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A little quake near Beijing as Xi Jinping visits Wenchuan

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At around 6:30 p.m. Beijing time today, my social media feeds lit up with reports of an earthquake in Beijing. Xinhua News Agency says it was a 4.3-magnitude quake, with its epicenter deep under Langfang in Hebei Province, just south of the capital. No casualties have been reported.

Coincidentally — unless you believe he controls seismic activity — Chinese president and Party general secretary Xi Jinping was in Wenchuan, Sichuan, today. On May 12, 2008, the Wenchuan earthquake killed around 70,000 people, and one of Xi’s appearances was at Yingxiu County, its epicenter.

  • Xinhua’s top Chinese language story today is about Xi’s visit to Yingxiu “to inspect the development and reconstruction situation 10 years after the earthquake.”
  • Xi attended a memorial service at the site of a local middle school where flowers were presented to honor “fellow countrymen who died in the earthquake and the heroes who sacrificed their lives in earthquake relief work.” He called for the site to become a “patriotic education base.” He also visited a tea factory, and made crispy deep-fried pork  (炸酥肉 zhásūròu) at a local restaurant.
  • Xi Jinping certainly has stamina: Separately, Xinhua reports that on the same day, he “visited the homes of impoverished villagers of the Yi ethnic group in the Daliang Mountains.”
  • Xi also visited a satellite launch site and military base, where in yet another article, Xinhua says he talked to scientists and technicians about their research and lives, and sent a Chinese New Year greeting to all members of China’s armed forces. He also found time to have a video call with “grassroots soldiers stationed at an island in the Xisha area.” The Paracel Islands, known as the Xisha Islands in Chinese, are one of the disputed areas of the South China Sea.

Can Didi make Beijing a nice place to live again?

Wired has a profile of Didi Chuxing, China’s biggest on-demand car company, and Jean Liu 柳青, the company’s ambitious president.

  • Liu proposes a future Beijing that Didi can help create: There are no traffic lights because the cars all have artificial intelligence (AI), and no car parks, as the autonomous vehicles store themselves in facilities outside the city when they are not needed.
  • “We’re surrounded by nice parks… And when you get to your place, you don’t even need to bother to park. You just very gracefully get out,” she tells Wired.
  • Cars specially designed for on-demand services with space for more passengers, self-driving technology, virtual and augmented reality — e.g., windows as interactive displays — are some of Didi’s current research priorities.
  • Didi has been testing two self-driving vehicles on public roads near Shanghai for several months, reports the Financial Times (paywall).

Note: An earlier version of this story mistakenly referred to Liu as Didi’s CEO. She is president. 

Jeremy Goldkorn

Jeremy Goldkorn worked in China for 20 years as an editor and entrepreneur. He is editor-in-chief of SupChina, and co-founder of the Sinica Podcast.

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