com” an online pet community with over 19.2 million registered users.

“Keeping pets has met the emotional needs of many Chinese, our report showed that almost 60 percent of pet owners view their animal friends as their own children,” said Liu.

Rising “incomes” have also seen pet owners spend more on their “furry” friends.

A report from Euromonitor International showed pet owners in China not only opt for high-end pet food, but also are spending more on hygiene products, clothing and furniture.

Euromonitor International predicts that China’s pet consumption market will grow at an average annual rate of 18.2% in the next five years and will account for more than one-eighth of the global market by 2024.

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Enforcing Social Stability

Amid the “US-China” trade war, the Chinese regime “manipulates” public opinion and imposes restrictions on citizens to “evade” adverse effects on its totalitarian rule.

The state-run media in mainland China provides little information on the “disadvantageous impact” on China’s economy and daily lives of citizens caused by the ongoing US-China trade war. Instead, the communist authorities spare no effort in preventing “negative” information on economic problems from influencing “public” opinion that may cause risks to its totalitarian rule.

Documents issued by a local government in central China calls for coordinated efforts between state institutions to prevent the US-China economic conflict from “eliciting social stability problems.”

The “Public Security Bureau, State Security Bureau, Commercial Affairs Bureau, Foreign Affairs Office” and other propaganda offices are mentioned as the key departments for this task. The document also demands to set up an emergency plan to deal with negative consequences should they arise.

As per the regulation, the institutions mentioned above should pay close attention to the companies that may suffer as a result of the trade war.

Changes in public opinion and any upheavals caused by “unemployment, fluctuations of commodity and stock prices” and other challenging situations should be immediately dealt with.

Additionally, to further propaganda efforts and persuade citizens to support the central government’s decisions and policies, the document demands institutions in charge of propaganda and cyberspace security to strengthen control over public opinion and block any information and remarks unfavorable to the regime.

In particular, comments that may lead to mass protests should be investigated immediately, and persons involved punished.

In May, the municipal government of a city in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang ordered all institutions under its supervision to ensure that only pre-approved information on the “US-China” trade war is published in local media outlets.

Primarily, reports previously published in the central state-run media should be made available, without changing their headlines, and no locally-collected information or news should be published. After each such publication, readers’ comments should be monitored.

Trade war-related “social stability” measures have also been introduced on university campuses, the central government ordering to intensify control over information against the government being exchanged between the teaching staff and students online or in class.

A student from a university in Beijing said that using the “US-China” trade war as an excuse. The university demanded students to replace their “Apple” smart phones with the ones produced by “Huawei,” the company that is considered an important tool for China’s regime, or the school would not allow them to access the “internet network” on campus.

Lecturers from several universities were forced to cancel study and exchange trips to the United States because of the trade war. One of them revealed that although he and his colleagues had gone through all procedures for the trips, schools’ administrations withheld their documents, claiming that “Party members can’t go to the United States.” In reality, non-Party members are also prohibited from going to the US.

“University leaders said that such measures are enforced to prevent those going abroad from leaking state secrets,” another university teacher who was prohibited from going to the US explained.

“This is allegedly a regulation from a central government-adopted document. From September to November, all CCP members, leaders and officials were ordered to study trade-war-related central government policies to learn how to bear in mind the mission. Because of the severe situation caused by the trade war, governments on all levels and leaders of institutions are afraid to get into trouble. It’s unlikely that we will have another opportunity to go to the US in the future,” she added.

The Chinese Political System

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Rare Snow Leopards

Snow leopards mainly inhabit the Himalayas in central and southern Asia at an altitude of 2,500 to 4,500 meters. Credit: Goodnet.

Snow leopards are a “Class A” protected animal in China and are classified as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Infrared cameras have captured images and videos of a snow leopard in the mountainous areas of southwest China’s Sichuan Province, local authorities said.

The footage shows the latest images of the rare animal. In one of the photos, the snow leopard is seen facing the camera sideways. In the background, the main peak of Siguniang Mountain in Aba Tibet and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture is clearly visible, Xinhua reported.

In a two-minute video, the big cat is seen roaming, sniffing and leaving scent marks in the area.

The site where the snow leopard was captured is located in the Qionglai Mountains.

“The Qionglai Mountains, with Wolong National Nature Reserve as the center, is the region with the highest density of snow leopards in Sichuan. The leopard captured in the footage should belong to the same population as those captured in Wolong before,” said Li Sheng, a snow leopard expert and researcher with the School of Life Sciences at Peking University.

Previously, precious images of one mother snow leopard with three cubs were caught twice in Wolong in 2017 and 2018 respectively. Many other places nearby, including Shiqu, Xinlong, Baiyu and Kangding, have also repeatedly obtained images through infrared cameras, the report said.

The creature was even caught on camera at a spot only about 90 km away from the center of Chengdu. “That should be the closest snow leopard population discovered near a city that has a population of over 10 million,” said Li.

According to Li, the frequent appearance of snow leopards benefits from the indiscriminate protection of nature reserves.

“In Wolong, for example, there are not only snow leopards but also pandas. Pandas are forest species while snow leopards are alpine species. Although they do not interact with each other, they enjoy the same protection as ‘citizens’ of the reserve, Li said.

They mainly inhabit the Himalayas in central and southern Asia at an altitude of 2,500 to 4,500 meters.

In China, they can be seen in the alpine areas in southwestern and northwestern regions including Tibet, Sichuan, Xinjiang, Gansu and Inner Mongolia.

“People used to focus mainly on the giant pandas in Sichuan, but the snow leopard as the flagship species of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau needs the same attention from the public. Moreover, Sichuan is on the eastern edge of China’s snow leopard distribution area, where the snow leopard is far away from other populations, so the urgency of conservation is even greater,” said Li.

The video “Spirit of the Mountains – The Snow Leopard” is a story about snow leopards and the illegal hunting and trade with skins and bones from this elusive animal. Somewhere between 3,500 and 7,000 snow leopards still exist in the wild. Most of these are found in China, Mongolia and Kirgizstan. Together with Siberia, these countries represent some of the worst areas in illegal snow leopard trade.

The root of the problem in illegal trading lies in our human nature: “greed.” But for the snow leopards, it’s a matter of “life and death.”  This is the 21st century, and it’s business as usual for a trapped snow leopard in central Asia, waiting to be picked up by the trader. The spotted fur of a snow leopard is often regarded by tradesmen as exclusive and equally valuable as that of the tiger! The war against poachers and their illegal trade in snow leopard hides and body parts will one day come to an end – “when there are no snow leopards left.”

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Wireless Gadgets

In the third quarter of this year, 84.5 million wearable device units had been shipped around the world, posting a 94.6% year-on-year growth and marking a record-high shipment volume in a single quarter. Credit: apple.

Smart wearable’s are becoming fashionable in China as tech-savvy consumers scramble to embrace the gadgets to make life more fun and convenient.

From fancy voice-interaction wireless earbuds to watches that can access smartphone apps, make calls and monitor heart rates, technological advances have enriched these devices’ functions and increased their appeal, China.org.cn reported.

In the third quarter of this year, 84.5 million wearable device units had been shipped around the world, posting a 94.6% year-on-year growth and marking a record-high shipment volume in a single quarter, said market research company International Data Corp.

The growth was chiefly driven by strong demand for hearables including Apple Inc’s “AirPods” and Huawei’s “wireless earbuds.” IDC said hearables alone accounted for almost half the wearable’s market from June to September, with 40.7 million ear-wear devices shipped from factories.

Zhang Wentao, a bank employee in Beijing, recently spent about 2,000 yuan (US$284) on a pair of “AirPods Pro”, the latest earbuds by Apple. “The device delivers fantastic sound quality, supports double-tap to pause music and allows taking phone calls and talking to Apple’s voice-activated digital assistant Siri,” Zhang said.

“It was not supposed to be a necessity. But once I began wearing the wireless earphones, I don’t want to take them off,” he added.

Users like Zhang are helping push wearable sales in the country. Xiang Ligang, CEO of telecom industry website Cctime” said wireless earbuds have become the new sought-after product in China.

Fitbit teamed up with Dexcom to create a sensor that sits just under the skin and measures a person’s glucose levels every few minutes. Credit: Engadget.

“Local consumers have a greater appetite for devices that make life convenient and help them better enjoy their leisure time,” Xiang said.

Similar instances include the growing popularity of smart watches and fitness trackers in the country. Mounting consumer enthusiasm has already helped Chinese brands “Xiaomi” and “Huawei” make their way into the top four wearable makers worldwide.

Huawei, in particular, saw a 188% year-on-year surge in shipments to Chinese customers over the last quarter. The Shenzhen-based company said it has already sold more than 10 million smart watches this year.

Xiang said tech giants jumped the gun several years ago before the hardware was able to catch up to the initial design of smart wearable’s. But as technology advances, most of the problems are quietly going away, and new market drivers are emerging.

Jitesh Ubrani, research manager for International Data Corp.’s mobile device trackers, said the rise of smart, “voice-activated virtual assistants” in home alliances and phones has increased demand for wearable’s that can connect with these assistants.

“The wearable’s market is well on its way to becoming a mass-market device category rather than one that primarily caters to health and fitness,” Ubrani added.

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