Xi calls China-Vietnam ties 'comrades-plus-brothers' when meeting visiting Vietnam top legislator

The visit by the Vietnamese top legislator and his high-ranking delegation is vital for scaling up the cooperation between the two countries, two legislatures, two parties and two peoples, as well as regional cooperation between China and ASEAN, Chinese experts believe, who also have high expectations of the two sides' joint efforts for a stable and peaceful South China Sea.

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday met with Chairman of the National Assembly of Vietnam Vuong Dinh Hue in Beijing, according to the Xinhua News Agency. 

At the invitation of Zhao Leji, chairman of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, Hue is in China for a six-day official visit beginning on Sunday, media reported. The head of the assembly is officially among the four "pillars" of the leadership in Vietnam, which has no paramount ruler, Reuters reported, noting that the pillars also include the party chief, the president and the prime minister.

While asking Vuong Dinh Hue to convey his cordial greetings to Nguyen Phu Trong, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) Central Committee, Xi also said that during his visit to Vietnam at the end of last year, he and Nguyen Phu Trong jointly announced the building of a China-Vietnam community with a shared future that carries strategic significance, opening a new chapter in bilateral ties.

Xi said the most distinctive feature of China-Vietnam relations is that the two sides are a like-minded pair bound by a common destiny, and "comrades-plus-brothers" is the most vivid description of the traditional friendship between the Chinese and Vietnamese parties and countries.

He urged joint efforts by the two sides to promote more achievements in building a China-Vietnam community with a shared future, better serve their respective modernization, further benefit the two peoples and make greater contributions to the global socialist cause.

China is willing to scale up the exchange of experience gained in governing both the Party and the country, facilitate the synergy between the Belt and Road Initiative and the Two Corridors and One Economic Circle strategy, and increase exchanges between young people and sister cities, among others, Xinhua reported.

According to multiple Vietnamese media outlets, accompanying the top Vietnamese legislator are Secretary of the Party Central Committee and head of the committee's Mass Mobilisation Commission Bui Thi Minh Hoai, Senior Lieutenant General Tran Quang Phuong, NA Vice Chairman and Chairman of the Vietnam-China Friendship Parliamentarians' Group, Deputy Prime Minister Tran Luu Quang, NA General Secretary and Chairman of the NA Office Bui Van Cuong, among other officials. 

This is a high-ranking and large-scale delegation with officials from the Vietnamese central government, legislature and the party, which highlighted the profound and extensive significance of the visit, Gu Xiaosong, dean of the ASEAN Research Institute of Hainan Tropical Ocean University, told the Global Times on Monday. "Such a high-level and large-scale visit, which is set to last for about one week, is rare," Gu noted.

Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reported on Sunday that this is the first visit to China by Hue in his capacity as NA Chairman, and also the first by a top Vietnamese legislator in five years. 

China and Vietnam have many common points and broad areas for cooperation, Gu said. Economically, China has long been Vietnam's largest trading partner, with two-way trade consistently exceeding $100 billion since 2018, VNA reported. Politically, both countries are socialist states, and culturally they share many similarities. 

Through the visit, in addition to cooperation on economics, trade and investment, high-level strategic exchanges between the two parties and two legislative bodies as well as exchanges on international and regional issues of common concern are expected to be promoted, experts stressed.

Recently, South China Sea tensions fanned by the Philippines have been hot-button issues as Manila has made frequent provocations in the region and even joined forces with countries outside the waters including the US, Japan and Australia to stir up trouble, Gu pointed out.

In this context, both China and Vietnam, as neighbors in the South China Sea, are working hard to maintain peace and stability in the region. The visit by the Vietnamese top legislator to China is expected to help both sides further manage their differences, promote security cooperation, and jointly maintain stability in the South China Sea, Gu believes.

"This stands in stark contrast to the Philippines introducing external forces to stir up tensions in the region and disrupt peace and stability," the expert said.

April has witnessed a host of high-level visits from Southeast Asian countries to China. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said on Monday at a regular press briefing that many leaders and foreign ministers from several Southeast Asian countries have visited China over the past few days, which demonstrates the great importance relevant countries attach to their relations with China. 

She stated that neighboring countries are China's priority in its diplomacy. China and Southeast Asian countries are good neighbors, good friends and good partners with a shared future. 

China expected to see another tourism boom during Qingming, as solid recovery becomes ‘bright spot’

China is expected to welcome another tourism boom during the upcoming Qingming Festival holidays, with remarkable growth in travel and hotel bookings, according to major online booking platforms on Tuesday, further pointing to the strong recovery of consumer sentiment and consumption, a critical barometer of China's economic vitality. 

The strong travel data expected during the three-day holidays come on the heels of an increasing number of robust economic indicators, ranging from manufacturing activity to foreign trade, all painting a rosy picture of China's economic recovery. China's solid economic recovery has become a bright spot for the world economy, a Chinese official said on Tuesday.

The expanding set of strong data for the first three months of 2024 has significantly lifted expectations for a more consolidated economic recovery in China for the rest of the year, while the stream of global business executives and officials visiting China show full confidence in China's economic resilience and prospects, defying Western smear campaigns against China's economy, experts said. 

Spring tourism boom 

The Qingming Festival, also known as Tomb-Sweeping Festival, is when Chinese people traditionally visit cemeteries and pay tribute to their deceased loved ones. This year the festival falls on Thursday, when the three-day holiday begins. In addition to traditional activities, many Chinese are keen to travel, as the holidays come amid the warm spring temperatures, as revealed by the strong booking figures. 

On Qunar, a Chinese online travel platform, bookings for air tickets and hotels in the past week surged 140 percent over the previous week. "Many places across the country are experiencing a tourism boom," Qunar told the Global Times on Tuesday, noting that the number of bookings of air tickets to small cities has more than doubled that of the same period last year. 

On Tujia, a short-term lodging rental platform, as of March 25, bookings for homestays in some popular cities have increased 340 percent year-on-year, according to a report the platform sent to the Global Times on Tuesday. Notably, Tianshui in Northwest China's Gansu Province, which has become an internet sensation for its local delicacy malatang - a spicy broth served with different ingredients in a bowl -  is seeing a 50-fold increase in bookings for homestays. "The national tourism market has ushered in a small spring tourism peak," the report said.  

"I think the number of people traveling during this year's Qingming Festival holidays will be relatively large," Zhou Mi, a senior research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, told the Global Times on Tuesday, pointing to a strong consumption recovery so far this year and improving consumer sentiment. 

The latest official data show that China's retail sales, a main gauge of consumption, surged by 5.5 percent year-on-year in the first two months of 2024, beating market expectations. Notably, online retail sales jumped 15.3 percent year-on-year during the period, according to official data. 

In addition to strong retail sales, a slew of recent data point to a solid economic recovery. On Monday, a private survey showed that China's factory activity expanded for a fifth consecutive month in March and at the fastest pace in a year, beating market expectations. On Sunday, the official manufacturing PMI came in at 50.8, returning to expansion territory for the first time since September 2023. Meanwhile, China's exports, another major growth driver, jumped by 10.3 percent in the first two months of 2024.

Commenting on the strong economic data on Tuesday, Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said that various indicators have sent positive signals of China's economic recovery and improved global expectations for China's economic performance in 2024. 

"China's economy has got off to a good start this year, which has become a bright spot for the global economy," Wang told a regular press briefing, while also noting recent intensive visits by more than 100 executives of multinational companies showed their full confidence in China's economic resilience and prospects.  

Rising global confidence

In a whirlwind week of China economic diplomacy, scores of foreign government officials, business leaders and scholars visited China in the past two weeks to attend the back-to-back China Development Forum (CDF) in Beijing and the Boao Forum for Asia in South China's Hainan Province. Notably, nearly 100 global CEOs attended the CDF, with more than 30 coming from the US. High-level Chinese officials also met with the visiting foreign business leaders. 

"At the CDF and a series of Invest in China events, we saw very positive responses from foreign businesses, which shows their improving confidence in investing in China," Zhou said, noting China's increasingly consolidated recovery and continuous opening-up are sources of confidence for foreign businesses. 

Further highlighting growing interests in business ties with China, many foreign government officials and business leaders are continuing to visit China. Notably, San Francisco Mayor London Breed is expected to visit China from April 13 to April 21, where she will "cultivate economic opportunities and strengthen ties between San Francisco and cities across the region." This is significant given that the US federal government has been trying relentlessly to undermine business ties between the two countries. 

In addition to visits by US local officials and business leaders who are seeking to boost business ties with China, China's exports to and trade surplus with the US surged in the first two months of 2024 despite Washington's trade protectionism and restrictions. Total exports jumped by 8.1 percent year-on-year, while the trade surplus expanded by 18.8 percent year-on-year, according to official data. 

"The expanding trade surplus is certainly a positive thing," He Weiwen, a senior fellow from the Center for China and Globalization, told the Global Times on Tuesday, adding that in addition to expanding trade, China is also firmly pushing forward opening-up to attract foreign investment. "The policy is very clear."

China has taken a slew of measures to improve the business environment and expand market access for foreign investment, including plans to lift all restrictions on foreign investment in the manufacturing sector and reduce restrictions in the services sector. 

China's solid economic recovery and its continuous opening-up offer a powerful rebuttal for Western officials and media outlets that have been relentlessly smearing China's economy and its environment for foreign investors with claims such as "Peak China," experts said. 

"I personally feel that some of these claims do not have much basis in fact," Zhou said, noting that China's economic recovery has become much more pronounced and China is working with foreign partners to explore more trade and investment opportunities in new areas.

Meanwhile, He said that foreign media hype about "Peak China" does not warrant much attention, and the focus for China should be taking concrete steps to improve the business environment and address foreign businesses' concerns to attract more foreign investment.  

Event in Shantou engages youngsters in ancient tree conservation

A volunteering event that aims at raising youngsters' awareness of ancient tree conservation has recently been launched in Shantou, South China's Guangdong Province.

The event brings together young people from both China and overseas, encouraging them to protect ancient trees in the city while also learning about the importance of environmental sustainability.

To date, Shantou boasts a total of 1,216 valuable ancient trees. The most notable one is a banyan tree that has continued to grow for more than 573 years, with its branches and leaves covering a total area of 10 acres. Locals often describe it as "a tree resembling a forest."

The event is highlighted by two agendas, the first of which involves more than 100 schools in the city jointly launching a tree conservation plan. The second agenda involves 100 qiaomin to jointly launch an initiative for tree conservation.

Qiaomin, refers to local people who have long experience living abroad in countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Shantou is known for boasting a large number of Chinese people who have such life experiences, as in the 1860s the city opened a commercial port that brought in lifestyles, cultural traditions and religions from overseas.

Huang Qiang, a cultural researcher in Shantou told the Global Times that the "tree" has long been praised by Chinese people overseas as a "symbol of their home and cultural roots."

"The conservation of valuable trees is also a means to keep fostering our local culture. It is the treasure we leave to our offspring," Huang told the Global Times.

"These ancient trees, with their roots and branches tangled together, remind me of my ancestors and my family stories," said Lin Weimin, the vice president of the Association des Chinois Residant en France (ACRF). The association is dedicated to connecting Chinese people in France together.

The event was jointly launched by organizations including the Education Bureau of Shantou, the Bureau of Natural Resource of Shantou and Shantou Media Convergence Group.

First Corgi police dog in Weifang, Shandong Province, makes debut

During police open-day event in Weifang, Shandong Province, the reserve police dog named "Fuzai" stole the show with its iconic happy face, cute short legs, and outstanding explosive detection skills, quickly becoming an internet sensation at just six months old.

"I think it is a very promising Corgi among all Corgis," said Wang Ya'nan, head of the Weifang Public Security Bureau's police dog base.

When Fuzai was only two months old its performance surpassed many same-aged police dogs. Throughout its training, Fuzai has shown exceptional talent and is considered a "top student."

While there have been cases of Corgis excelling as police dogs abroad, Fuzai's appearance has once again shattered the stereotype that "short-legged" dogs cannot be police dogs. 

In order to become a police dog, Fuzai excelled in its "heavy workload" training. As a reserve police dog, its daily training sessions were split into morning and afternoon sessions, covering various subjects including obedience, explosive detection, and scent tracking.

However, some people have questioned whether this "adorable and huggable" police dog can overcome obstacles, chase and apprehend suspects, and intimidate criminals. Wang explained that during training, Fuzai has demonstrated its unique advantages.

"It has a strong adaptability to the environment, is not sensitive, and its desire for possession of items, as well as its love for food, are all very beneficial for our training," Wang said. 

Faced with skepticism, Fuzai has worked hard and delivered impressive results.

After months of training, Fuzai can use its short legs to search under cars and easily navigate narrow spaces when searching rooms. The friendly-looking Fuzai can also enhance interaction between police dogs and the public.

The Weifang police have opened a social media account for Fuzai, named "Corgi Police Fuzai," which has already attracted thousands of fans. 

Videos of Fuzai online have garnered tens of thousands of views and likes, with one video featuring Fuzai made its debut as the first Corgi reserve police dog in the country, drawing a large crowd of curious onlookers.

It is Fuzai's shining qualities that have convinced the officers to choose it as a police dog. Wang emphasized that the challenges faced by Fuzai's trainers are significant, and the reason Fuzai can perform so well is because its trainers have put in a lot of effort and dedication. 

"Police dogs are not just cute and adorable, behind the scenes, there is a lot of effort and dedication," Wang said.

Xi meets with representatives from US business, strategic and academic communities

Chinese President Xi Jinping met representatives from the US business, strategic and academic communities in Beijing on Wednesday, as China hosts a series of high-level events this week, demonstrating the country's commitment to attracting more foreign investment and expanding its opening-up to the world. 

Some experts believe that such a rare meeting between the top Chinese leader and the US representatives not only signals China's expectation that bilateral relations will continue to improve since the San Francisco meeting between the Chinese and US top leaders in November 2023, but also shows that China is focusing more on engaging with American people as it welcomes US investment to achieve greater intertwining interests between the industries of the two sides. It is to "make the cake bigger," experts said. 

The history of China-US relations is a history of friendly exchanges between the peoples of the two countries, written by the people in the past and even more to be created by the people in the future, Xi told the US representatives. 

It is hoped that people from all walks of life in both countries will increase their interactions and exchanges, continuously building consensus, Xi said. 

"People differ from one another, and even members of the same family are different. Seeking common ground while preserving minor differences and establishing more consensus is the same between nations, families, and relatives," Xi said, citing ordinary examples to elaborate on China-US relations. 

The success of China and the US is each other's opportunity. As long as both sides treat each other as partners with mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation, China-US relations will get better, Xi said. 

Some 20 US firms were invited to participate in Wednesday's meeting, Reuters said, citing two sources with knowledge of the matter. The meeting ran for around 90 minutes.

The attendees included Evan Greenberg, chairman of the National Committee on US-China Relations (NCUSCR), Stephen Schwarzman, chairman and CEO of the Blackstone Group, Cristiano Amon, president and CEO of Qualcomm, Graham Allison, founding dean of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, and Craig Allen, president of the US-China Business Council.

"China's economy is healthy and sustainable," Xi said, noting that China's growth rate was one of the fastest among major economies last year.

Xi said China is planning and implementing a series of major measures to comprehensively deepen reform, foster a world-class business environment that is market-oriented, law-based and internationalized, and provide broader development space for international businesses including US companies.

Xi urged the US to work with China in the same direction, establish a correct strategic perception, and properly handle sensitive issues to maintain the momentum for bilateral relations to stabilize from a downward spiral.

The US companies appreciated China's recent introduction of a series of important initiatives to further reform and opening-up, expressing their optimism about the prospects of the country's economic development. They said they will unswervingly continue to explore the China market, and develop a long-term close cooperative relationship with China.

The American business, strategic and academic communities support the strengthening of US-China exchanges at all levels to enhance mutual understanding, trust, and cooperation, in order to work together to address global challenges, and promote the establishment of a stable, sustainable, and productive US-China relationship.

'Make the cake bigger'

"From the perspective of the interests of the American business community, their interests are deeply intertwined with those of Chinese business community. Therefore, there is an inherent drive within the American business community to develop China-US relations," Lü Xiang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

It would be quite challenging for the US government to hinder such momentum, Lü said, noting that as the US presidential election heats up, American partisan strife may lead to the use of China-US relations as a negative topic for speculation. 

At this moment, the message conveyed by the Chinese leader is clear: While preserving minor differences, the two sides should focus on the fundamental nature of bilateral relations, making the business community "a driving force" for them, Lü noted. 

During the just-concluded China Development Forum (CDF) 2024, which was held from Sunday to Monday in Beijing, of the more than 80 business executives attending the forum, over 30 percent were from the US. This was strong evidence indicating the US business sector's unabating commitment to the Chinese market compared with the "decoupling" narrative from some US politicians.

Stephen Orlins, president of the NCUSCR, told the Global Times on the sidelines of the CDF on Sunday that "if I compare the US participation to last year's, it's probably increased two to two-and-a-half times." Orlins also attended the meeting with Xi on Wednesday. 

Orlins said that since April 2023, there have been a series of high-level engagements between China and the US, and the bilateral relationship "has gotten off from the rock bottom and has improved somewhat," though there is still a huge space for further improvement. 

Apple CEO Tim Cook, who also visited China recently to mark the opening of a new Apple flagship store in Shanghai and attend the CDF, said earlier that "There's no supply chain in the world that's more critical to us than China." 

Bilateral relations in focus

During the meeting, Xi said the greatest consensus reached at the San Francisco summit in November 2023 was that China-US relations should stabilize and improve. Over the past few months, teams from both sides have maintained communication in various fields such as diplomacy, economy and trade, finance, law enforcement and joint counternarcotics working, climate change and cultural exchanges, and have made progress, Xi said. 

The common interests between China and the US have not decreased but have instead increased under the current situation, Xi said. He noted that whether it is in traditional fields like the economy, trade, and agriculture, or in emerging areas like climate change and artificial intelligence, the two countries should become facilitators of each other's development, not obstacles.

"While the meeting demonstrates China's expectations for improving and developing bilateral relations with the US and welcoming US businesses to invest in China, it also indicates that China focuses on engaging with American people amid the overall difficult situation of the bilateral relationship," Wu Xinbo, director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University, told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

The Biden administration is now paying more attention to the stability of US-China relations, so it does not have expectations for further developing relationship with China. However, from China's perspective, China-US relations need to be both stable and progressive, Wu said. 

The crux of China-US relations is that the US has positioned China as its most important strategic competitor and most important geopolitical challenge. Such misunderstanding has led to constant problems in bilateral relations, and promises made by US leaders have failed to translate into concrete actions, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said during a meeting with Greenberg and Orlins on Tuesday. 

Moving forward, it is essential to address a series of significant and important issues that hinder the development of China-US relations, including problems at the level of the US' perception of China, as well as specific issues in areas such as economic and trade relations, Wu noted. 

"There are also issues related to the Taiwan question, and problems existing within China-US cultural and people-to-people exchanges. Both sides need to sit down and discuss how to resolve them," Wu said. 

China again lodges solemn representations to Philippines regarding Ren'ai Jiao

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Chen Xiaodong and the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines on Monday lodged representations with the Philippines over the recent illegal trespassing by Philippine resupply vessels into waters adjacent to Ren'ai Jiao.

The situation in the South China Sea will continue to escalate in the near future, especially with the US support of the Philippines' provocations, experts told the Global Times.

In disregard of China's strong opposition, the Philippines sent a supply vessel and two Coast Guard vessels on Saturday, without permission from the Chinese government, to intrude into the adjacent waters of Ren'ai Jiao in China's Nansha Islands, in an attempt to send construction materials to the military vessel illegally grounded at Ren'ai Jiao.

On Monday, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Chen Xiaodong spoke with Philippine Foreign Undersecretary Ma. Theresa Lazaro over the phone, lodging a solemn representation regarding the illegal trespassing.

The Philippines is attempting to establish a permanent military outpost on uninhabited islands and reefs in order to achieve long-term illegal occupation, which flagrantly violates the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), goes against the Philippines' own commitments, infringes upon China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and disrupts regional peace and stability. China firmly opposes this action, Chen said. 

The Philippines has repeatedly flip-flopped on the issue of Ren'ai Jiao, stirring up trouble and causing the situation on the ground to escalate. This is the fundamental reason for the escalating tensions, Chen noted. 

Recently, the Philippines has frequently sent military and law-enforcement personnel and government vessels to intrude into the waters and airspace near Huangyan Dao, illegally landing on Tiexian Jiao, infringing upon China's territorial sovereignty, and violating the DOC, he said.

On Monday, the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines also lodged a solemn representation with the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs regarding the illegal intrusion, noting that the China Coast Guard in response has implemented lawful regulation, interception, and expulsion in a reasonable and professional manner, successfully thwarting the Philippines' scheme.

China has indisputable sovereignty over Nansha Islands, including Ren'ai Jiao, and their adjacent waters. China's sovereignty and relevant rights and interests in the South China Sea are established in the long course of history, and are solidly grounded in history and the law, said the Chinese Embassy. The so-called 2016 arbitration award is illegal, null and void. China does not accept or recognize it.

On Monday's routine news conference, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lin Jian said that China has demanded the Philippine side immediately stop infringing and provoking, noting that if they continue to act recklessly, China will continue to take resolute measures to safeguard its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests.

The Philippine side has repeatedly gone back on its words, lacking credibility, seriously violating the commitments made to the Chinese side multiple times, and seriously violating the DOC. Faced with the Philippine vessels' forcible intrusion, the China Coast Guard had to take necessary law-enforcement measures. The on-site operations were legitimate, professional, and restrained, Lin said.

Observers pointed out that the recent series of provocations by the Philippines in the South China Sea are not independent actions by the country, but are supported by the US and its allies.

Two days before the conflict erupted, US Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, Japanese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Masataka Okano, and the Philippine's Lazaro held a consultation meeting in Tokyo to prepare for the countries' first trilateral summit. Right after the conflict, US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson voiced support for the Philippines, saying that the US stands with the Philippines in opposing China's repeated "dangerous actions." 

Lin stated that the US has completely disregarded the facts and distorted the truth. The US is not a party to the South China Sea issue, yet it repeatedly interferes in and provokes disputes between China and the Philippines, baselessly attacking and accusing China and attempting to disrupt the regional situation. The US also frequently threatens China with the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty, openly supporting the Philippines in encroaching on China's sovereignty, seriously violating the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, and seriously endangering regional peace and stability.

With the recent provocations by the Philippines in the South China Sea, completely disregarding China's opposition, tensions in the region have escalated, Chen Xiangmiao, director of the World Navy Research Center at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, told the Global Times. At the same time, as the Philippines becomes increasingly irrational, these conflicts have become normalized and internationalized, inevitably leading to long-term conflicts and tensions between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea in the future.

The US support for the Philippines' provocations is another action in its strategy of promoting its small group alliances in the Indo-Pacific region. Currently, it appears that the US military presence in the Philippines will further increase, with the sole purpose of containing China, and the Philippines will escalate its provocations as a result. This will continue until the US learns to accept the power balance between China and the US in the Western Pacific region, Chen noted. 

Chen also pointed out that, however, communication channels between China and the Philippines remain open. 

"Although the Philippines often refuses to communicate, China always welcomes negotiations and consultations to manage differences, establish cooperation, and rebuild mutual trust," he said.

US military ramps up activities in S.China Sea, risking conflicts: report

The US continued to strengthen its military activities on China’s doorstep in the South China Sea and surrounding areas in 2023, including deploying aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines and bombers, holding intensified close-in reconnaissance operations, and holding joint exercises, which posed growing risks to China-US relations, according to a newly released think tank report.

While the US is providing support to the Philippines in the ongoing friction between Beijing and Manila in the region, it is not ready to engage China militarily, and is not willing to be exploited by the Philippines, the report said.

The report was released by the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative (SCSPI) at a press conference in Beijing on Friday.

In 2023, the US military continued to enhance its military deterrence of China, as it maintained high-intensity activities in the South China Sea and its surrounding areas, including close-in reconnaissance operations, Taiwan Straits transits, forward presence, strategic patrols, exercises and battlefield preparations, the SCSPI said, citing open-source intelligence it had gathered.

About 1,000 sorties by US large reconnaissance aircraft were featured in close-in reconnaissance operations, during which they frequently approached Chinese mainland airspace. 

US carrier strike groups and amphibious ready groups entered the South China Sea eight times, with significantly increased duration, training intensity and pertinence, according to the report. 

At least 11 nuclear-powered attack submarines and two nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines were spotted in and near the South China Sea, with obvious intentions of deterrence, it said. 

US warships conducted six “freedom of navigation operations” that trespassed waters off Chinese islands and reefs in the South China Sea, and made six transits in the Taiwan Straits, according to the report. 
The report also stressed the US’ joint operations with allies and partners and its use of unmanned systems in the region, particularly the MQ-4C reconnaissance drone.

Citing incomplete statistics, the SCSPI said that the US military conducted 107 large-scale exercises in the South China Sea and its surrounding areas from the Philippines Sea in the east to Australia in the south, with nine of them being unilateral and 98 being bilateral or multilateral, held with ASEAN member states and countries from outside the region such as Japan, the UK, India, France, Canada and Germany.

Hu Bo, director of the SCSPI, told the Global Times on Friday that conducting highly intensified military activities in another country’s surrounding waters in peacetime, including carrying out over a thousand close-in reconnaissance operations and over a hundred military exercises, is contrary to the spirit of the UN Charter and the principles and rules of international laws, such as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The US has significantly ramped up the frequency and intensity of military activities targeting China in the South China Sea since 2009, and despite the current Russia-Ukraine conflict and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the US still boosted its hyping of the “China threat” and its rollout of the “Indo-Pacific” strategy, Hu said, noting that the US’ increasing military operations in the region, including those that were abnormally close to the Chinese mainland coast and those that featured unmanned platforms, significantly increased the risk of maritime and aerial frictions and conflicts between the two countries.

The report warned that the US’ increasingly aggressive military activities targeting China will inevitably lead to strong countermeasures by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, and that the US forces’ over-deployment could lead to fatigue and major accidents. The increased use of drones could also result in misjudgment or faulty operation.

The think tank predicted that in 2024, the US military will continue to increase its presence and activities in the South China Sea and surrounding areas despite continued impact from the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The upcoming US presidential election could bring new uncertainties that will stimulate the US to further enhance military deployment and operations in the region.

Not for Philippines

Since August 2023, the Philippines ramped up provocations on Chinese islands and reefs in the South China Sea including Ren’ai Jiao (also known as Ren’ai Reef) and Huangyan Dao (also known as Huangyan Island) under the instigation of the US, with the US issuing official statements and remarks in support of the Philippines.

In the most recent Philippine provocation, 34 Filipino personnel illegally landed on Tiexian Jiao (also known as Tiexian Reef) in the South China Sea on Thursday after ignoring warnings and dissuasions from the Chinese side, and the China Coast Guard’s law enforcement personnel boarded the reef to investigate and handle the situation following the law, China Coast Guard spokesperson Gan Yu said in a statement on Thursday.

This comes after in February 2023the US gained access to four military bases in the Philippines in addition to the previous five bases. The SCSPI noted that three of the four new bases are close to the island of Taiwan, which signifies the US’ scheme of enhancing its military deployment near the Taiwan Straits taking advantage of the South China Sea dispute and the Philippines.

The US and the Philippines are scheduled to hold the 2024 edition of the Balikatan joint exercise featuring 11,000 US personnel and 5,000 Philippine personnel from April 22 to May 8, the Philippine News Agency reported on Wednesday.

However, according to the analyses in the SCSPI report, during the Ren’ai Jiao and other incidents, the US only provided diplomatic, public opinion and intelligence report to the Philippines, with no sign of the US getting directly involved in assisting the Philippines in supplying its illegally grounded warship on Ren’ai Jiao.

The US wants to take advantage of the Philippines’ geographic location to serve its “Indo-Pacific” strategy or its rollout to contain China, but it does not want to get unnecessarily involved in an armed conflict with China because of the Philippines’ agendas, the SCSPI said, noting that while the US wants to see continued China-Philippines friction, it is not ready or determined to have a military showdown with China in the South China Sea, nor does it want to be exploited by the Philippines for the interests of the Filipinos.

Fu Qianshao, a Chinese military expert, told the Global Times on Friday that the US sees the Philippines as a military proxy and exploits it in containing China without getting directly involved.

The Philippines should have a clear understanding of the US’ strategy, so out of the Philippines’ own security and economic interests, it should not be a US pawn, or it will only end up suffering the consequences, Fu said, noting that China is fully capable of safeguarding its sovereignty and security.

An ordinary workday of a service site shows how Chinese political advisors collect people’s voice, practice whole-process people’s democracy at grass-roots level

Editor's Note:

China's widely watched annual "two sessions" kicked off on Monday this year. The "two sessions" refers to the annual sessions of National People's Congress (NPC) and the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which are known as the country's top legislature and national political advisory body respectively.

The two sessions is a grand occasion that gathers ideas and wisdom of people of all walks of life across the country. It is an important opportunity for the world to better understand China's whole-process people's democracy, in which the people engage in democratic elections, consultations, decision-making, management, and oversight according to the law. Such democracy is not only shown in the votes taking place at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, but also embodied in a motion submitted by a NPC deputy coming from a remote area, or a consultative meeting held among some residents living in a city suburb. It can be felt in many details of Chinese people's daily life.

During this year's two sessions, the Global Times is launching a series of stories to illustrate the whole-process people's democracy from some of such details. The first story is about an ordinary workday of a grass-roots service site of a district-level political advisory body in Shanghai suburb. There, the reporters took a closer look at this consultation site's efforts in fulfilling the Chinese democracy through solving "little things" that matter the daily life of local residents.
The early morning sun shone through the windows into the room. Shanghai resident Ji Huiqi opened the window to enjoy some fresh air. But he frowned. He found his clothes hanging outside the windows covered with a thin layer of dust.

The Yingyuan residential community in Shanghai's suburban Jiading district that Ji lives in is a decades-old community which is currently under renovation. The renovation will bring this somewhat run-down community broader paths, beautiful exterior walls and better public facilitates, but months of renovating work has also caused residents inconveniences, such as noise and dust pollution.

Ji expressed the dust pollution to the Gengzhi consultation site, a grass-roots service site of the CPPCC Jiading District Committee that is responsible for collecting opinions of, and helping solve problems for, local people.

Only days later, Ji was invited to a democratic consultation meeting that specifically focused on how to bother the community residents during the renovation less.

The meeting was organized by, and held at, the Gengzhi consultation site. It kicked off a busy workday of Gengzhi, a platform of local CPPCC to practice the whole-process people's democracy at the most grass-roots level.

Ahead of the two sessions, during one-day visit to the Gengzhi consultation site, the Global Times reporters took a closer look at this consultation site's efforts in fulfilling the whole-process people's democracy through solving "little things" that matter the daily life of local residents.

9 am: a democratic consultation

Around 9 am in the morning, 74-year-old Ji arrived at the Gengzhi consultation site, ready to express his suggestions for "reducing inconveniences for residents during renovation," the topic of today's consultation meeting.

About 20 people attended the meeting. To Ji's surprise, they included almost all the parities related to this topic: resident representatives, renovation project managers, residential property managers and relevant functional departments of local government. Some members of CPPCC Jiading District Committee (also known as political advisors of the district) were also here, busy with taking notes of the residents' voices.

Every party spoke at the meeting. In Ji's small speech, he thanked the efforts the renovation project side had made in trying to bother residents less, such as the requirement of no construction work at weekends and in the early mornings. "It would be better if we could find a way to further reduce the dust pollution," he added.

The consultation meeting lasted 2.5 hours. Some of the problems were initially solved through discussions during the meeting. "We built an online chat group," Ji told the Global Times after the meeting. "From now on, we can directly report small problems from the renovation project side, like noise or dusts."

For the relatively more complicated problems, political advisors on the scene recorded them down, in preparation for further survey and discussion in the near future.

Ji praised this democratic consultation meeting as an efficient and friendly form to explore solutions. "I feel that we residents' opinions and ideas are highly valued. That's nice," he said and left Gengzhi consultation site with a smile.

The Gengzhi consultation site is located at the busy community integrated service center at Xincheng Road sub-district in Jiading. The sub-district is a township-level administrative division in China's urban areas.

Some 60,000 people live in the 5.14-square kilometer Xincheng Road sub-district. To better practice the whole-process people's democracy, the sub-district set up two services sites under guidance of the CPPCC Jiading District Committee - Gengzhi consultation site and Gengshan reading room - where local people can freely express their opinions, complaints and suggestions, especially those regarding to grass-roots governance.

Gengzhi, for instance, listens to and collects people's voices through four main ways, introduced Gengshan and Gengzhi's director Zhang Xiangqun, who is also a political advisor in Jiading district.

The democratic consultation meeting that resident Ji participated in that morning is one of the ways, Zhang said. "The other three include offline letter boxes, survey questionnaires, and a monthly project named 'room for people's voice,'" she told the Global Times. "The last Thursday of every month, local political advisors talk to the residents at this room face to face."

In recent years, the CPPCC Jiading District Committee has set up working stations for its political advisors at all Jiading's 12 sub-districts and towns, said Wang Yan, a staffer with committee who is in charge of the issues related to the working stations.

Based on the current working stations, the committee worked with the Xincheng Road sub-district management and established two front-line service sites Gengzhi and Gengshan in July 2023, so as to get closer to the grass-roots people, Wang said.

"In the past, some people may felt distant from the CPPCC," she told the Global Times at Gengzhi. "But now, we found that more and more residents are willing to go to these service sites that are so close to their homes, and they are pleased to participate in consultations and express their views."
2 pm: vote to make decision

After a lunch break, at around 2 pm , several residents at Canghai residential community waited in a line for a vote.

Witnessed by the Gengzhi staffers and local political advisors, they in turn put a piece of paper into a red box. These voters were resident representatives of the community. Before casting the vote, they had spent days collecting opinions of almost all the community's 4,532 residents in detail.

With Gengzhi's help, they were using the democratic method of voting to decide one of the biggest concerns of the community residents in the past three months: whether to put into use the community's public charging pile for electric motorcycles.

The irregular charging of the e-motorcycles used to be a headache for the community. Instead of charging in a public area, some lower-floor residents liked to charge their e-motorcycles directly through a long wire from their homes, as household electricity costs less.

"You could see many electric wires go through the windows of their homes and fall on the ground, connected with the e-motorcycles they parked downstairs," recalled resident Sun Jianming. "This was a huge fire safety hazard."

Some residents expressed their complaints to Gengzhi, which later discussed with the sub-district and community staffers to find a solution - installing public charging piles.

The community started to prepare for the charging pile installation since December 2023. Local grass-roots officials and some resident volunteers door-to-door publicized fire safety knowledge, and asked for opinions on the payment method of the charging piles.

Discussion, consultation and opinion collection have been the norm of this residential community for the past three months. As the concept of the whole-process people's democracy has been deeply rooted in people's hearts, local residents, particularly the young ones, have a willingness to participate in social and community governance, said Zhou Zhiliang, an official of Xincheng Road sub-district who co-leads Gengzhi and Gengshan.

Also, through months of exploration and practice since Gengzhi and Gengshan were established, "we found that our sub-district officials and residential community staffers have changed their working concepts," Zhou told the Global Times.

In the past, a few of the local grass-roots officials might be afraid to face complaints, Zhou said. But now, they actively listen to the residents, and they truly feel gratified and glad for helping residents solve problems, he noted.

As for the charging pile installation and payment method, at last, the residential community managers planned to spend a part of the community's public revenue (such as parking fee) in buying "charging cards." The cards, each of which contains 120 times of e-motorcycle charging per year, will be sent to the community residents for free, according to Sun.

Will the residents feel satisfied with this plan? That afternoon, some resident representatives organized a democratic vote which includes all their neighbors. They agreed that, the plan would be approved if the approval rate exceeded 50 percent.

Hours later after the vote, Sun told the Global Times that the vote results came out.

"More than 88 percent approved," he said with excitement.
7 pm: a political advisor's notebook

The sky gradually turned dark around 7 pm. Sitting by a table at Gengzhi, Xu Minghua carefully reviewed the notes he took this morning, at the consultation meeting he attended.

Residents' complaints and suggestions about the inconveniences caused by the renovation work were all on X u's notebook. "The residents' opinions were very precious and valuable. I'm thinking about to turn them into a proposal," said Xu, a political advisor of Jiading district.

This proposal will be submitted to the online platform of Jiading district's political advisory body, becoming an important reference for the work of local government and related policy makers, Xu explained.

According to Gengzhi and Gengshan's director Zhang, the two service sites have received some 140 pieces of complaints and suggestions since being established. Among them, about 100 pieces have been solved or adopted by the sub-district-level officials and functional departments. The remaining more complicated 40 pieces are sent to local political advisors, who will report them to the upper levels through proposals.

In response to some western media's smear, which defamed the two sessions as a "stage to put on a show," Xu has many to say. As a private entrepreneur, Xu has been serving as a political advisor in Jiading district for eight years. Each year, Xu writes and submits nearly 10 proposals based on the voices of grass-roots residents. He said that his proposals focus on the matters that residents concern most about, such as the fire-fighting equipment in garages and "many of my proposals have been adopted."

He mentioned a recent proposal he submitted, which was about the unreasonable double yellow lines on the road of a busy street corner. Local transport department adopted the proposal and made a change within a month.

"Very efficient," Xu praised.

Xu's proposals, as well as the people's voices that Gengzhi collects, are windows for the outside world to see how China's whole-process people's democracy is practiced in the grass-roots.

In November 2019, Chinese President Xi Jinping said Chinese people's democracy is a type of "whole-process democracy," during his inspection tour in Shanghai. It was the first time this term was used publicly.

These years, Shanghai has made various efforts in promoting and improving democratic governance and consultation at the grass-roots level, said some local NPC deputies and CPPCC members. The city is trying hard to make it not only the place where the "whole-process people's democracy" was first proposed, but also the place where this concept is best practiced, they noted.

In Jiading district, the local political advisory body is establishing and improving more grass-roots serves sites, to enhance the people's sense of gain and satisfaction.

"We strive to transform the concept of the whole-process people's democracy into the arrangements of the CPPCC that have more complete participation, better developed mechanism and procedure, and richer platforms,"Yang Li, chairman of the CPPCC Jiading District Committee, told the Global Times.

Festive joy of Chinese Year of the Dragon resonates across the ocean

From January 31 to February 1, 2024, the "Joyful Dragon for a Happy Chinese New Year" events, as part of the "Happy Chinese New Year" cultural program, took place successfully in San Francisco.

A variety of cultural activities including the Chinese New Year reception at the Chinese Consulate General in San Francisco, Intangible Cultural Heritage Campus Outreach, and Zodiac-themed flash-mob, conveyed the excitement of ushering in the Year of the Dragon across the ocean.

These initiatives facilitated a greater understanding of Chinese Zodiac culture among the American audience, fostering a deeper cultural exchange between China and the US.
This cultural exchange event series was sponsored by the Beijing Municipal Culture and Tourism Bureau and organized by the Beijing Overseas Cultural Exchange Center.

On January 31, the "Celebrating the 45th Anniversary of the Establishment of China-US Diplomatic Relations and the Chinese New Year" event was successfully held at the Chinese Consulate General in San Francisco.

The event was attended by over two hundred guests, including China's Consul-General in San Francisco Zhang Jianmin, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, California State Treasurer Fiona Ma, and Chairman of the Sino-American Aviation Heritage Foundation Jeffrey Greene, as well as local dignitaries and representatives from major institutions.
The reception featured a diverse array of artistic performances, including the dance "Rhythms of Youth", pipa solo "Dragon Boat," yangko dance "Welcoming Spring," and pipa & oboe ensemble "Descendants of the Dragon."

The performances were meticulously curated to highlight the Year of the Dragon theme and convey the cultural and spiritual essence of China's diverse ethnicities, as well as the rich historical legacies of the Chinese culture through various art forms including music, dance and song.

The accompanying photography exhibition "Hello, Beijing" captured the charms of Beijing as a city with a history of 3,000 years, including its more than 860 years as the capital, by showcasing images of both tangible and intangible cultural heritage. It also highlighted contemporary Beijing's high-level openness as a crucial hub for the "Belt and Road" initiative.

The exhibition featured award-winning designs from the Global Zodiac Design Competition throughout the years, along with relevant cultural and creative products. This visually introduced American guests to the cultural richness and significance of the Year of the Dragon.

The dragon embodies the Chinese people's long-standing pursuit of an ideal personality and conveyed the auspicious blessings of the Year of the Dragon.

Simultaneously, promotional activities for inbound tourism in Beijing allowed international friends to discover the then-current and enchanting cultural and tourist attractions in the city.
During the interactive display of intangible cultural heritage, Han Bing, inheritor of Beijing shadow puppetry, presented the history and performance techniques of this art form in English, and delivered a captivating live performance.

Guo Xiaoxia, the inheritor of diabolo crafting, displayed diabolos crafted from various materials and specifications. Through a diabolo performance featuring a "dragon," she vividly demonstrated the ingenuity and agility of this traditional toy.

On February 1, Beijing's intangible cultural heritage inheritors made a visit to Convent & Stuart Hall Schools of the Sacred Heart San Francisco and Enlighten Chinese School.

They guided hundreds of students ranging from elementary to high school to experience the charm of Chinese intangible cultural heritage. Many children actively participated, telling their own imaginative stories through the art of Chinese shadow puppetry. Intangible cultural heritage projects such as New Year paintings, paper cutting, and diabolo allowed the students to appreciate the distinctive features of traditional Chinese aesthetics, further sparking their interest in Chinese culture.
During the exchange activities in San Francisco, the international cultural exchange project "Zodiac-themed flash-mob" conducted simultaneous filming. The Zodiac-themed flash-mob special feature "Dancing with the Chinese Dragon" was filmed at various iconic landmarks throughout the city.

The feature was adorned with professional dragon dance performances, showing skilled performers engaging with local audiences and tourists from various countries.

Every year, during the Spring Festival, the "Zodiac-themed flash-mob" spans across different countries and regions, showcasing a diverse array of activities including Zodiac-themed flash-mob performances, video shoots, and cultural and tourism promotions. This tradition has persisted for eight years. This year, the event will take place in multiple countries, including the US, Mexico, and Peru.
At the time of this year's "Happy Chinese New Year" events, just over a month has passed since the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly resolution designated the Spring Festival as a UN holiday. Today, the Spring Festival has evolved into a global celebration. Through the continuous international promotion of the "Happy Chinese New Year" cultural events, more and more people from different countries will come to share in the richness of Chinese culture. This fosters people-to-people bonds and facilitates mutual learning among civilizations.

2.1 million kilowatts! Construction of world's highest-altitude pumped-storage power station kicks off in SW China’s Sichuan

Construction of the world's highest-altitude pumped-storage power station kicks off Thursday in Southwest China's Sichuan Province.

With an altitude of 4,300 meters, the facility is located in Daofu county in the Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, according to the PowerChina Chengdu Engineering Corporation Limited, the operator of the project.

The station is designed with a total installed capacity of 2.1 million kilowatts and an annual power generation of 2.994 billion kilowatt-hours. It is the largest pumped storage project in Sichuan and a landmark project as part of the integrated development of water and scenic resources in the Yalong River basin, according to the company.

It is the second highest pumped storage power station in China in terms of operating head with a maximum head of 760.7 meters, the company said.

Pumped-storage power stations use off-peak electricity to pump water to higher locations, where it is stored and then released to generate electricity when the power supply is strained. They can complement wind and solar power generation, which leads to bigger fluctuations across the grid.

The Daofu pumped-storage power station is equipped with six reversible units with a capacity of 350,000 kilowatts each, and consists of upper reservoir, lower reservoir, water conveyance system, underground powerhouse system, and surface switchyard.

Often compared to a "giant power bank," it can store 12.6 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per day, which can meet the daily electricity demand of two million households, according to the company.

Yu Chuntao, director of the Daofu project from the company, told the Global Times that "at present, there is a lack of experience that can be used for reference in the construction of large-scale pumped storage projects in high-altitude areas. The design, construction, and electrical equipment manufacturing of the Daofu project are highly exploratory and challenging."

Many breakthrough results achieved in the design and construction of the Daofu project will greatly advance the design and manufacturing of major equipment for pumped-storage power stations in China, according to Yu.

The construction of the Daofu project, once completed, is of great significance for enhancing the power supply guarantee capacity, promoting the scientific and efficient development and utilization of new energy, building a world-class clean energy demonstration base, and promoting high-quality economic and social development in the local area.

At present, the highest-altitude pumped-storage power station in the world is the Yamzho Yumco Lake pumped-storage power station in Southwest China's Xizang Autonomous Region, situated at an altitude of about 3,600 meters, according to the Xinhua News Agency.