China's foreign trade in goods in H1 up 6.1% year-on-year, a new high

China's foreign trade in the first half of the year has set a new high, representing a year-on-year increase of 6.1 percent to 21.17 trillion yuan ($2.9 trillion), indicating a positive momentum in the country's foreign trade as well as improvement of the national economy.

The data were released before the third plenary session of the 20th Communist Party of China Central Committee, which will be held from July 15 to 18 in Beijing. The plenum will primarily examine issues related to further comprehensively deepening reforms and advancing Chinese modernization.

According to the General Administration of Customs (GAC) on Friday, the country's foreign trade for the first time in the same period in history exceeded 21 trillion yuan. Moreover, the growth rate of the country's foreign trade accelerated quarter by quarter, as it grew 7.4 percent in the second quarter, 2.5 percentage points higher than the first quarter and 5.7 percentage points higher than the fourth quarter of last year.

Imports in January-June period totaled 9.04 trillion yuan, up 5.2 percent year-on-year and exports stood at 12.13 trillion yuan, an increase of 6.9 percent year-on-year.
In the first half of the year, ASEAN maintained China's largest trading partner, with bilateral trade value reaching 3.36 trillion yuan, an increase of 10.5 percent, accounting for 15.9 percent of China's total foreign trade. The EU was the second largest trading partner, but bilateral trade value declined 0.7 percent. The US became the third largest trading partner, with bilateral trade increasing 2.9 year-on-year.

South Korea was the country's fourth largest trading partner in the period, and total value between the two countries reached 1.13 trillion yuan, an increase of 7.6 percent. The trade deficit with South Korea rose by 14.3 fold, GAC said.

During the same period, China's foreign trade with partner countries of the Belt and Road Initiative amounted to 10.03 trillion yuan, up 7.2 percent.

In the first half of the year, Chinese private enterprises excelled in foreign trade, with import and export totaling 11.64 trillion yuan, an increase of 11.2 percent, which accounts for 55 percent of the total value of the country's foreign trade, an increase of 2.5 percentage points over the same period last year.

GAC noted that electromechanical products accounted for nearly 60 percent of the country's exports, and automatic data processing equipment and its components, integrated circuits, as well as auto exports, continued to grow.

From January to June, China's exports of electromechanical products reached 7.14 trillion yuan, an increase of 8.2 percent, accounting for 58.9 percent of the total value of exports. Among them, exports of automatic data-processing equipment and its parts and components totaled 683.77 billion yuan, representing an increase of 10.3 percent. Exports of integrated circuits rose 25.6 percent to 542.74 billion yuan, and exports of automobiles stood at 391.76 billion yuan, soaring 22.2 percent compared with the same period last year.

Listed companies report remarkable H1 growth as economy recovers

About 1,500 listed Chinese companies had made preliminary earnings announcements for the first half as of Sunday, with many in sectors such as semiconductors, vehicles and retail reporting remarkable revenue growth. Analysts said that the economic recovery, targeted policies to boost domestic demand and accelerated domestic replacements contributed to the positive results, and they expressed confidence in the long-term rebound of the A-share market.

According to industry information data provider Wind, A-share companies including Chen Ke Ming Food Manufacturing Co, molybdenum producer CMOC Group and Shanghai Metersbonwe Fashion and Accessories Co, were among those reporting strong first-half results, with profits rising by up to 1,025 percent year-on-year.

Some semiconductor companies posted revenue recoveries, especially storage chip manufacturers. Tianshui Huatian Technology Co, which packages and tests integrated circuit products, said on Saturday that first-half profit could reach 190 million yuan ($26.2 million) to 230 million yuan, up 202 percent to 266 percent year-on-year.

IC design firm Montage Technology said its estimated first-half profit would be 583 million yuan to 623 million yuan, up more than sixfold year-on-year.

Veteran telecom industry observer Ma Jihua attributed chip companies' performance to a couple of factors.

"Sales of automobiles, especially new-energy vehicles, and smartphones remain robust this year, driving the IC sector's prosperity," Ma told the Global Times on Sunday.

Amid the ongoing US crackdown on Chinese high-tech firms, domestic companies are turning to local replacements for internet and artificial intelligence chips, Ma said. Along with efforts to fight for breakthroughs in core technologies, Chinese chip firms have achieved notable growth in their production capacity and international competitiveness, giving a boost to chip exports, he said.

China's first-half foreign trade reached to 21.17 trillion yuan, up 6.1 percent year-on-year, indicating positive momentum and the improvement of the national economy.

In the first half, the economy maintained an overall recovery, serving as strong support for listed companies' financial results, analysts said.

To support the ongoing economic recovery and healthy development of the A-share market, the authorities have rolled out a series of targeted policies. In March, the State Council, the cabinet, released an action plan to promote the large-scale renewal of equipment and trade-ins of consumer goods.

In April, the cabinet released a guideline on strengthening regulation, forestalling risks and promoting the high-quality development of the capital market.

Recently, the China Securities Regulatory Commission suspended securities relending, a tool used for short-selling, in another step to stabilize the capital market.

"The authorities are expected to increase efforts to stabilize economic growth in the second half of the year, which is expected to further lift investors' confidence," Yang Delong, chief economist at Shenzhen-based First Seafront Fund, told the Global Times on Sunday.

Both fiscal and monetary policies should step up to support private enterprises' recovery and encourage them to create more jobs and increase incomes, Yang said. A series of forceful macro adjustments will stabilize the real estate market and lift the stock market, he said, expressing confidence in China's long-term economic prospects.

Prospects of China's economy remain positive, despite fluctuations seen in Q2 this year: NBS

While there are fluctuations in the growth trajectory of China’s economy in the second quarter this year, the trend is positive, said a spokesperson from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on Monday.

Generally speaking, the favorable factors for development in China exceed the unfavorable factors, and the economic growth trend will remain stable and positive in the long term, the spokesperson said.

The remarks came after China’s GDP for the second quarter expanded by 4.7 percent year-on-year, a slight slowdown from the 5.3-percent growth seen in the first quarter.

The dip in GDP growth in the second quarter was affected by some short-term factors such as extreme weather and floods. It also reflects the increasing challenges in current economic operation, including inadequate domestic market demand and clogged domestic circulation, the spokesperson noted.

Despite the challenges posed by external uncertainties and domestic structural adjustment, China’s economy has withstood pressure and operated relatively smoothly, the spokesperson said.

In the second quarter, the gross economic output exceeded 32 trillion yuan ($4.40 trillion), and its industrial added value and total import and export of goods both surpassed 10 trillion yuan.

Looking ahead to the second half of the year, favorable conditions for China's development still outweigh the negative factors, the spokesperson said, adding that the summer grain and vegetable oil harvest , improving external demand, and the potential for growth in market demand will provide a solid foundation for economic growth.

The industrial structure upgrade, implementation of large-scale equipment renewal, consumer products trade-ins, and issuance of special government bonds, will further boost economic growth and enhance operational vitality, the spokesperson noted.

The Third Plenary Session of the 20th CPC Central Committee is expected to come out with a new roadmap on comprehensively deepening the reform and advancing Chinese-style modernization, the spokesperson said.

Since the 18th CPC National Congress, China's economy has overcome various challenges and steadily built up its economic strength.

From 2013 to 2023, the Chinese economy has achieved an average annual growth rate of 6.1 percent, ranking among the leaders in the world, and contributing over 30 percent to global economic growth each year.

Last year, the country’s total economic output exceeded 126 trillion yuan, maintaining the second position in all economies, and the country’s per capita GDP has surpassed the $12,000 for three consecutive years.

Also, employment and prices have remained largely stable, with over 140 million new urban jobs created from 2013 to 2023. The international balance of payments was kept generally stable, with foreign exchange reserves hovering above $3.2 trillion in recent years.

High-speed rail travel to smaller towns creates new tourism hotspots

While major cities remain popular, exploring small towns via high-speed rail is becoming a popular option. Visa-free policies also mean that more foreign tourists are visiting China this summer.

On Qunar, a domestic travel platform, travelers from the US, South Korea, Russia, Vietnam, and Malaysia have shown the most interest in high-speed rail bookings, favoring two-hour high-speed rail journeys, such as going from Southwest China's Sichuan Province to Southwest China's Chongqing, according to a report Qunar sent to the Global Times. 

"I took the high-speed train from Zhuhai to Guangzhou. It is fantastic, much better than driving a car," Luke Serdar, a tourist from Australia told the Global Times on Monday. Serdar has 59,000 fans on Douyin and has published lots of content about travel in China.

In a two-hour high-speed rail zone around Shanghai and its surrounding cities, Yiwu in East China's Zhejiang Province is popular among foreign tourists. A foreign blogger noted that his childhood Christmas gifts were labeled "MADE IN CHINA," making him think Santa was Chinese. In Yiwu, he bought many sports products and said that its Olympic spirit is second only to Paris, according to Qunar's report. 

"We are highlighting lesser-known attractions such as rural tourism, small intangible cultural heritage projects, and the daily lives of people in second- and third-tier cities, which helps to present a more vibrant, diverse, and multi-dimensional China to foreigners," Wang Jinwei, a professor at the School of Tourism Sciences at Beijing International Studies University, told the Global Times on Monday.

China is vast, and foreigners are eager to visit many cities in a single trip. On the Qunar platform, a Russian traveler visited 16 cities within six months while a Turkish traveler visited 12 cities. Over 10 percent of foreign tourists returned for a second visit within six months. 

Serdar has visited five Chinese cities so far. He said that he likes the night markets and street food. "I am happy to say that the food in China is so good that I know I will be replacing my diet back home with Chinese food. Now I can understand why a foreigner would return home heavier."

"We hope more foreigners visit and share the 'real China' in international media. First-time visitors can see China's development, convenience, and safety. On subsequent visits, they can explore lesser-known spots and experience the local culture more deeply," Wang added. 

"Once I return to Australia I'll be doing what I can to get back here as quickly as possible. Yes, I love China that much! After 20 amazing days in China I will be strongly recommending it to my friends, who can utilise the 144-hour transit visa-free policy," Serdar added.

"The visa-free policy is a milestone in China's opening-up to the world. I believe it will eventually be extended to more countries or allow longer visa-free stays. This win-win policy enhances trade and cultural exchanges between China and other countries," Wang said. 

In the first half of this year, bookings from abroad on the eLong hotel-booking platform nearly doubled year-on-year. Hotels in major cities are expected to see significant growth in foreign guest bookings, according to a report from online travel platform Tongcheng. 

In the first half of 2024, there were 14.635 million foreign passenger trips into China, a year-on-year increase of 152.7 percent. Among these, 8.542 million were visa-free entries, accounting for 52 percent and marking a 190.1 percent year-on-year increase, according to data from the National Immigration Administration.

Xi's Footsteps: Xi's Central Asia trip consolidates brotherhood, boosts cooperation

Chinese President Xi Jinping's first Central Asia visit as head of state dates back to 2013 when he proposed the concept of the Silk Road Economic Belt in Astana. In the following years, he visited the region frequently for bilateral and multilateral discussions. On July 2 to July 6, the Chinese president again set foot on this land for attending the 24th Meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Astana, and paid state visits to Kazakhstan and Tajikistan.

Streets adorned with Chinese flags, crowds dancing at the airport, children singing Chinese songs, grand official welcome ceremonies…Global Times reporters observed these moments during Xi's visit and tracked his footsteps to Central Asia in the past, which combined telling a story of historical friendship, fruitful cooperation, and a promising future.

In five days, Xi attended more than 30 bilateral and multilateral events, which involved political, economic, and cultural topics, and included reunions with old friends, while also meeting new friends, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at a press conference.

It is significant to guide the direction of the development of the SCO, deepening China's good-neighborly relations with regional countries, and promoting the substantial advancement of building a community of shared future among neighboring countries, said Wang.

Bridges for mutual learning between civilizations

As Xi's plane entered the Kazakh airspace, two fighter jets from the Kazakh Air Defense Forces took off to escort it and a touching moment at the Astana airport unfolded when a group of Kazakh children sang the Chinese song "Ode to My Homeland" to welcome him.

During previous 11 years, Xi had visited Kazakhstan five times, and has witnessed steadfast progress made on interconnectivity under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), made significant remarks on bilateral cultural exchanges since ancient times, and left numerous memories of friendship and cooperation.

"Warm welcome!" Local residents cheered excitedly in Chinese on July 2, 2024 while lining the sides of the roads where Xi's motorcade passed. People waved the Chinese and Kazakh national flags near the landmark building of Beijing Tower in Astana, giving the city a festive atmosphere.

"China is one of the largest countries in the world. Many Kazakhs travel to China and bring back a lot of useful information and technology. I think cooperation with China is having a very positive impact on our country," a Kazakh resident surnamed Salima told the Global Times.

Energy has been a cornerstone of China-Kazakhstan cooperation, with two projects holding flagship status - the China-Kazakhstan oil pipeline and the China-Central Asia natural gas pipeline.

The China-Central Asia natural gas pipeline A/B/C lines runs through Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and China. A key section of the pipeline within Kazakhstan was opened in 2013 during Xi's first visit to the country.

Kaiypov Yerseiit Zholmyrzauly, an executive at the Asian Gas Pipelieng LLP, a Kazakh-China joint venture, told the Global Times that the thriving energy cooperation with China has been helping Kazakhstan to diversify export channels and integrate into a larger energy market, and the wider use of natural gas also aligns with the green energy development goals of the two countries.

During this visit, President Xi and Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev also jointly attended the opening ceremony of a road transport route to a Caspian Sea port. This marked a comprehensive, multi-dimensional, Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR) integrating road, rail, air, and pipeline transportation network establishment.

The TITR begins at East China's port of Lianyungang in Jiangsu Province and runs through Kazakhstan, the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and European countries.

This major transport system has turned land-locked Kazakhstan into a land-linked country. As of 2023, more than 80 percent of Kazakhstan's major trade commodities such as mineral products and grains were exported via the Lianyungang port, Du Anji, a representative of the Lianyungang New Silk Road International Container Development Co, told the Global Times previously.

In parallel with infrastructure connectivity, the two heads of state also witnessed the "soft connectivity" through new cultural and educational projects: Attending the opening ceremony of the Chinese Culture Center in Astana and the Kazakh Culture Center in Beijing, and unveiling the Kazakhstan Branch of the Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU) in Astana. BLCU in Beijing is where Kazakh President Tokayev studied the Chinese language and made profound memories between 1983 and 1984.

Walking through the cultural exhibition hall of the campus on July 3, Global Times reporters noticed a photocopy of Tokayev's student ID card, which documented his years in China and epitomized the ever-lasting friendship between China and Kazakhstan.

The opening of the university's branch in Astana is expected to play an important role in promoting mutual understanding and exchanges between China and Kazakhstan, BLCU president Duan Peng told the Global Times.

The plan is to build the branch campus into a high-level university with undergraduate, master's, and doctoral programs in the next 5 years, which can radiate throughout the entire Central Asian region, Duan said. "Young Kazakh people can study here, make friends, and build bridges for mutual learning between civilizations."

On the Astana campus, a Qing Dynasty-style (1644-1911) pavilion named "Tang Di" will be built, the Global Times learned. Tangdi is a shrub from the rose family. In the "Book of Odes," the oldest existing collection of Chinese poetry dating back to the 11th to 6th century BC, tangdi is a symbol of profound brotherhood.
Good neighbors, friends, partners and brothers

Upon arrival in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe late on July 4, Xi noted in a written statement that China and Tajikistan are good neighbors who help each other, good friends who support each other, good partners with mutual benefit and win-win results, and good brothers who treat each other with absolute sincerity.

Young Tajik people dressed in traditional costumes and performed folk dances at the airport to welcome Xi. Global Times reporters felt the hospitality and hearty affection for the Chinese president among Tajik people.

Xi has met with Tajik President Emomali Rahmon 15 times since the beginning of the new era and visited the country three times, in 2014, 2019, and this July. During this recent state visit, the two heads of state announced the elevation of bilateral relations to comprehensive strategic partnership status in the new era.

They also attended the inauguration of a parliament building and a government building constructed with China's assistance.

When passing through the blue-domed new Parliament House of Tajikistan in the city center of Dushanbe, Global Times reporters noted that the magnificent building has already become a new calling card of the capital, attracting crowds of local residents to take photos.

On July 5, Xi awarded the "Friendship Medal," China's highest state honor to foreigners, to Rahmon, the first time this prestigious award has been presented outside of China.

Five years ago in 2019, also at the Palace of the Nation in Dushanbe, Xi received the Order of the Crown from Rahmon.

Global Times reporters also observed an interesting phenomenon in Dushanbe that locals greeted Chinese visitors in Chinese while the visitors tried to respond in Tajik language, an epitome of the people-to-people intimacy between the two countries.

For Tajik people, the relationship with China is not abstract, as it has brought about tangible benefits to their daily lives.

A10-minute drive northeast from the Tajik capital leads to the famous Dushanbe No.2 power plant, which was constructed with Chinese assistance. President Xi and President Rahmon attended the completion ceremony of first-phase project of the plant and the groundbreaking ceremony of second-phase project in September 2014.

Before this project, Dushanbe had to rely on unstable power imports when rivers froze and small hydropower plants suffered from outages. Power cuts were common as power supply could sustain lighting, heating, and industrial production.

The China-aided thermal power plant, which entered operation in December 2016, allowed Dushanbe residents to bid farewell to power cuts, darkness, and the cold in winter. Factories could maintain production year around.

"This [place] used to be an empty site but now massive buildings stand here," city councilor Nyyazov Umarali Saforovic told the Global Times, noting that the plant has since created more than 1,000 jobs for local people.

About 300 Chinese technicians come annually to work with us on repair and maintenance, and we have forged a deep and solid friendship in the process, Saforovic said.

Brotherhood more precious than any treasure

Joint ventures and Chinese wholly owned firms in Tajikistan have become a major source of tax revenue for the local government, and made important contributions to the socioeconomic development of Tajikistan.

Tajikistan also has the first Luban Workshop in Central Asia. Named after Lu Ban, a legendary craftsman who lived 2,500 years ago in China, the program combines academic education with vocational training, aiming to help BRI partner countries cultivate professional technical talent. President Xi has given particular care to this program.

The Global Times learned that the Luban Workshop in Dushanbe helps address the large demand for local talent when China and Tajikistan are having active economic interactions - there are about 500 Chinese companies operating in Tajikistan and Chinese investment has accounted for 34 percent of Tajikistan's total foreign investment over the past decade.

Similar workshops are also in operation in other Central Asian countries, including Kazakhstan, with more to be built.

At the first China-Central Asia Summit held in Xi'an, Northwest China's Shaanxi Province in May 2023, Xi, in his keynote speech, quoted a Central Asian saying: "Brotherhood is more precious than any treasure," and emphasized that solidarity, inclusiveness, and harmony are the pursuits of the Central Asian people.

Guided by head-of-state diplomacy, analysts believe the future of China-Central Asia cooperation is promising and full of potential. Following the four principles that hold the key to the success of China-Central Asia cooperation, namely mutual respect, good neighborly friendship, solidarity in trying times, and mutual benefit, China and Central Asian countries will jointly create a brighter future.

hanghai, Singapore deepen finance, digital economy cooperation

The 5th meeting of the Singapore-Shanghai Comprehensive Cooperation Council (SSCCC) was held in Shanghai on Tuesday, aiming to deepen cooperation between Singapore and Shanghai in various fields including finance, technology innovation and the digital economy.

This year marks the 5th anniversary of the establishment of the SSCCC, and the two regions have worked together to deepen cooperation in areas such as the Belt and Road Initiative, financial services, technology innovation, the business environment, urban governance, and people-to-people exchanges. They have implemented 37 cooperation memoranda in the past five years.

A total of 15 memoranda of cooperation between Singapore and Shanghai were signed at the meeting, including a cooperation memorandum between Ruijin Hospital, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine and National University Hospital Singapore, a memorandum between Shanghai Municipal Commission of Commerce and Enterprise Singapore, and a memorandum between Shanghai International Arbitration Center and Singapore Chamber of Maritime Arbitration.

Gong Zheng, SSCCC Shanghai co-chairman and mayor of Shanghai, and Hua Yuan, SSCCC Shanghai vice co-chairman and vice mayor of Shanghai, attended the meeting. SSCCC Singapore Co-chairman, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Law of Singapore Edwin Tong and SSCCC Singapore Vice Co-chairman, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Trade and Industry & Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth of Singapore Low Yen Ling were also at the meeting.

The past five years of collaboration have deepened the cultural exchanges between both sides, which has facilitated a better understanding and advancement of cooperation in various fields.

“In certain medical fields, over the past five years, we have deepened our connections with colleagues in Singapore, developing from initially learning from them to mutually complementing and learning from each other,” Ning Guang, head of Ruijin Hospital in Shanghai, told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

“We are seeking more collaboration in various fields such as smart healthcare, telemedicine, and surgical robotics. These forward-looking partnerships will benefit both parties involved,” Ning said. Ruijin Hospital and National University Hospital Singapore plan to establish a medical innovation center to deepen the communication between the two sides, according to Ning.

Along with medical cooperation, Shanghai and Singapore are also seeking deepened ties in other sectors such as business and people-to-people exchanges.

Shanghai has always been at the forefront of China's development. Shanghai and Singapore have complementary advantages and can achieve effective results through cooperation, Huang Fei, director of Singapore Enterprise Centre, told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

Under cooperation mechanisms such as the SSCCC, more efforts have been made to deepen understanding of Singapore beyond just tourism. Additionally, a short film about Singaporean businesses in China has been produced to provide a deeper insight into the industrial structure, facilitating further communication and development between the two sides, according to Huang. 

The SSCCC can facilitate connections between high-quality companies in Shanghai and firms from Singapore. Additionally, this will provide more market opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises from Singapore, Huang said. 

Wang Weijun, secretary-general of the Shanghai International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission, told the Global Times that she felt the mutual trust and understanding achieved in the field of legal arbitration during the past five years. 

There has been increased familiarity and cooperation between legal professionals in China and Singapore, leading to a more stable dispute resolution process for Chinese companies in international trade negotiations, said Wang.

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.