Saturday, October 24, 2009

Big Switch

Nicholas Carr is one of my favorite technology authors. His blog is always worth of reading. His book could only be better.

In Big Switch, Nicholas Carr expressed a key point: computing is turning into a new type of utility, which will bring the world the change as great as what the prevalence of electricity had done to us.

The claim is bald. But it is reasonable after carefully thinking of it. As well as electricity breaks the barrier of energy deliverance, the modern Web-based computing is breaking the barrier of information transmission. As I expressed in my book review for Programming the Universe, information along with mass and energy is another fundamental element that constitutes the universe. We thus may categorize the invention of modern Web-based computing along with the invention of electricity and the invention of wheel being the top three greatest inventions that fundamentally evolve our society.

The invention of wheel breaks the barrier of mass transportation; the invention of electricity breaks the barrier of energy deliverance; and the invention of modern Web-based computing breaks the barrier of information transmission. This path is the big switch we talk about.

Our human society began with consuming natural product, which is made of mass. Hence the primary demand from the beginning was to transport mass more efficiently. The invention of wheel overcame the gravity obstacle that in nature mass is to us. In consequence, the invention allowed humans to transport heavy-weight product in long distance and therefore we were able to live close to each other in which was away from where natural product grew. The invention of wheel enabled the formation of human society and its early evolving.

Natural product soon became insufficient due to the increased human population. We must produce man-made product to keep on the growth of the society. Energy forges mass to new product of mass, which is essential to human production. The problem of energy consumption emerged.

For long time, energy could not be delivered except of in the form of mass. We had to transport things such as wood and coal instead of delivering the directly useable energy in distance. The problem became extreme severe in the industrial revolution. Suddenly the demand to energy consumption was over what the regular local providers could support in general. The cost of energy deliverance soon became the bottleneck to the further growth of human society.

The invention of electricity overcame the distance obstacle that in nature energy is to us. Unlike mass, energy indeed does not have to occupy space; the gravity obstacle thus was not natural to energy. The distance obstacle does apply, however, because normally where energy is generated is varied from where energy is consumed. Electricity allowed energy being delivered in long distance at low cost by avoiding transporting them in the form of mass.

The further evolution of human society demands more improvement in the rate of production. The importance of information in production gradually became a major issue. Energy forges new product of mass, but it is information that guides how energy can be effectively used to forge the product of mass. The faster information can be spread, the more rapid information can be computed and analyzed, the better product rate we can achieve. After resolving the gravity obstacle and the distance obstacle of man-made production in general, the next major obstacle to overcome is the time obstacle. The modern Web-based computing is the solution.

Unlike mass and energy, information does not have the distance obstacle. Even if we have to physically deliver books, a mass product that records information, it is still not a problem at all if we compare it to the transportation of mass or energy in form of mass. The real problem of information transmission is time. Humans need to learn information, think of information, understand information, and then finally apply information. The process takes time. And time does matter critically in production. This problem became crucial after the general problems of mass transportation and energy deliverance had been conquered.

The modern Web-based computing constructs an environment that information can rapidly shared and computed before somebody consumes it. It significantly shortens the time needed for information learning, information understanding. Many times, we can directly jump to the stage of information application by skipping the previous stages of information consumption. Therefore, it overcomes the time obstacle in production.

Wheel --- mass --- the gravity obstacle
Electricity --- energy --- the distance obstacle
Modern Web-based computing --- information --- the time obstacle

This is the big switch we are experiencing at this moment.

Nicolas Carr’s book describes more details of what were truly happening in the last switch. The book is knowledgeable and I recommend it to whoever is interested in the future of our human society evolution.

Friday, October 23, 2009

See you in ISWC 2009

I will go to attend ISWC 2009 tomorrow. If you are there, please stop by and say hi. See you there.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Contemporary China in 60 years (2005 - 2009)

(1949 - 1954), (1955 - 1959), (1960 - 1964), (1965 - 1969), (1970 - 1974), (1975 - 1979), (1980 - 1984), (1985 - 1989), (1990 - 1994), (1995 - 1999), (2000 - 2004)

2005: Super Voice Girls (超级女声)

The champion of the Super Voice Girls contest in 2005, Li Yuchun (李宇春).

The 2005 Super Voice Girls contest was a phenomenon. Hundreds of millions of votes was sent through cell phones by the regular TV watchers. This was likely the most participated ever (let it alone through cell phones) private organized event in the entire human history until now. Moreover, it was the first time that all Chinese had an opportunity to participate a free public vote, though it was not to elect president. The consequence of the event on how it had taught regular Chinese people about the real free public voting would have long-term impact to the future of China.

2006: Agricultural Tax Regulations abolished (废除《农业税条例》)

Starting from Jan. 1st, 2006, the Chinese government abolished collecting agricultural tax from peasants. This was the first time in more than 2600 years of Chinese history that the agricultural tax was abolished.

This was a crucial step to eliminate the man-made distinction between the peasants living in the rural places and the citizens living in cities. In more than 2600 years, the man-made distinction was kept to consolidate the leadership of a small group of elites over China. The great number of peasants were chained to their land by this tax to make sure that they could not move freely through the nation in order to assure that they could not rebel. With time the tax had become a great obstacle that prevented China from being a modern industrial country. The abolition of the agricultural tax was thus critical to the future progress of Chinese economy.

2007: Zhou Zhenglong fake tiger photo (周正龙假虎照)

The fake tiger photo made by Zhou Zhenglong (周正龙) in 2007. The case was dramatic because it typically revealed the dark under-table rules in the Chinese civil service system.

In order to be promoted, one has to make some contribution. Therefore, one must try to make some fake contribution when the real contribution is hard to make. The root of this philosophy is the official-based culture in China lasted for thousands of years. The higher in rank an official is, he gets more honored and can get much extra benefit that otherwise can never obtain. This culture is a major problem that has prevented China from healthy progress in centuries. Now this bad tradition simply continues. The case of Zhou Zhenglong fake tiger photo was a typical example in modern China.

2008: Beijing Olympics (北京奥运会)

The open ceremony of Beijing Olympics in 2008. It was splendid.

What may I say? The open ceremony of Beijing Olympics was a great show of art and history. It showed the world how great a nation China was, is, and will be. China has the greatest number of population in the world. Beyond that, Chinese are well-known for their smartness in creation and diligence in work. This show was a formal public declaration of the re-rising of China as a big nation in the world.

2009: ... Look forward to the future (展望未来)

The 2009 China's National Day parade.

Just 60 years ago, China was one of the poorest nations in the world. After 60 years, now China has become nearly the second most important nation in the world that is next to United States. In its glorious successive history, China is never lack of great politicians, economists, artists, scientists, and engineers. Chinese are hard workers, brilliant innovators, and brave soldiers. I can hardly think of another nation, probably except of Rome, that is comparable to China in its history.

But China also has its problem. Due to the official-based culture that is formed in the thousands year history, Chinese gradually lose their capability in innovation and braveness in fighting for freedom. By contrast, they are trained to fight for being higher rank government officials who can take advantage of the normal Chinese citizens. This type of elite-governing culture significantly blocked the advancement of China in recent centuries and it indeed still is a major obstacle to the progress of contemporary China.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Contemporary China in 60 years (2000 - 2004)

(1949 - 1954), (1955 - 1959), (1960 - 1964), (1965 - 1969), (1970 - 1974), (1975 - 1979), (1980 - 1984), (1985 - 1989), (1990 - 1994), (1995 - 1999)

2000: Beidou Navigation System (北斗导航系统)

China's Beidou satellite was sent into space.

In the coming new information age, satellite navigation system plays more and more a crucial role in nearly every facet of economy. The launching of Beidou navigation system was a landmark of not only China's technological advancement but also the strength of Chinese economy. By holding an independent satellite navigation system, China gained the ability to be an independent economic unit in the new information age. This is a reason that few other countries might clone the success of China.

2001: Sino-US Hacker War (中美黑客大战)

A screen shot during the hacker war. The hacker war was a consequence of the China-US plane collision incident happened a few days earlier. In person, however, I think that this hacker war means more than the plane collision incident in history.

This was the World War I in the cyber space. Country-organized power had been extended from the real world into the virtual world. The invasion to our real life from the virtual worlds started to become no longer Sci-fi stories.

2002: South-to-North Water Diversion Project (南水北调工程)

The illustration of China's South-to-North Water Diversion Project. In 2002, the project started.

This is one of the greatest ever water-technology projects in history. Northern China usually suffers from drought while southern China often suffers flood. The 50-year South-to-North Water Diversion Project is to solve this problem and to balance the water distribution all over the nation. If the project succeeds, it will significantly stimulate the Chinese economy by well balancing the economic growth in varied part of the nation. This is a project that will substantially affect the long-term future of China.

2003: SARS (非典)

Some protest pictures during the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) season in 2003.

The outbreak and the control of SARS told the world two sides of contemporary China. On one side, China was a dangerous place where dangerous disease could suddenly emerge because of the lack of carefulness in public health. On the other hand, China had been a strong and responsible nation that was not only willing to closely cooperate with the rest of the world but also able to quickly develop effective solutions to cure a suddenly emerged deadly disease.

2004: Golden Shield Project (金盾工程)

The internet bar in China. All the internet communication was supervised by the Golden Shield Project (GST). The project started running in November 2003. 2004 was the first year it officially on the stage for the general public.

GST is the Great Wall in modern time. If the Great Wall had been proved useless most of the time to defend the real threatening invasions in history, may we expect a Great Wall in cyber space really do the job effectively? On the other hand, however, it does cost a lot of money in construction and will cost more and more in maintaining. Substantially it increase the difficulty for the regular Chinese to access information oversea. GST is a man-made obstacle to the advancement of Chinese economy. China is going to pay the debt.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Contemporary China in 60 years (1995 - 1999)

(1949 - 1954), (1955 - 1959), (1960 - 1964), (1965 - 1969), (1970 - 1974), (1975 - 1979), (1980 - 1984), (1985 - 1989), (1990 - 1994)

1995: Forbes China Rich List (福布斯中国富豪排行榜)

The picture shows the 2007 List. Forbes started publishing this annual list in 1995.

The publishing of the list told the reforming of the capitalist class in New China. There were no longer only a few rich individuals. By contrast, an entire class of capitalists had reemerged. The relation between the rich and the government officials became one of the most critical social relationships in China.

1996: "China Can Say No" (《中国可以说不》)

The Chinese-version cover of the book "China Can Say No".

The book was less well written. But the meaning of the emerging of the book was remarkable. It was the beginning that the new generation Chinese started to be aggressive on how China might play more important roles in regular world affairs. China started its way of coming back to be a Big Nation again in its thousands year history.

1997: Hong Kong returned to China (香港回归)

The ceremony of Hong Kong's return to China in 1997.

This was the first step of China's reunion since the end of Qing Dynasty. Since then, Hong Kong became a model about how two fundamentally contradictory regulations might harmoniously exist together. "Part of iron and part of clay". This might be a perfect description of China since 1997.

1998: National Civil Service System founded (国家公务员制度入轨工作基本到位)

Cartoon, "Civil servant---a new gold bowl".

The National Civil Service System in contemporary China is a continuation of the Imperial Examination System in ancient China. Unlike the public service systems in western countries, the civil service system in China is a ladder for normal citizens to climb up the bureaucratic hierarchy. The system thus helps maintain the stability of the government from being overthrown. As the history of China has repeatedly shown, this type of systems can effectively protect the present government. The trade-off is, however, that the government will spend more and more resources to feed the expanding-ever group of the "civil servants" so that it may keep on effectiveness. When finally the cycle of feedback comes to a turning point, the entire system collapses rapidly. This was the cycle of dynasties in China, and it seems the cycle simply continues.

1999: The United States signed China's "accession to the WTO," a bilateral agreement (中美签署“入世”双边协议)

Charlene Barshefsky (left) and Shi Guangsheng (right) exchanged the signed text. Just before the new century, China and United States finally reached the agreement about China's accession to the WTO (World Trade Organization).

The Chinese economy was thus officially merged into the world economy. The agreement cleared the major obstacle for China's companies to export product. Hence it laid the foundation for China's rapid economic growth in the early 2000s.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Contemporary China in 60 years (1990 - 1994)

(1949 - 1954), (1955 - 1959), (1960 - 1964), (1965 - 1969), (1970 - 1974), (1975 - 1979), (1980 - 1984), (1985 - 1989)

1990: Shanghai Stock Exchange (上海证券交易所)

Inside of Shanghai Stock Exchange in 1990. Since the later years of Qing Dynasty, Shanghai has been the economic center of China. In 1990, Shanghai Stock Exchange reopened the first time after 1949. Stock exchange finally became legal in the history of contemporary China.

Despite of the failure of Tiananmen Square Protests in 1989, the economic reform in China was still irresistible. Restarting of stock exchange showed that the fundamental form of Chinese economy had changed. Stock exchange may become popular only after the regular individual citizens start to have sufficient amount of private asset. The event thus claimed the accomplishment of the first stage of economic reform in China, i.e., wealth had started to be distributed from primarily owned by the nation to the hand of private individuals.

1991: Eastern China Flood (华东大水灾)

In the picture are the flood victims.

The Eastern China flood of 1991 had many meanings from the history point of view. As the short-term impact, the event gave the world an excuse to reestablish the broken connection with China since 1989. First time ever the New China government actively called for international aid, and the world responded. It thus prepared the external environment for the official coming back of the economic reform and opening up policy in 1992. On the other hand, however, in long term the flood was a warning to China of its environmental destruction since the economic reform. How to maintain the momentum of economic growth while at the same time preserving the environment became a major challenge to China.

1992: Deng Xiaoping's Southern Tour Talk (邓小平南巡谈话)

Deng Xiaoping in his southern tour of China, visiting Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai in 1992. During the tour, he reclaimed that the economic reform and opening up was the fundamental policy of China.

"To Get Rich Is Glorious". This was the consequence of Deng's talk. The tour and talk thus unleashed a wave of personal entrepreneurship that continues to drive China's economy today. After this important tour and talk, China inevitably came back to the pre-1989 route in the facet of economy.

1993: Jingjintang Expressway (京津塘高速公路)

In picture is part of the Jingjintang Expressway.

"To get rich, construct road first." The finishing of Jingjintang Expressway, the first-ever expressway in China, in 1993 declared the beginning of an era of China when the entire nation was engaged to a huge tide of fundamental construction. In order to keep the rate of economic growth in high speed, a large number of high quality roads and buildings are prerequisite. It was this tide of nation-wide fundamental construction that provided the objective environment for the economic miracle in China in the following decade.

1994: China access to the Internet (中国接入互联网)

On April 20, 1994, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) Institute of High
Energy Physics (IHEP) built the first cable connected to the Internet,
realizing e-mail communication with North America and Europe.

This remarkable moment represented that China was integrated into the world. Internet broke the traditional boards between nations and allowed Chinese to access foreign information more freely. Since then, Internet and World Wide Web rapidly spread over the nation. Until now, China has become the nation that has the greatest number of Web users.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Contemporary China in 60 years (1985 - 1989)

(1949 - 1954), (1955 - 1959), (1960 - 1964), (1965 - 1969), (1970 - 1974), (1975 - 1979), (1980 - 1984)

1985: JinJiang Counterfeit Pharmaceuticals Case (晋江假药案)

Jinjiang City in recent years. In 1985, there was a notorious counterfeit pharmaceuticals case that was related to many of the private-owned pharmaceutical businesses in Jinjiang.

Since then, counterfeit was related to the product made by the private-owned Chinese companies. Until now, made in China is still more or less doubted by the rest of the world about its real quality and genuine inside. Moreover, JinJiang Counterfeit Pharmaceuticals Case was a typical example on how quick and how much brutal general morality could lose when capitalism and Atheism were perfectly integrated. This problem became one of the main concern in China until now.

1986: Shenyang Explosion-proof Equipment Factory bankrupt (沈阳防爆器械厂宣告破产)

August 25, 1986, the former director of the factory Shi Yongjie (石永阶) watched workers to receive benefits card. Shenyang Explosion-proof Equipment Factory was a collectively owned business and it was the first business that was declared bankrupt in New China.

Since then, thousands of nation-owned or collectively owned businesses were declared bankrupt and bought by the private owners. It thus started the process of transferring the nation-owned property (before it nearly all the productive property was owned by the nation) into the hand of private parties. Fundamentally, the capitalist economy became part of the Chinese economy.

1987: The First Land Auction in New China (国有土地使用权首次拍卖)

The winner of the auction.

There is a question: if land can be owned by private, may the society still be socialist? Hence in China, what had auctioned was the right of use to the land in contrast to ownership of the land. And it is still the same until today. Legally, the ownership of all land in China still belongs to the nation. This is a typical "with Chinese characteristics" economic reform.

1988: First Inflation in New China (通货膨胀)

People were fighting to buy gold product in front of a small shop because of the money inflation. This was the first inflation since 1949 after the found of People's Republic of China.

Inevitably, the rise of free economy caused the first-ever inflation in the history of New China. For most of Chinese at the meantime, this was the first time they started to think of "investment". Chinese people began to stand out of their old lives and looked forward to a new style of lives that would be more challenging but also having more opportunity to gain. Fulfilled by this type of excitement and nervousness, China stepped into 1989, another year of transition in the history of contemporary China.

1989: Tiananmen Square Protests (天安门广场学生民主示威运动)

"The Goddess of Democracy" carved by students from the Central Academy of Fine Arts and erected in the Square during the protest.

Tiananmen Square Protests in 1989 was the most important single event in contemporary China since 1976, the end of Great Culture Revolution.

(1) It terminated China's attempt to become a normal capitalist nation since the economic reform. Before 1989, China was one of the most likely communist nations that might be transformed into capitalism in a peaceful process. The 1989 event ended everything.

(2) Since then, China became a pure materialist nation since nearly all the idealist political leaders were either arrested or exiled. The young generation in China after 1989 became fairly different from their elder brothers and sisters. China really could have been a totally another nation if the end of the protest were different.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Contemporary China in 60 years (1980 - 1984)

(1949 - 1954), (1955 - 1959), (1960 - 1964), (1965 - 1969), (1970 - 1974), (1975 - 1979)

1980: Private Business Reemerging (个体户)

People stood in front of the first private owned restaurant, YuBin, in China after Great Culture Revolution

The reemerging of private business was remarkable. It was the beginning of China's economic take-off.

1981: "One Country, Two Systems" (“一国两制”)

Deng Xiaoping (left) and Margaret Thatcher (right).

First proposed by Deng Xiaoping, "One Country, Two Systems" soon became a fundamental policy of China to handle its internal affairs. Although the policy was designed for dealing with mainland's relationship to Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan, implicitly it claimed the allowance of co-existence between capitalism and socialism. If capitalism can be executed well by Chinese in places such as Hong Kong, why is it not able to be effective in mainland China as well? While 1980 represented the return of capitalism beneath the water, the "One Country, Two Systems" policy in 1981 officially approved the reborn of capitalism in China.

1982: Socialism with Chinese Characteristics (具有中国特色的社会主义)

The 12th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. In the conference, Deng Xiaoping claimed that since then China was going to explore a new route of socialism, which is the socialism with Chinese characteristics.

The statement became the political motto of Chinese government until now. Underneath the cap of "with Chinese characteristics", many new policies were passed though they indeed significantly contradicted to the traditional belief of socialism. In fact, nowadays the Chinese style socialism is nearly equivalent to the capitalism but led by a communist party.

1983: Severe Crackdown on Crime (严打)

Policewomen arrested a female in 1983's nation-wide action on severe crackdown on crime. Severe crackdown on crime (or "Yanda" by Chinese spoken) is a typical "with Chinese characteristics" action on against the crimes.

Yanda has become periodic since 1983. Despite of its good intention, Yanda seems, however, never have reached the goal. In contrast, Yanda becomes a way for the government to regularly inspect its control over the people.

1984: Start Business (下海)

In 1984, Haier signed contrast with German investors.

In this year, many later on famous private-owned Chinese companies were founded, which included such as Haier and Lenova. The Chinese business in private sector started blossom.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Contemporary China in 60 years (1975 - 1979)

(1949 - 1954), (1955 - 1959), (1960 - 1964), (1965 - 1969), (1970 - 1974)

1975: Hybrid Rice (杂交水稻)

Yuan Longping (Father of Hybrid Rice, on the right) and his colleague was studying the hybrid rice in field.

In 1975, the Chinese Academy of Agriculture and Forestry passed the identification of the invention of hybrid rice and decided to prompt the planting of hybrid rice to the whole nation. Hybrid rice is the greatest contribution New China made for the world until now. It significantly improved the rate of rice production 30% over the ordinary ones. Therefore, the adoption of hybrid rice significantly helped solve the problem of world hunger.

1976: The Passing of Zhou Enlai, Zhu De, and Mao Zedong (周恩来,朱德,毛泽东逝世)

Tens of thousands people in Tiananmen Square sobbing for the death of Chairman Mao.

1976 was a year of transition in the history of contemporary China. After dramatically losing three most important leaders of New China in sequence within a year, China inevitably came to a cross point. Finally, Deng Xiaoping won the battle against the Gang of Four. China, therefore, started a new page of history being a more open and rapid-growing nation.

1977: Restoration of the National Higher Education Entrance Examination (恢复高考)

Students were doing exam.

Since 1977, National Higher Education Entrance Examination have become the most important national test in China. The examination is a prerequisite for entrance into almost all higher education institutions at the undergraduate level. For a Chinese who wants to attend college, he must try to get a good score in the exam because there are many more students than who could be admitted every year in China.

1978: "Practice is the sole criterion for testing truth" (实践是检验真理的唯一标准)

May 11, 1978, the front page of Guangming Daily. The article is the one at the bottom.

This is one of the most influential articles in the history of contemporary China. In certain sense, this article claimed CPC's directing thought in the post-Mao age. For ones who want to understand the policy design of Chinese government since 1978, they must read and try to understand the main point of this article. In the following I list my understanding of the positive and negative consequence of the article to China.

On the positive side, the article claimed that we must not blindly follow a single person's order (which referred to Mao Zedong in particular). By contrast, only the real-world practice could eventually tell us what would be wrong and what would be right. This is a great leap forward in thought liberation from the individual worship during the Great Culture Revolution. Directed by this new thought, China started the so-called economic reform.

On the negative side, however, the article implicitly denied the existence of absolute truth. By following the thought in the article, no truth can last forever since the consequence of its practice might be positive or negative based on the meantime context. If context changes, truth might change respectively. This implicit derivation gradually caused more and more trouble to Chinese society with the progress of the economic reform.

1979: Four Cardinal Principles (四项基本原则)

The Four Cardinal Principles decided by Deng Xiaoping in 1979. They are:
        1. upholding the socialist path
        2. upholding the people's democratic dictatorship
        3. upholding the leadership of the Communist Party of China, and
        4. upholding Marxist-Leninist-Mao Zedong thought

Four Cardinal Principles, together with "Practice is the sole criterion for testing truth", comprise the foundation of Chinese government since the economic reform. While "Practice is the sole criterion for testing truth" showed the side of flexibility of the government, Four Cardinal Principles declared that there was something untouchable, in which the core was CPC's leadership. Since then, within CPC it grew two forces, each of which emphasized more on one side of the foundation. The conflict between the two forces became more and more severe with time and it eventually led to the sad event at Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Contemporary China in 60 years (1970 - 1974)

(1949 - 1954)
(1955 - 1959)
(1960 - 1964)
(1965 - 1969)

1970: Diaoyutai Islands (钓鱼台群岛)

Diaoyutai Islands (or Senkaku Islands according to Japan's naming).

In 1970, Unites States "returned" Diaoyutai Islands to Japan despite of China's claim of its ownership. This event was similar to the McMahon Line British did several decades ago between China and India. The goal was to leave a hard debate between the two near nations so that United States gained a point to leverage its impact in eastern Asia in the future. The plan worked. The Diaoyutai Islands problem has become more and more a severe debate between China and Japan. It significantly affected the relation between the two nations and more and more limits the collaboration between the two nations in exploring the East China Sea.

1971: China Return to United Nation (中国恢复联合国合法席位)

Qiao Guanhua (on the left) was laughing when United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2758 was passed.

This was the beginning that China returned to the center of the world attention. Since then, China played more and more important roles in world affairs.

1972: Nixon visit to China (尼克松访华)

Zhou Enlai welcomed Nixon in Beijing Airport.

This journey broke the ice between the two long-term enemies. The Sino-American relation has been one of the most important international relations in the world.

1973: Deng Xiaoping Came Back to Power (邓小平复出)

Deng Xiaoping shook hands with Mao Zedong after he was appointed Vice Premier in 1973.

Since 1973 Deng Xiaoping had never left the center of China politics until his death. Eventually Deng led China to a new route of socialism (which was what Liu Shaoqi wanted to try but failed because of Mao's disapproval in 1960s) after the death of Mao Zedong.

1974: Invention of Artemisinin (合成青蒿素)

The chemical composition of Artemisinin.

This is another under-reported scientific achievement in contemporary China. Artemisinin was invented to treat multi-drug resistant strains of falciparum malaria. This is a great example of deriving modern-time drug from herbs used in Chinese traditional medicine. This invention saved the lives of millions of people from the threat of falciparum malaria.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Contemporary China in 60 years (1965 - 1969)

(1949 - 1954)
(1955 - 1959)
(1960 - 1964)

1965: Synthesis of Crystalline Bovine Insulin (人工合成牛胰岛素)

Chinese scientists successfully synthesized crystalline bovine insulin, a bioactive protein, on September 17, 1965. China thus became a world leader in this research field at the meantime.

This under-reported scientific achievement was the last great technology breakthrough in China before the Great Culture Revolution. After it, the regular scientific research in China was significantly delayed by the worse and worse political environment. This achievement, on the other hand, showed the greatness of Chinese scientists. Even though prohibited by both of the western nations and Soviet Union simultaneously on high technology import, China still was the first in the world to successfully separate and recombine the two chains of natural insulin, the first to obtain crystalline insulin by combining the synthetic B chain with the natural A chain or by combining the synthetic A chain with the natural B chain, and the first to succeed in the total synthesis of crystalline insulin. It is due to the spirit in the soul of Chinese shown in this achievement that China is an unquestionable great nation lasting thousands of years in history.

1966: Great Culture Revolution (文化大革命)

People in Tiananmen Square celebrating the Culture Revolution. In everybody's hand they raised Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong (or Mao's Little Red Book).

The 10-year Great Culture Revolution (1966-1976) was one of the most painful time periods in Chinese history. It is also the most important event in contemporary China since 1949. There are no words that may overstate the impact of this event to China as well as to all the Chinese people. Hence I must use a few more spaces to express its effect.

Many people have criticized this movement in various aspects. A great number of people were put to death in the ten years. Many families were broken. The normal trust among people was lost nearly totally. Husband stood up accusing wife and put her to prison; so does wife. Children stood up accusing their own parents and put them to prison; so do parents to their own children. We could not even imagine how all these might have happened in nowadays, while everything happened every day in these years. National wide, much economic activity was halted, scientific research paused, even the education system came to a virtual halt. In short, the entire China was in crazy!

Despite of all the negative consequences, Great Culture Revolution did reform Chinese, which was a main goal of Mao Zedong when he ordered the revolution. In this sense, we even might not be able to call Great Culture Revolution a failure, though the goal was reached in an extreme cruel way.

(1) The first time in more than 2000 years, Confucius and his philosophy gave the way to modern science in guiding the thought of Chinese people.

(2) The first time in 5000-year history, knowledge was spread into every corner of China. Tens of millions of Chinese people who lived in far rural places the first time in their life participated actively in nation affair. In order to learn Mao's words, the elementary education such as character learning quickly widespread all over the nation.

(3) The traditional hierarchical social structure in Chinese culture that had lasted thousands of years was overthrown totally. A new culture was forming.

(4) Again, the first time in 5000-year history, Chinese women gained the equal right in nearly all fields comparing to men.

For anybody who want to understand Chinese people and Chinese culture in nowadays, understanding the five-thousand-year Chinese history is not enough. He must understand Great Culture Revolution.

1967: Red Guards (红卫兵)

April 10, 1967, Wang Guangmei, the meantime first lady of China, the wife of Liu Shaoqi, was accused in public on stage by the Red Guards in Tsinghua University.

Red Guards were the primary force Mao used to start the Great Culture Revolution. The consequence was, however, that China lost nearly an entire generation of young people who might otherwise contribute to the nation constructively. The impact lasted longer than the generation itself. After they finally realized that they were deceived several years later, the Red Guard generation began to lose confidence on the existence of absolute truth in the world. Such belief was taught to their children and thus inherited. It laid the seed for the general decay of public morality in China after 1990 when the Red Guard generation finally seized the power of the nation.

1968: Down to the Countryside Movement(上山下乡运动)

Educated urban youth went to live in the countryside to learn from the workers and farmers there.

Again, this is another very controversial decision made by Mao Zedong in Culture Revolution. On the negative side, certainly it was a huge pain for the generation who was forced to leave their family in the city and moved to the countryside that was not only in poor living condition but also had nearly no hope of family reunion. On the other hand, however, never before in the history of China a government had made such an effort to spread knowledge into every corner of the nation. Because of this movement, modern knowledge was widespread in the land of China. It thus laid a solid foundation for the economic recovery and rapid growth in China after 1980.

1969: Beijing Grand Evacuation (北京大疏散)

University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) evacuated from Beijing to Hefei in 1969.

Due to the border conflict between Soviet Union and China in 1969, many of Beijing's key organizations (including USTC, the college I attended many years later) were ordered to be evacuated from Beijing to more inland locations. The order was continuously executed even after the border conflict. Although it was unfair to the organizations that were relocated, objectively the action helped balance the economic growth across the nation in long term.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

The Third Year Anniversary (3)

Intuitive Ideas

The posts in this collection are classified in four topics: Web, semantics, economy, and miscellaneous.

Web Science & Web Evolution

1. Evolution, a topic uneasy. Evolution does exist. But it does not contradict to the existence of creator. Web evolution is a typical example.

2. Steve Ballmer claimed: "only three things on the Internet that have made money". The model of Web evolution matches this claim.

3. President Obama, World Wide Web, the start of a new era. Isn't the real world nothing but another virtual world?

4. Build new centrifugal momentum on the Web. Now it is the time for us to build new centrifugal momentum on the Web.

5. swing between big and small. The swing between big and small in evolution must be constant cycle.

6. World Wide Web spreads like religions. As title.

7. Your online identity is a treasure inheritable. May we monetize it further?

8. The Golden Time of World Wide Web is coming. The financial crisis brought great opportunity to accelerate the Web evolution.

9. Art and Engineering. The relation between art and engineering in Web evolution.

10. The Internet, a bordered or borderless world? The Web is not going to be borderless in real.

Semantics & Intelligence

1. Positive Solitude, the losing capability. Solitude, a seemly negative attitude, is indeed not only critical but also positive to our real life. But we are losing it by the progress of the Web evolution.

2. Do not exaggerate the importance of machines. Make a contrast between machine intelligence to human intelligence.

3. Variation of meanings. Semantics have various types.

4. Learnable and Unteachable. Certain semantics machines may be able to learn. But we might never be able to teach machines some other types of semantics.

5. Consciousness has no single "seat" in brain. A new scientific discovery may let us know better about collaborative intelligence in the Web.

6. Mind, Gene, Spirit. Where does thinking come? My fundamental viewpoint about the answer to the question.

7. How to construct a high quality ontology?. Some basic methodologies for constructing the real-world ontologies.

Economy & Politics

1. Virtual economy calls for new institution. The financial crisis is an inevitable result of the conflict between the economic form and the economic institution.

2. President Obama's Vision. Liu Junluo rendered President Obama's actions during the economic crisis.

3. Big Idea inspires us, but what is big idea?


1. A beautiful mind of creativity. Elizabeth Gilbert is beautiful. Her beauty is, however, not only in her look but also (and more importantly) in her mind of thinking.

2. Outliers. May you be an outlier by your own struggle?

3. My Impression of Twine 2.0. Twine might have missed something critical when it matches toward 2.0.

4. Innovation: discover the profoundness behind simplicity. Tell an idea to somebody. In 30 seconds the one thinks he gets the idea and agrees to it, but actually after another 30-minute explanation he still does not really know. This is thus an innovative business.

Contemporary China in 60 years (1960 - 1964)

(1949 - 1954)
(1955 - 1959)

1960: Three Years of Natural Disasters (三年自然灾害)

Drought land led to death of plants. "In 1960, at least some degree of drought and other bad weather affected 55 percent of cultivated land, while an estimated 60% of agricultural land received no rain at all." (cited from Wikipedia)

The Three Years of Natural Disasters was the period between 1958 and 1961 in China, which was characterized by widespread famine. Why was the superior socialist society NOT able to avoid the great famine caused by the "natural" disasters? The disaster temporarily cooled down the hype of socialism in China during the 1950s. Some Chinese intellects started to rethink the future of China. Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping became the leaders of the new trend.

1961: Daqing Oilfield (大庆油田)

In 1961 Deng Xiaoping (on the right) came to inspect the progress of constructing Daqin Oilfield.

In the following two decades, Daqin Oilfield was the model of New China Industry.

1962: Sino-Indian War (中印边境战争)

Chinese soldiers were firing in the war.

Despite of its many impacts to the world politics and especially to India, the Sino-India War had led to several major consequences that greatly affected China in the following decades. (1) The victory (an unquestionable military victory in contrast to China's claimed "victory" in Korean War) again tremendously consolidated CPC's governing over China. (2) The victory consolidated Mao Zedong's personal control of the People's Liberation Army (PLA). This consolidation of military leadership eventually gave Mao the ability of starting the Great Culture Revolution to defeat his political enemies in just few years later. (3) The victory finalized China's overtake of Tibet. The Sino-India War claimed that any attempt of separating Tibet from China would be hopeless. (4) After the war, the Indian role in international affairs was greatly reduced and India's standing in the Non-Aligned Movement suffered. In comparison, the world started more and more listening to China's voice. The victory paced the way for China to become a major power of the world.

1963: Zhou Enlai toured 10 Countries in Africa (周恩来访问非洲10国)

Zhou Enlai visited African nation Mali. In the middle was Premier Zhou Enlai.

The victory in the Sino-India War gave China tremendous confidence to be more aggressive in world affairs. Premier Zhou Enlai's tour to 10 African countries from late 1963 to early 1964 was one of its most importance consequence. In the tour, Premier Zhou showed his great skill in foreign affairs. Through Zhou's superior display, China won the heart of many Africans. It laid the foundation for People's Republic of China's return to United Nation in 1971.

1964: First Chinese Atomic Bomb Test (中国第一颗原子弹试爆成功)

The cloud generated by the first Chinese atomic bomb test.

China became the fifth nation that could build atomic bombs. The remarkable success at the meantime demonstrated to the world China's exceptional capability in scientific research as well as in manufacture production. From the moment, China entered a brand new era (the industrial age) in its 5000-year history.