Edinburgh Zoo is about to take delivery of a pair of giant pandas from the Chinese government. Sunshine and Sweetie (Yangguang and Tiantian in Mandarin Chinese) are both seven years old and have grown up together in the misty mountains of southwest China. The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland will pay more than £600,000 a year for the loan of the pandas and another £70,000 for imported bamboo - the pair eat 18,000 kg of this plant each year. The pandas will come with their 'nanny', Mr Xie Hao who has looked after the pair since birth and he will stay in Scotland for a month. He says that when he goes home, it will be a painful separation for him. The hope is that the pair will produce a cub during their ten-year stay in Scotland. A new enclosure has been built for them at Edinburgh Zoo. If a cub is produced, it will be the first ever to be born in Britain. (From Sky News 2/12/11 via internet)
The US has long dominated the supercomputer industry and currently has 263 of the world's 500 most powerful supercomputers. These machines are used to design everything including weapons systems, climate change models, code cracking programmes, new and life-changing drugs and oil and gas exploration. The largest supercomputer in the US is at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. In November 2010 it was usurped by the Chinese built Tianhe-1A supercomputer as the largest in the world - Tianhe-1A being five times more powerful. This news caused consternation at the Livermore Laboratory even though Livermore is in the process of building a new computer, due to be completed by the end of 2012 which will be eight times more powerful than Tian-he-1A.
The Japanese have since built a supercomputer which puts Tianhe-1A into second place, but the supercomputer sector in China is booming with supercomputer centres in Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, Tianjin and Changsha. China had no supercomputers ten years ago and now has 74 in the top 500 most powerful in the world. (From Newsweek 5/12/11)
In an interview with Newsweek magazine, Imran Khan, former Pakistani cricketer, said that China has a lot of experience pulling hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and that is what Pakistan needs, poverty alleviation. And Pakistan can learn from China's experience in fighting corruption. (From Newsweek 21/11/11)
The Chinese government has been trying to put a damper on the real estate boom. This is an attempt to rejigger the Chinese economy into one that relies more on a domestic service sector and less on manufacturing and exports. However if there is a precipitous drop in real estate , multinational corporations whose revenue and earnings growth are tied to China could be hit hard - and the US thrown back into recession. The world has to care about Chinese growth because it is an important driver of the global economy. China contributed 19% of the world's economic growth in 2010 and that is expected to increase to 24% this year. Thus China's growth is essential to both the US and European economies Much of the growth is wrapped up in real estate. Chinese investment in real estate, in the first six months of this year, was up 32% compared with the same period in 2010, and China's economy is likely to grow by 9% this year - about equal to the average since 'opening up' (in 1978). (From Time 17/10/11)
General Motors has signed an agreement to develop and build an electric car with its lead partner in China. A completely new electric car will be developed with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC). However, the GM vice-chairman denied that this would involve giving SAIC access to intellectual property for the GM Volta vehicle. He rejected the view of some members of US Congress that GM would give up trade secrets in return for consumer subsidies for the car in the Chinese market. GM did say however that it was meant to 'leverage SAIC's market knowledge and local expertise along with GM's expertise in electric vehicle development and global knowhow.' The agreement was signed during a GM board meeting in Shanghai, the first time that it has met outside of the US. This shows the importance that GM is placing on China. (From The Daily Telegraph 21/9/11).
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on 14 September specified five key areas for reform of China's political system. They include firmly establishing the rule of law, promote social equality and justice, safeguarding judicial justice, ensuring people's democratic rights and combating corruption. Mr Wen was speaking at the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2011 held in Dalian, northeast China. He stated that the most important of these five tasks are to expand democracy, promote social fairness and fight corruption. Wen made the statement in response to a question raised by World Economic Forum Chairman Klaus Schwab. (From Beijing Review 22/9/11)
A senior Chinese Foreign Ministry official said yesterday that the idea of China saving Europe 'does not stand'. The comments of Ms Fu Ying, China's Vice-Foreign Minister were the clearest indication that China will not play the 'white knight'. However Ms Fu Ying emphasised that China's position should not be seen as a lack of support for Europe - the destination of about a quarter of China's exports. She said that, 'the money cannot be used in this way'. She described the money as China's 'savings'. Analysts believe that any assistance China does feel necessary to offer Europe would most likely be part of some international effort, probably via the International Monetary Fund. In addition, about 65% of the £2 trillion reserves are believed to be in dollar assets, which reduce the investable size of the fund.
More critically though, is Beijing's concern that a bailout of 'feckless' indebted developed nations would be an unpopular move amongst Chinese people. Previous occasions when state money has been poured into loss-making overseas investments has provoked public outcry. (From The Times 3/12/11)
Construction has begun on a new airport being built to the south of Beijing. It will occupy a 21 square mile site and will have nine runways. It will be named, Daxing International airport and will be the world's busiest. This development is only three years after Beijing's Capital airport opened its huge Terminal 3, which is larger than all five Heathrow terminals put together. (From The Week, 17/9/11)
The maternal mortality rate in China has dropped significantly as the country has begun providing expectant mothers with subsidies that allow them to give birth in hospitals. In 2008, the maternal mortality rate was 34 2 for every 100,000 births, but by 2010, the figure had dropped to 30 for every 100,000. Since 2009, each pregnant woman in the countryside has received 500 yuan ($77) to cover the cost of hospitalisation. As a result of the programme, 96.7% of rural expectant mothers gave birth to children in hospitals. The increased rate of hospitalisation has also reduced the infant mortality rate, which now stands at 13.1 for every 1,000 births - this is a fall of about 66% from the 1990 level. This meets the targets set by the UN in its Millennium Development Goals. (From Beijing Review 22/9/11)
Chinese scientists claim to have created a range of 'super-crops' by treating seeds in outer space with cosmic radiation. Giant cucumbers and tomatoes along with fast growing sesame, cotton, white lotus and even chrysanthemum flowers have been treated by the technique according to a report published by Chinese scientists. Professor Li Chengzhi of Beihang University in Beijing believes that space agriculture could have the potential to rival earth-based genetic modification which is an effective but expensive way of producing new breeds of high-yield crops. China's first breakthrough came in 1999 with a new strain of fast growing 'space rice', Hangyu, which is now planted on more than 400,000 acres of land.
Another 12 strains of 'space rice' have since been planted on more than one million acres of land, boosting yield by 340,000 tons according to Li's estimates. Similar techniques have since been applied to other crops, including wheat, fruit and vegetables such as green peppers and cucumbers. Some 90,000kg of cucumber can be grown from each hectare -a yield increase of 20%. Space-bred cherries and tomatoes have a higher sugar content of 13% and also taste good. Professor Martin Parry at Britain's leading plant science centre said that this technique represented a 'valuable approach', but warned that it's not a 'magic bullet' and it's not suddenly going to feed the world. He says that research often uncovers early evidence of higher yields or drought resistance but the results can be misleading. (From The Sunday Times23/10/11).
At Selfridges, sales to Chinese tourists rose 20% in the month culminating in Golden Week (week-long holiday for China's National Day on 1st October) compared with the same period last year. Chinese tourists are of growing importance to Selfridges and have been for the last four to five years with double digit growth in year-on-year figures. Watches and jewellery are the biggest sellers followed by accessories, although this year has also seen a significant increase in sales of fine wines and cigars.
The New West End Company, a company based on Oxford Street and Bond Street bills these two streets as 'London's luxury quarter' and is a key tourist destination in Chinese guidebooks. The marketing seems to be paying off, because the average spend per visit by a Chinese shopper last year was £800, compared to £120 by the average Briton.
Around the world, Chinese shoppers spent £2.4 billion on luxury goods during the October Golden Week holiday. The goods included watches, perfume, handbags and designer clothes. Analysts believe that the steady increase in outbound Chinese tourism together with the explosive rise in individuals' average spending could eventually make the Chinese Golden Weeks of New Year and National Day as significant as Christmas for luxury goods retailers around the world. (From The Times 14/10/11)
The head of Europe's international rescue fund is working on planes for a special 'Beijing bond' that could raise the missing billions needed to save the euro. Klaus Regling, chief executive of the European Financial Stability Facility, is on a two-day mission to China in an attempt to raise cash for the $1 trillion (£860 billion) fund. Chinese negotiators have made a series of economic and political demands. In response Regling has proposed a special bond that would almost guarantee not to lose money. China would invest alongside Europe's bailout fund, but would be protected from the first 20% of losses. Regling also indicated that Europe would be prepared to sell China bonds denominated in its own currency, the renminbi.
With more than $3 trillion (£1.9 trillion) of foreign currency reserves, China is more than capable of fixing Europe's cash flow problems. Beijing has been keen to support the Eurozone as part of its efforts to reduce its exposure to the American dollar. It wants to ensure the euro can continue its rise as a global reserve currency, diminishing the power of the US. (From The Sunday Times 30/10/11)
Chinese inflation eased for a third straight month in October as the government's efforts to cool the economy continued to pay off. China's annual inflation rate fell to 5.5% in October from 6.1% in September. This is the biggest drop since February 2009 and a further decline from July's three-year peak of 6.5%. The figure was in line with analysts' expectations. Premier Wen Jiabao said domestic prices had fallen noticeably further since October.
The figures soothed investors' concerns about a sharp slowdown, supporting commodity prices and underpinning Chinese shares. As inflation seems to be coming under control, speculation is growing that Beijing will start pro-growth policies again which could help support weakening global growth. China's leaders have recently mentioned 'fine tuning' economic policy to recharge growth, which slowed in the third quarter to 9.1%, which is the weakest in more than two years.
At the moment, inflation remains too high for a curb on interest rates, which is well above the 2011 target of 4%. In October last year, Chinese authorities began tightening monetary policy in an effort to cool prices. The People's Bank of China has since raised interest rates five times and increased banks' reserve requirements nine times. (From The Telegraph 10/11/11)
Following the death of a two-year old girl after a road accident, when passers-by ignored her plight, Shenzhen officials have drafted rules designed to encourage people to come to each other's aid according to the Guanzhou Daily newspaper. It is believed that many people were afraid to help, because of a series of cases where people sued their rescuers alleging that they caused the injuries in the first place. In some cases, genuine mistakes have been made, but in others, it seems that the objective was blatant extortion. The new rules will free Good Samaritans from legal responsibility for the condition of the person they help, except in the case of gross negligence. Those who are found to have falsely accused helpers will be punished and furthermore legal aid could be offered to helpers who face law suits. (From The Guardian 1/12/11)
Jaguar Land Rover is set to enjoy up to a 30% increase in sales to £3 billion. It is believed that profits for the three months to the end of September will be about £280 million compared to £264 million the year before in the same period. The quarterly boost has been driven by a 66% jump in sales to China. Jaguar Land Rover is owned by India's Tatra Group, which announced last week that 1,000 jobs will be created at its Solihull factory to support plans to launch 40 products over the next five years. (From The Sunday Times 13/11/11)
A cargo train laden with China's most advanced products has begun an epic journey from Chongqing to Duisburg, Germany. The journey will take 13 days and is about a third of the 36 days it would have taken by ship. One train per day is planned and the line will soon extend to Antwerp. The first cargo is LCD television screens and laptop computers. Economists at the China Insider research group believe as the new rail route of 11,179 kilometres begins to shift more cargo directly into the heart of Europe. Chongqing and western China will become an important engine room of China.
Lord Mandelson believes British business should react now or miss the opportunity of a lifetime because the emergence of Chongqing as the industrial and financial centre of western China - and even the whole of central Asia - provides opportunities for Britain's service sector of financial services, accountancy, legal services and advertising. Chongqing, the largest municipality in the world, has been marked out by the Chinese government as the city to spearhead China's economic ambition over the next decade and to reverse the flow of migrant workers to the coastal cities by establishing manufacturing centres inland. Chongqing's manufacturing base could remain competitive with rivals in Vietnam and Bangladesh. (From The Times 4/7/11)
Huawei, the Chinese telecoms giant, has hired Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone to recruit executives to ease its expansion into the UK. She has already appointed Sir Andrew Cahn as chairman and introduced him and Victor Zhang, Huawei's UK chief executive to George Osborne. Huawei, which turned over nearly £10 billion in the first half of this year, is a household name in China and the company plans to replicate that success here. It already has a large UK business supplying network technology and unbranded handsets to other mobile operators and is now ready to start selling Huawei branded smartphones at less than £100.
Huawei has also been recruiting industry heavyweights, including the UK's former IT chief, John Suffolk, as cyber-security official, as part of a campaign to combat claims, largely in America, that the Chinese could use the handsets for spying. Huawei denies these allegations. The company is also considering opening its share scheme to non-Chinese staff, rather like John Lewis, where many employees have a stake in the company. So far Huawei's scheme has only been open to Chinese nationals. (From The Telegraph 10/11/11)
An emerging Chinese middle class has swelled the number of tourists in Britain by one million over the past year. The total number of overseas tourists rose from 29.6 million to 30.6 million last year according to the Office for National Statistics. The Chinese average spend increased by £100 per person over the last year. Visit Britain, the tourist organisation believes that the number of Chinese visitors to the UK increased by 50% in the last year. Even golf clubs are hiring Mandarin and Cantonese speakers as more Chinese opt to play a round of golf on their holidays. China is now the world's third most valuable source market for international tourism and in terms of worth over the last decade, China has increased twice as much as that of its nearest competitor, Germany. The demand for travel is necessitating the rapid expansion of infrastructure in China, which is expected to have almost 250 airports by the year 2020.
It is interesting to note where the Chinese tourists go in the UK. The following places were enumerated; Edinburgh Castle (Chinese numbers have trebled in the past year), Harrods, John Lewis and Selfridges in London, Alnwick Castle in Northumberland (Harry Potter films are popular in China and the castle has doubled as Hogwarts), Clarks Village, Somerset and Bicester Village in Oxfordshire - both are factory outlet centres, Blenheim Palace, St Andrews (golf), Buckingham Palace and London open-top bus tours. (From The Telegraph 16/9/11)
An article in the Times (21/11/11) highlighted the need for new airport capacity to accommodate Chinese tourists who are big spenders in the UK. The number of Chinese visitors to Britain last year numbered 127,000. In the same period 500,000 visited France and 700,000 visited Germany. Chinese visitors to Britain spent £115 million last year, but spent £1.3 billion in France.
Each week there are 9,000 passenger seats from Heathrow to China servicing two destinations, but in comparison, there are 18,000 seats from Frankfurt servicing four destinations in China. There are no direct flights from London to the 12 Chinese cities expected to be amongst the 25 richest by the middle of the next decade. Boris Johnson, who backs a new London airport in the Thames estuary, believes that Heathrow's failure to provide regular flights to emerging countries, especially China, will cost Britain dear in the long run.
China's first unmanned space module, Tiangong-1 or Heavenly Palace-1 successfully lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northwest China's Gansu Province on 29 September. According to published plans, Tiangong-1 will eventually be transformed into a manned space laboratory after trial dockings by three further spacecraft - Shenzhou 8, Shenzhou 9 and Shenzhou 10. In simple terms, Tiangong-1 will serve as a target spacecraft while Shenzhou spaceships will be trackers. Space docking is considered one of the most advanced proficiencies for space exploration as it requires the precise handling of two high-speed spacecraft that meet and dock. Both craft are travelling at speeds of 28,000 km per hour and they need to be in the same orbit and connect with precision.
NB. Docking was successfully achieved on 3 November.
In the medium term, China plans to launch Tiangong-2 and Tiangong-3 around 2015. Tiangong-2 will primarily be used for Earth observation and Earth science research including aerospace medicine. Tiangong-3 will focus on research into regenerative environmental control and life support systems. The final aim is to establish a permanent space station which will lay the foundations for possible future missions such as sending men to the Moon and Mars. (From Beijing Review 13/10/11)
China plans to reduce the rate of leprosy cases by 50% over the next 10 years in a bid to eradicate the disease in the country. The prevalent rate will be brought down to one case per 10,000 people by 2015. This will be 20% down compared to 2010. The rate is expected to shrink further to one every 100,000 people by 2020, which is a 50% reduction from 2010. A total of 500,000 leprosy patients have been reported and given free treatment across China since 1949 but more than 1,700 new cases have been reported annually in the past five years. (From Beijing Review 13/10/11)
Chinese hackers, including those who steal information from foreign computers are facing tougher penalties after a new judicial interpretation came into effect on 1 September. Those who hack into 20 to 100 computers, or steal from 10 to 50 user names and passwords for online-payment or stock accounts, will face at least three-year prison sentences. More serious abusers can be jailed for up to seven years. This information was issued by the China Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate. The Ministry of Public Security said that the number of computer viruses affecting computers in China rose 80% this year and claimed eight out of ten computers with internet connections were hacked during the past five years. (From Beijing Review 8/9/11)
China added 191 items to its newly revised list of state intangible cultural heritage on 29 August. The list of customs, crafts, traditions and skills now includes Arirang, the traditional folk songs of China's ethnic Koreans, the metal forging skills used by ethnic Tibetans and the architectural techniques employed in the wooden structures built by the Tu ethnic group. After the revision, the number of intangible cultural heritage items under state protection totalled 1,219. China first issued the list in 2006. The Central Government allocates special funds for their protection and provides subsidies for major masters and practitioners. (From Beijing Review 8/9/11)
China has effectively solved the problems of subsistence, food and clothing for its rural residents says a white paper released by the Chinese government on 16 November. China's poverty-stricken rural population fell from 94.22 million at the end of 2000 to 26.88 million at the end of 2010. The proportion of extremely poor people in rural areas decreased from 10.2% to 2.8% over the same period. According to the white paper, China has realised the goal of cutting the impoverished rural population by half, which was listed in the UN Millennium Development Goals ahead of schedule. (From Beijing Review 24/11/11)
The yield of a hybrid variety of rice in China has exceeded 900 kg per mu (0.067 hectare) setting a new world record in the productivity of rice. This particular strain of rice, labelled DH2525 produced a harvest of 926.6 kg per mu during a trial plantation in Hunan province according to the provincial academy of agriculture at a press conference on 19 September. The new variety will not be deemed a success until it produces a 900 kg per mu yield on at least 100 mu of farmland for two consecutive years.
DH2525 was developed by Yuan Longpin, known as the 'father of hybrid rice'. He has been researching hybrid rice since the 1960s and his team achieved target yields of 700 kg per mu and 800 kg per mu in 1999 and 2005 respectively. On both occasions, world records were set. (From Beijing Review 29/9/11)
China will invest two trillion yuan ($313 billion) to promote the low-carbon economy over the next five years. The investment will help reduce energy consumption per unit of GDP in China by 16% by the end of 2015 compared with 2010 levels. China will develop circular economy projects, establish 100 demonstration bases for resources and comprehensive utilization and will launch low-carbon pilot programs in five provinces and eight cities during the next five years. (From Beijing Review 6/10/11)
Over the past five years, China invested 1.73 trillion yuan in domestic new and renewable energy and was the global leader. The US over the same period spent only 86% of the Chinese figure.
The emission reduction targets for 2011-15 are: to increase the proportion of non-fossil fuel energy to 11.4%, to decrease the energy consumption per 10,000 yuan of GDP by 16% and to reduce carbon dioxide emissions per 10,000 yuan of GDP by 17%.
Liu Yanhua, a consultant to the State Council, said that China' s industrialisation started one or two centuries after most countries in the West and China is still in the primary stages of industrialisation. Historically the per-capita emission of carbon dioxide in developed countries was higher than 300 tons and even exceeded 500 tons. In China the per-capita emission is lower than 100 tons.
In all, China will tackle climate change on 11 main fronts between 2011 and 2015 according to a white paper issued on 22 November. China will strengthen its legal system, adopt more strategic planning, accelerate economic restructuring and refine its current energy policies as well as developing clean energy. (From Beijing Review 1/12/11)
These were summarised in a recent issue of Beijing Review. The average GDP growth will be 7.0% and the GDP in 2015 (based on 2010 prices) will be 55 trillion yuan ($8.37 trillion). The proportion of GDP to be spent in research and development will be 2.2%. Forest stock will increase by 600 million cubic metres and the forest coverage will be 21.66%. The average annual growth of peoples' income will be 7% and 45 million new jobs will be created. Low income housing coverage will be 20% and the urbanisation rate will be 51.5%.
The targets for the environmental and green energy issues have already been covered above. (From Beijing Review 15/9/11)
China's consumer lending market is expected to triple to 21 trillion yuan ($3.3 trillion) by 2015 according to the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) of the US. The balance of consumer lending, including home mortgages, credit card balances, car purchase loans and unsecured personal loans are expected to grow at an average annual rate of 24% over the next five years driven by rising personal incomes and government support. China has been encouraging the development of consumer loans as part of the effort to stimulate domestic demand. The China Banking Regulatory Commission launched a pilot programme in 2009 allowing three Chinese banks to set up consumer finance companies in Shanghai, Beijing and Chengdu.
The BCG say that consumer lending in China started from scratch a decade or two ago. China's consumer loans accounted for just 18% of GDP in 2009 - still far lower than other more developed Asian markets such as South Korea and Malaysia where the comparable penetration reaches 40% to 50%.
Home mortgages are now the dominant category in this sector, accounting for 84% of total consumer due to tightening in the property market. It is believed that the credit card business will maintain robust growth in the coming years, rising 41% annually. Consumer finance is expected to increase 45% annually according to BCG. (From Beijing Review 15/9/11)
China's grain output is expected to reach a record high of 550 million metric tons this year, said the Ministry of Agriculture. The total amount of land dedicated to cultivating grain is estimated at 1.66 billion mu (110 million hectares) this year which is 10 million mu more than last year. Yields of summer grain and early harvest rice in China have already surpassed the record highs registered in 2009. China's grain output rose 2.9% year on year to 546.61 million tons in 2010 according to the National Bureau of Statistics. (From Beijing Review 6/10/11)
Eight mainland cities are amongst the latest list of the world's most liveable cities compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit (of the UK). They are Beijing ranked 72nd, Suzhou ranked 73rd, Tianjin ranked 74th, Shanghai ranked 79th, Shenzhen ranked 82nd, Dalian ranked 85th, Guangzhou ranked 89th and Qingdao ranked 98th. Hong Kong was in 31st place and Taipei was 61st. The list was topped by Melbourne which displaced Vancouver in the full list of 140 cities. Cities are judged on 30 factors taken from the areas of stability, health care, culture and environment and education and infrastructure. (From China Today November 2011)
The Chinese Ministry of Justice has rewritten the national code of conduct for prison inmates, eliminating provisions that banned homosexuality, dyed hair and other lifestyles and practices in prisons. Feng Jiancang, a senior researcher in penal human rights with the ministry's Institute for Crime Prevention said that the revision was made to show respect for the human rights of prisoners. He went on to say that this does not mean homosexual acts will be accepted in prisons. In addition the use of lethal injection is being promoted as a mean s of execution. Lethal injection is considered more humane than firing squad and has completely replaced the firing squad in the provinces of Shandong, Yunnan and Liaoning. The announcements were made on the side-lines of the Fourth Beijing Forum on Human Rights, which was held on 22 September and attended by about 100 human rights experts and policymakers from 26 countries and regions and organisations. (From Beijing Review 6/10/11)
The first group of Chinese students to arrive in the US for study was in 1872. This process of seeking further learning and experience abroad has continued and is still growing. Tens, even hundreds of thousands of Chinese students who returned, brought to China a better understanding of the world and advanced knowledge on a wide variety of subjects from science and technology to state administration. Since the founding of the People's Republic in 1949, there have been three peaks in the backflow of overseas Chinese students. The first peak was at the dawn of the PRC when more than 2,500 returned, amongst them eminent scientists Qian Xuesen, Deng Jianxian and Hua Luogeng. The first two were instrumental in China's space and nuclear science programme.
After Deng Xiaoping's southern inspection tour of 1992 which reaffirmed China's commitment to opening up and reform, a further wave of Chinese overseas students returned to take advantage of job opportunities. In the decade from 1978 to 1989 there were only 20,000 returnees, but by the end of 2007, the number had soared to 320,000. These returnees are fondly referred to as 'sea turtles', a homonym of the phrase in Mandarin Chinese for 'returned from overseas'. (From China Today November 2011)
Beijing is to host the 28th General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in August 2012, according to the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the China Association for Science and Technology. This will be the first time the event has been held in China and it is anticipated that 3,000 astronomers from around the world will be present. The IAU has 10,077 members in 70 countries that are active in research and education in astronomy. (From China Today October 2011)
SinoFile is compiled by Walter Fung.
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