Wan Lik Hang

China News 25th January 2021

Several different topics this week are hitting the news in China.  Our first story has appeared in the West too.  It concerns the latest generation of electric car batteries.  Some companies believe they are close to delivering 1000-kilometre range and eight-minute charging time.  Academics and some others are sceptical.

Although the raw materials of graphene are very cheap, the production cost is very high.  And there is no large-scale mass production application in batteries.  Thus, if someone says that his car can run 1,000 kilometres and can be fully charged in a few minutes; it is also particularly safe, and the cost is very low… don’t believe him because it is impossible.

Ouyang Minggao, of the Chinese Academy of Sciences at the China Electric Vehicle forum recently.

Coincidentally, GAC Ion, a wholly owned subsidiary of GAC Group, announced its new power battery technology the day before.  The Company said that vehicles equipped with graphene-based super-fast charging batteries can be charged to 80% in 8 minutes. The battery has a range of 1,000 kilometres. 

by Waldemar Brandt 

According to GAC Ion, graphene-based super fast charging batteries have three main strengths: super-fast charging + super long battery life + super safety.  Graphene is the thinnest and strongest new type of nanomaterial found so far. When applied to batteries, graphene is a conductive agent and as an electrode lithium-bridge material.  Zeng Qinghong, chairman of GAC Group, said:

GAC’s graphene-based fast-charge battery has now entered the real-vehicle test phase. The first model to be installed is undergoing winter trials in Heihe and is tentatively scheduled for mass production in September this year.

This year, cars with a battery life of 1,000 kilometres will arrive, and fast charging will arrive. It’s theoretically possible to charge 1,000 kilometres in 8 minutes.

But ‘theoretically feasible’ and mass production are two different things.  The problem is that although the raw materials of graphene are cheap, the production cost is very high, and there is no large-scale mass production experience in batteries. An industry expert, who did not want to be named, also believes that graphene batteries have not yet reached the mass production stage.  Commercialization is very difficult. In addition, the expert said that he had hardly heard any discussion of graphene battery technology at automotive industry conferences in recent years. 

If a new technology is to be commercialized on a large scale, there must be many companies studying it in the early stage, but now only one company has come forward and said that it has made a breakthrough. The graphene battery is about to be mass-produced. The science lacks foundation and it is easy to doubt it.

But, according to the information from GAC Group, the graphene preparation technology that GAC has mastered can reduce the production cost by more than 90 %.  This makes the overall cell cost slightly higher than the cost of conventional power batteries on the market by 5%-8%. 

The industry generally believes that in addition to battery life, it is necessary to consider thoroughly issues such as safety, cost, and user acceptance.

For most electric vehicles, 1,000 kilometres of cruising range are not needed. If there is a new breakthrough in battery technology, we have not yet seen it.

Wang Binggang, head of the National New Energy Vehicle Innovation Engineering Expert Group 

Wang Zidong, deputy secretary-general of the China Automotive Power Battery Industry Innovation Alliance, also told Sino-Singapore Jingwei:

How many people need an electric car of 1,000 kilometres? What is the energy consumption of 1,000 kilometres? I personally think that companies should spend their time and expertise on building better cars.

It is worth noting that in addition to GAC, other car companies have also launched “1000 km batteries.” On January 13, SAIC Motor’s subsidiary Zhiji Automobile announced that its first model will cooperate with CATL, equipped with a “silicon-doped lithium supplement” battery, with a maximum cruising range of more than 1,000 kilometres.  On January 9, Weilai released a 150kWh solid-state battery, saying NEDC models equipped with the battery can reach 1,000 kilometres. The chairman of CATL, Zeng Yuqun, also announced at the forum that the BEV battery pack of CATL can achieve more than 1,000km of battery life, 10-minute fast charging.   

Source: finance.ifeng.com.

In our second story we look at ‘e-sports’.  It’s a serious business in China!

According to a report from the Voice of China, in recent years, the scale of China’s e-sports industry has grown, and “e-sports capitals” are emerging.  New formats call for new talent.  In September 2016, the Ministry of Education issued a notice requiring colleges and universities to add “e-sports and management” majors to sports education and events. This summer, China’s first batch of e-sports students who entered in 2017 are about to graduate and face the big test for employment.  This journal was informed that previously, students who choose “e-sports and management” do not only need to play games and watch videos to easily earn credits, but need knowledge of sports, business, information, and management. 

To obtain a degree, they not only need to reach the level of A level English, but also need to pass the a computer application test at higher vocational schools.  They also need to obtain the national professional qualification of sports instructor (e-sports), assistant sports agent country professional qualifications and two or more projects reach the level of second-level referees. 

Graduates can be employed in professional clubs, e-sports companies, sports associations, and other e-sports related departments in the future. They can also be engaged in e-sports athletics, as coaches, data and tactics analysts, referees, professional managers, event hosting, venue operations. 

Source: tech.ifeng.com.

In the new year, where does the wind of studying abroad blow?  What effect has COVID had on Chinese students going abroad to study?

A few days ago, Qi Tak Education released the “Inventory of China’s Study Abroad Market in 2020 and Prospects for 2021”. Based on the comprehensive official data and surveys of multiple countries, it pointed out that the COVID epidemic will have a more obvious impact on studying abroad at a young age. 

According to the research, the “safety factor” has become one of the most important factors for Chinese students when choosing a destination for studying abroad, second only to “quality of education”. Concerns about safety issues have also led to a more obvious drop in studying abroad at a young age.

As for studying abroad at the undergraduate and master’s level, most of the intending international students do not intend to give up studying abroad, but postpone their study abroad plans.  69% of students admitted that the epidemic has affected their study abroad plans. 57% of them plan to postpone enrolment until 2021, and 4% said they do not want to study abroad for the time being.

In other data from the, a total of 372,532 Chinese students were studying in the United States, a year-on-year increase of 0.8%.  Britain is favoured by Chinese students.   It is worth noting that in 2020, the UK became the “first choice” for Chinese students’ study abroad destinations.  Experts said that the rich selection of courses in the UK, the short academic system for higher education, and the Post Study Work visa have increased the attractiveness of studying in the UK.  In addition, in the past two years, more and more British universities have begun to accept Chinese college entrance examination results to directly apply for undergraduate freshmen. 

by Startup Stock Photos

However, the admission methods and criteria of foreign universities are also constantly being adjusted. In 2021, some universities in the UK and Australia will no longer adopt the first-come-first-served approach of rolling admission.  Instead, they will select the best based on the comprehensive evaluation of student background and performance.  Most American universities no longer require the submission of standardized results, and the applicant’s soft power such as scientific research ability and internship experience is more important. 

At the same time, to improve the application success rate, some students who originally applied for the United States or Australia choose to apply for the United Kingdom, Canada and other countries and regions. 64.96% of students applying for science and engineering in Australian universities have applied for other countries.  Among the regions, the United Kingdom has the highest proportion, followed by Hong Kong, which has also intensified the competition for prestigious schools. 

Experts advise families that early planning, early application, and quick results should be obtained. This way, if some colleges fail to accept you, you can adjust the application strategy as soon as possible.

Source: edu.ifeng.com.

Our last story comes from The Brookings Institution, a public policy organization based in Washington, DC. Their mission is to conduct in-depth research that leads to new ideas for solving problems facing society at the local, national, and global level.  This report on how the USA can learn from China was published in Chinese in Ifeng.  Here we use the original English language version.

According to a September 2020 report from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS), China will soon surpass the United States (U.S.) in research and development (R&D) investment (Norman Augustine co-chairs the AAAS committee that published this report). China has already overtaken the U.S. in the number of scientific journal publications, bachelor’s degrees awarded, and number of researchers. These changes demonstrate the impressive transformation of China into an economic powerhouse in the span of a few decades. From 1999 to 2015, the country’s poverty rate fell from 40.3% to 0.5% (< $1.90 USD/day international poverty line). Despite the U.S. and China’s starkly contrasting political ideologies, China’s R&D milestone suggests that the U.S. re-examine China’s approach to R&D to reinvigorate its own.

The most overt factor contributing to China’s success was the country’s shift away from a potentially planned economy. In a planned economy, the government determines the supply, coordination, and pricing of goods and services. Such systems often have trouble maintaining economic stability, encouraging entrepreneurship, and efficiently distributing resources. As China shifted towards free market governance, two major changes occurred: (1) China better utilized its comparative advantage in manufacturing and (2) markets became segmented to cater to a variety of consumers. With regards to the former, China’s generally lower standards of living and wages make it cheaper to employ laborers.  Nobel prize winning economist Paul Krugman argues that these laborers ultimately see their standard of living rise as their country’s unemployment falls and export industry rises.

The second part, however, is not as well understood. In the mid-2000s, the market for Chinese counterfeit brands of American products, colloquially called “shanzhai”, exploded. These counterfeits would take recognizable products, particularly in the technology industry, and recreate cheaper versions of them. Although these knockoffs often lacked the bells and whistles of the authentic product, they made important technologies like cell phones accessible to large swaths of the population. Connecting the population digitally paved the way for apps like WeChat, which allow users to do everything from messaging to mobile banking. These advances have become so widespread that companies like Xiaomi and Tinno have spawned from the shanzhai ecosystem to become authentic technology competitors on the world stage.

The Chinese government played a crucial role supporting this growth through nationally coordinated efforts to interconnect the country. One such example is the development of China’s high-speed railway. China’s railway has grown by 15,500 miles (25,000 km) from 2008 to 2019, making it the most extensive in the world. In the past decade alone, over 7 billion passengers have used these networks, drawing praise from the World Bank for the network’s expansion and traffic capacity. These developments are not just a national effort, but require extensive coordination between the China Railway Corporation, railway manufacturers, scientific laboratories, academic centres, and engineering hubs. China pledges to add 43,500 miles (70,000 km) by 2035. National plans like these create a scaffold of investment for public- and private-sector organizations to collaborate without being too paternalistic to inhibit progress.

by Ryutaro Tsukata

While free markets are foundational to creating opportunities for entrepreneurship and advancement, government intervention can catalyse continued economic development.

What can the U.S. learn from these approaches? 

The first is to further adopt long-term goals and build a variety of incentives to achieve that vision, with a particular focus on infrastructure and technology development.  During World War II, Dwight D. Eisenhower was inspired by Germany’s early Autobahn network that was critical to moving Allied forces across Europe. He envisioned a similar network to connect the U.S. through the Interstate Highway System.  At $25 billion, the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 set a 10-year plan to build 41,000 miles (66,000 km) of road.  The federal government provided strategic investment while states were responsible for building and maintaining their sections of the interstate.  Although the costs and time to build the system were higher than expected, the Interstate Highway System’s completion is regarded as one the U.S.’s most successful infrastructure development projects.  This road network served as a scaffold that promoted societal enhancement: speeding transportation of goods, moving manufacturing to cheaper areas, and connecting individuals with more employment opportunities. 

The U.S. should implement similar visions that can live beyond the lifetime of a single administration to ensure predictable funding towards a unified goal.

The AAAS uses this approach in its 2020 report to outline strategies to support R&D in the public and private sectors. The report recommends creating national and state funding plans for R&D, building budget structures that facilitate continued investment, supporting legal status for international students in STEM and their families to facilitate migration, and focusing educational investment on K-12 education. These national initiatives can be further improved by implementing effective practices from rapidly growing economies. 

The lesson to be learned from China’s R&D is that progress requires long-term investment in human capital and physical capital, and that making such investments—or not making them—can have major consequences for a nation’s wellbeing.

The U.S. has become complacent as a leader in global competitiveness, a status that it may not continue to hold. The U.S. must adapt to keep up with the rapidly changing world or risk becoming victim to its own success.

Authors: Joseph Kanakart and Norman Augustine

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