Economic Watch: Hainan's low-altitude economy soaring high

As a strategic industry, the low-altitude economy is emerging as a forerunner in developing new quality productive forces across China, including the southern island province of Hainan.

On April 24, a remarkable show unfolded as a drone departed from an airport in the provincial capital Haikou and embarked on a three-hour flight to transport a batch of shrimp seedlings from the province's Wenchang City to an airport in Zhuhai, located in the neighboring Guangdong Province, marking the first cross-sea public cargo transport through drone from Hainan to Zhuhai.

"This drone transport will greatly reduce transportation time and enhance the survival rate of aquatic seedlings, thereby playing a crucial role in cost reduction and efficiency improvement," said Yun Yongchao, general manager of a local marine biotechnology company in Wenchang.

He added that aquatic products were previously transported by land and ferry to Guangdong, taking about 13 hours, leading to high losses. "This cross-sea drone flight is a new model that provides us with a new transportation choice."

This cross-sea drone transportation exemplifies the advancement of new quality productive forces in Hainan, greatly improving the transportation efficiency of agricultural products between Hainan and Guangdong. It also contributes to the reduction of logistics costs and injects fresh vitality into the development of the low-altitude economy in both provinces.

As the only tropical island province in China, Hainan has over 300 days available for flights annually, which offers unique environmental advantages for developing the low-altitude economy.

In 2010, Hainan became one of the first pilot regions for low-altitude airspace management reform in the country. The province released a map for unmanned aircraft in 2023, demonstrating early and ongoing efforts to open up low-altitude airspace in the country.

According to Hu Qingqun, deputy general manager of China General Aviation Co., Ltd., as one of the first regions in the country to carry out low-altitude airspace management reform, Hainan has continuously strengthened the foundation for the development of the low-altitude economy by constructing general aviation airports throughout the province.

He noted that Hainan has established a relatively complete low-altitude management system and an efficient infrastructure service system.

In recent years, Hainan has developed its low-altitude economy according to local conditions, leading the country in low-altitude tourism, aviation sports, emergency rescue and other fields.

In 2023, Hainan ranked first in the country in terms of aerial tours and skydiving flights, with about 13,700 hours of flight time, 152,000 takeoffs and landings, and 364,800 passengers, accounting for approximately 45.9 percent, 63.2 percent and 61.1 percent of the national total, respectively, making Hainan the leading province in China's low-altitude tourism, according to official data.

"As a free trade port, Hainan enjoys more preferential policies. Key technologies such as drones and electric aircraft capable of vertical take-off and landing are developing rapidly. At the same time, people's demand for convenient travel and leisure tourism is increasing, and so is the market," said Li Yan, general manager of Sanya Base of China Southern Airlines General Aviation Co., Ltd.

At present, Hainan has more than 160 locally registered general aviation companies and nearly 50 non-local general aviation companies.

Guo Yao, an official of the Hainan Provincial Development and Reform Commission, said that in the future, Hainan will harness its natural resource advantages to focus on commercial short-haul transportation, low-altitude tourism consumption, and marine economic development. This strategic focus aims to establish the province as a pilot demonstration area for the low-altitude economy and to inject new momentum into the high-quality development of the Hainan Free Trade Port.

Smart agriculture shines

A technician inspects the germination status of experimental rice seeds in the three-dimensional seedling-growing greenhouse of a 5G smart farm in Haizhou district, Lianyungang, East China's Jiangsu Province on May 8, 2024. Haizhou district has vigorously implemented science and technology to strengthen agriculture and accelerate rural revitalization. Photo: VCG

Putin starts new term amid tension between Russia, West

Vladimir Putin was sworn in for a new six-year term as Russian president on Tuesday at an inauguration ceremony at the Kremlin, marking the fifth oath of office he has taken since 2000. Chinese experts said that Putin's primary policy agenda will be maintaining the current high level of domestic unity while addressing Western sanctions. 

While Russia's relations with the West have deteriorated to their lowest point since the Cold War ended, with significant divisions within the West over their Russia stance, Russia's ties with China remain stable and unaffected by the rapidly changing global landscape, observers noted. 

During his inauguration speech, Putin assured that the interests and security of the people of Russia will be above all else for him, Russian news agency Sputnik reported.

"I am confident that we will pass through this entire difficult, milestone period with dignity, become even stronger and will definitely implement long-term plans and large-scale projects aimed at achieving development goals," the president said.

In terms of internal affairs, Putin's new term will focus on maintaining the unity, stability and security of his country, as well as the development of the national economy and public welfare, Yang Jin, an associate research fellow at the Institute of Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Tuesday. "That means tackling a number of problems in the development of industry, trading and agriculture, and improving people's livelihoods," Yang said.

As for external relations, "the first step would be to overcome the challenges brought by the sanctions imposed by the West," the expert said. 

In response to the significant external pressures, Russia will make some diplomatic adjustments with relevant countries, including prioritizing traditional friendly nations and enhancing partnerships with neighboring states. This will extend to bolstering relations with Central Asia and the Caucasus, as well as other traditional allies in the Middle East and Northeast Asia, Yang said. 

Upon the new presidency, how Russia shapes its policy direction with the West and China have become the key focus of the world. 

As Russia-West tensions escalate, Yang said relations between the two sides have dropped to the lowest level since the end of the Cold War and the situation of sanctions and counter-sanctions will not see the tide turned in the short term. 

At the inauguration, Putin declared that Russia does not refuse dialogue with Western countries saying "the choice is theirs." A conversation on security issues, strategic stability is possible, but not from a position of strength, but only on equal terms, Putin stated, Sputnik reported.

In contrast, the relationship between Russia and China remains clear and certain. "As their partnership is strategic despite not being an alliance, this type of relationship provides both parties with significant flexibility. Given the current convergence of interests between the two sides, our outlook on the future of China-Russia relations remains healthy, steady and positive, unaffected by global landscape changes," Cui Heng, a scholar from the Shanghai-based China National Institute for SCO International Exchange and Judicial Cooperation, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

President Aide Yuri Ushakov confirmed on Tuesday after the swearing-in ceremony that Putin's first overseas visit for this term will be to China, according to media reports. 

When Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited China in February, he reaffirmed that deepening the partnership with China is "the top priority for Moscow," the Xinhua News Agency reported. 

Envoys from France, Hungary and Slovakia among several other EU member states were expected to attend the ceremony, Reuters reported on Tuesday, while other Western powers including the US refused to take part. 

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday that "We are not at war with Russia or the Russian people, and we have no desire for regime change in Moscow." 

The varying diplomatic response has underscored divisions on how to develop relations with Moscow against the backdrop of the Ukraine crisis. The Western stance toward Russia is not set in stone. Despite attempts to resist Putin's authority, Russia's status as a major global player and Putin's leadership has never been truly negated when it comes to matters concerning global and European interests. The "boycott" is actually a "stage play," Cui said.

However, for countries like France which maintain an independent and pragmatic stance, they have grasped a better initiative for their future dealings with Russia, the expert noted.

Following the inauguration, the Russian government resigned to the newly elected president by a decree signed by Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin. The cabinet will continue to carry out its duties until a new government is appointed, according to a TASS report.

In 2000, the 47-year-old Putin garnered backing from 52.94 percent of the Russian voters. This support increased to 71.31 percent in 2004, 63.6 percent in 2012, and 76.7 percent in 2018. By the March 2024 elections, the 71-year-old candidate saw a record-high support rate of 87.28 percent.

2023 Yearender: Fujian ‘boat dwellers’ chart new hope-filled path ashore amid China’s modernization process

Editor's Note:

The end of the year and the start of a new one is a time for reflection and anticipation. Throughout 2023, the Chinese society has undergone various developments and changes, behind which manifests the exploration and practice of Chinese path to modernization.

In light of this, the Global Times is launching a series that elaborates on this unique path through the stories of ordinary people's New Year's wishes. These wishes serve as a window to the changes and achievements of Chinese society as the Chinese modernization has brought Chinese people more concrete consensus, a more vibrant countryside, more imaginative innovation, more balanced education, a more dignified old age with stronger security, and a more confident civilization. This shows that Chinese modernization is the prerequisite and driving force for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

The first installment shares the story of the boat tribe from Ningde, East China's Fujian Province, who have transitioned from a life of drifting at sea to enjoying prosperity onshore. Their wish is to live fulfilling and prosperous lives on land, which reflects the concrete consensus among Chinese people brought about by Chinese modernization.
"This is my treasure!"

A yellowed newspaper has been carefully preserved in a ziplock bag by Lin Caizeng, a fisherman from Xiapu county, East China's Fujian Province, for 22 years.

The six family photos in this newspaper briefly outline the first half of Lin's life. In 1984, Lin, the third child in a family of six, lived on a small boat, subsisting on fishing. In 1998, with the support of the local government, Lin's family moved from the sea into a new two-room house measuring 35 square meters. In 2001, Lin and his brother raised 1,000 yellow croakers offshore.

After bidding farewell to an unstable life on the boat and embracing a "down-to-earth" lifestyle, Lin's family welcomed a newborn in 2017.

Three years later, following the local government's policy of green development, Lin Caizeng replaced his sea farming nets with environmentally friendly materials.

"This is also my treasure!" said Lin excitedly, while holding the newly issued water and tidal flat aquaculture certificate for the year. He told the Global Times that with the government's support for the industry, "I want to earn more money, raise more fish, and live a better life."
In the Houyu village where Lin lives, the cement wall still retains the slogan "Love your hometown and pay attention to hygiene" written by fishermen shortly after they moved on land. This is Lin's earliest memory of coming ashore.

What he remembers most vividly now is the phrase "Today's China is a country where dreams become reality" declared by Chinese President Xi Jinping in his 2023 New Year Address. This sentence was neatly posted by the village committee.

In southern China, regions such as Guangdong and Fujian have had a long history of generational offshore dwelling communities engaged in fishing known as the Tanka people or boat dwellers.

Usually, families shared a small wooden vessel, and the boat served as a place of residence as well as a workplace. For the Tanka people, the boat served as a place of residence as well as a workplace, with fishing activities taking place on the deck while the cabin serves as the family bedroom and storage area. In the past, the community had no property, and harbored no hopes of a decent life on land.

In front of the house, at the dock, on the fish row, Lin listened to the villagers sharing many stories about boat dwellers like him who "move and get rich" on the shore. He knew that many people had shown great concern for their once-marginalized community. Within these stories and the aspirations, countless Chinese people expressed their determination to escape absolute poverty and their hope for rural revitalization, working tirelessly to transform the vision of a beautiful Chinese modernization into reality, step by step.

"Ending life adrift at sea and settling down on land… I want to chase a better life with my diligent working and persevering spirit," Lin Caizeng made this New Year's wish - simple, pure, and full of hope.

From sea to land
Despite having stepped ashore, the sea still plays an extremely important part in the life of the Lin family.

"In the past, drifting in the sea meant leaving everything to fate. Now, living off the sea means reaping what you sow," Lin said.

Boarding the "Sea Taxi" speedboat at the Houyu village pier, bound for the aquaculture site, along the way, Global Times reporters saw the endless fish farms and neatly arranged fish cages, presenting a busy and orderly scene in the vast "sea fish fields."

In the fields, Lin happily meets his elderly brother, Lin Fangcun.

At sea, Lin Fangcun and Lin Caizeng's fish farms are only a 5-minute boat ride apart. Lin Fangcun is engaged in the cultivation of seaweed, earning a monthly income of over 4,000 yuan ($560). Lin Caizeng, on the other hand, specializes in breeding yellow croakers, with a family annual income exceeding 50,000 yuan.

When the Global Times reporters met them, the broad smiles on their tanned faces speak volumes.

Fujian rarely experiences harsh winters, and even at this time of the year one brother sports flip-flops, while the other wears rubber shoes. It's part of a signature boat-era style that's followed them ashore. "In the past, our whole family of six lived on a boat that was only eight or nine meters long. We ate, drank, slept on the boat. The children didn't even have suitable clothes to wear," recalled Lin Caizeng.

In 1997, as the then deputy secretary of the Fujian provincial committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), Xi led the local government in initiating the overall relocation of the boat dwellers. Relevant departments made continuous efforts to address the issue, taking into account the tribe's production and living habits, exempting various land taxes and fees, providing housing construction subsidies, and allowing the community to repay housing arrears in installments. By the early 21st century, the conundrum of the boat dwellers' settlement on land had completely been resolved.

Since then, local authorities have shifted more attention to the shore. They have availed technical training to the community, solved funding issues in production and entrepreneurship, and gradually promoted targeted assistance, helping the fishermen ashore completely detach themselves from the label of absolute poverty that has lasted for thousands of years.

With the increase in income, most households in Houyu village have expanded their initial single-room houses into two or three-story buildings. Faced with the dilemma of insufficient living space due to the expanding families of some villagers, the town has invested about 1.1 million yuan to build a canteen especially designated for the elderly and a senior citizen's residence on the site of a local school. The current project is in the final settlement phase, ensuring that the elderly who are willing to move in can celebrate the New Year in their bright new homes.

After settling down on land, Lin Fangcun and Lin Caizeng live in adjacent rooms on the second floor of a jointly built three-story building. Lin Caizeng hopes to get a good price for yellow croaker this year "to [help] renovate the three floors of the house and expand aquaculture with more capital."

The four siblings of Lin's family also plan to take another group photo during the Chinese New Year, adding the "new treasures" into the sealed bag.

From poverty to prosperity
Jiang Chengcai has had many wishes in his life, but he jokingly said that his current most urgent wish is to "lose weight successfully." Though not a tall man, the 56-year-old retired volunteer guide from Xiaqi village, Fu'an, which is also a coastal city 15 minutes away from Xiapu county via high-speed rail, holds himself in a straight posture. It is hard to imagine that this straight frame endured 30 years of hunched boat living on a cramped vessel.

"In the past, when the weather was good, we would go out to catch fish. But when there was a typhoon, our whole family would go hungry. Our parents were afraid that the children would fall into the water, so they tied us tightly to the boat with ropes, and when the luck was bad, the boats would capsize and our home would be lost. We would lose everything," Jiang told the Global Times.

"But now I have a carefree and comfortable life, eating more food and getting fatter and fatter," he joked.

Since he can remember, Jiang has lived on a boat. The few moments of happiness he has from the period are of calm nights, when he would lie on the edge of the boat and gaze at the moon in the sky and admire the lights on the shore.

His parents named him Chengcai in Chinese, which literally means to achieve success and wealth, hoping that he would escape the hardships of his upbringing. But before the age of 30, Jiang's only wish was to live like the people on the shore one day, and to have a house and a warm light in his home.

Jiang still remembers his first day of relocation ashore in 1999. A family of six carried their belongings, including old cotton wadding and iron pots, and moved them into Xiaqi village. Inside the house, there were spring beds and a liquefied gas stove provided by the government.

Nowadays, whenever Jiang has free time, he loves to take tourists for walks around his hometown. Here, rows of yellow-walled and red-tiled buildings are scattered, and nearby, fishing boats return fully loaded at the dock. Just a street away in the market, calls from the fishermen who have turned to seafood wholesale can be heard as they direct customers to scan QR codes to make payments.
On December 14, Jiang participated in a speech competition called "The Past in the Words of the People of That Year." He shared his journey from being landless, penniless, and uneducated to making his first fortune in the aquaculture industry after coming ashore. He then led over 30 villagers in the construction of pile foundations, transforming from someone without a place to live to someone who builds houses for others.

"I want to tell more people that the boat dwellers also have dreams," Jiang said.

Jiang wanted to express his gratitude to the village and town officials. "After coming ashore, villagers would 'seek the Party chief' when they had no money or no job, and even when naming their children."

With the caring support of generations of local officials, the average annual income of fishermen in Xiaqi village increased from less than 1,000 yuan in 1997 to 30,360 yuan in 2022. The collective income of the village also grew from zero to 630,000 yuan.

They became wealthy both monetarily and mentally. Previously, 95 percent of the Tanka people in the village were illiterate, but now there are over 290 university students among them.

From struggling to thriving

Chen Ling, the 34-year-old Party chief of Xiaqi village, felt gratified that "villages that hail from the sea," like Xiaqi and Houyu, are becoming increasingly famous.

Chen is also a descendant of the boat dwellers. In 2018, Chen, who was working in Beijing, heard his hometown needed talents in the cultural arena. He resolutely quit his well-paying job and returned to the village to contribute to rural revitalization.

As a first-generation college graduate returning to his hometown, he actively led the villagers in creating a seafood street and committing to building a prosperous countryside where local people can peacefully engage in farming, fishing, and aquaculture.

"I hope to truly drive everyone to achieve the leap from 'settling down' to 'becoming prosperous,'" Chen told the Global Times.

Now, not only are young college students returning home to start their own businesses, but Xiaqi village has also attracted tourists and field research groups from all over the country. Some foreign heads of state have also paid visits to this small fishing village that was thought to be unremarkable in the past.

In September 2023, Zambian President Hakainde Hichilem visited China and went to Xiaqi village for an inspection.

"I believe this is another example of promoting national development, not serving specific groups, but for the well-being of all people, which is crucial," Hichilema said in a media interview in September in Beijing.

Hichilema said he was deeply moved by the personal involvement of the Chinese leadership in improving the plight of disadvantaged populations, finding the root cause of the problem.

I told my colleagues that I hope you can carefully understand and connect with the situation in our country, Hichilema noted.

In various communication activities, Chen has become increasingly proud of his profession. He is well aware that the practical success of the transformation of the boat dwellers, in which he participated, exemplifies China's unique path to modernization.

With this vision, the former sea of sorrow has long since been turned into a sea of prosperity and wealth. In front of this sea, the drifters who suffered from discrimination in the old era have realized a new life, shared the fruits of the country's modernization equally, and now have their own internal motivation to pursue happiness and create wealth.

Boat dwellers are now ashore, out of poverty, and pursuing better life. Their inspirational stories and aspirational journeys are just beginning.

Nigeria: Embassy diplomats experience the Traditional Chinese Medicine culture

An event to promote Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) was held at the Nigerian Embassy in Beijing, themed "Promote Chinese Medicine and Global Health." 

The event was attended by the Nigerian Ambassador to China Baba Ahmad Jidda, Nigerian Deputy Ambassador Fumen Tyeni Dogo, Secretary General of the China Information Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine Kang Xiaofei, and more than 40 experts in the TCM and healthcare industry from all over the country.

Dogo praised the significant contribution made by the culture of TCM to the world, and expressed hopes that the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) will promote common cooperation and development of the culture in more countries. The Nigerian Embassy in China also took the opportunity to promote cultural exchanges between China and Nigeria, and further strengthen cooperation in the field of TCM.

During the event, a number of invited Chinese medicine experts communicated their experiences and showcased technology, while exchanging Chinese medicine treatment protocols, adding impetus to the high-quality development of the Chinese medicine cause.

In order to let the Nigerian diplomats experience the charm of Chinese medicine culture, Chinese medicine experts carried out a clinical checkups at the end of the activity, further showcasing the therapeutic qualities of the unique Chinese medicine tuina remedial massage.

Sustainability in action: Pernod Ricard China's enduring support for UG 13 Award

Pernod Ricard China, the internationally renowned spirits and wine group and a pioneer in sustainable practices, continues its unwavering dedication to fostering innovation and sustainability by supporting the Universities for Goal 13 Award (Greater China Competition) for the third consecutive year as the final competition successfully concluded on Friday.
As an innovation competition facing university students from around the world, the UG 13 Award encourages young people to adopt an interdisciplinary approach to find feasible and innovative solutions to tackle the pressing challenges of the Sustainable Development Goals, which this year outlines climate actions, such as “responsible production and consumption”, “natural resources conservation”, “sustainable agriculture” and “carbon peaking/neutrality and renewable energy”.

Co-hosted by the Institute for Sustainable Development Goals of Tsinghua University (TUSDG) and the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), the UG 13 (Greater China Competition) received works from about 150 students from different universities in China, with A Kernel of Corn Team, Upcyclothes Team, and Buildings as Carbon Sinks Team obtaining the “Winning Prize”. These groups will later compete in the global finale as the Chinese representatives.

Empowering youth for climate action

The UG 13 Award is an annual international competition that brings together global innovative young talents, according to the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

In China, this event has seen a collaborative innovation in sustainable development education between Pernod Ricard China and the TUSDG for three years in a row.

To further inspire students and empower their proposals’ feasibility and commercial potential, Pernod Ricard China set up two "Pernod Ricard China Special Awards" for projects that demonstrate exceptional promise in advancing sustainability and introduced two mentors to provide industry insights and help nurture entrepreneurship among young people.

The company's exclusive sponsorship not only amplifies the importance of sustainable development but also underscores the pivotal role of corporate partnerships in driving meaningful change.

As a responsible corporate citizen, the company recognizes the importance of nurturing young talents and fostering innovation, essential components in building a brighter, more sustainable future for generations to come.

“Pernod Ricard is committed to sustainable development and believes that young people are the key to driving the sustainable transformation of the world. By providing young students with innovative resources and platforms, we empower them so as to promote sustainable development. At the same time, exchanging ideas with students can also inspire us on our projects in related fields,” said Kathie Wang, Vice President of Communications and S&R at Pernod Ricard China.
Leading the way towards a sustainable future

The sponsorship of the UG 13 Award is part of Pernod Ricard’s efforts to directly support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, aligning with their 2030 plan in the corporate Sustainability & Responsibility roadmap.

Zhu Xufeng, Executive Director of TUSDG, lauded the enduring partnership among TUSDG, CUHK, and Pernod Ricard China on the competition, emphasizing the importance of long-term commitment in addressing global challenges such as climate change.

“Sustainability is not something that can be achieved overnight. It requires long-term commitment and collaboration by all parts of society. We’re delighted to join hands with Pernod Ricard China to host the UG13 Award’s Greater China competition for the past three years, providing a platform for creative students to exhibit their talent. We look forward to deepening the partnership so that together we can cultivate more young talent that puts a premium on sustainability, has the requisite skills and will work to tackle global challenges such as climate change,” said Zhu.
With a shared vision of green development, the collaboration of Pernod Ricard China and TUSDG to promote the advancement of sustainable development goals in China can date back to 2019, when the two parties jointly launched the first-ever "Sustainable Bar Operation Initiatives and Application Guidelines" for China, leading the industry towards sustainable operations.

In 2020, they collaborated to host a forum on sustainable development and jointly released a public service film. In the same year, Pernod Ricard China supported the sustainability scholarship at the School of Public Policy and Management of Tsinghua University.

Pernod Ricard China remains steadfast in its commitment to sustainability, continuously seeking new avenues to promote environmental stewardship and social responsibility.

Exclusive: Chinese mainland, HKSAR to deepen cooperation to create more new growth drivers: national political advisor from HK

The economy in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) is recovering and growing, and it's expected to continue expanding this year, as the region further taps its role as a "super connector" between the Chinese mainland and the world, and as the integration of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA) further gears up, Kingsley Wong Kwok, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and a member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council, told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

A Chinese mainland GDP growth rate of about 5 percent for 2024 would also help elevate the HKSAR economy, Wong said, while highlighting new growth drivers in the mainland economy, which he believed could provide new insights into Hong Kong's development. Wong is also the chairman of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions. 

"We saw the rapid rise of the 'new three,' or electric vehicles, lithium-ion batteries, and solar cells in the Chinese mainland market. Now, more Hong Kong residents are purchasing electric vehicles produced by Chinese mainland automakers. 

"We have also been impressed by the manufacturing prowess of the home-developed C919, which visited Hong Kong in recent days," Wong said. He added that the Chinese mainland and the HKSAR could cooperate further to create more rising futuristic sectors. 

With regard to Hong Kong's allure, Wong said that the city has great attractions for international talent and capital as an international center. 

In recent months, Hong Kong has seen an increasing foreign talent influx under its leading talent admission program. Since its launch one year ago, the program has attracted almost 70,000 applications, with nearly 79 percent being approved, the South China Morning Post reported in February. 

"If multinationals and global capital look to make inroads into the Chinese mainland, they could first establish a base in Hong Kong as a bridgehead," Wong explained, noting that this is the HKSAR's unique advantage stemming from the "One Country, Two Systems" policy.

In 2019, Chinese authorities unveiled the outline development plan for the GBA, aiming to develop the region into "a role model of high-quality development." According to Wong, significant progress has been made in the area's development in recent years, and he expected the integration to further gain steam. 

According to a proposal Wong shared with the Global Times, he suggested expanding the scope of HKSAR re-entry permits for use in the mainland, including in such areas as banking applications, transportation, travel, payments and entertainment. 

"As more Hongkongers travel to the GBA to spend their weekends, the expansion will facilitate more people-to-people exchanges, and draw more Hong Kong young people to live and work in the mainland," he noted.

In 2023, there were more than 50 million visits to the mainland by Hong Kong residents, according to media reports.

As a member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council, Wong also noted that the Council is fully promoting the legislation involving Article 23 of the Basic Law of the HKSAR.

"We have started a series of legal review work and hope to complete the legislation as soon as possible, so that we could focus more on boosting the economy and improving people's livelihoods," Wong said. He stressed that national security lays the foundation for Hong Kong's social and economic development.

Journey of two generations of US, China scholars in locating Chinese garden nurtures flower of friendship

One day in the 1950s, in the dimly lit hall of a museum in the US, young James Cahill saw the Zhi Garden Album for the first time.
The album from 17th-century China depicts a Chinese garden called Zhi with extraordinary realistic brushwork, which was uncommon in classical Chinese paintings. Almost every detail of the Zhi Garden was captured by the artist, revealing to Cahill an exquisite, yet unfamiliar Eastern-style beauty.

Cahill's eyes and heart were captured. This US student in Chinese art, who later became a famous art historian and one of the world's foremost scholars of Chinese painting, started his decades-long journey in search of the real Zhi Garden. For half a century, he visited China several times, and mentioned the Zhi Garden in his books and on many academic occasions, but never got concrete information about this mysterious garden.

Did this remote Chinese garden really exist, or was it just a Xanadu on paper? The question has long gnawed at Cahill's mind.

One summer day in 2010, on the other side of the globe, two Chinese students studying landscape architecture wrote an email to the then 84-year-old Cahill. This email, which shared the exciting news of the Zhi Garden's probable existence, was the very beginning of a beautiful story that saw Chinese and US scholars make joint efforts to discover and study the Zhi Garden, leading to their lasting friendship.

A dialogue across time and space

This 2010 email was sent by Liu Shanshan and Huang Xiao, who were then students of renowned Chinese professor of architecture Cao Xun.

In 2009, Cao came across the Zhi Garden Collection at the National Library of China, a book of poems and essays written by Wu Liang, a garden artist in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Through careful study, Cao became certain that Wu was the owner of the Zhi Garden, and the garden was most likely located in Wu's hometown in present-day Changzhou, East China's Jiangsu Province.

Under Cao's encouragement, Liu and Huang wrote an email to Cahill. They shared with Cahill that they might have found the owner and the possible location of the Zhi Garden, and asked him about the images of the Zhi Garden Album

Cahill's fast response surprised Liu and Huang. "We emailed him at around 10 pm Beijing time, and the next morning we found that he had replied," recalled Liu, who is now an associate professor at the Beijing University of Civil Engineering and Architecture.

They soon felt Cahill's excitement about and his strong passion for the Zhi Garden. In the following days, they received a couple of Cahill's emails, which were "too many to reply to in time." Moreover, after learning that Liu and Huang were also interested in the Zhi Garden and were willing to engage in related studies on it, Cahill soon mailed them a big package from the US, which included a complete set of duplicates of the Zhi Garden Album, as well as some 400 pages of literature and two CDs containing images of paintings of gardens that Cahill had collected throughout the years.

What made Liu and Huang more surprising was that Cahill suggested writing a book with them, sharing insights from their studies on Chinese gardens including the Zhi Garden from the Eastern and Western perspectives, as well as art history and garden architecture.

This idea sounded like a Nobel Prize winner inviting university students to work together on a thesis. "We could hardly believe it," Liu told the Global Times. "Professor Cahill was a leading figure in the study of Chinese art, but we were just postgraduate students at that time. There was a big gap between us."

Cahill's trust and encouragement gave them courage. In the following year, the two sides exchanged more than 100 emails to discuss the book's contents and forms. In 2012, the Chinese edition of their book Garden Paintings in Old China was published, becoming an influential work among international scholars of Chinese art.

Cahill described the book as the result of "a dialogue across time and space." It was the fruit of a yearlong online collaboration between two generations of Chinese and US scholars specialized in different fields, echoed Liu.

In July 2013, Liu and Huang handed the book to Cahill in their first offline meeting at the latter's home in the US. At that time, Cahill was already suffering from cancer.

During their one-month stay in the US, Liu and Huang visited many museums and art galleries with the help of recommendations from Cahill, and saw part of the original copy of the Zhi Garden Album at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. They celebrated Cahill's 87th birthday with him, which was tragically the last birthday of his life.

Cahill passed away in February 2014. "Working with Liu and Huang, learning that the Zhi Garden had indeed existed, and writing a book together, brought such contentment and happiness to the last years of his life," Cahill's daughter, Sarah Cahill, told the Global Times via email.

Moving story behind pictures 

In April 2011, Liu and Huang found the specific location of the Zhi Garden based on historical materials and topographic maps. It had been turned into a commercial residential area in Changzhou, with a shopping mall downstairs.

They emailed the area's satellite imagery to Cahill, who immediately confirmed it as the original location of the Zhi Garden. Huang explained that Cahill had probably read the Zhi Garden Album hundreds of times, as he was very familiar with the garden's terrain and topography as depicted in the album. "So when he looked at the satellite imagery, it was as if he was looking at an old friend," said Huang, who is now an associate professor at the Beijing Forestry University.

The garden has been lost to centuries of change and urbanization. But fortunately, its beauties can be seen again today thanks to the unremitting efforts of many Chinese and foreign scholars. In 2013, a digital model of Zhiyuan was completed. In 2015, one year after Cahill had passed away, the Museum of Chinese Gardens and Landscape Architecture made an intricate model of the Zhi Garden, to serve as a representative example of the private gardens in the regions south of the Yangtze River during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

Sarah visited the model in 2018 when attending a Zhi Garden-themed symposium in Beijing organized by Liu and Huang. "The model is miraculous; so detailed and lifelike, and truly expresses the beauty and perfect proportions of the original garden," praised Sarah.

Sarah voluntarily took over some follow-up work related to the Zhi Garden after Cahill's passing. Her father's love for Chinese gardens has deeply impressed and influenced her. "I have only been to one Chinese classical garden, but have long admired the beauty and ingenuity of Chinese gardens, from paintings and photographs," she told the Global Times. "The balance and harmony of humanity within nature makes Chinese gardens so perfect for reflection and inspiration."

The story does not end with the finding of the Zhi Garden's location and the departure of Cahill. In 2022, after years of studying the garden, Liu and Huang published their two books: The Zhi Garden AlbumA Portrait of Peach Blossom Spring and Rediscovering a Ming Dynasty Peach Blossom Spring: A Study on the Zhi Garden. In September 2023, at the 3rd Conference of the European Association for Asian Art and Archaeology (EAAA) in Slovenia, Liu and Huang shared the story of the Zhi Garden with participating global scholars.

The beautiful set of pictures in the Zhi Garden Album is like a dream, Katherine Anne Paul, Curator of Asian Art at the Birmingham Museum of Art, said at the conference. "I love the beautiful garden in the pictures, and I love the moving story behind the pictures and the garden more," she said with excitement.

Envoys of culture exchanges

Cahill's life was deeply connected with China.

After then US president Richard Nixon visited China in 1972, the country sent its first art and archaeology delegation to China the following year. As a member of the delegation, Cahill participated in the first-ever important cultural exchange between China and the US since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. In 1977, Cahill led an ancient Chinese painting delegation to China. 

In his lifetime, Cahill visited China for academic events and cultural exchanges many times, and established friendships with lots of Chinese scholars. He also helped many Chinese students.

"When Chinese publishers and publications paid Cahill for the manuscripts, he often asked me and Huang to give some of the money to the Chinese students who had [financial] difficulties," Liu said. "He was also pleased to write letters of recommendation for Chinese students and scholars who wished to go on academic visits to the US, helping them get some subsidies or grants."

Generous and warm-hearted Cahill was among the expanding pool of overseas scholars and ordinary people who are interested in Chinese culture and art, especially traditional Chinese garden art, and who are friendly to Chinese people. 

Liu said in 2024, she and Huang will cooperate with the California-based Huntington Library to hold an exhibition under the theme of Chinese gardens and plants, at the Chinese Garden (also known as or the Garden of Flowing Fragrance) of the library. The garden usually holds public activities related to Chinese culture, said Liu.

As an art form that represents Chinese cultural characteristics, and a current display and communication space of Chinese culture, the Chinese-style garden plays an important role in the cultural exchanges between China and foreign countries, Liu said.

"Today, there are more than 100 Chinese-style gardens outside China, and they offer global people [a platform] to enjoy Chinese garden culture and artistic life," she told the Global Times. "The gardens are hailed as envoys of culture exchanges."

The year of 2024 marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the US. A pianist and radio host herself, Sarah is glad to see more people-to-people cultural exchanges between the US and China. She said that the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where she is a faculty member, has a close relationship with the Shanghai Conservatory of Music.

Sarah also feels fortunate to develop friendships with her father's good friends in China, including Liu and Huang. 

"It is so true that friendships and collegial relationships can strengthen and reinforce political relationships," she told the Global Times. "Music and art are of the best ways to bring us together!"

Chinese mainland issues sweeping plan to boost integrated development with Taiwan region

Chinese mainland authorities have released sweeping guidelines to support East China's Fujian Province in exploring new paths for cross-Straits integrated development, outlining a flurry of specific measures to boost economic and trade cooperation between Fujian and Taiwan region in a wide range of areas from services trade and small businesses to high-tech industrial clusters. 

Many Taiwan entrepreneurs on Tuesday hailed the new measures as concrete steps to help businesses from the island to further explore and expand in the mainland, stressing the cross-Straits integrated development is an irreversible trend. Some Taiwan entrepreneurs also expressed doubt about the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) willingness and ability to develop the regional economy. 

Analysts also said that the move fully demonstrated the mainland's goodwill in supporting Taiwan's regional economy and Taiwan compatriots' livelihoods, in stark contrast to the DPP authorities' secessionist rhetoric and actions, which run counter to the development interests of the region. More importantly, if the DPP authorities continue to pursue secessionist actions and jeopardize cross-Straits cooperation, the mainland will take firm actions in response, analysts noted.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) said that after the mainland suspended preferential tariffs on 12 chemicals from Taiwan under the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), in response to the DPP authorities' restrictions on mainland exports, the DPP has not taken any effective measures to lift those restrictions and has instead tried political manipulation. 

Currently, relevant departments are studying to further suspend preferential tariffs and take other measures on fishery, machinery, auto parts, textile and other products in line with the ECFA, the MOFCOM said.

In a circular made public on Monday, the Ministry of Commerce, the Taiwan Work Office of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology outlined 14 measures in five economic and trade areas, including supporting Fujian's opening-up and cooperation with Taiwan, high-quality trade and integrated industrial development. 

Specifically, the circular said that Fujian will explore and establish an institutional system and regulatory model that is conducive to advancing cross-Straits integrated development. Efforts will be made to attract Taiwan petrochemical, textile, machinery, cosmetics and other industry projects to Fujian, and help them explore international markets under the Regional Comprehensive Economic Cooperation, or RCEP, a regional trade agreement among 15 Asia Pacific countries includes the ASEAN members, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

According to the guidelines, measures will be taken to support micro and small businesses from Taiwan to explore the mainland market. Efforts will also be made to support Taiwan businesses' in participating in the new industrialization process and guiding them to invest in advanced manufacturing and high-tech industries. Fujian will also leverage its advantages in the digital economy, integrated circuit (IC), new energy, lithium battery, petrochemical, textile and other sectors to build a Fujian-Taiwan industrial clusters with global competitiveness. Notably, Fujian will build a cross-Straits IC industrial cooperation pilot zone.

The guidelines come after the CPC Central Committee and the State Council announced in September 2023 that Fujian will be built into a demonstration zone for the integrated development across the Taiwan Straits, in a move aimed at deepening integrated development in all fields and advancing the peaceful reunification of the country. 

Coming as the DPP authorities on the island continue to hype secessionist rhetoric ahead of the election of regional leader, the concrete measures offered much-needed assurance for Taiwan businesses and boosted their confidence in future cross-Straits economic and trade cooperation despite noise from the DPP authorities and some in the West. 

Boosting confidence

"This new circular will be of great boost to [Taiwan's] future exchanges and development with Fujian and will support more Taiwan businesses to invest in Fujian," Lai Cheng-i, chairman of the General Chamber of Commerce of the Taiwan island, told the Global Times on Tuesday, noting that industrial cooperation in areas such as services and semiconductors will be boosted. 

Lai said that all businesses from around the world, including those from Taiwan region, seek to enter the mainland market given its massive size. "I think Taiwan's business community is looking forward to continued positive development across the Taiwan Straits. This is the general trend." 

Teng Tai-Hsien, secretary general of Straits Economic & Cultural Interchange Association, also said that Fujian has offered Taiwan compatriots equal treatment in both living and investing, which is "very attractive" to Taiwan compatriots. 

"I think the industrial integration and cooperation between Taiwan and Fujian will likely surpass other regions in the future, and the future prospects are promising," Teng told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

Following the announcement of the establishment of Fujian as a demonstration zone for the integrated development across the Taiwan Straits, mainland authorities have taken a slew of measures to support that. In November, the Ministry of Public Security's exit and entry administration announced new entry-exit policies for Taiwan compatriots, including streamlining the application process for travel passes.

"With support from so many mainland government departments, these measures also demonstrate the mainland's unswerving efforts to promote the integrated development of cross-Straits economic and trade cooperation and its goodwill toward Taiwan compatriots," Wang Jianmin, a senior cross-Straits expert at Minnan Normal University in Fujian, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Wang said that in stark contrast to the mainland's goodwill, the DPP authorities have only been interfering, disrupting and undermining cross-Straits economic and trade cooperation, which will only squeeze the space for cross-Straits cooperation and directly harm the vital interests of Taiwan compatriots.

In addition to its secessionist words and deeds, the DPP authorities have been trying to cut cross-Straits economic and trade ties, while disregarding provisions in the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) between the mainland and the island. DPP authorities have imposed restrictions on more than 2,500 mainland products. In a firm response, the mainland suspended preferential tariffs under the ECFA on a dozen chemical products from Taiwan starting on January 1.

Analysts said the mainland has made it clear that it would firmly counter the DPP's actions that undermine cross-Straits cooperation and hurt the vital interests of Taiwan compatriots, while at the same time taken favorable policies to boost cross-Straits integrated development and support Taiwan compatriots.

"I think the mainland's policies fully reflect its goodwill toward Taiwan. They are not what some in Taiwan claim to be 'trade barriers' aimed at sanctioning Taiwan," Zhang Wensheng, deputy dean of the Taiwan Research Institute at Xiamen University, told the Global Times on Tuesday. "The mainland has always maintained goodwill toward Taiwan compatriots and also hopes that Taiwan compatriots would treat Fujian as their home."

Airports in Xinjiang and Xizang see record transport volume last year

Major Chinese airports saw record transport resulting from rising demand in 2023, with airports in Xinjiang and Xizang in particular welcoming record volumes of passenger throughput.

Xinjiang Airport Group Co reported record high of passenger throughput of 40.61 million as of December 31, 2023, facilitating 490,000 takeoffs and landings. Annual passenger throughput and takeoffs and landings have returned to 108.2 percent and 113.2 percent of 2019 levels, respectively, the group said. 

Among the airports in Xinjiang, passenger throughput across nine airports in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region including Urumqi, Kashi, Korla and Aksu all exceeded that of 2019. Annual passenger throughput at Urumqi Diwopu International Airport exceeds the 25 million mark for the first time, reaching 25.08 million passengers.

In 2023, Xinjiang Airport Group launched a total of 451 domestic routes and 20 international routes.

Xizang Autonomous Region Administration of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) also reported a record high of 6.897 million passenger trips in 2023, representing growth of 106.1 percent over 2022, also marking a record high. Among the airports in Xizang, annual passenger throughput at Lhasa Gonggar International Airport reached 5.47 million, a year-on-year increase of 111.8 percent. Annual passenger throughput of Qamdo Bangda Airport reached 424,000, a year-on-year increase of 60 percent, the bureau said. 

Currently, there are 12 airlines operating in Xizang, with the flying footprint covering 169 routes across 74 cities.

The rapid recovery of aviation industry has provided a solid foundation greater airport activity, market watchers said. 

CAAC data showed that the scale of domestic route passenger traffic in 2023  exceeded  pre-epidemic levels, with an increase of 1.5 percent compared to 2019, and the fastest recovery among all types of transportation modes in China. 

Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport reported a passenger turnover of 65 million in 2023, ranking first for domestic airports. In July alone, the airport handled 6.05 million passenger trips, becoming the first domestic airport to handle more than six million passengers in a single month since 2020.

In 2024, China's domestic passenger transport will continue to grow steadily, passenger volume on domestic routes is expected to reach 630 million throughout the year, exceeding 2019 levels by 7.7 percentage points, the CAAC said.

The CAAC predicted that China's international passenger traffic will continue to rebound, with the number of flights expected to reach 6,000 flights per week at the end of 2024, recovering to the 80 percent of levels seen before the epidemic. 

China's civil aviation will enter a new cycle of sustained, rapid and healthy development, as the country's transport sector returns to a period of natural growth, the CAAC said.