Beijing will make history next year by becoming the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. But that’s not the only title government leaders are out to claim: They also want to make them the greenest. Using its 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Sustainability Plan to guide decisions, the Beijing Organising Committee is vowing to address sustainability from all angles: creating a positive environmental impact through renewable energy, forestation and wildlife protection projects, as well as delivering new development that will improve people’s lives and bring lasting benefits.
6th Most Influential Project of 2021
China is setting up a new base for astronauts. Slated to be complete by the end of 2022, the 60-metric-ton Tiangong will be the only crewed orbital station apart from the International Space Station (ISS), which is likely to be retired in the next decade. China National Space Administration (CNSA) launched the station’s first core module in April 2021 and sent astronauts for a visit two months later. To complete the project, CNSA plans 11 launches that will include crewed missions and the delivery of two additional modules to the low Earth orbit station. Once complete, Tiangong will be capable of hosting three astronauts for extended stays and will include a lab with 14 experiment racks and 50 external ports to study the environment in space.
19th Most Influential Project of 2021
Converting digital native shoppers into brick-and-mortar visitors has been an elusive quest for retailers. But Chinese tech giant Tencent and U.K. luxe fashion brand Burberry collaborated to turn the in-store experience into an app-driven interactive playground. Burberry’s first so-called social retail store, Open Spaces, opened last year in Shenzhen with 10 spaces that merge consumers’ online and offline brand experience.
27th Most Influential Project of 2021
Completed in December, the world’s first high-speed railway suspension bridge slashes travel between Shanghai and Lianyungang from 11 hours to three. Designed by China Railway Major Bridge Reconnaissance & Design Institute and built by China Railway Major Bridge Engineering Group and China Communications Second Aviation Bureau, the new structure is the highest-loading, largest-spanning and fastest-running bridge of its kind. It also ranks as China’s first suspension bridge that combines a railway and highway. The 1,092-meter (3,583-foot) bridge links the cities of Yangzhou and Zhenjiang with an eight-lane upper-deck expressway and a lower four-lane railway designed to run at 250 kilometers (155 miles) per hour.
44th Most Influential Project of 2021
To clear the road for fully autonomous vehicles, companies will have to figure out how to connect cars with each other and to passengers looking for rides. In February—just in time for the bustling Chinese New Year season—Beijing tech giant Baidu unveiled one option: what it’s billing as the world’s first “mobility as a service” (or MaaS) platform. Partnering with the Guangzhou Huangpu District government, the company rolled out a service to link locals with its fleet of 40 autonomous buses, taxis and other vehicles across more than 50 different pick-up stations.
Physicists at the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei joined Google in achieving “quantum supremacy.” The team says its quantum computer named Jiuzhang completed a calculation in a mere three minutes, a feat that would have taken the world’s fastest supercomputer 600 million years. Employing quantum technology to harness qubits’ computational power, the team sent photons, or particles of light, through a series of mirrors and optical circuits to demonstrate how photonic technology could be used to make quantum computing both feasible and practical.
A nation historically focused on economic growth turned its sights inward when setting forth the five-year plan that will guide planning into the middle of the decade. After a year of uncertainty in global trade and foreign policy, the plan—formalized at the Chinese Communist Party’s 19th National Congress in October 2020—emphasizes support of domestic markets for key technologies, such as chipmaking. The plan also makes a strong push for urbanization, aiming to boost populations in cities from 60 percent to at least 75 percent over the next 15 years. The shifts are underpinned by increased attention on redistributing welfare entitlements and increasing financing for green energy and development.
With household income—and spending—increasing in China, Alibaba Group grocery retailer Freshippo created a new membership-based big box store to meet those changing needs. Building on existing infrastructure and supply chains from across the Alibaba Group portfolio, Store X offers customers groceries, fresh produce and import products as well as services including pet grooming, car repair and an optometry department. Like other Freshippo formats, Store X allows customers to buy online or in store—plus they can accrue benefits including free delivery or grocery discounts. But this tech-retail reinvention also boasts cool features like conveyor belts for the shopping bags and facial recognition payments. Following the launch of the first Store X in Shanghai in October 2020, Freshippo plans to have 11 more by the end of 2021.
China is hit by an average of seven or eight typhoons each year—more than any other country in Asia. In August 2020, as the third such storm of that last year roiled the coast of south China’s Hainan Province, the country completed its first test of an integrated typhoon monitoring system based on a large unmanned aerial vehicle. The aircraft dropped 30 radio transmitters, called sondes, which sent real-time data on temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind direction, wind speed and more to a ground control center. The payoff? The technology could be used to better forecast typhoons and save lives by locating storm centers, tracking their movements and predicting their intensity.
China’s Communist Party turned 100 in July. To commemorate the big event, an estimated 70,000 people gathered in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square for what was the first major celebration since the start of the pandemic. The celebration included an address from President Xi Jinping, a military parade, singers, and helicopter and fighter jet flyovers spelling out “100” in the sky. More than 14,000 people were said to have been involved in rehearsals for the main celebration in Beijing, with other events taking place around the country.