Renowned Chinese geographer revitalizes rural villages through science, innovation

Every year, Professor Liu Yansui embarks on a journey that takes him to the heart of China's countryside. With each step he takes, Liu brings with him a wealth of knowledge, experience, and dedication that have made him a driving force in China's poverty alleviation and rural revitalization efforts.

His method, a blend of meticulous research and concern for the well-being of rural residents, has yielded remarkable results. Through his scientific research and decision-making support, thousands of households have been lifted out of poverty, and rural communities have been revitalized.

Despite spending a large quantity of time in rural areas where he works from dawn to dusk, Liu, a specialist in human geography and land science at Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research of Chinese Academy of Sciences, is also busy with academic work in Beijing as he tries to find solutions for problems through careful planning and scientific methods.

"Poverty alleviation and rural revitalization is not just about providing temporary relief. It's about empowering communities to become self-sufficient and resilient," Liu told the Global Times at his Beijing office.

"As a geographer, one must not only read thousands of books and travel thousands of miles, but also strive for the well-being of thousands of people," he noted.

Base research on land

Chinese President Xi Jinping once noted that "it is necessary to vigorously promote the scientific spirit of pursuing truth and scaling new heights throughout society, widely publicize role models and deeds emerging in the fields of basic research and other science and technology fields, educate and guide science and technology personnel to inherit the glorious traditions of the previous generations of scientists who devoted themselves to the country and cared for the people, and base their research on the land of China."

Bearing this in mind, Liu has been dedicated to promoting the scientific spirit and pursuing truth by conducting extensive research and writing papers based on the rich materials he has found in the vast land of China.

Liu showed notes he has written on his cell phone to the Global Times, which include his thoughts on the country's strategies, geographical science and engineering innovation, and how to empower rural communities to thrive.

Tall and energetic, the geographer has reiterated the importance of the countryside for the country's overall development to the Global Times reporters. Having worked in the field of human geography for more than two decades, he believes that the concept of the human-earth system science, which highlights interactions and dynamics between human activities and the natural environment in the new era, is fundamental in revitalizing rural communities and reshaping the future of China's countryside.

His work in promoting ecological land consolidation technologies and industrialization models, as well as scientific reclaiming desertified lands, revitalizing saline-alkali soil, creating land in gullies on the Loess Plateau, and implementing sustainable agricultural and rural revitalization practices, has earned him national recognition and accolades.

On the international stage, Liu's work also gained wide reputation. He has received numerous awards and accolades including being awarded the social science award by The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), the distinguished practice award by the International Geographical Union (IGU), and being elected as a TWAS academician. More importantly, he is now sharing his work and practical experience with more developing countries that could apply such knowledge in their development.

In the realm of academic pursuits and scientific endeavors, the passing of knowledge from one generation to the next is a crucial aspect of advancement. This passing of the torch is not merely a formality, but a deeply ingrained tradition that ensures the preservation and evolution of ideas and practices.

Liu's greatest mentor is academician Wu Chuanjun, a distinguished expert in human geography and economic geography in China.

After half a century of exploration and research, Wu first proposed that the human-earth areal system is the core theory of geographical research, a dynamic structure formed by the intertwining of human society and the geographical environment in a specific region.

Liu inherited and further built upon Wu's theory. He has led a team to establish geographical engineering research demonstration bases in typical regions such as Yan'an, Yulin, Hanzhong, Yanchi, Yucheng, and Fuping. Through continuous observation and comprehensive research on human-earth systems in different regions, he has creatively developed human-earth system science and is exploring its practical application to meet the demands of modern sustainable development.

According to Liu, with the increasing impact of human activities on the geographical environment, the importance of the human-earth system is becoming more apparent. Conducting in-depth research concerning human-earth systems and sustainable development is not only an important international scientific frontier topic, but also an important scientific basis for serving national strategic needs such as promoting harmonious coexistence between humans and nature, and rural revitalization.

"Innovation first requires inheritance - inheriting the scientific research of predecessors and continuing the unfinished cause of predecessors. Innovation is not something that comes out of thin air, but a process of continuous progression from nothing to something, from something to better, and from better to unique," Liu said.

He not only absorbed the theories and concepts put forth by his mentor but also the underlying ethos of dedication and perseverance. He learned how to apply theory to practice, and how to innovate while staying true to the principles laid down by his mentor.

"Mr. Wu always emphasized the importance of understanding the intricate systems that govern our world. He taught me that every region, no matter how small, is a system unto itself, and that understanding these systems is key to effective action," he recalled.

Liu's team marks February 25 as the "Day for Serving National Strategy," when they hosted seminars to share their latest research findings.

On February 25, 2021, President Xi hailed the country's achievement of eradicating extreme poverty as a miracle that shall "go down in history." China has lifted 98.99 million poor rural residents under the current poverty line out of poverty, with 832 impoverished counties and 128,000 poor villages removed from the poverty list.

"Geography, as a comprehensive interdisciplinary studying the relationship between humans and the environment, has significant practical applications. In China, many geographers have been actively involved in solving major strategic needs and real-life issues," Liu explained.

In 2016, Liu led a team to undertake the tasks of third-party assessment of national targeted poverty alleviation in China and promoting the standardization of assessment. In the six year after, he and over 10,000 experts traveled to 22 provinces in central and western China. They conducted field investigations in 5,380 typical villages of 603 counties, collecting 160,000 questionnaires from villagers and 3,813 from village officials.

"Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), precise strategies for poverty alleviation and eradication have been implemented, along with a rigorous assessment and evaluation system to ensure tangible results," Liu said.

Liu highlighted that the third-party evaluation of national poverty alleviation effectiveness is a complex yet significant project, being the largest and earliest in the history of global poverty reduction.

Days were spent on household surveys, and nights were on discussions. The intense yet rewarding evaluation days during their journey left a lasting impact on Liu.

"During household surveys, we adopted the'six-step method': First observed their living conditions, second checked food reserves, third look at the labor force, forth verified children's school attendance, fifth inquired about the stability of their income sources, and, finally ask about the evaluation of the masses," Liu shared.

Apart from collecting stacks of paper questionnaires, Liu and his team developed a third-party evaluation system utilizing big data, integrating questionnaires, recordings, video, photography, GPS positioning, and high-definition maps. This approach authentically and objectively records nationwide poverty alleviation progress.

In Liu's view, through numerous explorations, China has found a successful path for poverty alleviation and development tailored to its national conditions. This lays the groundwork for addressing overall regional poverty in rural areas and advancing modern agricultural development and rural revitalization.

Liu emphasized that China's success in targeted poverty alleviation is due to accurate poverty identification, targeted assistance and effective solutions. He commended active cooperation between the evaluation expert teams and provincial Party committees and governments in addressing issues identified during field investigations.

Witnessing the remarkable achievements in poverty alleviation, Liu now focuses on urban-rural integration and rural revitalization in the new era. He initiated a plan to conduct the second survey of hollow villages nationwide in conjunction with the major program of National Natural Science Foundation of China, which he is currently hosting, on cooperative observation, transformation mechanism, and scenario simulation of rural area system this year.

With China's urbanization progressing, Liu highlighted the need to find a place where more than 400 million rural residents can live and work in peace as the urbanization rate is expected to reach 70 percent by 2030.

He envisions that with scientific and technological advancements, China will enhance the quality of urbanization and promote the urbanization of agricultural migrant workers.

Through urban-rural integration and optimizing the coupling relationship between human, land and industry, it's hoped that China will gradually eliminate this development imbalance, further enhance the quality of the population, improve the ecological environment, and build beautiful and prosperous rural areas, he said.
Solutions for developing nations

On the "Day for Serving National Strategy" in 2023, Liu's research team released the English version of the "Poverty Alleviation Supported By Science And Technology," which garnered attention from international organizations such as the Alliance of International Science Organizations (ANSO) and the IGU. The IGU expressed gratitude to Liu's team for utilizing geography's advantages to closely serve major needs at a crucial time.

Liu emphasized that China's accomplishments in poverty reduction offer valuable insights for other regions worldwide.

In 40 years, according to the World Bank's global absolute poverty standard of $1.90 per person per day, China has reduced the number of poor people by nearly 800 million, accounting for nearly 75 percent of the global poverty reduction in the same period.

Liu noted that currently, China's involvement in global governance, including building a global community of shared future, constructing the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and implementing global development initiatives, are significant theoretical innovations and practical contributions. These are also key areas that Chinese geographers are dedicated to participating in.

As the Chairman of the Alliance of International Science Organizations-Alliance of Poverty Reduction and Development (ANSO-APRD), Liu actively promotes collaboration between Belt and Road partner countries and organizations. Through expert discussions, technical officials training and strategic advice, ANSO-APRD aims to share China's experience in targeted poverty alleviation and rural revitalization with developing countries and transform the growing process of the BRI into a sustainable development path of poverty reduction and growth.

In 2016, he initiated the establishment of the IGU Commission on Agricultural Geography and Land Engineering (IGU-AGLE) and was elected as its chairman. He worked hard to promote the latest achievements of Chinese agricultural geography and land engineering to the international community.

Since 2018, Liu has consistently been recognized as a "globally highly cited scientist." In 2023, he was even named one of the "World's Top 2 percent Scientists 2022" out of over 9.6 million scientists.

Liu attributes the international community's interest in his work to concerns about China's agricultural and rural issues. "We effectively translate national strategies into engineering techniques to solve practical problems and develop a universal methodology," he explained.

During the interview with the Global Times, Liu received an official invitation. He is planning to represent ANSO-APRD to visit sub-Saharan Africa for research and exchange, with the goal of sharing China's experiences in poverty reduction and development, which is at the forefront of international poverty reduction efforts.

In Liu's view, scientists have a homeland, but science has no boundaries.

"Many developing countries are currently facing challenges of poverty reduction and hunger, and China has explored and become a leader in solving these issues. We are also advancing systematic research and providing innovative solutions for developing countries," he noted.

GT investigates: The Philippines uses fishermen’s livelihoods as a cover in an attempt to control Huangyan Dao

Since 2023, the Philippines has been dispatching batches of government vessels and fishing ships to intrude on and provoke disputes in the South China Sea, especially near China's Huangyan Dao (also known as Huangyan Island), under the pretext of "ensuring the security of Filipino fishermen."

Interestingly, the fishing activities have not been disrupted since 2016 when China offered a provisional arrangement for Philippine fishermen, a move that has since become a problem due to the Philippines' decision to "protect them."

In this investigative piece, the Global Times presents evidence showing that some fishing ships were "hired guns," trained and controlled by the Philippine government through military conscription and government subsidies.

Chinese analysts say it clearly shows that the Philippine government's actions are geared toward eventually controlling Huangyan Dao. If the Philippines truly cares about the fishing rights and interests of its fishermen, it would stop its abuses and unilaterally sabotage the foundation of Beijing's goodwill to Manila that temporarily allows Philippine fishermen to operate near Huangyan Dao, rather than aggravating the situation by sacrificing the livelihoods of fishermen to satisfy the ambitions of some politicians.
Deploy fisherfolk militia

Recently, the Philippines deployed a number of civilian ships to illegally intrude into waters adjacent to Huangyan Dao. These boats were funded with official subsidies, and used fishing activities as cover, abusing China's goodwill, violating China's sovereignty and jurisdiction, and leading to aggravation of the maritime situation, a source close to the matter told the Global Times on Sunday.

This can be seen as the latest move by the Philippine military, which stated in last August that the militia will be drawn from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)'s reserve force and possibly among fisherfolks.

The Philippines plans to deploy its own maritime militia to "defend its sovereignty" amid a raging territorial row with China, Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., the Filipino armed forces chief said on August 10, 2023, as he visited an island on the frontline of the maritime dispute, Benar News reported.

"We want our fisherfolk to become reservists and teach them how to help in defending the country," the official said in a statement.

"It's already being implemented. We have established reserve units, but we are going to wait for the platforms or the vessels that actually would be used," the chief said, emphasizing that the way forward "depends on the funds."

The source of funding could come from the confidential and intelligence fund in the 2024 budget. A total of 1.23 billion Philippine pesos ($20 million) in confidential funds from the 2024 budget were distributed to agencies at the forefront of efforts to assert the Philippines' alleged territorial rights in the South China Sea, according to a statement by the Philippines' House of Representatives on October 10, 2023.

In addition to financial support, the Philippine authorities have also been increasing efforts to provide supplies and subsidies to fishing vessels.

On February 23, the Philippines' Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) publicly acknowledged that "it would also continue to carry out its duty of distributing fuel subsidies to the Filipino fishing boats that are present in the area to support their prolonged fishing activities."

"From public reports, we see that Philippine official vessels are specifically providing collective supplies for fishing boats on site. Such an expensive service for 'private fishing boats' is truly rare," said Yang Xiao, deputy director of the Institute of Maritime Strategy Studies, China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.

"A series of evidence fully indicates that the Philippines has planned and organized to incite its fisherfolks to carry out long-term occupation and provocations in the South China Sea," Yang told the Global Times.

Recently, a large amount of "video evidence" from the Philippine side has appeared on social media sources, most of which is from the visual angle of so-called Philippine "fishermen."

A number of these "civilian vessels" track and monitor Chinese coast guard vessels with some recording and gathering so-called "evidence" of the China Coast Guard (CCG)'s operations, while some trespassing into the reefs of China's Huangyan Dao to illegally catch seashell… These videos are then used as an "evidence" by the Philippine Coast Guard to defame China's professional and restrained action in the South China Sea.

In the video, one can also notice that the methods of these so-called fishermen appear very professional, and they repeatedly provoke the extremely restrained Chinese law enforcement vessels and personnel on site, Yang pointed out.

"The disclosure of these videos demonstrates that the local Filipino personnel are not private fishermen focused on fishing at all, but are entirely serving as militia for provocative actions. They are serving a premeditated, malicious cognitive warfare launched by the Philippine government," said Yang.

The Philippine government incites these fishermen to be stranded in the vast sea for a long time and never considers the harsh conditions of life at sea, said the expert. "This on the contrary shows that the Philippines is turning a deaf ear to the right to life and health of its people."

Opposition voices are already growing in the Philippines.

In August 2023, a Philippine fisher group on the Philippines' illegally occupied Zhongye Dao (also known as Zhongye Island) turned down a recent suggestion from the Armed Forces of the Philippines to train fisherfolks to help defend the West Philippine Sea as military reservists, local media source Philstar reported.

The group's President Larry Hugo said that it would be "difficult" for them to undergo military training and that he would prefer not to carry firearms.

Sabotage Beijing's goodwill

The Philippines has frequently advocated for the livelihood of the fisherfolks since 2023.

According to Jay Tarriela, the spokesperson of the Philippine Coast Guard, the Philippines has sent governmental vessels to "ensure the security of Filipino fishermen."

"Fishing activities have never been interfered with since 2016 when China offered the provisional arrangement for the Philippines' fisherfolks, while it now it has become a problem as the Philippines has decided to protect them by sending government vessels to invade the territory of Huangyan Dao," Lei Xiaolu, professor of law at the China Institute of Boundary and Ocean Studies, Wuhan University, told the Global Times.

As we all know, there is a territorial sovereignty dispute over Huangyan Dao between China and the Philippines. Although China neither accepts nor recognizes the South China Sea Arbitration, in 2016, China made a special arrangement for the Philippines' fishermen to maintain their small-scale artisanal fishing activities around Huangyan Dao under humanitarian considerations.

From 2016 to 2023, China has always kept the commitment. Despite the territorial and maritime disputes between the two sides, the livelihood of the fisherfolks has never been affected, Lei noted.

"This represents China's goodwill to maintain the peace and stability of the region, as well as to promote the development and prosperity of all people," Lei stressed.

However, the status quo has been changed since the Philippines began to send government vessels to the territorial sea of Huangyan Dao in the second half of 2023. In this case, China had to respond and repel the government vessels.

However, since 2024, the Philippines has conducted more and more provocations. The Philippine fishery vessel group was reportedly accompanied by the Ship 3002 which belongs to the Philippines' Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources when they trespassed waters off Huangyan Dao, and according to a statement by Gan Yu, a spokesperson at the China Coast Guard (CCG), the CCG repelled this particular ship in accordance with the law when it ignored repeated warnings from the Chinese side and insisted on illegally intruding into waters adjacent to Huangyan Dao from Febraury 24 to 25.

"Even so, China has shown great restraint. It did not name the specific activities of the fishermen in the CCG statement. The CCG only repelled the Philippines' government vessel 'illegally intruding.' It is clear that China has expressed its goodwill to the fisherfolks while defending its sovereignty," Lei said.

But increased evidence shows that those civilian fishing vessels are organized, sponsored, or even controlled and authorized by the Philippine government, according to the expert.

"It is not appropriate to use the livelihood of the fishermen as an excuse to satisfy the ambitions of certain politicians. If the Philippines was thinking of the livelihood of the fisherfolks, it would return to the 'gentlemen's arrangement' with China, rather than leading to the aggravation of the situation," Lei said.

Hiring fishermen to cause trouble in specific waters, then sending government ships to regularly supply them with fuel, and then turning around to accuse China of conducting law enforcement activities on the scene, the Philippines has staged another ugly farce at Huangyan Dao, similar to how they grounded their warship on Ren'ai Jiao, Yang suggested.

All of these conspiracies were made possible because China's goodwill and restraint were abused by the Philippines. This evil act of disregarding commitments has greatly harmed the security and development of the South China Sea region, Yang said.

Buying couplets, making delicious food, holding cultural celebrations … Chinese people welcome new year with new look

It is only about one week before the arrival of the 2024 Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival, which falls on February 10. Chinese people are busy preparing for this important traditional festival as a festive atmosphere has already spread everywhere, from bustling markets, elegantly decorated streets to crowded lantern shows.  

In accordance with the lunar Chinese calendar, the year 2024 will be the Year of the Wood Dragon. Dragon is the totem of Chinese nationality that symbolizes power, nobility, and intelligence. Combined with Wood, which holds the meaning of growth, development, and prosperity in Chinese wuxing (five elements) culture, 2024 is forecasted to bring about opportunities, changes, and challenges.

When China is at a vital point in economy recovery, the Year of Wood Dragon inspires great expectation of Chinese people for 2024 and celebration activities have kicked off across the country.        

In Shanghai, the annual Yuyuan Garden Lantern Show kicked off on January 21, attracting a large number of visitors. On the evening of January 28 alone, the number of visitors to Yuyuan exceeded 20,000, setting a new record for the show. 

Yuyuan Garden is a cultural beacon of Shanghai. It is the largest, oldest and best-preserved traditional Chinese-style garden in this metropolis of east China. It features typical Chinese style pavilions and zigzag bridges above the ponds, and has been serving as a window to display traditional Chinese culture. 

The Yuyuan Garden Lantern Show is a representative of Chinese folk culture and a national-level intangible cultural heritage. It has been held for 29 consecutive years.

To celebrate the Year of the Dragon, this year's Yuyuan Garden Lantern Show the fair is themed Mountain and Sea, featuring dragons and mythical creatures from the "Classic of Mountains and Seas."

The show was simultaneously held in four cities in China and France, naming Paris, Shanghai, Shenyang, and Rudong.

In Beijing, a wide range of cultural activities will be held during the Spring Festival holidays, presenting a colorful cultural and tourism feast for residents and tourists, the capital government announced Monday. 

Traditional temple fairs in Ditan, Changdian and Shijingshan will be back in full force this year. This year's Changdian temple fair will highlight the traditional Beijing atmosphere with the theme "Strolling along the Central Axis of the ancient capital to appreciate the century-old Changdian." 

During the Spring Festival, each district in Beijing will also organize various lantern festivals, flower exhibitions, parades, lantern riddles, and lantern festivals, allowing residents and tourists to immerse themselves in the traditional customs of the northern region.

With its ancient origins, the Spring Festival is the most important festival in China. Over thousands of years, various customs and traditions have been developed to celebrate this festival and many of them are still practiced today in addition to lantern shows and temple fairs. 

In ancient agricultural societies, housewives would start preparing Chinese New Year's food around the eighth day of the 12th lunar month. Because the curing process for some complex dishes, such as preserved meats, takes a long time, preparations must be made early. Many provinces and regions in China have the custom of preserving meats, with South China's Guangdong and Southwest China's Sichuan provinces being the most famous.

Couplets and New Year paintings are also unique forms of expression in Chinese culture. Couplets are usually written on red paper and feature auspicious poems expressing blessings and joy. New Year paintings are a kind of folk painting symbolizing good luck and auspiciousness used to decorate rooms. During the Spring Festival, every household, whether in urban or rural areas, selects a pair of red couplets to paste on their door, adding a festive atmosphere to the holidays.

While pasting couplets, some families also paste the Chinese character "福" (fu, meaning good fortune and happiness) on their doors, walls, and lintels, embodying people's longing for a happy life and a better future.

Dragon and lion dances are one of the most representative performances during Chinese New Year celebrations. These performances are usually performed by professional dragon and lion dance troupes in public places such as squares and streets. 

Since ancient times, China has been an agricultural country, and favorable weather conditions are of great significance to production and life. In the minds of ancient people, dragons were believed to have the power to summon wind and rain and ward off disasters and epidemics. Therefore, the tradition of holding dragon dances was formed in the hope of obtaining the blessings of dragons.

US students revisit ping-pong diplomacy in Shanghai

At the ping-pong table, US player Margaux Reppert asked her Chinese partner Liu Wanying about receiving skills before their doubles match began. Liu answered Reppert’s questions in detail and gave her encouragement. The two 20-year-olds had relaxed and friendly smiles on their faces.

It’s hard to imagine that they had only met the night before. “I’m already great friends with my partner, she is really helpful,” Reppert says. “I think this is a great experience.”

Reppert is one of a US student delegation that recently came to China for a China-US youth ping-pong exchange, in the hope of promoting better understanding between youngsters of the two countries, just like the “ping-pong diplomacy” of 53 years ago, a milestone in the history of China-US relations.

From December 12 to 23, the Peking University table tennis team made up of 15 students and teachers was invited to visit the US to for the US Table Tennis Open in Los Angeles. The mutual visits added a new chapter to the stories of China-US friendship that began with ping-pong diplomacy and new impetus to people-to-people exchanges, said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning at a press conference on Tuesday.

Youth friendship

Under the theme “Rekindling Ping-Pong Diplomacy, Renewing Youth Friendship,” the delegation members, 12 students from University of Virginia (UVA), had a friendly table tennis match with local students on Tuesday.

Some of the US students have been playing table tennis for many years, and some others, including the 21-year-old Reppert, are newbies who have just practiced for a few months.

This is the fourth time that Reppert has come to China. Due to her interest in the country, she chose Putonghua as one of her undergraduate majors at UVA. The four visits have enabled the young American to witness China’s development in person. “It’s interesting to see how it has changed, and how much more modern it has become in just a few years,” she told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Before coming to China, the delegation learned about the history of ping-pong diplomacy, and its great influence on China-US relations. Reppert said that she very much cherishes this opportunity to visit China, to experience the charm of table tennis and communicate with young Chinese people.

“I would love to keep in touch with my partner,” she said. “It’s so interesting to hear about each other’s lifestyle as a college student, and see how there are a lot of similarities. In addition to the differences that we talked about, we found already a lot of similarities.”

Reppert’s partner Liu echoed this. “Ping pong is our medium,” said the 22-year-old student from Shanghai University of Sport (SUS). “We can talk about ping pong-related things, and we can also talk about many other topics, to learn more about each other’s life.”

Positive example

The 12 UVA students left the US for China on January 1. During the ongoing trip in China, they visited Hong Kong and Beijing, and Shanghai is their last stop.

The trip has followed almost the same path of a visit by the US table tennis delegation to China in 1971, said Justin O’Jack, chief representative of the UVA China Office. “It’s symbolic and meaningful,” O’Jack told the Global Times on Tuesday.

In April 1971, the US table tennis delegation conducted an ice-breaking visit to China at China’s invitation. Prior to that, the two countries had had no official contact at all for more than two decades. This was the start of the well-known ping-pong diplomacy, which paved the way for the normalization of China-US relations in those hard years filled with ideological confrontations.

The Chinese table tennis players paid a return visit to the US in 1972. Bruce Reynolds, a UVA emeritus professor who was also at the friendly match on Tuesday, was then a young student who participated in the US’ reception work that year.

Reynolds told the Global Times that the number of UVA students studying Chinese language, history and culture is rising, and many students there “want to come to China.”

Now living in Shanghai after retiring, Reynolds said he hopes more US students will come to China to better understand the country and its people, and to feel their warmth. “When they go back to the US, [they can] tell their friends and family that China is just like any other country, and the US should work to improve its relationship with this wonderful country.”

Months ago, O’Jack and his colleagues pitched the idea of “revisiting ping-pong diplomacy” to the UVA leaders, who were “very supportive,” said O’Jack. “It’s no secret that US-China relations are not at a high point right now, although they’re getting better,” he told the Global Times. “We, as a university, should do our part to try to help that process forward and be a positive example,” he said.

“We hope that this is just the first of many more visits to come,” he added.

Strengthening ties

This year marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the US.

“We believe in the power of people-to-people relations to help strengthen the bilateral relations between our countries,” said Daniel Delk, deputy principal officer at the US Consulate General in Shanghai, who watched the friendly match at the scene.

“Our two presidents agreed on that (enhancing people-to-people exchanges) in San Francisco,” Delk told the Global Times, saying that he is pleased to see more civil exchanges taking place in the new year in fields including culture, arts, sport and education.

“We hope to continue to strengthen the ties between our students, to have more students from the US come and study in China, and to increase the number of Chinese students who are studying in the US,” said Delk. “This is a great way for us to help deepen mutual understanding.”

The friendly match was sponsored by the Shanghai People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, Fudan University, SUS and UVA. It was organized by, and held at, the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Museum and China Table Tennis Museum.

Xu Yinsheng, honorary president of the ITTF and a witness of ping-pong diplomacy in the early 1970s, as well as renowned former table tennis world champions including Shi Zhihao, Wang Liqin and Zhang Yining, also attended the Tuesday event as guests.

Xi's Footsteps: Beijing-Hanoi cooperation an epitome of China-world interaction

In mid-December, Beijing was covered in heavy snow, while about 2,300 kilometers away, Hanoi remained a tropical summer. A visit brought the two places closer, and displayed a highlight moment in the China-Vietnam relationship.

Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and Chinese president, paid a state visit to Vietnam from December 12 to 13, at the invitation of the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) Central Committee Nguyen Phu Trong and State President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam Vo Van Thuong.

Nearly 40 cooperation documents between China and Vietnam are on display at the premises of the CPV Central Committee. When visiting the premises, Xi said with delight - our cooperation is fruitful and dazzling.

For the people

As Xi emphasized during his phone talk with Nguyen Phu Trong in January 2020, the significance of expanding China-Vietnam cooperation lies in making people from both countries gain a greater sense of achievement and happiness.

From Xi's signed article titled "Building a China-Vietnam Community with a Shared Future That Carries Strategic Significance And Writing Together a New Chapter in Our Modernization Drive," published on December 12 by the Vietnamese Nhan Dan Newspaper, to Xi's speech at a meeting with representatives of young Chinese and Vietnamese people who have contributed to the China-Vietnam friendship the following day, at which one example was mentioned twice - Vietnam's first urban light rail project, the Cat Linh-Ha Dong metro line, built by a Chinese company.

Luong Thi Hai Van, a Vietnamese vice professor at the Guangxi University for Nationalities, told the Global Times that her friends in Hanoi are so happy with the convenience brought by the metro line. "Hanoi is the capital city of Vietnam with a dense population and traffic jams during peak hours. But now the traffic jams have been greatly eased. This is a 'revolution' for the people living in Hanoi," Luong said.

The metro line, constructed by a Chinese company, is a landmark project that connects the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with Vietnam's "Two Corridors, One Economic Circle" strategy. The line is approximately 13 kilometers long with 12 stations. The entire journey takes only 23 minutes by metro train, which is nearly 1 hour faster than traveling by car and 20 minutes faster than traveling by motorcycle. The line has already served nearly 20 million passenger trips so far, making travel in Hanoi more convenient.
Du Bin, deputy chief engineer of the Chinese construction enterprise China Railway Sixth Group's overseas branch and project manager of the Cat Linh-Ha Dong metro line, told the Global Times that one of the most impressive memories during the project construction was the scene when the first locomotive arrived at the construction site. The installation of the large locomotive lasted until 3 am in the light rain, yet the streets were still filled with people who came to watch. Some said they were eagerly looking toward to a ride on Vietnam's own light rail metro.

Nowadays, "the metro has become a popular spot in Hanoi's urban development and a favorite place for people to take trendy photos," Du said.

There are many other similar examples. In 1997, the China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) undertook the construction task of the Nguyen Van Linh Parkway - a highway that stretches from Ho Chi Minh City further south to the southern part of Vietnam, with a total 12 lanes and length of 17.8 kilometers. Before the highway was built, the construction site was almost entirely marshland and the highway had to cross 10 rivers. The time given to the contractors was fairly short.

For a time, it was considered mission impossible. But now, the highway, which literally spans 10 rivers with its widest part being 120 meters, is operational.

Lu Yen, a Chinese-Vietnamese employee of the CSCEC, told the Global Times that a good transportation infrastructure brings prosperity to a region. Nguyen Van Linh Parkway and the surrounding auxiliary roads have successfully connected seven districts, and the entire road is surrounded by greenery.

Lu said before the construction, the road was only a 6-meter-wide dual carriageway, with small shops and scattered tin houses on both sides, making the already congested road even more difficult to navigate. Now, the Ho Chi Minh City Medical University Hospital, Ton Duc Thang University, as well as business zones, and shopping malls like ViVo City, Parkson, have settled around the parkway, greatly improving the lives of local residents.

Lu passes by Nguyen Van Linh Parkway every day on her way to work. "Looking at the projects that I participated in, looking at the towering buildings and the supporting facilities around them, I feel that not only have the roads been widened, but also has our space for happiness," she said.

Opportunities for future

In 2015 and 2017, Xi visited Vietnam twice as the general secretary of the CPC Central Committee and the Chinese president. Similar to the most recent visit, Xi attended a wreath laying ceremony at the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, Hanoi, in both previous visits.

"The memory of those fiery and exciting years of our two peoples is kept alive," Xi said on December 13, when recalling the times when the two countries were fighting for national independence and liberation, adding that "today, we remain firmly committed to our shared aspiration forged in the early days and are pursuing win-win cooperation."

During the visit in November 2017, Xi attended the inauguration and handover ceremony of Vietnam-China Friendship Palace and the inauguration ceremony of the Hanoi China Culture Center, then shook hands and extended warm greetings with the present Chinese and Vietnamese guests, encouraging them to make positive contributions toward strengthening friendly exchanges and cooperation between the two countries.

"When Xi visited Vietnam in 2015, he gave a speech to Chinese-funded institutions, overseas Chinese, and students. I attended the event," Miao Renlai, president of the Chinese Business Association Ho Chi Minh City Branch, told Global Times. Miao recalled that Xi's voice was magnetic and pleasant.

"Xi spoke to us like a parent - friendly, approachable, and inspiring… He introduced the development of bilateral cooperation between China and Vietnam, which encouraged us and boosted our confidence in developing our businesses and careers in Vietnam," Miao said.

In 2017, when Xi visited Vietnam for the second time, Miao also made a special trip to Hanoi from Ho Chi Minh City to welcome Xi and hence experienced the warm welcoming atmosphere both at the airport and along the way from the airport to the hotel where Xi stayed.

Miao told the Global Times that Xi's visit not only brought new opportunities to him, but a breakthrough in entire bilateral trade between China and Vietnam. Looking back at the past achievements of the China-Vietnam cooperation, its breadth and depth are remarkable. China has been Vietnam's largest trading partner for consecutive years, and Vietnam is China's largest trading partner in the ASEAN and fourth-largest trading partner globally. From about $100 billion in bilateral trade volume in 2017 to a total two-way trade turnover of $175.57 billion in 2022, the trade volume has almost doubled in recent years.

There are some eye-catching figures: In the first 10 months of this year, the number of China-invested projects in Vietnam ranked first among all foreign investment projects in the country, with the investment amount increasing by 98 percent year-on-year. China is Vietnam's largest fruit and vegetable export market with a turnover of $2.75 billion, up 160 percent over the same period in 2022 and accounting for 65 percent of the country's total fruit and vegetable export turnover.

The most remarkable achievement during Xi's latest visit was the joint announcement of a new positioning for the two parties and two countries, which is to build a China-Vietnam community with a shared future that carries strategic significance.

"Vietnam, China sign 36 agreement documents for cooperation," read a headline by the VnExpress. Experts said, compared with previous high-level visits, the achievements reached during the latest visit are the most extensive in terms of coverage, the largest in terms of quantity, and the deepest in terms of cooperation.

Detailed cooperative plans are listed in the joint statement. Even in terms of the South China Sea, where controversies and disputes exist, there are specific promotions of cooperation.

For instance, the two sides agreed to continue effective joint patrols on the Beibu Gulf and military ships' mutual visits as well as deepen exchange and cooperation mechanisms between the naval and coast guard forces. They also agreed to study the establishment of methods for resolving civil and border trade disputes, and promote legal and judicial cooperation between localities that share the borderline in appropriate forms.

Other future-oriented plans include effectively deploying an economic-trade cooperation zone, focusing on intensifying investment cooperation in such fields as agriculture, infrastructure, energy, the digital economy, and green development, and promoting standard-gauge railway connectivity across the bilateral border while studying and promoting the building of Lao Cai-Hanoi-Hai Phong standard-gauge railway route.

"I have always looked forward to the day when I can take a Chinese high-speed train home. Now, I feel that this hope is not far away," Miao said.
Increased happiness index

Ten years ago, Xi proposed the four-point principle of "amity, sincerity, mutual benefit, and inclusiveness" in developing neighborhood diplomacy, and clarifying the direction of how "neighbors who cannot be moved" can coexist. Ten years later, fruitful results have been achieved. China has established a bilateral community with a shared future with a growing number of neighboring countries.

Light was shed upon the principle again on December 13 in Hanoi. During his speech at the meeting with representatives of young Chinese and Vietnamese people, Xi stressed: "What we are pursuing is not modernization just for China itself… We are ready to share more of the benefits of Chinese modernization with our neighbors… And we should pursue our respective paths to socialism and deliver the gains of industrialization and modernization to more people of our two countries."

An example can be found in the Chinese-Vietnamese employee of the CSCEC Lu's story. She said the CSCEC not only provides job opportunities for the locals, but also carries out training programs to help improve local workers' technical skills. "When we have more stable income, improved infrastructure, and a better living environment, our happiness index is increased."

According to Miao, when Chinese enterprises go abroad, they must prioritize localization of the companies - not only recruiting local talent, but cultivating local people to take up management positions. "Our business associations often talk to the Chinese-funded enterprises and remind them to comply with local laws, regulations, religious culture, and customs; to live and work in harmony with Vietnamese citizens for mutual benefit," Miao said, adding that China is not developing on its own, but developing together with everyone. "In this way, people from other countries will respect us more and when every Chinese person is respected aboard, that means China's genuine rise," Miao stressed.

"China and Vietnam are connected by mountains and rivers," goes the song "Vietnam-China," a classic Vietnamese song about the traditional friendship between the two countries. It carries the message - neighbors wish each other well; just as loved ones do to each other.

China-Vietnam relations are a microcosm of China's interaction with the world. "Our two Parties are both Marxist parties that bear in mind the overall interests of the world, and our two countries are both responsible members of the international community. And both of us should play a major role in advancing human progress," Xi expressed his wishes during his speech at the meering with the representatives of young Chinese and Vietnamese people.

It is widely believed that the construction of a China-Vietnam community with a shared future will become a new starting point for the development of bilateral ties. This will not only help people of the two countries to live a better life together, but also bring more positive energy to the Asia-Pacific region and the world.

Why Doolittle Raid a testimony of enduring friendship between Chinese and American people?

Liao Mingfa, an 88-year-old man living in Jiangshan county, Quzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province, still remembers that on April 19, 1942, when he was a little boy, his father, Liao Shiyuan, rescued a foreign man in the local mountains.

"That was a man with a long nose, red hair, and was very tall. Some villagers discovered him in the mountains and reported to my dad (who was the then village leader). My dad, along with four other villagers, went to rescue him. They took him back to home at around 9 pm. My dad guessed he was probably an American," Liao Mingfa recalled.

Despite not knowing the man's identity or why he had appeared in a small mountain village thousands of miles away in China, Liao Mingfa's parents took good care of the mystery foreign guest, cleaning his wounds and treating him with medical herbs.

At a time when Chinese people were facing tough living conditions, members of the Liao family also tried their best to treat the guest as best as they could. They would specially cook rice or eggs for the wounded guest while they themselves just ate corn paste.

"At first, he dared not eat the egg my mother cooked for him; he relaxed and started eating only after my father took a bite," Liao Mingfa recalled.

The mystery American the Liao's family rescued turned out to be Lieutenant Charles J. Ozak (1916-2010). He was one of the 80 Doolittle Raiders who launched America's first airstrike on Tokyo, on April 18, 1942, in retaliation for Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor.

The mission, led by Doolittle, marked the first successful US military bombing on Japanese soil during World War II, targeting Tokyo and four other cities.

The film Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo produced by American film company MGM in 1944 detailed the arduous process of the Doolittle Raid. However, compared with the initial target to bomb Tokyo, the real challenge of the raid lay in the second half of the journey - landing in China.

According to Zheng Weiyong, a local history researcher who spent 20 years studying the Doolittle Raid's history in Quzhou, the planes were supposed to land in Quzhou airport, but had to make emergency landings in the mountains and waters near the airport due to various unexpected conditions such as loss of communication and low fuel.

The American movie Midway released in 2019 features this dramatic landing scene.

In the pitch-black night, a plane shook violently in the storm, with a flashing red light warning of critically low fuel. After repeated unanswered calls to airport ground control, Colonel Doolittle made a difficult decision - to parachute out and abandon the aircraft.

"I don't know if the land below belongs to the Chinese or the Japanese, so everyone be careful. Let's meet in Quzhou…" Doolittle encouraged his comrades before ejecting from the aircraft.

Fifteen of the 16 B-25 bombers that had participated in the Tokyo air raid crashed into the sea and the mountainous areas of East China's Jiangxi, Zhejiang, Anhui, and Fujian provinces, leading to a massive rescue operation by Chinese people.

Among the 75 raiders on the 15 planes, 64 were rescued by Chinese people.

The strange tall men who suddenly fell from the sky did scare the villagers at the beginning. However, after learning that they were American pilots who were fighting the Japanese, no effort was spared to protect and take care for them as well as help to reunite with their team.

After spending four days in the Liao household, Ozak was transported by local villagers to an air force base in Quzhou. The villagers carried him along the 30-kilometer route across rugged terrain. Another 50 rescued pilots were also assisted in making their way to the base and, together, they were transported to Chongqing.

Another pilot Major Ted William Lawson (1917-1992) suffered severe injuries when he fell into the area abutting the sea in Quzhou. On a boat, villagers transported him across the enemy ship blockade line to send him to the nearby hospital for amputation surgery, risking their own lives to save Lawson's.

However, what these pilots did not expect was that, after their departure, the Japanese army would launch a brutal attack in Zhejiang and Jiangxi provinces in retaliation. The month following the raid saw the relentless bombing of Quzhou airport and a brutal campaign of germ warfare in the city, leading to an estimated 250,000 deaths according to reports.
A treasured history

Doolittle Raid survivors and their descendants have not forgotten the efforts of the Chinese people.

On the 50th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid, Doolittle wrote a letter expressing gratitude to the Chinese rescuers: "On behalf of all members of the Doolittle Bomber Squadron Association, I sincerely appreciate our Chinese friends - those who risked their own lives and the lives of their families to rescue and take care of us!" according to materials provided by the Information Office of Quzhou government to the Global Times.

In 1990, a delegation composed of surviving Doolittle Raider veterans, visited Zhejiang to express their gratitude. Wherever they went, the delegation presented a commemorative bronze plaque engraved with the Chinese characters "duoxie" (Thank You), along with the signatures of the 44 surviving Doolittle veterans at that time.

China also remembered these old friends. In September 2015, Jeff Thatcher, the son of David J. Thatcher (1921-2016), another participant in the Doolittle Raid who was rescued by Chinese people, was invited to China on behalf of his father to attend the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Chinese People's War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1931-45) and the World Anti-Fascist War. He followed in his father's footsteps and paid a visit to Quzhou.

In 2018, the Doolittle Raid Memorial Hall opened in Quzhou. In October that year, a delegation of 24 members from the Children of Doolittle Raiders visited Quzhou to participate in the opening ceremony.

In his speech at the opening ceremony, Thatcher said, "Today, this exquisite building in front of us is a witness to the hardships endured by our ancestors and a symbol of cooperation and friendship between China and the US since April 18, 1942. We hope that the Doolittle Raid Memorial Hall can become an educational base for visitors, allowing more people to understand how 80 brave American pilots and thousands of brave Chinese people united together."

As they walked through the memorial hall, the eyes of the Doolittle raiders' children were gradually filled with tears. Susan Ozak, daughter of Charles J. Ozak, knelt in front of a photo and pointed to a soldier with trembling hands, saying, "Look, this is my father. Thank you for helping me understand my father better."

As a symbol of her gratitude to the Liao family, Susan Ozak donated $15,000 during her stay in Quzhou in 2018 to help renovate and preserve the old Liao house, where her father once lived for four days.

After learning that the renovation program had been completed in September 2023, Susan sent a video to the Quzhou government to express her gratitude again to the Chinese people. "I am grateful that this project was recently completed. By making this donation, I want to show the people of Jiangshan and of China my deep appreciation for all they did to help the Doolittle raiders during the war. Thank you!"

Susan also established a friendship with Liao Mingfa. "I hope she can come back to have a look every year. I am 88 this year, I hope I can still see her when I am 120," Liao Mingfa said.

Doolittle's friend Bryan Moon (1928-2015), former vice president of Northwest Airlines, was also dedicated to investigating Doolittle raiders' history in China for many years. In September 1990, he organized a 5-person inspection team to visit Zhejiang and Anhui to look for the Chinese people who had participated in the rescue.

Thanks to his efforts, the state of Minnesota, which had modified the Doolittle Raid's bombers, intersected with Quzhou. In 1994, Quzhou and the city of Red Wing in Minnesota became sister cities, marking a new era of friendship between American pilots and Chinese farmers.

Nowadays the young generation has taken on the mission of exchanges between the two places. In the last 30 years, Quzhou and Red Wing have exchanged delegations many times, with more than 200 people, including 30 teachers visiting to each other's schools and 13 artists having taken part in artistic exchanges.

Pan Zhiqiang, a former teacher and principal of the Quzhou No.2 High School, was the first exchange teacher from Quzhou to visit Red Wing. "At that time, overseas understanding of the Doolittle Raid was only limited to the event itself and few knew about the Chinese people's contribution to the action." During Pan's stay, schools in Red Wing added a course called "China," and a seed of mutual understanding was quietly planted in the two places across the ocean.

An enduring friendship

This history caught the public's attention after Chinese President Xi Jinping mentioned it in his speech at a welcome dinner for the APEC, on November 15, in San Francisco. He referred to it as a vivid example to demonstrate that "the foundation of China-US relations was laid by our peoples."

After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, the US sent 16 B-25 bombers on an air raid to Japan in 1942. Running low on fuel after completing their mission, Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle and his fellow pilots parachuted in China. They were rescued by Chinese troops and local civilians. But some 250,000 civilian Chinese were killed by Japanese aggressors in retaliation, Xi introduced.

The American people, on their part, always remember the Chinese who risked their lives to save American pilots. Offspring of those American pilots often visit the Doolittle Raid Memorial Hall in Quzhou of Zhejiang Province to pay tribute to the Chinese people for their heroic and valorous efforts. These stories fill me with firm confidence that the friendship between our two peoples, which has stood the test of blood and fire, will be passed on from generation to generation, Xi stressed.

Due to his research on the Doolittle Raid, the local history researcher Zheng Weiyong has also become a friendship ambassador between China and the US. He has been invited multiple times by the Doolittle Raiders Association to participate in commemorative events in the US.

Looking back on the numerous journeys across the Pacific Ocean and the experience of traversing history and the present, Zheng deeply feels that as long as people stand together and overcome difficulties, and follow the trend of peace, development, cooperation, and a win-win spirit, the future of China and the US will surely be bright.

The Doolittle Raid is an important manifestation of China-US cooperation during World War II. It extends to the present, when we are still working for world peace and economic development. The presentation of historical artifacts is not to commemorate the war, but to celebrate humanitarianism and keep history "alive" and ensure it is passed down.

Efforts to regulate costly rural marriage and burial customs alleviate financial burden of villagers in North China's Shanxi

Zhang Yongxiang, a villager from Yangyuhui village in Chengzhuang town, Lyuliang, North China's Shanxi Province, happily showed the Global Times the lively scenes at his son's recent wedding. The wedding and dowry only cost a total of 20,000 yuan ($2,738), a relatively small price to pay for the great joy the event brought the family. Prior to this, Zhang had heard many stories of fellow villagers who had incurred heavy debts or even took out loans to host extravagant weddings and pay exorbitant dowries, and Zhang feared that his family would fall into the same financial trap.

Thanks to local campaigns launched to curb costly rural marriages, Zhang became a direct beneficiary of the two-year campaign to regulate and modernize outdated customs in rural areas initiated by central authorities in 2022.

Eight national departments jointly issued a notice in August 2022 to address the prominent problems of excessive bride price and extravagant wedding ceremonies in China's rural areas by rolling out a special work plan for a nationwide campaign. The campaign started in August and is expected to end in December this year.

According to the work plan, a series of advocating standards will be promoted in the counties, townships, and villages, resulting in the preservation and inheritance of excellent traditional Chinese virtues.

As recipients of an advanced model of reform in Lyuliang, Chengzhuang town has effectively curbed the momentum of the spread of a series of outdated conventions and harmful customs such as the paying of exorbitant bride prices and luxurious burials, to relieve rural residents of financial burdens and foster the Chinese traditions of diligence and filial respect for the elderly.

"The organization of weddings and funerals best reflects rural civilization. The extravagant spending and flaunting of wealth in these events is detrimental, and not only burdens impoverished families but also goes against the goal of achieving common prosperity in our country," Meng Fei, the Party Secretary of Chengzhuang town, told the Global Times. "Therefore, our campaign aims to abolish such customs and use village regulations to guide and urge the residents to consciously abandon outdated customs."

At the entrance of Yangyuhui village, a prominent display board showcases the village's regulations on promoting frugality and simplicity in weddings and funerals. It encourages the purchase of wedding gifts not exceeding 200 yuan by relatives and 100 yuan by other guests, and advocates for simple funeral arrangements with a mourning period not exceeding 5 days.

The regulation also calls for the abandonment of behaviors such as the promotion of vulgar values associated with romantic relationships and marriage, including asking for and the payment of excessive bride prices.

Moreover, regulations are put in place to address the failure to fulfill filial duties and to curb the promotion of feudal superstitions and vulgar activities at funerals, such as ghost marriages. Extravagant wedding ceremonies and funerals that lead to significant wastage are also subject to regulation.

Giving a bride price and dowry has a long history in China as a goodwill gesture between the couple meant to tie the knot and their families. However, the nature of traditional customs has changed a lot over the years and has become a financial burden to many families, especially in rural China.

Meng told the Global Times that in Linxian county, where Chengzhuang town is located, funeral arrangements are incredibly complicated and consuming. Various procedures such as setting up a memorial hall, mourning in the morning and evening, and performing rituals such as kneeling and kowtowing, are included as part of the ritual. In order to simplify funeral arrangements, the towns and villages in Linxian county have introduced "memorial meetings" as part of traditional funerals, eliminating the need for complex ceremonies.

When they hear of a family planning an expensive traditional funeral, Meng and the village cadres promptly visit to encourage a simplified memorial meeting. This meeting can be organized with the assistance of village cadres or the village council responsible for overseeing funerals and weddings.

As of April, Chengzhuang town had organized over 100 memorial meetings for various communities. Zhang Rongrong, the Party Secretary of Yangyuhui village, told the Global Times that the village has invited respected elders and influencers to participate in the village council responsible for overseeing funerals and weddings to promote these new customs. The council mandates that villagers report their events in advance, even including specific details such as the brands of cigarettes and alcohol to be used, in order to discourage excessive competition among villagers.

"In the past, some people would even take out loans to host extravagant weddings or funerals to show off, placing a great burden on families and promoting bad practices. Now, advocating for new customs is also providing the villagers with an alternative," said Zhang.

The burden of expenditures on weddings, banquets, and betrothal gifts for people in the village has been significantly reduced since the start of the campaign, Zhang noted.

"Through effective education and guidance, we have freed the local residents from such outdated customs and unnecessary expenses," Zhang said. So far, all 21 villages in Chengzhuang town have updated their village regulations regarding these changes in customs. The town has organized more than 320 memorial services, and the local people have reduced their expenses by over 1.7 million yuan ($0.23 million)."

Central government authorities support and welcome passage of Article 23 legislation in Hong Kong

Following the passing of the Article 23 legislation at the Legislative Council (LegCo) of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) on Tuesday, some central government authorities on Hong Kong affairs voiced their support and warm congratulations on the passage of the law with a unanimous vote, a milestone in the One Country, Two Systems practice.

Protecting national security means safeguarding One Country, Two Systems, which also means ensuring the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong, safeguarding the interests of foreign investors, preserving the democratic freedoms of Hong Kong, and protecting the human rights and fundamental well-being of all residents in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council said in a statement on Tuesday.

The formulation and implementation of Hong Kong's national security ordinance will undoubtedly further solidify the secure foundation for the city's development, promoting a faster transition from governance to prosperity, the office said.

Hong Kong lawmakers unanimously passed the highly anticipated Article 23 legislation on Tuesday following marathon sessions during which all lawmakers expressed strong support for the law. The legislation, entitled as Safeguarding National Security Ordinance, will be gazetted on Saturday and will take effect from then.

The ordinance is organically linked with the already implemented National Security Law (NSL) for Hong Kong, filling in the gaps in the HKSAR's system and mechanisms for maintaining national security, together forming a solid barrier for the protection of national security in the region, the office said.

The ordinance targets a very small number of individuals who commit crimes endangering national security, while protecting the human rights and freedoms of the vast majority, as its content is very clear, with precise definitions of the elements of crimes, and clear distinctions between what constitutes a crime and what does not, the office noted.

It also stipulates the principles of legality of crimes and punishments, presumption of innocence, and the rights of the accused, defendants, and other participants in legal proceedings to defend themselves and other procedural rights, as well as the principle that laws are not retroactive.

The ordinance also sets out specific exemptions and defenses for certain crimes. Law enforcement agencies must exercise their powers in accordance with legal conditions, follow strict procedures, and be subject to judicial oversight. These provisions fully protect the various rights and freedoms legally entitled to the public, the office said.

The Legislative Affairs Commission of the National People's Congress Standing Committee also said on Tuesday the passage of the Article 23 legislation is a significant action taken by the HKSAR to fulfill its constitutional responsibilities for maintaining national security.

It is a tangible outcome of fully implementing the duties defined by the national security law, and it is worthy of full recognition.

The commission said the legislative process of the law went through extensive and in-depth public consultation across Hong Kong society and serious and comprehensive deliberation by the LegCo.

After amendments and improvements, the draft ordinance received unanimous support and was passed by the LegCo, reflecting the common will of the government bodies of the HKSAR, all sectors of society, and the people of Hong Kong to firmly uphold national sovereignty, security, and development interests, and to steadfastly maintain the constitutional order and the rule of law as determined by the Constitution and the Basic Law of Hong Kong, the commission said, noting that the law enjoys broad social support.

Security is the prerequisite for development, and the rule of law is the cornerstone of prosperity. The smooth passage of the Article 23 legislation will benefit the overall institutional effectiveness of the HKSAR's legal system, the Commissioner's Office of China's Foreign Ministry in the HKSAR said on Tuesday.

It will further help to develop a safe, convenient, and efficient business environment, enhance the confidence of local and overseas investors, and ensure high-quality development with high-level security, ensuring long-term governance, safety, and prosperous stability in Hong Kong, the commissioner's office said.

Hong Kong will continue to be a fertile ground for global businesses and talents to invest and thrive, a haven for pursuing and building dreams, the authority noted.

The commissioner's office also pointed out that those with ulterior motives who smear the Article 23 legislation, slander, and attempt to undermine One Country, Two Systems cannot sway the clear-sighted citizens of Hong Kong, cannot deceive the discerning individuals within the international community, and cannot stop the historical trend of Hong Kong's progress from governance to prosperity.

The law passed by the LegCo on Tuesday is a law that aligns with public opinion, ensures security, and protects development. It is also a law that the vast majority of patriotic residents of Hong Kong have been looking forward to for over 26 years, the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong said.

During the public consultation phase, over 98.6 percent of the feedback supported the legislation, the liaison office said.

Recalling the social turmoil in 2019, with rampant "Hong Kong independence" advocacy, widespread violence, and "mutual destruction" tactics leading to economic downturn and social unrest, how could one speak of developing the economy or ensuring people's livelihoods? The liaison office asked.

The NSL for Hong Kong has laid a solid foundation for Hong Kong's transition from chaos to governance and from governance to prosperity, but the national security challenges Hong Kong faces remain complex and severe, the office said.

The systems and mechanisms to complement the implementation of the NSL for Hong Kong need further strengthening. Local legislation under Article 23 of the Basic Law is imperative, it said.

The legislative process of the ordinance is rigorous and standardized, with scientific and reasonable content. The elements of crimes are clearly defined, and the penalties are appropriately severe or lenient, balancing the maintenance of national security with the protection of rights, freedoms, and economic development, in line with international law and common international practices, the Office for Safeguarding National Security of the central government in Hong Kong said on Tuesday.

The ordinance complements and is interconnected with the NSL for Hong Kong, effectively plugging legal loopholes in the city's national security legislation and constructing a solid barrier for the protection of national security, the office said.

Several business chambers in Hong Kong also welcomed the passage of the law. The Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce said the passage of the law by the LegCo on Tuesday provides a guarantee for Hong Kong's long-term development and stability.

The chamber is pleased to see that the government is actively responding to the concerns of different stakeholders in society, incorporating many suggestions collected during the consultation period into the ordinance draft.

It said it also hopes the government will continue to improve public awareness of the ordinance and strengthen educational efforts to clarify any misunderstandings or concerns.

NZ firms expect more opportunities amid closer ties with China as FM’s visit injects new impetus

Businesses and experts see more potential in economic and trade ties between China and New Zealand as bilateral relations get stronger, highlighted by the ongoing visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to the island nation this week.

As the two countries deepen cooperation in traditional sectors like dairy and aquatic products, industry insiders and experts said that there are burgeoning areas such as tourism, the green economy and digital economy where their complementarity can further be leveraged.

The comments came as the two countries marked the 10th anniversary of the establishment of a comprehensive strategic partnership.

New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Wellington on Monday.

During the meeting, Wang noted that since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and New Zealand, the countries had set numerous records of "firsts," driving bilateral relations to the forefront of China's relations with developed countries, according to the website of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

China is happy to see New Zealand's continued participation in the Belt and Road Initiative cooperation, and looks forward to working with New Zealand to explore the new growth areas of cooperation such as science and technology, green and innovation while strengthening the cooperation in traditional fields, Wang said.

The Chinese economy enjoys both a solid foundation and a broad space for growth, which will continue to inject more impetus into the world economy and bring new opportunities to New Zealand, the Chinese foreign minister said.

At the meeting, Luxon also expressed his expectations for deepening cooperation in various sectors including economic and trade issues, education, tourism, agriculture and technology.

Wang is the highest-ranking Chinese politician visiting the country since he went there in 2017.

The visit has drawn wide attention, with businesses seeing even brighter prospects for bilateral economic and trade ties, the core of the bilateral relationship, experts and industry insiders told the Global Times.

The relationship between China and New Zealand has consistently been at the forefront of China's ties with developed Western countries, creating numerous milestones, Chen Hong, director of the New Zealand Studies Centre at East China Normal University, told the Global Times on Monday.

Economic and trade relations serve as the cornerstone of bilateral ties, with New Zealand products such as beef, lamb, dairy items and seafood gaining increasing popularity among Chinese consumers. Economic and trade relations have been robust and mutually beneficial, with China's value-for-money products also appealing to New Zealand consumers.

In addition to traditional sectors, both countries have vast potential for cooperation in the fields of the green and blue economies, as well as in the realm of the digital economy, Chen Hong said.

The strong China-New Zealand relationship also serves as a model, particularly for Australia, to learn from, especially after the downturn in China-Australia relations during the previous Morrison government, said Chen Hong.

Among various bilateral exchanges, tourism has been an important factor, with greater potential for growth.

Jason Chen, head of the New Zealand-China Travel Exchange Association, who also owns a travel agency in New Zealand, told the Global Times on Monday that he has good expectations for the high-level government meetings during the visit of China's foreign minister in terms of a possible boost for the tourism industry in the island country.

The year 2019 was the China-New Zealand Year of Tourism, with outbound travel from China to New Zealand reaching 587,700 in terms of arrivals. However, due to the pandemic, the number of tourists traveling to New Zealand has significantly decreased, Jason Chen said.
While there has been a recovery in terms of the number of Chinese tourists visiting New Zealand, it has not recovered to the pre-pandemic level.

"With high-level visits, we expect to boost the development of the tourism industry in both China and New Zealand. Booming tourism will help further revive the New Zealand tourism industry and boost its economy," Jason Chen said.

At the same time, the tourism industry insider said that as the bilateral relationship gets closer, the New Zealand government will consider introducing short-term visa-free policies for Chinese tourists, making it more convenient for more Chinese people to visit the island country for sightseeing and tourism.

In the dairy sector, business potential is strong. In a statement previously sent to the Global Times, Teh-han Chow, CEO of Fonterra's greater China division, said that the China market is incredibly dynamic and a strong driver of international trade and investment.

China's emphasis on openness creates opportunities for businesses to engage in mutually beneficial partnerships, expand market access, and contribute to economic growth, Chow said.

Bilateral relations have seen a positive trend, with important meetings and interactions at both the government and business levels taking place, following the visit of then New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins to China in June 2023, charting a good course for bilateral relations.

Both countries marked many "firsts" in their bilateral relations. China is New Zealand's largest trading partner. New Zealand was the first Western country to support China's accession to the World Trade Organization and the first Western country to decide to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

In March 2017, New Zealand became the first Western developed country to sign a cooperation agreement with China on the Belt and Road Initiative.

Based on mutual respect and equality, the relationship between China and New Zealand has maintained steady momentum since the establishment of diplomatic ties, yielding many fruitful outcomes, Chen Hong said.

New Zealand's economic development has also directly benefited from closer ties with China, including a free trade agreement. China's ongoing consumption upgrade continues to inject new impetus into the island country's economic recovery in the post-pandemic era, Chen Hong said.

Exclusive: EU, China highly complementary in pursuing green transition: official

There are high complementarities between the EU and China since both sides are impacted by climate change and both have clear targets to pursue in the green transition, Vicky Pollard, head of the Unit in the European Commission's Directorate General for Climate Action, told the Global Times in an exclusive interview on Thursday.

Chinese experts said that the remarks set a rare and positive tone from the EU side in seeking more cooperation with China against the backdrop of the intensified probe targeting Chinese new-energy products.

They also said that in order to facilitate their green transition, the EU needs to put more words into action by looking at cooperation rather than competition with China in the field.

The EU and China have much more to cooperate on in the green economy, said Pollard, noting that it also makes economic sense for the EU and China to cooperate for the green transition.

The remarks were made after a meeting on EU 2040 Climate Target, a seminar co-hosted by the EU Delegation to China and the Institute of Climate Change and Sustainable Development of Tsinghua University in Beijing on Thursday.

During the meeting, Pollard gave a thorough presentation on EU's 2040 climate target and Chinese experts and industry representatives exchanged their views on how to pursue green transition and how China and the EU can cooperate in achieving their respective targets for carbon reduction.

Talking about the cooperation that have been made between China and the EU in green transition, Pollard told the Global Times that there are many things both EU and China have discussed and have been working on, including emission trading.

"We also share experiences and seek cooperation on our respective domestic frameworks to ensure deployment of innovative solutions to ensure we meet our commitment to tackle climate change, and we make sure that those commitments are achieved in the most cost-effective ways," Pollard said.

While climate change is a global problem, Pollard said that "by acting together, we can do so at a lower cost and faster provided there is a level playing field. It's also about more dialogue and learning from each other to develop good policies."

The deployment of renewables such as wind power and solar power in the EU and in China is a good example of good policies and the benefits of deployment at scale, said the EU official.

"The EU cannot undergo the green transition alone, nor can China. It's important that we work together within a rule-based system, including for trade, and maintain balance," Pollard further noted.

Laurent Bardon, head of the Green Transition Section at the Delegation of the European Union to China, told the Global Times that from Thursday's meeting, it's evident that participants from both sides engaged in an open discussion, striving to find optimal solutions for enhancing cooperation between China and the EU in the green transition.

"It's good more interactions like this take place in the future," Bardon said.

The China-EU economic and trade ties have encountered rising concerns after the EU issued on March 6 the Official Journal of the European Union regarding its commission's implementation regulation that makes imports of new battery electric vehicles designed for the transport of persons originating in China subject to registration.

The mandate may have some impact on EV exports to Europe, as it may possibly be followed by punitive tariffs, as experts and media reports had said.

Responding to the media question regarding customs registration, He Yadong, a spokesperson of China's Ministry of Commerce, said that the EU's import registration measures and possible retroactive taxation have increased the number of import links and added burdens to normal trade.

It is not conducive to deepening cooperation in the new-energy industries of both parties and will also affect the interests of EU consumers, He noted.

Although the EU claims to seek cooperation with China in green transformation, in reality, there is still significant suppression, Lin Boqiang, director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University, told the Global Times on Thursday. He noted that the EU's move targeting corresponding Chinese products is mainly due to geopolitical factors and a desire not to overly rely on China's industrial chain.

"Green transformation mainly involves cost-effective control and the application and popularization of green technology, and China, with its mature industrial chain, has a good advantage in this regard that the EU cannot imitate in the short term," Lin said.

However, if the EU side truly wishes to facilitate green transformation cost-effectively, it should refrain from suppressing relevant Chinese enterprises and products, Lin remarked.

Green transformation is a common goal for China and the EU. The EU needs China's affordable green products, while China needs the EU's large market, which is a win-win situation for both sides, Lin said.