GT investigates: Why Philippine maritime zones act is an ‘egregious bill’ that will only aggravate tensions in South China Sea

The Philippines has recently advanced the domestic legislation of the "Maritime Zones Act" in an attempt to put a legal veneer on its illegal claims and actions in the South China Sea.

Experts have called it an "egregious bill" as it will create more risks and confrontations, like opening a Pandora's Box, making the situation more complex in the South China Sea.

This bill goes against the provisions of international law, including the UN Charter and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and against the spirit of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, they pointed out.

Chinese government has strongly opposes the bill and has lodged a solemn representation with the Philippine authorities. Experts warned that China's ability and determination to safeguard its sovereignty in the South China Sea should not be undervalued, and the Philippines will soon see more resolute, decisive, and powerful measures from China to defend its legal rights on the issue.

This investigative piece will expose, from various angles, why this bill does not conform to international norms, how it exacerbates the conflicts of claimant countries in the South China Sea, and why it goes against resolving the complex issues in the South China Sea.

This bill continues the recent trend of various provocations by the Philippines in the South China Sea issue and is a legal challenge launched against China. It is also the latest part of its "cognitive warfare" in attempts to tarnish China's image in the international community.
Egregious legal tool

The Philippine Senate recently approved the amendment to the Marine Zones Act in its third reading. The Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines said the bill would "codify the status and regime of the waters inside the archipelagic baselines and redefine the extent of Philippine territorial sea, including the contiguous zone," the Philippine News Agency reported.

China firmly opposes attempts by the Philippines to solidify the illegal ruling of the South China Sea arbitration through domestic legislation, which unlawfully includes China's Huangyan Dao and most of the islands and reefs in the Nansha Islands in its maritime jurisdiction, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said on Tuesday.

The move has severely violated China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea, and China has lodged solemn representation to the Philippines, the spokesperson said.

The Philippines' move is to "legalize" its illegal occupation of the South China Sea islands and reefs, and it is a wrong attempt to consolidate its illegal gains, Ding Duo, deputy director of the Institute of Maritime Law and Policy at the China Institute for South China Sea Studies, told the Global Times.

Since the 1950s, the Philippines has never relented its covetousness for islands and reefs in the South China Sea, and has adopted different means of encroachment under various disguises across different historical periods, Ding noted.

In 2009, for example, the Congress of Philippines amended "An Act to Define the Baselines of the Territorial Sea of the Philippines," which falsely claimed its sovereignty over China's Huangyan Dao and some other parts of the Nansha Islands.

In recent years, in the process of domestic legislation, the Philippines deliberately confused their illegal occupation with so-called "jurisdiction" over China's Nansha Islands, seeking to solidify its illegal claims, Ding stressed.

The expert said that manipulating "legal means" is part of the Philippines' cognitive warfare against China. A number of senior officials within the Philippine Coast Guard, National Security Council, and other departments continue to make provocative statements around this new agenda, serving their own political interests while tarnishing China's image to deceive the international community, Ding said.

The actions of ignoring reality and blindly resolving relevant disputes with unilateral legal resolutions are not applicable to the complex South China Sea issue. Such actions will only further squeeze the political space for the Philippines and China to jointly control crises and properly handle disputes, Ding noted.

This move indicates that the Philippines may further escalate its legal disputes against China in the future. This could involve proposing applications, either individually or jointly with other parties, for delineating the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles in the South China Sea. The Philippines may also seek to bypass China and engage in maritime border negotiations with other countries. Additionally, there is a possibility of initiating new international lawsuits on issues such as marine environmental protection in the South China Sea, according to the expert.

In November 2023, the Philippines has approached neighbors such as Malaysia and Vietnam to discuss a separate code of conduct regarding the South China Sea, despite the code of conduct between China and ASEAN has seen progress. Analysts are concerned that the situation of the Philippines "always turning a new page" out of its own interests may also gradually spread to the legal level.

The Philippines' bill has had limited effect in practice, but it will inevitably exacerbate the contradictions and confrontations among the countries involved in the South China Sea dispute, Lei Xiaolu, a professor of law in China Institute of Boundary and Ocean Studies, Wuhan University, told the Global Times.

Currently, China and ASEAN countries are accelerating the negotiations over the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC), and the Philippines' actions will disrupt the good atmosphere and be of no benefit to the overall peace and stability of the South China Sea, Lei underlined.

"If other countries were to emulate the Philippines by enacting domestic legislation to advance their maritime rights in a piecemeal manner, this could introduce more risks and uncertainty for resolving the South China Sea issue in the region. For example, such unilateral actions could escalate tensions in the South China Sea, leading to increased militarization, confrontation, or incidents at sea, affecting regional stability," Dai Fan, director of the Center for Philippine Studies at Jinan University, told the Global Times.

The bill has sparked some opposition within the Philippines. On social media X, a few Filipino users have expressed their concerns on this unreasonable bill. They criticized that the bill is sort of a "great cry and little wool," which can do nothing but worsen the Philippines' relations with involved countries.
Contravening international conventions

The Global Times has found that the Philippines' claim to "sovereignty" over Huangyan Dao, based on distance or the islands and reefs being located within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone, does not comply with international law, including the UNCLOS. Even the illegal ruling of the South China Sea arbitration, which the Philippines strongly supports, does not endorse the Philippines' claim.

According to the principle in international law that land dominates the sea, the land is always the basis for any claim of maritime entitlements. A coastal state should not base its claims to the sovereignty of islands and reefs on its maritime entitlements. Therefore, if the Philippines claims sovereignty over the islands and reefs simply because they are within its EEZ, it would violate that principle.

Moreover, Philippines' bill stated that "all artificial islands constructed within the Philippine EEZ shall belong to the Philippine government." However, even if there is no dispute over the sovereignty of islands and reefs, it has no basis in international law, because there is no international law that gives the Philippines ownership of those artificial features.

In accordance with Articles 80 and 60 of UNCLOS, "In the exclusive economic zone, the coastal State shall have the exclusive right to construct and to authorize and regulate the construction, operation and use of artificial islands, installations and structures." However, UNCLOS does not ensure that these artificial islands, installations and structures necessarily belong to the coastal state, according to Lei.

Chinese Foreign Ministry's Spokesperson Mao Ning stated on Tuesday that the territory of the Philippines is defined by a series of international treaties. China's Huangyan Dao and other islands and reefs of Nansha Islands are completely beyond the limits of the Philippines' territory. Its illegal occupation of a number of islands in the Nansha Islands has seriously violated international law, including the UN Charter.

Enactment of the bill is not a wise decision for the Philippines. Rigoberto Tiglao, former spokesperson and head of presidential office for former Philippine president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, said in his commentary piece in September 2023, "The very bad news is that under a Maritime Zones Law, we will lose our Kalayaan Island Group, which comprises 19 percent of our territory as currently defined."

A graphical representation on the Philippine so-called new maritime zone bill recently released by the Chinese think tank South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative (SCSPI) found that the bill effectively waived "Kalayaan's claim." This means that the Philippines has given up probably about tens of thousands of square kilometers of sea area and sovereignty over some features of the so-called Kalayaan's claim.

Philippines is pushing forward a domestic bill that interestingly relinquished its original illegal territorial claims, which they called the "Kalayaan Island Group," in the South China Sea. Experts wonder is the Philippines shooting itself in the foot with this move? Won't the Filipino people feel deceived?

Rigoberto Tiglao expressed in his commentary piece that this bill also happens to align with the US' conspiracy, which is to ensure that this sea area no longer belongs to the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines so that "the area would be indisputably international waters and therefore its warships, even those that are nuclear-armed, wouldn't need these nations' permission to pass through."

On March 5, the US State Department issued a statement on the situation in the South China Sea, smearing China's policies, exaggerating maritime friction, and declaring that they "stand with the Filipino people."

Experts say that the US is ostensibly siding with the Philippines, but is actually just using the Philippines as a pawn in a chess game to gain its own interests.

Dai believes that whether the latest versions of the so-called Marine Zones Act can ultimately be implemented, and the specific provisions will be carried out, will depend on further votes and deliberations in the Philippine House of Representatives. Considering the relatively low overall administrative efficiency in the Philippines, and the bill that this legal text will undergo negotiations between various parties internally, its implementation may be a lengthy process.

"China's ability to safeguard its sovereignty, security, and development interests in the South China Sea is now stronger than ever before, and its determination to maintain stability in the region remains unwavering. Regardless of the Philippines' efforts to manipulate the arbitration ruling, push forward domestic maritime legislation amendments, or implement any unilateral actions to impose its claims on China, the arbitration ruling will not legitimize such actions, nor will it diminish China's legitimate rights in the South China Sea under international law. The Philippines can expect China to take resolute, decisive, and powerful measures to defend its rights," Ding noted.

Australia tying itself closely to unstable and declining US is foolish: Australian author

Editor's Note:

Recently, Australian historian author John John Queripel wrote an article titled "China: learning from Canute," published on Pearls and Irritations, which gained widespread attention as the article provides a keen analysis of Western smears against China as well as Australia's relations with China and US influence therein. Global Times reporter Xie Wenting (GT) conducted an exclusive interview with John Queripel to further explore his opinions on China's development and US influence on Australia's foreign policy, among other topics.

GT: What do you believe is the future of China-Australia relations and the influence of the US in the region?

Queripel: The demise of the previous Sinophobic government under Scott Morrison and its replacement by one led by Anthony Albanese has seen a slight upturn in relations. The hostile rhetoric has been somewhat laid aside, and trade has returned to normalcy. Yet, Australia is increasingly becoming an integral part of US war planning. Those of us working for a sensible relationship between our countries are still faced with a largely hostile political climate, a media, including public broadcasters, who are vehemently anti-China, along with a security and military establishment premised on opposing China.

As for the US influence in the region, it will inevitably diminish. Nations of the region will no longer perceive it as a stabilizing influence. ASEAN represents a significant success story, founded on trade, and is committed to ensuring the region remains stable, avoiding disruption by military adventurism. Furthermore, in the US, there are strong isolationist currents. The US is likely to be squeezed out of the region anyway. Three of the world's four largest economies will soon be Asian; China, India, and Indonesia. The US will be seen as an interloper.

GT: You once said that Australia has lost its sovereignty to the US. How do you assess the influence of the "follow the US' policy" that Australia has chosen with regard to China-Australia relations? How does it harm bilateral relations and cooperation as well as Australia's own interests?

Queripel: Regarding China as an aggressive military threat to Australia is totally unrealistic. Propaganda has it that China covets Australian resources and could invade to take them. This is the madness we get in the Australian media, from some irresponsible politicians and even some of the security services.

There is nothing in China's long history, extending back almost 5,000 years, which would provide any evidence for them being an aggressive threat. China has never invaded anywhere not contiguous with its own territory. That is a peculiarly Western thing, as history shows.

Quite clearly the US has determined it can constrain China. It has set up a series of military bases in an arc around China, from South Korea, Japan, and the Philippines, to Australia. It aggressively sails its warships right up to the Chinese shores.

Australia is a part of this. Northern Australia has become heavily militarized with the presence of US forces and weaponry under the Force Posture Agreement. The aforementioned submarines are also designed to be part of US blockading of the South China Sea, something they ingeniously accuse the Chinese of doing. Why China, the world's greatest trading nation, would want to blockade trade to its own shores, no one has been able to say.

GT: Could you elaborate on the impact of China's rise on Australia and its relationship with the US?

Queripel: Australia is caught as a small player between its traditional security alliance with the US and its increasing economic dependence on China. Over 30 percent of Australia's exports go to China. Until 2017 these roles were rather complementary. At that point however, the US determined that China was not going to play its game, become like it, and seeing that, suddenly decided China would be turned from being a partner in the world economy, to being an enemy. Australia, almost as though under orders, quickly followed suit.

Australia has become increasingly pulled into being a sub-imperial power to the US. The result has been the Quad and AUKUS, even a toying with NATO. Of course all these are aggressively aimed at China. Australia is committed to spending $240 billion on a nuclear submarine program directly aimed at China. Not much of it makes logical sense. Hysterical propaganda, run even by previously reputable media, has China attacking Australia tomorrow, yet Australia has submarines on order that will take another 20 years to complete. Australia is tying itself ever more closely to an unstable and declining power. This is foolish, and against Australia's own interest.

GT: From your point of view, why do certain Western media outlets and some politicians like to hype up the claim that China's run is nearing the end? How do you assess the resilience of the Chinese economy?

Queripel: They hype it as they perceive China as a threat to them. That is the only way they can see it. For them it is a winner takes all model. A win-win model, as China is setting in place through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), is inconceivable to their eyes. The Western economic model has been, and still is, based around sucking up profits from around the world, and impoverishing nations by taking those profits and materials back to the colonial powers - the metropoles. China itself knows that well from "the century of humiliation."

Of course that is all now changing through the networks China has been at the core of. BRICS is now larger than the G7, and the gap is widening. BRI now encompasses 150 nations. The order from which the West so profited for 300 years is rapidly changing. It is not only China, but also India and Asia as a whole. To many in the West, this is threatening. It is perceived as an attack on what has seemed to be a natural order of Western domination.

I am convinced of the resilience of the Chinese economy. The government has diversified the economy, turning it from being primarily an export economy, often of cheap consumer goods, to being a circular economy increasingly based not only on exports but also internal consumption. That obviously will largely insulate it from the actions of outsiders seeking to frustrate its growth. Infrastructure is core to growth and China has developed that at a pace which leaves others in its dust. Furthermore, the organizations of which I have just spoken will ensure its resilience. China is the world's greatest trading nation. That is the reason for Western military aggression against China. Trade abhors war and loves peace. Yet, many in the West make out that it is China which is the aggressive threat. From what I just said concerning trade, that is profoundly illogical.

GT: You recently wrote the article "China: learning from Canute," in which you gave strong evidence to refute that China's collapse is imminent. What inspired you to write this article? What feedback have you received in Australia after publishing the article?

Queripel: Western media is constantly saying that the "China bubble" is about to burst and the Chinese economy is about to fall. What's strange though is, that bubble, rather than bursting, keeps getting larger. Of course as the Chinese economy has grown the stratospheric growth rates from the past of 11 and 12 percent per annum are no longer possible as the economy is growing from a higher level. Still the 5.2 percent of the past year means that the Chinese economy will double in just 14 years. In comparison that of the US is growing at 1.6 percent. Over the same time it will grow 25 percent. The math makes what is happening to our world obvious.

Since the opening up under Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese economy has grown some 40-fold. This is phenomenal! When I was young (I am 69), China was almost synonymous with "poverty." Now on the best measure Purchasing Parity Power (PPP) it is the largest economy in the world! It soon also will be in terms of nominal GDP, with 800 million lifted out of poverty. It is unbelievable. That's over 30 times the population of my country, Australia. I was recently in China and would look at people my age and wonder whether they had registered some kind of "economic shock" at the enormous change. It must be almost impossible for their grandchildren to understand the magnitude of the change.

GT: China has developed friendly relations and cooperation with many countries in the South Pacific region, including possible security cooperation. However, this cooperation has drawn criticism and has even been hindered by Australia and the US. What's your take on it?

Queripel: The connections which the Solomon Islands, in particular, developed with China almost caused an apoplectic fit in Australia. Much of it was paternalistic, alleging that the "naïve" Solomon Islanders were being manipulated by China. That type of attitude is precisely the problem that Australia has had with the Pacific. Not only Australia, but the US also. The Pacific nations have simply been regarded as "belonging to us." That has changed. Chinese interest in the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Kiribati, and Papua New Guinea, among others, has suddenly spurred a renewal of interest from both Australia and the US, who had previously left the region as a backwater for years.

I could add that Australia dragging its feet on climate change didn't help. The current leader of the opposition, Peter Dutton even made fun of Pacific Islanders being concerned about the inundation of their homes by rising ocean waters.

GT: How do you respond to critics who argue that China's rise poses significant challenges and risks to regional and global stability and security?

Queripel: I have consistently argued that China represents no threat. There are several reasons. Let's commence with history. As I have said, Chinese history shows no interest in aggressive overseas ventures. Philosophically at the core of Chinese thought is the concern for Tianxia (stability under heaven). Over the last 200 years, China has had enough instability through conquest and internal upheaval. They are unlikely to initiate such. Trade is at the heart of China's economic revival. China will not put that at risk through military adventurism. Finally, China is not a military state.

It is not China which represents a threat, but rather the US, so committed to war as a means of dealing with conflict. In that path it has been stunningly unsuccessful in the last 50 years. China is showing a different way to trade. It is building cooperative networks and supporting multilateral initiatives. Rather than a threat, China represents a new and better way of doing things.

Ex-director of Taipei Palace Museum expects to foster closer bond across Straits through shared heritage

Editor's Note:

In January 1933, with the Japanese army occupying Shanhaiguan in northeastern China, the Palace Museum in Beijing decided to relocate precious cultural relics, including bronzes, porcelain, paintings, and jade, to protect them from damage and looting. Ultimately, over 19,000 boxes of "national treasures," including those from the National Museum of Art (Guwu chenliesuo in Chinese), the Summer Palace, and the Imperial College (Guozijian in Chinese) were move from Beijing to Shanghai and southwestern provinces such as Sichuan and Guizhou. Later, some of them returned to the capital city, while some are preserving in the island of Taiwan. As they stood watch over the sea, they became a testament to the shared cultural heritage of both sides of the Straits.

This 20-year journey, spanning tens of thousands of miles, was a great feat in protecting cultural heritage during the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1931-1945) and created the largest-scale miracle in preserving cultural heritage during World War II. To commemorate the history and inherit the spirit, the Palace Museum and the National Humanities History magazine of the People's Daily co-hosted "The Long March of the National Treasures: An Exhibition Commemorating the Southward Evacuation of the Palace Museum's Artifacts."

Recently, Global Times reporters Shan Jie and Lin Xiaoyi (GT) interviewed Fung Ming-chu (Fung), historian and former director of the Taipei Palace Museum from September 2012 to May 2016, to talk about the historical echoes and inspirations of the relocation of Chinese treasures in her eyes today, as well as her hopes for the resumption of cross-Straits cultural exchanges between the Palace Museums in the face of current geopolitical challenges.
GT: From the perspective of the Taipei Palace Museum, how do you view the historical significance of the southward evacuation of cultural relics from the Palace Museum? What role does it play in deepening cultural exchanges between the two sides of the Taiwan Straits?

Fung: The historical event indeed took place, and we cannot change it. The southward evacuation of cultural relics from the Palace Museum was a direct consequence of Japan's invasion of China. The purpose of holding the exhibition today, and the purpose of the reunion of cultural preservation personnel from both sides of the Taiwan Straits is to remind us of the lessons of history and honor the efforts and sacrifices made by our predecessors.

The shared memory of historical and cultural heritage between the two sides of the Taiwan Straits is extensive, and the relocation of cultural relics from the Palace Museum represents just one prominent aspect of this shared heritage. During that time, in order to protect these treasures from the ravages of war, the relocated cultural relics included not only those from the Palace Museum, but also various precious Chinese artifacts such as rare books, historical archives, calligraphy pieces and paintings. The research and promotion of this period of history will undoubtedly have a profound impact on cultural exchanges between the two sides of the Taiwan Straits. The cultural relics from the Palace Museum finally on display in the island of Taiwan help weave a cultural bond, allowing Chinese culture to continuously flourish on the island.

The display of cultural relics in the Taipei Palace Museum serves as a platform for education and plays a crucial role in promoting the inheritance of Chinese culture in the Taiwan island. I agree with the notion that the two Palace Museums in Beijing and Taipei serve as a bridge for cross-strait cultural exchanges.
GT: What do you think the inspiration for the current cross-Straits cultural heritage protection from the spirit of the wartime relocation of the Palace Museum's relics is?

Fung: In the island of Taiwan, the Taipei Palace Museum houses a vast collection of nearly 700,000 artifacts, with over 85 percent originating from the Palace Museum in Beijing. Upon their arrival in the island, these cultural relics were stored in underground warehouses for an extended period, serving as a poignant reminder of the memories of war. At that time, the cultural relics protection personnel were afraid of Japanese air raids as a result of what had happened in the past. It was believed that bomb shelters provided a safer environment for the preservation of these invaluable treasures, which also encapsulated the people's helplessness in the situation.

Today, the cultural relics of the Taipei Palace Museum are showcased in modern warehouses. We spare no effort in ensuring the safety of these cultural relics and undertake continuous organizing, repairing, and researching endeavors. Our practices have been inherited from the original Palace Museum in Beijing.

Presently, there is a growing focus on promoting the spirit of relic relocation. We organize exhibitions and symposiums to share historical research on the relocation of the Palace Museum's cultural relics. Additionally, our predecessors have published several memoirs, offering insights into their experiences during this process. Through these accounts, we gain a profound understanding of how the previous generation of Chinese cultural preservationists regarded cultural relics as more valuable than their own lives. I firmly believe that the relocation of the Palace Museum's cultural relics and the preservation spirit of the older generation deserve our utmost respect and serve as valuable lessons for us to learn from.

GT: How can cross-Straits cultural heritage contribute to a deeper understanding and communication between the two sides? What is your assessment of the current state of talent exchange and resource sharing between the two sides?

Fung: It is crucial for younger generations to appreciate the immense efforts made by previous Chinese cultural preservationists in relocating cultural relics. In this digital era, I believe multimedia platforms can effectively disseminate this narrative. By creating an epic documentary or film that showcases the relocation of the Palace Museum's cultural relics and the resilience of Chinese history and culture; we can undoubtedly resonate with many young individuals.

However, it is unfortunate that current measures implemented by the secessionist Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authorities have poisoned primary and secondary school education. This has resulted in a weakening of cultural and historical education on the island of Taiwan. Children in the island are now unfamiliar with idioms that were once commonplace in our daily conversations.

Now, my team has more than 20 volunteers, and we have been promoting idiom story videos for two years. Through audio and video materials, we combine original texts with cultural relics from the Palace Museum and other museums to narrate these stories. The educational films we are currently promoting are broadcast every Wednesday on YouTube and WeChat. To date, we have aired more than 70 episodes, with the aim of teaching children about idioms through cultural relics. In my opinion, this endeavor holds great significance and meaning.
GT: The year 2025 marks the centennial anniversary of the establishment of the Palace Museum. What are your visions for the future development and innovation of the Palace Museums on both sides of the Taiwan Straits?

Fung: I hope that the Palace Museums on both sides can once again achieve the level of cooperation we had in 2009. In that year, when I was the deputy director of the Taipei Palace Museum, a delegation led by Taipei Palace Museum Director Chou?Kung-shin visited Beijing, which was known as the "ice-breaking trip." In the eight years following this trip, I have witnessed vibrant personnel exchanges, joint exhibitions, academic research collaborations, and publication exchanges between the Palace Museums on both sides. We have truly achieved a seamless integration.

I sincerely hope that on the occasion of the centennial anniversary of the establishment of the Palace Museum, the cultural exchanges between both sides will be restored and implemented, fostering mutual understanding and connection between the peoples.

Renowned scientists share exciting achievements, future anticipation with public at special 2024 eve event

What is the similarity between a trotting horse lamp and an aero engine? Who helped transform Beijing's air quality and sky from hazy to crystal blue? How would AI change the way we live?… Answers to these questions and more were found at a New Year's Eve Event hosted by the Beijing Association for Science and Technology (BAST) as part of the association's New Year of Science project to welcome 2024.

The BAST has hosted the New Year of Science Eve Event for several consecutive years. The event integrates science communication into festive culture to help enhance public confidence in technological self-reliance and self-improvement while creating a social atmosphere that advocates for science, Chen Weicheng, vice president of BAST, told the Global Times.

The Global Times spoke with four scientists who attended the event, learning more about their respective professional fields, experiences from decades in research and study, as well as their wishes for the future.
Wang Jingxiu: Chinese scientists strive to be the first to observe the sun's north, south poles

"The sun is an eternal challenge in the journey of human exploration," Wang Jingxiu, academician at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and researcher at the National Astronomical Observatories of the CAS (NAOC), told the audience at the New Year of Science Eve Event.

Having devoted 45 years to sun-related research, Wang has a deep understanding of the vital importance of the sun.

"The sun is the governor of the entire solar system. It created the Earth, which is the cradle of humanity. It also created the solar system, which is the habitat for humans. Studying the sun is studying the home of humanity," Wang told the Global Times.

In terms of scientific study, the sun, the closest star to Earth, is the only celestial body that allows for high temporal resolution, high spatial resolution, high spectral resolution, and high polarization measurement accuracy. Therefore, the knowledge accumulated from studying the sun has guided the entire human exploration of the universe.

After decades of development, solar physics research in China is at a leading juncture internationally. China's advantage lies in the study of solar activity and solar magnetic fields, but there is still a certain gap in solar internal structure research.

In fact, China's solar research has developed rapidly. In the 1960s, China created the world's best solar magnetograph, the Huairou Solar Magnetic Field Telescope, which marked a new beginning for solar research in China. In the field of ground-based solar magnetic field and velocity field imaging observations, especially in the research of vector magnetic field observations, China is a world leader.

Wang recalled that in 1999, using this telescope, Deng Yuanyong, currently director of the NAOC Huairou Solar Observing Station, Chinese academician Ai Guoxiang, and himself became the first in the world to measure the vector magnetic field in the solar polar region.

China ushered in a new era of solar exploration in 2021 with the successful launch of China's first solar exploration scientific experimental satellite, the Xihe. The satellite allows us to conduct detailed research on the rotation of the sun and the dynamics of solar eruption source regions. About a year later, China launched its first comprehensive solar exploration satellite, Kuafu, furthering the country's scientific endeavor to unravel the secrets of the sun.

Xihe is the name of the sun goddess in ancient Chinese mythology and Kuafu is a giant in Chinese mythology, who indefatigably chased the sun. With Xihe and Kuafu joining forces, "China has spread the romance of Chinese astronomy to space in its own way," Wang said.

Looking forward to the long-term study of the sun, Wang hopes that Chinese scientists will become the first to observe the north and south poles of the sun to measure the magnetic field and activities there.

"In solar observations, what has not been directly observed so far are the north and south poles of the sun. The importance of these poles goes beyond our imagination. Therefore, Chinese scholars want to do something that other countries have not done yet and assume a leading role in the study of the sun in the world," he said.

He also stressed the necessity of developing the scientific payload of China's probes to obtain more accurate data, which is crucial for solar exploration.
Xiao Long: The first human landing on Mars will occur in around 2050

Xiao Long, a planetary geoscientist at the China University of Geosciences (Wuhan), estimates that the first human landing on Mars will occur in around 2050.

We no longer face any significant technological barriers in unmanned missions to Mars, but still have difficulty in completing manned missions, which require larger rockets with greater thrust and the technology to safely return from Mars to Earth, Xiao said in an exclusive interview with the Global Times.

He noted that both the US and China are currently developing heavy launch vehicles. The technology for a safe return from Mars is expected to be preliminarily validated by around 2030.

"In addition, there is also a significant amount of work to be done regarding the physiological and psychological issues faced by astronauts during the interstellar long-distance journey, which would last at least 500 days," he said.

Xiao started his career in planetary geology research exactly 20 years ago when China kicked off its Chang'e lunar exploration program [in 2004]. Before that, he focused on Earth studies.

Mars shares many similarities with Earth and holds special significance in our understanding of the formation and evolution of planets and the solar system, as well as the search for extraterrestrial life, Xiao continued.

To Xiao, the ultimate goal of Mars studies is to scientifically elucidate the formation and evolution process of Mars from its early stages to the present and into the future, find out the driving factors behind the process, and discover whether life exists on the planet.

From an application perspective, scientists like Xiao are also trying to figure out whether Mars can become a second home for humans. "Short-term visits or immigration to Mars are possible for some individuals and are likely to be realized within this century. However, it is impossible for the entire human population to migrate to Mars," Xiao said.

Xiao shared with the audience at the New Year's Eve event held by the BAST how his team analyzed scientific data from China's Mars rover Zhurong's multispectral camera and for the first time found petrological evidence of marine sedimentary rocks on the surface of Mars.

"We analyzed the 106 groups of photos from Zhurong daily, trying our best to look for a tale-tell signature of the existence of an ocean on Mars. But before finding any evidence, my teammates and I started to have similar dreams about oceans on Mars. In my dream, the ocean on Mars was restored and was surrounded by lush and dense forests. I could even identify each type of vegetation in the forests," Xiao told the audience.

"It is not rare for people to dream of things that are on their minds during the day. But for scientists, it could be a problem as we have to stay objective throughout the research and prevent our subjective interpretation from getting in the way," Xiao said. He and his teammates kept reminding each other to stay cautious and realistic until evidence waw found.

"This case clearly illustrates how we do science research. We have to stay grounded while looking up to the sea of stars," Xiao said.

Xiao also shared a global image map, created by China's Tianwen-1 Mars probe using data captured by a medium-resolution camera at the event. He said that the image has a spatial resolution of 76 meters, making it the highest-resolution global color image of Mars publicly available to date. This image also demonstrates that China's Mars exploration capabilities have reached a high level, he noted.

Currently, humans have conducted nearly 50 Mars explorations, and our understanding of the macroscopic topography and geomorphological features of Mars is relatively clear. However, exploration is still ongoing regarding the early Martian atmosphere, climate, geological environment, magnetic field evolution, and whether conditions for the creation of life exist. China has successfully achieved its first Mars exploration, accomplishing the three major objectives of orbiting, landing, and rover exploration in this single mission. China is the first country to have accomplished this in the history of Mars exploration and the second country globally to have completed a similar mission, according to Xiao.

Stepping into 2024, Xiao hopes China can continue to make progress in lunar, Mars, and asteroid exploration missions. "We hope that the Tianwen-1 satellite will return more high-quality data, and that the Zhurong rover will be able to continue its work. We also hope that the Tianwen-2 asteroid sample return mission will be implemented on schedule, and that the Tianwen-3 Mars sample return mission will be approved as soon as possible," he told the Global Times.
Pan Weimin: China's first high-energy synchrotron radiation facility to be lit in 2024

As the last magnet of China's High Energy Photon Source (HEPS) was successfully installed in the Huairou Science City in Beijing on December 11, 2023, the first step of the HEPS storage ring installation was officially completed. The HEPS, after completion, will stand as one of the brightest synchrotron radiation (SR) sources in the world and the first high-energy synchrotron radiation facility in China.

Pan Weimin, the chief manager of the HEPS project, along with the audience, toured the HEPS project via video footage at the New Year of Science Eve Event, demonstrating an important development in China's high-tech fields.

"The HEPS, once completed, will become one of the brightest synchrotron radiation light sources in the world. This will underline that China has become one of the frontrunners in the field of X-ray-based forms of research," Pan told the Global Times.

The HEPS is designed with the capacity to emit X-ray beams that are a trillion times brighter than those of the sun. From an aerial view, the HEPS consists of three main buildings, with an overall shape resembling a magnifying glass, symbolizing "a tool for exploring the microscopic world."

Pan introduced that the HEPS has the characteristics of high energy, high brightness, and high repetition frequency, which means scientists can observe the deep internal structures of microscopic substances more clearly and characterize the microscopic structures in multiple dimensions, real-time, and in situ.

The photon source is scheduled to accelerate the storage ring in July 2024, and emit its first SR light by the end of the year. The quality of the SR X-ray will be continuously improved to reach its design specifications from then on, according to Pan.

Once completed, HEPS will be one of the world's top five high-energy SR light sources and one of the few fourth-generation SR light sources. "This would greatly enhance China's scientific and technological status and promote technological innovation in fields related to people's livelihoods such as life sciences and energy," Pan said.

At the same time, as an open user facility, the HEPS will also attract more scientists from all over the world to conduct SR-based research projects, and pave the way for ground-breaking research, Pan noted.

The brighter light source requires more advanced technologies. The HEPS is mainly comprised of an electron accelerator complex and beamlines. The electron accelerator complex includes a linear accelerator, booster, and storage ring. Among them, the storage ring is the core part of the light source, producing a bright SR beam and requiring greater advancements in technologies.

With a circumference of approximately 1,360 meters, the storage ring contains more than 1,700 high-precision magnets and other important accelerator elements. It is required that the alignment errors of most of these elements must be controlled within 50 micrometers, which is less than the diameter of the human hair over such a large scale, according to Pan.

More than 500 researchers have been involved in the HEPS project, which consists of multiple disciplines such as magnets, vacuum, power supply, mechanics, and X-ray optics and detection. How to integrate various technologies and let talents from various disciplines collaborate with each other are the keys to realizing a large-scale scientific project such as HEPS, Pan noted.

"It is the golden age of science. Participating in the construction of such a large-scale scientific facility is not only an honor for a scientist, but also an opportunity to exercise, improve, and showcase oneself, especially for young scientists," he said.
Liu Daxiang: Aviation engine is the heart of aviation industry

"The trotting horse lamp happens to be the initial prototype for the jet engine!" At the 2024 New Year of Science Eve Event, Liu Daxiang, renowned Chinese aviation power expert, academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, and professor at the Beihang University, dismantled the carousel lantern while vividly explaining to the children present at the event that the working principle of the carousel lantern is similar to that of modern gas turbines, both of which generate thrust based on the rising of hot air.

"The aviation engine is the heart of the aviation industry. Only a few countries in the world have the technical level to develop aviation engines, and even fewer have reached the top level. Due to technological blockades and a lack of core technology, China has made slow progress in independently developing aviation engines in the past," Liu said.

It wasn't until May 28, 2023, when the domestically produced large aircraft C919 made its first commercial voyage, making this a significant day in the history of Chinese civil aviation.

"I am turning 87 years old this year, and I have been dealing with aircraft engines for more than 60 years. During these 60 years, I spent half of the time in the mountains," Liu recalled.

For the independent research and development of aviation engines, the high-altitude test bench is imperative. The high-altitude test bench is a large-scale device that simulates the flight state and environmental conditions of aircraft engines in the air, and conducts high-altitude simulation tests on the engine as a whole and the engine's components.

The 30 years Liu spent in the deep mountains were exclusively devoted to China building its own high-altitude test bench.

At the end of 1995, China's first high-altitude test bench was delivered to relevant authorities for approval. The bench's test technology and measurement accuracy met the international threshold. It was hailed as the "first in Asia" and has completed tests for more than 20 engine models in China. It made China the fifth country after the US, Russia, the UK, and France to have a high-altitude test bench of similar scale.

"Achievement is not made overnight, but through long and endless perseverance," Liu said.

Close ties between Russia and China are crucial for global and regional stability: Russian envoy

Editor's Note:

The political trust between China and Russia has been steadily strengthened over the years, leading to close strategic coordination and a significant increase in bilateral trade volume. After a year serving as the Russian Ambassador to China, what are the biggest impressions that Igor Morgulov has had during his time in China? In what areas have bilateral relations between China and Russia made significant progress? Global Times reporters Xie Wenting and Bai Yunyi (GT) spoke with the Russian Ambassador to China on these and other topics.

GT: You have been in China for a year now. What has your experience working in China over the last year been? What have your biggest impressions been during your time in China?

Morgulov: China is an amazing country. Time seems to pass by quickly here. In the last year, many important events have taken place, making time fly by.

I was particularly impressed by how quickly China overcame the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and accelerated the recovery of its national economy. I witnessed the Chinese government implementing decisive and consistent measures to promote the restructuring of the national economic mechanism and propel it toward intensive development.

In terms of the bilateral agenda, the most significant events undoubtedly revolved around the reciprocal visits between the leaders of China and Russia. In March this year, President Xi Jinping paid a state visit to Russia. In October, President Vladimir Putin attended the Third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF III). The two heads of state held meetings. As a result of these contacts, the main paths for further development of the bilateral ties were outlined.

Looking back at cultural exchanges, we cannot ignore the Ninth China-Russia Youth Games held in Chongqing in May under the framework of the China-Russia Sports Exchange Year. Additionally, in June, the world-renowned Mariinsky Theatre Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Valery Gergiev, and the Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Vladimir Fedoseyev, performed on a specially-assembled stage at the foot of the Great Wall. This extraordinary performance left a deep impression on those in attendance.

GT: How do you evaluate the current relationship between China and Russia? Over the last year, in which areas do you think China-Russia relations have made significant progress? Has mutual trust between China and Russia been affected by geopolitical and international changes?

Morgulov: The Russia-China comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era is currently at an unprecedentedly high level and continues to develop. The relationship between the two countries is mature, sustainable, and characterized by a high level of mutual trust, respect, consideration of each other's fundamental interests and mutual support. Both Russia and China are major world powers with strong and continuously growing comprehensive national strength, as well as holding immense potential in the economic and technological fields. Most importantly, I believe, both countries have an abundance of human resources - we have talents in various fields.

The strengthening of the Russia-China partnership has attracted attention from the international community. Sometimes, some ill-intentioned individuals deliberately hype up the Russia-China relationship and fabricate the theory of a threat posed by the growing cooperation between Russia and China.

Any rational person can recognize that the close ties between Russia and China are crucial for global and regional stability. The leaders of both countries have repeatedly emphasized that Russia-China relations are not directed against any third party, and are not a political-military alliance. In many aspects, our cooperation has already surpassed traditional such alliances, enabling both countries to respond to various challenges in a more flexible and efficient manner. The stable and consistent relationship between the two countries allows both sides to continuously promote mutually beneficial cooperation in various fields while strictly safeguarding their own interests, benefiting the people of both countries.

Another cornerstone of cooperation between Russia and China is their similar, and even identical, positions on many international and regional issues. Both countries advocate for a more representative and democratic international order that takes into account the interests of all countries.

This principled stance has received widespread support from the majority of countries around the world, but it has also triggered "allergies" in some Western countries that are unwilling to accept the established fact that their own hegemony is diminishing. It is evident that both Russia and China are ready to engage in pragmatic and mutually beneficial cooperation with any country willing to engage in equal dialogue.

Currently, the geopolitical landscape is undergoing significant changes. Against this backdrop, Russia and China have successfully demonstrated to the world that their partnership remains unbreakable, even in the face of escalating conflicts and confrontations on the international stage. The level of mutual trust between the two countries has been enhanced. Russia and China have confirmed their strategic choice to further deepen cooperation, regardless of any unfavorable external factors they may encounter.

Today, we can confidently say that we have successfully passed the test to the stability of Russia-China relations. In practice, this is reflected in stable bilateral trade with growth rates reaching double digits, a significant increase in the proportion of settlements in local currencies in bilateral trade, and the continuous enhancement of cooperation in various fields, despite extortion by and threats from our opponents. There is no doubt that this positive trend will continue to develop.

GT: Do you believe that China and Russia have created a "new paradigm" for major power relations in the world? What does this mean for the current international order?

Morgulov: I believe that the Russia-China relationship is a model of cooperation between major powers in the 21st century.

Both Russia and China are large countries with unique histories and rich cultural heritages. At the same time, both countries independently decide their own development paths and defend true sovereignty - these are the core values that both countries uphold.

These basic principles apply to various areas of the extensive bilateral cooperation between our two countries. Based on this foundation, the Russia-China comprehensive strategic partnership is continuously being strengthened.

Moscow and Beijing closely coordinate their efforts on the world stage. We adhere to a policy of sovereign diplomacy, defend the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, and support the principle of upholding international law. This has resonated with the majority of countries in the international community. We will continue to closely coordinate our diplomatic positions in order to promote the construction of a more just and democratic world order based on the diversity of cultures and civilizations, and the interests of all parties.

GT: In which areas do Russia and China expect to strengthen cooperation in the future?

Morgulov: In terms of pragmatic cooperation, despite the complex geopolitical situation, economic and trade relations between Russia and China continue to show strong momentum. From January to October 2023, bilateral trade volume exceeded $196 billion, a year-on-year increase of 27.7 percent. We have every reason to believe that this year, the bilateral trade volume will surpass the baseline target of $200 billion set by the two heads of state.

As is well known, energy is the "locomotive" of Russia-China economic and trade cooperation. We know that China attaches great importance to energy security and intends to further strengthen cooperation with Russia because our country is a reliable energy supplier.

Russia is a leader in exporting crude oil, coal, natural gas, and liquefied natural gas to the Chinese market. In addition, energy cooperation between the two countries is not limited to raw material trade but also involves the joint implementation of large-scale industrial and infrastructure projects, such as liquefied natural gas production, gas pipeline construction, oil and gas field development and exploration, the peaceful use of nuclear energy and natural gas chemical products. This work is of strategic significance as it lays the foundation for energy cooperation in the coming decades.

At the same time, we have noticed that there is enormous growth potential in the supply of Russian agricultural products to China. We see high demand in China for Russian seafood, meat, grains, and oil plants.

Furthermore, Russia also has vast development opportunities in increasing the exportation of minerals, various metals and metal products, pulp and paper products, and chemical products such as fertilizers to China. On the other hand, China is increasing its exports of computer equipment, mobile phones, and various types of vehicles, including cars, trucks, buses, special vehicles, and their components to Russia. We have noticed that Chinese partners are interested in investing in Russia and cooperating with Russian operators in the automotive and other industrial sectors.

We will continue to make unremitting efforts with our Chinese friends to deepen practical cooperation in various fields. In this context, it is of great significance to carry out systematic work in accordance with the development direction clearly stated in the Joint Statement of the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China on Deepening the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership of Coordination for the New Era.

GT: We have noticed that some Western media outlets have suggested that Russia is maintaining a "cautious stance" regarding China's collaboration with Central Asian countries under the BRI. How do you view this narrative?

Morgulov: We hold a positive attitude toward the development of equal and mutually beneficial cooperation among all members of the international community, especially China and Central Asian countries that are friendly to Russia. We believe that strengthening cooperation between China and Central Asian countries in various fields is an important factor in maintaining regional stability and stimulating economic growth. The security, stability, and well-being of Central Asian countries are in the interests of both Russia and China. We are willing to enhance mutual coordination and support Central Asian countries in defending their sovereignty and national development. We will never accept external interference in regional affairs or the introduction of "color revolutions."

China's approach to developing cooperation with Central Asian countries is in stark contrast to the policies of the US and its allies. We have noticed that the US and the West are attempting to pressure Central Asian countries using the old methods, which goes against the principle of non-interference in the affairs of sovereign states. The West's attempt to view cooperation with Central Asian countries from the perspective of promoting anti-Russia and anti-China agendas is unacceptable. This completely differs from our approach.

We believe that cooperation between China and Central Asian countries will play an important role in promoting alignment and collaboration between the Eurasian Economic Union and the BRI, and is also in line with President Putin's initiative to establish a "Greater Eurasian Partnership."

GT: Has Russia adjusted its foreign policy focus in the last two years? Some voices suggest that, to counter Western sanctions and diplomatic isolation, Russia is seeking to increase cooperation with Asia-Pacific countries and play a more important role in the Asia-Pacific region, such as conducting joint exercises with many Asia-Pacific countries. Do you agree with this viewpoint?

Morgulov: Some people believe that due to the deterioration of relations with the West, Russia is turning toward the East. I completely disagree with this view. Russia has always been an integral part of the Asia-Pacific region. When formulating its foreign, economic, and investment policies, Russia has always taken into account the significant advantages of this direction.

Over the years, Russia has engaged in extensive cooperation with countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Russia holds an important position in the foreign policies of these countries, many of which are Russia's key strategic partners.

We are strengthening cooperation through existing multilateral mechanisms. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is a core element of the Asia-Pacific regional architecture. 2024 will mark the fifth year since the establishment of a strategic partnership between Russia and the ASEAN. Russia actively participates in various activities led by the ASEAN. Thanks to these efforts, we have laid the necessary foundation for further development of multi-field cooperation with the Asia-Pacific region and will continue to strengthen multi-level contacts with countries in this region based on this foundation.

Green tales: Vivid stories shared by People's Daily representative at Global Media Congress embody China's practice of ecological civilization construction

Editor's Note:

Under the guidance of Chinese President Xi Jinping, China has seen historic changes in ecological conservation, upholding the belief that lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets, a core concept of Xi's Thought on Ecological Civilization. 

In the practice of ecological civilization construction, there are numerous vivid examples, whether in the battles for blue skies, clean waters, and green forests, as well as wildlife protection. Many touching stories have emerged from these practices.

On November 14, at the Global Media Congress held in Abu Dhabi, the UAE, a representative from the People's Daily shared the newspaper's reports on ecological civilization, which sparked enthusiastic responses from the audience. Particularly attention-grabbing were three stories, which not only deeply impressed the audience with informative details and poetic writing, but also showcased a microcosm of China's construction of ecological civilization, as well as the power of the media in the process. 

The three stories narrated how a village achieved a win-win outcome for both the economy and the environment through ecological protection and sustainable development, underscored the necessity of every individual becoming a protector, builder, and beneficiary of the environment, and demonstrated how systematic and scientific environmental protection work and media promotion can lead to significant transformations.

In recent years, the People's Daily has been committed to telling China's ecological stories and showcasing the achievements of China's ecological civilization construction. As efforts to strengthen ecological civilization construction continue, and as progress is steadily made toward achieving dual carbon goals, more such ecological cases are expected to emerge. These cases will become vibrant stories in the new era, underlining the country's commitment and advancements in environmental sustainability.

First Story: A village's transformation

Yucun village is located in Anji county of East China's Zhejiang Province. The village was plagued by pollution and safety issues more than 20 years ago, as people there blew up mountains for mining purposes and built cement factories, which filled the sky with smoke and dust, and made streams cloudy.

In 2003, Xi Jinping, who was the then secretary of the Zhejiang Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), launched the "Thousand Villages Demonstration and Ten Thousand Villages Renovation" project for better green development. After the implementation of this project, Yucun village made up its mind to shut down its polluted mines and cement factories.

How could Yucun village then be further developed? In August 2005, Xi proposed that "clear waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets," during a visit to Yucun. Yucun implemented this concept and started making efforts in greening and beautifying the village. It gradually developed into a tourist destination with beautiful scenery all year round, and was included in a list of 44 villages from 32 countries termed the "Best Tourism Villages" by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

From "selling stones (mineral products)" to "selling scenery," the clear waters and verdant mountains have become a source of income for the villagers of Yucun. Yucun village received 700,000 tourists in 2022, and the per capita income of the local villagers reached 64,000 yuan ($8,780).

Fifteen years later, President Xi revisited Yucun village in March 2020 during an inspection trip to Zhejiang. Seeing the changes there along the way, he said that the development of Yucun proves that green development is the right path, which should be carried on into the future.

Great changes have taken place in many villages in China including Yucun. The "Thousand Villages Demonstration and Ten Thousand Villages Renovation" project, which has resulted in thousands of beautiful villages and benefited lots of Chinese farmers through its green development concept, was awarded the Champion of the Earth award, the UN's highest environmental honor.

"Clear waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets" has become a broad consensus in today's China. In the new era, China has accelerated the transformation of its development mode into a green and low-carbon one, optimizing its industrial and energy structures, and advocated a green and low-carbon lifestyle. Today, China ranks first in the world in the scale of renewable energy development and utilization, and in the production and sales of new energy vehicles.

The story of Yuncun village demonstrates that to protect the environment is to protect productive forces, and to improve the environment is to develop productive forces, said the People's Daily representative.

To promote ecological civilization, we must scientifically grasp the dialectical unity between development and protection, and firmly establish and practice the concept that "clear waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets," said the representative.

Also, to do a good job in covering China's ecological civilization, Chinese journalists must adhere to Xi Jinping's Thought on Ecological Civilization as a guide and stand from the height of harmonious coexistence between man and nature, the representative added.

Second Story: Blue sky diary

Wang Ruchun, a 78-year-old retired worker in Shijiazhuang, North China's Hebei Province, is a shutterbug. Wang had been photographing the same piece of sky every morning since New Year's Day in 2014.

But why is he so obsessed with photographing the sky? In the earlier years, some areas in northern China were frequently plagued by large-scale and severe haze in autumn and winter, and the fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) became a major concern for people.

"At that time, I rarely captured the blue skies and white clouds in my camera," Wang recalled. "After the Chinese government launched the Three-Year Action Plan for Winning the Blue Sky Defense Battle, there were more and more blue skies."

A set of data echoed Wang's "sky dairy." The number of good air quality days in 2013 was only 43, but it increased to 234 in 2022.

People's Daily reporters covered and followed up on Wang's story, a vivid example showcasing the continuous improvement of China's air quality and environment. On June 5, 2022, the World Environment Day that year, the People's Daily released a multimedia story titled "Sky Diary: 3,000 photos record improvements to air quality in northern Chinese city of Shijiazhuang." The story became a hot search topic on social media, with many of Chinese netizens sharing photos of the blue skies of their hometowns.

In a response to netizens' demands, the People's Daily and Chinese Ministry of Ecology and Environment jointly launched a photography activity that invited Chinese netizens to take more photos of the blue skies of their hometowns. The activity received more than 300 million views.

As a netizen commented, where there is effort, there will be returns. Blue skies and white clouds don't lie. A set of convincing data released by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment showed that China has become the fastest country in the world to improve air quality. In 2022, 86.5 percent of the days in Chinese cities at prefecture level and above registered good air quality, and the number of days with heavy pollution fell to less than 1 percent for the first time.

In China, "the environment is the people's livelihood, the greenery of the mountains is beauty, and the blue sky is happiness" has become a societal consensus.

The sky diary story affirms that a good ecological environment is indispensable to the conservation of people's livelihoods. The construction of ecological civilization can best bring a sense of direct benefit to the people, and when the environment is improved, people have a more profound lived experience.

It's necessary to let everyone become the protector, builder, and beneficiary of the ecological environment in the process of promoting ecological civilization, said the People's Daily representative.

To do a good job in ecological civilization reporting, Chinese journalists must tell the stories of people excellently and share the sense of direct benefit among ordinary people, so that the broader audience can resonate, the representative noted.

Third Story: A sea of forests

The story of Saihanba is now well known throughout China, but once it was unfamiliar to most. This inspiring tale of decades of silent toil and guardianship over a forest became known to the world through a series of reports by the People's Daily.

The Saihanba Mechanized Forest Farm, located more than 400 kilometers from China's capital Beijing in the northernmost part of Hebei Province, was established in 1962. At that time, it was a desert wasteland, where "yellow sand hid the sun, and birds had no trees to perch on," with the average annual snow cover lasting seven months.

Chen Yanxian, now an octogenarian, represents the first generation of foresters. She recalled: "When we first arrived in Saihanba, we ate dark bread and drank water from melted snow, and I cannot count the number of difficulties we overcame."

Year after year, with generation after generation of steadfast commitment, Saihanba eventually became a man-made forest spanning a million acres, the largest of its kind in the world, creating a miraculous transformation from barren land to lush forest.
However, not many were aware of the touching story of the Saihanba farm. Upon discovering this lead, the People's Daily dispatched journalists for in-depth exploration and focused reporting.

From frontpage stories to key commentaries, from visual specials to integrated media products, and even a published book titled Beautiful Saihanba, the People's Daily told the remarkable story of Saihanba from all angles and perspectives.

On August 4, 2017, the newspaper published a front-page headline article "Saihanba: An Example of Ecological Civilization Construction," which stated, "Plants and trees do not speak, but walking in Saihanba, every blade of grass and tree reminds us: There is no substitute for the ecological environment, unnoticed when present, but sorely missed when lost… Mountains and rivers do not talk, but walking in Saihanba, every hill and stream tells us: Lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets; they are gold and silver mountains in themselves."

An editorial published that same day mentioned that the half-century of glorious achievements of Saihanba is a vivid microcosm of green development and a classic example of ecological civilization construction.

The commentator's observation on that day also concluded that "time will not fail anyone. The story of Saihanba tells us that as long as we can sow the seeds and see the roots, we can ultimately build firm ecological barriers and write green legends."

Today, the miracle created by the people of Saihanba is widely celebrated, having received the United Nations' highest environmental honor, the "Champion of the Earth" award in 2017.
In August 2021, President Xi went on an inspection tour of Saihanba. Speaking with staff representatives of the farm, Xi praised generations of workers there for embodying the Saihanba Spirit through concrete actions. The Saihanba Spirit emphasizes staying true to the original aspiration, being hardworking and enterprising, and pursuing green development.

The story of Saihanba is just a microcosm of China's efforts to restore its ecosystems. Over the last decade, China has planted 10.2 billion acres of trees. About one-quarter of the global increase in green area since the beginning of this century comes from China.

The Saihanba story teaches us that advancing ecological civilization construction depends not only on material strength but also on spiritual power. To properly report on ecological civilization, it is essential to elucidate the scientific method of coordinating the management of mountains, rivers, forests, fields, lakes, grasslands, and sands, to apply a systematic approach, and to master the combination of integrated reporting techniques, the representative said.

Happy lives of Yumai residents show how China's border regions have dramatically developed

Yumai used to be a township with only one family of three people.

The small village in Lhunze county, Shannan Prefecture, Southwest China's Xizang Autonomous Region, used to be the smallest township population-wise in China.

Nowadays, thanks to improved transportation and infrastructure, the remote area has undergone a transformation. The streets and alleys are clean and tidy, with two-story Tibetan-style buildings that show elegance and charm at the foot of a mix of green and snow mountains.

Today, over 200 residents call this place home. They run a variety of businesses, including shops, restaurants, family inns, and teahouses. Local people wear confident and proud expressions on their faces as they warmly welcome visitors.

Yumai has become the epitome of how China's border regions have dramatically developed.

The story of Yumai begins with the family of three: Sangye Chopa, the household's father; and his daughters Drolkar and Yangzom. Sangye Chopa was the first head of the township.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Yumai, with its harsh natural conditions and extremely poor transportation, presented a formidable challenge. In 1964, Sangye Chopa, along with his wife and daughters, embarked on a challenging journey, crossing snowy mountains with a herd of cattle, to settle in Yumai.

Today, next to the Yumai township government, the Sangye Chopa Residence Memorial Hall faithfully recreates the poor living conditions of this family back in the day when they had to dry firewood in the damp and cold environment of Yumai.

Between 1964 and 1996, the Sangye Chopa family was the only household in this vast territory of Yumai. For over half a century, this father and his two daughters guarded thousands of square kilometers of the motherland. The national flag they sewed by hand flew proudly in the remote southwestern regions of China.

Yumai's development has never ceased. In 1996, the first group of resettlement families arrived in Yumai, consisting of two households made up of 11 individuals.

In 2001, before Sangye Chopa passed away, a road leading to Yumai was finally completed, ending the township's history of no road access, and the first car entered the town. In 2003, Yumai had its first telephone.

In 2017, through a reply letter, Chinese President Xi Jinping encouraged the family of Drolkar and Yangzom, to set down roots in the border area, safeguard the Chinese territory and develop their hometown. Xi hoped that the family would motivate more herders to set down roots in the border area "like galsang flowers," and become guardians of the Chinese territory and constructors of a happy hometown.

In 2019, Yumai was officially designated as a model township for achieving happiness, beauty, and a comfortable life. In April of the same year, a new group of resettlement households arrived in Yumai, increasing the population to 56 households for a total of 191 individuals. On July 3, 2020, a new road leading to Yumai was completed, putting an end to the township's history of being cut off by heavy snow for over six months of the year.

Currently, there are more than 230 people in 67 households living in Yumai township, and its infrastructure, including the electricity grid, roads, 5G network, medical care and financial services facilities, have all been improved.

The giant red slogan on the hillside that reads "Home is Yumai, country is China" is now the most famous landmark in Yumai. These were the words once spoken by Sangye Chopa, and now represents the spirit of people guarding Yumai.

"When I was young, my only playmate was my grandpa Sangye Chopa," Yangzom's son, Sonam Dondrup recalled while taking with the Global Times on Wednesday. "I never imagined life in Yumai could be like this today, nor had my grandpa."

"To me, the biggest change is school. I used to cross two mountains to go to school, which would take me three days," Sonam Dondrup said. "But now, children go to kindergarten right in our town, a couple of steps from home."

At the school in Yumai, the Global Times reporters observed several children playing on the slides and chasing each other in a warm, spacious, and brightly colored playground enclosed by glass walls. Upstairs, in a second-grade classroom with only six students, children were learning a Tibetan pop song expressing gratitude to their parents.

Pedma Tsamjo moved to Yumai in 2019. He runs a family hotel with his wife. "In border regions there are good policies for residents, that was why we moved here," in the cozy, well-decorated living room, Pedma Tsamjo told the Global Times, adding that all the subsidies combined for each adult amount to 30,000 yuan ($4,651) per year.

Pedma Tsamjo's family was sitting around the fireplace, watching martial arts dramas on a smart television, while his child slept beside them. In another year, she will also be able to attend the nearby kindergarten.

In 2022, the per capita annual income in Yumai township reached nearly 44,000 yuan, and the average living space per person was 40 square meters, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Since 2012, border villages, townships, and counties in Xizang region have benefited from more preferential policies for infrastructure construction, covering water, electricity, roads, and housing, according to the white paper, Tibet Since 1951: Liberation, Development, and Prosperity, published by China's State Council Information Office in May 2021.

China's unemployment rate for youth aged 16-24 stands at 15.3% in February

China's youth unemployment rate came in at 15.3 percent in February, rising 0.7 percentage points over a month earlier, according to latest data published by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on Wednesday.

According to the NBS, the jobless rate for the age group from 25 to 29 (excluding students) was 6.4 percent in February, while the jobless rate for the age group from 30 to 59 was 4.2 percent.

Starting from December, the NBS resumed the release of youth unemployment rates after a suspension caused by the NBS' adjustment of labor survey modeling and methods of statistics to better reflect the country's employment situation.

China's employment remains basically stable in the first two months of 2024, with the survey urban unemployment rate averaging at 5.3 percent, official data showed on Monday.

Currently, favorable factors for stabilizing the employment market continue to accumulate, Liu Aihua, a spokesperson from the NBS, said at a press conference on Monday.

Along with the sustained recovery of the Chinese economy, especially the services sector, and the accelerated transition of new and old growth momentums, new industries including digital economy, green economy and silver economy will continue to provide support for urban employment, Liu said.

China-Angola economic, trade ties boom amid presidential visit, injecting confidence for more cooperation

China-Angola economic and trade ties have entered a new stage with vast areas of cooperation to explore, ranging from oil and gas to manufacturing and trading for win-win outcomes, Chinese and Angolan businesspeople told the Global Times at a high-level business forum on Saturday.

The remarks came amid the state visit of the President of Angola Joao Lourenco to China from Thursday to Sunday, as the two countries announced the elevation of bilateral relations to a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership, charting a course for even brighter economic and trade cooperation.

During the presidential visit, a two-day business forum was held on Saturday and Sunday, focusing on deepening bilateral cooperation in core areas such as energy and mining among other sectors, drawing the participation of hundreds of government officials and business representatives from both sides.

At Saturday's event, Lourenco said that the presence of Chinese enterprises in Angola is significant and cannot be overlooked. He welcomes more Chinese companies to come to invest in Angola.

The president also noted good examples of bilateral cooperation, including projects such as the construction of the new Luanda Airport by Chinese firms, in addition to road, railway and hydroelectric power projects.

Angola hopes to attract more Chinese investors who can bring capital and technology as well as expertise to enhance production efficiency, while assisting Angola in achieving economic diversification, Lourenco said.

The positive and warm atmosphere of bilateral economic cooperation has sent a very positive message to businesses.

Companies from both sides expressed their eagerness to tap into the greater potential for economic and trade cooperation as bilateral ties get stronger.

Manuel Francisco Pedro, chairman of the board of directors of the Luanda-Bengo Special Economic Zone in the capital city of Luanda, told the Global Times that more Chinese companies are coming to Angola to invest these days.

"Last year, we approved 17 new Chinese projects in our economic zone. Now, we have about 25 Chinese companies in total that are involved in wide range of fields," Pedro said.

"So far, we have about $3 billion worth of investment from Chinese companies, and we are here to attract more investment from businesses of all sectors," Pedro said.

"I believe that as our bilateral relationship has come to this high level, it opens more opportunities for businesses and investment," said Pedro, who has visited China many times.

Chinese companies are equally enthused about the reinforced bonds underscored by the high-level visit and eagerly anticipate capitalizing on this opportune moment to tap into the potential in the deeply complementary relationship between China and Angola.

The leaders of the two countries signed a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership, which means that bilateral cooperation in various fields will be even stronger, which is very beneficial for Chinese nationals and enterprises in Angola, Huang Yuequan, a vice president of the Angola-China Chamber of Commerce, told the Global Times at the forum.

The Angolan government strongly encourages Chinese investment, primarily focusing on the mineral and energy sectors, which offer broad prospects. Additionally, cooperation in agriculture holds great potential, as Angola has relatively undeveloped agricultural resources compared with China's mature industry, Huang said.

More Chinese companies are coming to the African country for investment, which is reflected in the current situation in the Chinatown. The Chinatown is now fully saturated with companies mostly from China. In response to the growing expansion of investors, the construction of a new commercial zone is in progress, which will be three times larger than the current Chinatown, according to Huang, who is also a shareholder of the Chinatown in Luanda,.

"In addition to the huge market potential in Angola, the country can be a stepping stone for foreign businesses extending to other neighboring countries in Africa," said Huang.

Dongying Ruifeng Petroleum Technology Development Co is exploring an entry into the Angolan market. The company's senior advisor, Zha Houbao, told the Global Times that as bilateral relations continue to improve, companies feel more confident about investing in Angola.

"Our next step is to delve into the market, understand their more nuanced needs, and design products tailored to the local market need, which is a win-win outcome for both sides," said Zha.

Angola stands as China's second-largest trading partner in Africa and an important investment destination for Chinese companies, with bilateral trade exceeding $23 billion last year.

During the president's visit, China and Angola signed documents regarding the Belt and Road Initiative cooperation plan, as well as plans for the economy and trade, agriculture, green development and other fields, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

Bilateral cooperation has emerged as a robust engine driving economic and social development in Angola, generating substantial employment opportunities locally and delivering tangible benefits to the peoples of both nations, Liu Yuxi, special representative of the Chinese Government on African Affairs, said at Saturday's business forum.

China will continue to take proactive measures to support and encourage more capable and reputable enterprises to invest and operate in Angola, creating more new highlights of cooperation, said Liu.

Shanghai issues plan to boost foreign R&D centers with targeted policies

Shanghai's Municipal Government released a plan to enhance and boost the development of foreign research and development (R&D) centers on Wednesday from nine aspects, including relaxed regulation of cross border outflow of non-listed or non- categorized data, with the aim to build the city into an international sci-tech innovation hub.

The plan, which will take effect on Friday, will attract and support foreign R&D centers to form clusters and upgrade capability, amid a national campaign to improve business climate for foreign companies and encouragement policy measures that support foreign companies to set up R&D centers in China.

Eligible foreign-funded R&D centers will benefit from a series of policy support measures, including customs clearance facilitation for cross-border R&D materials, allowing foreign-funded R&D centers to openly accessing services from common technology R&D platforms and sci-tech information according to rules as well as funding support.

Foreign-funded R&D centers will be supported to engage cooperation and high-risk research projects with the municipality's sci-tech institutions and enterprises, according to a post on the official WeChat of the municipality on Wednesday.

The plan will also support the lawful cross border flow of R&D data, improve the level of protection of intelligent property rights (IPRs) and elevate support in talent acquisition and development.

Foreign-funded R&D centers will be supported to set up an open innovation platform, conduct cross border incubator service and build proof-of-concept center. They are also encouraged to conduct technological research in joint efforts with various Chinese innovative entities, co-build labs, industrial colleges and training bases.

The plan calls for facilitation of cross border data flow under the premise of relevant law and regulations. Foreign R&D centers are not required to file for declaration for outflow of data not subject to regulation under the key list and catalogue in the data classification and hierarchical protection scheme of the Shanghai pilot free trade zone.

Shanghai will conduct biosafety risk assessment for imported animal and plant genetically modified organisms and biological materials, and the eligible imports for R&D purposes will enjoy customs facilitation.

In 2023, China's scientific and technological R&D investment surpassed 3.3 trillion yuan ($458.5 billion), up 8.1 percent year-on-year.

A number of foreign companies have increased their number of R&D centers in China.

US-based Apple announced on Tuesday a plan to open a new research and development (R&D) center in Shenzhen city, South China's Guangdong Province while upgrade its Shanghai R&D center to support product manufacturing.

A number of foreign-backed companies in China, from Apple to German automotive supplier Bosch, are announcing plans to expand their China presence recently, as China's fast growing vast market provides a platform for strong business performance.