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.

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.

Attacks on HK’s international financial hub status ‘groundless’: political advisor

The assertion that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) has become a "ruin of an international financial center" is groundless, as the basic elements underpinning Hong Kong's status as a global financial center have not changed, and the region has been further leveraging its role as a super connector between the Chinese mainland and the rest of the world, Brian David Li Man-bun, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and co-chief executive of the Bank of East Asia (BEA), told the Global Times on Thursday.

"Hong Kong has a number of competitive edges in the global financial market, including the common law system, a simple low tax system and professional services and regulatory systems that are in line with international standards," Li said.

BEA is a Hong Kong public bank based in the HKSAR.

He also highlighted the guarantee on free flows of capital under the Basic Law, good financial infrastructure, a stable and favorable business environment as well as a stable and efficient banking system, among other things.

In 2022, Hong Kong received a total of $117.7 billion in foreign direct investment, ranking fourth in the world after the US, the Chinese mainland and Singapore, according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development.

In addition, "Hong Kong has made significant progress in such finance-related sectors as green finance, fintech and offshore yuan business, which also paves the way for its development," Li added.

As a next step, Li suggested that Hong Kong integrate further into the national development, and make a greater contribution to the country's high-level opening-up. These efforts would also be conducive to enhancing the city's global financial status, while providing a solid foundation for its economic recovery this year.

The Central Financial Work Conference held last October called for accelerating the building of a nation with a strong financial sector. Pan Gongsheng, the governor of the People's Bank of China (PBC), the country's central bank, said at a press briefing on Wednesday that expanding opening-up is an important propeller and assurance of the high-quality development of China's financial industry.

Li noted that Hong Kong, as the world's largest offshore yuan business center, has an outsize role to play in facilitating the globalization of the yuan.

"More countries and regions have shown concern about excessive reliance on the US dollar amid rising geopolitical tensions, and many, having strong confidence in the Chinese mainland's economic outlook, have boosted their use of the yuan in payments, investments and reserves," Li explained.

Li also urged Hong Kong to double down on its efforts to expand issues of yuan-denominated financial products, such as promoting the Hong Kong dollar-yuan dual-currency share counter service across the equity market.

Li, as a veteran banker, has witnessed the rising asset management demand of Chinese mainland residents in the past decade, which he said was partly thanks to the expansion of the 400 million middle-income populations.

He suggested expanding the scope of the financial connect programs between the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong, in addition to the Stock, Bond and Cross-Boundary Wealth Management connects.

The Stock Connect, announced in 2014, now contributes 11 percent of the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd's revenue, and 15 percent of average daily turnover in Hong Kong, according to a report by Fitch Ratings.

The average daily turnover of the Bond Connect surged to almost 49 billion yuan in January 2024 from 3.6 billion yuan in 2018, the report said.

Chang'e-6 spacecraft components arrive in Hainan; launch of lunar mission set in first half of 2024

Spacecraft components of China's Chang'e-6 lunar mission have arrived at Hainan Meilan International Airport aboard the An-124 and Y-20 transport aircraft successively on Monday and Tuesday before they were then transported by road to the Wenchang Space Launch Site, Global Times learned from the China National Space Administration (CNSA) on Wednesday.

According to the CNSA, the latest development marks a significant step for the fourth phase of the lunar exploration program, with pre-launch testing preparations underway.

The launch site facilities are currently in good condition, with all preparations progressing smoothly according to plan. Chang'e-6 is scheduled for launch in the first half of this year, said the CNSA.

The Chang'e-6 mission aims to break new ground in lunar retrograde orbit design and control, intelligent sampling on the moon's far side, and ascent from the lunar surface. It will conduct an automated sample return from the moon's far side, along with scientific exploration of the landing area and international collaboration, according to the CNSA.

Wu Weiren, chief designer of China's lunar exploration program, has previously revealed that Stage 4 Chang'e lunar probe missions - the Chang'e-6, -7 and -8 - will carry out new planetary exploration missions and further upgrade the country's space launch capabilities in the next 15 years.

According to Wu, who is also the chief scientist and director of China's Deep Space Exploration Laboratory (DSEL), the Chang'e-6, to be launched in the first half year of 2024, will attempt to achieve the world's first lunar sample return from the dark side of the moon.

The scale of such samples retrieved from the moon would be around 2,000 grams. The epic Chang'e-5 mission retrieved 1,731 grams.

To enhance international cooperation, Chang'e-6 will carry payloads and satellite projects from countries and institutes including France, the European Space Agency, Italy and Pakistan.

The Chang'e-7 mission, set for 2026, aims to land on the moon's south pole and carry out lunar resource and environment surveys in the area. Besides that, the Chang'e-8 will verify new technology that makes use of lunar resources.

Wu said that China plans to achieve a manned moon landing around 2030.

China's Wednesday update on its fruitful lunar probe series, Chang'e, named after the Moon Goddess in Chinese mythology, came within the same week that US private firm Astrobotic Technology said its NASA-backed spacecraft's attempt to be the first US lander to reach the moon in more than 50 years had "no chance" of touching down on the lunar surface due to an apparent issue with the vehicle's propulsion system.

NASA on Tuesday also announced that it was delaying the mission for US astronauts to travel to the moon by about one year. Artemis III, originally targeted for late 2025, is now set for September 2026, and even that time frame is "very aggressive," the agency said.

Chinese authorities summon three express courier companies for talks

Chinese authorities on Thursday summoned three express courier companies, including YTO Express (Logistics) Co and Yunda Holding Co in Shanghai and Beijing-based JD Logistics, for administrative talks, which are suspected of providing consignment of firecrackers that breach government rules.

According to the official WeChat account of the State Post Bureau (SPB), the enterprises subject to inspection were suspected of posing serious security threats to both individuals and the public by delivering parcels of fireworks and firecrackers inappropriately.

In addition, some employees were found to be lacking in workplace discipline and safety awareness when collecting, receiving and inspecting the parcels.

The companies were required to fully and faithfully put the safety of the delivery process as  their first priority, uphold and act on the principle of seeking development in a safe manner, and putting the interests of the people above all else.

In the face of concerns over air pollution and out of other safety concerns, firework bans have been imposed by many local governments in China, and holiday fireworks activities have therefore been strictly restricted before the New Year’s Eve in 2023, according to thePaper.com.

The authorities include Department of Market Supervision & Inspection of the State Post Bureau (SPB), the Ministry of Emergency Management (MEM) and relevant department of the Ministry of Public Security (MPS).

China steps up financial support for housing rental market

China's central bank and top financial regulator on Friday issued a guideline on stepping up financial support for the housing rental market, vowing to offer more innovative credit products and services for housing rentals and to expand financing channels for the housing rental market.

The guideline from the People's Bank of China (PBC) and the National Administration of Financial Regulation (NAFR) is the latest effort by Chinese policymakers to stabilize the real estate market, by both defusing risks and meeting housing needs for key population groups such as young workers.

The guideline contains a total of 17 measures in four areas. Financial support will focus on key areas and weak links in the housing rental market, mainly in large cities, and will focus on addressing housing difficulties for groups such as new urban residents and young workers.

The guideline aims to offer financial support for various entities to build, renovate and operate long-term rental housing, revitalize exiting housing inventory, and increase the supply of affordable and commercial rental housing.

Among the main measures, the guideline, which was sent to the PBC and the NAFR's local branches and various types of banks, calls for an increase in credit support for housing rental development and construction. Commercial banks are being encouraged to extend loans for entities, including real estate developers, for developing and constructing rental housing projects. The standard loan term would be three years and will not exceed five years.

On the purchasing side, the guideline also encouraged commercial banks to extend loans for entities that purchase housing rental for employees. The term for such loans cannot exceed 30 years and the amount should not exceed 80 percent of the property value.

China has made stabilizing the real estate market a top priority for economic work in 2024. The tone-setting Central Economic Work Conference held in December called for active and prudent efforts to defuse risks in the property sector, address the reasonable financing needs of real estate enterprises, and accelerate the development of a new model for the real estate sector.

Also on Friday, following a national central bank meeting, the PBC vowed to actively support the stable and sound development of the real estate market, strengthen monitoring, and take various credit policies to meet the reasonable financial needs of various types of real estate companies.

Why Pentagon has trouble taming its wild V-22 Osprey

The US military has grounded its entire fleet of Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft after a deadly crash off Japan last week. Sputnik spoke to veteran Russian combat aircraft pilot Vladimir Popov to get a better sense of the problems associated with the fledgling technology, and why the US refuses to just close the Osprey program down.

A US Air Force Special Operations CV-22B Osprey flying from Yokota Air Base in Tokyo to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni on Okinawa went down over the East China Sea on November 29, killing all eight airmen onboard.

The crash was at least the 40th accident involving an Osprey since the aircraft's introduction into service with the US military in 2007, with crashes killing at least 53 US service members to date.

The Osprey program is the realization of an idea going back over a century ago of a tiltrotor, also known as a convertiplane - an aircraft with the ability to take off and land vertically using helicopter-style rotors attached to its wings, and which can adjust them during flight to a something closer to an airplane turboprop engine-style configuration. This dramatically increases the convertiplane's speed characteristics relative to those of an ordinary helicopter (up to doubling them).

The United States, the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany and Britain were the first countries to begin experimenting with tiltrotor designs, with each country building prototypes from the 1930s into the early post-war period before concluding the technology was too revolutionary to be implemented effectively using equipment and materials that existed at the time.

The USSR began work on a modern-day iteration of the convertiplane in the 1970s with the Mil Mi-30 Vintoplan (lit. 'Rotorplane') project, which featured an airplane-style fuselage design and characteristics allowing it to carry up to 32 people or up to five tons of cargo. The project, envisioned as a prospective replacement for the Soviet and Russian rugged Mi-8 workhorse series fleet of helicopters, was abandoned in the mid-1990s due to lack of funding after the USSR's collapse.
The Osprey project, designed by Bell and Boeing in the 1980s and first flown in March 1989, entered mass production in 2007, and has since been introduced into service with the US Marines Corps, Air Force, Navy, and Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force. The aircraft can carry up to 24 combat troops or nine tons of cargo. The V-22 is the only convertiplane to be mass produced by any nation, with over 400 built to date.

But as often happens with complex, innovative engineering designs, the glory of having the first fully operational, mass-produced convertiplane is also a heavy burden to bear, with the United States military not only reveling in the Osprey's advantages, but suffering from its flaws, with the V-22 suffering dozens of crashes and at least 16 hull losses to date.

Last week's crash in the East China Sea was the fourth fatal incident involving a V-22 in less than two years, and follows the August 2023 Marine MV-22B crash on Melville Island, Australia during an exercise, killing three service members, the June 2022 crash of a Marine MV-22B in California, killing five troops, and an MV-22B crash in Beiarn, Norway in March 2022, which killed another four Marines.

Investigations into the latest incidents have pointed to technical problems (including a drive system failure caused by a malfunctioning gearbox in the case of the June 2022 incident in California), and pilot error in the case of the March 2022 crash in Norway.

Investigators are yet to offer details on what may have caused the November 29 CV-22B crash off Japan, although eyewitnesses have reported fire coming from one of the aircraft's engines and the Osprey reportedly flying upside down before an explosion spewed wreckage into the surrounding water.

Sunk Costs

Speaking to Sputnik about last week's Osprey crash, and asked why the US military continues to use the convertiplanes despite their crash-prone nature, Honored Military Pilot of Russia Vladimir Popov explained that it likely has to do with the resources the Pentagon has expended on the project.

"The fact is that financial resources have already been invested into the aircraft's creation and implementation," the retired Air Force Major-General with decades of service under his belt told Sputnik.

"Most likely, the engineers, designers, technologists and everyone who took part in the Osprey's development decided that its reliability can be assured, and that it can be improved in the course of operations," Popov said.

"They are likely hoping to get an effective machine, but everything remains in the stages of development and refinement. For now, of course, such an aircraft cannot really be used anywhere, since doing so means losses of personnel and money down the drain. The idea is good, but the implementation, not so much," the veteran pilot explained.

The problem with convertiplane technology at its current stage lies with the components allowing the aircraft to switch from vertical to horizontal flight mode, Popov said. "This node is 'charged' with a great deal of energy, because large loads hang on it. It may not be able to process the transition quite correctly" at times, resulting in accidents.

"Tiltrotors have been flying for a very long time, and they have a short service life. Thus, it's too early to say that it has already reached the peak of its operational maturity. What needs to be done is to clarify what went wrong in each specific case, and to approach the issue carefully and get to the bottom of it. What's also needed is to improve working with personnel, to conduct additional tests, and change the training of the pilot and crew members. The US may continue to operate Ospreys, but they need to think long and hard about how to do so without making sacrifices. Sometimes it's enough to replace only one bolt and everything will work as it should," Popov stressed.

Last week's accident may have been the result of any number of factors, from pilot error and equipment failure to errors in the mathematical calculations by the Osprey's onboard computer, Popov believes.

That said, the veteran pilot is convinced that tiltrotor technology has good prospects for the future, given its status as what is effectively a hybrid airplane/helicopter design that can accelerate to speeds of up over 550 km per hour, far above the roughly 300 km per hour achieved by modern helicopters, which have now maxed out as far as further improvements in speed characteristics go.

COVID-19 infections in China at low epidemic level, no unknown viruses have been found: China CDC

COVID-19 infections in China are at a low epidemic level and no unknown viruses or bacteria have been found during the monitoring of respiratory pathogens in China, according to Chinese health authorities on Sunday.

BA.2.86 and its subvariants, including JN.1 variant, have become the dominant variants in some countries, yet, their public health risk in China is low given their low proportion, Chang Zhaorui, a research fellow from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC) told a press briefing on Sunday.

The proportion of BA.2.86 variant strains in the reported sequences in China is very low, but the proportion among imported cases has increased rapidly since November, and the growth trend has gradually converged with that of the world, Chang noted, 

Since the first imported case of BA.2.86 variant strain was reported on August 31, a total of 160 sequences of BA.2.86 and its subbranches have been reported in China, including 148 imported case sequences and 12 local case sequences, but no severe or critical cases have been found, the research fellow from the China CDC noted.

According to a statement published by National Disease Control and Prevention Administration on Friday, the possibility of the JN.1 variant, a branch variant of BA.2.86, becoming a dominant strain in the country cannot be ruled out due to the subsequent impact of international strains and imported cases.

On November 21, the World Health Organization (WHO) adjusted BA.2.86 from a variant requiring global surveillance to a variant requiring attention, evaluating the risk of clinical severe infection as low and the overall assessment of public health risk as low.

Experts reached by the Global Times said infectious diseases are common throughout the world. New variants of the novel coronavirus can appear in the future at any time and people should get used to their existence. More attention should be paid to overlapping infections of influenza and other respiratory diseases. 

In the past months, China has been experiencing a spike in respiratory disease. 

Mi Feng, a spokesperson from National Health Commission, said on Sunday's press briefing that hospital visits for respiratory diseases across China have shown a downward trend. 

Mi said that local medical institutes have been doing their part to ease pressure on major hospitals, accounting for 44 percent of total fever and outpatient visits.

The spokesperson called for the continued strengthening of surveillance and overall situation analysis for respiratory diseases and the allocation of medical resources to cope with the spike.

According to latest weekly report by the China CDC, the positive rate of influenza virus in the southern and northern provinces of China slowed down between December 4 and 10, and some provinces showed a downward trend. 

Rescue work concludes as earthquake kills 131 and injures 1,000 in NW China; Resettlement and treatment underway amid secondary disasters

The devastating Jishishan earthquake that rattled Northwest China overnight has led to a total of 131 fatalities, including 113 in Gansu Province and 18 in Qinghai Province. Nearly 1,000 people are reported injured, while 16 remain missing. Rescue work is drawing to an end, and the focus next will be the treatment of the injured and the resettlement of affected populations, authorities said at a press conference on Wednesday.

At present, more than 87,000 people have been temporarily evacuated and resettled in safe places, Gansu officials said at the press conference, revealing that nearly 15,000 houses collapsed and 207,000 more were damaged after the quake, affecting 145,736 people. 

According to the latest data, a total of 78 trapped individuals have been rescued, with 6,653 people evacuated as of 6:00 am on Wednesday. Additionally, 360 tents have been set up, 683 hazardous areas have been cleared, and 47 tons of relief supplies have arrived at the disaster-stricken sites. 

After 10 hours of nonstop efforts, all damaged roads and highways leading to the disaster area, especially toward the epicenter, have been cleared and reopened, including all 24 severely damaged rural roads, so that relief and supply vehicles were able to access impacted communities, the Gansu transport bureau said at the press conference. 

All routes within the Lanzhou Railway Bureau, which had been delayed significantly due to impacts of the earthquake, have also resumed normal operations on Wednesday morning.

The damaged main power grid circuits in the earthquake-stricken area of Gansu and Qinghai have also been fully restored as of Tuesday evening, according to the State Grid Gansu Electric Power Company.

A total of 423 aftershocks have been recorded over the one and a half days since the initial impact, including 10 aftershocks measuring 3.0 magnitude or higher. 

The strong earthquake triggered various secondary disasters. In Minhe county, Qinghai, which borders the epicenter Jishishan county, two villages experienced moving sand shortly after the earthquake. A significant number of houses were buried and washed away by mudslides, resulting in 20 individuals going missing. Following the incident, the Qinghai Provincial Fire Rescue Team swiftly organized overnight rescue operations.

The houses of 36 families, totaling 177 villagers, were destroyed by rushing sand in Jintian village, and 13 individuals are still missing. A firefighter on-site told the Global Times that after overnight search and rescue efforts, as of Wednesday morning, the bodies of four deceased have been discovered.

“The entire area is now covered with a thick layer of wet, thick and adhesive sludge. Rescue personnel told us that it’s so heavy and dense that it cannot be dug manually and requires heavy machinery for removal,” reporters from China Central Television said in a video shot from an impacted village.

Three excavators, brought in urgently, have been operating continuously, the CCTV report showed. “Shortly after the earthquake, waves of thick slurry, rising up to three meters high, surged and inundated the villages,” the reporter said in the video.

Yiwu Intl Trade City attracts customers to purchase imported goods for New Year

Editor's Note:

The Yiwu International Trade City Import Commodity Pavilion is a new benchmark set up by Yiwu to transform the Yiwu market from one-way export trade to multi-directional trade. The import commodity pavilion has a business area of 100,000 square meters, gathering products from more than 100 countries, including food, health products, clothing, shoes, hats, daily necessities, household items, kitchenware, daily chemical products, maternity and baby products, jewelry and accessories, and other 8 major categories of source goods. As the end of the year approaches, citizens come to purchase New Year goods and gifts. Photos: Li Hao/GT