GT investigates: Boeing incidents spotlight chronic woes and systemic problems in US manufacturing sector

As of March 18 this year, Boeing's stock price had fallen by 28 percent, while the international rating agency Fitch Ratings stated that Boeing's default risk is gradually approaching junk bond status.

The American news website Quartz recently sorted out "A timeline of Boeing's brutal 2024 (so far)." On January 5, a Boeing 737 Max jetliner's built-in emergency door fell off, starting Boeing's "chaotic year." Subsequently, from February 6 to March 15, there were at least five safety incidents, including a stuck rudder pedal, wheel detachment, rapid air descent, a tire explosion, and missing external panels. On March 9, the death of former Boeing employee John Barnett, who had previously exposed serious deficiencies in Boeing's oxygen system, also sparked media speculation.

Industry insiders and experts reached by the Global Times revealed that behind the frequent incidents is the American hegemony that has fallen apart like scattered nuts and bolts on the floor. The serious safety problems of the head of the US aerospace industry and the world's leading manufacturer of civil and military aircraft have also made the US media, scholars and the public think of the long-standing systemic problems in the country's manufacturing industry, and reflect on the entire trajectory of "deindustrialization" and "re-industrialization" in the US.
Competitive pressure

Chinese student Li Yu, who lives in St. Louis, Missouri, where Boeing has a factory and is one of the local pillar industries, told the Global Times that she often encounters Boeing employees attending advanced training classes at the university.

Although she has heard of the recent incidents, Li admitted that in the US, it is difficult to avoid Boeing planes for most people when traveling.

"When taking a plane, although I feel uneasy, I can only grit my teeth and go through with it," Li said.

A former airline employee from Georgia told the Global Times that the majority of the planes used by airlines in the US are Boeing planes, many of which are quite old. Airlines have detailed operating instructions for Boeing planes, and he guessed that the airlines involved in the recent incidents might not have maintained the Boeing planes as directed.

"It's as if I'm watching a troubled child," said Captain Dennis Tajer, the lead spokesman of the Allied Pilots Association, when describing flying a Boeing 737 Max, according to BBC.

Tajer stated that if the plane is not safe, he would never board it, and he can no longer assume that the planes he pilots are of good quality.

However, according to the American online media outlet Axios, US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg has made continued attempts to assure the US public that flying is as safe as ever. In Buttigieg's view, the "real concerns" are Boeing's quality control, but he would still sit by the window on a Boeing plane.

According to the American Forbes magazine website, fortunately, there have been no fatalities due to Boeing plane malfunctions in recent weeks. However, five years ago, within nearly five months, two crashes involving Boeing 737 Max jets occurred in Indonesia and Ethiopia, killing 346 people.

In September 2021, PBS's Frontline channel and The New York Times co-produced a documentary titled "Boeing's Fatal Flaw," which, after an in-depth investigation, revealed the systemic causes behind the Boeing crash incidents - competitive pressure, inadequate pilot training, and regulatory absence.

According to the documentary, the 737 Max model was born under intense competitive pressure. In 2011, Airbus launched the new, more energy-efficient, and higher-efficiency model A320neo, and reached a preliminary agreement with a US airline, marking the airline's first order with Airbus in over a decade. Under this pressure, Boeing urgently initiated the design program for the 737 Max model.

Former employees involved in the work revealed that Boeing executives consistently pressured the staff to design the new model "faster, better, and cheaper," continually trying to reduce costs and minimize changes to the new plane to simplify pilot training differences, and to get the new model to market as quickly as possible.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which was supposed to regulate Boeing, authorized some of the safety inspection work to Boeing's own employees, leading to numerous cover-ups.

Increased risks

In this year's safety issues with Boeing, the far-reaching impact of the aforementioned systemic problems is still evident.

Analysts noted that Boeing's decline is the result of prioritizing profits over decades. Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, who influenced Boeing's culture with his "lean management" philosophy, focused on cutting manufacturing processes and workforce to boost stock prices.

Boeing's excessive reliance on outsourcing, as reported by The Wall Street Journal in January, has also led to safety issues and increased risks, with critical components being manufactured globally.
Moreover, interviews with industry executives revealed that production pressure and loss of experienced workers caused further problems. Boeing, needing to meet growing aircraft demand, reduced quality checks while prioritizing production speed, Reuters reported.

The international logistics media site Polar Star reported that the US aviation industry has long been troubled by supply chain issues. Many parts are in short supply, with delivery times for some metal parts and windshields being 2 to 5 times longer than normal.

The shortage of aircraft mechanics and other aviation industry professionals also strains the supply chain. Media reports say that some machine shops have sophisticated equipment but lack the labor to operate it, making licensed aircraft mechanics "as rare as unicorns," citing local experts.

Similar dilemmas

Shen Yi, director of the Research Institution for Global Cyberspace Governance at Fudan University, told the Global Times that the frequent Boeing incidents actually manifest the falling of US hegemony.

Boeing, based on neoliberal business and management concepts, once enjoyed the dividends of the Cold War. Now the company has shifted its focus from quality control to cost control, Shen said.

He pointed out that additionally, the US government, driven by the so-called "identity politics" movements that emphasize diversity and equality, has made technical skills, capabilities, and experience secondary factors in personnel selection and appointment.

Therefore, after a period of sedimentation and accumulation, the lack of focus on the expertise has led to the increase in safety-related accidents this year, he noted.

Recently, the US magazine Foreign Affairs published an article pointing out the problem of the "privatization and the hollowing out of the US defense industry." In addition to the defense field, many other manufacturing sectors are reportedly facing similar troubles.

According to the Financial Times, the decline of the US shipbuilding industry is causing anxiety in the US. Industry insiders widely attribute this decline to several factors. First, in the 1980s, the Reagan administration pursued a free-market economy and thus eliminated most subsidies for the shipbuilding industry. US defense officials and unions have stated that due to the shrinking domestic manufacturing base and outsourcing, a significant portion of the materials and components needed to produce new ships are no longer available domestically. And this is also happening in other manufacturing sectors.

In addition, due to the "just-in-time" production methods adopted in recent decades, US contractors are reluctant to maintain redundant capacity. Furthermore, industry consolidation and the rise of shipbuilding industries in Japan, South Korea, and China have led to reduced investment in technology, factory equipment, and worker training in the US, according to the article.

Analysts pointed out that the real issue with US labor is its low productivity as workers have long demanded high wages and work-life balance. Moreover, the infrastructure conditions in the US are not promising.

Reports showed that much of the existing infrastructure in the US was built in the 1960s. Therefore, much of it is virtually defunct.

While the US Congress passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal (Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act) in 2021, the real process of upgrading the infrastructure is slow as there is no consensus on funding and building.
Misplaced obsession

According to the 2024 manufacturing industry outlook issued by Deloitte, the manufacturing sector in the US will continue to face challenges this year. However, several US media outlets and think tanks are optimistic about the country's manufacturing industry.

In October 2023, the Cato Institute, a US think tank, published an analysis titled "The Reality of American Deindustrialization," arguing that "American manufacturing has not disappeared but has undergone a transformation instead."

While US politicians have been actively advocating for the reviving of manufacturing, an article published by The Hill pointed out that "unfortunately, this obsession with manufacturing is misplaced."

"This manufacturing subsidy war will be expensive and will support inefficient sectors, raising costs for households and firms. For example, most estimates of semiconductor chip fabrication in the US are that it costs up to 50 percent more than fabrication elsewhere. American taxpayers will eventually bear the cost of subsidizing this kind of relative inefficiency," it said.

Several experts told the Global Times that reviving the manufacturing industry requires good infrastructure, research and development investment, industrial support, a continuous supply of adaptable labor, as well as a global network supporting the supply chain and trade value chain.

Even the US, once known as the "world's factory," would find it difficult to fill the gap and revive its manufacturing sector, Zhang Yugui, dean of School of Economics and Finance in Shanghai International Studies University, told the Global Times.

"If the US tries to revitalize its manufacturing industry, it must abandon the zero-sum game mentality and instead form an effective division of labor and cooperation with major manufacturing powers such as China, Europe, Japan, and emerging economies. It should not continue to artificially build 'small yard and high fence'. However, even if some advanced manufacturing industries are lured back to the US, it would be a short-sighted strategy that is unlikely to succeed, Zhang noted.

Chinese economy maintains stable growth in April, with industry, exports indicators improving moderately

China's economy maintained stable growth in April, with key indexes on industry, exports, employment and price improving moderately from March, data released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed on Friday, underscoring that the world's second-largest economy has been sustaining the solid recovery momentum since the beginning of the year despite facing multiple global and domestic headwinds.

Analysts predicted that China's GDP could grow at a rate between 5.3 and 5.5 percent in the second quarter, slightly up from the 5.3-percent growth recorded in the first quarter. And the economy is set to unleash more potential in the second half, as a package of stimulus measures, including the issuance of ultra-long-term special treasury bonds and supports on property industry, take effect and as global demand continued to bounce back.

China's industrial production jumped 6.7 percent year-on-year in April, compared with a 4.5-percent growth in March, NBS data showed. In April, retail sales gained 2.3 percent year-on-year, down from the March reading of 3.1 percent.

Fixed-asset investment rose 4.2 percent year-on-year in the first four months, slowing down from the 4.5 percent growth in the first three months.
"China's economy remained stable in April. Although some indicators recorded a moderate growth rate as affected by factors such as staggered holiday arrangement and a relatively high base in the same period last year, major indicators of industry, exports, employment and prices improved, with new driving forces maintaining rapid growth," NBS spokesperson Liu Aihua said at a press briefing of the State Council Information Office on Friday.

"One of the economic highlights from the April data is the robust growth in high-end manufacturing, which beats market expectation," Cao Heping, an economist at Peking University, told the Global Times on Friday.

He said that some of economic data in April has overall improved mildly compared with March reading, which bodes well for the growth in the second quarter. Cao projected that the GDP growth in the April-June period would speed up 0.1 percentage point to 0.2 percentage point from the first quarter.

"Considering China's prodigious economic scale, any growth between 4.5 and 5.5 percent should be sound and sustainable," Cao noted. Analysts exemplified that if China's GDP growth hit over 5 percent per year, the increase in China's economic volume could roughly equate to the economic output of Switzerland, which is now the world's 20th-largest economy.

China's robust economy in the first four months has proved that the US government's reckless suppression of Chinese industries, which it attempted to justify by labeling the "overcapacity" claim on Chinese exports, is futile and doomed to lose traction in global arena, analysts said.

Analysts expected that China's economic growth will contribute around 35 percent to the global economic development this year, further consolidating its role as both a stabilizer and key locomotive of the world economy.

China on Friday issued the first batch of 1 trillion yuan ($140 billion) in ultra-long-term special treasury bonds, as the authorities seek more funding to shore up government spending and strategically important projects' investment for high-quality economic development.

"The bond issuance needs to be completed as early as possible, considering that there is still some softness in the economy," Tian Yun, a veteran economist based in Beijing, told the Global Times.

He expected more measures to be unveiled to shore up the property sector, which remains a drag on the economy in the first quarter.

Cao noted that it would take two to three months for the effects of ultra-long-term treasury bonds issuance to bear fruits, and that in turn would elevate the whole-year GDP growth by 0.1-0.3 percent.

China's trade in goods in the first four months of 2024 recorded an increase of 5.7 percent year-on-year to reach 13.81 trillion yuan, data from China's General Administration of Customs showed last Thursday.

McDonald‘s apologies to Chinese consumers for selling expired food

McDonald’s on Monday apologized after media reports said that two of its outlets in China sold food made of expired ingredients and the outlet moved to  change the labels, sparking heated discussion online. 

The company said in a statement that it is actively cooperating with local market regulator in conducting an investigation and will address any violation of operational standards.

"We apologize for the impact from the restaurants involved. We are duty-bound to further strengthen the implementation and enforcement of the restaurants' code of practice," the company said in a statement.

Two McDonald’s restaurants in Zhengzhou, Central China’s Henan Province and Jinan, East China’s Shandong Province, were discovered to selling expired food, using expired ingredients, changing the food expiration labels and other issues, bjnews.com reported on Monday. 

The report soon sparked a heat discussion on Chinese social media. The hashtag “McDonald’s changing labels for expired food ingredient to extend the usage” reached 65.76 million views on Weibo, sparking more than 16,000 postings as of press time.

Many Chinese netizens have expressed their disappointment saying McDonald’s have let them down. 

Local market regulators in Zhengzhou and Jinan cities have launched investigations as health and food safety officials conduct onsite probes. 

McDonald's CEO Chris Kempczinski said during the company’s 2023 earnings call that he saw strong growth in the Chinese market and was pleased with McDonald's performance in the market. McDonald's plans to launch 1,000 new outlets in Chinese mainland this year.

China secures 76% of global shipbuilding orders in April: data

Chinese companies clinched 76 percent of all global shipbuilding orders in April, becoming the No 1 shipbuilder in the world, according to latest industry data, highlighting China's increasingly prominent role in the global shipbuilding industry. 

Industry analysts note that the US' protectionism cannot stop Chinese shipbuilders' rise. 

According to Clarkson Research, a provider of shipping and trade data released on Tuesday, global shipbuilding orders in April reached 4.71 million compensated gross tons (CGT) for 121 vessels, marking a 24-percent year-on-year increase. Chinese firms secured 3.58 million CGT (76 percent, 91 vessels), ranking the first; while the runner-up South Korea obtained 670,000 CGT (14 percent, 13 vessels).

Additionally, as of the end of April, unfinished orders decreased by 100,000 CGT compared to the previous month, amounting to 129.91 million CGT. China and South Korea accounted for 64.86 million CGT (50 percent) and 39.10 million CGT (30 percent) of those orders, respectively.

"China's leading position in shipbuilding has been set up since the 14th Five-Year Plan starts. While previously excelling in mid-to-low-tier market segment, China is now vigorously advancing into high-end shipbuilding domain such as making LNG vessels. Efforts by Chinese shipbuilders have garnered considerable acclaim in the world," Tian Yun, a veteran economist told the Global Times on Wednesday.

In addition to the gains in manufacturing capacity, China has also made significant breakthroughs in ship maintenance, garnering growing demand both domestically and abroad. Overall, the market now appears to be a showdown between China and South Korea, according to Tian.

Shipbuilding, known as the one of crown jewels of manufacturing, which spans over 50 sectors and boasts an extensive supply chain. 

Since 2019, China's ship completions have risen steadily. In January-September 2023, China accounted for 46 percent of global completed tonnage, 63.5 percent of the new orders, ranking first worldwide.

Market watchers said that China will continue to enjoy the dominant position in the global shipbuilding market within a decade, due to its strong supply chain capabilities and increasingly eco-friendly tech advancements.

As China makes steady gains in shipbuilding, the US is worrying about losing another key industrial sector. Seeking to stymie Chinese shipbuilders, the US government launched a so-called Section 301 investigation on April 17, citing alleged "unfair economic practices" by China in maritime, logistics, and shipbuilding domains.

China's Ministry of Commerce rebuffed the US accusation, calling it baseless and a distortion of normal trade and investment activities. China isn't responsible for the US shipbuilding industry's lagging behind, resulting from the US' excessive protectionism. China's industrial growth is fueled by technological innovation and free market competition, not the non-market practices as alleged by the US, the ministry said.

Xi says China's high-quality development, opening-up to offer more opportunities for Hungary

China is now advancing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation on all fronts through Chinese modernization, and China's high-quality development and opening-up will provide more opportunities for Hungary, Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Friday.

Xi made the remarks at a farewell event held here by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his wife.

German FM hyping China issues during trip to S.Pacific exposes Germany's deep political divisions

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock's ongoing visit to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji in the South Pacific is a way of balancing the impact of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's China trip, which exposed deep political divisions within the German government, said Chinese analysts when commenting on Baerbock's recent remarks in which she warned against becoming too reliant on China.

While Scholz recently visited China and reached many positive agreements, Germany's foreign and economic departments, controlled by the far-right Greens, have been at odds with the Social Democratic Party led by Scholz, especially on China policy, which could affect China-Germany cooperation and hinder Germany's own economic and social recovery, analysts warned. At the same time, they believe sustainable cooperation remains the dominant factor in China-Germany relations.

According to a report by the German Press Agency (DPA), Baerbock is setting off on a week-long visit to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, and is using the trip to send a message to China, the report said.

During her visit to Australia, which was her first to the country, Baerbock said Germany has overhauled its strategic approach to China to avoid a repeat of the past when the NATO member failed to realize the extent of its economic dependence on Russia, Australian media outlet ABC reported on Sunday.

Baerbock, who is a Greens politician within Chancellor Scholz's coalition, said Germany has now developed a comprehensive China policy to diversify its supply chains, while maintaining a strong trade relationship with Beijing, ABC reported.

Baerbock set off on the South Pacific trip just weeks after Scholz concluded his China trip in April. Analysts said Scholz's "high-profile" visit to China was a return to the normalcy of bilateral relations.

It is clear that Baerbock rushed to visit the South Pacific in order to strike a "diplomatic balance" on China policy, Liu Zuokui, a research fellow on European studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Monday.

Now, more and more people and corporations in the international community are increasingly focusing on and optimistic about China's market and economic potential, a sentiment shared by Scholz, who aims to lead Germany in developing close cooperation with China, Liu said.

However, Baerbock and her far-right party are heavily biased in ideology, prioritizing values and security risks over economic cooperation, conflicting with Scholz's advocacy for pragmatic cooperation with China, Liu noted.

As a result, cooperation between Germany and China could face various disruptions, something that is supported and welcomed by the US, Liu warned. He noted that the German federal elections next year will be crucial in determining whether the German government can effectively manage these internal political struggles and contradictions.

"However, we believe that the closeness of business and economic cooperation will always remain the mainstream in China-Germany relations," Liu stressed.

Germany has been China's largest trading partner in Europe for 49 consecutive years, while China has been Germany's largest global trading partner for eight consecutive years. The facts show that practical cooperation is not just an option, but a necessity.

Also during Baerbock's visit to New Zealand on Saturday, the foreign minister did not rule out the possibility of a German frigate crossing the Taiwan Straits, DPA reported.

According to DPA, German frigate Baden-Württemberg and a supply ship will set off on Tuesday on a training mission to the Pacific lasting several months. The vessels will enter the Pacific Ocean through the Panama Canal and later also cross the South China Sea.

In 2021, German frigate Bayern took part in maneuvers with allies at the time, but avoided Taiwan during its voyage to the Pacific, DPA reported.

If the German frigate crosses the Taiwan Straits, it would be a very dangerous and irrational move for China-Germany relations, Chinese analysts warned. They said hyping the Taiwan question will not bring any benefits to Germany, but will only disrupt the normal development of its ties with China and affect Germany's national interests.

Politicians like Baerbock are trying to gain domestic votes by hyping up the Taiwan question, as those politicians' considerations are more focused on personal and party interests rather than their country's interests, Liu believes.

If German frigates were to cross the Taiwan Straits, China would likely respond resolutely and forcefully, Liu said.

Shenzhou-17 crew return to Earth after completing 1st extravehicular repair task for damages caused by space debris impact

The return capsule of the Shenzhou-17 manned spaceship, carrying taikonauts Tang Hongbo, Tang Shengjie and Jiang Xinlin, touched down at the Dongfeng landing site in North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region on Tuesday, following six months aboard the Tiangong space station.

The three astronauts are all in good health condition, according to the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA), the Xinhua News Agency reported. China announced that the Shenzhou-17 mission was a complete success.

The Shenzhou-17 mission was launched on October 25, 2023, taking over control of Tiangong from the outgoing Shenzhou-16 crew days later. The crew departed the station at 8:43 am on Tuesday and landed at Dongfeng landing site at 17:46 pm.

Recovery crews were on the scene moments after the return capsule touched down. Mission commander Tang Hongbo was the first out of the capsule. In front of the camera of China Central Television, Tang expressed that he is very proud for the country. “I departed in autumn and came back in spring. My mood is just the like current days in April, the most beautiful season of a year,” Tang said.

Tang, who had first flown to space in the Shenzhou-12 mission in 2021 and then in the Shenzhou-17 mission, has not only become the taikonaut with the longest space flight time to date, but also the one with the shortest interval between two flight missions.

“Such an experience accumulated valuable lessons for us in the routine implementation of flight crew rotation and training,” CMSA spokesperson Lin Xiqiang said.

Shenzhou-17 is the second mission after Tiangong space station entered the application phase.

Prior to Shenzhou-17’s journey, research team had discovered damage on the solar wing cables of the station’s Tianhe core module due to space debris impact, resulting in partial power loss.

To fix the damage, the Shenzhou-17 crew brought repair tools with them to the space station, and through two extravehicular activities, they managed to complete China’s first extravehicular repair task, eliminating the impact on the core module's solar wings, the Global Times learned from the CMSA.

“This fully demonstrated the role of humans in space and showed that human care of spacecraft can better address unexpected issues in orbit,” Lin said.

Over the past few decades, especially in recent years, the rapid increase of human space activities has led to a growing concern over the issue of space debris. Up recently, the Chinese space station has actively implemented space debris avoidance measures on multiple occasions.

To cope with the challenge, China has improved its precise forecasting capabilities for the space station, optimizing space collision warning and reducing false alarm rates by 30 percent. China has also been conducting high-resolution inspection of the external status of Tiangong to analyze the probability and mechanics of small debris impacts.

The Shenzhou-18 crew who has just arrived at their space home on Friday will carry out reinforcement measures with protective devices to apply on the weak points on the exterior of the space station.

Lin noted that a space station impact leak monitoring and positioning system has also been deployed, improving emergency pressure response plans and increasing the time available for fault handling by five times.

The CMSA has been publishing OEM orbit parameters on their website, so as to establish a flight safety communication mechanism with other spacefaring countries, timely exchange and sharing of relevant information, with the aim of jointly maintaining the safety of spacecraft in orbit.

Apart from impact repair tasks, the Shenzhou-17 crew has conducted a total of 84 space application experiments, producing over 60 types of more than 200 samples in various fields such as space life sciences and biotechnology, aerospace medicine, and space materials science.

These samples will be brought back to Earth along with the Shenzhou-17 spacecraft for in-depth analysis and research. The samples are expected to achieve a number of important research results in areas such as high-performance multi-element alloys, functional crystal material preparation, and inhibiting bone loss through the differentiation of stem cells.

China reiterates willingness to strengthen high-level exchanges with France

China stands ready to strengthen high-level exchanges with France, give play to the leading role of head-of-state diplomacy, and add new connotations to the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries, said China's top diplomat Wang Yi on Saturday, amid rising high-level contacts between China and France in the past few months. 

Wang, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee, made the remarks in a telephone call with the French President's Diplomatic Counselor Emmanuel Bonne on Saturday, reiterating China's willingness to push bilateral cooperation with France in various fields to a new level, and give play to the important role of the two major countries in dealing with global challenges, the Xinhua News Agency reported. 

Noting that the current international situation is complex and volatile, with numerous challenges and hot spots emerging one after another, Wang said the international community expects China and France to form a common position and speak with the same voice on major issues bearing on world peace and stability, as well as the future and destiny of mankind.

It is hoped that the French side will push the EU to continue to pursue a positive and pragmatic policy toward China, Wang noted.

At a time when some European politicians are mistakenly advocating "decoupling" from China, the frequent interactions between China and France is a highlight and a stabilizer, Chinese experts noted. The connection between the two countries is also very important for advancing the resolution of international hot-button issues.

The year 2024 marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and France. In the past few months, it is evident that China and France have increased their interactions, exchanges and communication in various fields, Zhao Junjie, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of European Studies, told the Global Times on Sunday. 

Against a backdrop of rising uncertainties in China-Europe relations as some European politicians advocate "decoupling," the relationship between China and France is not only a highlight but also plays an important role in stabilizing China-Europe relations, he noted. 

France is willing to use the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries as an opportunity to intensify high-level exchanges, deepen mutual trust, strengthen practical cooperation and strive for mutual benefit and win-win results, Bonne told Wang in the phone call. 

The two sides should work together to cool down hot spot issues, cope with global challenges including climate change, make positive contributions to narrowing the North-South gap and rejecting bloc confrontation, and push for further development of France-China and Europe-China relations, he said.

Zhao noted that the China-France relationship has always been important for both countries throughout history, and it is crucial to make good use of the 60th anniversary celebrations as an opportunity to strengthen political interactions between the two countries. 

The French government has always advocated that Europe's strategic autonomy and independence in their relationship with China is important for them, analysts said. While some major Western countries opt to blindly follow the US in pressuring China, it is time that France can demonstrate its rational great power characteristics through its actions, they said.

In the past few months, the warming of China-France relations has not only been reflected in high-level official exchanges. In the military and commercial fields, news of cooperation between the two sides has been frequent.

On Thursday, the Chinese and French militaries signed a framework document on the establishment of a maritime and aerial cooperation and dialogue mechanism between the two militaries' theaters, to help further deepen mutual trust and cooperation between the two militaries and jointly safeguard regional security and stability.

In the meantime, France's Airbus is in talks with China over a potentially major aircraft order which could involve hundreds of jets, Reuters reported. 

During the Saturday call, the two sides also discussed business cooperation, having agreed to cooperate on the development of artificial intelligence, continue to strengthen coordination on tackling climate change, and further refine the successful practice of "from French farm to Chinese dinner table," so as to provide a good environment for enterprises of both sides to invest and do business in each other's countries, the Xinhua reported. 

Observers emphasized that maintaining a stable relationship between the two major powers is helpful in addressing international concerns in the current turbulent global situation, which was also part of the discussions on Saturday, when the two sides also coordinated on international and regional issues of common concern such as the Ukraine issue and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

After Brexit, the UK's influence in Europe has clearly declined, while Russia is currently being suppressed by the West, which makes China and France's communications more important in the international sphere, Zhao told the Global Times. 

"China and France always have a traditional and solid foundation for cooperation, and now it has a broader vision," he said. "The China-France relations can set an example for other European countries."

Chinese embassy condemns Sunak’s unwarranted accusation, malicious slander

China urges some British politicians to end their belligerent rhetoric, cease wanton accusations against China, stop stoking bloc confrontation, and instead, focus more on domestic economic and social issues, and act in a way that is truly in the interests of world peace and justice, the Chinese Embassy in the UK said on Wednesday night, in response to UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's listing of China as an authoritarian state and criticizing the China-Russia relationship.

Chinese experts said Sunak's hype aims to win support for his administration to increase military spending. In order to achieve this, he hypes geopolitical conflicts, presenting so-called external challenges, said experts. 

Sunak said the UK's increase in military spending "is a turning point for European security and a landmark moment in the defense of the United Kingdom." Speaking at the base of the Warsaw Armoured Brigade in Poland, he addressed a regiment of the Queen's Dragoon Guards: "I want to talk to you about how we equip you to do your duty in an increasingly dangerous world," with Britain and NATO confronting an "axis of authoritarian states," said Sunak, naming Russia, Iran, North Korea, and China.

The UK politician was trying to look for excuses to ramp up the UK's military spending through his unwarranted accusation and malicious slander against China, said a spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in the UK on Wednesday, noting that China firmly rejects his Cold War rhetoric that incites antagonism and confrontation.

"China is a peace-loving country, and has all along stood on the side of peace and justice," said the spokesperson in response to Sunak's accusation. "We have always promoted peace talks and sought peaceful settlement of international conflicts, we have contributed more than one-third of global economic growth for many years running, and we are a force for international cooperation and stability in the world. These are indisputable facts."

Cui Hongjian, a professor with the Academy of Regional and Global Governance at Beijing Foreign Studies University, told the Global Times on Thursday that Sunak's attack on China in his speech is mainly for "clout-chasing."

"Because of the numerous issues both domestically and internationally that the UK faces, Sunak is worried about the country's status as a major power," Cui said. "As a result, he is eager to make a statement on China-related issues, as only through this can he demonstrate his supposed political stance."

At the same time, the issue of military spending is also a reason for Sunak's hype. In order to enhance the UK's competitiveness, he must hype geopolitical conflicts, presenting so-called external challenges, including China and Russia as his targets, Cui noted. 

As pointed out by the Embassy spokesperson, in contrast to China, the current UK government seems to be stirring up troubles and heightening tensions around the world. 
On Ukraine, it has been providing offensive weapons to one side of the conflict, adding fuel to the fire. On the Gaza issue, it has repeatedly opposed resolutions calling for an immediate ceasefire at the United Nations Security Council. It shows no support for Palestine's application for full UN membership and continues to supply weapons to Israel. Now, the UK lacks morality and has no sense of responsibility when it comes to matters of international peace and justice, the embassy said in the statement. 

Regarding Sunak's comments, China has urged British politicians to end their belligerent rhetoric, cease wanton accusations against China, stop stoking bloc confrontation, and instead, focus more on domestic economic and social issues, and act in a way that is truly in the interests of world peace and justice.

Observers also noted that as relations between China and Europe improve and both sides strengthen high-level exchanges, British politicians who are hyping up anti-China rhetoric are more likely to harm the interests of the UK itself.

"At present, China-Europe relations are on a positive track," Cui noted. "If speculative hyping remarks are allowed to ferment and affect a wider range of China-EU relations, it could in turn serve to help anti-China Western politicians achieve their goals."

ILRS cooperation adds three countries, intl agencies

The International Lunar Research Station (ILRS) has added Nicaragua, the Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization, and the Arab Union for Astronomy and Space Sciences as collaborating countries and organizations, GT learned from the Space Day of China 2024 opening ceremony on Wednesday. 

China will cooperate with these three parties in various aspects such as engineering implementation, operation, and application of the ILRS. According to the China National Space Administration (CNSA)'s ILRS Partnership Guidelines, the ILRS aims for peaceful use, equality and mutual benefit, and common development. Through joint construction with multiple countries, the ILRS will establish a comprehensive scientific experiment facility on the lunar surface and in lunar orbit, capable of long-term autonomous operation, short-term human involvement, expandability, and maintainability.