Heavy smog to welcome in the New Year


Heavy smog shrouded northern China on New Year's Day, disrupting traffic and causing health concerns in major cities.

Sections of eight Beijing expressways closed on Jan. 1, after smog reduced visibility to around 50 meters in some areas, according to the Beijing Traffic Management Bureau. The poor visibility led to the cancellation of hundreds of flights throughout the region. Tianjin airport canceled more than 300 flights, while in Beijing 120 flights were canceled. Long distance buses departing from the airport were suspended.

The smog prompted 24 cities including Shijiazhuang and Baoding in Hebei province to issue red alerts and 21 cities such as Beijing and Tianjin to issue orange alerts. The red alert is the most serious but the conditions when an orange alert is called are still considered hazardous to health and could lead to serious illness.

Trump criticizes China on North Korea


Photo Credit: Reuters/達志影像

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, via Twitter on Jan. 3, took aim at China for benefitting from trade with the U.S. while not doing its bit to rein in North Korea.

"China has been taking out massive amounts of money & wealth from the US in totally one-sided trade, but won't help with North Korea. Nice!," he tweeted. [sic]

In an earlier tweet, Trump dismissed North Korea’s claim of developing missiles capable of striking America, saying, “It won’t happen.” While delivering his New Year speech on Jan. 1, North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un said that North Korea was in the “final stage” of developing intercontinental ballistic missile. During the presidential campaign, Trump had said that he would pressure China, North Korea's biggest trading partner, to get North Korea under control.

Social credit system trials to start


China has announced the initial trial plans for its so-called “social credit system." Officials have envisioned creating a national database compiling information about citizens and ranking individuals based on the trustworthiness of each person. The first test zone for the system are planned for the Yangtze River Delta region, which includes Shanghai, as well as Jiangsu, Anhui and Zhejiang provinces. China plans to fully implement the system by 2020. According to the announcement, doctors and public servants will be among the first professionals to register for the system.

China to ban all ivory trade by the end of 2017

Products from elephant ivory are displayed on the centre column of a shelf inside a carving and jewellery factory in Hong Kong

香港有300多家象牙製品商舖,全部聲稱其貨品是1990年禁令前入口的存貨。photo credit: REUTERS/Bobby Yip /達志影像

China’s government announced plans to shut down the domestic ivory trade, including processing, by the end of 2017, in a move hailed by activists as a milestone for the protection of elephants. China is the world’s largest consumer of ivory. In Africa, tens of thousands elephants are killed every year for their ivory tusks, contributing to a continued decline of elephants in the country. According to the announcement, China will gradually stop the processing and sales of ivory for commercial purposes and ban all ivory trade by the end of the year.

Mixed success for two-child policy


Photo Credit: Reuters/達志影像

In the 12 months since China relaxed its family planning policies, the country saw one million more births than the year prior, according to the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC). On Jan. 1, 2016, China eased its one-child policy with a new policy allowing two children per couple. The original policy was introduced in the 1970s to curb a rapidly growing population. However, the success of the new policy has been debated. According to CCTV reports, only 20 percent of couples are willing to give birth to a second child, while 53 percent said they did not want to have another child because of economic, education or medical reasons.

U.S. mulls new South China Sea weapons


Photo Credit: Stringer / Reuters / 達志影像

Senior U.S. Army and Pentagon strategists and planners are considering new mobile artillery units in the South China Sea in response to China’s recent move to move surface-to-air missiles into the area, National Interest reports. U.S. officials emphasized that no decisions have made. If the U.S. does mobile artillery units in the areas of South China Sea, they would function as air-defense weapons to combat incoming rockets and cruise missiles. Pentagon officials have opposed further militarization of the South China Sea and emphasized that the territorial disputes in the South China Sea need to be resolved peacefully and diplomatically, the report says.

China's first freight train to London

CRH380 Harmony bullet trains are seen at a high-speed train maintenance base in Wuhan

Photo Credit: Reuters/達志影像

China launched its first freight train traveling to the U.K. on Jan. 1. It will reach London in 18 days, according to the China Railway Corporation (CRC). The train departed from China’s international commodity hub Yiwu in Zhejiang Province. It will travel more than 12,000 kilometers, passing through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium and France, before arriving in London. The English capital is the 15th city in Europe added to China-Europe freight train service. The service will improve China-Britain trade ties and strengthen connectivity with Western Europe while better serving China’s “One Belt and One Road” (一帶一路) policy.

Editor: Edward White