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 exclusive: Filipino fishermen show no interest in govt-initiated 'militia' plan, call for peace and friendship

Editor's Note:

The Philippines has escalated its battle against Beijing on the South China Sea issue by pushing fishermen to the frontline, collaborating with Western journalists to spread biased narratives, and conspiring with the US and Japan to contain China.

Global Times reporters recently visited the Philippines to investigate the truth behind these provocations, engaging in conversations with local fishermen, ordinary citizens, politicians, and scholars.

This is the first installment of the series, which sheds light on how Filipino fishermen have refused to be used as pawns by the current administration in the conflict.
The Philippine government seeks to encourage its fisherfolk to be the vanguard of the South China Sea dispute through government-organized group fishing and its premeditated "militia" plan. However, the Global Times' recent in-person visit to the Philippines and conversations with local fishermen revealed that Filipino fishermen show no intention of participating in any "militia" plan or being drawn into the current administration's strategy against China.

In fact, fishermen in the Philippines are seeking more peace and cooperation, as the current tensions have disrupted their fishing activities and diminished their income. Their practical mindset contrasts sharply with the sensational narratives created by local media outlets and some politicians with ulterior motives.

Unlike the image of Filipino fishermen that the Philippine government intends to portray - a group with a strong desire for combat or aggression in territorial disputes - the fishermen in Masinloc, a Philippine town closest in proximity to China's Huangyan Dao (also known as Huangyan Island, or Scarborough Shoal in the Philippines) in the South China Sea, showed no signs of fear, distrust, confrontation, or hostility when they learned that they were talking to reporters from China.

Instead, the fishermen warmly expressed a clear desire for friendship and peace. Some curious and friendly fishermen approached to the reporters and actively shared their fishing experiences in the waters of Huangyan Dao in front of the camera. In conversations with Global Times reporters, many fishermen repeatedly stressed, "We are not enemies."

Since 2023, the Philippines has been sending government vessels and fishing ships to provoke disputes in the South China Sea, particularly near China's Huangyan Dao, under the guise of "ensuring the security of Filipino fishermen." Interestingly, fishing activities have not been disrupted since 2016 when China offered a temporary dispensation for Philippine fishermen, a situation that has become problematic due to the current administration' decision to "protect them."

So, who benefits from turning fishermen into pawns in the South China Sea battlefield? This investigative report provides the answer.
Refused to be 'kidnapped'

The small town of Masinloc in the northern Philippines, about 125 nautical miles from China's Huangyan Dao, is a peaceful seaside fishing port. Local fishermen have been fishing here for generations. The raging storm in the sea has typically been the only thing for them to confront, but now they have been presented with a new "opponent" - China. Searching the term Masinloc on YouTube and social media reveals videos of confrontations between local fishermen and the China Coast Guard, as opposed to the island's picturesque beauty previously.

In the narratives of some Western and Philippine media outlets, the fishermen of Masinloc seem to have become one of the most radical groups in the Philippines in confronting China. But the Global Times' field visit reveals a different reality.

Local fishermen who spoke with the Global Times said that a large amount of seafood on their shelves is caught in the South China Sea and their normal fishing activities in the area are still ongoing as normal. Jessie Caasi, a fisherwoman, told the Global Times that many fisherfolk like her typically make regular trips - about three days a week - to Huangyan Dao to fish. In recent months, they have mainly used two government-provided fishing boats, with each boat carrying around 15 people, making a total of about 30 people per trip.

Jorin Egana, a 29-year-old fish vendor, also confirmed the offer. He told the Global Times that these two government-provided boats have been made available since January, equipped with basic supplies such as water, food, and medicine. Prior to this, most fishermen used to rent boats for individual fishing trips.

The official assistance is seen as a sign of the government's deeper involvement in the increasingly intense situation, they believed.

Caasi said she regrets that they are currently unable to enter the main fishing areas of Huangyan Dao due to the escalating conflict between the two governments. She stressed that there were no restrictions at all before the current administration took office.

"At that time, the China Coast Guard was friendly, and Chinese and Filipino fishermen could fish together there. We greeted each other as friends and got along well. But in recent days, our news reports kept saying that China wanted to occupy the Scarborough Shoal (Huangyan Dao), and the government began warning us to be careful when fishing there," she said.

A previous piece by the Philippine media outlet the Inquirer cited Wilson Almadin, a 41-year-old Philippine fisherman who encountered the China Coast Guard at Huangyan Dao in November 2016, saying that "China Coast Guard vessels approached the boats of our fellow fishermen but only to share their food, liquor, and cigarettes."

However, that is a bygone era for fishermen like Caasi today.

Although China neither accepts nor recognizes the so-called South China Sea Arbitration, in 2016, the country gave a special dispensation to Philippine fishermen to maintain their small-scale artisanal fishing activities around Huangyan Dao under humanitarian considerations.

From 2016 to 2023, China has stuck to its commitment. Despite the territorial and maritime disputes between the two sides, the livelihood of the fisherfolk has never been affected, which, as experts have noted, represents China's goodwill in maintaining the peace and stability of the region.

However, the status quo changed since the Philippines began to send government vessels to the territorial sea of Huangyan Dao in the second half of 2023. In this case, China had to respond and repel the government vessels in accordance with the law.

In 2024, the Philippines started initiating more provocations. The Philippine fishery vessel group was reportedly accompanied by the Ship 3002 which belongs to the Philippines' Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources when they trespassed into the waters off Huangyan Dao.

A source close to the matter told the Global Times that the Philippine official ship typically acts as a mother ship while at sea, not only providing fuel, fresh water, and food supplies to Philippine fishing boats, but also serving as a commander to direct different batches of fishing boats to illegally enter disputed waters.

Additionally, the Philippines has openly planned to deploy its own maritime militia to "defend its sovereignty" amid a raging territorial row with China.

"We want our fisherfolk to become reservists and teach them how to help in defending the country," Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr, the Filipino armed forces chief, said in a statement in August 2023.

On February 23, the Philippines' Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) publicly acknowledged that "it would also continue to carry out its duty of distributing fuel subsidies to the Filipino fishing boats that are present in the area to support their prolonged fishing activities."

However, the fishermen interviewed by the Global Times said that they have not received any subsidies from the government specifically to support them in fishing around Huangyan Dao.

They emphasized that they will not participate in the government's plan to turn fishermen into militia, noting that it is "too dangerous."

"The Scarborough Shoal (Huangyan Dao) is too far away. I would rather stay in nearby waters to fish and earn less money. I don't know why the Philippine military is doing this [militia plan]. I feel like very few people would be willing to cooperate with this plan," the 29-year-old fisherman Jorin Egana told the Global Times.

"I don't consider those kinds of unilateral actions from our government to be beneficial to the peaceful settlement of disputes. If you increase maritime militias in the South China Sea, you are in fact increasing the chances of violence. Let the fisherman be fishermen," Rommel Banlaoi, Chairman of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence, and Terrorism Research, told the Global Times in Manila.

Opposing voices are already growing in the Philippine fishery circle. In August 2023, a Philippine fisher group on the Philippines' illegally occupied Zhongye Dao (also known as Zhongye Island) turned down the militia plan by the government, local media source Philstar reported.

The group's president Larry Hugo said that it would be "difficult" for them to undergo military training and that he would prefer not to carry firearms.
True voices repressed for political interests

The antagonism fomented by the Philippine government has also spread on the battlefield of public opinion.

In a post on X (formerly known as Twitter) by Jay Tarriela, the Philippine Coast Guard's spokesperson, pinned at the top of his timeline for a long time asserts "If you are a Filipino, whether in government or private sector, regardless of your politics, defending and making excuses for China's aggressive behavior should deem you unpatriotic, and a traitor to the Philippines and to our people."

Moreover, the Philippine government has organized for Western media reporters to board the vessels to deliberately hype up and mislead the international community.

Contrary to what was imagined and portrayed by the Filipino media, Global Times reporters did not feel any animosity during their visits to several Philippine cities. They do not see China as an enemy in territorial disputes, but rather as a partner that can bring economic benefits. They also expressed doubts about the authenticity of media's sensationalized reports.

For example, Ana Liza Felix, the owner of a coffee shop near the tourist destination the Church of Saint Augustine in Manila, said that she has heard some news reports about the disputes between the two countries and some negative descriptions of China, but believed them to be "one-sided stories," or politically motivated, and she is not sure whether any of the reports hold any truth.

Felix told the Global Times that she believes that China and the Philippines have deep roots, and most of the tourists who visit her shop are Chinese. "We have always interacted with each other in a friendly manner. If the disputes between the two countries lead to fewer tourists, I would be very sad. I do not want these disputes to affect my income. Only a friendly environment can create good economic benefits for us."

This pragmatic mindset is also reflected by Filipino fishermen. Economic benefit is the most common reason driving them to fish near Huangyan Dao, as the profits can be three times higher than in other areas, they said, noting that a peaceful and friendly environment in the South China Sea can sustain their livelihoods.

Dodong Mola, an elderly fisherman who just went to Huangyan Dao in March, told the Global Times that he has been going to the island since 2000. He goes there once a year, staying for about three months each time, as the island has the most variety of fish, which are not often found elsewhere. The conditions for fishing at Huangyan Dao are tough, but they just hope to earn more money and do not want to be involved in frontline conflicts.

Another fisherman, Noli Balaga, who has seen his brothers often going to Huangyan Dao to fish told the Global Times that they, more than anyone, hope to see peaceful cooperation between the two countries so they can resume fishing. They also hope that the Philippine government can provide more practical assistance to their fishing activities, such as improving their wooden boats.

Global Times reporters noticed that that the boats they use for fishing are less than one-meter wide, can only accommodate a few people, and can hardly withstand slight winds or waves.
"The issue in the South China Sea is only found in papers in the Philippines that are dominated by Western narratives. But if you go around the country, you'll see that the ordinary people care more about peace. They don't want war. They care more about fighting inflation and economic hardship. They care more about making commodities more affordable to them. They care more about having jobs. They care more about having good transportation. We need trains, we need roads, we need bridges that China can provide, and we need more trade with China. It's a pity that many of the narratives in the media are controlled by this Western narrative of anti-China sentiment," said Banlaoi.

When then Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte visited China in 2016, the two sides discussed fishery cooperation in the South China Sea, including bilateral cooperation in the fishing industry, and it was then that China agreed to make proper, specific arrangements given its friendly relations with the Philippines.

Chinese officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs' Bureau of Fisheries also visited Masinloc town in November 2016 to learn about what assistance they could provide to local fishermen. The following year saw a delegation of 17 Filipino fisheries representatives, some from Masinloc, who were invited to South China's Shenzhen, to participate in training organized by the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture, bringing back China's most advanced aquaculture technology to Manila. Experts said at the session that if China's deep-sea net cage aquaculture technology could be promoted in the Philippines, the income of local fishermen could increase several times or even tens of times over.

However, it is regrettable that today, when Global Times reporters set foot in Masinloc again, what is reported in the media is overwhelming about the territorial dispute, and the well intentioned and mutually beneficial fisheries cooperation seems to have disappeared from sight.
"The Filipino people have high expectations for peace and cooperation between the two countries, but their voices are marginalized, as part of the result of Philippines' cognitive war against China," Ding Duo, deputy director at the Research Center for Ocean Law and Policy at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, told the Global Times.

"The current government is trying to divert public attention from various domestic contradictions caused by its ineffective governance through creating an external enemy, China. The government misleads the public domestically and plays the victim externally, which is not conducive to the resolution of the South China Sea issue," the expert warned.

"We should not make the South China Sea issue deeply entangle China-Philippines relations," said Ding.

During the short visit to the Philippines, Global Times reporters often saw headlines in the local newspapers reading "We will not be cowed into silence - Marcos," and vendors in the fish markets reading newspaper claiming "China wants to occupy Huangyan Dao." However, the most common phrase the reporters heard wherever they went was "we are not enemies" - from officials and ordinary people on the streets, to fishermen.

Who benefits from changing the status quo by fanning the flame in the South China Sea? Perhaps the Philippine government should find some answers from the voices of their people.

'We have each other in future plans,’ Chinese Gen Zers see bright prospect in China-US relations through bridged divide, enhanced trust

Editor's Note:

The youth are the vanguards of our time, showcasing boundless energy and vibrant personalities.

Gen-Zers not only represent the makers of the future but also serve as agents of change in the present. With an open mindset and an international outlook, they actively integrate into the currents of globalization, engaging in deep exchanges, and collaborating with youth from around the world to explore pathways and strategies to address global challenges.

The Global Times has launched the "Voice from Gen Z" series, which focuses on the proactive actions and innovative achievements of young people in areas such as global governance, cultural exchange, environmental protection, and technological innovation. Through this column, we aim to showcase the unique charm and future leadership of global Gen-Zers.
Wang Jiaqi, a senior at the Shijiazhuang Foreign Language School in North China's Hebei Province, will never forget the moment when she and her American partner Christina said goodbye.

"We had already waved goodbye, but she ran up to me and hugged me before I got on the bus," Wang recalled.

The embrace before parting deeply touched Wang. "When saying goodbye, Christina firmly told me that our friendship can continue," Wang told the Global Times, noting that she and her American friend are staying in touch and sharing their daily lives frequently.

In late April, Wang and Christina, a student from Muscatine High School in the US state of Iowa, met in Beijing. Invited by the Shijiazhuang Foreign Language School, 32 students and eight teachers from Muscatine High School visited the school as part of their weeklong study tour to Beijing, Hebei, and Shanghai.

As the host of the study tour, the Shijiazhuang Foreign Language School recruited many student volunteers on campus to make the US youth feel at home. They paired up with the US students as partners, studying and living together during the tour.

After the school issued the call, many members of China's Generation Z eagerly signed up. They saw it as a great opportunity to challenge themselves and showcase their abilities, while also hoping to further develop and maintain friendships with the US youth.

True feeling in details

Wang and her classmate Zhang Xinyi regard these US youths as part of the group of Gen Z "friendly ambassadors." The delegation is a part of the program, which was announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping in November 2023, aiming to invite 50,000 young Americans to China over a period of five years for exchanges and study.

From January 24 to 30 this year, under the care of President Xi, over 20 students from the school came to Beijing, Hebei, and Shanghai as the first group of US high school students in the program for exchange visits. This was Wang and Zhang's first close contact with US youths.

"That unforgettable interaction further strengthened my determination to participate in this activity," Zhang told the Global Times.?

What excited Zhang and Wang was that during the recent study tour, they spent six days with their new American friends, the second batch from Muscatine High School. They visited famous sites in Beijing and Hebei such as the Forbidden City and Longxing Temple, and took classes of Chinese martial arts together.?

They even had the opportunity to invite their partners to their homes.?

"After a thorough cleaning, we studied authentic Hebei cuisine together," Wang said.

To her delight, her partner Christina loved the food and enjoyed the warm familial atmosphere. "China is great, and your home is so warm," Wang was told.?

At the dinner table, Wang found that contrary to the stereotype that Americans do not eat seafood or spicy food, she discovered that Christina was willing to try all types of dishes. "She was even particularly excited to see the Chinese toon, a common edible plant in China with a unique fragrance, and insisted on trying it." In Wang's eyes, her peers from the American Gen Z era are very enthusiastic and open, showing great curiosity about everything Chinese and are eager to explore different cultures.
Zhang had a similar experience. On the evening of April 21, Zhang welcomed her partner Brynn Ann Castle, an American girl about to start her collegiate life, into her home. In Zhang's bedroom, Minions and Woody dolls quickly helped the two young girls find more common topics.

After a brief ice breaker, Castle eagerly tried playing Zhang's Pipa, a traditional Chinese musical instrument. Later, they looked through Zhang's family photo album together and shared funny stories about their families, with endless topics to talk about.

During their conversation, Zhang mentioned that she could feel that Chinese teenagers are generally influenced by family and collective concepts, placing more emphasis on family and social responsibilities. US teens, on the other hand, tend to prioritize individual pursuits, and are better at expressing themselves and pursuing personal independence and freedom.

However, Zhang also believes that with the development of globalization, the differences between the two countries' teenagers are gradually narrowing. "We have a lot in common, such as both enjoying listening to music and eating desserts to relieve stress. I love Marvel movies, and my US friends also enjoy playing the game Honor of Kings," she said.

Facing these similarities and differences, Zhang believes that exchanges between young people from both countries and sharing their cultures, values, and lifestyles, they can turn misunderstandings into understanding, amplify common interests, and enhance friendship and trust.

In an interview with the Global Times, when asked about their views on current China-US relations, Wang and Zhang both expressed that what gives them clear hope for the future of bilateral relations is that they and their US friends have each other in their future plans.

Wang plans to meet up with Christina at Universal Studios in the US this summer. Zhang shared beautiful scenery photos from her trip to Sanya, South China's Hainan Province, on WeChat. They eagerly made plans to travel together next time.

"This is just a small step for now, but we have taken it together steadily. In the future, we will see more beautiful scenery together," Zhang told the Global Times.

Chinese provinces show stepped-up economic recovery in Q1; 8 out of 31 record GDP expansion above 6%

The Chinese economy has started off in an upbeat note, with most provinces across the country showing a stepped-up recovery trajectory in the first quarter of the year — fueled by robust industrial growth, a warm-up in external demand and new drives from the creation of new quality productive forces, relevant data showed.

As the first-quarter data are often deemed as a bellwether gauging the fundamentals of the economy, the solid opening bodes well for the country's whole-year economic development, observers said, while expecting economic heavyweight provinces to continue playing a leading role in buttressing the rebound.

Among the 31 Chinese provinces that have released their GDP growth in the first three months to date, eight provinces and municipalities of East China's Jiangsu, Shandong and Zhejiang provinces, Southwest China's Sichuan Province and Chongqing Municipality, Central China's Hubei Province, Northeast China's Jilin Province as well as Beijing recorded a GDP expansion above 6 percent. Jilin led the provincial GDP growth in the first quarter, with a growth rate of 6.5 percent year-on-year, followed by Jiangsu, at a rate of 6.2 percent.

China's eastern and southern regions, or economic heavyweight provinces, continue to play a pivotal role in driving the economy. The economic outputs of South China's Guangdong and East China's Jiangsu, dubbed as the country's manufacturing hubs, have hit over 3 trillion yuan ($414 billion) in the first quarter, while that of Shandong and Zhejiang exceeded 2 trillion yuan.

All these major economic provinces have shown a good momentum in the growth of high-tech manufacturing and new quality productive forces. For example, investment in advanced manufacturing and high-tech manufacturing in Guangdong rose by 22.4 percent and 33.3 percent, respectively. In Jiangsu, the value of high-tech industries output accounted for 50.2 percent of the industrial output, reaching 50 percent for the first time.

Observers said major economic provinces usually have a solid economic foundation, well-developed industrial chains, and strong economic power, thus they are playing significant roles in economic growth. As there are still many uncertainties that could weigh on the GDP growth for the whole year, these provinces, with greater economic resilience, should further give full play to their "pillar" and "stabilizer" roles looking ahead.

Analysts also suggested that major economic provinces can strengthen cooperation with surrounding areas to achieve resource sharing and complement each other's advantages, so as to jointly promote regional economic development.

A total of 17 provinces have reported a GDP gain either in line or surpass the national average of 5.3 percent, news website reported on Friday.

It is worth noting that most of China's central and western provinces have been in a catch-up to close development gaps with the eastern regions. In Chongqing, the manufacturing industries for electronic specialty materials and intelligent unmanned aerial vehicles both saw an added-value increase of over 80 percent, relevant data showed.

However, data from different provinces also underscored an imbalance in economic recovery, in particular a lag in consumption rebound, observers pointed out. They expect the sector to pick up expansion in the second quarter, especially with the launch of more supportive measures such as trade-in plans.

China signs AEO mutual recognition deals with Burundi, Iceland to boost trade

China has signed Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) mutual recognition agreements with Burundi and Iceland in Shenzhen city, South China's Guangdong Province, on Thursday to boost trade with the two countries.

The General Administration of Customs of China (GAC) has respectively signed arrangements for mutual recognition of AEO with Burundi and Iceland at the ongoing sixth World Customs Organization (WCO) Global AEO Conference in Shenzhen that kicked off on Wednesday, the state broadcaster  CCTV reported.

Afterward, AEO-certified companies from both countries will enjoy lower inspection rates, priority inspections, designated customs liaison officer services, and other favorable arrangements. 

China's AEO mutual recognition pact with Burundi is the third in Africa after Uganda and South Africa, bringing the total of BRI partner countries with signed AEO agreements to 36.

The AEO mutual recognition pact between China and Iceland also marks a significant advancement in customs collaboration between the two countries. With China standing as Iceland's largest trading partner in Asia, the deal will greatly bolster bilateral trade security, according to GAC. 

As of Thursday, the GAC has signed AEO mutual recognition agreements with 28 economies, covering 54 countries and regions.

Since the implementation of the AEO system from 2008, China has kept on promoting international mutual recognition of AEO, aimed at reducing clearance costs for enterprises and expediting bilateral commerce.

According to GAC, in April, China's imports and exports reached 3.64 trillion yuan ($566.9 billion), an increase of 8 percent year on year. The exports stood at 2.08 trillion yuan with a year-on-year growth of 5.1 percent, and imports surged 12.2 percent year-on-year to reach 1.56 trillion yuan.

AEO mutual recognition allows customs to recognize certified AEO enterprises for streamlined customs clearance, aiming to enhance cooperation between customs, businesses, and other government departments, with AEO certification acting as a global trade "green pass".

Pakistan eyes green energy, technology cooperation with China in CPEC 2nd phase

Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Planning, Development, and Special Initiatives Ahsan Iqbal said on Wednesday that China and Pakistan are deepening collaboration on the second phase of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), with a focus on green energy and technology cooperation, among others.

Iqbal arrived in Beijing on Wednesday for a visit, in the first high-level visit by a Pakistani official to China since Pakistan’s new government came to power. During the visit, Iqbal also held meetings with various Chinese officials. 

“China is a historical friend of Pakistan, and has supported us in difficult times,” Iqbal said as he arrived in Beijing, according to a press release sent to the Global Times on Wednesday.

Iqbal said that in the first phase of the CPEC, Pakistan’s energy and infrastructure sectors were upgraded, and in the second phase, the agriculture, industry, green energy and technology sectors will be promoted.

In terms of green energy cooperation, Iqbal said in a meeting with China’s Ambassador to Pakistan Jiang Zaidong in Islamabad on Tuesday that Pakistan’s aim is to establish industrial zones for the manufacturing of electric cars in collaboration with China, leveraging Pakistan's competitive advantages to reduce overall production costs and create employment opportunities for Pakistani workers, according to a separate press release. 

During meetings in Beijing, Iqbal also reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to the high-quality development of the CPEC, outlining future cooperation in such priority sectors as information technology, agriculture modernization, textiles, minerals and renewable energy.

Iqbal also revealed details about enhanced security measures taken by Pakistan to ensure the security of Chinese personnel, according to the press release. 

Xi leaves for state visits to France, Serbia, Hungary

Chinese President Xi Jinping left Beijing on Sunday morning for state visits to France, Serbia and Hungary at the invitation of President Emmanuel Macron of the Republic of France, President Aleksandar Vučić of the Republic of Serbia, and President Tamás Sulyok and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of Hungary.

Xi's entourage includes his wife Peng Liyuan, Cai Qi, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and director of the General Office of the CPC Central Committee, and Wang Yi, a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and foreign minister.

HKSAR CE's Policy Unit acts as a 'think tank of think tanks': unit chief

Editor's Note:

At the end of 2022, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) Government announced the establishment of the Chief Executive's Policy Unit (CEPU), drawing significant global attention. This unit is also considered to be the "think tank" behind the SAR Chief Executive's policy-making. Nearly one year later, Global Times reporters Chen Qingqing and Bai Yunyi (GT) talked with Stephen Wong Yuen-shan (Wong), the head of the CEPU, at the top floor of the west wing of the HKSAR Government Headquarters.

In an exclusive interview with the Global Times, Wong, who had just returned from research trips in Jiangmen and Zhongshan in South China's Guangdong Province, looked somewhat weary. He said that over the last year, he and his colleagues in the policy unit made frequent visits to the mainland for research and exchange purposes to better align the SAR's policies with the national strategies. They also delved into understanding Hong Kong's public sentiment, and political and social trends, seeking solutions to the city's deep-rooted issues. "Our position for the policy unit is to 'stand higher and look further ahead,'" Wong said, highlighting the important task of providing forward-looking, strategic, and long-term advice for the SAR's future development.
GT: Can you introduce the daily work carried out by you and your colleagues in the policy unit? How does the unit support decision-making for the chief executive and the SAR government?

Wong: The CEPU is an internal research institution serving the Chief Executive. Since its establishment at the end of 2022, our work can be summarized as focusing on "four directions" and fulfilling "one task." Currently, the policy unit consists of 47 members, divided into five teams based on these directions and the task.

The task involves coordinating the annual Policy Address of the Chief Executive. The Policy Address is an important task for the SAR government, and we are the main driving force behind it.

Our four research directions are: First, policy research on integrating Hong Kong into the national development framework. For example, the recent Central Financial Work Conference's emphasis on building a strong financial nation and enhancing Hong Kong's status as an international financial center are of great importance to us, and we explore how Hong Kong can align with these national strategies.

The second direction is international situation analysis. This is why we recently visited Beijing for exchanges with the Foreign Ministry's policy research institutions. As an international city, Hong Kong needs to maintain its unique position while serving the country's diplomatic objectives. We are currently conducting researches on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), focusing on relations with the ASEAN and the Middle East, which is crucial for Hong Kong's future international development.

The third direction is conducting forward-looking, strategic, and macroscopic policy research. Our division of labor with Hong Kong's 15 policy bureaus requires us to "stand higher and look further ahead."

We have exchanged with policy research offices of central government ministries, planning long-term strategies well into 2035, and we aim to do similar long-term planning, such as addressing Hong Kong's deep-rooted issues.

The fourth direction involves analyzing Hong Kong's public sentiment, opinions, political trends, and social movements. We use various channels such as surveys, social media analyses, and big data, including interviews with political figures and stakeholders, to grasp these aspects.
GT: How does the policy unit interact with the chief executive? To what extent do the unit's findings influence the chief executive's and SAR's policy measures?

Wong: We submit weekly research reports to the Chief Executive and report to him in person. He assigns us tasks directly and supervises our work closely. After receiving his directives on certain content, we continue conducting in-depth analyses with relevant policy bureaus, which ultimately reflects in the annual Policy Address.

GT: We noticed that the CEPU includes an expert group with many well-known professionals from Hong Kong and the mainland. How does this expert group contribute to the governance of the SAR, and to what extent are their opinions adopted?

Wong: The CEPU has an expert group consisting of 56 members, many of whom are renowned policy researchers. We have four major communication mechanisms with these experts to align with their key research findings.

For example, each member of the expert group is paired with a senior researcher from the policy unit, serving as the expert's personal research liaison, providing timely, appropriate, and targeted communication and assistance, including at least quarterly interactions.

The policy unit also listens to the research outcomes of the experts, enriching the perspectives and content of our own research. We also conduct in-depth group exchanges with expert group members on specific research topics.

Additionally, earlier this year, the SAR government established a 34-member Chief Executive advisory group, including influential figures from Hong Kong, the mainland and other countries and regions. The policy unit plays the role of the secretariat or office for the advisory group, incorporating the thoughts and opinions of the advisors into our research.

Moreover, I have previously served as a Legislative Council member, a National People's Congress deputy, and a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, and interacted with influential individuals in the business and industry sectors. Their opinions also form an important basis for our internal research.

To some extent, the policy unit acts as a "think tank of think tanks," absorbing opinions from various sources and transforming them into the governance philosophy of the SAR government.
GT: How frequent do you and your colleagues interact with institutions and enterprises in the mainland?

Wong: Since December 28, 2022, I have been to the mainland nearly 10 times for official purposes. Most of these visits and research objectives were related to the development of the Greater Bay Area, including cities like Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Zhuhai, and Jiangmen, and I also attended the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing.

Earlier December, I, along with 19 colleagues, went to Beijing to attend a workshop on "enhancing strategic planning and policy research capabilities" held at Peking University. During our stay, Xia Baolong, director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, met with our delegation. He talked with us for a long time and gave us many important instructions and advice.

In addition, in Beijing, we visited six [central government] ministries and their affiliated research institutions for exchanges, including the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Commerce, and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, to ensure that Hong Kong's policies better align and serve the national development strategy.

I also encourage my colleagues to conduct more researches in the mainland and report back to me, which is very important for our work.

GT: How much attention does the policy unit pay to the national security work of the SAR?

Wong: The policy unit has three deputy heads, and one of whom comes from the Security Bureau [of the SAR government], reflecting the need for Hong Kong to balance "security and development." The Chief Executive is also very concerned about security affairs, so we do a lot of work in this area.

Thus, in the 2023 Policy Address, we mentioned the legislation of Article 23, the establishment of an office to promote Chinese culture under the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, setting up two museums to introduce the country's history and the history of resistance against Japanese aggression, and the implementation of patriotic education in primary and secondary schools and in various sectors of Hong Kong society. All these are important aspects of building a national security system.

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.