White House, Covid-19, election, Big Tech, China

California’s expansive August Complex Fire is now a gigafire — a term for a blaze that burns at least a million acres of land.



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1. White House 

President Trump says he has ordered his negotiators to stop discussing a new stimulus deal until after the election. His announcement sent stocks plunging and sparked new uncertainty among people in particularly hard-hit industries, like airlines. While Congress has butted heads for months over stimulus proposals, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin seemed to be mounting a strong new effort to get a deal done soon. Now, experts warn of what may happen to the economy with further aid still on hold. Meanwhile, Stephen Miller, a top Trump policy adviser, is the latest White House official to test positive for coronavirus. The White House said it has completed “all contact tracing” for positive Covid-19 cases among its ranks, but given the confusing and sometimes contradictory information released by the administration about the recent outbreak, doubt remains. 





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2. Coronavirus 

Half of US states are now seeing an increase in coronavirus diagnoses, and the country just surpassed a cumulative 7.5 million reported cases. Dr. Anthony Fauci says the US could see 400,000 Covid-19 deaths by this winter if health recommendations continue to be flouted. “Pandemic fatigue,” so to speak, is also a problem in Europe, the World Health Organization warns. Amid this apathy, countries like Germany are seeing their highest number of cases in months. On the vaccine front, the FDA says it will want to see two months of follow-up data for any clinical trial that may lead to a coronavirus vaccine. That would make it difficult, if not impossible, for any vaccine maker to apply for emergency use authorization by Election Day.

3. Election 2020

The vice presidential debate between VP Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris is tonight at the University of Utah, and Covid-19 precautions are top of mind. After initially balking at the idea, Pence’s team has agreed to have plexiglass barriers on stage. VP debates are usually an undercard, but given that President Trump and Joe Biden are both in their 70s, Pence’s and Harris’ appearances seem to mean more this time around. While Harris’ team says she will likely focus on Trump and his record, Pence may face questions about the administration’s handling of the pandemic and his own role leading the White House coronavirus task force. Watch at 9 p.m. ET.

4. Big Tech

Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook hold “monopoly power” in key business segments and have abused their dominance in the marketplace, according to a 16-month congressional investigation into the tech giants. The House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel issued the strong condemnation, and said the companies’ anticompetitive conduct

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House Reports Push for More Focus on China by Intelligence Agencies

WASHINGTON — The United States could fall behind in its global competition with China without additional resources to develop better intelligence on the Chinese government, and spy agencies must focus more on the challenge of pandemics and trade, according to a report by the Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee released Wednesday.

The warnings in the report, the result of a classified two-year study of American intelligence agencies’ work, were similar to the conclusions of a Republican study on China also released Wednesday. While that report, by a task force of House Republican lawmakers, has a wider focus, it too called for a more aggressive stance toward China and better defenses against Chinese theft of intellectual property and efforts to influence American politics.

While there is a bipartisan consensus on China, the failure of Democrats and Republicans in the House to work together on the issue was another sign of the partisan dysfunction that has gripped Washington and that could be a hurdle to revising American policy on China despite the agreement.

The House Intelligence Committee report, primarily the work of the panel’s Democratic majority, calls for a “significant realignment of resources” to help the United States compete with China. The report calls for a broader look at national security threats, including climate change and pandemics, while trying to collect intelligence on China.

“Absent a significant and immediate reprioritization and realignment of resources, we will be ill prepared to compete with China — diplomatically, economically and militarily — on the global stage for decades to come,” said Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the chairman of the committee. “The good news is that we still have time to adapt.”

China has been a growing challenge for the United States. President Trump has said without evidence that the coronavirus pandemic originated at a Chinese laboratory, a conclusion the intelligence community has not backed up. China has also been accused by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence of stepping up its efforts to interfere in the November election.

The House report recommends a broader approach for the role of intelligence in the United States government, saying agencies’ insights need to be accessible to agencies outside the traditional confines of the national security establishment, like the Commerce Department and public health agencies.

The report also highlights the challenges laid bare by the pandemic and discusses tensions between Beijing and local government that hampered China’s initial understanding of it. The report says the emergence of the pandemic highlights the “continued potential for devastating and destabilizing global events originating in China.”

“The stakes are high. If the I.C. does not accurately characterize and contextualize Beijing’s intent, America’s leaders will fail to understand the factors that motivate Chinese decision-making,” the report said, using an abbreviation for the intelligence community.

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House approves second bill aimed at forced labor in China

WASHINGTON (AP) — For the second time in two weeks, the House on Wednesday approved a bill aimed at cracking down on U.S. imports of goods made with the forced labor of detained ethnic minorities in China.

The bill would require publicly traded companies in the U.S. to disclose whether any of their goods — or any part of their supply chain — can be traced to internment camps or factories suspected of using forced labor of Muslim Uighurs or other ethnic minorities in China.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-Va., was approved 253-163 and now goes to the Senate.


Its passage follows approval last week of a bill aimed at barring U.S. imports of goods produced in the vast Xinjiang region of northwestern China on the presumption that they were likely made with forced labor. That bill, authored by Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., was approved Sept. 22 on 406-3 vote.

If enacted into law, the two proposals could have significant ripple effects in global trade by forcing companies to avoid a region that produces 80% of the cotton in China, as well as tomatoes and manufactured goods.

Lawmakers say the measures are needed to press China to stop a campaign that has resulted in the detention of more than 1 million Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups under brutal conditions.

“If America does not speak out for human rights in China because of commercial interest, we lose all moral authority to speak about human rights anywhere in the world,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a floor speech last week.

Wexton, whose northern Virginia district is home to one of the largest Uighur communities in the U.S., said her bill would inform investors and markets about active exploitation occurring in one of the largest ongoing human rights violations in the world.

“For years, the government of the People’s Republic of China has been engaged in the mass internment of religious minorities in the Xinjiang region,” Wexton said. The camps supply materials for some of the largest companies in the world, “and some of these products are finding their way to U.S. consumers,” including cellphones and T-shirts, Wexton said.

While the U.S. has long banned imports made with forced labor, traditional human rights monitoring efforts are thwarted in tightly controlled regions such as in northwestern China, Wexton and other lawmakers said. Travel to the area is restricted. Auditors have been detained and threatened, and workers intimidated, they said.

Wexton’s bill directs the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to issue rules requiring publicly traded company to issue yearly reports disclosing imports that originate in or are sourced from Xinjiang, because of the strong likelihood they were made with forced labor.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce opposes both House bills, arguing they would likely cause U.S. companies to cease doing business in Xinjiang altogether. That outcome would harm legitimate producers and manufacturers, because there is no effective way to inspect and audit suppliers in the region, the chamber said.

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House Republicans release recommendations for China crackdown

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said at a Wednesday news conference that he had been working for nearly eight months to assemble a bipartisan task force to address economic, technological, military and political threats from China. But Democrats ultimately bailed on the initiative the night before it was supposed to be announced, McCarthy said.

President Donald Trump and the GOP — who have made cracking down on China a central campaign theme — have tried to paint Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden as soft on China. Democrats, of course, reject the charges and point out that Trump initially touted Chinese President Xi Jinping’s response to the coronavirus.

The GOP’s report lays out 83 key findings and makes 430 policy recommendations, two-thirds of which are bipartisan, according to McCarthy. Since its inception, the task force has met with 125 people, including policy experts, business leaders, lawmakers and current and former administration officials.

“It is not only the most thorough report on China in the history of the House, it’s bold, achievable, and bipartisan,” McCarthy told reporters. “It doesn’t just lay out the challenges, it lays out the solutions.”

The blueprint calls for securing medical and national security supply chains, striking a bilateral free trade agreement with Taiwan and limiting the Thrift Savings Plan from investing in certain Chinese companies. The report also calls for evaluating whether the Chinese Communist Party’s crimes against humanity in Xinjiang amount to genocide and providing a safe harbor for Hong Kong refugees.

During a press conference, task force members highlighted the stack of recommendations that already have strong bipartisan support and expressed hope that many of them could actually become law.

“I don’t know of another issue in American politics that united me and Chuck Schumer as closely as countering the Chinese Communist Party,” said Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.).

McCarthy, when pressed on whether he thought Biden would be willing to implement these recommendations if he wins the White House, said he was concerned that the former vice president wouldn’t be as tough as the Trump administration in standing up to China.

“I would hope Joe Biden would read this report,” McCarthy said. “But that would be a real concern to me of why switching administrations would be wrong.”

McCarthy has also highlighted the China Task Force recommendations in his election-year agenda that was released earlier this month, signaling it would be a top priority for the GOP if they win back the House.

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House GOP China task force releases recommendations

The House GOP’s China task force unveiled its full report laying out hundreds of recommendations and legislative suggestions to combat threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party on Wednesday. 

The report includes more than 400 policy recommendations to address issues ranging from national security concerns, human rights violations, problems with the supply chain, Beijing’s missteps in its handling of the pandemic and China’s overall expanding influence on the world stage.

The task force — which is made up of 15 GOP lawmakers who sit on 11 different committees — was initially slated to be bipartisan before Democrats ultimately opted out before its launch in May.

Republicans insisted the report is not politically motivated, even as President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from Trump-Biden debate clash The Memo: Debate or debacle? Democrats rip Trump for not condemning white supremacists, Proud Boys at debate MORE has sought at every turn to tie Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenFive takeaways from Trump-Biden debate clash The Memo: Debate or debacle? Democrats rip Trump for not condemning white supremacists, Proud Boys at debate MORE to China. The report is being released less than five weeks before Election Day.

“It’s not a Republican or Democrat report, it’s not a political exercise, it’s policy. And we hope it will be a blueprint for future Congresses,” Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas) told The Hill in an interview. McCaul is the the ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and chairman of the task force. 

“In fact, two-thirds of the legislative recommendations we make are bipartisan recommendations, some of which have already been passed in either House or Senate, and it deals with everything Chinese Communist Party related.” 

The report comes amid one of the lowest points in relations between the U.S. and China, with the two side clashing over trade, intellectual property protections, cyber security, human rights, Hong Kong’s freedom and Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea. 

Recommendations included in the report include a push for a bilateral free trade agreement with Taiwan, for the U.S. to provide a safe haven for Hong Kong refugees and calls on the administration to look into whether human rights violations in China against Uighurs and other Muslim minority groups rise to the level of genocide. 

The group also calls for the implementation of a foreign investment blacklist for countries that require heightened scrutiny, increased transparency in companies’ financial disclosures that do business in the Xinjiang region in addition to substantial military investments and investments into technology to remain competitive. 

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U.S. intel agencies failing to counter threat from China, says House Intelligence Committee report

WASHINGTON — After two decades of prioritizing counterterrorism, U.S. intelligence agencies are failing to sufficiently understand and counter the national security threat posed by China, the House Intelligence Committee concludes in a new report issued Wednesday.

The report, based on hundreds of hours of interviews with intelligence officers and thousands of analytic assessments, finds that the intelligence community must change how it does business — not only to improve its insights into China, but also to better address “the growing importance of interlocking non-military transnational threats, such as global health, economic security, and climate change.”

The report recommends that spy agencies make better use of open source data, modernize hiring practices and re-orient spending priorities. Although the committee’s Democratic majority wrote the report, the full committee approved it Wednesday morning in a bipartisan voice vote.

Click here to read the report

“The United States’ Intelligence Community has not sufficiently adapted to a changing geopolitical and technological environment increasingly shaped by a rising China,” the report says. “Absent a significant realignment of resources, the U.S. government and intelligence community will fail to achieve the outcomes required to enable continued U.S. competition with China on the global stage for decades to come, and to protect the U.S. health and security.”

In addition to critiquing U.S. spy agencies, the report offers a stark portrayal of China as a rogue nation that threatens global security, underscoring how dramatically the bipartisan foreign policy consensus about China has changed in the last decade.

“The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has increasingly sought to revise the international order and global norms in a way that furthers its own strategic interests and undermines those of the United States specifically, and the West generally,” the report says. “Militarily, China has embarked on a massive modernization drive — creating a ‘blue water’ navy, investing heavily in hypersonic weapons, developing its own fifth-generation fighter, militarizing a series of atolls and islets in the South China Sea to strengthen its claims in the region, and building its first overseas military base in Djibouti.”

Also disturbing, the report says, is China’s use of technology to create “a post-modern authoritarian state in which the country’s population is monitored around the clock through their phones and an ever-growing network of surveillance cameras equipped with facial-recognition technology. This ‘digital authoritarianism’ has not only been deployed at home, but has been increasingly marketed to aspiring authoritarians abroad.”

On Wednesday the committee made public a 37-page report that included a number of redactions, and said it had also produced a classified document of more than 100 pages. The classified version is likely to have addressed a number of intelligence failings too sensitive to discuss publicly, including the severe damage done to CIA spying in China by a former CIA officer convicted of espionage, and a catastrophic failure in how the CIA communicated secretly with its foreign informants. Those incidents contributed to the loss of about 20 Chinese agents who were spying for the U.S., current and former

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Spy community not postured to handle rising China threat, House Intel finds

House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said in a statement that the intelligence community’s “capacity to address hard targets like China has waned” after two decades of focusing on counterterrorism in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. The nation’s intelligence agencies “have a lot of work to do to fully address the challenge posed by China,” he said.

Wednesday’s report is the result of a so-called “deep dive” the House panel began last year into what it viewed as China’s troubling activities around the globe, including Beijing’s malicious cyber efforts and disinformation campaigns; its exportation of invasive surveillance technology; and the continued threat its intelligence services pose to the security of U.S. personnel and national security information.

A committee official said most of the recommendations for reform were aimed at the senior leadership level. The official added that the panel encountered “different results” among the various U.S. intelligence elements about their focus on China, but declined to say which of the 17 clandestine agencies have been better at tackling China-related issues. Committee officials spoke on condition of anonymity to more freely discuss the panel’s findings.

Among the public recommendations: a formal review of the governance of open-source intelligence within the clandestine community and a broader and more formal effort by leadership to mentor the next generation of China analysts.

The committee official said some of the classified recommendations would be easier for agencies to address, however some contained in the public summary — such as creating a bipartisan, bicameral congressional study group to evaluate how the intelligence community organizes around these issues and how authority is divided up — could take up to a decade to fully implement. The report included 36 public recommendations and more than 100 classified recommendations.

The summary doesn’t mention the kind of election interference that has been alleged in recent weeks by Trump, Attorney General William Barr and other senior administration officials. But it does highlight the risk posed by Beijing’s “influence actors” and the government’s propaganda and disinformation efforts around events like the protests in Hong Kong and the Covid-19 outbreak.

China’s “disinformation evolution — in conjunction with the multitude of foreign influence threats and state-backed disinformation activity emanating from Russia, Iran, and other adversaries — will set the stage for further assaults on the truth, damaging the United States’ ability to advance its policies abroad and effectively engage with American citizens,” the summary states.

A second Democratic committee official said the origin of the examination could be traced back to the panel’s 2012 bipartisan report that concluded Chinese telecom giants Huawei and ZTE were a national security threat.

The release of the report also comes as the White House is in the midst of legal wrangling over President Donald Trump’s recent executive order barring access to the popular Chinese mobile app TikTok, citing national security concerns. Earlier this week a federal judge said the administration “likely” exceeded its authority when it tried to impose restrictions on the short form

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House Committee Says U.S. Spy Agencies Are Failing China Challenge

WASHINGTON—A House Intelligence Committee report concludes that U.S. spy agencies are failing to meet the multipronged challenge posed by China and calls for changes to focus on pandemics, trade and other issues often given less attention by intelligence professionals.

The report, most of which is classified, portrays the $85 billion-a-year U.S. intelligence community as overly focused on traditional targets such as terrorism and adversaries’ militaries. Pandemics, as evidenced by the coronavirus, and China’s technological prowess in areas like artificial intelligence present an equal threat, according to a summary of the report released Wednesday.

The report recommends fundamental changes in the way intelligence agencies operate, including providing greater support to the Commerce Department, the National Science Foundation, public health organizations and other agencies outside the usual national security bureaucracy.

“Absent a significant and immediate reprioritization and realignment of resources, we will be ill-prepared to compete with China—diplomatically, economically, and militarily—on the global stage for decades to come,” said the committee’s chairman, Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.).

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which coordinates the work of 17 U.S. intelligence organizations, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The report and two others published this week are part of a growing consensus on Capitol Hill that new thinking and bipartisan support are required to address Beijing’s challenge to U.S. global primacy. The reports and their findings suggest that harder-line China policies are likely to prevail in the coming years, whether in a second Trump term or in a Biden administration.

The China Task Force, a group of 15 Republican members of Congress, in its own report calls China the “greatest national and economic security challenge of this generation.” It offers more than 400 recommendations, ranging from providing safe harbor to people fleeing China’s democracy crackdown in Hong Kong to working on a trade agreement with Taiwan.

China is investing heavily in fifth-generation cellular telecommunications technology.



Photo:

Ng Han Guan/Associated Press

The task force, headed by Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, said it gave priority to recommendations with bipartisan support, many of which have been included in legislation that has been passed by either the House or the Senate.

Another report, from a bipartisan House Armed Services Committee group named the Future of Defense Task Force, calls for a “whole-of-nation strategy addressing the rise of China,” said Rep. Jim Banks (R., Ind.), who headed the group alongside Rep. Seth Moulton (D., Mass).

The report urges the Defense Department to rethink national security, including by investing in artificial intelligence, quantum computing and biotechnology. Many of its suggestions go beyond the Pentagon. For example, it recommends expanding voluntary national service programs to promote engagement in U.S. democracy.

The House Intelligence Committee report says intelligence agencies failed to adapt to “a changing geopolitical and technological environment increasingly shaped by a rising China and the growing importance of interlocking nonmilitary transnational threats.”

While Russia, Iran, North Korea and terrorist groups also pose threats, “it was China, however, that has used the past two

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House GOP China task force releases report on combating Chinese Communist Party: ‘The U.S. must act decisively’

House Republicans Wednesday will release the results of their monthslong probe into the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and how the U.S. can turnaround a “failed” engagement strategy that has put Americans’ safety and prosperity at risk.

The China Task Force report, to be released in full later Wednesday, makes 83 key findings and 430 policy recommendations on how the U.S. can better combat the threat of the CCP, whose malign activities have gone unchecked for too long, the GOP leaders say.

“This report is the blueprint for bipartisan actions Congress and the Administration can take now to address the greatest national and economic security challenge of this generation,” the task force report says.

REPUBLICANS UNVEIL NEW AGENDA IF THEY WIN BACK HOUSE

The recommendations include securing the medical supply chain by boosting U.S. production, allowing the Department of Defense to fund experimentation of emerging technologies to modernize the U.S. military faster and to require the Treasury Department to sanction China.

The report also calls for the U.S. to secure a bilateral free trade agreement with Taiwan, to require heightened scrutiny of Chinese investment in U.S. companies, and to cut off material support for CCP military-industrial base companies.

UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 15: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., along with House Republicans, conduct an event on the House steps of the Capitol to announce the Commitment to America, agenda on Tuesday, September 15, 2020. The plan outlines ways to restore our way of life, rebuild the greatest economy in history, and renew the American dream. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

UNITED STATES – SEPTEMBER 15: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., along with House Republicans, conduct an event on the House steps of the Capitol to announce the Commitment to America, agenda on Tuesday, September 15, 2020. The plan outlines ways to restore our way of life, rebuild the greatest economy in history, and renew the American dream. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

The China Task Force, comprised of 15 GOP members, was formed in May to assess the threat of the Chinese Community Party and come up with legislative solutions on how to combat the risks. The work has taken on greater importance during the coronavirus pandemic that originated in China before killing more than 1 million people worldwide.

In the aftermath of shortages of personal protective equipment in the United States, the task force has honed in on securing the medical and national security supply chains through targeted tax incentives to speed up production of critical goods. The GOP representatives also call for providing a safe harbor for Hong Kong refugees and to determine whether the crimes against the Uyghurs, a persecuted ethnic minority in China, amount to genocide.

REP. KEVIN BRADY CALLS FOR PROBE INTO WHETHER TRUMP’S TAX INFORMATION RELEASE WAS ‘ILLEGAL’

The China task force was initially set to be bipartisan, but Democrats bailed on the effort, the Washington Post first reported. Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., however, plowed forward with the GOP effort anyway and named House Foreign Affairs Committee Republican Leader Michael McCaul, R-Texas, the chairman.

Since May, the task force has met with 125 people, including policy experts, business leaders and bipartisan current and former administration officials.

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairs the China Task Force

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairs the China Task Force

The U.S. established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China more than 40 years ago.

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tall bookshelf arcs organize mesmerizing bookstore interior by x+living in china

shanghai-based architecture firm x+living has introduced yet another bookstore design, this time situated in the city of dujiangyan, in the south west of china. the new store, with its mirrored ceilings and its tall arc bookshelves, generates a unique, mesmerizing environment where one can explore the wondrous world of literature and cultural heritage. 

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all images by shao feng

 

 

upon pushing the glass curtain door open, and entering the bookstore by x+living, the unique C-shape bookshelves with their natural walnut color welcome visitors inside. this seemingly irregular sequence is what builds intimacy within the space, and becomes the highlight of the front hall. the unique and lively arc shapes blaze a new trail and subtly divide the area. the bookshelves extend from the space to the adjacent columns, and ingeniously catch the readers’ curiosity and guide their route. strolling among the books, time within the store seems to slow down. 

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walking through the winding way between the bookshelf walls, the children’s reading area suddenly emerges. ‘random’ and ‘irregular’ green bamboo elements were transformed into bookshelves, decorated with panda illustrations, to generate a fun, eye-catching environment. the pandas hang on the bookshelves, as the animals would climb on the high tree branches. colorful cushions are stacked forming small ‘hills’, to create a cozy, dreamy reading atmosphere for the children. the cushions can also be used separately, which also provides comfort for children to sit wherever on the ground and relax.

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the design includes an x+living signature feature: mirror ceilings which help visually expand the space, while creating an overall open, tall interior. the flooring is covered with reflective black tiles, making the book tables appear like floating boats on a quiet lake. the whole architectural structure aims to portray the dynamic aesthetics of climate changes, whether it’s rainy, windy, or foggy. in this way, it seems as if the beautiful scenery of dujiangyan is vividly present within the bookstore. the designers aimed to create a whole indoor scenery, introducing the magnificent spirit of mountains and rivers into the interior, and presenting readers with elegant and powerful artistic landscape that expresseses awe to nature. 

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project info:

 

name: dujiangyan zhongshuge
architecture office: x+living
lead designer: li xiang
project director: fan chen, wu feng
location: dujiangyan, sichuan, china
area: 973 m2

 

 

designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.

 

edited by: myrto katsikopoulou | designboom

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