To Lam elected as Vietnam’s new president

To Lam speaks after swearing in as the Vietnamese president at the National Assembly in Hanoi, Vietnam, May 22, 2024. /CFP

To Lam speaks after swearing in as the Vietnamese president at the National Assembly in Hanoi, Vietnam, May 22, 2024. /CFP

To Lam, a member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of Vietnam, was elected as the country’s new president on Wednesday, local media reported.

At the ongoing seventh session of the 15th National Assembly (NA) of Vietnam, Lam won a majority of the parliamentary vote to become state president for the 2021-2026 tenure, according to Vietnam News Agency.

During the swearing-in ceremony, the newly elected president said he would strive and make every effort to fulfil the duties entrusted by the Party, the State and the people.

General To Lam, born in 1957, hails from the northern province of Hung Yen.

He has been serving as a Politburo member in the 12th and 13th terms, and has been the minister of public security since April 2016.

On March 20, the 13th Communist Party of Vietnam Central Committee accepted the resignation of Vo Van Thuong as a Politburo member and Vietnam’s state president upon his personal request.

During an extraordinary session held on March 21, the country’s top legislature passed a resolution to relieve Thuong from the post of state president and the 15th tenure NA deputy. 

On the same day, Vice President Vo Thi Anh Xuan was named as the acting president of the country.

The seventh session of the 15th Vietnamese NA convened on Monday and is expected to close on June 28.  

Source(s): Xinhua News Agency

Death toll from south Brazil’s extended extreme weather climbs to 161

The discovery of four more bodies in the last few hours in south Brazil’s weather-battered Rio Grande do Sul state has pushed the death toll to 161, the Civil Defense agency said Tuesday.

Record rainfall has devastated the state since April 29, leading to deadly floods and mudslides in 464 cities and affecting over 2.2 million residents in both urban and rural areas, including the capital Porto Alegre.

(Cover: An aerial view shows a flooded area of Santa Rita neighborhood in the city of Guaiba, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil, May 20, 2024. /CFP)

Source(s): Xinhua News Agency

Shanghai healthcare to cover costs of assisted reproductive services

Shanghai is set to include 12 assisted reproductive medical services into its health insurance coverage in a move to encourage an upward tick in China’s birth rate. /CFP

Shanghai is set to include 12 assisted reproductive medical services into its health insurance coverage in a move to encourage an upward tick in China’s birth rate. /CFP

Shanghai is set to include 12 assisted reproductive medical services into its health insurance coverage in a move to encourage an upward tick in China’s birth rate.

Effective June 1, expenses related to procedures like egg retrieval, sperm retrieval, artificial insemination, embryo culture and embryo transfer will be included in healthcare coverage, according to a circular jointly issued by the city’s Healthcare Security Bureau, Human Resources and Social Security Bureau, and Health Commission.

To date, such healthcare coverage has been extended to 17 out of the 20 medical institutions in Shanghai providing assisted reproductive medical services.

The inclusion of these 12 items covers the majority of assisted reproductive technologies, which will effectively alleviate economic as well as psychological pressure on patients and their families, said Zhang Ting, a doctor at the reproductive medicine department of Renji Hospital.

For instance, healthcare insurance will pay for 70 percent of the egg retrieval cost, which stands at 2,500 yuan (about $352) per procedure, with each patient eligible for coverage thrice at a single medical institution, Zhang explained.

Source(s): Xinhua News Agency

International Day for Biological Diversity: From China to the world

May 22 commemorates the International Day for Biological Diversity, a poignant reminder of the critical significance of biodiversity and the imperative to safeguard and restore it.

Biodiversity serves as the cornerstone for addressing a range of challenges, from climate and health issues to ensuring food and water security, and fostering sustainable livelihoods. It provides the foundation for implementing nature-based solutions and rebuilding in a more resilient and sustainable manner.

China, a country with some of the richest biological resources in the world, has put biodiversity conservation high on its domestic policy agenda amid efforts to achieve harmony between humans and nature and foster green, eco-friendly and sustainable growth.

An increasing number of rare and endangered animals are frequently spotted in China’s vast territory, demonstrating the country’s endeavor in reversing species loss.

According to surveys by the National Forestry and Grassland Administration (NFGA), the total population of wild giant pandas has increased from approximately 1,100 in the 1980s to over 1,900 today. Data also shows that the population of milu deer has increased rapidly, from 77 in the 1980s to over 10,000 in 2022.

Known as the world’s rarest primate, Hainan gibbons have been listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. NFGA’s data shows that the Hainan gibbon population jumped from less than 10 in the 1980s to 37 in six groups as of 2023, 

The population of crested ibises, which originated in northwest China’s Shaanxi Province, has increased from less than a dozen in the 1980s to 10,000 in the world, of which over 9,000 are in China, recorded by NFGA’s survey.

Asian elephants, which numbered approximately 180 in the 1980s, surpassed 300 in 2023, according to the survey by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment.

In December 2022, the world came together and agreed on a global plan to transform our relationship with nature. The adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, also known as The Biodiversity Plan, sets goals and concrete measures to stop and reverse the loss of nature by 2050.

According to UN’s latest data, three-quarters of the land-based environment and about 66 percent of the marine environment have been significantly altered by human actions, and 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction.

The theme for this year’s International Day for Biological Diversity is “Be Part of the Plan,” which serves as a rallying call to action. It urges governments, indigenous peoples, local communities, non-governmental organizations, lawmakers, businesses and individuals to showcase their contributions toward the implementation of The Biodiversity Plan.

Harbin, a city of cross-styles & friendship

Illustration:Chen Xia/GT

Illustration:Chen Xia/GT

Russian-style music, language and architecture are bringing together the peoples of China and Russia, who are trying to take bilateral cultural ties to new heights. As the year 2024 marks the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Russia, the two countries are holding a China-Russia Year of Culture. 

At 9 o’clock in the evening on Central Street, a major tourist area in Harbin, Northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province, an artist played a lively Russian-style tune during a performance. As I walked down the bustling street, I saw a variety of cultural activities taking place. This type of scene is very common in downtown Harbin, but was especially more so during my time there as the 8th China-Russia Expo was being held in the city.

Earlier in the morning, upon my arrival at the local train station, Ivan, a Moscow-born student studying cross-cultural communication at Heilongjiang University, told me that Harbin shows some Russian influence in its unique mixture of architecture, literature, music and culture. The St. Sophia Cathedral near Central Street is just one example, he was proud to say.

However, what he didn’t know was that this was not my first time to the city. Well known for its historical Russian cultural influence, Harbin is also famous for its role as an important gateway in China-Russia trade today.

For this 20-year-old student who was once afraid of studying overseas alone, this city was unique. “Studying in China was my first choice,” Ivan said.  

During my stay in the city, one of the most impressive individuals I came across was Denis Daňko, 45, the owner of Daňko Bakery responsible for providing desserts and snacks for the 8th China-Russia Expo. Originally from Khabarovsk in the Russian Far East region, he has been living in China for nearly 20 years. Daňko told me that the natural closeness between Chinese and Russian cultures was the reason he decided to settle in China.

In Daňko’s view, baking is not just a livelihood, but also a way to bring the people of China and Russia closer together. Many people in Harbin enjoy Russian bread, creating a warm and pleasant atmosphere that attracted Daňko and his family to put down roots here. “Harbin is my second hometown,” he said.

“Me and my wife are foreigners. However, our children were born in China, so they are just like ordinary Chinese people. From kindergarten and elementary school to future university, work and marriage, they will all be here. Harbin is our home,” Daňko said.

My third stop was the Harbin Institute of Technology. 

The university is well-known as a cornerstone of China-Russia cooperation in higher education, a connection that can be traced back to the mid-20th century. It was established by Russian professionals as a Russian-Chinese technical college to train personnel for the Chinese Eastern Railway, a major transport route in the Pacific region. 

For more than 70 years, the university has exemplified the strong friendship between the two nations, fostering close ties with leading Russian universities in education, science, technology and other fields. 

Language and education also bring the two peoples together. In recent years, China-Russia education cooperation has achieved fruitful results and is experiencing good momentum. To date, about 50,000 Chinese citizens have received a higher education in Russia. At the same time, 16,000 Russians are studying in China. It is expected that the number of Chinese students in Russia and Russian students in China will continue to grow.

During his state visit to China, Russian President Vladimir Putin paid a visit to the Harbin Institute of Technology, where he met with Chinese and Russian students and faculty. 

For students and teachers at one of China’s leading providers of higher education in technology and a major R&D and innovation center, Putin’s visit left a great impression on them. 

“Academic exchanges are extremely important, allowing us to combine the best traditions and experience of Russian and Chinese schools of engineering and to train top class professionals, who are in great demand in the economies of both China and Russia,” a senior engineering student surnamed Xu said, adding that he never imagined that Putin would visit his campus. 

According to Xu, both his roommates and friends, who began studying Russian four years ago, were excited about Putin’s visit. 

“We love Russian literature, architecture, food and music,” Xu said, noting that in his hometown back in Suifenhe, enterprises expect experts with knowledge of foreign languages, especially Russian. 

With deeper exchanges and interactions, there is no doubt that more Chinese and Russian people will actively engage in cultural, educational and scientific exchanges, and bilateral exchanges will definitely make tangible contributions to the advancement of friendly and neighborly relations between China and Russia.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times. [email protected]

‘Dialogue with Africa’: Intl Tea Day celebrated at Beijing event

Photo: Bi Mengying/GT

Photo: Bi Mengying/GT

As established by the United Nations in 2019, the International Tea Day is celebrated on May 21 every year with the aim to raise awareness about the importance of tea in various cultures and its economic impact globally. 

The China Institute for Innovation and Development Strategy (CIIDS) ­hosted a cultural exchange event titled “Tea and the World: Dialogue with Africa” in Beijing on Tuesday. Diplomatic envoys, African international students in China, and cultural ambassadors gathered at the event to share their thoughts about tea culture and experienced various forms of tea art such as Tang Dynasty (618-907) tea roasting and Song Dynasty (960-1279) tea brewing.

“Tea has become a cultural bridge transcending national boundaries,” said Shan Wei, a member of the CIIDS Academic Committee and director of the International Centre for Cultural Exchange and Research at CIIDS. 

Originating from China, tea belongs to the world. Continuing to serve as a messenger of peace and friendship, it promotes communication and exchanges among different cultures and civilizations, Shan noted.

Photo: Bi Mengying/GT

Photo: Bi Mengying/GT

Cai Yuanyuan, a deputy director of the International Centre for Cultural Exchange and Research at CIIDS, told the Global Times that tea culture has been gaining in popularity and influence globally. The increasing numbers of Chinese milk tea shops overseas, or the Chinese tea bags provided in high-end hotels in Europe and North America, are just some examples of the branding and internationalization of Chinese tea products and culture.

Tea serves as a unique cultural symbol in China, initially used for medicinal purposes and gradually integrated into the daily life of the Chinese people since ancient times. Tea has become an important symbol of Chinese civilization and significant carrier for traditional Chinese culture. 

Tea and coffee are the two most important beverages in the world. Tea culture is gradually making its way into Africa, a region known for its coffee production. 

“In recent years, with the continuous deepening of China-African relations, tea and coffee, two regionally distinctive beverages, have begun to generate wonderful chemical reactions among young people in China and Africa. More and more Chinese youths are starting to taste African coffee, experiencing its unique flavor and charm. Meanwhile, African youths are gradually drawn to Chinese tea culture, beginning to explore the world of tea,” said Zhou Yefan, founder of the China-Africa Youth Federation. 

Zhou told the Global Times that today, tea culture has entered the lives of young people in new forms, with various types of milk tea, cold-brewed tea, and exquisite tea packaging featuring traditional Chinese cultural elements such as the 24 Solar Terms. 

Among the intertwining aromas of tea and coffee, young people from China and Africa are coming to understand each other’s cultural history and values, establishing friendships, he added. 

Russia accuses U.S. of seeking to place weapons in space

Vasily Nebenzya, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, speaks as the UN Security Council convenes to discuss a draft resolution spearheaded by Russia, advocating for the prohibition of the placement of any weapons in space in New York, May 20, 2024. /CFP

Vasily Nebenzya, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, speaks as the UN Security Council convenes to discuss a draft resolution spearheaded by Russia, advocating for the prohibition of the placement of any weapons in space in New York, May 20, 2024. /CFP

Russia on Tuesday said the United States was seeking to place weapons in space, a day after Washington vetoed a Russian non-proliferation motion at the United Nations.

“They have once again demonstrated that their true priorities in the area of outer space are aimed not at keeping space free from weapons of any kind but at placing weapons in space and turning it into an arena for military confrontation,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement.

The two superpowers have traded multiple accusations of seeking to weaponize space in recent months.

In February, Washington said it was concerned by an “anti-satellite capability that Russia has developed” after U.S. media outlets reported intelligence agencies had warned that Russia could launch a nuclear weapon into orbit.

Moscow denied those accusations as “malicious” and “unfounded,” saying it does not possess such systems.

Russia has since leveled similar charges at the United States.

Russia vetoed a U.S. initiative last month that called for a ban on the deployment of nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in space. Such a ban is already in place, courtesy of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, the Russian envoy pointed out at the time.

Moscow said the U.S. initiative focused only on nuclear weapons and that Washington was not seriously interested in a complete ban on weapons in space.

An amendment proposed by China and Russia to that draft resolution, which proposed a ban on all kinds of weapons, could not pass following votes against it by the U.S. and six other members.

On Monday, Moscow’s proposal similarly called for a ban on all kinds of weapons in space, including weapons of mass destruction. It was blocked by the United States, Britain and France in a vote.

U.S. envoy Robert Wood said Russia’s proposal, which called on all countries to “take urgent measures to prevent for all time the placement of weapons in outer space,” was a distraction and accused Moscow of “diplomatic gaslighting.”

Zakharova said Tuesday that Russia “will continue to make an unwavering contribution to keeping outer space free of weapons of any kind and preventing it from becoming another sphere of tension and armed confrontation.”

(With input from AFP)