Foreign companies bullish on China's opportunities backed by more investment

Foreign companies are not hiding their continuing interest in the Chinese market, as they remain "very bullish" on Chinese opportunities, with some planning more investment, in sharp contrast to the so-called claims of "foreign capital leaving China."

The latest example is Ralph Lauren CEO Patrice Louvet, who said in an interview with Bloomberg television on Thursday that the company is very bullish on long-term opportunities within China.

"We've got nice momentum, but when you look at our luxury peers, the penetration of the China business is much higher than that, so I think we have significant runway," Louvet said.

Louvet is aiming to leverage China's vast consumer market, which has been on display globally as the country continues to grow.

Data from the National Bureau of Statistics revealed that Chinese retail sales of consumer goods, a major indicator of the country's consumption strength, climbed 4.7 percent year on year in the first quarter of 2024, a clear sign that consumption has become an important driving force for economic growth.

In addition to luxury brands, Shanghai Disney Resort is set to expand with a new attraction backed by an investment of 2.459 billion yuan ($338.15 million), according to bidding information on the website of the Shanghai construction engineering trading platform on Thursday.

The new project will include six amusement facilities on an area of 21,306 square meters. In March this year, Shanghai Disney Resort announced it had begun preparations to open a new attraction next to its Zootopia-themed land.

"China's huge market size cannot be ignored by foreign companies," Chen Fengying, an economist and former director of the Institute of World Economic Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times.

China has a very large market with a population of more than 1.4 billion and a middle-class of more than 400 million people. The journey toward modernization will create huge market opportunities, Chinese experts said.

As of December 20, 2023, Shanghai Disneyland had welcomed over 13 million visitors in less than a year, setting another record for attendance since its grand opening in 2016, the company said.

In addition, foreign companies are still eyeing China as an important research and development (R&D) base. On Monday, ZEISS opened its new R&D and manufacturing site in Suzhou Industrial Park in Suzhou, East China's Jiangsu Province.

Covering an area of over 13,000 square meters, the new site marks the group's first land purchase for its self-built project in China.

It aims to become a key R&D and manufacturing center in the country for industrial quality solutions, research microscopes, surgical microscopes, and ophthalmic equipment, the company said.

Chen said the Chinese market is aided by lower operating costs, enhanced local R&D capabilities, and industrial cluster effects, and could see more foreign companies placing core functions from design and R&D, investment and production to operation and sales in China.

Data from the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) showed that foreign direct investment (FDI) into China from January to May 2024 reached 412.51 billion yuan, with the number of newly established foreign-backed companies reaching 21,764, up 17.4 percent year-on-year.

FDI in the manufacturing sector stood at 117.11 billion yuan, accounting for 28.4 percent of the national total, 2.8 percentage points higher than last year's level, said MOFCOM.

China has continuously stepped up its efforts to attract foreign investment with concrete measures. China's State Council, the country's cabinet, announced on Thursday further opening-up measures in six trial cities across various fields, including tourism, culture and telecoms.

These continued moves demonstrate China's commitment to increasing its pace of opening-up and will further boost foreign investment sentiment in the country, experts said.

China’s manufacturing might, supported by tech innovation, shores up exports

China's exports in June rose by an impressive 8.6 percent from a year earlier to reach $307.85 billion, beating the 7.6 percent increase seen in May, the General Administration of Customs (GAC) said on Friday. The improvement in foreign trade is a testament to China's rising comparative advantages in manufacturing across the low-, middle- and high-end segments, as well as the resilience of China's industrial ecosystem, with its strong and globally unrivalled supply chain as its distinctive hallmark. 

However, the US and some of its close allies have been trying to stymie the growth of Chinese exports in their reckless attempt to contain China's rise. After putting in place sweeping sanctioning measures targeting Huawei Technologies and a range of other technology companies, restricting imports of Chinese-made batteries, solar panels, steel and other goods, the US and the EU have lately announced levying extra tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles. 

In addition to imposition of extra import duties, the US has purposefully taken issue with China's new-energy sector "overcapacity" to muddy the waters even further. China's innovative new-energy products are being embraced by the global market, which is clear for all to see. China's electric vehicle exports to Asia alone have witnessed a consistent surge, growing by 68 percent to reach $4.2 billion in the first four months this year compared with a year earlier. The fact is that the EVs are in great demand in many countries, rendering the "overcapacity" talk an untenable hypothesis. 

In the coming months, Chinese-made manufactured high-tech products to the US and some Western countries in Europe will be curtailed by the high tariffs, but the competitiveness of Chinese manufacturers cannot be dented, and the country's exports will continue to be very competitive. 

China's rapid advancement in technology innovation, no matter it is Huawei's 5G gear, CRRC's high-speed rolling stock, BYD and Nio's electric cars, DJI's drones, Jinko's solar panels and Envision's wind turbines, will continue to be embraced by the Global South, as they are adopting inexpensive Chinese technology to develop their own economy and enrich themselves. And, China will always stand behind the Global South countries to support their pursuit for prosperity and get rid of stark poverty. 

By refusing Chinese high-tech goods through levying the exorbitant tariffs, the US and its close allies will gradually feel the pinch. Their anti-China economic policies will inevitably backfire. The ordinary consumers in those countries will have to face much higher EV prices and energy cost because of their government's assault on Chinese products, and these countries' green transition will be significantly weakened. Now, economists say that a country's future and people's welfare are increasingly tethered to the speed of its green transition. 

China is expected to adopt even bolder measures to consolidate a leading global role in phasing out carbon-powered "old energy" and gasoline-fired cars by rapidly adopting new energies, consisting of solar panels, hydropower, wind turbines, EVs and other energy products. China's market size will decide its green transition will be epoch-making, and produce exemplary ripple effect on the globe. 

Domestically, China will continue to accelerate supportive government policies to propel infrastructure, large-scale equipment trade-ins, and property destocking to cut redundancy and sharpen its all-round competitiveness in the world. Externally, the country is expected to open wider to all foreign partners, and align more closely with its neighbors and the Global South countries, assisting them to prosper together with China.

Over the past 20 or so years, China has gradually accumulated an increased range of comparative advantages in productivity of its workforce, the quality of its infrastructure, the integrality of its industrial ecosystem, and the might of its manufacturing size. All this has significantly contributed to the formation of China-centered industry and supply chain. 

And, the tenacity of China's industrial ecosystem will constantly strengthen as the country has just set on a new development paradigm - to shore up new quality productive forces spearheaded by scientific research and technology innovation. 

This policy framework will guide China's development in the next decade and beyond and is expected to fortify and increase the country's industrial capability among major economies. A basket of emerging technologies - 5.5G and 6G internet connection, AI, robotics and quantum computing and the across-the-board technology-manufacturing synergy, plus China's enormous labor pool and globally advanced infrastructure, will ensure the country to stay ahead in the next-stage industrial competition. 

China's future exports will be underpinned by sustained technology innovation and the ongoing manufacturing sector rejuvenation and broad-based upgrade. The goal is to make the country an unshakable source of incremental growth that the world's business conglomerates cannot ignore despite Washington's "de-coupling" bid. As the world's comparative advantages in manufacturing have shifted eastward, the US and its allies will do their utmost to thwart and hold back the shift.

Some analysts claim that China is currently very competitive across the low-value, middle-value and high-value industrial sectors, so it is natural for the country to keep moving up on the global value chain ladder. Although other sectors, such as agriculture and services, are also important and deserve more government inputs, the policy on resolutely beefing up scientific research and new technology innovation, and maintaining a large, strong and modern manufacturing economy should not change, which will put in place the bedrock for the sustainability of the growth of exports in the coming years. 

China's housing market shows signs of recovery as property prices in some megacities begin to stabilize

China's National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) released new data on Monday indicating a narrowing decline in residential property prices across 70 major cities, with pre-owned secondary homes in Beijing and Shanghai recording price increases for the first time this year.

Experts noted that the latest data indicates a stabilizing trend in Chinese property market, potentially signaling a shift to the beginning of housing market recovery.

In a detailed report, the NBS noted that the contraction in prices for new residential buildings in the first-tier cities slowed, with a 0.2 percentage point decrease to 0.5 percent. Similarly, second-tier cities maintained a consistent drop of 0.7 percent, while third-tier cities saw a 0.2 percentage point reduction in the rate of price declines from the previous month’s 0.8 percent price drop.

The resurgence was more pronounced in the pre-owned secondary property market. In top-tier cities, the drop in resale home prices eased significantly, shrinking 0.8 percentage points to a 0.4 percent decline, with Beijing and Shanghai experiencing price gains for the first time in 2024. 

Smaller cities delivered mixed results, in the second-tier cities, overall pre-owned housing prices recorded a 0.9 percent decline, a slight improvement of 0.1 percentage points from last month. Third-tier cities have matched the previous month's decrease of 0.9 percent.

The NBS’s latest release are being viewed as a very positive indication for the market, the decreased rate of decline in both new and pre-owned properties sends a strong signal, Yan Yuejin, research director at Shanghai-based E-house China R&D Institute, told the Global Times on Monday.

“After a sweeping price drop in June, we are seeing stabilizing indicators which could enhance market confidence in pre-owned properties. The narrowing month-on-month declines in housing prices point to a potential turnaround in the coming months,” Yan said.

In June, among the 70 surveyed cities, 64 cities saw price declines in new residential properties and price decline of pre-owned properties in 66 cities. Notably, mega-cities like Shanghai, Hangzhou, Beijing, and Nanjing have begun showing a rising trend in selling prices, suggesting that largest cities are leading the market recovery.

This upturn in prices follows a series of real estate stimulus policies. On June 26, Beijing announced new round of policy adjustments, including a significant reduction in minimum down payment required for home purchases. The move positioned Beijing among major Chinese cities to relax buying restrictions, with expectations of boosting China's property market soon. 

Companies deny mixed use of tanker trucks for food, chemicals; concerns remain

Several oil companies have denied using tanker trucks to transport both food and chemical liquids, leading netizens to express concern over food safety on social media platforms, with some worried about potential poisoning.

According to a report by The Beijing News, a driver revealed the "open secret" in the tanker truck industry of mixed transportation of food and chemical liquids in the same vehicles, without cleaning in between. In order to cut costs, many operators do not clean the tanks, and edible oil producers do not check the tanks even though it is required by the regulations, resulting in chemical residue and potential contamination of edible oil.

China Grain Reserves Group, or Sinograin, has launched a large-scale inspection following the report, according to a statement the company issued on its official Weibo account on Saturday. Several other oil companies have denied engaging in such behavior, according to media reports on Monday.

The incident has become a trending topic on Weibo, and many Chinese netizens have called for the recall of problematic edible oils, and demanded a thorough investigation and strict punishments for the people responsible.

The revelation of the long-standing "open secret" in the tanker transport industry suggests that the idea that food safety should be paramount remains a mere aspiration, as noted in a commentary by China Central Television on Monday.

Given that tanker trucks often have large capacities, it is common for them to carry a certain quantity of chemical liquids. However, when these are mixed with edible liquids during loading, it transforms from a typical food incident to a form of poisoning, according to CCTV.

While Sinograin is mending its ways, there is still a lot of confusion and consternation among consumers. The incident is completely different from the usual incidents related to gutter oil, according to the CCTV commentary. Consumers can typically avoid poor-quality cooking oil if they choose big brands and well-known manufacturers. However, even a major brand has loopholes of mixing chemical oil with edible oil, which clearly exceeds the understanding of most individuals.

Chinese media professional Hu Xijin wrote on Weibo that the regulator should intervene in the investigation to determine the scope and extent of the harm, and publicly disclose the results of the investigation to provide the public with a comprehensive explanation.

The incident involves a number of subjects of interest, including the fleet of vehicles to which the tanker belongs and the edible oil manufacturer. Food safety is at stake, every subject of interest cannot be silent, but also has no right to silence, according to a commentary from People's Daily Online.

This also calls for the regulator to take a stronger and more focused position on the mixing of food and chemical liquids, as it is obviously impossible to deal with the issue solely by relying on the moral consciousness of the drivers, manufacturers and the companies involved, according to the commentary.

Modi, Putin deepen ties in Moscow, 'frustrating US efforts to contain, isolate Russia'

The US expressed its "concerns" toward India about its relationship with Russia, as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Moscow during which the India-Russia friendship has been highlighted by Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Analysts said that closer relations between Russia and India mean that the US' ceaseless effort of containing and isolating Russia since the Ukraine crisis began is frustrated. Meanwhile, India's balanced diplomacy is not only in line with its own interests but also contributes to a global strategic balance which has long been challenged by US hegemony.

Modi started his two-day visit to Russia on Monday with a warm reception from Putin before the two leaders engaged in official talks at the Kremlin on Tuesday. According to media reports, Putin embraced Modi at his home at Novo-Ogaryovo, offering Modi tea, berries and sweets and took him on a tour of the grounds in a motorized cart.

"To visit a friend's home is a great pleasure," Modi said on Monday, per a report from Russian news agency TASS. Modi also posted pictures in X upon his arrival in Moscow, in both English and Russian, saying that stronger ties between India and Russia "will greatly benefit our people."

In an X post on Tuesday, Modi said talks between two leaders "will surely go a long way in further cementing the bonds of friendship between India and Russia." Modi also shared pictures of himself hugging and shaking hands with Putin.

Despite Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying that "no joint communication with the media is foreseen" in terms of Tuesday's official talks, TASS said the Putin-Modi meeting is expected to focus on trade, the economy and issues of "regional and global significance," which analysts interpreted as energy cooperation and the Ukraine crisis.

In response to Modi's visit, US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said at a press briefing on Monday (local time) that the US government "has made quite clear directly with India our concerns about their relationship with Russia," and hope India would make clear that Russia should respect the UN Charter, should respect Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity when they engage with Russia.

Modi's Russia visit illustrates India's balancing of foreign policy between major powers, Li Haidong, a professor at China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times.

According to the expert, the biggest challenge in the current geopolitical landscape is US hegemony which enables Washington to act arbitrarily and unrestrained.

The deepening of relations between Russia and India is an important step toward global strategic balance, Li said. "Modi's interaction with Putin in Russia can be regarded as positive as long as it helps ease the Russia-Ukraine conflict, makes stability in Europe more promising, and makes major power relations more balanced," he said.

The visit comes just ahead of the NATO summit in Washington, a gathering widely regarded as targeting Russia.

Despite a lavish reception for Modi in the US during his state visit to US last year, it is clear that India is not falling for America's attempt to coax it into confronting Russia, Li said.

India, a major power with a tradition of strategic autonomy, is well aware of the falsities of US diplomacy, Li said. "The US-India relationship is one that each gets what it needs. India has been pragmatic in contrast to America's wishful wooing," he said.

According to media reports, India has refused to join Western sanctions against Russia after the Ukraine crisis, instead turning to Russia for discounted energy imports, with more than 40 percent of its oil imports from Russia. Meanwhile, Russia is still a key military equipment supplier to India.

"The closer relationship between India and Russia shows the failure of the US' strategy to contain and isolate Russia… it means a deep frustration for the elites in Washington," said Li.

Analysts said that no matter who takes office in the White House a few months later, India's Russia policy will remain consistent, in other words, India is unlikely to completely follow the US and isolate Russia.

China opposes US and its allies accusing China of directing cyberattacks: FM

China opposes US and its allies accusing China of directing cyberattacks, a spokesperson from China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday. The spokesperson added that the international community sees clearly who is conducting long-term monitoring and espionage on its allies, carrying out indiscriminate cyberattacks on other countries, and the source of all evil in promoting global cybersecurity threats.

In an Australia-led report published on Tuesday morning, cybersecurity and intelligence agencies for the US, UK, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea and Germany said that advanced persistent threat 40 (also known as APT40) had "repeatedly" targeted governments across the Indo-Pacific. The group was able to steal hundreds of unique user names and passwords in one incident in April 2022, as well as intercepting multi-factor authentication codes, the report said.

"The authoring agencies assess that this group conduct malicious cyber operations for the PRC Ministry of State Security (MSS)," the report said, adding that APT40 more regularly exploited vulnerabilities in public-facing infrastructure rather than using techniques which required user interaction, such as phishing campaigns, Bloomberg reported.

In response, Lin Jian, spokesperson for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday that the countries behind the report are trying to stir up trouble by accusing China of cyberattacks, using the issue of cyber security to smear and discredit China. A development which China firmly opposes.

In fact, in recent times, Chinese agencies have released multiple analysis reports, including reports on American APT organizations, which have thoroughly exposed how the US has long been spreading false information, hyping up the threat of Chinese cyberattacks, while at the same time using its hegemonic position and technological advantage to engage in global surveillance and espionage.

In January, a cybersecurity report for 2023 released by Antiy Labs, one of China's foremost cybersecurity companies, said that global APT activities remain at a severe level. APT organizations are primarily distributed in countries and regions such as the US and India, with the US continuing to pose the main threat to global cybersecurity.

The report summarized the distribution and activity of global APT organizations and activities in 2023. The US dominates the 556 APT organizations globally, and the highest level of attacks, known as A2PT attacks. APT organizations that pose a threat to China and neighboring countries also operate in India and Taiwan island.

Lin said on Tuesday that it is puzzling that the US has never provided a reasonable explanation for who is the real mastermind behind the long-term surveillance and espionage against its allies, and who is the ultimate source of the global cybersecurity threat. It is believed that the international community sees this very clearly.

Lin said that China had exposed the US for spreading false information about "Volt Typhoon" targeting China on Monday, and today news about China's cyberattacks being hyped up by the Western media. This coincidence leads people to suspect that there may be certain countries manipulating behind the scenes to divert attention.

We advise relevant parties to keep their eyes open, distinguish right from wrong, and not to help other countries at their own expense, ending up with a loss for themselves and others, said Lin.

After China released a report on Volt Typhoon, the US, in order to cover up the evidence, instructed related companies to change the content of report they released previously, completely disregarding the traces left during the operation, the Global Times learned on Sunday. However, the US Embassy in China and company involved stayed silent when contacted by the Global Times comment.

"In the field of international cybersecurity, the US is the least qualified to point fingers because it has no national credibility in this area. Over the past twenty years, the world has witnessed the US fabricate false intelligence to launch wars. Its intelligence agencies recklessly conduct cyber espionage and surveillance on countries, including its allies, deploy cyber weapons, and paralyze critical infrastructure of other countries through actual APT attacks. The US is the primary threat that supports cyberattacks with national power,"Zhuo Hua, an expert on international affairs at the School of International Relations at Beijing Foreign Studies University told the Global Times.

Bringing back deceased beloved ones through AI technology becomes a new, controversial business in China as ‘era of digital humans’ approaches

Editor's Note:

Big models, robots, intelligent manufacturing, autonomous driving… In recent years, AI (artificial intelligence) has frequently made headlines around the world, becoming a hot topic of discussion. The emergence of generative AI programs has also caused unemployment anxiety.

The development of technology has indeed brought challenges in various aspects such as ethics and law. But at the same time, many experts advocate that human should see technology as a tool, with the ultimate purpose of serving humanity, making human life and work more efficient and comfortable.

In real life, AI has already permeated all aspects of human society, helping with scientific research in laboratories, assisting in the restoration of mysterious ancient scrolls at archaeological sites, and helping to find abducted children in the vast sea of people.

In light of this, the Global Times has launched the "AI empowers industry, improves people's livelihoods" series, showcasing the tremendous energy and broad prospects that AI brings to various industries.

This is the first installment in this series. In this story, we explore how AI helps people reconnect with their loved ones from beyond the grave, make up for lost time, and continue family ties in the virtual world.

"Mom, I want to eat Moo Shu Pork."

"Okay, let me prepare the meat. I'm going to tell you when I'm done."

Zhu Rui's mother replies with a smile. Wearing a rosy pajama with a big Mickey Mouse caricature on it, the lady in her 60s sits in a chair with her hands naturally folded. She looks at her son with tender eyes - from the computer screen.

This is a small conversation between Zhu and his "digital mom," an interactive virtual role that Zhu recently made with AI technology. The virtual mother looks so lifelike that it looks as if Zhu is having a video call with his real mother, instead of a program built based on numerous AI algorithms.

After suffering from cancer for five years, Zhu's mother's diagnosis sadly took a turn for the worse this year. His deep love for his ailing mother pushed Zhu to make a digital doppelganger of her, which can help carry his memory of his mother in the near future.

Zhu is among a growing number of Chinese people who try to make digital doppelgangers of their deceased or elderly family members. With the rapid development of AI technology, the"digital resurrection" of deceased loved ones is practically becoming an industry in the country, with controversies following close by, of course.

'Digital mom'

The so-called "digital resurrection" is based on historical data such as photos and videos, using AI technology to reproduce the voice, image, and behavior of deceased individuals, generating similar outputs.

The first time Zhu heard of "digital resurrection" was in the spring of 2023. He watched various "digitally resurrected relatives" online, thinking about making a digital doppelganger of his mother, who, in his words, probably doesn't have much time left.

"While taking care of my mom, I hoped that I could make a digital version of her, as a special memory that she can leave for her loved ones," Zhu told the Global Times. "I'm in a race against time. I want to get the thing done while she is still here."

Zhu said he was perhaps the first-ever person in China to make a digital doppelganger of a family member who is still alive. Unlike creating a digital doppelganger of the departed loved one based on limited materials, Zhu could take as many photos and videos of his mother as possible to make his "digital mom" more realistic.

It, nonetheless, took Zhu some time to convince his mother. "The older generation knows very little about AI technology. My mom had no idea what a 'digital doppelganger' was; she felt it a bit strange [about the concept], but anyway, she trusted me unconditionally," Zhu said. "We are closest to each other in this world."

As the co-founder of a tech company, however, Zhu was not as familiar with AI himself at the very beginning. Step by step, he taught himself a series of AI models and tools that helped create his "digital mother," from Kimi and GPT-4 to popular applications including Midjourney and Heygen. Within some 20 days, this fast learner successfully created a preliminary version of his "digital mother" with the help of his AI industry friends.

Zhu clearly remembers the first time his "digital mother" eventually appeared on screen and smiled at him. It was around 5 am, after he had stayed up all night making some final adjustments. He was impressed but actually "not very excited." "This version was not yet perfect due to my limited time and skill," said Zhu. "I thought I could do better."

In February, a video telling Zhu's story about making a "digital mother" went viral online, drawing people's attention to this new way of cherishing the memory of their loved ones. Zhu said that he is thinking about making a miniseries based on the ordinary Chinese people who try to create their "digital families." It will be a nonprofit project aiming to discuss topics like life, death, family, and love under the context of AI technology, he added.

For those who would like to be a part of the project, Zhu said he may help them create a "digital family" for free. "I hope that a digital doppelganger can help relieve the pain of those who lost their loved ones," he told the Global Times. "This is the meaning of AI technology."
Emerging business

As early as 2016, HereAfter founder James Vlahos built a chatbot that responds like his dead father, or Dadbot, based on data left by his father. People quickly got in touch with Vlahos after the creation of Dadbot, asking if he could make them bots of their own.

In China, "digital resurrection" caught the public's attention during the Qingming Festival in 2023 when an influencer on Bilibili uploaded a clip of his AI-revived grandma.

The business was cast in the spotlight again recently after Chinese renowned musician Tino Bao (Bao Xiaobo) unveiled to the public his "revived" daughter with AI technology.

Zhang Zewei, founder of AI company Super Brain in Nanjing, East China's Jiangsu Province, told the Shanghai Observer that his team has completed more than 1,000 "resurrection" orders. With the Qingming Festival approaching, they receive four to five dozen related inquiries every day, the Shangguan Observer reported on Wednesday.

Most of Zhang's users have a similar starting point to Zhu. They all have a strong desire to "see their loved ones again"; some families have lost their only child in middle age, and the parents are unable to overcome the pain of losing their child; and some people have lost their partners of many years, and are hoping to see the person they miss day and night again, even if it's just a brief glimpse on the screen.

However, the innovation also comes along with controversies.

Recently, a video blogger "resurrected" late stars through AI without obtaining permission from the stars' families. The father of late Chinese singer-actor Qiao Renliang has required the video blogger to remove the video and said that the move reopened his old emotional wounds.

Many netizens and law experts also characterized the move as offensive to family members of the deceased and violated portrait rights and privacy, calling for more complete and detailed regulations and management to catch up with the impact of the market of the rapid development of AI technology.

A search on Taobao with the keywords "AI, digital life, resurrection" on Wednesday yielded hundreds of results. According to these results, customers can get an audio clip of their late relatives by paying 99 yuan ($13.6), get a video clip of late relatives talking by paying 198 yuan, and interact with "resurrected relatives" via a certain app if they pay 498 yuan.

One of the stores also claimed to provide a service that teaches customers to create a digital life. Customer service representatives at the store told the Global Times that the app was developed by themselves and "it was very easy to learn." Tuition and the app jointly cost only 1,000 yuan, according to the customer service representative.

A more important problem may be the overly realistic interaction of the digital doppelganger, as Zhu said. "It is a double-edged sword that offers users a very good immersive experience, but may also bring huge hidden troubles."

Smooth, natural conversations are supported by the strong computing power of the AI models, which is very expensive. What if one day, the customers cannot afford the money and have to turn "the digital relative off?" Zhu questioned.

Moreover, overly realistic and natural interaction may make people addicted to the virtual world. Especially for those who lose their loved ones,"they may feel it is harder to move on," Zhu said.

Era of 'digital humans'

But Zhang still expresses full optimism about the business. He believes that with technological progress, the concept of "AI resurrection" will continue to evolve. In the future, there will be more AI digital human products such as digital immortality and digital companionship, in addition to a short video or a chatbot.

Some other observers echoed Zhang's sentiment. They pointed out that "digital resurrection" is an emerging subdivision of digital humans while the industry is moving toward a new stage of AI-driven, tool-based, and low-cost with the empowerment of large models.

At present, digital humans mainly appear as intelligent customer service representatives on e-commerce platforms and public service portals, and they are also showing huge application potential in the consumer market, such as in the field of education. But as technology advances and demand evolves, the application market for digital humans will further broaden. It is a trend for more middle and small teams flooding into the industry to provide human solutions for small merchants and individuals, according to industry insiders and observers.

In the future, virtual digital humans will become more intelligent. They will gradually possess the ability to see, understand, and express themselves, allowing AI-generated and driven virtual digital humans to more comprehensively and deeply integrate into various fields such as film and television, finance, and cultural tourism.

Zhang Rui, founder and executive director of the Art Robot company in Beijing, told the Global Times that an AI product may be able to understand and express human feelings in 5 to 10 years.

According to data from iMedia Research, in 2022, the market size of this industry reached 12.08 billion yuan, while also driving the surrounding market size to reach 186.61 billion yuan. It is estimated that by 2025, the core market size of virtual digital humans will reach 48.06 billion yuan, and the surrounding market size driven by such growth may be close to 640.27 billion yuan.

Regulations are also on the way. In 2019, China issued principles of next-generation AI governance. In 2021, the country published the "Ethical Norms for the New Generation Artificial Intelligence," aiming to guide activities in the entire lifecycle. In 2023, China further released its regulations on deep synthesis Internet information services and Interim Measures for the Management of Generative Artificial Intelligence Services to boost AI development while safeguarding cybersecurity.

Chinese social media platforms have also enacted specific measures for users in terms of producing AI-generated content, vowing strict punishment for those who violate the rules by using AI to generate virtual characters to publish content that goes against scientific knowledge, fabricates information and spreads rumors.

The era of one "digital human" per person is coming, industry insiders said.

China and France open a new chapter in joint exploration of nuclear energy after 40 years of partnership and trust

At the invitation of French President Emmanuel Macron, Chinese President Xi Jinping kicked off his state visit to France on May 5. It coincides with the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and France, and is of great significance to building on past achievements and opening up new prospects for bilateral relations.

During this visit, achieving carbon neutrality goals will, once again, be an important consensus reaffirmed by China and France, in relation to which, the joint promotion of nuclear energy cooperation and development as an important cornerstone for the two countries to achieve carbon reduction goals has attracted great attention.

Yu Jianfeng, Chairman of China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), and Jean-Bernard Lévy, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Electricité de France (EDF) jointly released A Prospective Study on "Bluebook" on Nuclear Energy to Support for Low Carbon on Monday in Paris.

"China and France, as major nuclear energy-producing countries in the world, play an irreplaceable role in promoting nuclear energy to address climate change and low-carbon transformation," Yu said.

He noted that nuclear energy cooperation is an important part of the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and France. Under the strategic guidance of President Xi and President Macron, nuclear energy enterprises in the two countries have adhered to the principle of "walking on the two legs of technological cooperation and industrial cooperation," and have achieved fruitful results.

The Global Times learned from the CNNC that the cooperation between the CNNC and the EDF opens a new chapter in the two countries' nuclear energy cooperation. This not only reflects the concrete implementation of the important consensus reached by the top leaders of the two countries, but also marks the 40th anniversary of the two countries' nuclear energy cooperation and witnesses the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and France.

The move will also support China in building an innovative nuclear energy international cooperation network. In the future, the two countries will leverage their strengths to build a new pattern of cooperation and development that is interconnected and driven by innovation, supported by industry to promote the improvement of global nuclear governance, and make greater contributions to the economic and social development of China and France, as well as the construction of a global community of shared future for mankind.

One of the most stable cooperation areas

The nuclear energy cooperation between China and France has a long history and continues to deepen. Since the signing of the first cooperation agreement on the peaceful use of nuclear energy in 1982, China and France have always adhered to the principle of equal emphasis on scientific and industrial cooperation. Nuclear energy cooperation has become one of the most stable cooperation areas between the two countries.

As one of the earliest international nuclear energy companies to cultivate business in China, the EDF has been operating in China for more than 40 years and has become one of the largest foreign investors in China's power generation and energy services industry.

For a long time, the EDF has developed and deepened its partnership with the CNNC. The two sides regularly hold high-level meetings, and their cooperation covers multiple areas such as nuclear power research and development, construction, operation and maintenance, and fuel, achieving numerous results.

The CNNC and the EDF have actively participated in the interactive activities of international organizations, sending experts to support the work of international organization technical groups, conducting international research projects, and promoting international coordination and standardization. For example, they participated in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)'s nuclear safety standards development work, especially the recent Nuclear Harmonization and Standardization Initiative (NHSI) small modular reactor regulatory forum activities initiated by the IAEA, which is aimed at promoting the development of universal standards for small modular reactors, coordinate unified regulatory requirements, and promote the safe and reliable deployment of small modular reactors worldwide.

The EDF and the CNNC have also made important contributions to the standardization work of international standardization organizations and the International Electrotechnical Commission.

As the main force of China and France's nuclear energy technology cooperation, the CNNC has established long-term friendly cooperation relationships with French partners and achieved fruitful cooperation results. In the more than 40 years of nuclear energy technology cooperation, the CNNC and the French Atomic Energy Commission have established seven collaborative laboratories in areas such as reactor thermal hydraulics, severe accident management, aging and life management of pressurized water reactors, fast reactors, nuclear fusion, geological disposal of high-level radioactive waste, decommissioning, and radioactive waste management. The two sides also signed and implemented over 500 special cooperation projects.

The CNNC has also successfully held six nuclear energy technology innovation seminars with the EDF, achieving good results in areas such as severe accidents, additive manufacturing, and material research.

Furthermore, the CNNC has also formed a consortium with Framatome to successfully bid for and implement the main machine installation project of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), and have conducted good cooperation with the Orano Group in areas such as the research on uranium resources.
To jointly build "artificial sun"

Cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy has become an important part of the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and France. The scope of nuclear energy cooperation between the two countries is wide-ranging and diverse, but the most "high-energy" project undoubtedly is the ITER large-scale scientific project that the two countries are jointly working on.

Referred to as the world's largest "artificial sun," the ITER project is currently the largest and most influential international scientific project in the world, carrying the hopes of humanity for the peaceful use of nuclear fusion energy.

The ITER device is a superconducting tokamak capable of producing large-scale nuclear fusion reactions, which will help humanity move further toward a continuous source of clean energy. Since its establishment in 2007, the ITER has been one of the largest international scientific engineering cooperation projects in the world. France is the location of the ITER project construction and headquarters, while China is one of the seven equal member parties of the ITER project, contributing 9.09 percent of the construction phase and 10 percent of the operation and decommissioning phase funding.

China joined the ITER project in 2006. Since the implementation of the project, China has always adhered to its international commitments, with Chinese enterprises and researchers bravely shouldering heavy responsibilities and working together with international counterparts to contribute Chinese wisdom and strength to the smooth progress of the project.

The CNNC has been actively involved in the development of the world's largest "artificial sun." In September 2019, a China-France consortium led by the CNNC signed the TAC-1 installation contract with the ITER, marking China's deep involvement in the installation of the core equipment of the tokamak device - the "heart" of the experimental reactor.

On February 29, 2024, the ITER organization signed a new the vacuum chamber module assembly contract with the consortium. China will once again undertake the installation of the core equipment, contributing wisdom and strength to the ITER project alongside France.

Shen Yanfeng, General Manager of the CNNC, said that the signing of the agreement means that the China-France consortium led by the CNNC has become the sole contractor for the main host installation of the ITER project. This demonstrates the CNNC's commitment to implementing President Xi's important instructions, opening up to the outside world, deeply participating in the global nuclear industry chain cooperation, building a new development pattern, promoting high-quality development of the nuclear industry, accelerating the advancement of China's modernization, and striving to create a vivid practice of a global community of shared future for mankind.

This will greatly enhance China's participation and contribution in international large-scale scientific projects, and help implement the "three-step" development strategy of nuclear energy - thermal reactors, fast reactors, and fusion reactors, Shen said.

Direction for nuclear energy development

The release of the "bluebook" undoubtedly takes the cooperation between China and France in the nuclear energy field to a new level.

The Global Times learned that the "bluebook" is the first strategic planning soft science cooperation between Chinese state-owned nuclear energy enterprises and partners in developed Western countries in recent years, marking a significant increase in China's nuclear industry strategic planning and soft science research capabilities and international influence, with obvious uniqueness and importance.

"The 'bluebook' is cooperation between China and France at the strategic research level in the field of nuclear energy, which has never happened before. It was included in the plan during French President Macron's visit to China in 2023," Luo Qingping, President of the China Institute of Nuclear Industry Strategy under CNNC, told the Global Times.

The release of the "bluebook" at the historical moment of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and France can also be seen as the opening of a new chapter in the nuclear energy cooperation of the two countries. In the future, China and France can combine the contents of the "bluebook" to deepen cooperation in promoting nuclear energy development, including cooperation in exploring third-party markets.

The Global Times found that the "bluebook" interprets the development ideas and practices of China and France in the field of nuclear energy through historical reviews and strategic research, providing an in-depth analysis of the future nuclear energy industry from a macro perspective.

The research mainly covers the current global status and trends of nuclear energy development, the role of nuclear power in addressing the climate change, progress in nuclear power safety and related technology standards, and measures to enhance the economic efficiency of nuclear power coupled with other new energy sources, systematically describing the current status of nuclear energy development and good practices in China and France.

In addition, the "bluebook" fully demonstrates China's strength in nuclear power construction, including its strength in third-generation nuclear power, fourth-generation nuclear power, small modular reactors, and the entire industry chain service capabilities.

It also describes important nuclear power products in China, such as the Hualong One, Linglong One, high-temperature reactors, and fast reactors, making it easier for the international community to understand China's nuclear power technology and product capabilities.

The release of the "bluebook" can expand the influence of Chinese nuclear power companies, especially the CNNC. Through the preparation of the "bluebook," China and France can reach a consensus on nuclear energy technology at the strategic level and enhance the international influence of nuclear energy technology in both countries.

The "bluebook" proposes three initiatives. First, China and France jointly advocate that every country in the world has the right to develop nuclear power, but safety must be the top priority in the development process, meaning that nuclear power must be developed under reliable safety supervision. Second, it points out to the world that nuclear energy can effectively support low-carbon development. China's future nuclear energy technologies such as small modular reactors and nuclear fusion are important solutions to the global energy problem. Third, it calls for urgent action to address the crisis caused by climate change, emphasizing that energy transformation is imperative, and the development of nuclear power is undoubtedly an effective approach.

Based on this "bluebook," there is a possibility of creating an internationally significant guiding document. The IAEA is also very interested in this "bluebook." Next, the CNNC will communicate with the IAEA to try to include the "bluebook" in their publication list for global promotion.

A green future for humanity

According to data in the "bluebook," as of the end of December 2023, France has an installed nuclear power capacity of 61.37 gigawatts in operation, ranking second in the world, with an additional 1.63 gigawatts under construction. China has an installed nuclear power capacity of 53.15 gigawatts in operation, ranking third in the world, with an additional 23.72 gigawatts under construction. Both China and France are major nuclear energy-producing countries, with CNNC and EDF as key players in global nuclear energy development, each having their own advantages in nuclear power construction, operation, maintenance, and fuel supply, accumulating rich experience in the development of nuclear energy.

The continued cooperation between the two countries will provide strong momentum for the utilization and development of global clean energy technologies. China and France will continue to deepen cooperation in multiple areas such as nuclear engineering, nuclear power operation, and nuclear fuel cycle. They will promote the synergy between nuclear energy and renewable energy, formulate public policies focusing on low-carbon growth, accelerate the development of renewable energy such as hydropower, wind power, solar power, and geothermal energy, extend the lifespan of existing nuclear power plants, initiate new nuclear power construction projects, and optimize the cost of energy transition.

Furthermore, the two sides will cooperate to promote advanced nuclear energy technologies such as small modular reactors and fusion reactors. They will work together to advance the commercial deployment of small modular reactors. They will also strengthen international cooperation in the field of nuclear fusion research, the Global Times learned from the CNNC.

At the same time, they will promote the comprehensive application of nuclear energy, popularize technologies such as nuclear heating, seawater desalination, and hydrogen production, diversify the forms of nuclear energy utilization, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

They will also conduct research on the impact of climate change using nuclear technology, playing a special role in addressing issues such as water scarcity, soil erosion, land degradation, and increased diseases and pests in plants and animals caused by climate change.

Looking to the future, the CNNC and the EDF have reached a consensus that nuclear energy development is a realistic and important choice in the transition to a clean, low-carbon, safe, and efficient modern energy system, especially as nuclear energy expands from electricity generation to heating, steam supply, hydrogen production, and other applications, potentially accelerating the decarbonization of high-emission industries. The deepening cooperation in the nuclear energy field between China and France will undoubtedly bring more solutions and surprises to humanity.

Morocco welcomes Chinese firms to jointly develop electric vehicles in Morocco: Ambassador

Editor's Note:
China and Morocco share a long history of exchanges and a long tradition of friendship. Under the strategic guidance of the heads of the two countries, China and Morocco have established strategic partnership and bilateral relations have achieved leapfrog growth. Morocco was among the first countries in Africa and Arab world to join the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which has yielded fruitful results in bilateral cooperation. Global Times reporter Ma Jingjing (GT) interviewed new Moroccan Ambassador to China Abdelkader El Ansari for China-Morocco economic and trade cooperation.
GT: This year marks the 66th anniversary of the establishment of China-Morocco diplomatic ties. What are your comments on China-Morocco ties over the past decades?

El Ansari: China and Morocco have century-old relations, not only decades, because we are every year celebrating the anniversary of the Moroccan traveler Ibn Battuta who visited China already in the 14th century. And there is also a very famous Chinese traveler named Wang Dayuan who visited Morocco in the same century. So, our relations are very old. This year we are celebrating the 66th anniversary of our diplomatic relations, and I know that number six is very important in China, brings joy and hope. So, 66th anniversary double joy and double hope. We have very strong relations built on mutual respect, real friendship, solidarity, and reliability. The future is even more promising for our relations. I am very confident about that.

GT: Morocco is among the very first countries that signed the memorandum of understanding about the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). What achievements have been made under BRI cooperation between China and Morocco?

El Ansari: We have now identified many projects that could be realized under the frame of BRI. We have selected 14 important sectors in which we will implement projects because the opportunities of cooperation and exchange are very big between our two countries. The priority projects are in fields including infrastructure, health, agriculture, industry, renewable energy and technological industry. That means the industries with very high added-value. And we are progressing now very fast in that sense.

We are happy to see that Morocco will be maybe one of the pillars of the implementation of the BRI worldwide. So, this is an important compound of our relations and we hope that in the coming few years we will have a lot of projects completed under the BRI framework.

GT: People-to-people exchange is one of the highlights of China-Morocco relations, especially since the joint building of the BRI. What's the status quo of people-to-people exchanges between the two countries?

El Ansari: The geography makes distance very big between our two countries, but this doesn't prevent that we have quite good people-to-people relations in at least three fields. During His Majesty the King Mohammed VI's visit to Beijing in May 2016, His Majesty decided to lift the visa requirement for the Chinese people to visit Morocco. Since then, we have noticed a big rise of Chinese tourists visiting Morocco. Second, we have a big presence of Moroccan students here in China. Third, we have very good cooperation in the field of culture. Morocco and China are among the few countries in the world with a millenary history. So, there are big interests from Chinese people for Moroccan culture, ancestral culture, and in Morocco, there is also a big interest as well for the Chinese culture. I am convinced that the people-to-people relations and exchanges are the best cement to our friendly relations.

GT: China is one of Morocco's main trading partners. What's your view on the China-Morocco relations in the future? And what areas can the two countries deepen cooperation and promote further development of the China-Morocco strategic partnership?

El Ansari: The potential of China-Morocco economic relations is very big. China is the first economic partner of Morocco in Asia, and its third commercial partner worldwide. In 2016, the two countries decided to establish China-Morocco strategic partnership, opening new chapter in the bilateral relations. In this strategic partnership, there is a very important part of economic relations and partnership relations in economy and trade. We hope that Chinese companies and investors will come to do business in Morocco.

Morocco has a very good geostrategic location, political stability and economic vision, and is a very good platform for developing business for the Chinese companies. Morocco has signed more than 54 free trade agreements with other countries and organizations, which allows to enter from Morocco a market of 1.4 billion consumers. We are now receiving more and more Chinese companies to invest in Morocco in many fields including car industry, renewable energies, infrastructure, textile, agriculture and mining. And now Morocco has opened a lot of very ambitious programs in many fields. Morocco will be hosting the Football World Cup in 2030 with Spain and Portugal, and this can open very big opportunities for investments and for business for the Chinese companies.

GT: Morocco is now Africa's largest car manufacturer with an annual production capacity of nearly one million vehicles. China's new-energy vehicle sector has enjoyed rapid development. What opportunities do you see between the two countries' automobile sector?

El Ansari: We are happy to receive more and more Chinese companies engaged in the field such as car industry, electronic components and tires. We are very confident and ambitious for our relations in this particular sector. The future is the electric vehicles. China is a pioneer and has a very strong industry in that respect. We hope that we will find common interests and common projects to develop these electric vehicles in Morocco with the help and partnership of Chinese companies.

There is a very big interest from Chinese companies in the big ecosystem of car industry, especially the electric car industry, to come to Morocco. We welcome Chinese companies to come to see what are the opportunities of business that are available in Morocco and to have investments in Morocco. Mohammed VI Tangiers Tech City, a Chinese-sponsored manufacturing and technology zone outside Tangiers is already hosting dozens of Chinese companies. We hope to have more Chinese companies make business in Morocco, and beyond Morocco to reach other markets.

GT: The 2024 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) is scheduled to be held in China this autumn. What's your expectations for the forum and how do you think China-Morocco relations can contribute to Africa's development?

El Ansari: Since the start of the FOCAC in 2000, Morocco has always been participating at a high level. We know that China also gives very big importance to relations with Africa, and especially in terms of development and solidarity. The vision of China and that of Morocco toward Africa are the same. We're committed to making the coming summit in September of the FOCAC a very big success, like what was the summit of 2018 in Beijing.

As we are enjoying very good relations, China and Morocco can work together to voice the interests of Africa. We also hope that we can develop trilateral cooperation projects between China, Morocco and our common partners in Africa in various sectors including infrastructure, trade and training. There are now many initiatives that Morocco has taken within the African continent, for example, Nigeria-Morocco Gas Pipeline, the Atlantic Initiative and an initiative to promote the access of Sahel countries to the Atlantic Ocean. We hope that China will also contribute to the implementation of these three big initiatives, because they have the same philosophy and the same objectives as the Chinese vision toward the development of Africa.

The upcoming summit will be a very good opportunity to exchange and to identify big strategic projects in which China, Africa and Morocco can work for peace and security, for economic development and for handling climate change and many challenges we are facing together.

Henan NEV Charging Volume Reaches Record High During May Day Holidays

On May 6, reporters learned from the State Grid Henan Province Electric Power Company that as residents' travel methods shift toward smart and green energy, there has been a surge in the charging volume of new-energy vehicles (NEVs) in Henan Province, setting a new record for daily charging volume on the provincial expressways during the May Day holidays.

According to official data, the total charging volume on the provincial expressway network during the holidays reached 2.4581 million kilowatt-hours, with an average of 491,600 kilowatt-hours per day. This represents an 89.84% increase compared to the May Day holidays in 2023 and a 27.14% increase compared to the Qingming holidays in 2024 (on a daily average basis). The first day of the holiday marked a small peak in travel, with the daily charging volume on the provincial expressways reaching 621,700 kilowatt-hours, which is 3.8 times the usual volume.

"To ensure that NEV owners could travel without worries, we released forecasts for popular service areas, helping users to arrange their charging plans accordingly. Additionally, we meticulously formulated a highway charging travel security plan and deployed mobile energy storage vehicles in heavy-duty service areas. During peak charging times at service stations prone to queuing, we were on duty to guide the charging order and alleviate the queuing situation," said Jiao Shukun, deputy director of the Marketing Center of the State Grid Henan Electric Vehicle Company.

During the holidays, the State Grid Henan Electric Power arranged 483 maintenance and on-duty personnel, completed 563 rounds of inspection (including special inspections), inspected 416 charging stations and 1,713 charging piles, handled 472 fault repair orders, involving 446 charging stations and repaired 976 charging piles. They also provided four instances of on-site emergency charging services dispatching eight agents.

Currently, the State Grid Henan Electric Power has built 243 charging stations and 1,424 charging piles in 124 pairs of highway service areas within the province, initially forming a highway charging network layout that connects north and south and that spans from east to west. This adds further assurance for NEV owners to recharge on the road, promoting green and low-carbon development in Henan.