chinese technology

Iran. 2015. Former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promised a house for every Iranian and as a result the country is dotted with ghost towns, concrete towers, like here, outside the capital on the slopes of the Alborz mountains. Chinese contractors have been assisting in the construction, as part of a sanction evading deal under which Iranian oil would be traded in exchange for Chinese financing, technology and construction labour. © Newsha Tavakolian/Magnum Photos

In the eighth circle of hell in “Dante’s Inferno,” thieves are punished by a gruesome transformation. They’re pursued by a pit full of monsters. When bitten, the thief and the monster melt into each other like hot wax. They separate eventually, but the monster is now human, and the thief has become a monster. Dante wrote that in all of human history, nobody had ever imagined a more brutal metamorphosis.

Well guys, we did it! We found something worse. Meet “MyIdol.”

Dearest Cat,

You have me at something of a disadvantage, Miss Grant.  While you were able to survey the entirety of my bohemian studio from your place just inside my doorway and can now picture me writing to you in any number of places within my little sanctuary, I have only seen the library of your sprawling D.C. penthouse.  And while, yes, I can see you penning these letters in the leather armchair by the fireplace hearth, or at the creaky brass-handled desk in the corner, or even (dare I suggest it) on the overstuffed microfiber sofa in Carter’s little reading nook, is it too much to hope that there are other pieces of your home that have been privy to our correspondence?

The table in your (no doubt) gourmet kitchen?  The media room where Carter plays his video games and you catch up on all the latest with CatCo, penning your next letter atop your own embroidered throw pillow?  Wrapped in a blanket on the second balcony outside your bedroom?  I wonder.  Are there two pairs of glasses on your nightstand, or three?  Idle thoughts.

My handwriting is only Carter’s age, I’m afraid.  Krypton was entirely technological.  Writing was an antiquated lost art, relegated to what my father always called the “frivolous vocations of history and archaeology.”  He indulged my forays into art, but never taught me to write our language.  When I arrived on earth, Eliza spent hours teaching me my letters, helping me find just the right pressure so I wouldn’t tear the paper, break the pencil, dent the table.  And oh I loved it.  The way the slightest press of ink or lead or wax to paper left my thoughts behind.  The words felt tied to me in a way they never did when they could be tapped onto a screen.  I taught myself to draw Kryptonian glyphs and I wrote my name on every surface I could find, in English, In Kryptonian, in Arabic and Russian and Chinese.  I embraced technology easily at CatCo, because it reminded me of home, but my soul will always yearn for the curve of the C in your signature or the flourish by which you cross your T, if only because it ties me to Earth, my adoptive home.  Now you know the true secret of why I always insisted on staying while you signed all those documents.

I recognize the quirks in your characters too, Cat.  The way your letters flatten when you’re mad at me or curl a little on the ends when you drop your pragmatism and allow yourself to dream a little.

Your gifts are extravagant and heartbreakingly lovely.  Don’t think I don’t recognize the same model of outrageously overpriced Mont Blanc that graced your own desk throughout my employ with you. The way the ink soaks into linen pages bearing my name is an unexpected luxury I may never get fully used to.   It’s far too much, and I’m not worthy of such spoiling.  But, I know better than to tell you I can’t accept it.  Besides, I want it, which, of course, you already knew.  I’ll save the pen-chewing for dimestore Bics on my first drafts, agreed?

Now, I fear I must shift gears from this indulgence in the poetic.  If your security team is receiving legitimate threats on your person or your life, Cat, you must do as they say.  I don’t care if they cover the entire route from your office to the White House in bulletproof Kevlar canopies, you follow orders and stay safe.  Not everyone is as open to the presence of alien life on this planet as you and the President.  And you are a target now, whether you’d like to admit it or not.  You joke about me coming to protect you, but so help me Cat Grant I will be glued to your side if I hear so much as a whisper that you are denying your protective detail.  You brushed aside my protection once and it nearly got us both killed.  I won’t allow it again.

Stay safe.  Stay whole.  Stay unharmed.  It’s important to me, Cat.  So much more than you know.  When I see you, I promise I’ll tell you why, but until then, listen to the DEO, even if you still won’t listen to me.

Yours, etched in pen,


Human Shields — The Mongol Tactic of Kharash

While the Mongol hordes were certainly a force to be reckoned with, they were by no means invincible, and were often limited by terrain, natural foliage, and smart tactics from savvy enemies.  For example the Vietnamese were able to defeat the Mongols by taking to the hills and jungles where Mongol horsemen were not as effective.  The Mamluks of Egypt defeated them by using their own tactics against them.

One limitation of early Mongol armies was their lack of proficiency in siege warfare.  While the Mongols could defeat any army in the open battlefield, there was little they could do when opposed by substantial fortifications.  This deficiency became readily apparent in 1211 when Mongols under Genghis Khan invaded Northern China, where they faced heavily armed opponents who manned large fortresses, walls, trenches, moats, and other fortifications. The Mongols had no siege engines such as catapults, ballistae, or trebuchets, they had no siege towers, and no battering rams.  At best all they had were scaling ladders.  Thus, in some of the Mongols earliest campaigns against the Xia Dynasty, they took heavy casualties and it was questionable whether the Mongols could actually win.

To counter the Chinese fortifications, the Mongols created a new tactic they called “kharash”, which translates as “living boards”. It was a diabolically simple, but brutally effective tactic.  When besieging a fortress, the Mongols would take residents of captured towns, sometimes captured soldiers but often civilians, and force them to serve as the front ranks of the assault. Thus they would absorb the worst the defenders had to offer; arrows, crossbow bolts, primitive bombs, boiling oil, rocks, and other weapons.  On the flip side, the defenders would be forced to fire upon their own civilians, including women or children, the only other option being to offer no resistance at all.

After the Mongols conquered the states of Northern China, they included Chinese technology and engineering into their military, later even adopting early gunpowder warfare.  However, the tactic of kharash continued due to its effectiveness, and the Mongols had few ethical concerns when it came to making war.


The Chinese Invasion of Tibet and the Battle of Chambdo

Throughout most of it’s ancient history, Tibet had been either controlled by China or was a protectorate of China. In 1903 Tibet became de facto independent after the fall of the Qing Dynasty. Life in Tibet had changed little over the centuries, and even though the countries around it were entering the modern world, it was still a very medieval society and government.  Nor was it proper to consider it united country. The Tibetan government had little power, and its influence expanded no farther than a few small city centers. Most of the country was tribal in nature, governed by small villages and communities headed by tribal or village elders. Much of the country was controlled by bandits, warlords, and marauders. The nation was very insular and isolated, not just by geography, but the culture of the people, which was very suspicious of foreigners, and the Tibetan government, which limited the number of foreigners permitted in the country.  Tibet was also behind the time in terms of technology. There were no cars, no trains and airplanes, little electricity and plumbing, and very basic and crude infrastructure. Finally, it was hard to call Tibet itself a united country.  The tribes and regions of Tibet were fiercly independent, and often resented government authority, both foreign and domestic. Tibetans of the Kham region and Lhasan Tibetans were often suspicious and hateful to each other. 

When the Communist under Mao took control of China, the new Chinese Government began to pressure Tibet to once again assume the role of subordinate to China. In negotiations, China demanded that it be permitted to station troops in Tibet, that Tibet become a semi-autonomous region of China, and that China control Tibet’s trade and foreign policy. The Tibetan’s refused of course, which led to further strained relations between the two countries. On the night of October 6th/7th, 40,000 men of the People’s Liberation Army crossed the border and invaded the Kham region, conducting an aggressive offensive directed towards the city of Chamdo, the primary citadel of the Tibetan Army. 

The Tibetan Army was not prepared to fend off an invasion. They had few men and few modern weapons. In the 1930′s Tibet had attempted to modernize the military, hiring British and Indian military advisers while purchasing 7,260 Lee Enfield rifles, 1,800 Bren machine guns, 168 sten guns, and around 100 mortars.  These new arms were not enough to fully equip the Tibetan Army, and many soldiers still were armed with antique matchlock muskets and bows. The Tibetan Army had little heavy artillery, much of which consist of old cannon from an earlier age.  Finally, the Tibetan Army had little combat experience, amounting to infrequent skirmishes with Chinese troops, warlords, and marauders.  By contrast the People’s Liberation Army was well equipped with seemingly infinite amounts of rifles, submachine guns, machine guns, mortars, artillery, airplanes, and vehicles.  More importantly, the PLA had been involved in constant combat against Chinese nationalist forces, Chinese warlords, and the Japanese Army.  It was well equipped, battle hardened, and motivated to win.

The war lasted less than two weeks.  The disunity of the Tibetan people helped bring about the downfall of Tibet, as the Kham people initially did nothing to resist the invasion, seeing it as an opportunity to become independent.  The well equipped and mobile PLA quickly outmaneuvered the Tibetan Army, surrounding and annihilating it at Chamdo. After a short battle which led to the deaths of 180 Tibetan soldiers, the Tibetan Army quickly melted away into nothing, with 3,000 captured and the rest deserting. The Chinese then quickly occupied the country.

After the invasion, the Chinese treated the Tibetans well.  They never attacked civilians, released all prisoners as soon as the war ended, and were hospitable to the the public.  Early on, many of the reforms China enacted were beneficial to Tibet and its people.  The Chinese introduced new technology, infrastructure, and expended Tibetan infrastructure.  The Tibetan Government was given a great deal of autonomy, however the Chinese removed many corrupt, overprivlidged, abusive, and tyrannical officials.  Many reforms were instituted that improved Tibetan society and improved human rights.  However, Tibet’s honeymoon with Chinese occupation went sour by the later 1950′s as China then sought to radically change Tibetan society along the lines of Maoist ideals.  This lead to open revolt among the Tibetan people, both peaceful and violent. The Tibetan government was dissolved and the Dalai Lama forced into exile. Tens of thousands were murdered, thousands more were imprisoned and tortured, and hundreds of Buddhist monasteries were destroyed in the ensuing crackdown.  Today, Chinese brutality is still common in Tibet, with Tibetans tortured and imprisoned for simply practicing their religion and culture.


China poised to launch new era of spaceflight with Long March 5.

Just weeks after the successful launch and docking of the Shenzhou-11 manned mission, China is ready to take their next giant leap in spaceflight next week with the debut launch of the Long March 5 rocket.

Larger than any vehicle China has built before, Long March 5 is a heavy-lift rocket capable of bringing more than 53,000 pounds into low Earth orbit. By comparison, this is roughly as powerful as Europe’s Ariane 5 and America’s Delta IV Heavy. 

Until now, China has been lacking heavy-lift capability, which is crucial to launching large payloads such as space station modules and lunar hardware - both stated goals of the Chinese space program.

Long March 5 was rolled from the assembly building at the country’s new island spaceport of Wenchang in the South China Sea Friday morning, October 28. Reports are indicating launch is scheduled for sometime on November 3rd.

The rocket is the third in a series of vehicles the Chinese are developing to improve and modernize their launch vehicle fleet, which was developed in the latter half of the 20th century. The small-lift Long March 4 make its inaugural launch in November, 2015, while the medium-class Long March 7 first flew in June of 2016.

Power in Numbers: China Aims for High-Tech Primacy

By David Barboza and John Markoff, NY Times, December 5, 2011
BEIJING–In an otherwise nondescript conference room, Wu Jianping stands before a giant wall of frosted glass. He toggles a switch and the glass becomes transparent, looking down on an imposing network operations center full of large computer displays. They show maps of China and the world, pinpointing China’s IPv6 links, the next generation of the Internet.

China already has almost twice the number of Internet users as in the United States, and Dr. Wu, a computer scientist and director of the Chinese Educational and Research Network, points out that his nation is moving more quickly than any other in the world to deploy the new protocol.

IPv6–Internet Protocol version 6–offers advanced security and privacy options, but more important, many more I.P. addresses, whose supply on the present Internet (IPv4) is almost exhausted.

“China must move to IPv6,” Dr. Wu said. “In the U.S., some people don’t believe it’s urgent, but we believe it’s urgent.”

If the future of the Internet is already in China, is the future of computing there as well?

Many experts in the United States say it could very well be. Because of the ready availability of low-cost labor, China has already become the world’s dominant maker of computers and consumer electronics products. Now, these experts say, its booming economy and growing technological infrastructure may thrust it to the forefront of the next generation of computing.

For China, the quest to develop advanced computing centers is not simply a matter of national pride. It is an attempt to lay the groundwork for innovative Chinese companies and to reshape the technological landscape by doing something more than assembling the world’s desktop PCs.

Never mind that there may be no Chinese Steve Jobs, said Clyde V. Prestowitz Jr., president of the Economic Strategy Institute.

“There are different kinds of innovation,” he said. “We tend to equate innovation with companies that start from garages based on brainstorms.

"There is another kind of innovation that results in constant improvement that we are not good at–and they are.”

The view is not universal. Still, other experts say it would be a mistake to underestimate China’s capacity for rapid progress.

“When I went to China for the first time in 1978, I saw workers stringing together computer memories with sewing needles,” said Patrick J. McGovern, the founder of the International Data Group, an early investor in Tencent Holdings, one of the most successful Chinese Internet companies. “Now innovation is accelerating, and in the future, patents on smartphones and tablets will be originated by the Chinese people.”

Going back six decades–to Eniac, considered to be the first electronic computer–the United States has set both the pace and the path of modern computing and communication. From mainframes to iPhones, from the Arpanet to WiFi, innovation has been as American as Norman Rockwell.

And for more than a generation, the hub of innovation has been Silicon Valley, a multicultural melting pot that has supported the singular amalgam of computer-hacker ethos and entrepreneurial aggressiveness that made it the envy of the world.

Probably the most serious challenge to the Valley’s dominance came in the late 1980s from Japan, which seemed on the brink of taking command of the semiconductor and computer industries until its economy foundered.

Today, China poses a very different kind of challenge. While Japan’s economy has long been driven by exports, China will soon have the world’s largest domestic market for both Internet commerce and computing.

The world took notice of Chinese technological prowess in late 2010, when a Chinese supercomputer, the Tianhe-1A, briefly became the world’s fastest. Though it was made from American processors and was soon surpassed by a Japanese machine, it was still indisputable evidence that the Chinese had achieved world-class computing designs.

Then, this October, another Chinese supercomputer, the Sunway Bluelight MPP, broke the petaflop barrier–a quadrillion calculations per second–putting it among the world’s 20 fastest computers.

This machine proved even more surprising in the West. Not only was it based on a Chinese-made microprocessor, but it also achieved a significant advance in low-power operation. That might indicate the Chinese now have a significant lead in “performance per watt”–a measure of energy-efficient computing that will prove crucial to reaching the next generation of so-called exascale supercomputers, which are computers that will be a thousand times faster than the world’s fastest today, and which are scheduled to arrive by the end of this decade.

“This is what Chinese companies need to do,” said Hu Weiwu, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences who is the chief designer of another Chinese family of microprocessor chips. “We can send a spaceship to space. We can design high-performance computers.”

American officials agree, saying the Chinese government’s investment in supercomputing is paying off.

“The overall point of all of this is that the Chinese understand the importance of high-performance computing,” said Donna Crawford, the associate director of computation at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. “They are executing on the plan as a key enabler for their whole society.”

Last year, in an interview that would have been seen as extraordinary if the remarks had been made by a United States president, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao committed China to creating an “Internet of things.”

Connecting homes and smart power grids has been a driving principle behind the next-generation Internet in the United States. And it goes hand in hand with “ubiquitous computing,” the idea that computing power transforms everyday devices like smartphones and digital music players.

But China’s efforts at dominance are hardly without obstacles. The country has fallen far short on a decade-long commitment to build the world’s leading semiconductor industry, and it still imports a vast majority of microchips for the products it assembles. Its best chip factories are two to three generations behind world leaders like Intel, in the United States, and T.S.M.C., in Taiwan.

At the same time, there is a consensus that China’s entrepreneurs have a workaholic culture that is unmatched anywhere in the world.

“What I found in doing five startups in China is the culture makes Silicon Valley look laid-back and slow,” said Tom Melcher, an entrepreneur who left California a decade ago to move to Beijing. “In Beijing, if you want to find a chief executive at 7:30 p.m. on a Friday, it’s guaranteed you will find him at the office.”

Not every China specialist buys such comparisons.

“When we look at China through the lens of American decline, we see the Chinese ascendancy, we see the modern skylines and the fastest computers and the new airports, and we see an invincible force building,” said Orville Schell, director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society. “Through Chinese eyes it looks tremendously uncertain and provisional. They are not filled with self-confidence.”


Reentry capsule testbed concludes Long March 7 mission, ushers new era for Chinese space program.

After orbiting the Earth for more than 20 hours, a Chinese testbed spacecraft landed in the Mongolian desert yesterday, June 26.                                                
Designed by CASC - the Chinese Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation - the capsule is a technological pathfinder for the eventual replacement of the crewed Shenzhou spacecraft. Around 60% the size of the eventual spacecraft, it measures 7.5 feet tall and 8.5 feet wide, and weighs in at over 2.6 tons.

China’s next generation crew capsule testbed module in preflight processing. 

The key objectives of the 12 orbit, 20 hour flight was “to collect aerodynamic and heat data for a re-entry capsule, to verify key technologies such as detachable thermal protection structure and lightweight metal materials manufacturing, and to carry out blackout telecommunication tests,” according to CASC.

The capsule was one of several payloads on the maiden flight of the Long March 7 rocket, with lifted off June 25, on the first mission from China’s newest spaceport on Hainan island. Accompanying the capsule into orbit were two data relay satellites, a debris-clearing testbed satellite named Aolong-1, and a scientific cubesat.

Graphic of the reentry capsule attached to the Long March 7′s Yuanzheng-1A   upper stage. The capsule is located on the right of the image.

China is the third country to launch a crewed spacecraft technology demonstrator in the last two years. America launched Orion in December 2014, with India’s CARE module a few weeks later. It’s also the third country to debut a new medium-class launch vehicle in the last year, behind Russia’s Angara, and India’s GSLV Mk III.

Finally, the launch from Hainan island inaugurated the Wenchang space center, the second new spaceport to be constructed and used, behind Russia’s Vostochny in April, 2015. Both space centers are intended for long-term use, with the majority of launch operations converted over within the next few decades.

Long March 7 launches from Wenchang space center, June 25, 2016, carrying multiple payloads into orbit, including a reentry capsule testbed.