China's unique modernization process generates strong appeal worldwide, especially in Global South: GT survey

Editor's Note:

The world has witnessed a turbulent and rapidly evolving situation in 2023. The conflict between Russia and Ukraine is yet to be resolved, and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has suddenly escalated, intensifying instability in the Middle East and affecting the global strategic geopolitical landscape. At the same time, global financial markets have also experienced significant volatility. The wave of bank failures in the US has spread to Europe, triggering a global banking panic. Unprecedented extreme weather events have had the effect of "deadly attacks" on many countries, posing significant risks and challenges to the global economy and food security. Despite these challenges, China has put forth the Global Development Initiative (GDI), the Global Security Initiative (GSI), and the Global Civilization Initiative (GCI), actively contributing Chinese solutions to the world and leaving a deep impression on people in many countries.

According to a survey conducted by the Global Times Institute on the opinions of participants across 20 countries in 16 languages, about 60 percent of respondents from foreign countries believe that China's global influence is rising. As of December 1, 2023, a total of approximately 17,000 valid questionnaires were collected. The Global Times invited several Chinese and foreign experts to analyze the survey results which cover a range of topics including China's role in the world, China-US relations, and risks facing the world, among others. Experts said that they believe that China's achievements in its unique modernization process have generated strong appeal and attraction worldwide, especially in Global South countries. This is the first installment of the survey.

Wide praise to Chinese modernization

With the continuous enhancement of China's economic strength and the improvement of its international status, more and more countries and regions are beginning to pay attention to China's policies and actions.

How China is perceived and understood by people from different countries and regions is also developing in a more objective and positive way. Many foreign media outlets have praised Chinese modernization, stating that it has broadened the global path of modernization and provided fresh options for developing countries. In terms of the economy, many international institutions have high expectations for China's economic growth, giving a vote of confidence to the Chinese economy. Experts from various countries also expect China to play a key role in the global economic recovery. In 2023, China has mediated and facilitated reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Iran, promoting a new trend of peaceful development in the Middle East and the injection of stability and positive energy into a turbulent international situation.

From November 7 to December 1, 2023, the Global Times Institute conducted a survey using a commercially available online sample library to invite respondents to participate. The survey was conducted in 16 languages including Chinese, English, Spanish, German, Arabic, and French, and targeted residents aged 18 and above in 20 countries including China, South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Russia, Italy, Germany, France, the UK, the US, Australia, South Africa, Egypt, Kenya, Brazil, and Argentina. A total of approximately 17,000 valid questionnaires were collected.

Since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the country has developed into the second-largest economy in the word.

Among the 19 countries surveyed, excluding China, three-quarters of the respondents believe that China's development path is successful. Among them, over 30 percent believe it is "totally successful," while 45 percent consider it to be "fairly successful." Looking at individual countries, over 80 percent of respondents in Kenya, Indonesia, South Africa, and Egypt believe that China's development path is successful (including "totally successful" and "fairly successful"). In 10 countries including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, India, this proportion exceeds 70 percent. In four countries including Italy and Germany, it also exceeds 60 percent.

Wang Yiwei, a professor at the School of International Relations at Renmin University of China, told the Global Times that the majority of respondents from various countries acknowledging China's development path is based on objective facts. Over the last 40 years of reform and opening-up, hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty, and China's achievements are evident.

At the same time, due to more and more cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), people in many countries have also experienced the positive effects of the Chinese model and China's people-centered development path. The Western approach has not addressed the infrastructure and development gaps in many non-Western countries, as well as the fundamental issue of connectivity, nor has it helped these countries achieve industrialization. Instead, it blindly promotes American-style democracy. In comparison, China cooperates with other countries to solve their problems practically.

Regarding the question of how respondents perceive the "Chinese path to modernization," which is different from the Western model of modernization, average data from 19 countries (excluding China) shows that 85 percent of respondents have heard of the Chinese path to modernization and two-thirds gave positive evaluations. Over 30 percent agreed that this is "an innovative practice for the development of human society and an important reference for other countries" and over 30 percent believed that this "may be a new great endeavor, but needs more and long-term practice to testify."

Looking at individual countries, the proportion of respondents with a positive attitude toward China's development path in Indonesia, Kenya, and South Africa was around 80 percent; in Brazil, Argentina, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, it exceeds 70 percent; and in seven countries such as, the US, the UK, Italy, and Russia, it exceeds 60 percent.

Wang Youming, director of the Institute of Developing Countries at the China Institute of International Studies in Beijing, told the Global Times that the achievements of Chinese modernization have had a strong impact worldwide, especially among Global South countries.

The Western model of modernization was once popular, and modernization was even equated with Westernization, creating a fixed mindset. However, China's successful modernization path has broken this pattern and generated strong appeal. China's modernization does not follow the path of Western expansion and colonial plunder, but rather the path of peaceful development as a strong nation. Besides, in just a few decades, China has successfully eradicated absolute poverty for hundreds of millions of people, which is extremely rare in the history of world economic development and human social development. Last but not the least, while the West has always struggled to balance the relationship between governance and the market during the modernization process, China's modernization combines a capable government with an effective market, which is also a breakthrough in economic theory, according to Wang Youming.

Strong recognition in China's global role

In a question related to China's global influence, average data from 19 countries (excluding China) showed that about 60 percent of foreign respondents believe that China's global influence is on the rise.

Wang Youming pointed out that the assessment of global influence takes into account comprehensive factors. Among them is the support of the economic foundation, as a country cannot have influence if it is poor and backward. As the world's second-largest economy, China has strong economic support, and its series of diplomatic initiatives and concepts have gained support from many countries. At the same time, China's Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative and the Global Civilization Initiative proposed in terms of development concepts and security perspectives have also won wide support.

Zhu Feng, director of the Institute of International Studies at Nanjing University, told the Global Times that global influence in international affairs mainly includes three aspects: Contribution to global economic development, presence in major international security and peace issues, and a role in the evolution and adjustment of the international order.

He noted that China's presence and participation in major global issues has continuously increased, and its influence has been growing. China has, for example, been advocating for peace and dialogue in the Ukraine crisis and has pushed for the adoption of resolutions by the UN Security Council on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In terms of global climate issues, China is also at the forefront of the green energy transformation.

Zhu stressed that despite the staggering global economic recovery, escalating geopolitical conflicts, and increasing pressure from the US and the West, China's peaceful development, contributions to the regional and global stability, as well as its provision of Chinese solutions and wisdom, are recognized by the international community.

In 12 particular countries, including the UK, France, and Russia, more than 60 percent of respondents believe that China's global influence is rising. More than 70 percent of respondents in Kenya and South Africa believe it is increasing. In five countries, including Germany and the US, more than half of the respondents believe that China's global influence is on the rise.

Koffi M Kouakou, an Africa Analyst and Senior Research Fellow at The Centre for Africa-China Studies at the University of Johannesburg, believes that both China's hard power and soft power are growing year-on-year, and the country's image is also improving. More and more Africans are able to see through the West's unfounded reports against China.

He believes that China has always been committed to promoting world peace and development, insisting on maintaining fairness and justice, and playing an important role on the international stage, with the resumption of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran being a powerful example.

Moreover, many projects built by China in African countries have taken off, helping Africa to effectively solve economic and social development problems. Whether in South Africa, Kenya, or other African countries, China's help is evident to all, Kouakou noted. Nowadays, more and more Africans across the continent believe that China can inject strong confidence into national and social development.

More dimensions of impression

When asked how do they hope their countries' relationship with China would change in the future, the average of 19 countries (excluding China) shows that nearly 60 percent of respondents hope for closer and friendlier relations with China, with more than 20 percent hoping for "very close and friendly" relations, and more than 30 percent hoping for "relatively close and friendly" relations.

In seven countries, including Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and Russia, nearly 70 percent of respondents hope to develop better bilateral relations with China; in the UK, France, the US, and Australia, nearly half chose the same; nearly half of the respondents in Japan hope the relationship between the two countries remains "unchanged"; in South Korea, the proportions of those hoping to maintain the status quo and those hoping for friendlier relations are quite even at around 40 percent, while nearly half of the respondents in India hope for closer and friendlier relations between China and India.

Zhu noted that the attitude of respondents from Japan and South Korea reflects the deepening of a series of contentious topics between China and these two East Asian neighbors in economic, social, political, and diplomatic fields. But China, Japan, and South Korea are immovable neighbors in East Asia, and from both a historical standpoint and economic and social perspectives, we have strong connections.

Their attitude is a timely reminder, that is, how China's policies toward South Korea and Japan can be more effective, more pragmatic, and more heartfelt. This is also a key point for new strategic thinking and planning for China, Zhu noted.
Data shows that for 19 countries (excluding China), the highest rates of support among respondents are for Chinese citizens traveling to their countries, technological exchanges and cooperation, and youth exchanges between China and countries around the world, all exceeding 60 percent; followed by health and environment, commercial and trade interactions, and infrastructure construction, all receiving more than half of the support rate.

In Kenya, South Africa, Egypt, Argentina, Brazil, and Turkey, more than 70 percent of respondents support Chinese citizens' travel to their countries; in many European countries and Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Australia and others, the same enjoys a support rate that also exceeds 60 percent.

In terms of conducting scientific and technological exchanges and cooperation, except for Japan and South Korea, nearly or more than half of the respondents in the 17 other countries are in support, with Kenya and South Africa registering the highest rates, followed closely by Turkey, Egypt, and Indonesia; the US, Germany, the UK, Italy, and other European and American countries also have support rates close to or exceeding 50 percent.

AL-Ismail, a researcher at the Tahrir Studies Center in Cairo, told the Global Times that in the three African countries of Kenya, South Africa, and Egypt, more than 70 percent of the people support Chinese citizens traveling to their locales, promoting student and youth exchanges, and carrying out scientific and technological exchanges and cooperation, the highest proportion in each region. These are the heartfelt words of the African people. "Cultural exchanges play a vitally important role in consolidating public opinion foundation of the two countries' political and diplomatic relations, deepening feelings and friendships between the peoples of the two countries."

Kouakou indicates that as South Africa and China are both BRICS members, he believes the relationship between South Africa and China will become even closer. Today, the Renminbi has become the world's fourth most active currency. He expressed optimism at closer cooperation between Africa and China in the financial and economic trade fields, especially with the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area, hoping that China will provide more support to Africa in financial and the technological fields.

In Zhu's view, science and education are important pillars of social development toward stability and strength, which also reflects that the respondents' impressions of China are not one-sided, but more three-dimensional and comprehensive.

Wang Youming stated that as globalization enters a new stage, the content of interactions and exchanges, as well as the actors involved, are gradually becoming more youth-oriented, with high-end technologies such as the digital economy, green low-carbon, intelligent manufacturing, and aerospace among others becoming key topics. The survey data shows that the trend is consistent with the development trend of the times.

Have the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks reached a 'dead end?'

Editor's Note:

In the book Life and Death in the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, journalist Ma Xiaolin recorded a question raised by a Palestinian man during a protest on May 4, 1999: "The May 4 has arrived, but where is our country? Tell me, where is Palestine?" According to the Oslo Accords signed between the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Israel, this date was meant to herald the end of a five-year transitional autonomy period and the achievement of Palestinian independence. However, this dream has remained elusive. The negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis have long been at a standstill, resulting in a deadlocked peace process. Why is it so difficult for both sides to make concessions? How have internal conflicts and competition hindered the peace talks?

Failure of Oslo Accords

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was established in 1964. The most powerful and influential faction within the PLO has been the Palestinian National Liberation Movement (Fatah). The PLO's founding aim was to liberate the entire Palestine amid a struggle with Israel, but due to changing regional and international circumstances, as well as consecutive defeats in the first four Middle East wars, the organization gradually abandoned this goal and, instead, sought a political solution to the Palestinian issue. In 1974, it was recognized as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people at the Arab League Summit.

In November 1988, the PLO issued the "Declaration of Independence," announcing the formal establishment of the State of Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital. However, at the same time, they also recognized several resolutions, including the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan, indirectly acknowledging Israel's right to exist and accepting the two-state solution to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

However, in December 1987, an Israeli truck driver entered the Gaza Strip and caused the deaths of four Palestinians. This incident sparked the first mass Palestinian uprising and led to the formation of armed organizations such as Hamas and the Islamic Jihad.

Under the mediation of the international community, the PLO and the Israeli government signed the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements, also known as the Oslo Accords, in 1993. They later signed several agreements including the Gaza-Jericho Agreement. The "Oslo model," therefore, gradually emerged as a way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The PLO recognized Israel's right to exist, and Israel recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people. Both sides embarked on the Oslo peace process, with the core "land for peace" principle.

The signing of the Oslo Accords sparked a wave of optimism in Israel and the Middle East, leading to a thawing of relations between Israel and some Arab countries, achieving some initial progress in the pursuit of peace. The Palestinian Authority was established in 1994 as an interim government, implementing phased limited autonomy in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The Israel Defense Forces also withdrew from most of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The then Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat, former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, and former Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for their efforts.

However, many Palestinians were dissatisfied with the Oslo Accords as they believed that the agreement did not grant them statehood, but rather provided for a phased autonomy for a vague Palestinian entity. The right-wing in Israel was also opposed to the establishment of a Palestinian state. In order to obstruct the peace process, a Jewish extremist massacred 29 Palestinians in Hebron in 1994.

On November 4, 1995, the then Israeli prime minister and leader of the left-wing Labor Party, Yitzhak Rabin, was assassinated by a fanatic Israeli Jew. Some analysts argue that Rabin was the only figure with enough influence to rally public support for the peace process. However, others pointed out that although the Israeli left-wing agreed to the establishment of a Palestinian state, their vision of a Palestinian nation was one far from being a fully sovereign state and was largely focused on civil governance.

The timetable for the final status negotiations between Palestine and Israel was already outlined in the Oslo Accords, but it was not until September 1999 that the negotiations officially began. Due to the complex nature of the issues involved, such as national, sovereignty, security, economic, and religious disputes, it was difficult for either party to make concessions.

Additionally, the negotiations faced obstacles from extremist forces and frequent changes in the political landscape. In July 2000, the Camp David Summit between Palestine and Israel ended in failure. Just two months later, amid heightened tensions in Israeli-Palestinian relations, Ariel Sharon the leader of Israel's right-wing Likud party, made a forceful visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, leading to a large-scale armed conflict and the Palestinian people launching a second uprising.

Since then, peace talks have repeatedly resumed and stalled, rendering the Oslo Peace Process virtually defunct. The international community has proposed solutions such as the "Arab Peace Initiative" and the "Roadmap for Peace in the Middle East," but none have successfully been implemented.

Refugees after building separation barrier

Jerusalem, a holy city in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, has had a tumultuous history. Due to its unique status, the United Nations (UN) once designated Jerusalem as a separate entity under a special international regime administered by the UN. In the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948, Jerusalem was divided, with East Jerusalem, including the Old City, coming under the control of Transjordan (now Jordan), and West Jerusalem under Israeli control. However, after the third Arab-Israeli war in 1967, East Jerusalem also came under Israeli control.

By then, Israel had gained a strategic advantage over the Arab camp, and the influence of the "Greater Israel" ideology was gradually expanding. There were also significant differences between Israelis and Palestinians regarding the status of Jerusalem. In 1980, Israel declared Jerusalem as its eternal and indivisible capital, but this declaration was rejected by a United Nations Security Council resolution that same year. Currently, most countries have their embassies in Tel Aviv rather than Jerusalem. To ensure control of East Jerusalem, Israel implemented a policy of "de-Arabization" in the region, continuously eradicating Arab elements and restricting the residency rights of Arab residents. Additionally, Israel began promoting the establishment of Jewish settlements and the construction of a separation wall in the area to reinforce its Jewish character.

Land is a key point of contention between Palestine and Israel, and the expansion of Jewish settlements is a major method used by Israel to occupy land, divide Palestinian territory, control water resources, and expand defense depth. Jewish settlements are closed military zones. Palestinians are not allowed to enter without special permission. There is a modern road network connecting various Jewish settlements and cities in Israel. These roads generally bypass Palestinian villages, and are often restricted to Palestinians, thus dividing the Palestinian-controlled areas into isolated islands. The two largest of these areas are the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

While occupying land, Israel has also implemented a security barrier plan. The barrier, approximately 8 meters high and 700 kilometers long, consists of fences, ditches, barbed wire, electronic surveillance systems, and patrol roads. The separation wall was originally earmarked for construction along the 1967 armistice line (the "Green Line") to separate Palestinian areas from Israel. However, the actual construction of the separation wall extends into Palestinian territory, sectioning off 9.4 percent of the West Bank for the Israeli side, and nearly 25,000 Palestinians are forced to live in a closed area between the "Green Line" and the separation wall.

During the 1996 elections, due to concerns over "Palestinian extremists conducting terrorist attacks" and disappointment with the peace process advocated by the Labor Party government, the Israeli people voted for the Likud, which pursued a hardline policy. During Likud's tenure, the trend of advocating for the annexation of the West Bank and opposing Palestinian statehood increasingly became a political practice in Israel. Since his return to power in 2009, Benjamin Netanyahu has taken a tougher stance on the Palestinian issue. In February 2017, the Israeli parliament passed a controversial bill legalizing all unauthorized Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

At the same time, the Palestinian refugee issue presented another challenge in the final status negotiations between Israel and Palestine. After the first Arab-Israeli war, a large number of Palestinian Arabs were displaced and became refugees. The initial generation of Palestinian refugees dates back many years and, and many of the original refugees are now in their fifth generation. By 2016, the number of registered Palestinian refugees with the UN had reached 5.9 million. The Palestinian side believes that Israel should bear the primary responsibility for the refugee issue and advocates for the right of all refugees to return to Palestine. However, Israel denies this claim and, in order to maintain the Jewish character of the state, does not recognize the right of Palestinian refugees to return and instead advocates for their local resettlement. Israel also controls the borders of Palestine and even prohibits refugees from entering the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and does not issue them entry visas.

Numerous internal contradictions within Palestine

In addition to the major differences between Palestine and Israel on issues such as the status of Jerusalem, Jewish settlements, border delineation, and Palestinian refugees, there is also a fierce power struggle within the Palestinian territories between secularism represented by the Palestinian Authority and Islamic fundamentalism represented by Hamas. Some analysts believe that the Palestinian national movement is constrained by internal conflicts and is unable to effectively respond to Israel.

Due to the declining influence of the Palestinian Authority, Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian Legislative Council elections and gained the power to form an autonomous government. Hamas' position on key issues such as the nature of the Palestinian state, its attitude toward Israel, and internal power distribution are in stark contrast to those of the Palestinian Authority.

The Palestinian Authority is committed to establishing a secular, democratic, and pluralistic modern nation-state, while Hamas aims to establish an Islamic state. The Palestinian Authority recognizes Israel and advocates for the establishment of an independent state through negotiations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. On the other hand, Hamas refuses to recognize the legitimacy of any Jewish state, opposes negotiations, and insists on using armed struggle to eliminate Israel and establish a state on historic Palestinian land from the Mediterranean Sea to the West Bank of the Jordan River.

The rise of Hamas has changed the political landscape of Palestine. In 2007, a large-scale armed conflict erupted between Hamas and Fatah in the Gaza Strip, resulting in Hamas seizing control of the territory. This division led to Palestine being split into two parts, with Fatah ruling the West Bank of the Jordan River and Hamas controlling the Gaza Strip. Hamas insists that "resistance and holy war" are the only way for Palestine to achieve liberation and independence. They have employed tactics such as tunnel digging to infiltrate Israel and launch attacks on civilians, as well as repeatedly firing rockets into Israeli territory. These acts of violence against civilians have become a serious obstacle to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and have led the US, the UK, and other countries' designation of Hamas as a terrorist organization.

In response to the extremist violent acts by Hamas and others, Israel has retaliated with military strikes, severely damaging the local socio-economic conditions and caused a severe humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, essentially turning it into "the largest open-air prison in the world." In addition to the discord between Fatah and Hamas, internal conflicts within the Palestinian Authority are also important factors affecting the unity of the Palestinian people. The stagnation of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, the deterioration of the economic and social living standards, and issues of corruption have undermined the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority and the authority of the older generation of leaders.

Analysts point out that the Second Intifada, which began in September 2000 as a major Palestinian uprising in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories and Israel, indicates that the younger generation of leaders within the Palestinian Authority has started to challenge the older generation of leaders, intensifying power struggles over succession. This infighting weakens the secular nationalist camp, limits the ability of Palestinian leaders to control the situation and negotiate with Israel, and creates conditions for the rise of radical Islamic forces.

Exclusive: Ex-chief of China’s statistics bureau says he has confidence in achieving 5% GDP growth target in 2024

Ning Jizhe, a member of the standing committee of the 14th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and the former chief of the National Bureau of Statistics, expressed his confidence in China achieving the GDP growth target of about 5 percent this year, while dismissing hype about the Chinese economy entering a recession.

Ning, who is also the deputy director of the Economic Affairs Committee of the CPPCC National Committee, made the remarks in an exclusive interview with the Global Times on Wednesday.

China has set its 2024 GDP growth target at about 5 percent, according to the Government Work Report submitted on Tuesday to the national legislature for deliberation.

Setting a goal of achieving around 5 percent GDP growth requires a proactive approach as it will involve hard work, overcoming obstacles and challenges. However, with determination and perseverance, this goal can be successfully achieved, Ning said.

Ning said that his confidence comes from China's huge market, complete industrial system and push for technological innovation. The unstoppable trend of globalization and the new wave of technological revolution also offer favorable conditions for China's development.

Ning noted that an economic growth target of around 5 percent effectively refutes negative narratives about the Chinese economy.

The "China economic recession" theory has been circulating for decades and it resurfaces whenever China faces key development challenges. However, facts have proven that every time, China has overcome difficulties through reform, opening-up and transformation, Ning said.

Ning highlighted China's resilience in the face of past economic challenges, such as the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s and the global financial crisis in 2008, and he expressed optimism in China's ability to navigate challenges.

"Despite the challenges, China is currently in a phase of transitioning growth drivers, changing development modes and optimizing its economic structure. I am confident that we can achieve a GDP growth target of about 5 percent this year," Ning said.

He also dismissed claims that China's economy has peaked. "This is not only an unscientific judgment, but also a malicious attempt to discredit China. Among those who hold this view, some are ignorant of the situation," Ning said.

Ning emphasized that although China's per capita GDP reached about $12,700 in 2023, it is still the world's largest developing country, with significant room for development and potential for further growth.

The GDP growth target of about 5 percent was set based on scientific reasoning and aligns with the long-term development goals laid out in the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25). This is a target that can be achieved through utmost endeavor, Zheng Shanjie, head of the National Development and Reform Commission, China's top economic planner, said at a press conference on Wednesday.

The favorable conditions for China's economic development this year are stronger than the unfavorable factors, and China's economic rebound will be further consolidated and strengthened, Zheng said.

Zheng noted that China will expand macro regulation this year. Incremental policies such as large-scale equipment upgrades, trade-ins for consumer goods, and the issuance of ultra-long special-purpose treasury bonds will be implemented to support economic stability.

Positive momentum in the economy emerged in the first two months of this year, with indicators such as electricity consumption and consumer spending showing strong growth, paving the way for growth in the first quarter.

Industrial electricity usage expanded by 9.7 percent in the first two months of 2024, while the number of domestic tourist trips during the Spring Festival holidays shot up by 34.3 percent year-on-year, with a gain of 19 percent from 2019.

It's believed that imports and exports in January and February continued the growth trend that began in October last year, officials said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boosting confidence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BYD overtakes Tesla in quarterly EV sales, reflecting China’s rapid industrial upgrade

Chinese electric vehicle (EV) producer BYD Co overtook US-based Tesla Inc to become the world's biggest EV maker in the fourth quarter of 2023 for the first time, according to latest data from the companies. This had added another milestone to a historical year for China's auto industry as it's poised to propel China to become the world's biggest auto exporter. 

BYD's success, which also include an impressive growth rate throughout 2023 that outpaced Tesla and other EV makers, is a microcosm of the achievement in China's upgrade of its vast manufacturing industry, export sector and the domestic market - all crucial to China's high-quality development, experts said. 

On Tuesday US time, Tesla said that it delivered 484,500 EVs in the final quarter of 2023, which also marked a new record for the company. However, that means BYD, which said on Monday that it had sold about 526,400 EVs during the same period, overtook Tesla to become the world's biggest EV maker in the fourth quarter of the year for the first time.

For the whole year of 2023, Tesla retained its spot as the biggest EV maker, as it delivered a total of 1.8 million EVs, larger than BYD's total sales of about 1.57 million units. Still, BYD's recorded a year-on-year sales growth rate of 73 percent for 2023, far outpacing Tesla's sales growth of 38 percent. Such sales growth rate has also led many to speculate that BYD will surpass Tesla to become the world's biggest EV maker in 2024. 

This is also significant considering that BYD's market capitalization, at 573.17 billion yuan ($80.21 billion) as of Wednesday, represents only a fraction of Tesla's $778.42 billion. Over the past six months, BYD's shares dropped by 28.85 percent, while Tesla's shares fell by 11.22 percent. 

Despite such a huge gap in the financial market, analysts expect that BYD is well positioned to maintain its lead in EV sales in 2024 over Tesla. 

Hu Qimu, a deputy secretary-general of the digital-real economies integration Forum 50, said BYD's success is due to a slew of factors, including its own technological innovation, major policy support for industrial upgrading, a complete and stable domestic supply chain - which all helped BYD to make high-quality but affordable EVs. 

"Given all these factors, it is no wonder that BYD surpasses Tesla," Hu told the Global Times on Wednesday.  

In a statement it sent to the Global Times, BYD noted that it has grown to be the world's biggest EV company, and since its passenger car export strategy in May 2021, it has exported to 58 countries and regions around the world.

"Going forward, BYD will continue to promote the overseas expansion of passenger cars and continue to accelerate the global expansion of new-energy passenger cars," the company said. 

BYD's milestone also came as China's whole EV sector saw a bumper year in 2023. According to the latest data from the China Association of Automobile Manufactures, in the first 11 months of 2023, China's exports of new-energy vehicles jumped 83.5 percent year-on-year to 1.09 million units. Thanks to such rapid growth, China's total auto exports reached 4.41 units, up 58 percent year-on-year and outnumbering Japan's 3.99 million units during the same period. 

This also represents a landmark event for China's auto industry as it becomes the world's biggest auto exporter after surpassing Japan in 2023 and Germany in 2022 - two countries that had been dominating the world's auto market for decades. 

Industrial upgrading

The success of BYD as well as the whole Chinese EV sector directly reflect solid progress China has made in relentlessly pushing for industrial upgrade and high-quality development, experts said.

Cui Dongshu, secretary general of China Passenger Car Association, said BYD and other Chinese EV makers have benefited greatly from China's vast domestic market as well as the country's efforts to boost industrial transformation and upgrade. 

"The biggest factor behind Chinese EV's success is the technological transformation. In addition, the Chinese market also offered a huge advantage for them to grow," Cui told the Global Times on Wednesday, noting that China's auto industry, especially the EV sector, has seen relatively better growth than other countries around the world thanks to China's policy supports. 

For its success, BYD also pointed to various policies, including China's continued reform and opening-up, support for private businesses and the building of a new development model. 

"Looking back, we feel more and more strongly that it was the reform and opening-up that gave birth to BYD, and it was the new development concept that created huge opportunities that strengthened BYD," the company said in the statement.

Policy support for the EV sector is just part of China's broader effort to transform and upgrade its industrial system, which has become a top priority in the pursuit of high-quality development. The Central Economic Work Conference held in December, which set priorities for economic work for 2024, listed the development of a modern industrial system led by innovation as a top priority.

Hu said that China's industrial transformation and upgrade has made great strides. "Through industrial transformation and upgrade, our international competitiveness is also strengthening and in terms of the macroeconomic situation, all three main drivers have been revitalized," he said. 

One example of industrial upgrade revitalizing China's main economic drivers is the exports of EVs. Lithium batteries and solar panels became a highlight of China's exports in 2023, and they have been described as "the new three items" of China's exports sector, a drastic shift from the previous "three items" of China's exports - clothes, furniture and electronics. 

In the first three quarters of 2023, total exports of "the three new items" jumped by 41.7 percent year-on-year, compared to a mere 0.6 percent in China's total exports during the period due to weak external demand. 

SW China’s Sichuan man under criminal detention for killing and eating national first-class protected black-necked crane

Police in Meigu county in Liangshan, Sichuan, recently received a report from the School of Ecology and Nature Conservation, Beijing Forestry University, which said that a black-necked crane with a tracker for scientific research had remained in a static status for an extended period. The institute asked for an investigation into the condition of the migratory bird. 

The police immediately formed a task force to investigate into the incident in the outskirts of a sparsely populated hamlet. 

After extensive investigations and visits, the police finally tracked down the suspect surnamed Jike. 

Jike confessed under interrogation that he illegally captured and killed the rare species of the endangered wildlife animal black-necked crane. 

According to Jike, he happened to see the big bird resting on the river bank on his way home and the idea of catching and eating the bid just occurred to him. A thought that he soon followed up on.  

According to the judicial appraisal results by a forestry judicial appraisal center in Sichuan, the bird killed by the suspect was a black-necked crane, which is one of China’s national first-class key protected animals. The tracking device tied to the bird’s foot and the serial number show that the black-necked crane was exactly the one that was used for ecological study of migration of the crane by the college institute. 

Jike has been placed under criminal detention by the police for the suspicion of the crime of endangering precious and endangered wildlife animal. The case is currently under further investigation. 

According to media reports, the black-necked crane is the only species of crane endemic to China and is among the 15 crane species that currently exist in the world. It is also the only crane species in the world that grows and breeds on plateaus, earning it the titles of “plateau fairy” and “plateau divine bird.”

China’s top legislature passed regulation on February 24, 2020 to strictly ban the illegal wildlife trade and eliminate bad habits of eating wild animals in China to safeguard people’s health and livelihoods. 

According to China’s Criminal Law, anyone who illegally captures, kills, transports, purchases or sells national protected, precious, endangered wildlife and their products, shall be sentenced to imprisonment for up to five years or faced with criminal detention, along with a fine. 

In cases of serious circumstances, the punishment may be extended to 5-10 years of imprisonment, along with a fine. In particularly severe cases, the sentence may be more than 10 years of imprisonment, along with a fine or confiscation of property and assets. 

Beijing subway carriages’ separation caused by rear-end collision due to snowy weather: transportation authority

Preliminary investigation shows the separation of carriages accident along the Changping Line of Beijing subway on Thursday evening was due to the snowy weather, which affected the train's braking system, resulting in a rear-end collision with the front train, Beijing transportation authorities said on Friday.

Around 11:00 pm on Thursday, the personnel transfer was completed, and the on-site disposal work basically finished. A total of 515 people were sent to the hospital for examination, and 102 people were found to have suffered fractures, with no fatalities, the authorities said on Friday.

According to the authorities' announcement, the accident occurred as a result of the slippery tracks caused by the snowy weather. The preceding train had to make an emergency brake to stop. Unfortunately, the following train was situated in a downhill section, making it difficult to effectively brake due to the snowy conditions.

Beijing transportation authority apologized for the inconvenience, fright, and injuries caused to the passengers in this accident, and vowed to do a good job in carrying out post-accident work and conduct a comprehensive investigation to improve extreme weather operation and emergency response to ensure the safety of operations.

It was at 6:57 pm on Thursday, when a rear-end collision occurred in the section between Xi’erqi to Life Science Park stations of the Changping Line. The municipal government officials immediately went to the scene and set up a working group for on-site accident disposal. The relevant departments including transportation, firefighting, health, public security and emergency response responded quickly and made efforts for rescue, according to the authorities.

As of 6 am on Friday, 423 people have been discharged from hospital, 25 people are under observation, and 67 people are receiving hospital treatment, the authorities said.

On Friday, Beijing Subway apologized again over the incident, while putting in place measures to reduce inconvenience for passengers.

Currently, the Beijing municipal government has established an investigation team for the Changping Line accident, which will further investigate the cause of the accident, evaluate the emergency response, and learn lessons from the accident, effectively carrying out rectification measures.

China allocates 200 million yuan in disaster relief funds after earthquake in northwest China's Gansu

The Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Emergency Management on Tuesday have urgently allocated 200 million yuan ($28 million) in disaster relief funds to northwest China’s Gansu and Qinghai provinces. This funding will support local earthquake relief efforts and ensure the safety of people's lives and property, minimizing the impact and losses caused by the disaster, China Media Group (CMG) reported.

China is stepping up rescue and relief efforts to ensure the safety of people's lives and property after a 6.2-magnitude earthquake shook Jishishan County in northwest China's Gansu Province at midnight Monday.

The State Council has sent a working group to the stricken regions to help guide relief work. Gansu and Qinghai provinces have organized relief support with immediate allocation of relief supplies such as camps and folding beds to impacted areas.

Relief supplies were immediately redeployed from nearby areas, with supplies gradually arriving to impacted communities, China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) told a press conference on Tuesday.

The NDRC has activated emergency response mechanism to ensure energy, electricity, and essential supplies. Efforts are being made to repair damaged power facilities and provide emergency power supply. Food and material reserves are being allocated for disaster relief, a spokesperson from the NDRC said.

The first shipment of 46,100 emergency relief supplies from central and provincial level have been dispatched to the disaster-stricken areas, including cotton tents, quilts, mattresses, folding beds, cotton shoes, and stoves, according to Gansu provincial grain and material reserve bureau. The bureau has also obtained 15 tons of flour for emergency supply in Jishishan.

The State Council's earthquake relief headquarters and the Ministry of Emergency Management have upgraded the national earthquake emergency response to Level II.

At present, the earthquake has led 105 deaths in Gansu and 11 deaths in Qinghai, with damaging basic infrastructure such as water, electricity, transportation, and communications, Xinhua News Agency reported.

Rescue and relief efforts are progressing in an orderly manner, including hazard inspections, evacuation and resettlement of residents, and repair of damaged facilities, China Media Group reported.