Yes, we live in interesting times

What a ride! As we bid farewell to 2017, we contemplate all the places it took us.
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Shanghai Metro is embracing a facial recognition system that will allow passengers to walk through turnstiles without tickets.

The action film “Wolf Warrior 2” has set a box-office record with receipts totaling more than US$860 million.

As another year draws to an end, many will look back on 2017 as a time of some dramatic changes of their lives and living environments.

McDonald’s changed its name in China to Golden Arches, and Starbucks’ new flagship store in Shanghai is still packing in crowds who wait in long queue on wintery streets.

Shanghai’s traffic department grappled with the problem of illegally parked shared bikes on the street, and we can now share cars, rooms, bed and even cellphone chargers.

It has been a year of technology and transformation.

New technologies that once seemed verging on science fiction are now appearing in shops, homes, entertainment venues and workplace, leaving many in awe about what 2018 might bring.

Last summer, Baidu CEO live-streamed himself in a self-driving car on the open road, and the stunt was later investigated by traffic authorities. Autonomous Rail Transit, a driverless bus-rail combination system was unveiled in China.

Meanwhile, Shanghai Metro is embracing a facial recognition system that will allow passengers to walk through turnstiles without tickets. The same technology is also being applied to digital payment systems — “swipe your face” to pay the fare.

Nationally, China made plans for greater, more innovative development in the coming years.

The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China chose leaders with responsibility for leading the country in the next five years. President Xi Jinping leads that team.

China’s grand plans to extend trade links were underscored when Xi hosted leaders from 28 countries in a two-day New Silk Road Summit in Beijing. The gathering discussed details and projects of the Belt and Road Initiative.

The action film “Wolf Warrior 2” was a hit in China, setting a box-office record with receipts totaling more than US$860 million.

As the year concludes, we pick some of the hottest headliners to sketch the year that was in China.

PLA’s 90th anniversary

To celebrate the 90th anniversary of the founding the People’s Liberation Army, a military parade was held at the Zhurihe training base in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. President Xi, who also serves as chairman of the Central Military Commission, inspected the troops at the parade.

Xi said China needs a strong military now more than ever, and he urged that the army be upgraded into a world-class force capable of “defeating all invading enemies” and “safeguarding world peace.”

China’s latest J-20 stealth fighters made their debut at the event.

A domestically designed and manufactured aircraft, the fourth-generation medium and long-range fighter jet has attracted much attention at home and abroad since its maiden flight in 2011.

Dong Jun / SHINE

New jetliner

The C919, China’s first domestically developed narrow-body twin-jet airliner, made its debut test flight in May from Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport.

 Developed by Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, the passenger jet is comparable with the updated Airbus 320 and Boeing’s new generation 737 aircraft.

The jet, with 168 seats and a standard range of 4,075 kilometers, has completed more test flights since May, securing 785 orders from 27 foreign and domestic airlines. Overseas orders account for 10 percent of the total.

Wang Rongjiang / SHINE

What can’t we share?

Morning: get milk in the shared fridge, ride a shared bike to work, stop for a shared cellphone charger. Noon: take a nap on a shared bed before returning to work in a shared space. Evening: share a car ride home.

Everywhere you look, the concept of the “sharing economy” is changing how people live.

In the past year, bike-sharing companies were hot investment magnets. Shared bikes in Shanghai more than doubled in the first quarter, and the shared-wheels trend has even moved into baby buggies.

The sharing concept was originally conceived as a people-to-people way of bypassing institutional services, making life easier and usually cheaper. Many companies have jumped on the bandwagon to provide services.

Imaginechina

An aerial view of Rongcheng County, part of the Xiong'an New Area, in Baoding City, north China's Hebei Province

China’s new hotspot

A project to ease the urban pains of Beijing has drawn a lot of publicity. The Xiong’an New Area is in Hebei Province, about 100 kilometers from the capital.

The central government announced that it would be a hub for development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei triangle, putting it on the national landscape with earlier innovative areas like the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone and Shanghai’s Pudong.

Xiong’an was little known in China, but publicity surrounding its creation has drawn thousands of people to visit and have a look at what some are calling a vision of the future.

The government said many non-core offices and facilities will be moved from downtown Beijing to Xiong’an.

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Machine over man

In May, Ke Jie, the world’s top-ranked player in go, an ancient Chinese chess game, was defeated by the computer system AlphaGo Master in three straight games. The 19-year-old player, who had predicted it would be man over machine, conceded after the matches that “the future belongs to artificial intelligence.”

A year before, AlphaGo beat Korea’s Lee Sedol, the world’s second-ranked player 4-1 in a five-game match. The one loss gave heart to Go players, who like to think of their game as philosophical as well as mathematical. Ke’s subsequent clean-sweep defeat wiped the smiles off their faces.

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Host Dong Qing (left) and Peking Opera artist Wang Peiyu in "The Readers"

TV goes cultural

Amid the sweeping costume dramas, live-streaming games, celebrity stunts and dating shows, a new trend emerged in 2017 — TV shows built around literary themes.

One popular show was “Chinese Poetry Conference,” which tests contestants on their knowledge of ancient Chinese poems. The program attracted a niche audience of literature lovers, and its success has spawned copycat productions.

Another big TV hit was “The Readers,” which invites ordinary Chinese to go on camera to read something they want to share with the public, whether prose or verse, Chinese or translated, classic or contemporary.

Also in the spotlight was “Letters Alive,” where both celebrities and ordinary people read personal letters and share the stories behind them.

Abuse of children

The biggest headliner in November was the child abuse case at the RYB Education New World Kindergarten in Beijing. Angry parents flooded the Internet with pictures of toddlers with apparent needle marks and said their children were given mysterious pills.

Several teachers were immediately suspended, and the State Council, China’s cabinet, dispatched an inspection team to investigate pre-schools all across the country.

The Ministry of Education has announced it will push for more stringent regulation of preschool education

Earlier in the year, Ctrip, China’s leading online travel agency, was confronted by child abuse allegations at its day-care center for employees. Videos showed a female staffer wrenching a backpack from a child’s back and pushing her so hard that her head hit a table. Another child was shown crying after being forcefully fed spicy wasabi.

Five staff members from the center, including the nursery executive, were arrested.

In most Chinese families, both young parents work and need pre-school day care for children. The costs are rising, with monthly tuition and fees up to US$1,000.

What did Confucius say?

Marquis Liu He, who died in 59 BC, merited only a few lines in historical tomes after he was deposed as emperor after only 27 days. The excavation of his tomb in 2016 in Jiangxi Province instantly captured national attention because of the shocking amount of gold unearthed.

The excavation also revealed a different side of the aristocrat, who took chessboards, portraits of Confucius, musical instruments and bamboo slips containing some lost texts of Confucius with him to the underworld.

As a result of the excavation, authorities said “The Analects,” a collection of Confucian teachings compiled by his followers after his death, may be updated.

The text is central to Confucian principle and many excerpts are quoted in national textbooks. Parts of the book were lost for more than 1,000 years, but experts recently confirmed that the unearthed bamboo slips may require revisions to “The Analects.”


Buzzwords

Try to figure out what this man is saying:

Yesterday, I saw the picture of a girl with an “A4 waist.” I’m usually a “Buddhist type,” but I was so excited that I reached out to her and asked her online, “Do you have freestyle?” We set a time and place to meet, and I decided to “eat chicken.” When I got to the restaurant, all I saw was an “oily uncle.”

Oh, no! “I might have drunk some fake alcohol.” Then I realized it was a “fake photo” and she had sent her dad in her place. “You stabbed my heart, buddy,” but “of course, I chose to forgive her.”

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A4 waist

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Buddha style

A4 waist” refers to a waistline that is narrower than the length of a A4 paper, or 21 centimeters. As more young Chinese pay attention to fitness, it has been popular to show gym pictures online. Strange, skinny body shapes became popular, including one showing a hand going across the back to touch the belly. The “A4 waist” became popular when Chinese actress Yuan Shanshan posted a picture of her waist encircled by a sheet of a A4 paper.

Buddhist type” originated in a Japanese magazine, referring to men who see through the emptiness of the material world and live by their hearts. They find relationships troublesome and prefer to be alone.

Eat chicken” comes from a line in the American movie “21-The Movie.” It first became popular among players of the “Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds” game, which many live streaming players use to wish each other victory. The phrase has become so popular that the game is now commonly referred to as the “eat chicken” game.

Do you have freestyle?” comes from “The Rap of China,” the first Chinese reality show featuring hip-hop culture and one of the hottest shows in 2017. Many young hip-hop musicians previously little known to the public became stars overnight. Pop star Kris Wu in the program asked one competitor “Do you have freestyle?” The phrase soon went viral online, inspiring many emojis and online jokes.

You stabbed my heart, buddy” comes from northern Chinese dialect. It refers to an unbreakable friendship.

I might have drunk fake alcohol” is a phrase that comes from the gaming world. It refers toplayers who think they perform better after a few drinks. When they lose, they crack the joke, “I might have drunk the wrong alcohol.” The term quickly took on all sorts of meanings, including fake naps and fake boyfriends.

Fake photo” arose in response to online sellers who post product pictures that don’t accurately show the goods that are delivered to buyers.

The term soon came to cover people who post pictures of themselves that are heavily touched up by photo-shopping.

Of course, I chose to forgive her” came from the many online postings about failed marriages and relationships. Often the listings painted a sour picture of a partner, only to conclude with the comment about forgiveness. The phrase became especially popular after Chinese actor Wang Baoqiang found his wife to have been cheating on him for years.

Oily uncle” comes from Chinese author Feng Tang’s Weibo posting entitled “how to avoid from becoming an oily middle-aged man.” Netizens soon listed what they considered to be oily, including obesity, bragging, looking sloppy and behaving shrewishly.

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Do you have freestyle?

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Oily uncle


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