How two sessions serve as bridge between people and government, help authorities formulate policies

Editor's Note:

The second session of the 14th National People's Congress (NPC) and the second session of the 14th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) will open on March 5 and 4, respectively. The two sessions are a crucial window into China's whole-process people's democracy and will offer the world a window to observe the country's development and understand its policy direction for the following year.

Every year, China's top legislators and political advisors bring up the most concerning livelihood issues to the two sessions for discussion, so that the Chinese governments can have a deep understanding of the people's situation and demands and formulate corresponding policies that directly address the pain points.

In 2023, various departments of the Chinese State Council handled a total of 7,955 motions from NPC deputies and 4,525 proposals from members of the CPPCC National Committee, according to a press conference of the State Council Information Office on February 29.

In light of this, the Global Times has initiated a series of "understanding China through motions and proposals." This article, the first installment of the series, examines the significant livelihood issues that the two sessions have addressed in previous years. The second installment will compare the motions and proposals that have been adopted in a certain field with some new proposals this year, so that readers can gain insight into the new challenges in this field and have an overview of the society China will become in the future.
February 29 marks the 17th International Rare Disease Day.

The World Health Organization defines diseases with a prevalence of 0.065 percent to 0.1 percent of the total population as rare diseases.

As of the end of September 2023, around 780,000 cases of rare disease had been registered in China since the inception of a rare disease diagnosis and treatment service information system in 2019, according to the China Global Television Network.

To improve the diagnosis and treatment level of rare diseases and safeguard the health rights and interests of rare disease patients in the country, the Chinese National Health Commission, together with other four Chinese government departments, released the first catalog of rare diseases in 2018. Various localities in the country are implementing policies on medication, health insurance and research according to the catalog.

The catalog was revised in September 2023. It now contains 86 rare diseases of 17 medical specialties, including hematology, dermatology and pediatrics, according to the National Medical Products Administration.

In 2021, China also for the first time included a rare disease treatment in its National Reimbursement Drug List. These moves together benefited thousands of Chinese suffering from rare diseases, including spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) patient Zhang Jianuo and his parents.

SMA treatment Nusinersen was included in the NRDL in November 2021 for the first time, which cut the price of the treatment from 700,000 yuan ($97,266) per dose to 33,000 yuan per dose.

"Me and Jianuo's father cried when the news was announced. We are truly grateful to the country for showing us that our child has a chance to be saved and has hope," Zhang Jianuo's mother Li hui was quoted as saying by CCTV.

Chasing hope

When the first catalog of rare diseases was released in 2008, Ding Jie, who has served as a member of the CPPCC National Committee for 15 years since 2008 and participated in compiling the catalog, was one of the people most excited to hear the news.

Ding, former vice president of Peking University First Hospital, believed that this catalog was a milestone, and the joint release by five departments is a key demonstration that "the Chinese government is ready to face the rare disease problem," Ding said.

During the 15 years serving as a CPPCC member, Ding's focus has been almost entirely on rare diseases. She had reportedly offered proposals such as the establishment of a rare disease medical security system and regulations for the assistance of rare disease patients. In 2017, she once again suggested that rare diseases be included in the national medical insurance catalog, according to reports at the time by China National Radio.

When Ding first began her CPPCC journey, the public's attention to rare diseases was low. "At first, when I spoke at the conference, there were always people around me showing puzzled expressions. But in the past decade, the situation has changed. Whenever rare diseases are mentioned, the members are particularly concerned and want to contribute to solving the problem," she was quoted as saying in a report of the CPPCC Daily.

"In the past, it was 'I' suggesting, but in recent years it has become 'we,'" Ding was quoted as saying.

During the 2022 two sessions, the Chinese government included "strengthening research of rare diseases and better ensure the supply of medicines" in its yearly work report. This is an achievement thanks to previous efforts of NPC deputies and CPPCC National Committee members like Ding. It is also an encouragement to more political advisors to continue to fight for patients suffering from rare diseases in the future.

For example, this year, Sun Jie, a member of the National Committee of the CPPCC and deputy dean of the school of insurance at the University of International Business and Economics, will reportedly propose landmark legislation for rare disease drugs to ensure that patients have access to lifesaving medication.

With the increased awareness of rare disease, increased investment is being made available, and the medical needs of patients are becoming an increasing priority. It is imperative to clearly formulate or introduce a landmark law or special policy for rare disease drugs, and to systematically regulate research and development, Sun told

See the unseen

Similar to rare diseases, educational equality of children in remote and impoverished areas is also a focus of Chinese political advisors.

"It is such a good news for children in former underdeveloped revolutionary old areas, ethnic minority autonomous counties, and former key poverty-stricken counties in our province!" Li Xingling, a deputy to the 12nd and 13rd NPC, posted on her WeChat in April 2023, after South China's Guangdong Province released the special enrollment plan for key universities in 2023, relaxing admission requirements to cover more students in these areas, according to a report on the Guangdong provincial government's official website.

The special enrollment plan is one of the preferential policies in China to better promote educational equity and allow more rural students to enjoy high-quality higher education. Li was so happy as the move Guangdong made is an outcome after she submitted a motion during 2022 two sessions to call for adjustment to the plan in order to help more rural and impoverished students to be able to enroll in high ranking universities.

"Although I am no longer an NPC deputy [since 2023], I am still very happy to see my suggestions being adopted. I will continue to pay attention to this policy. In the future, I will continue to focus on my job, strengthen my responsibilities, and make efforts to promote the high-quality development of basic education in mountainous areas," Li was quoted as saying in the report.

Since being elected as an NPC deputy in 2013, Li has never stopped focusing on education. In 2013, she submitted a motion on providing subsidies to teachers in mountainous areas, and in 2015, she proposed increasing the per capita funding for high school students. From 2018 to 2021, she has put forward a total of 25 motions, with 13 of them related to education, according to a report of in 2022.

Many rural teachers received subsidies after my motion was adopted, allowing them to teach in rural areas with more peace of mind and reducing talent drain, this is one of the happiest things that happened during my 10 years of service as an NPC deputy, Li told
Crucial pathways to problem solving

According to the press conference of the State Council Information Office on February 29, nearly 4,700 motions and proposals were adopted by a range of government departments, with over 2,000 related policies and measures being introduced, which greatly facilitated the resolution of a series of issues related to reform, development, and the urgent concerns of the people, leading to new achievements in promoting high-quality economic development and ensuring the well-being of the people, the office said.

"The two sessions play a powerful role in addressing people's most demanded livelihood issues," said Su Wei, a professor from the Party School of the CPC Chongqing Municipal Committee. Su has served as a CPPCC member in Chongqing for many years. "Besides my regular duties, I also participate in research and discussions organized by the NPC and CPPCC to investigate issues concerning people's livelihoods," he told the Global Times.

Su noted that because NPC deputies and CPPCC members usually come from different sectors such as healthcare and education, they can delve deeper into problems from their own professional experience, providing solutions to government departments. Therefore, the two sessions indeed play a unique and significant role in resolving medical and educational issues.

Motions and proposals during the two sessions are crucial pathways for addressing issues impacting people's livelihood, and they're becoming increasingly effective. First, it is because that governments are placing greater importance on proposals and motions put forward by CPPCC members and NPC deputies. Every year, during the two sessions, government departments are required to inform the NPC deputies, the CPPCC member as well as the public of the progress they've made in implementing motions and proposals of the previous year. Second, the quality of motions and proposals is improving, truly reflecting issues impacting everyday people. Furthermore, there are some reward mechanisms and regulations on NPC deputies and CPPCC members, which to some extent encourage them to brainstorm better ideas, according to Su.

Impressions of the New Era: Technology empowers modern agriculture across China

A Chinese proverb says, "The plan for a year lies in spring." 

Looking across the fertile countryside, regions everywhere are seizing on the agricultural season to carry out spring farming. With the advancement of science and technology, more and more new technologies are being applied in agricultural production, unveiling a scene of modern agricultural development across the vast fields of China.

With the Qingming Festival, also known as "Tomb-Sweeping Festival," approaching, West Lake Longjing, known as one of China's best green teas, has entered the large-scale picking period. In the tea gardens in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province, tea farmers are busy picking, sorting, and collecting fresh tea leaves. 

Alongside these tea farmers, three "iron tea-picking workers" work diligently. Their hands are flexible robotic arms and their eyes are movable cameras, while their heads are  "hats" made of solar panels. These three "workers" are intelligent tea-picking robots created by the agricultural robotics and equipment innovation team at Zhejiang Sci-Tech University. 

This year, the robots have been upgraded to the 6th generation. Through continuous research and testing of technology such as artificial intelligence deep learning, depth camera positioning, and robotic arms, the new generation of robots has improved efficiency while reducing operating costs, the Zhejiang News reported. 

The sixth-generation intelligent tea-picking robot has improved its work efficiency by 50 percent compared to the fifth generation. Capable of picking 0.75 kilograms of dry tea per day, it is estimated that one machine can replace 1.5 human labors, reducing costs by one-fourth. 

However, compared to manual labor, a gap still exists when it comes to quality, meaning there is a long way to go before tea-picking robots can be widely promoted and popularized.

The application of BeiDou intelligent agricultural machinery is a strong guarantee for stabilizing and increasing grain production across the country. 

To date, more than 2 million agricultural machines with BeiDou positioning operation terminals have been installed nationwide, including more than 150,000 plant protection drones, according to Science and Technology Daily. 

"Installing the navigation system on agricultural machinery not only saves manpower but also land. Our work as drivers has become much easier than before, and the land plowed is straighter than the crooked planting before," said a farmer using the system in Bole city, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

Currently, cotton planting in Xinjiang region has entered the preparation stage, so machinery operators are busy testing and maintaining equipment, and attending technical training to get ready for sowing. 

Next to the Three Gorges Reservoir in Central China's Hubei Province, drones are working with humans to transport sweet navel oranges out of the mountains. 

In Zigui county, Yichang city of Hubei Province, a method combining farmer-raised funds and government subsidies was adopted to build more than 1,700 orchard rail transport machines with a total length of 356,000 meters, help fruit farmers purchase more than 200 agricultural drones and provide free training to over 500 operators. 

The widespread promotion of agricultural machines has vigorously driven the development of the navel orange industry.

Meanwhile, agricultural departments and scientific research institutes across the country are actively organizing agricultural technology experts to go into the fields and villages to provide point-to-point, face-to-face technical services. 

For example, the Fujian Provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs in East China dispatched a group of agricultural experts to combine online and offline methods and go into villages, enterprises, and households to carry out agricultural technology services. 

Smart agriculture has become a major highlight of this spring's management and spring planting. New technology such as big data and the Internet of Things are deeply integrated with agricultural production, and information technology is widely used in all aspects of cultivation, management, and harvesting, with the digitalization rate of large-scale planting reaching 26.4 percent, according to People's Daily.

Digital and intelligent technology also plays a significant role in agricultural disaster prevention and mitigation. 

China's vast territory, continental monsoon climate, complex geographical environment and climate conditions, along with diverse planting and breeding types, lead to the frequent occurrence of a variety of agricultural disasters that have a wide range of impact. 

To this end, various regions are actively improving crop disaster information systems, carrying out digital and intelligent disaster monitoring station construction pilot projects, strengthening consultation with meteorological, emergency management, and water conservancy departments, and enhancing disaster early warning and prediction capabilities.

Diplomatic Channel: Former French PM Raffarin signals high hopes for President Xi’s visit, emphasizes respect for civilizations, frank dialogue

Editor's Note:

Chinese President Xi Jinping left Beijing on Sunday morning for state visits to France, Serbia and Hungary at the invitation of President Emmanuel Macron of the Republic of France, President Aleksandar Vucic of the Republic of Serbia, and President Tamás Sulyok and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of Hungary. Ahead of his visit to France, Global Times reporters Chen Qingqing and Bai Yunyi (GT) interviewed former French prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin (Raffarin), talking about the significance of the state visit for China-France relations, reviewing the future development of bilateral ties, and discussing the role of China-France relations in China-EU relations.
GT: This year marks the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and France. Could you share some important historical moments and achievements from these 60 years of China-France relations?

Raffarin: First of all, General de Gaulle's decision to establish diplomatic relations with China in 1964 is itself historic. France's support for the Chinese authorities in their fight against the SARS pandemic in 2003 was a major act, as were the opening of the Airbus factory in North China's Tianjin and the commissioning of the first Franco-Chinese nuclear reactor in South China's Guangdong Province. I am also very struck by the beauty of the Beijing Opera House designed by French architect Paul Andreu. There have been many joint creations across numerous fields. In 60 years, I have made more than 100 trips to China; 100 opportunities for very fruitful sharing.

GT: Over the last 60 years, what have been the changes and constants in China-France relations?

Raffarin: The constant is France's desire for independence in its policy with China. The change has been the development of the European Union, which has made diplomatic work more complex. All French presidents have followed, in relation to China, Charles de Gaulle's major orientations: Respect for civilizations, frank discussions, and co-responsibility for the future.

GT: In your opinion, what is the core element that has allowed these relations to withstand tests and continue to progress?

Raffarin: The central core is the mutual cultural appetite.

Analyzing the differences in our two civilizations is particularly fruitful as demonstrated by the philosopher François Jullien.

Culture is the heart of our relationship. The joint curiosity has been intact for centuries. This is the source of the respect that allows us to live with deep differences.

GT: How do you assess the current relations between China and France? Given the challenges of globalization and changes in the international political and economic situation, in which areas can China and France strengthen cooperation?

Raffarin: France has stable relations with China unlike many other countries, including in Europe. Chinese President Xi Jinping and French President Emmanuel Macron are two leading figures who know each other very well. They have spent hours and hours in discussion together.

The priority of our future relations, in my opinion, is building peace. In the short term, it is to act together for peace in Ukraine. In the medium term, it is to build a new multilateralism capable of allowing peace and development on our common planet.

GT: In your opinion, what role does China-France relations play within the framework of China-Europe relations? How will Europe's position in Chinese foreign policy evolve?

Raffarin: France's role in Europe is very active. We defend our ideas vigorously in all European forums. Our vision for Europe's strategic independence is gaining ground.

We are allies of the US, but do not want to be aligned with their interests. Donald Trump's place in the American debate convinced many European leaders that it is urgent to promote our sovereignty.

I think that the China-France dialogue is the best way to bring about peaceful solutions.

GT: 2024 is the year of China-France culture and tourism, as well as the Olympic year for France. Could you present the plans for cultural cooperation and exchanges between China and France for this year?

Raffarin: Many public and private initiatives will mark this year. For example, the exhibition on Versailles and the Forbidden City are particularly creative. A cultural forum bringing together Chinese and French artists will take place in November in Deauville. France will be the guest of honor at the Shanghai Expo. And more than 100 initiatives are already being programmed.

Cultural exchanges are the best medium for fostering mutual understanding and reciprocal respect.

GT: What role do cultural and human exchanges play in China-France relations?

Raffarin: We will prioritize student exchanges because they are the best vectors for promoting joint projects and creating deep and authentic ties between the two countries.

GT: In the fields of emerging technologies, sustainable development, and green energy, how can China and France seek new opportunities for cooperation?

Raffarin: I think we need to work together on the theme that is very popular among young Chinese and French people, which I call "the Planetization of politics."

Only recently has the Planet become a political object. There is a shared conviction among the world's youth: We must protect the Planet to protect Humanity.

Global governance needs consensus to progress. It is around this theme that it should be possible to invent a new multilateralism that will correct the current multilateralism's impotence.

GT: Given the current uncertainty of the international commercial environment, what are the challenges and opportunities facing China-France economic cooperation? How do you view 2023's debates in Europe on "de-risking" and this year's on "over capacity" in China?

Raffarin: We must understand our differences to avoid misunderstandings. There is a real consensus in Europe that public money should be used to help Europeans, for example, buy electric vehicles. But these subsidies are not intended to assist the production of foreign industries.

Since the WTO is currently partially blocked, trade regulation should proceed through bilateral agreements. The only real way to cooperate sustainably is to balance concessions.

GT: What are your expectations regarding the visit of the Chinese top leader to France?

Raffarin: Peace in Europe. Let's remain faithful to the spirit of General de Gaulle when, 60 years ago, he decided to establish diplomatic relations with China. The differences were probably greater than now, but the central idea was that our destinies are linked and thus the path of cooperation is more fruitful than confrontation. For this, direct and frank dialogue, understanding of each other's interests and values, and respect for sovereignty are necessary.

‘Overcapacity’ rhetoric is flawed proposition; manufacturing competitiveness relies on innovation

The US government announced new protectionist tariffs last week, targeting Chinese electric vehicles (EVs) and other high-tech products. 

Wielding the stick of tariffs against China's competitive industries is the latest move in the US' recent "overcapacity" offensive against China. In essence, it is still implementing trade protectionism, undermining WTO rules, and suppressing the Chinese economy. However, the US' accusation of Chinese industrial "overcapacity" is a false proposition, as the competitiveness of Chinese products relies on homegrown innovation.

This so-called "overcapacity" rhetoric reflects the increasing anxiety of the US, seeing the rapid development of China's new-energy sector. The narrative is a way to shift blame for their own backwardness in related industries, and also a tactic to curb China's technological progress and industrial development.

The competitiveness of China's "new three items" in the international market comes from the continuous technological innovation of China's new-energy industry, efficient production and complete supply chain, and high labor productivity. The market economy is a process of continuous balance between supply and demand. 

It is against basic economic principles to accuse Chinese industrial competitiveness as "dumping" and "overcapacity." In the face of the US' suppression, China should promote stability through progress, establish the new before abolish the old, and that China will become a global leader of innovation is the coming trajectory.

The Chinese automotive industry's "going global" strategy has surpassed expectations, but there is still much more potential for growth in the future. Foreign consumers recognize Chinese products mainly because the country has done relatively well in addressing climate change, green transition, and low-carbon initiatives. 

As long as China unleashes the huge potential of its colossal market, the innovative potential of the Chinese automotive industry, and the advantages of institutional openness in China, the Chinese automotive industry will lead the global automotive market in the coming many years.

China's PMI in April showed that the recovery of small and medium-sized manufacturing enterprises is gaining pace, demonstrating that the endogenous driving force of China's economy continues to strengthen, and the quality of development of small and medium-sized enterprises continues to improve. 

Small and medium-sized enterprises account for the vast majority of the total number of enterprises globally, and the same is true in China. If small and medium-sized technology enterprises can make a greater contribution in technological innovation, they will become the core competitiveness of a future enterprise, as well as a country.

There are three core elements for enterprises to create new quality productive forces: First, innovation. Without innovation, small and medium-sized technology companies will be hard to succeed. Second, innovation should be groundbreaking, original, and fundamental. Third, the most important aspect of developing new quality productive forces is to achieve the optimal allocation of all production factors.

As a global manufacturing powerhouse, China has the most complete industrial system, the most comprehensive categories, and a mature upstream and downstream supply chain. To take it to the next level on the existing foundation, China needs to combine digital economy with existing traditional manufacturing enterprises to create new industries, new formats, and new models.

Currently, it is a very important moment for the transformation and upgrade of China's manufacturing industry. There are two key points that are very important: First, the development of industrial internet. Second, the promotion of smart manufacturing. The combination of digital technology and contemporary industrial development is urgent, and digital technology should be used to promote the matching of supply and demand, especially by leveraging artificial intelligence and big data analysis to improve the alignment of consumer preferences and the flexible production capabilities of enterprises, and to build a digital technology-supported manufacturing industry chain, supply chain, and the complete value chain.

Developing future industries, the key lies in the country's talent pool. This is where China lags behind some of the world's developed economies. China has a large pool of skilled workers, but researchers have low enthusiasm for industrialization, and a large number of research results are still "sleeping" in the laboratory.

To develop future industries, China should continue to respect intellectual property rights, accelerate the reform of incentives for intellectual property rights, and promote scientific research innovation and results transformation. While introducing international talent, China should ramp up efforts in cultivating talent, strengthen basic education, foster innovation awareness, establish a trial and error mechanism, incentivize research talent to innovate, and cultivate local talent through practice.

And, China needs to accelerate the reform in key areas and key links such as talent training, evaluation, personnel mobility, and incentive system, injecting strong momentum into talent development.

State Grid Xuchang Power Supply Company: ’Electricity Butler‘ listing service directly connects with the community

"After a phone call, someone came to help me survey the installation location of the charging station. They arrived in less than 10 minutes and provided professional guidance. I'm very satisfied with the service," said Chu Dingjuan a customer who had applied for an electric vehicle charging station in Xuchang City, Henan Province in Central China.
The "Electricity Butler" listing service is an innovative measure taken by State Grid Xuchang Power Supply Company to implement grid-based direct and precise services, ensuring convenient electricity consumption for its customers. In order to improve customer satisfaction with electricity usage, the company divides the power supply area into 72 power supply service grids based on factors such as load density, service radius, and equipment condition. The charging of fees, low-voltage business expansion, emergency repairs, and low-voltage electricity inspections are included in the grid service management.

An "Electricity Butler" is arranged for each grid to provide listing services, and actively enters into the community's WeChat group to fully understand the customers' needs. Information on power outage, proxy purchase, and new energy services is promptly released by the company, actively creating a "1+1+1" grid service model where an "Electricity Butler" is responsible for one grid and serves a group of users, catering to the diversified electricity needs of customers.

In order to enhance the awareness of grid customers towards the grid "Electricity Butler", the State Grid Xuchang Power Supply Company has created a grid "Electricity Butler" information board, which includes their personal basic information, power supply service scope, service hotline, and a complaint hotline. These information boards are posted in prominent positions on the electric meter boxes to ensure that customer service demands can be contacted promptly, quickly, and will be effectively addressed by service managers. This has achieved the goal of "full-coverage, zero-distance service", effectively enhancing the public's sense of electricity access reliability.

Since the implementation of the "Electricity Butler" listing service by State Grid Xuchang Power Supply Company, the grid members have joined a total of 4129 WeChat power supply service groups, serving a total of 627,900 customers. While quickly solving customer electricity issues, they have also narrowed distances, built a "heart to heart bridge" to communicate with their customers, and effectively improved customer satisfaction by providing reliable electricity supply.

China Southern purchases 100 C919 aircraft

China Southern Airlines has ordered 100 home-made C919 aircraft from Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC), the carrier said in a filing on Monday.

It is the third large-scale order for the C919 following the previous orders made by Air China and China Eastern Airlines.

According to data provided by COMAC, the catalog price of a C919 series aircraft is $99 million, or a total of approximately $9.9 billion for the 100 aircraft. The catalog price includes the airframe price and engine price.

Air China on Friday announced the purchase of 100 C919 jets in a deal worth $10.8 billion, with the aircraft to be delivered in batches from 2024 to 2031.

China Eastern Airlines, the first global buyer of the C919, inked a deal with COMAC in late September for an additional 100 C919 aircraft.

In 2021, China Eastern purchased five such jetliners, and it received all the five planes in early March.

The C919 aircraft is the first jet type trunk plane independently developed by China in accordance with international airworthiness standards, COMAC said on its official website.

Currently, more than 200 Chinese enterprises have been involved in research and development for the C919 and corresponding products, with multiple firms directly participating in the manufacturing for component products, according to domestic media outlet

Chinese experts said that the aircraft shows China's enhanced self-sufficiency in advanced science and technology, amid the increasingly complex global environment and the West's so-called decoupling moves.

The C919 aircraft had its first commercial flight from Shanghai to Beijing on May 28, 2023, marking its official entry into the civil aviation market.

Currently, the total orders for the C919 have exceeded 1,200 aircraft, including overseas orders from leading aircraft leasing companies such as AerCap and Brunei Qiji Airlines, Xinhua reported on February 23.

N.China’s Tianjin port launches new route to S.America's east coast

A new sea route from North China's Tianjin Municipality to the east coast of South America became operational on Monday, to facilitate trade between China and countries of the region with upgraded transport capacity.

China and South America have the longest sea route crossing the Pacific Ocean, and the new service will promote business and trade cooperation, experts noted.

The route will be operated by China COSCO Shipping Co (COSCO Shipping), connecting Tianjin port to various ports in South America including Rio de Janeiro, Santos, Itapoa and Navegantes in Brazil. It's the first sea route from the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region launched in recent years, the China News Service reported on Monday.

COSCO Shipping will deploy12 vessels with capacity of 14,000 standard containers each to the route, with weekly departures. It will shorten the delivery time between Tianjin and Brazil from the previous 54 days to 40 days, and will also increase the loading capacity of cold chain containers.

The ships will carry soybeans, iron ore, coffee beans, cocoa, sugar and beef to China, and export daily necessities, chemicals, vehicles and parts, steel and furniture to South America.

Jiang Shixue, a professor at the Center for Latin American Studies at Shanghai University, told the Global Times on Monday that China has close business ties with multiple South American countries but the growth may be capped by delivery times, and the new route will upgrade the transport capacity.

China has been Brazil's largest trade partner for 15 consecutive years, and Brazil is also China's largest trade partner in Latin America and direct investment destination.

In the first quarter of 2024, bilateral trade hit $45.34 billion, up by 24.3 percent year-on-year, data from the General Administration of Customs showed.

On January 4, Dalian port in Northeast China's Liaoning Province launched the port's first routes to South America, which shortened the transport time of 32 days between Dalian and Mexico, Colombia and Ecuador to 25 days.

Absa opens Beijing office to unlock trade, investment opportunities, show confidence in China market

South Africa's Absa Group, a leading pan-African bank, announced on Wednesday the official launch of its new non-banking subsidiary in Beijing. The ambitious move aims to unlock more trade and investment opportunities between China and Africa.

The new office will enable the Johannesburg-based company to offer local support to Chinese clients and stakeholders to conclude transactions across the African continent, helping to support clients' needs, according to a statement issued by the Absa Group in January.

This business expansion demonstrates Absa's emphasis on and robust confidence in China's market. It also reflects China's persistent endeavors to foster growing economic ties with the rising Global South, experts said.

Amid the evolving global economic landscape, cooperation between the two sides has progressed from basic energy and infrastructure projects to financial collaboration, which are more pivotal and forward-looking areas, and this is likely to deepen bilateral ties in the real economy sector, Yang Baorong, director of African Studies of the Institute of West-Asian and African Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

The new office in Beijing will allow Absa to provide general advisory services to clients based in China, according to a statement. The lender will also be able to distribute some research about the macroeconomic environment and securities reports to some institutional clients in China, Bloomberg reported.

The move will help the bank become a "facilitator of trade flows into Africa", Absa said in its latest financial report, published in early March, according to media reports. 

"Our expansion into this dynamic market represents an exciting opportunity to unlock new avenues of growth and prosperity for Africa and China," said Arrie Rautenbach, the CEO of Absa Group, at a ceremony earlier this year, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

In recent years, investment cooperation between the two sides has steadily grown, with annual manufacturing direct investment exceeding $400 million and infrastructure construction cooperation exceeding $37 billion, supporting Africa's industrialization and economic diversification, said He Yadong, spokesperson of China's Ministry of Commerce, at a regular press conference on April 11.

The cooperation has boosted China-South Africa ties under the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative. Over the past decade, this initiative has significantly improved economic development and livelihoods in Africa. 

"Removing constraints on financial flows is crucial for deepening the bilateral ties," Song Wei, a professor with the School of International Relations and Diplomacy at Beijing Foreign Studies University, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

The launch of the subsidiary signifies Africa's financial institutions' participation in China-African financial cooperation, which is expected to bolster mutual benefits in settlement and investment, Song added.

Powering the future

The world's first 300MW/1800MWh advanced compressed air energy storage (CAES) national demonstration power station in Feicheng, Shandong Province has been successfully completed and connected to the electricity grid.

At 11:18 am, on April 30, the world's first 300MW/1800MWh advanced CAES national demonstration power station with complete independent intellectual property rights in Feicheng, successfully achieved its first grid connection and power generation. The power station utilizes advanced CAES technology independently developed by the Institute of Engineering Thermophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Zhongchu Guoneng (Beijing) Technology Co, Ltd invested in the project and led its construction. Power China Nuclear Engineering Company Limited is the construction party. It is currently a new type of CAES power station with advantages in scale, efficiency, and cost.

The R&D team made breakthroughs in key technologies for the 300MW CAES system, overcoming technical challenges such as a multistage wide-load compressor, a multistage high-load expander, a high-efficiency supercritical heat storage and heat exchange unit, an optimized design at full operation condition, and the integration of the whole system.

Compared to the 100MW CAES system, the unit cost of the 300 MW CAES system has decreased by more than 30 percent, and the system has 100 percent independent intellectual property rights. All core technologies are also independent and controllable.

The power station has a capacity of 300MW/1800MWh, with a total investment of 1.496 billion yuan ($207 million). Its rated design efficiency is 72.1 percent. It can achieve continuous discharge for six hours, generating approximately 600 million kWh per year.

This provides power support for about 200,000 to 300,000 households during peak electricity demand, saves about 189,000 tons of standard coal annually, and reduces carbon dioxide emissions by about 490,000 tons.

Closure of some government bodies’ new media accounts becomes a hot topic

The recent closure of several government bodies' new media accounts has ignited a lively social discussion. Analysts noted that this move highlights a reflection on pointless formalities on digital platforms, which is also an effort to alleviate the workload of grassroots workers, as well as providing more efficient services for the people by integrating resources.

According to media reports, a large number of grassroots government bodies in cities such as Kunming, Changsha, Xi'an, Qingdao, Zhangjiagang and Nanjing recently announced that their official WeChat and Weibo accounts would stop updating and they would start the cancelation process, and relevant information will be released on their respective local government websites.

In those announcements, the reasons for closing the new media accounts include avoiding waste of resources caused by duplicate operations, promoting centralized management and unified release channels, thereby promoting the healthy and orderly development of new media under local governments.

The closure of the public-service accounts came after some shortcomings were exposed by many new media platforms under grassroots governments. According to Capital News, certain information is outdated and inflexible, leading to low readership and minimal user engagement. Additionally, some apps are redundant, providing services that duplicate existing government software, leading to poor operational efficiency.

The recent wave of concentrated closures has ignited a lively debate among netizens regarding the future development of new media platforms for local governments. Some argue that it is crucial to utilize social platforms but the corresponding departments should prioritize addressing the needs of the people. Additionally, there are suggestions from netizens to promote a single platform that can efficiently handle multiple tasks in order to streamline processes and minimize complications.

Zhang Yiwu, a professor of cultural studies at Peking University, told the Global Times on Thursday that one contributing factor to the closure of numerous accounts is that certain departments have discovered that the reach and impact of their new media platforms have not met expectations despite prolonged operation.

"Some departments are not aware of the distinct characteristics of different new media platforms, including appropriate style and language, which makes it challenging for them to understand and create content that aligns with these differences," he said.

An official in East China's Jiangxi Province, who requested anonymity, told the Global Times on Thursday that operating a WeChat or Weibo account requires professional individuals, but due to time constraints and the lack of personnel with new media capabilities, many accounts perform poorly. Moreover, some departments do not update information on their platforms in a timely manner, sometimes only releasing new post every few days or even once a week, leading to many government accounts being discontinued or shut down, according to the official.

The closures of multiple public-service accounts with limited reach highlight the local governments' reflection on formalities, showing that they are looking into how to eliminate the useless and convoluted information, and instead delivering more valuable and accessible information and services to the people by consolidating resources effectively, analysts said.

These initiatives are also aimed at alleviating the workload of local grassroots officials, enabling them to concentrate on ensuring information is readily available to the public, rather than solely managing specific social media platforms, they said.

Certainly, the closure of accounts does not signify that new media is irrelevant in grassroots efforts. In fact, it serves a crucial function in delivering services to the public and promoting policy information, Zhang noted.

"It is imperative for staff members to deepen their understanding of new media's unique features, tailor their efforts accordingly and leverage its strengths to effectively communicate in specific areas. By doing so, they can maximize the impact of new media in their work and achieve success in targeted initiatives," he said.

The official from Jiangxi told the Global Times that simply reporting on meetings or research in a rigid manner is unlikely to capture the interest of readers. Instead, government official accounts should offer a diverse range of content and utilize various forms to attract and engage audiences, the official said.

In December 2023, China's Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission issued a set of opinions on strengthening the management of applications and accounts of government bodies and public institutions to prevent and control pointless formalities on digital platforms.

The opinions stressed the principles of overall planning, high efficiency, safety and reliability in the construction, operation and management of such applications and accounts, according to the Xinhua News Agency.