Stephen Chen

Stephen Chen

Senior Reporter, China

Stephen is a contributor to Inkstone. He covers science and its impact on society, as well as the environment, military, geopolitics and business for the South China Morning Post.

Location
Beijing
Language spoken
English, Mandarin
Areas of Expertise
China science, research, innovation
The world’s second largest dam was built insanely fast thanks to AI
China’s newest hydropower will produce so much energy when completed in July that it will dwarf the production of America’s Hoover Dam.  Standing nearly 985 feet tall, and made with more than 8 million cubic metres of concrete, the Baihetan dam towers over the upper section of the Yangtze River.  It will power homes, office buildings and factories as far away as Jiangsu, a coastal province more than 1,240 miles to the east. But it is the speed of the project, in the southwestern province of Sichuan, that has raised the eyebrows of experts, even in China.  Despite many civil engineering difficulties, including treacherous terrain and a remote location, Baihetan has taken just four years to b
Chinese vaccine drive needs to win over Beijing public health workers
Less than three-quarters of public health workers in Beijing said they are willing to get a coronavirus vaccine, which is the lowest number in China.  A survey by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that in other parts of China – such as Shandong, Sichuan and Hubei provinces – the rate of people willing to get the jab was nearly 90%. Just under 74% of health workers in Beijing said they want to get vaccinated. The survey also found that people with higher education were less willing to get vaccinated. The researchers said it was not clear why CDC workers in Beijing were the most hesitant to get vaccinated, though they suggested the staff perhaps felt they were less a
Chinese scientists shoot sound waves at clouds to make rain
Can pointing giant loudspeakers to the sky help regions recover from a drought? The answer may be yes.  A new study out of Tsinghua University in Beijing found that sending powerful, low-frequency sound waves into the sky may have triggered an increase in rainfall on the Tibetan Plateau. The researchers said they recorded increases in rainfall of up to 17% by pointing a giant loudspeaker at the sky.  The sound waves also appear to be safe for the environment, but scientists said the experiment would need to be replicated many times to confirm if the technology works.  The team led by Professor Wang Guangqian from the university’s State Key Laboratory of Hydro-science and Engineering, said i
Sex in the time of corona: How couples are coping during the global pandemic
Sex has come out on top as one of the most important factors in relationships thriving and surviving during the coronavirus pandemic, a new study has revealed. While previously it was thought that sex was not high on the list of reasons that could be attributed to a relationship’s success, it seems coronavirus lockdowns are now largely being praised for helping couples improve their lives together. A new study by Chinese scientists found that sex was three times more important than social or demographic factors such as money and age in improving a couple’s relationship during the coronavirus-related lockdown periods. In a paper published about the study in the journal Sexual Medicine last w
Covid-19 causes health problems six months later: study
Most patients who received hospital treatment for Covid-19 developed long-term health problems, according to a large-scale study from China. Researchers found that 76% of those discharged from one hospital in Wuhan, the city at the center of the outbreak, still showed at least one symptom associated with the disease six months later. Fatigue and sleep difficulties, which occurred in 63% and 26% of the patients respectively, were the most common problems. To the surprise of the researchers, over a third of the patients showed signs of kidney malfunction, which led to problems such as an increase in bodily waste in the blood and increased risk of sexual dysfunction. “Longer follow-up studies
New test could take just 10 minutes to detect coronavirus
Chinese researchers claim to have developed a biological sensor that can detect the new coronavirus in just 10 minutes, although it remains unclear if it will ever hit the market.  Team leader Guo Xuefeng said the technology is “ready for immediate application” and is just as accurate as the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technologies currently in use. It is also much faster. Current testing measures often taking hours or days to produce a result from the standard PCR because of the time-consuming process required to analyze samples in a laboratory.  The Peking University team has rushed to patent a sensing chip that scientists say can detect the Sars-CoV-2 viral gene almost instantly from
Covid-19 face masks could cause lung problems: Chinese study
Wearing a face mask could cause lung problems due to the inhalation of plastic fibers, a new study has found. But the potential health risks of Covid masks are outweighed by their benefits. “It is a minor problem compared with protecting humans from Covid-19,” said the Chinese research team from Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus is believed to have originated. In the peer-reviewed paper, published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials earlier this week, a wide range of masks were tested for plastic fibers.  While this latest study offers food for thought, the one clear takeaway remains that masks are the most cost-effective way to fight the virus. A recent German study found masks helpe
Chinese sturgeon faces extinction because of low sex drive: study
Scientists are debating if China’s most ancient fish - the sturgeon - has lost its sex drive, putting the species at serious risk of extinction. Regarded as a “national treasure,” the wild Chinese sturgeon, which can only be found in the Yangtze River, is a species that has existed for 140 million years and can grow as big as a shark. Two recent studies have aimed to shed light on why the sturgeon is in danger. But their findings were markedly different – and spawned an unusual and ugly tit-for-tat among the academics.  A member of one study, Professor Liu Huanzhang, accused the other research team of being “narcissists” who “cherry-picked data ... used imagination, made up stories.” One t
China claims a quantum breakthrough to build the world’s fastest supercomputer
Just over a year ago, Google declared it had conquered quantum supremacy, building a supercomputer that could perform an elaborate operation in 200 seconds.  But just as the race for quantum computing looked set to be potentially sealed by the United States, China last week claimed its new prototype had achieved an even bigger breakthrough – and could process a calculation 10 billion times faster than Google’s “Sycamore” machine. Using a process called “Gaussian boson sampling,” researchers said their Jiuzhang prototype quantum computer took a little over three minutes to complete a task that the world’s fastest conventional machine would not be able to complete in 600 million years. “This a
These 4 genes may be what make Han Chinese unique
A team of researchers in Shanghai have pinpointed four genes that shape the face of an ethnically Han Chinese person.  According to the new study, changes in these genes could make a chin narrower, eyebrows higher, nose longer and cheeks slimmer. Differences in the genes could also have the opposite effect.  The Journal of Genetics and Genomics published a peer-reviewed paper about the discovery was on Monday. Similar studies have been carried out on European, Latino, African and some Asian populations. The facial genes for ethnic Han, who make up most of China’s population, had previously remained unknown. According to the study, Han Chinese share one face-shaping gene with some people nat