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How a Chinese millennial became an African chief******
With the expansion of Chinese-African cooperation over the last decade, Chinese enterprises have made significant investments in African infrastructure.
Many construction sites there have Chinese workers. The two peoples work and live together and have developed a close friendship. For their outstanding contributions, some Chinese people have even been named "chiefs" by African leaders.
Among all the Chinese who have been given the title of "chief" in Africa, Li Manhu stands out as a "Post-90s" figure.
He is not only the youngest known Chinese "chief," but also the recipient of the Nigerian and Cameroonian "double chief" titles.
Li is only 30 years old, but he has worked in Africa for six years.
Why did he go to Africa? What contribution has he made to Africa earned him the title of "Double Chief"? What kind of special power does he have?
As the 8th FOCAC Ministerial Conference came to an end, a Shanghai Daily reporter reached out to this legendary millennial to learn more about his life.
Li Manhu in his office.
Searching for the 'African Dream'
Li is a typical young man who studies science and technology. He joined a state-owned enterprise to explore coal mining after graduating from university.
However, in his opinion, the concept of the "stable, life-long job" is meaningless.
"There is no point in living a life like this. So, despite my family's strong opposition, I resigned from my job."
After resigning, Li began to look for more "exciting" work and gave a curriculum to a mine in Nigeria.
The Nigerian company was very welcoming. After some English training, Li flew to Africa in 2015 with his dream in hand.
Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and one of the African countries with the largest Chinese population. The local government works closely with China.
However, it wasn't until he boarded the plane and flew for more than 10 hours that Li truly felt the vastness of Africa. He was dimly aware of the difficulties that lay ahead.
Photo with the senior officer of the Nigerian Border Immigration Service.
Nigeria has no winter, only rainy and dry seasons. "I went in January. It was the dry season; the local temperature was more than 30 degrees, but I was wearing a sweater. When I got off the plane, my only feeling was the heat."
Li's first job in Nigeria was to do mineral exploration, which entails living in a mining area for a year in miserable conditions.
There was no local signal, so "communication by shouting, traffic by walking" was his regular life. He also had to sleep in a room with four or more people while suffering from mosquito bites.
In just a few months, Li contracted malaria, developed a high fever, vomited, and suffered for several days. "At the time, I was remorseful for having come here. But when I got better, I forgot about it all and pretended it wasn't a big deal."
He said he never mentioned these things to his family, and when asked, his answer was always "It's fine."
After two years of training, Li joined China Overseas Group (CGCOC GROUP) in 2017 as the office director of the "Cross-border bridge between Nigeria and Cameroon" project.
He has over 200 African workers under him, and he must be concerned about their life, work, and safety. He is also in charge of paying their salaries at the end of each month.
And it was also this bridge project that laid the foundation for Li to earn the title of "Double Chief" later on down the road.
Li with his bodyguard.
The 'fortunate' Chief I
According to Li Manhu, before the construction of the cross-border bridge, there was only a one-way old bridge connecting Nigeria and Cameroon, which frequently blocked traffic, whereas the construction of the cross-border bridge will greatly improve the two countries' cross-border port traffic congestion, promoting trade and economic development between the two nations.
"The bridge was completed in April this year and is expected to be open to traffic next year," Li exclaimed joyfully.
Throughout his career, Li has developed a close relationship with the local paramount ruler (the king). On the Christmas Eve of 2018, Li was invited by the leader of the Etung local government as a guest to his home, and as he was leaving, the leader told him that he was going to bestow upon him the title of chief.
The king informed Li that the cross-border bridge project had benefited the local community and that he had been appointed chief as a sign of local recognition of the company, and that he would be representing the king in some of the company's future dealings with the local people.
"The chieftaincy title is not only a personal honor but also represents the respect and recognition of the local people for the company's projects," said Li. "In Africa, only foreigners who have made outstanding contributions to the local economy and social development can be awarded the chieftaincy title."
It should be noted that although Nigeria has a modern administrative system, chiefs, as traditional tribal leaders, still enjoy high prestige among the population and are also highly respected by the government, which even consults with local chiefs before making major decisions.
The chief's white suit and a leopard-print leather hat are presented to Li on the day of the chieftainship.
On the day of the chieftainship, the local Nigerian government held a grand ceremony and invited members of other tribes to participate. Even neighboring Cameroon sent representatives.
The king bestowed the title "Ntui Ofa 1" on Li, with "Ofa" meaning "fortunate" in the native language, and expressed his hope that the title would bring good fortune to his Chinese friend.
A scepter and the chief's white suit, as well as a leopard-print leather hat, were presented to Li, all of which are typical for chiefs to wear.
Despite the fact that his main title is merely a sign of honor and that he is not involved in the day-to-day business of the local tribe, Li claims that the title has brought him closer to the locals. When he walks down the street dressed as the chief and wielding the scepter, he can sense the people's respectful attention, and some will even approach him to respectfully ask for a blessing.
Certificate of chieftaincy title given by the Etung local government
What Li didn't expect was that just three months after he became the chief of the Etung local government in Nigeria, he received a letter from the king of the Ekok community in Cameroon.
The Ekok community accepted Li's chieftaincy title in Nigeria, according to the letter, and will arrange a coronation ceremony for him on March 31.
The honor was also conferred because of the cross-border bridge project, according to Li. Because the Etung local government of Nigeria and the Ekok community of Cameroon are "brothers" of the same clan, culture, and language, his chieftaincy title in Cameroon is the same as his chieftaincy title in Nigeria.
But unlike in Nigeria, in Cameroon, Chinese chieftainship requires not only the approval of the king, but also the consent of the local government.
"As far as I know, no Chinese chief has ever served in Cameroon before me."
Confirmation of the chieftaincy title of Ekok community
Li Yi / SHINE
The African king's 'Chinese prince'
Li recalls the words of Cameroon's king on the day of his enthronement: "When you go back to China, you can tell the Chinese people that you still have a home in Africa."
These are not just "beautiful words." Li has formed strong bonds with the locals over the years in Africa, and his relationship with the king is like "father and son," with the locals even referring to him as the king's "Chinese prince."
"There is no difference between people; as long as you treat them sincerely, they will sense it," Li said.
Coronation ceremony for Li in Ekok community.
However, due to the pandemic, Li has not been back to Africa since the end of last year. In addition to doing some work at home to help farmers, he also does some live commerce in TikTok, to help his friends sell Chinese wolfberries.
Concerning his TikTok account, Li confessed that he did not like to use this social platform at first, but because his friends always send him funny videos, he downloaded one, tried to share his work and life in Africa, and did not expect to become popular.
Now, Li's TikTok account has more than 500,000 followers, and the highest number of likes on a video has surpassed 400,000.
Li's Tiktok page
He stated that, despite the fact that the pandemic will not be over for some time, he intends to return next year.
"Their coffee and cocoa beans are perfect, and I'd like to go back and try to do live commerce over there as well in hope of driving the local economy."
Li is also keeping an eye on the recently concluded the Eighth Ministerial Conference of The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation.
"I used to work on engineering projects as part of the country's Belt and Road Initiative. Now that the country has put forward a number of good ideas through the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, and I want to do something practical for the local community through my identity as a chief and promote more cultural and trade exchange between China and Africa."
Li reveals that many people actually leave messages to him via TikTok wanting to learn about Africa and some of the projects Chinese companies are working on there. "China is paying increasing attention to Africa, and many people want to understand the market over there and want to go and break into it. I hope to communicate with them more in the future."
"As a result, the title of the chief is really just the tip of the iceberg for me."
Li with a local child
US Navy nuclear sub damaged after hitting underwater object in Pacific******
A nuclear-powered US Navy fast-attack submarine was damaged after it "struck an object" while submerged in waters in the Indo-Pacific region on October 2, the US Navy said in a statement on Thursday.
The Seawolf-class submarine USS Connecticut (SSN 22) "remains in a safe and stable condition" and its "nuclear propulsion plant and spaces were not affected and remain fully operational," the US Pacific Fleet said in the statement.
"The extent of damage to the remainder of the submarine is being assessed. The US Navy has not requested assistance. The incident will be investigated," the statement added.
The statement also said "there are no life-threatening injuries" from the accident. A US defense official told US Naval Institute (USNI) News that about 11 sailors were hurt in the incident with moderate to minor injuries.
The US Pacific Fleet didn't disclose where the collision occurred, just saying the submarine was "operating in international waters in the Indo-Pacific region."
The ship has had to transit at the surface and is slated to arrive in Guam on Thursday, the Navy Times reported.
Connecticut is one of the three Seawolf-class subs of the US Navy, said USNI News, calling it one of the US Navy's most capable and sensitive attack submarines.
Real Madrid held by Cadiz, while Sevilla and Rayo win******
MADRID, Dec. 19 (Xinhua) -- Real Madrid were held to a 0-0 draw at home by struggling Cadiz on Sunday evening in the surprise of the weekend in LaLiga.。
Real Madrid peppered the Cadiz goal, with over 30 shots during the game, nine of which were on target, but they were denied by a series of fine saves from Cadiz keeper Jeremias Ledesma and a dogged defensive display.。
Despite several cases of Covid-19 in the squad, Carlo Ancelotti fielded a strong-looking side with Marcos Asensio and Luka Modric the only regular first-team starters who were sidelined.。
Eden Hazard was given a rare start and produced an irregular performance, while Casemiro was lucky to stay on the pitch for a dreadful challenge on Ivi which means he will miss Wednesday's visit to Bilbao.。
Sevilla moved to within six points of Real Madrid thanks to a late goal from Lucas Ocampos that gave them a 2-1 win at home to Atletico Madrid on Saturday.。
Ivan Rakitic's powerful shot gave Sevilla and early lead, although Felipe equalized before halftime with a header from a corner.。
Atletico improved after the break, but when they were looking good value for a point Ocampos won the game for Sevilla with just three minutes to go.。
Betis remain third, but slip to four points behind their neighbors after losing a thrilling game 3-2 away to Athletic Bilbao, who ended an eight-game run without a win.。
The home side took a second-minute lead through Inaki Williams, but Juanmi canceled that out five minutes later and when Nabil Fekir put Betis ahead six minutes after the break, with Betis controlling much of the ball, it looked as if the visitors were on the way to their fifth consecutive win.。
However, Williams' second goal of the game, with a thumping left-foot shot in the 71st minute got Athletic level and Oscar De Marcos deflected last-minute shot won them the game.。
It was youth to the fore for FC Barcelona, who beat Elche 3-2 with goals from debuting B-teamer Ferran Jutgla, 17-year-old Gavi and 19-year-old Nico Gonzalez.。
Barca went 2-0 ahead through Ferran and Gavi but suffered their usual second-half dip and Elche drew level with 2 goals in 2 minutes from substitutes Tete Moriente and Pere Milla, before Nico's clinical winner.。
Rayo Vallecano move to fourth after an easy 2-0 win at home to Alaves thanks to first-half goals from Sergi Guardiola and Catena.。
Rayo have taken 25 points in their Vallecas Stadium, while the defeat ends a miserable week for Alaves, who were knocked out of the Copa del Rey by lower league Linares on Tuesday.。
Real Sociedad's league campaign continues to fall apart as they suffered their fourth defeat in five matches in the Anoeta Stadium, going down 3-1 to Villarreal.。
The game was level at the break after Gerard Moreno canceled out Alexander Isak's opener for Real Sociedad, however, everything changed when Mikel Oyarzabal was sent off for a bad challenge on Yeremy Pino.。
Moreno headed Villarreal ahead from a corner in the 68th minute and Samuel Chukwueze rounded off a good day for the visitors with a goal on the break in the sixth minute of injury time.。
Dario Poveda's 92nd-minute header gave Getafe a dramatic 1-0 win at home to Osasuna in a game of few chances. The win lifts Getafe out of the bottom three, with Alaves dropping into the relegation zone.。
Finally, 39-year-old Jorge Molina scored a hat-trick as Granada recovered from their midweek Copa del Rey defeat to fourth-tier Atletico Mancha Real with a 4-1 win at home to Mallorca. Enditem。
World's first living robots can now reproduce, scientists say
The US scientists who created the first living robots say the life forms, known as xenobots, can now reproduce -- and in a way not seen in plants and animals.
Formed from the stem cells of the African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis) from which it takes its name, xenobots are less than a millimeter (0.04 inches) wide. The tiny blobs were first unveiled in 2020 after experiments showed that they could move, work together in groups and self-heal.
Now the scientists that developed them at the University of Vermont, Tufts University and Harvard University's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering said they have discovered an entirely new form of biological reproduction different from any animal or plant known to science.
"I was astounded by it," said Michael Levin, a professor of biology and director of the Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University who was co-lead author of the new research.
"Frogs have a way of reproducing that they normally use but when you ... liberate (the cells) from the rest of the embryo and you give them a chance to figure out how to be in a new environment, not only do they figure out a new way to move, but they also figure out apparently a new way to reproduce."
Robot or organism?
Stem cells are unspecialized cells that have the ability to develop into different cell types. To make the xenobots, the researchers scraped living stem cells from frog embryos and left them to incubate. There's no manipulation of genes involved.
"Most people think of robots as made of metals and ceramics but it's not so much what a robot is made from but what it does, which is act on its own on behalf of people," said Josh Bongard, a computer science professor and robotics expert at the University of Vermont and lead author of the study, "In that way it's a robot but it's also clearly an organism made from genetically unmodified frog cell."
Bongard said they found that the xenobots, which were initially sphere-shaped and made from around 3,000 cells, could replicate. But it happened rarely and only in specific circumstances. The xenobots used "kinetic replication" -- a process that is known to occur at the molecular level but has never been observed before at the scale of whole cells or organisms, Bongard said.
With the help of artificial intelligence, the researchers then tested billions of body shapes to make the xenobots more effective at this type of replication. The supercomputer came up with a C-shape that resembled Pac-Man, the 1980s video game. They found it was able to find tiny stem cells in a petri dish, gather hundreds of them inside its mouth, and a few days later the bundle of cells became new xenobots.
"The AI didn't program these machines in the way we usually think about writing code. It shaped and sculpted and came up with this Pac-Man shape," Bongard said.
"The shape is, in essence, the program. The shape influences how the xenobots behave to amplify this incredibly surprising process."
The xenobots are very early technology -- think of a 1940s computer -- and don't yet have any practical applications. However, this combination of molecular biology and artificial intelligence could potentially be used in a host of tasks in the body and the environment, according to the researchers. This may include things like collecting microplastics in the oceans, inspecting root systems and regenerative medicine.
While the prospect of self-replicating biotechnology could spark concern, the researchers said that the living machines were entirely contained in a lab and easily extinguished, as they are biodegradable and regulated by ethics experts.
"There are many things that are possible if we take advantage of this kind of plasticity and ability of cells to solve problems," Bongard said. The study was published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal PNAS on Monday.