This week we feature two stories about events in China. The first covers high-speed trains. The second is about a common problem everywhere in the digital age – how to support those who have no access to the Internet.
We are also changing our format slightly to add some commentary and background to the articles – that are otherwise as they appeared in the Chinese media.
600 kph trains in 2020
(China’s first maglev train is still the fastest commercial rail journey in the world running typically at 430 kmh. Travelling on it is an amazing experience. Faster trains have been tested in Japan (that holds the current speed record) but are not yet operating at 600 kmh.)
The principle of this train system is to use electromagnetic floating to resist gravity and then use electromagnetic force to pull the train forward. It has a fast and comfortable, large passenger capacity, flexible marshalling, fast start and stop. It is safe and reliable, with low maintenance.
High-speed maglev trains fill the speed gap between high-speed rail and air transportation. efficient, flexible and convenient, and meeting the needs of different people.Wu Donghua, the train company’s Deputy Chief Engineer
The concept of maglev technology began at the start of the last century. In 1922, German engineer, Hermann Kemper, was inspired to examine the friction between the train wheels and the wheel rails. If the train floats on the track and there is no friction, will it run faster? In 1934, Hermann received the world’s first patent on magnetic levitation technology.
In July 2016, China launched the development of a high-speed maglev transportation system with a speed of 600 kilometers per hour. After nearly four years of scientific and technological research, the project team had made significant technical advances.
The sample car successfully tested on June 21 has solved a series of problems such as light weight, strength, stiffness and noise of the car body under ultra-high-speed conditions. We have developed a new generation of light and strong car bodies. Our high-precision suspension guidance, speed measurement, positioning device and control system, and performance indicators are leading the world.Wu Donghua
According to the plan, the prototype system of the high-speed maglev project with a speed of 600 kilometers per hour is expected to be rolled out by the end of 2020.
The elderly must not be abandoned by technological progress
This story is an object lesson in what is happening in so many countries. The ‘modern’ world assumes that everything can happen through the Internet and, mostly, with a smartphone. Reality is that in almost every country, there are many who cannot – or will not – use these technologies. China has a long tradition of social care at state and personal levels. This is well reflected in the writer’s views here.
In the past two days, a video of an elderly man walking one thousand kilometers from Bozhou, Anhui to Taizhou, Zhejiang, has touched many people’s hearts. It took him over two weeks to make the trip.
The old man in the video has a simple and weather-stricken face. Although he always smiles and gets help from well-meaning people, the kind of ‘wanderer’s look’ exuding from him makes people very sad.
The reason why the old man had to hike from Anhui to Zhejiang was not because he could not afford the ticket but because he did not have a smartphone and could not display a health code. As a result, he could not take public transport.
The old man was very kind. He was offered a bowl of noodles by others and he wanted to pay; people invited him to live at their home, but he insisted on sleeping in the park. Fortunately, because he met enthusiastic people, he got help in time and arrived without accident. Today, he has been safely taken in by his loved ones.
What should be done for elderly people who cannot show their health code without using a smartphone? The health code has become a blind spot for many elderly people. It is a major innovation in the epidemic response. With the health code, epidemic prevention management has become more efficient and many unnecessary social costs have been saved.
However, the health code must be used on a smartphone. Those who do not have a smartphone, or who will not use one, will not be able to enjoy its convenience.
The most important group affected is the elderly.
Although according to the latest statistics, in March 2020, the number of Internet users in China was over 900 million. However, in rural areas, only 46 out of 100 people have access to the Internet. It is difficult for these people to use the health code because they cannot connect to the Internet without using a smartphone.
Some may say that rural people will not leave their homes during an epidemic to travel around. It is easy to cater for their needs locally. But as we are resuming work and production, many migrant workers have just returned to work, and these people also need health codes.
So, how can people who do not have a smartphone benefit from this epidemic prevention tool?
Many regions have issued paper health codes. Some netizens said that their local community is very friendly. They take the initiative to apply for paper passes for the elderly, which can be used throughout the city.
But how many elderly people are aware of such a policy or have been provided with a voluntary service? If the community and the village committee do not take the initiative to promote it, and if there are no relatives or children around to notify or help, do the elderly know to apply to the relevant department for a paper version of the health code certificate?
This question reveals a blind spot. The old man who walked a thousand kilometers because he had no code was someone in this blind spot. He was out of touch with reality. Before he set off, no one helped him connect to the world of epidemic prevention.
People with different network literacy can enjoy different dividends in the digital world. People with high digital literacy can fully absorb the experiences of the digital world and continue to progress; while people with low digital literacy are either insulated from Internet facilities and are abandoned completely and keep going backwards.
The latter includes the wandering ‘uncle’ who cannot take transport because of no health code, those who were driven off the bus without the health code, and the elderly who could not enter the community without their health code.
The people who do not use smartphones, the groups insulated from the digital age, need more elaborate and friendly care in the prevention and control of epidemics. As some elderly people do not have smartphones and are not aware of applying for a paper-based health code, local communities and village committees should be more proactive in screening and printing paper-based QR codes for this group.
In the final analysis, epidemic prevention needs to make good use of technical means such as health codes. At the same time, those Internet isolated groups should not become ghettos in the digital age.
Older people who have been abandoned by technological progress need more humane care and compassion. This is the way a virtuous society should behave.