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Exhibition pays tribute to sculptor and educator

An exhibition at the Yuda Art Space commemorates sculptor He Yanming. [Photo provided to China Daily]

He Yanming (1926-2013) led a life characterized by practicality, commitment, and humility, leaving an indelible mark as a sculptor and educator over a career spanning six decades. His artistic journey mirrors the evolving landscape of art in China from the 1940s onward.

A Life of Determination and Ease encapsulates He’s prolific career, showcasing dozens of his sculptures and paintings that bear witness to the artistic transformations he navigated. Through the highs and lows of his journey, He remained versatile and unwaveringly passionate about sculpture, using his art to address societal concerns and reflect on historical narratives.

Cruise market to fully recover in next 2 years, entering new stage: NDRC

The first domestically built large cruise ship, Adora Magic City, welcomes its first group of passengers - more than 3,000 people - at the Shanghai Wusongkou International Cruise Terminal in East China's Shanghai on January 1, 2024. On the same day, the cruise ship embarked on its maiden commercial voyage, taking passengers to popular destinations in Northeast Asia, such as Japan and South Korea. Photo: VCG

The first domestically built large cruise ship, Adora Magic City, welcomes its first group of passengers – more than 3,000 people – at the Shanghai Wusongkou International Cruise Terminal in East China’s Shanghai on January 1, 2024. On the same day, the cruise ship embarked on its maiden commercial voyage, taking passengers to popular destinations in Northeast Asia, such as Japan and South Korea. Photo: VCG

China’s cruise tourism market, with a sharp rise in both Chinese and foreign passenger flows, will achieve a full recovery within two years, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China’s top economic planner, said on Wednesday, signaling strong momentum for the sector.

China’s cruise tourism market is rebounding rapidly. After international cruises resumed sailing in September 2023, more than 107,000 Chinese and foreign passengers were transported during the remaining months of the year, Huo Fupeng, an NDRC official, told a press briefing on Wednesday.

In the first quarter of 2024, the industry welcomed more than 190,000 passengers, a positive growth trend, Huo said. In March, four cruise ships, comprising both Chinese and foreign vessels, simultaneously docked at a port in Shanghai, reflecting a robust cruise industry, the official said.

China remains a vast blue ocean in terms of cruise ship building, cruise operations and the cruise tourism consumer market, offering significant room for development, Huo noted.

China’s first domestically built large cruise ship, the Adora Magic City, began operations at the start of 2024, and it has completed more than 30 voyages so far, according to the NDRC on Wednesday.

A second cruise ship was still under construction in April, and it is expected to be delivered before the end of this year, the NDRC said.

Also, Huaxia International Cruise Co has been established in Shanghai. Relevant enterprises are collaborating to jointly create a professional, market-oriented and international operational services team, according to the NDRC.

The port infrastructure for cruises is improving. Thirteen cruise embarkation ports have been created nationwide, spanning from Dalian, Northeast China’s Liaoning Province to Sanya, South China’s Hainan Province. This expansion significantly boosts the transportation capacity of both domestic and international cruise ships.

“China started laying the groundwork for its cruise tourism market before the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. After two years of adjustment, we’ve now entered a phase of significant expansion of the industry,” Song Ding, a research fellow from the China Development Institute, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

“I anticipate the deployment of 10 cruise ships, with itineraries covering the globe,” Song said.

“The high-end cruise market was traditionally centered around the Mediterranean and Caribbean coasts,” Jiang Yiyi, a vice president of the School of Leisure Sports and Tourism at Beijing Sport University, told the Global Times on Wednesday. “Despite China’s late entry, its cruise industry has swiftly gained momentum. Initially reliant on foreign cruise companies for coastal routes, China now boasts its own flourishing cruise industry.” 

“Our goal is to embark on intercontinental voyages and attract foreign travelers,” Jiang said.

Regulations for international cruise ships to dock and replenish at Chinese ports will come into effect on June 1, offering more convenience.

China’s National Immigration Administration announced on May 15 the full implementation of a visa exemption policy for foreign tourist groups entering China on cruise ships from the country’s coastal provinces and cities, with the policy taking immediate effect, showcasing China’s further opening-up in its cruise tourism market.

Xizang reaches trade milestone, showcasing progress in high-level opening up

Tourists enjoy the scenery by the Lake Namtso in southwest China's Xizang Autonomous Region, May 19, 2024. As temperature rises and ice melts, the Lake Namtso will enter its tourism season. Photo: Xinhua

Tourists enjoy the scenery by the Lake Namtso in southwest China’s Xizang Autonomous Region, May 19, 2024. As temperature rises and ice melts, the Lake Namtso will enter its tourism season. Photo: Xinhua

 

A local official in Southwest China’s Xizang Autonomous Region said on Thursday that the total foreign trade volume of the region reached 10 billion yuan ($138.08 million) in 2023, marking a historic breakthrough. 

This milestone highlights the significant strides the region has made in advancing high-level opening up and high-quality development in recent years, observers said.

As a key node in the China-proposed Belt and Road initiative, Xizang has achieved greater connectivity with its neighboring countries and regions in various sectors, welcoming a broader market through high-level opening up, analysts said, noting that its latest economic achievements will bring more opportunities and support for the development of China’s vast western regions.

Opening up is the only path for the region’s high-quality development, Yan Jinhai, deputy secretary of the Communist Party of China Xizang Autonomous Regional Committee and chairman of the People’s Government of Xizang Autonomous Region, said during a press conference.

In 2023, Xizang engaged in import and export trade with 175 countries and regions, witnessing a 138.3 percent surge in the total volume of goods traded. From January to April this year, the total foreign trade volume in the region reached 2.8 billion yuan, a remarkable increase of 201.7 percent year-on-year, according to official data Yan cited.

Yan said the region’s strides are a result of its firm commitment to revitalizing border areas, boosting public services and infrastructure, and exploring high-quality development through continuous opening up. Vigorous efforts have included enabling dual customs clearance for both passengers and goods at four national ports and restoring 15 traditional border trade points.

As a key driver of the region’s prosperity, Xizang’s tourism sector has also seen significant growth, welcoming 55.17 million visitors last year and generating record-high revenue of 65.1 billion yuan. This marked a notable 83.7 percent increase in tourist numbers from the previous year and a 60 percent increase in revenue. The official also expressed strong confidence in sustaining double-digit growth in the tourism sector for 2024.

Xizang boasts unique geographic and cultural features, as well as significant resources and demographic advantages. Coupled with the current policy support, the convergence of these strengths will unleash boundless impetus and potential for the region’s development, analysts said.

Moreover, the region is also accelerating the cultivation of new quality productive forces driven by high-tech innovation. Its unique climate characteristics and low-cost clean energy provide unparalleled advantages for the development of high-tech digital industries.

Xizang is building the world’s highest-altitude green data center to spur innovation through computational power, with a planned investment of 11.8 billion yuan, Yan said, noting the region’s digital economy exceeded 25 billion yuan last year.

Last year, the region’s GDP reached nearly 240 billion yuan, growing by 9.5 percent, and ranking first in China. The region’s total financial resources amounted to 380 billion yuan, with per capita financial resources also topping the national rankings, according to official data.

Looking ahead, local authorities have vowed to make all-out efforts to stabilize economic growth, expand consumption, and enhance development momentum. They aim to effectively propel the high-quality development of Xizang’s economy to new heights by continuously fostering new growth points.

EV ‘decoupling’ unrealistic for China, West despite US trade protectionism

Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

Amid escalating tensions caused by new US tariffs on electric vehicles (EVs) from China, as well as the increasingly fierce competition faced by Western automakers, it is not surprising that some foreign media outlets have been cherry-picking information or even manufacturing stories to claim some US and EU auto manufacturers may accelerate the diversification of their supply chains by producing components and parts outside of China. However, “decoupling” and supply chain cutoffs are neither possible nor feasible.

Recent decades have seen auto companies from the US and EU continuously increasing investment in China, for multiple reasons. 

On the one hand, China has a supersize market. Profits from China sales have been an important source of revenue for many Western auto companies. On the other hand, China’s well-established industrial chain has helped these manufacturers achieve the dual goals of cutting production costs and improving the quality of their products through the development of special and sophisticated technologies.

China’s supply chain advantage has, to some extent, served as a key piece in the puzzle for these automakers’ competitiveness. 

Many Western auto manufacturers have been striving to strengthen the localization of their operations since they entered China. Take Tesla, for example: according to media reports, Tesla’s localization rate of components used in its Gigafactory in Shanghai has exceeded 95 percent.

It is precisely because of China’s well-established supply chain that Tesla’s Gigafactory in Shanghai is reportedly able to produce a vehicle in less than 40 seconds.

The competitiveness of made-in-China EVs comes from continuous technological innovation, efficient production and complete supply chains, as well as high labor productivity. Western auto manufacturers are among the ultimate beneficiaries of all of those factors. If Western auto companies accelerate their supply chain shift from China to other countries, or even decouple from the Chinese industrial chain, their competitiveness will be significantly reduced.

There is no need to deny that Western auto companies are facing tough competition in China, which is an inevitable result of the rise of China’s EV brands. Some foreign media outlets are keen to hype the competition, and some have said that some Western automakers have to scale back production in China. 

It is not wise to draw simplistic conclusions. The depth and breadth of contemporary cooperation between US and EU automakers and China’s supply chains go beyond what some Westerners can imagine. If Western companies move production out of China, it will be difficult for them to compete with Chinese companies, whose competitiveness comes from the country’s inherent supply chain advantages and other factors.

So it is deeply regrettable that US President Joe Biden has decided to impose tariffs of 100 percent on EVs made in China. This approach will seriously disrupt global supply chains. Western companies operating in China may also be negatively affected. Some manufacturers may be forced to make adjustments and bear the losses themselves. 

It is believed these companies will spare no efforts to minimize their losses, which means that even if they make adjustments, the range won’t be large. It should be noted that the development of China’s EV sector won’t be affected.

China is well ahead in terms of core supply chains, mass production and the technological development of EVs. China’s process in this regard has not finished yet. The competitiveness of China’s EV sector will continue to rise.

In contrast to the unprecedented and increased trade protectionism measures the US has launched against China’s EV sector, China will continue to cooperate with Western companies and welcome them to share China’s development opportunities. 

With the continuous rise of China’s EV sector, Western companies have no choice but to continue strengthening cooperation with China’s supply chain, which will help them gain more benefits and improve their position amid fierce competition. 

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

The infected blood scandal shows institutionally Britain is a failing state

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

What happens when the apparatus of government and public institutions turn against the people they are supposed to serve? Apologies are made, along with promises that lessons will be learned and that nothing like it will ever happen again. But all too often the apologies are hollow, lessons are not learned and, tragically, there always seems to be another catastrophe just waiting to happen. That is how it feels to be a British citizen right now.

The publication this week of the findings of a public inquiry into the infected blood scandal in the UK provoked widespread outrage. Public revulsion, however, will have been aggravated by the common awareness that this is only the latest in a series of scandals demonstrating the contempt in which the country’s ruling classes hold the concepts of fairness, public service, due diligence and transparency – and even the citizens they are supposed to serve. Britain, institutionally speaking, is a failing state.

The scale of the dereliction is as extensive as it is egregious. The contaminated blood scandal is merely the most recent, though its roots began almost 50 years ago when dangerous blood products, imported from the US having been donated by drug addicts or prisoners for money, were given to 30,000 British patients, causing the deaths of 3,000 people. Sufferers were told they had received the best treatment possible, officials denied wrongdoing and records were destroyed.

When UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak apologized for the failures, he said it was “a day of shame for the British state.” Sadly, it is only one of many such days. Sometimes, it seems that the UK is locked in a continual vicious circle of bureaucratic atrocities.

One of the worst must be the Post Office scandal, which saw more than 900 innocent sub-postmasters prosecuted for theft and fraud over a 16-year period up to 2015, despite their bosses being fully aware that a computer fault was responsible for the problems. People were ruined and even jailed. It has been described as one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in British history. Key features of the story are that ordinary, innocent people suffered so that a system that handsomely rewarded superiors could be preserved; management repeatedly demonstrated disdain for the workers, denied the facts they knew to be true, and conspired to cover up their failures.

In 2017, 72 people died when the London apartment block Grenfell Tower caught fire. It later emerged that poor government regulations had permitted developers to clad the building in unsafe ways which accelerated the spread of the fire. This week the Metropolitan Police admitted that 58 individuals and 19 organizations may be prosecuted – but not until 2027 at the earliest, 10 years after the tragedy.

Regarding the infected blood scandal, perhaps it was the result of blindly trusting an ally to provide a valuable resource that needed to be indisputably safe and reliable, which led to the failure of the product. There were certainly failures by multiple governments internationally. What cannot be denied is that at the core of the problem was the acceptance by corporate America that it was acceptable to source blood supplies from high-risk individuals such as drug addicts and prisoners, who gladly complied as it earned them money.  Corporate health mattered more than the health of patients.

The blood inquiry report delivered a damning indictment of the institutional paraphernalia which allowed the scandal to happen, which enabled a cover-up, and permitted politicians to repeat lies for many years. The concept of public service too often seems to mean little to those whose job it is supposed to be to administer it. Taken as a whole with other scandals, what it exposes, almost by a process of gradual erosion, is that institutionally Britain is a basket case, run by people who operate the levers of power in their own interests, and do not serve the interests of the people. It is unethical, a moral shortfall: For Britain’s ruling class, it is the normal way of doing things.

The author is a journalist and lecturer in Britain. [email protected]

Do we still need them?

Editor’s Note:


AI, digital life, space travel… The future is coming at an unimaginable speed. 

At this crucial moment when China has embarked on a new journey to comprehensively build  a modern socialist country, such rapid development and transformation not only bring vast opportunities and prospects, but also unpredictable challenges and problems. 

These challenges and problems, ranging from the future of human survival, the transformation of local development, to the life and death of a family or a stray animal, could be key topics that trigger social discussion. Each debate surrounding these topics is an inevitable pain point on China’s path to pursuing high-quality development.

Against this backdrop, Global Times has launched the Deep Focus series, focusing on specific issues in current social development. Through detailed investigation and research, we aim to uncover the root causes behind these problems, seek solutions, and engage with relevant parties and sectors to find keys to unlock these complex issues.

This is the first installation of the series. In this article we focus on the transformation dilemma of Chinese private zoos and try to find a way out for them.

A tiger in the cage Photo: VCG

Picture shows a Siberian tiger in a cage. The tiger belonged to the circus at Guangzhou Zoo, which was shut down on August 31, 2017, after 24 years of operation. Photo: VCG

The first zoo I have ever visited is the one in my home county – a place among China’s top 100 counties in East China’s Jiangsu Province. That was almost 20 years ago, but the spiritless tigers and lions and their stinky cages in the zoo still pop into my head every time I see any news related to captive animals or visited any zoo, Xu Yamei (pseudonym) told the Global Times.

I visit zoos out of curiosity for wildlife. Animals deprived of their natural habitat were the last thing I looked forward to seeing in a zoo and I believe so it was for many others, said the 33-year-old woman who works in Beijing.  

Xu is a representative of Chinese people who were shocked by the deaths of 20 Siberian tigers – an endangered species under China’s top-class state protection framework – as well as some other rare animals in recent years in a wild animal zoo in Fuyang, East China’s Anhui Province. 

The issue soon made a splash on Chinese social platforms and triggered a heated discussion over the conditions and transformation of private zoos across the country.

According to investigations conducted by local authorities, the Fuyang wild animal zoo is privately owned and had previously red flagged on several occasions, including  land use disputes, which led to issues of animals being introduced to enclosures which did not meet environmental protection standards. At the same time, the zoo has repeatedly violated regulations while taking risks to meet rising commercial pressure.

Although the zoo has been ordered to address a number of problems, the news of animal deaths has brought the issue of animal protection to the forefront of public discussion. 

If the zoo can meet all requirements after rectification, the animals there will most likely be allowed to remain in the facility. Should the zoo fail to meet the standards after rectification, it will be ordered to close, and the animals will have to be transferred to other locations. 

“The animals will be affected either way,” Sun Quanhui, a scientist from the World Animal Protection organization, told the Global Times. 

Sun believes that the Fuyang wild animal zoo is not an isolated case, but an epitome of many other wildlife parks in China that are struggling with a range of operational and management problems. 

So, the question is, do we still need private zoos? 

Visitors feed a deer in a wild animal park when they drive through the park. Photo: VCG

Visitors feed a deer in a wild animal park in Lanzhou, Northwest China’s Gansu Province, when they drive through the park on September 4, 2022. Photo: VCG

Fading market 

There are both state-owned and private zoos in China. 

State-owned zoos like the Beijing Zoo that were mostly established in the early days of the People’s Republic of China. They are usually located in provincial capital cities and managed by local forestry and grassland bureaus. They have rare animals, and their main responsibilities are education, research, animal breeding, and conservation. 

These zoos derive funding from local government revenue and their expenses are covered by government allocations according to budget measures. But governmental allocation does not guarantee a sure bet. Some public zoos have been forced to restructure and become private enterprises during the process of China’s market reform.   

Along with the opening of the market and the development of the private economy, private zoos emerged across China’s small cities and counties. These zoos tend to be built in suburban areas. The ticket prices and investment requirements within these zoos are more flexible and varied than those in public zoos. However, many small-scale private zoos, especially those in small-cities and counties, have often fallen short in providing suitable habitats for animals. 

The annual registration of enterprises related to wildlife parks in China reached a small peak in 2007, with more than 30 new additions throughout the year, according to jiemian.com. The number continued to climb from 2015 to 2020, with 40 new additions in 2019, according to the report.

Searching “wild life park” on Chinese corporate information platform Tianyancha on Thursday, 4,373 results were identified by the Global Times, of which 4,303 were private companies. 

It is estimated that more than 90 percent of these wildlife parks are operating at a loss according to the data published in a number of media reports.

According to a report on industry information consulting website chyxx.com, the market size of China’s zoo industry continued to increase from 2014 to 2019, but experienced a significant decline from 2020 to 2022. 

According to the report, the Chinese zoo market size reached approximately 69.7 billion yuan in 2022, a year-on-year slump of 12.1 percent. Ticket revenue accounted for only 5.6 percent of the market size, while catering and other services accounted for 94.4 percent.

Outside some large wildlife parks such as Chimelong Safari Park in South China’s Guangdong Province, the operating profits in the industry have been reportedly declining over recent years, especially given the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic, according to industry insiders.

Visitor dramatically fell during the epidemic, while the cost of day-to-day operations of zoos became an increasingly acute issue. In 2021, the Nanjing Hongshan Forest Zoo gained public attention after calling for public donations to “adopt” their animals as the zoo suffered a deficit of over 30 million yuan in 2020 alone, accounting for 40 percent of its yearly income in previous years, taking the zoo to a place that it could not afford to pay its employees. 

Another important reason to the shrinking market is product homogenization, fierce competition, outdated park services and a greater emphasis on animal protection after an extended run of expansion and development of the market, observers pointed out. 

Some zookeepers told jiemian.com that the salaries and benefits of employees in private zoos remained very low (only 3,000-4,000 yuan). The recruitment process is also overly casual, and there is no detailed and comprehensive safety training for new employees, leading to a growing number of management issues in zoos and wildlife parks.

Live animal performances remain a controversy still haunting Chinese zoos. In 2023, some netizens exposed that White Tiger Mountain Wildlife Park in Juye county, Heze City, East China’s Shandong Province, located 300 kilometers north of Fuyang, was illegally keeping a national first-class protected animal, the Asian elephant, for lives performances. Photos circulating on social media platforms revealed a skinny and unhealthy-looking Asian elephant.

Chinese authorities banned animal performances in 2010. Some local circus troupes that used to have animal acts were forced to lease or offload their trained animals to local tourist attractions for display, which also increased management risks for these venues. 

Some children visit a local small private zoo in Enshi, Central China's Hubei Province, under the accompany of their families on Fabruary 11, 2024. Photo: VCG

Some children visit a local small private zoo in Enshi, Central China’s Hubei Province, under the accompany of their families on Fabruary 11, 2024. Photo: VCG

Rising regulatory standards   

Many domestic wildlife parks are privately owned, meaning that the main purpose of the investors in establishing and operating these parks is for profit. The fact is that there remain blind spots and loopholes in the regulation of the business activities of these enterprises by government departments, Sun noted.  

If something goes wrong in a public zoo, local authorities take responsibilities and actions. In contrast, China’s regulatory measures and management framework for private wildlife parks and zoos are relatively weak. The responsibilities of relevant departments need to be further clarified and defined, according to Sun. 

Sun contends that advanced zoos should be not only centers for science education, animal research, and conservation, but should also actively participate in wildlife rescue and endangered species conservation efforts, helping wild animals return to their natural habitat. 

Then what should we do with those venue who do not meet the standard of “advanced zoos?”

“They should all be closed,” according to Zhou Jinfeng, secretary-general of China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation, as reported by thepaper.cn when asked the same question.

“The zoo is a product of human civilization. The initial purpose of zoos in various places was basically to make money, for tourism, and entertainment. Only recently did people add a lot of popular science content to their scope, but in reality, the commercial attributes of zoos have not changed. The core purpose is still to make money,” Zhou said. 

As for other functions such as popularizing science, there are now ways to replace them. Therefore, small and medium-sized zoos, poorly managed zoos, zoos with conflicts and impacts on the environment and surroundings, and zoos that fail to consider animal welfare, should all be abolished. “Just like ancient gladiator arenas, there may be an empty shell, as a memorial hall, but the development path of this industry should be like this,” he said.

As to how to deal with animals after zoos are closed, Zhou gave several directions: for wild animals, they can be released into suitable national reserves where they can live freely; for animals that are born and bred in zoos for many generations, they can undergo moderate wilding and observation programs, and be released at the appropriate time; a simple area could also be set up for them within the reserve areas, giving them time and space to adapt to the wild environment before ultimately being released.

National and regional animal protection departments and wildlife rescue stations can share part of the work. But overall, China still lacks experience in returning animals to nature at scale, according to Zhou. 

Wang Shicheng, a zoo enthusiast in Nanjing who has visited 75 zoos in China, wonders if there is still hope for zoos in small and medium-sized cities to improve and exist for a longer time before they become historical arenas.

“Although the conditions of these zoos are not ideal, I want to show everyone their true face, after all, they are also important memories of life for the people in small places,” Wang said.   

Maybe these small zoos do not necessarily have to keep large animals like tigers and elephant. They can focus on raising smaller animals like foxes and wild boars, Wang said.

Hongshan Forest Zoo Photo: VCG

Hongshan Forest Zoo Photo: VCG

Where to go?

Chinese zoos are working to remain relevant and up to standard as the entire industry pivots toward valuing customer experience and animal welfare. They are trying to avoid keeping animals in cages and focusing on the living environment of animals. 

The Hongshan zoo in Nanjing is taking the lead in the direction. The zoo now has become popular among Chinese netizens for the wholehearted respect and love that employees have for the animals. During the recent May Day holidays, its visitor numbers rivaled those of Shanghai Disneyland.

Staff in the zoo always tell visitors, “At Hongshan, animals are the hosts, and everyone else is a guest. They have the right not to ‘receive guests,’ and we must remember not to feed the animals.”

Every animal in the zoo has its own name. Information boards provide their ID photos, age of entry, personality differences, growth updates, and even obituaries. Based on this, the zoo further creates animal IP and develops cultural and creative products, which in turn boosts the zoo’s income.

Regulators are also expected to restrict the construction of wildlife parks, and the approval of animal breeding permits for zoos will become more stringent over time. At the same time, the cultural and tourism investment companies established in various regions will upgrade and renovate traditional wildlife parks, experts said. 

In the future, public zoos will prioritize social benefits, while private zoos need to balance ecological, social, and commercial considerations, Ge Lei, an expert from the China Tourism Association, was quoted by jiemian.com as saying.

“With China’s achievements in ecological conservation and animal protection, wildlife sightings have become common. In the future, China may establish a number of national parks similar to the Maasai Mara in Africa, where people can observe animals in nature and experience the beauty of nature in its original form,” Ge said.

The picture Ge laid out is what Xu sees as the future for the domestic wildlife zoo industry.

“And I know that many zoos in our country have been improving. They are providing better conditions to the animals, stopping, or at least reducing, animal performances and hiring professions who really understand, respect and love animals instead of treating them as tools to make money,” Xu said. “Someday, I wish zoos can make me feel like being a guest in the animals’ home rather than a visitor.”

Do we still need them?

Do we still need them?

    

Lai’s attempt to seek ‘independence’ will surely face strong counterattack: Global Times editorial

Illustration: Liu Xidan/GT

Illustration: Liu Xidan/GT

Lai Ching-te, the Taiwan region’s new leader, has stepped onto the front stage with a radical and adventurous “Taiwan independence” stance in his inauguration speech on May 20. The speech was full of hostility, provocation, lies and deception, releasing dangerous and provocative signals of seeking “Taiwan independence.” It has caused deep concern among the public about the future of the island of Taiwan and cross-Straits relations. Lai, who incites anti-China sentiment and attempts to achieve “independence through force,” is pushing Taiwan into a perilous situation of potential conflicts, bringing profound disasters to the Taiwan compatriots.

After former regional leader Tsai Ing-wen took office in 2016 and delivered her inaugural speech, the mainland gave her an evaluation that she had delivered “an unfinished answer sheet.” On his first day in office, Lai also faced this answer sheet, with a choice between peace or war, development or decline, communication or separation, cooperation or confrontation. However, he openly advocated for so-called “sovereignty independence,” “mutual non-subordination” between the two sides of the Straits, “Taiwan people’s self-determination” and other fallacies of separation, displaying an extremely arrogant attitude and advocating for even more radical positions, essentially tearing up the answer sheet. 

Of course, Lai employed some political rhetoric. For example, he packaged his kowtowing to external forces as “engaging with the rest of the world,” his selling out Taiwan’s interests as “holding firm its key position in the global democratic supply chain,” and seeking independence through force as “demonstrating the strength of deterrence.” He attempted to deceive the Taiwan people into believing that pursuing “Taiwan independence” not only has a way out but is also a way to build a more “democratic, peaceful, and prosperous” Taiwan. This means turning people into bargaining chips, sacrificing them for the political gamble of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Some in Taiwan who are relatively clear-headed about the cross-Straits situation have already seen this danger. Some Taiwan scholars have bluntly stated that in their decades of studying cross-Straits relations, they have never felt such fear and have already sensed the need for Taiwan to prepare for tough times. Meanwhile, some Taiwan media have pointed out that Lai’s speech exposes flawed strategic cognition leading to a misjudgment of the situation, putting Taiwan into a high-risk period, not only failing to appease concerns about cross-Straits tensions but also possibly exacerbating fears of “provoking war.” A latest TVBS poll in Taiwan shows that more than half of the people have no confidence in Lai’s handling of cross-Straits relations. Lai attempts to manipulate Taiwan’s public opinion, but the latter has already given him a clear answer. 

Over the past eight years, the sharp decline in cross-Straits relations has fully proven that the DPP’s “Taiwan independence” route, which is confrontational and harmful, has been the root cause of the Taiwan region’s military dangers, social division and damage to the economy and people’s livelihoods. Now, Lai wants to add fuel to the “Taiwan independence” route, which will only push the region further away from peace and prosperity and closer to war and decline. The “inaugural speech” fully exposes that Lai is not “treating Taiwan people as family,” but treating them as worthless; he is not making Taiwan a “pilot for peace,” but the poison for global peace.

Compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Straits are all Chinese and belong to the Chinese nation. No one wishes more than us to achieve reunification through peaceful means. However, the DPP authorities collude with external forces to seek “independence,” and we must counter and punish them. The “Joint Sword-2024A” drills conducted by the Eastern Theater Command of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army around the island of Taiwan fully demonstrate that the Taiwan authorities provoke once, we will take countermeasures once; if they provoke more, we will counter their provocations more fiercely, and we will do what we say.

Over the past two years, the number of times that people in Taiwan have taken to the streets to call for “peace and anti-war” is more than the total of the eight years under the leadership of Ma Ying-jeou. The British magazine The Economist has listed the Taiwan region as the “most dangerous place on Earth,” which is the result of repeated provocations by the “Taiwan independence” forces. The leader of the defense authority of Taiwan recently admitted that the cross-Straits situation is so tense that it is causing him to lose sleep. The truth is clear: “Taiwan independence” and peace in the Taiwan Straits are incompatible. “Taiwan independence” means war. The DPP authorities are provoking “independence” and must bear the consequences of playing with fire.

In his speech, Lai, while clamoring to “raise defense awareness,” is also desperately seeking support and encouragement from external forces. This precisely reflects the fact that he is well aware that he is pushing the Taiwan region into a dangerous situation of war and crisis, which will inevitably bring great disaster to the Taiwan people. No matter how Lai grovels and flatters external forces and how he wholeheartedly acts as the “vanguard” and “pioneer” of external forces to contain China’s development, he is nothing more than a “pawn,” and a “pawn” will eventually become a “discarded piece.”

Chinese farms use drones, big data to ensure bountiful harvest

A farmer sprays pesticides in the corn field in the Tacheng Prefecture, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region with a spray truck on May 14, 2024. Photo: VCG

A farmer sprays pesticides in the corn field in the Tacheng Prefecture, Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region with a spray truck on May 14, 2024. Photo: VCG

As summer begins, various regions in China are making every effort to ensure a successful summer harvest.

There are three different grain production seasons in China: summer grain, early rice and autumn grain, accounting for about 21 percent, 4 percent and 75 percent of the annual grain output respectively. 

Summer grain is the first season of grain production in the whole year and mainly includes summer harvested grains, beans and potatoes. Among them, summer harvest cereals are mainly wheat, barley, oats, buckwheat, and etc. 

The wheat growing period is from October of the previous year to June of the current year, and summer grain procurement is generally from mid-May to September 30 of the current year. This years, 6.5 percent of summer grain has been harvested nationwide as of May 17, according to a report of people.cn that day.

In Southwest China’s Sichuan Province, 80 percent of the total 9.1 million
mu (600,000 hectares) of wheat planted in the province had already been harvested, according to a report by China Central Television (CCTV) on Tuesday. 

To improve the wheat harvest, authorities in the Xuanhan county in Sichuan have organized agricultural experts to go down to the fields to guide local farmers in fertilization, weeding, pest control, and other field management work. They have been providing full-process tracking services starting from the selection of corn varieties, ensuring a high-yield harvest for corn in the county. 

So far, more than 420 county and township agricultural technicians have been deployed to carry out technical training and guidance for over 170,000 people at the grassroots level, people.cn reported Tuesday.

“This year, the corn is growing well. The agricultural technicians have taught us about disease prevention, pest control, and fertilization, making us confident about the upcoming harvest,” Xuanhan farmer Ao Mingchun told people.cn with a smile.

In the wheat-producing areas of southern Hubei in Central China, the harvest is nearing completion, while the main producing areas in the north have begun large-scale mechanized harvesting. Various areas have set up cross-district operation reception stations for farm machinery operators to ensure logistical support.

In East China’s Anhui Province, one of China’s main agricultural provinces, more than 43 million
mu of wheat is being harvested from south to north. The province plans to deploy approximately 170,000 high-performance combined harvesters and take advantage of the upcoming sunny weather in the next few days to accelerate the harvest. At the same time, various regions in Anhui are preparing for grain storage to ensure the safe storage of summer grain.

Zhu Geng, director of the grain development affairs center in Linquan county, Anhui, told CCTV, “Our county has already cleaned and warehoused around 450,000 tons of wheat, showing an increased warehouse capacity of 20 percent compared to last year. The county is also fully preparing for cleaning, drying, storage, processing, and sales for farmers.”  

New equipment and technology are being used to assist in the summer harvest according to local conditions. 

At a farm in Dacaozhuang village in Xingtai, Hebei Province, a self-propelled irrigation machine that combines watering, fertilizing, and spraying pesticides can cover 600
mu of land a day. Authorities along the Hexi Corridor in Northwest China’s Gansu Province are also vigorously promoting new wheat irrigation technologies, like drip irrigation technology, to save on water and fertilizer. For example, Jiuquan city is focusing on developing more than 1.3 million
mu of efficient water-saving farmland.

“We have changed from watering the land to watering the crops, increasing our water utilization rate by 30 percent and our fertilizer utilization rate by 20-30 percent,” Zhu Xiaotao, director of the agricultural technology promotion center in Jinta county in Jiuquan, told CCTV.

In Central China’s Jiangxi Province, 2.1 million
mu of early rice in Ganzhou has entered the tillering stage, meaning it is crucial that work to prevent disease and pests is carried out. This year, the local government is actively promoting the use of solar-powered insecticidal lamps, plant protection drones, and other multi-level pest control methods to enhance pest control efficiency and solidify the foundation for a bountiful harvest.

The optimal harvesting period for wheat is only 3-5 days. So to ensure a successful wheat harvest, many enterprises and local governments have also utilized technology such as big data to build intelligent service platforms. 

A company in Laixi in East China’s Shandong Province has established a smart agriculture big data platform on which farmers can set programs on their phones to control irrigation machines and drones. In 2024, the wheat planting area in Shandong reached over 60 million
mu, with a stable increase compared to the previous year and a total output that is expected to reach a new historical high.

In response, the number of cross-district harvesters in Shandong is expected to increase by around 10 in 2024. Local harvester companies have established   intelligent service platforms for customers to view information such as the maturity period, cluster distribution, and weather warnings in various regions, improving the convenience of cross-district operations.

Global Times

Working staff check combine harvesters before they depart for cross-region work in Weinan, Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, on April 22, 2024. Photo: VCG

Working staff check combine harvesters before they depart for cross-region work in Weinan, Northwest China’s Shaanxi Province, on April 22, 2024. Photo: VCG

A drone sprays combination of insecticide and nutrient solution in the field in Zaozhuang, East China's Shandong Province, on April 27, 2024. Photo: VCG

A drone sprays combination of insecticide and nutrient solution in the field in Zaozhuang, East China’s Shandong Province, on April 27, 2024. Photo: VCG

A farmer sprays pesticides in the corn field in the Tacheng Prefecture, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region with a spray truck on May 14, 2024. Photo: VCG

A farmer sprays pesticides in the corn field in the Tacheng Prefecture, Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region with a spray truck on May 14, 2024. Photo: VCG

Farmers load the harvested wheat onto trucks in Linyi, East China's Shandong Province, on May 21, 2024. Photo: VCG

Farmers load the harvested wheat onto trucks in Linyi, East China’s Shandong Province, on May 21, 2024. Photo: VCG

Agricultural technicians estimate wheat yield in the field in Bozhou, East China's Anhui Province, on May 21, 2024. Photo: VCG

Agricultural technicians estimate wheat yield in the field in Bozhou, East China’s Anhui Province, on May 21, 2024. Photo: VCG

Unmanned rice transplanters shuttle in the fields in Meishan, Southwest China's Sichuan Province, on May 21, 2024. Photo: VCG

Unmanned rice transplanters shuttle in the fields in Meishan, Southwest China’s Sichuan Province, on May 21, 2024. Photo: VCG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New study on sun’s magnetic field may improve solar storm forecasts

This image shows a solar flare (R) captured in the extreme ultraviolet light portion of the spectrum colorized in red and yellow, May 14, 2024. /NASA

This image shows a solar flare (R) captured in the extreme ultraviolet light portion of the spectrum colorized in red and yellow, May 14, 2024. /NASA

New research indicates the sun’s magnetic field originates much closer to the surface than previously thought, a finding that could help predict periods of extreme solar storms like the ones that slammed Earth earlier this month.

The magnetic field appears to generate 20,000 miles (32,000 kilometers) beneath the sun’s surface, whereas previous calculations put the roots of this process more than 130,000 miles below, an international team reported Wednesday. 

The sun’s intense magnetic energy is the source of solar flares and eruptions of plasma known as coronal mass ejections. When directed toward Earth, they can create stunning auroras but also disrupt power and communications.

“We still don’t understand the sun well enough to make accurate predictions” of space weather, lead author Geoffrey Vasil of the University of Edinburgh said in an email.

The latest findings published in the journal Nature “will be an important step toward finally resolving” this mysterious process known as solar dynamo, added co-author Daniel Lecoanet of Northwestern University.

Galileo was among the first astronomers to turn a telescope skyward and study sunspots, back in the early 1600s. Solar flares and coronal mass ejections tend to occur near sunspots, dark patches as big as Earth that are located near the most intense portions of the sun’s shifting magnetic field.

Vasil and his team developed new models of the interaction between the sun’s magnetic field and the flow of plasma, which varies at different latitudes during an 11-year cycle. They fed their calculations into a NASA supercomputer in Northern California – the same one used in the 2015 movie “The Martian” to verify the best flight path to rescue the main character. The results suggested a shallow magnetic field and additional research is needed to confirm this.

The modeling was “highly simplified,” University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Ellen Zweibel, who was not part of the team, said in an accompanying editorial.

The results are intriguing and “sure to inspire future studies,” Zweibel said.

The new knowledge should improve long-term solar forecasts, allowing scientists to better predict the strength of our star’s future cycles. The sun is approaching its peak level of activity in the current 11-year cycle, thus the recent flareups.

Strong solar flares and outbursts of billions of tons of plasma earlier this month unleashed severe solar storms that produced auroras in unexpected places. Last week, the sun spewed out the biggest solar flare in almost 20 years, but it steered clear of Earth. 

Better understanding of the sun can ensure “we are prepared for when the next storm – potentially much more dangerous – hits Earth,” Lecoanet said.

Source(s): AP