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.

China’s Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge facilitates record vehicle traffic as northbound trip gets popular

The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge (HZMB) in South China's Guangdong Province has facilitated record cross-boundary vehicle traffic as Hong Kong residents' northbound travel to the mainland is becoming trendy. 

China Media Group (CMG) reported that as of Saturday at 9 pm, the HZMB port had facilitated a total of 500,000 cross-boundary vehicles under the Northbound Travel for Hong Kong Vehicles program since it entered operation on July 1, 2023, showed increasing personnel exchanges between Hong Kong and Guangdong.

A Hong Kong resident surnamed Luo told the Global Times on Sunday that driving her private car from Hong Kong to Zhuhai was much easier than she expected. 

"I left Hong Kong at 9 am, passed customs clearance at 11 am, and even had time to have dim sum at Zhuhai in the morning," said Luo, adding that she can return to Hong Kong in one day after shopping and having a massage. 

"It costs about 5,000 yuan ($704) in total for the first year of the program, including registering a driving license, insurance and other fees," she noted, and pointed out that certain phases of the program could be further optimized such as reducing application times and fees. 

Boosted by the simplified cross-boundary process, self-driving tours to the mainland have become one of the most popular trip modes for Hong Kong residents. Since the program began, the average monthly growth of Hong Kong vehicles through Zhuhai Port reached 58.17 percent.

The average daily vehicle volume on weekends and holidays in 2024 reached 5,400. On February 13, the fourth day of the 2024 Spring Festival holidays, the daily vehicle volume reached a record of 8,300, said the report. 

According to the official website of the program, it allows eligible Hong Kong private cars to travel between Hong Kong and Guangdong without the need to obtain regular quotas to access the HZMB.

Under the program, Hong Kong residents can drive to Guangdong for business, family visits or sight-seeing on a short-term basis, which could make good use of the HZMB and promote the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, the website showed. 

Certain foreign smearing against China’s GDP target ‘misses the big picture’

China has set its 2024 GDP growth target at around 5 percent, which has been viewed as a signal of strong confidence that the world's second-largest economy could navigate through multifaceted pressure and boost a steady expansion this year.

Unsurprisingly, this practical and realistic objective has met with skeptical and negative comments from some foreign media outlets, with some saying the goal is too "challenging" to meet, citing exaggerated downward pressure and insufficient stimulus.

Chinese national lawmakers and political advisors said the bearish rhetoric lays bare the deeply-rooted Western ideological prejudice against China and certain countries' "sour-grape mindset." They called for a more objective and comprehensive assessment of an economy that has well-built fundamentals, a "later-comer" advantage in new economy, rising middle-income population and abundant policy latitude.

A 5-percent GDP target also bodes well for the profitability of foreign companies operating in China, foreign business representatives and economists said. And the recent influx of foreign investments and global funds also speak volume for the allure of the Chinese market, serving as a fresh piece of evidence debunking the pessimistic narratives, observers pointed out.

The big picture

In the first two months of 2024, China's foreign trade scale hit a record high, reaching6.61 trillion yuan (about$930.96 billion) in yuan-denominated terms, an increase of 8.7 percent year-on-year, customs data showed on Thursday.

"The Chinese economy is expected to start off with a good opening in the first quarter of 2024," Zheng Shanjie, head of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the country's top economic planner, said on Wednesday.

"The around 5-percent GDP growth target comes after scientific reasoning and aligns with the long-term development goals laid out by the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25).It is a positive upward target that can be achieved with strenuous work," Zheng said.

The comment was made at a press briefing held on Wednesday during the ongoing two sessions. Zheng, along with several government officials in charge of China's economic and trade affairs, dwelled on the Government Work Report delivered on Tuesday and further elaborated on the country's policy stances. Their remarks also offered a timely response to certain public concerns.

The Global Times noticed through various group discussions on Wednesday and Thursday that the key economic goals set by the Government Work Report have inspired widespread strong confidence among deputies and political advisors, who come from all walks of life and represent the voices across the society.

"Setting a goal of achieving around 5 percent GDP growth requires a proactive approach as it will involve hard work, overcoming obstacles and challenges. However, with determination and perseverance, this goal can be achieved," Ning Jizhe, a member of the 14th National Committee of CPPCC and the former chief of the National Bureau of Statistics, said in an exclusive interview with the Global Times.

Yin Yanlin, Vice Chairman of the Economic Committee for the 14th National Committee of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), told the Global Times that the 5-percent growth rate will make China one of fastest growing economies in the world, as most developed countries have a growth below 3 percent. A 5-percent GDP target could only be achieved by a developing nation as large as China.

Justin Lin Yifu, a member of the Standing Committee of 14thNational Committee of CPPCC and former chief economist of the World Bank, also voiced confidence that China has the potential to meet the growth target.

"China's GDP is currently 65 percent to 70 percent of US' GDP based on the exchange rate. That translates to an 8-percent growth potential every year until 2035 if the US economy maintains stable growth. Taking account of the global and internal economic situation, achieving a 5-percent GDP growth is possible when we have an 8-percent growth potential," Lin told the Global Times in a group interview.

According to Lin, when other countries were at the stage of development where China is currently at, their economies were performing relatively well. For instance, during the stage of economic catch-up, Japan, South Korea and Germany all achieved economic growth rates of 8 percent or even higher.

Lin stressed that China, as a large developing economy, is still at the stage of industrial upgrade and thus lags behind developed countries, but this renders the country a "latecomer advantage."

In 2023, China's per capita GDP reached about $12,500, which makes the country still the world's largest developing nation.

"We're still a developing nation, with a gap behind those developed countries, indicating significant rooms for development and growth potential. How could China's economy reach a peak at such a time?" Ning said, pushing against certain allegations that the Chinese economy has peaked.

Ning added that the badmouthing is not only an unscientific judgment, but also a malicious attempt to discredit China. Some deputies also pointed out that the distortion is fueled by the ideological biases of certain Western countries, who are nervous because of China's rise.

"The outside world may have no idea o fhow much endeavors the Chinese policymakers are willing to pour in achieving the GDP goal,"Yin noted.

A New York Times article said on Tuesday that China only announced modest measures to stimulate growth in face with various headwinds, "refraining from the kind of bold moves the business sector has been looking for."

As part of the country's proactive fiscal policy, the Government Work Report said China will issue ultra-long special treasury bonds in the coming years. Pan Gongsheng, governor of China's central bank, said on Wednesday that China's required reserve ratio (RRR) for the banking sector is at 7 percent on average now, and there is still room for a subsequent RRR cut.

"China's policy toolbox is still sufficient, and concrete policy efforts are needed in the face of a complicated domestic and external environment," Pan said.

A key contributor

Against the backdrop of China's high-quality development trajectory, some economists also refuted the "Peak China" and "Chinese economy Japanization" claims, by identifying an array of China's new growth engines.

The Government Work Report vowed that China will strive to modernize the industrial system and develop new quality productive forces at a faster pace.

Lin said it is important that China sits at the same starting line as other developed nations in terms of new economy industries, such as artificial intelligence and digital economy.

"With vast human capital, sheer market size and industrial chain advantage, the country carries greater potential in fostering potential new innovation drives compared with other high-income countries," Lin said, while also taking note of continuous drives from traditional industries in the years to come.

Lin said that from 2036 to 2050, China has an economic potential to realize a growth range between 3 percent and 4 percent, based upon which China's per capita GDP could reach half that of the US by 2049. As the Chinese population is four times that of the US, the growth trajectory means China's economic output will be twice of the US by 2049, making China the largest economy in the world and the largest contributor to the global economy.

Political advisors also rejected the idea of Chinese economy risks "lost decades" like Japan in the coming years.

Han Baojiang, a member of the National Committee of CPPCC and a professor at Party School of the Central Committee of the CPC, told the Global Times that the Chinese economy is fundamentally different from the Japanese economy back then, as China is home to a 400 million middle-income population and has a vast domestic demand, whereas Japan only has a narrow domestic market space, which prompted a large amount of Japanese capital to flee the country.

China's 5-percent GDP growth this year also will draw in more foreign investments, as only when Chinese economy expands can the foreign firms have the conditions to make a profit, and only when they make a profit can they continue investing, thus engaging in a "virtuous circle," Yin stressed.

Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that global funds are returning to China stocks, citing Morgan Stanley analysts. Kinger Lau, chief China equity strategist at Goldman Sachs, and his team maintain a cautiously optimistic outlook on the Chinese stock market, anticipating that economic improvements will drive a rebound in corporate profits.

European aerospace corporation Airbus said in a statement sent to the Global Times that the economic policies released during the two sessions show China's determination to boost its economy. And the growth of China's economy will surely boost the global economic performance as well.