International cooperation boosts China's competitiveness in controlled nuclear fusion: political advisor

China is playing an increasingly important role in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project and it is due to the long-term attention and support of the country's industry and government to controlled nuclear fusion research, Duan Xuru, a senior expert on fusion who is also a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, told the Global Times.
Especially through participation in the ITER project, the world's largest "artificial sun," the level of China's research in controlled nuclear fusion has been greatly improved, and the technological level has caught up and even surpassed those of other countries in some areas, said Duan, chief expert on fusion of the China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC).

The ITER is a tokamak that can generate large-scale nuclear fusion reactions, aiming to simulate the nuclear fusion process that generates light and heat like the sun. The experiment is jointly implemented by China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the US. China officially joined the plan in 2006. Since the implementation of the plan, China has always adhered to international commitments and contributed Chinese wisdom and strength to the smooth progress of the plan.

On February 29, the ITER organization signed a contract for assembling the vacuum chamber module with China Nuclear Power Engineering Co, Ltd of CNNC. This is the second time that China has undertaken the installation task of the ITER's core equipment, contributing wisdom and strength to the progress of this project, according to the CNNC.

The assembly of the vacuum chamber module is to integrate and assemble the main large components such as the toroidal field coils, vacuum chamber, and vacuum chamber thermal shield in the assembly hall, and then lift the whole assembly into the tokamak pit. Among them, the toroidal field coils provide a toroidal strong magnetic field for confining the plasma at temperatures of over a hundred million degrees, according to Duan.

Located in the central area of the device, the vacuum chamber supports the plasma confined by the magnetic field, providing the required high-purity environment for plasma formation and maintenance. The vacuum chamber thermal shield mainly provides thermal shielding for the superconducting magnets to ensure the stable operation of the low-temperature superconducting magnets. "The assembly of the vacuum chamber module is an important milestone for the ITER project, marking that the installation of the ITER main machine has entered the final sprint stage," Duan said.

China has undertaken the manufacturing tasks of 18 procurement packages of the ITER since 2008, involving core key components such as the magnet support system, magnet feeder system, power system, glow discharge cleaning system, gas injection system, and the first wall of the reactor core that can withstand extremely high temperatures.

"China's tokamak engineering construction and related physical experiments have entered the international forefront. The engineering technology and manufacturing processes of key components of fusion reactors have made key breakthroughs, and some technological levels are leading internationally. A group of enterprises, research institutions, and universities have cultivated talents in tokamak engineering construction, fusion reactor component manufacturing, and large-scale scientific project management, accumulating experience. China's international discourse power in the field of nuclear fusion research is increasing. In the fields of material production and large equipment manufacturing, China has gradually formed advantages in foreign countries, and these advantages will provide strong technical support for the high-level development of China's controlled fusion engineering technology," Duan said.

While participating in the development of ITER, China's independently constructed and operated new generation artificial sun China Circulation-3 has also continued to improve. In 2023, the device successfully achieved high-constraint operation mode under a plasma current of 1 million amperes and was opened to global scientists.

Asking about different roles of ITER and China Circulation-3, Duan explained that ITER is an experimental reactor, and its goal is to verify the scientific and engineering feasibility of fusion reactors under conditions where the fusion gain Q is greater than 10 within 400 seconds and greater than 5 within 3,000 seconds.

Meanwhile, China Circulation III is the largest and most powerful magnetic confinement nuclear fusion large scientific experimental device in China, aiming to provide preliminary verification and solutions for key scientific and technical issues of the experimental reactor, including core plasma operation, nuclear diagnostics, tritium engineering technology, divertor high heat load control, etc, serving as an important support for China's leapfrog development in fusion energy research and development, he said.

In the future, China Circulation III will strive for higher plasma operating parameters, gradually raise the comprehensive parameters of the fusion plasma core to the level of the core, create an internationally leading combustion plasma large scientific experimental platform, support China's deep participation in ITER experiments, better digest and absorb ITER research results, and lay the foundation for China's independent design, construction, and operation of fusion pilot engineering experimental reactors, Duan noted.

In Duan's view, climate change and energy security issues have become common challenges faced by the world. Considering this, nuclear fusion energy, as a future clean, safe, and efficient energy source, is of great significance for the sustainable development of human society.

Mastering the technology of controlled nuclear fusion means that people may have access to almost unlimited clean energy in the future, and the energy crisis may be completely resolved, Duan said.

But to realize the application of nuclear fusion energy, there are still some major scientific and technological challenges, mainly including the steady-state self-sustaining burning of deuterium-tritium fusion plasma, fusion reactor materials, and tritium self-sustaining, Duan said, stressing the importance of international cooperation to promote the innovation of nuclear fusion technology.

GT investigates: US reports accusing China of ‘manipulating information’ spark criticism with de facto faults

Editor's Note:

"Cognitive Warfare" has become a new form of confrontation between states, and a new security threat. With new technological means, it sets agendas and spreads disinformation, so as to change people's perceptions and thus alter their self-identity. Launching cognitive warfare against China is an important means for Western anti-China forces to attack and discredit the country. Under the manipulation of the US-led West, the "China threat theory" has continued to foment.

Some politicians and media outlets have publicly smeared China's image by propagating false narratives such as "China's economy collapse theory" and "China's virus threat theory," in an attempt to incite and provoke dissatisfaction with China among people in certain countries. These means all serve the seemingly peaceful evolution strategy of the US to contain China's rise and maintain its hegemony.

The Global Times is publishing a series of articles to systematically reveal the intrigues of the US-led West's cognitive warfare targeting China, and expose its lies and vicious intentions, in an attempt to show international readers a true, multi-dimensional, and panoramic view of China.

This is the fifth installment in the series.

The proverbial thief crying out "stop thief" seems to be a norm in the US' cognitive warfare against China. The US, as a veteran of public opinion attack and a major source of disinformation in today's world, has consistently attacked China for "manipulating information," an ironic and ridiculous indictment.

A recent report released by the US State Department is a typical example of the US' attempt to defame China in the information and public opinion fields. The report, which accused China of employing "a variety of deceptive and coercive methods as it attempts to influence the international information environment," is completely groundless and misleading, the Global Times found.

The "report" exposed the unprofessionalism and prejudice of the US government, which routinely launch smear campaigns against China. Through investigation and verification, the Global Times has found the US State Department report contains numerous loopholes and fabrications, a serious deviation from the facts.

Full of loopholes

In late September, the US State Department released multilingual versions of a report titled "How the People's Republic of China Seeks to Reshape the Global Information Environment." Some mainstream US media outlets including the VOA and The New York Times soon ran with the report and started a new round of smear campaigns against China.

Looking into the 64-page report, the Global Times found many factual errors in its drawn-out narrative.

The accusation against StarTimes is a typical example. The report claimed that the Chinese-owned digital pay television service provider offers its overseas customers packages that "include CGTN (China Global Television Network) and dubbed Chinese entertainment content but does not include Western news channels," implying that Beijing can "influence content in various delivery platforms at the local level."

Contrary to this groundless accusation, StarTimes has clarified on numerous occasions that it has never deliberately excluded media content from the West. According to its official website, StarTimes has more than 630 channels in 11 languages worldwide, including international channels such as the BBC, CNN, and Al Jazeera.

In a previous interview with the Global Times, a StarTimes' regional manager in Africa said that their users are fairly free to choose any international channel. "The StarTimes device does not block any channels," noted Wang Fan, the then CEO of StarTimes branch in Uganda.

The report also denigrated the normal statements of some Chinese diplomats on X (formerly known as Twitter) and Facebook. It claimed that Chinese diplomats "promote pro-Beijing narratives and disinformation and attack." Without providing any persuasive evidence to support this claim, the report decried the increase in number of China's diplomatic and official media accounts in recent years, reaching 333 with a combined following of nearly 65 million as of August. Attacking Chinese diplomats and media for using X showed the serious double standard of the report authors, who may arrogantly believe that Chinese diplomats can't express opinions on social media as their US peers do.

Even ordinary internet influencers who share their lives or travel experiences in China, whether Chinese or expatriate, were targets of the report's attack. It accused China of "leveraging social media influencers to communicate directly with foreign audiences," saying that China "sponsors" some online influencers who, mainly post "innocuous content," "ostensibly to attract followers, and interspersing posts containing pro-Beijing propaganda."

Such malicious speculation is a slight at many online influencers and their followers who love China. In previous interviews, several overseas vloggers told the Global Times that they share their China-related experiences and thoughts freely. One vlogger noted that it is the anti-China propaganda campaign in the US-led West that has prevented international audiences from knowing more about a real China.

"The US' strategic pressure on China has evolved from its initial focus on economic and trade sectors to restrictions on high-tech standards, and has now been further upgraded to the cognitive field, trying to influence and shape the world's cognition on China, and trying to form of China containment with its hegemonic behavior," Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Affairs at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times.

"There is a growing trend in which the US has launched attacks on the 'battlefield' of social media," a Shanghai-based expert in international journalism and communication told the Global Times.

The expert pointed out that the US, through launching a public opinion war, positions China as a disruptor and challenger within the current globally dominated information order, and will continue to engage in activities that reinforce this narrative, an example being the criticism of Chinese diplomats and vloggers who share China's charm.

"This is a naked hegemonic act, further accelerating the breakdown of the international information order," he said.
Widespread criticism

Unsurprisingly, the report by the US State Department has sparked widespread criticism on social media platforms, with users in various countries mocking the US as "crying wolf."

Critical comments flooded a September 29 X post by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who shared the report as a "proof" of China seeking to "manipulate the global information environment."

"We must work to ensure people's access to free and open information everywhere," wrote Blinken.

"The US/EU doesn't [manipulate the information environment], Blinky?" an X user named "Luis F" commented under this post, along with an eye-roll emoji.

"This from an administration that tried to create a censorship department under the guise of 'disinformation'…what a joke…" commented another user named "Gregory Latham Jr." "You mean 'we must work to ensure people's access to the information we want them to have access to everywhere.'"

"How's the ongoing effort by the Biden administration to suppress social media discourse about Ukraine, COVID, and Hunter Biden coming along?" wrote a verified user by the name "Scott Ritter," a US author and international relations analyst. "Physician, heal thyself!"

"The US State Department shouts freedom of speech and information, but the 'freedom' has a precondition. That is, speech and information are led by the US," wrote a reader by the name "Jun Fan." "Any speech and information that is not directed by the US is false speech and false information that is harmful to the world…and must be strictly controlled."

In September, Microsoft, which accused China of using AI to influence US voters ahead of the country's 2024 presidential elections, also led to criticism from some US netizens. "Using AI to mess up the US elections is more like something that American politicians would do themselves," they said.

Indeed, some US politicians are making full use of AI in propaganda campaigns to serve their political activities, such as the elections. New York Mayor Eric Adams, for instance, has been using AI software to launch prerecorded calls to residents in Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Urdu, and Yiddish. The voice in the messages mimics that of the mayor, reported The Washington Post (WP) on October 26.

"Of course, fibbing politicians are nothing new, but examples keep multiplying of how AI supercharges disinformation in ways we haven't seen before," noted the WP article titled "Candidates, take this AI election pledge. Or 2024 might break us."

'Empire of lies'

Aside from the claim of "reshaping global information environment," the US government, some think tanks, and enterprises have released many reports to attack China, attempting to portray China as an enemy of global audiences in its cognitive warfare against the country, said observers.

Apparently, authors of the "reshaping information environment" report "saw no irony in these maxims coming from the US, the greatest state propagator of disinformation, narrative manipulation, and deception in the world," commented political analyst Timur Fomenko in an opinion piece published by Russia Today on October 17.

The US has rarely hidden some of its cognitive warfare tactics against China. In February 2022, a bill that allocated $500 million to "combat Chinese disinformation" reportedly moved through the US Congress. The bill was actually earmarked "for media outlets to produce journalism for overseas audiences that is critical of China," said The American Prospect magazine.

"The Senate bill aims to produce more anti-China media," the magazine said in an article it published that month. "Critics of escalating tensions with Beijing expressed concerns over the push for anti-China coverage, saying it could potentially undermine the credibility of journalists involved in the reporting," it added.

From the devastation its politicians inflicted on Iraq 21 years ago by presenting a small tube of white powder at the United Nations headquarters as evidence of Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction, to the unfounded claim that the novel coronavirus came from a laboratory leak in China's Wuhan, analysts pointed out that the US has long been a serial perpetrator of false stories.

"Some in the US may think that they can prevail in the information war as long as they manufacture enough lies. But the people of the world are not blind," said the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in response to the US State Department report.

"No matter how the US tries to pin the label of 'disinformation' on other countries, more and more people in the world have already seen through the US' ugly attempt to perpetuate its supremacy by weaving lies into 'emperor's new clothes' and smearing others," the ministry noted.

Majority of Japanese companies maintaining or increasing investment in China in 2023: survey

A white paper released by the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry in China on Monday showed that more than half of Japanese companies increased or maintained investment in China last year, underlying the resilience of the Chinese market.

Experts said Tokyo's move of following the US to seek "decoupling" with China in some fields have affected Japanese companies' investment in China, calling for the Japanese side to rule out external disturbance and pursue new cooperation areas with China for win-win results.

Conducted between November 23 and December 13, 2023, the survey collected responses from over 1,700 Japanese companies doing business across China. It covered a wide range of industries from electronic machinery to chemicals, food and medicine, according to a report sent to the Global Times on Monday.

About 38 percent of Japanese companies said that they maintained the same investment level last year as 2022, while another 15 percent said they "significantly increased" or "increased" their investment in China.

Reasons given for increased investment include business expansion in the wake of the COVID-19, conforming to the electrification and intelligence of the automotive industry, and increasing efficiency and functionality through automation.

Around 54 percent of the companies surveyed said they are satisfied with the business climate in China, up 3 percentage points compared with the chamber's last survey, it said.

Those surveyed said their businesses in China is relatively "grim," but slight improvement is also being made, it said, stressing that 51 percent of Japanese companies considers Chinese market their "most important market" or "one of the three most important markets."

"The result of the survey revealed the contradiction state of mindset of Japanese companies. Japan's China policy has shown tendency of following the US in recent years, and the Japanese side's 'industrial decoupling' from China have affected some Japanese companies' investment and operations in China," Xiang Haoyu, a research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times on Monday.

Despite geopolitical volatility, about half of Japanese companies are willing to maintain or increase their investment in China, which underscores the resilience and potential of the vast Chinese market, Xiang said.

Looking ahead to 2024, Xiang is cautiously optimistic about China-Japan economic and trade relations. Customs data showed that Japan is still a major trade partner of China and the complementary nature of the two economies persist, but the Japanese side ought to rule out external meddling to explore new cooperation areas with China for greater win-win results, he said.

According to data released by the General Administration of China, the volume of bilateral trade between China and Japan dropped 10.7 percent year-on-year to reach $318 billion in 2023.

Japan announced in March 2023 a draft revision to a ministry ordinance on its Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Act, adding 23 chip-manufacturing items that require government approval for export, which includes equipment for cleaning, checkups and lithography, a technology essential in producing cutting-edge chips. It took effect in July.

China issues guidelines for flexible job market in bid to boost employment

In a bid to enhance services for flexible workers, China's Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (MHRSS) issued a comprehensive set of guidelines aimed at standardizing flexible job markets on Monday, aiming to provide workers with transparent and regulated services. The notice is in line with its commitment to integrate this sector into the broader employment public service system. 

In the notice, the MHRSS outlined several key areas related to flexible job markets that require attention and improvement.

China has a vast population of flexibly employed individuals, and the rapid development of the internet industry has sparked changes in the job market, making it easier for young people to find such jobs, but the market remains largely unregulated, Tian Yun, a veteran economist based in Beijing, told the Global Times on Monday.

The notice emphasized the need to clearly define the service orientation of flexible job markets. The markets, which often operate outside the public service sector, will now be brought under the umbrella of the public employment service system, providing accessible, flexible and inclusive labor services.  

The ministry also said it aims to improve services in the markets, stressing the importance of providing comprehensive services such as job matching, career guidance, and skills training, which is particularly significant in light of China's rapidly evolving job market, where new sectors and opportunities are constantly emerging.

The notice also highlighted the opening and operation of flexible job markets, and called for building service stations and recruiting sites that meet local workers' conditions and demands. It also clarified the roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders in managing and overseeing the markets.

Data analysis is an important part of the notice, as job markets will be asked to publish key indicators, such as the ratio of job seekers to available positions. The information is critical for job seekers and employers in making decisions.

Standardizing service requirements is another part of the notice. The MHRSS has asked local departments to standardize naming rules for local job markets, to unify business processes and service standards, and implement clear regulations to ensure transparency in services. The ministry will soon publish a unified national logo for the markets across the country.  

The notice also underscored the importance of capacity building within the sector, which includes measures such as enhancing staff training and expanding the workforce through multiple channels to cater to the growing demands of this dynamic market.

Many flexible workers lack adequate protection for their labor rights. The notice from the MHRSS provides directional guidance for developing the flexible job markets, but concrete implementation by local authorities is needed to ensure compliance. Regulating flexible employment requires a concerted effort from the relevant authorities, as well as support and cooperation from society, Tian said.

Chinese smart manufacturing will keep going global this year

Last year, Chinese enterprises including major technology brands expanded their footprint on the global market. It was also the first year for upgraded versions of "Made in China" to compete in the markets of the developed economies in all aspects. 

In 2023, China's foreign trade and investment rose steadily, with a trade surplus of more than $730 billion in the first 11 months. China was the only major economy with an inflation rate lower than the central bank's 2-percent target.

In retrospect, in the fields of semiconductors, artificial intelligence, new-energy vehicles or batteries, the technological value of Chinese manufacturing was increasingly recognized globally. In the second half of the year, many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs chose to return to China, seeking cooperation with the world's largest factory, known for its high manufacturing efficiency and growing competitiveness.

In 2024, the globalization of the high-tech sector will be irreversible, and Chinese high-tech companies will continue to "go global." There will be more and more Chinese companies setting up factories in both the developed and developing economies, and concurrently, there will also be an increasing number of young Chinese entrepreneurs appearing on the international business stage.

The rapid development of the Chinese economy over the past 45 years can be attributed to the reform and opening-up policy. Maintaining a competitive advantage in the global manufacturing industry is crucial for China's industrial transformation and upgrading of the economy, as well as ensuring the stability of the yuan's exchange rate and the well-being of the public in the face of global challenges.

The development of Chinese economy demonstrates that China's goal is not to "dominate the world", but to share the dividends of its development. This explains why China's foreign policies won't follow the heels of the traditional colonial powers by bullying the weak and poor, and China's contributions have been widely recognized by countries and regions participating in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Under the long-term goal of maintaining steady and sustainable development, the Chinese economy saw a robust recovery in 2023. In addition to effectively controlling inflation, various indicators such as electricity generation, transportation of goods and passengers and retail sales all exhibited a gradual recovery, surpassing market expectations. 

The improved economic data can be attributed to the continuous implementation of policies such as poverty alleviation, the BRI and the development of high-end manufacturing. They also stem from the continuous improvement in the capital intensity of modern agriculture and manufacturing, offsetting insufficient growth momentum caused by a slowdown in the real estate sector.

Investors' expectations for the economy's future are diverging. There is a common saying in the international investment community: "optimists tend to be successful and pessimists tend to be right." China's market size and development potential are enormous, and only optimistic entrepreneurs who keep up with the times can get their due rewards.

The main battlefield of competition for Chinese companies has long expanded from first- and second-tier Chinese cities to county towns, which benefits more Chinese consumers, as brands and consumption patterns that used to only exist in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen are increasingly entering local towns and rural areas. 

The upgrading of the financial industry will also be an important aspect of the Chinese economy in 2024. Commercial banks such as China Agricultural Bank, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and China Construction Bank have all lowered their deposit interest rates, which for the first time are below the benchmark interest rate set by the People's Bank of China. 

This is a new milestone in Chinese financial history. It signifies that China has transitioned from a period of relying on foreign investment during the early stages of reform and opening-up to a new stage where domestic capital is abundant. 

Veteran skater Fan Kexin kisses ice surface at ISU World Cup in Beijing

China's veteran short track speed skater Fan Kexin kissed the ice surface at the Capital Indoor Stadium again on December 9 at the ISU Short Track World Cup in Beijing, as she returned to competition after a nearly two-year hiatus after the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.

Fan, who is among China's squad that won a gold medal in the 2,000-meter mixed relay at the home Olympics, finished her events on Saturday with two silver medals.

Fan clocked the women's 500 meters with 43.117 seconds, followed by her younger teammate Wang Ye with 43.176 seconds. At the awarding ceremony for the race, Fans kissed the ice surface again.

"I just love this ice so much," Fan, a three-time Olympian, told reporters after Saturday's races at the ISU short track World Cup event in Beijing. "As long as I have chances to compete, I will do my best."

Fan noted that now she is enjoying skating, thanks to the overwhelming support from Chinese fans.

"Their support means a lot to us. Now we are receiving massive attention from the fans compared to the past, which also boosted our confidence and performances," the 30-year-old said.

Fan's kiss on the ice surface at the Olympics was remembered as one of the emotional moments at the quadrennial event by Chinese short track fans.

Speculation was rampant that the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics would be Fan's swansong, as she had not participated in any competition since.

Her return has been considered a boost for the Chinese women's short track team, which is currently in a rebuilding phase as it aims to return to the sport's top-tier.

Along with her younger teammates, Fan is also among the team that won a silver medal in the 2,000-meter mixed relay at the World Cup event. Her younger teammate Wang, who is just 18, has welcomed her return, crediting Fan who "strengthened" the whole team's confidence with competing.

Speaking about the winning inheritance of the short track team, which is the most successful Chinese winter sports team, Fan said it is not just "talk the talk."

"The inheritance is in their hearts to take on the task and responsibility to grow, rather than just talking out loud about inheritance," Fan said.

"It feels great to compete with my young teammates side by side. I hope these young athletes could participate in the World Cup, World Championships, the Olympics step by step and achieve better results."

Short track competitions are currently the most popular winter sports races in China, as the stadium hosting Chinese athletes often has near-capacity attendance drawn by the chance to witness the star-studded national squad.

Saturday's race saw Team China bag four silver and one bronze medals. The competitions will continue on Sunday, including a highly-anticipated men's 5,000-meter relay final.