GT investigates: How the Philippines colludes with US government, think tank and media in 'sadfishing' itself, demonizing China on South China Sea issue

The Philippines has been making a show of the South China Sea issue for a long time. It has repeatedly provoked China and created tension in the South China Sea region while turning a blind eye to historical facts. Seemingly suffering from a sort of histrionic personality disorder, the Philippines has not only staged many farces on the issue, but also colluded with anti-China forces in the US-led West to play the thief crying "stop thief."

Last week, during his visit in the Philippines, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reportedly "criticized China's provocative actions" in the South China Sea. Portraying the Philippines as a victim and China as a "perpetrator" has become a common intrigue to win attention and sympathy in the international community.

Supplying to its vessels illegally grounded on China's sovereign islands in the South China Sea is a trick of showmanship that the Philippines has employed in recent months. On Saturday, it sent a supply vessel and two coast guard vessels to intrude into the adjacent waters of China's Ren'ai Jiao (also known as Ren'ai Reef) in disregard of China's strong opposition.

"China's Coast Guard took necessary measures at sea in accordance with the law to safeguard China's rights, firmly obstructed the Philippine vessels, and foiled the Philippines' attempt," Chinese Foreign Ministry stated that same day.

Days earlier, Philippine civil group the Atin Ito coalition said it was planning another mission to the South China Sea with the aim of "delivering aid to fishermen" around China's Huangyan Dao (also known as Huangyan Island). According to Philippine media, the group openly claimed to mobilize "a delegation of international observers" to join their mission. It didn't seem to mind making the involvement of Western forces public.

"What it's like on board an outnumbered Philippine ship facing down China's push to dominate the South China Sea (CNN, March 26)," "China coast guard flexes its might against the Philippines in disputed waters as journalists look on (The Economic Times, March 27)"… It's not exaggeration to say that most media stories that smear China on the South China Sea issue, whether by Philippine or Western media, are products of the collusion between the anti-China forces of the Philippines and the US-led West.

The Global Times has looked into some of the various collusion forms, trying to reveal what's behind the current numerous untrue and misleading "media reports" that one-sidedly support the Philippines and attack China.
Closely linked Philippine coast guard, 'civil groups,' and US scholars

The Atin Ito coalition disclosed its new "supply mission" plan at an event it held in Manila on March 14. The event gathered senior officers from the Philippine military and government, and representatives from the British, Australian, Dutch, Swedish, and European Union embassies, local media Palawan News reported the following day.

The guest list implied that Atin Ito has never been an ordinary "civil group." Close sources told the Global Times that the group was led by Risa Hontiveros, an anti-China senator who once asserted raising the notorious 2016 South China Sea "arbitration" to the United Nations General Assembly. Last winter, Hontiveros planned a "Christmas supply" mission for Atin Ito, asking the group members to send food and goods to a military vessel "stationed" at Ren'ai Jiao with the help of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

Atin Ito had tried to land on Huangyan Dao and plant the Philippines flag on the island in June 2016. According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, a US scholar Anders Corr was among the group's activists aboard the fishing boat that intruded into the adjacent waters of the island.

All the information has reflected that the so-called "civil groups" resupplying Huangyan Dao and Ren'ai Jiao are "nothing but a farce jointly planned by a few Philippine politicians and military, as well as the anti-China forces in the US-led West," Yang Xiao, deputy director of the Institute of Maritime Strategy Studies, China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times.

In an article published on March 6, The Associated Press (AP) introduced a PCG strategy of publicizing "aggressive actions" by China in the South China Sea, which aims to "spark international condemnation that has put Beijing under the spotlight." This strategy is known as "offensive transparency."

"We will continue [with the strategy]," PCG spokesperson Commodore Jay Tarriela said in February.

Joining the PCG in 2005, Tarriela allegedly has numerous links with the US. In 2021, he was largely involved in bilateral US-Philippine collaboration, including in the Pacific Forum's US-Philippines' Next Generation Leaders Initiative, a project sponsored by the US Department of State, through the US Embassy in Manila.

According to an article by The Philippine Star in December 2023, Tarriela was considered a representative of the "pro-American faction," and even faced "CIA agent" accusations on social media.

Raymond Powell is another name frequently mentioned in the Philippines' "offensive transparency" strategy.

A retired US colonel, Powell is the founder of the security think tank Project Sealight, and leads the "Project Myoushu" at Stanford University in cooperation with the PCG and some Philippine Foreign Ministry officials.

The main purpose of the project is to support the "offensive transparency" strategy and help create a "victim" image for the Philippines on the South China Sea issue.
US journalists invited on board

On March 5, two supply vessels and two coast guard vessels from the Philippines, illegally intruded into the adjacent waters of Ren'ai Jiao of China's Nansha Qundao, in an attempt to send materials, including construction materials, to the vessel illegally grounded at Ren'ai Jiao. The China Coast Guard took strict regulatory action to curtail the Philippine vessels' intrusion.

It is worth noting that the Philippines' mission included journalists from CNN, who said they witnessed a "high-stakes confrontation" that day, and wrote features that described their experiences on board in detail.

The CNN reporters wrote it was "the first time foreign journalists have been allowed to embed with the fleet in decades." But in fact, more than 10 years ago, US media reporters had boarded Philippine official vessels, including supply vessels, and wrote distorted media reports based on their first-hand experiences.

Early in 2013, The New York Times reporter Jeff Himmelman had been to the "Sierra Madre" vessel illegally grounded at Ren'ai Jiao for an interview, and later described the confrontation between China and the Philippines at South China Sea as "a game of shark and minnow" in a feature story.

Himmelman revealed that before they arrived they had "already hooked things up" with the local officials and the Filipino Navy.

In recent years, US journalists have been frequently invited on Philippine ships to participate in the PCG's "missions." In 2023 alone, two AP reporters and several other media staffers were invited aboard three PCG vessels that protect supply ships in November. In April 2023 the PCG reportedly invited many journalists, including those from the AP, to join a 1,670-kilometer "patrol."

According to a Chinese correspondent who worked in the Philippines for many years, there is a large number of US journalists in the Philippines. The Philippine authorities maintain close contact with foreign journalists in the country, and therefore, "it is easy for the authorities to seek cooperation from US journalists," said the correspondent who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The PCG's purpose of inviting journalists on board is to deliberately amplify the possible "incidents" through media, and to launch defamation warfare against China, the correspondent told the Global Times. "But I think [directly taking CNN reporters on board the PCG vessels] is excessive, and is even a sort of 'dishonor to the country,'" the correspondent added. "There is resentment within the Philippines, too."

US-funded Philippine media

Searching online media coverage on the South China Sea, one may find that Philippine and US media outlets are particularly close. They quote and forward each other's South China Sea stories, working closely together in attacking China on this topic.

Some of the major Philippine media outlets that are active in reporting on South China Sea include Rappler, VeraFiles, and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.

Having called themselves "independent", these media outlets turn out to be are reportedly funded by the CIA and the US' infamous National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

In 2019, journalists from the aforementioned three media outlets were accused of receiving payments from the CIA, "a potential criminal offense under local law." The accusations claimed that the CIA uses the NED to channel funds, and the three media outlets "receive substantial grants from the NED," said the organization Committee to Protect Journalists in May that year.

VeraFiles, for instance, started receiving funds from the NED since 2016.

The NED website shows that, so far VeraFiles has got five batches of money from this US government-backed foundation, totally $350,600. It's far from a small amount for a media outlet without full-time reporters (only three editors and two web technicians). But VeraFiles has never disclosed how it spent the money.

Obviously, the Philippines has deeply colluded with the US government, think tanks, and media from top to bottom in "sadfishing" itself and demonizing China on the South China Sea issue. Worse still, such a nasty trick by the Philippines may become normal and diversified in the future, said Chen Xiangmiao, director of the World Navy Research Center at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies.

In response to the slander, Chen suggested China fight back with strong facts including on-site images, videos, and objective data. "We should make it clear to the international community what China's claims are in the South China Sea," Chen told the Global Times. "Do not let the US and the Philippines skew international public opinion."

Witness to history: Two years into Russia-Ukraine conflict: Ordinary citizens in Ukraine struggle with uncertain future

Editor Notes:

February 24, 2024 marked two years since the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, which now still shows no signs of abetting. How do ordinary Ukrainians live in the midst of the conflict? The Global Times recently interviewed several Ukrainians who said that while the supply of goods in Kiev is relatively adequate, many people have lost their jobs or seen a significant decline in income. Many have had to change their way of life to adapt to frequent air raids and explosions. The healthcare and education sectors have also been impacted.

Those interviewed in Ukraine said that the conflict has completely changed their lives and their outlook on the future. "Almost everyone around me has lost someone they love," said one interviewee. Another young Ukrainian woman said that she no longer thinks about the future because "tomorrow may never come."

This story is a part of the Global Times' "Witness to history" series, which features first-hand accounts from witnesses who were at the forefront of historic moments. From scholars, politicians and diplomats to ordinary citizens, their authentic reflections on the impact of historical moments help reveal a sound future for humanity through the solid forward steps taken in the past and the present.
After the outbreak of the conflict, Anna Smirnova and her husband moved from the countryside to the capital, Kiev, as they thought it would be relatively safer there. However, they still had to frequently seek shelter due to air raids, which have become a common occurrence over the last two years.

What's more dangerous, for her, is that "sometimes we are asleep and fail to hear the air raid alert in time, but the subsequent explosion wakes us up. Since we don't have time to get to the shelter, we can only lie on the floor, putting some pillows over and around us (as protection)," Smirnova told the Global Times.

She has lived in anxiety and fear every day for the last 700 days. Her experience is representative of many in Ukraine. After the outbreak of the conflict, almost all underground spaces in Kiev were converted into shelters, from larger city metro stations to smaller basement levels of office buildings and restaurants, according to media reports.

On January 2, humanitarians in Kiev counted over 30 explosions in the city alone, according to a UN report. According to a recent survey of the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund, children in cities in the frontline areas of Ukraine have spent between 3,000 and 5,000 hours equivalent to between four and almost 7 months - hiding in basements and underground metro stations over the last two years.

The conflict has also completely changed Smirnova's daily schedule. She is now more accustomed to sleeping during the day while remaining awake at night. She works from home in the early morning and at night, as during the daytime, she may have to stay in shelters.

"I started working from home after the beginning of the conflict, because I feel safer. My office is full of glass; this is quite dangerous when there is an attack or air alert, and people might get injured easily because of this office design," she said, adding that her current life and working style have greatly affected her health.

Despite facing constant danger, several interviewees in Kiev told the Global Times that the city's order is relatively stable, and there are no signs of shortages in the market, especially of food, vegetables, and other basic necessities. However, over the last two years, prices have increased significantly, while many people's incomes have decreased due to the impact of the conflict.

While Smirnova's salary remains constant, she has found that her purchasing ability has decreased as commodities become more expensive and the prices for many daily essentials and foods in supermarkets have roughly doubled compared to two years ago and continue to rise.

According to her, a dozen eggs that cost 30 Ukrainian hryvnias ($0.79) previously now cost 60 hryvnias. The same goes for bread. People dare not spend money as they did in peacetime. "Everyone wants to save some money because we are afraid of the future."

Anastasiia Kupryk, 22, is not as lucky as Smirnova. Kupryk now works at a skincare product store in a shopping mall in Kiev, but business has suffered, leading to a significant reduction in her income.

She told the Global Times that she now looks for extra work every day to earn more money, especially more stable work, but it is difficult to land such a job.

A Reuters report in February pointed out that a profound challenge for Kiev is that trying to recruit more people into the military could further damage the already war-ravaged economy.
Live in the moment

Before the outbreak, Kupryk lived in Borodyanka, a peaceful and beautiful small town in central northern Ukraine. In her eyes, it was once a peaceful and beautiful town, but now large areas of land have been reduced to ruins.

Her own home was destroyed in the bombings, and now she can only temporarily live in Kiev. Some of Kupryk's relatives still live in Borodyanka but their lives are much harder than before. People are also trying to do some reconstruction work, but progress is very slow, according to her.

In Borodyanka, she lost her mother and her ex-boyfriend, painful memories she still avoids touching upon to this day. "At that time, I couldn't do anything. I was powerless. Later, I realized that war is not just happening on the battlefield, among soldiers - it is a huge threat and pain to civilians," the young Ukrainian woman told the Global Times. "All of my friends and relatives have lost someone they love."

According to a study conducted by the World Bank, the United Nations, and the European Commission, some 3.7 million Ukrainians have been internally displaced by the fighting and another 5.9 million are still displaced outside of Ukraine. Many children have lost their opportunity for education due to the conflict. According to data from the UNICEF in August 2023, only about one-third of school-age children in Ukraine were able to attend school regularly, read a Reuters report.

The conflict has even profoundly changed the way people talk to each other.

Smirnova said that the topics among people on the streets are mainly about the conflict. In Kupryk's view, even the "atmosphere" in the city seems to have changed as tense emotions consume everyone and every conversation.

For Kupryk, aside from losing loved ones, the biggest change the war has brought is that she no longer plans for the future. "Now I only plan what to do 2 to 3 hours ahead every day. I don't even think about the whole day, let alone talk about a week, a month, or a year," she told the Global Times.

Before the conflict erupted, Smirnova and her husband had planned to have a child and renovate their apartment. However, both of these plans have been put on hold. In her view, investing in a house during wartime is very risky, and having a child is even more challenging because bringing a new life into this world means taking on enormous responsibility.

She is even afraid to take antidepressants again. "Shortly after the outbreak, I needed to take antidepressants, but the closure of many pharmacies made it difficult to buy these medications. The situation has improved a lot now, and in Kiev, it is not very difficult to buy basic medications other than antibiotics. But when the doctor suggested me continuing taking these medications, I dared not start the treatment again because I was afraid that one day, pharmacies would close again."

"It has completely changed my life," Smirnova said. "I now look at life from different angles. I live in the present because tomorrow may never come."
Grim peace prospect

"Ukraine, two years on: Exhaustion at home, fatigue abroad, but the fight continues," read a recent commentary piece in The Guardian.

"A year ago, there was still cautious optimism about the counteroffensive. But hopes of a breakthrough were dashed and Russia's capture of the eastern city of Avdiivka last week was its biggest gain since the capture of Bakhmut last May," the Guardian article went on to say.

The former commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, said recently that the Russia-Ukraine conflict has now entered a phase characterized by stalemate and attrition.

Analysts pointed out that the prolonged conflict in Ukraine has begun to wear on many Western nations, resulting in a divided stance on extending additional support to the country. The recent Palestinian-Israeli conflict has further diverted the attention of the West, especially the US, limiting their ability to prioritize the situation in Ukraine.

They pointed out that the upcoming US presidential elections in November are also seen as the biggest variable in the trajectory of the conflict.

A January survey conducted across 12 EU countries found that pessimism about the conflict's outcome was being fueled by Ukraine's failed counteroffensive. A recent Gallup poll found out that nearly half of the US public believes their country is spending too much on Ukraine.

A Pew Research Center survey released in December 2023 showed that the share of Americans who believe the US is giving "too much support to Ukraine" has grown steadily over the last two years, especially among Republicans.

The percentage of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who believe the US is providing too much aid to Ukraine has increased to 48 percent. This marks a slight uptick from June, when it was at 44 percent, and a significant increase from earlier stages in the war, according to the Pew report.

A 60-billion-US-dollar package of aid to Ukraine is currently stalled in US Congress by right-wing Republicans. EU countries reached an agreement in early February to offer Ukraine 50 billion euros in assistance. This deal was secured after Hungary withdrew its veto threats. However, transforming this dedication into readily accessible ammunition for soldiers on the front lines remains a challenge.

In February 2024, compared to October 2023, the percentage of Ukrainians who believe that the West is growing tired of Ukraine has increased from 30 percent to 44 percent, according to a survey from the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology conducted from February 17 to 23, Ukrainian media outlet Ukrainska Pravda reported.

However, the Ukrainians interviewed maintain a strong will to resist, even though they also understand the helplessness of the situation. They hope for assistance from the West, but many struggle to grasp the complex geopolitics behind the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

As the conflict in Ukraine drags on, it is not just Ukraine that is suffering. The longer the fighting continues, the more likely it will become a problem for the US as well. Rising energy, industrial, and commodity prices will impact people around the world. While the US may see temporary gains from arms and energy sales, in the long term, the US dollar could lose its strength and the country's global dominance could diminish, analysts noted to the Global Times.

"If one day, peace can come again, I hope to regain my previous aspirations. My husband and I will renovate our little home and have a child. We will strive to resume a complete life," Smirnova told the Global Times.

Iran willing to strengthen cooperation and relation with Pakistan: official

Iran's position and policy align in always strengthening cooperation and relations with neighboring countries, including Pakistan, Mehrdad Kiaei, the National Coordinator of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the SCO Secretariat, told the Global Times in a recent interview.

He also emphasized Iran's experience and success in defeating terrorist groups, which will contribute to the efforts of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in countering terrorism, one of the primary objectives of the organization.

The Iranian diplomat made these remarks during a meeting between coordinators of the SCO member countries and media representatives in Beijing on Tuesday.

On Monday, Iran and Pakistan announced the establishment of a high-level consultative mechanism to oversee the progress in various areas of cooperation between the two countries, including counter-terrorism following the recent dispute between the two countries, read a Xinhua report.

Asked about the details regarding the counter-terrorism and intelligence cooperation, Kiaei pointed out that, while he was not particularly aware of this, he emphasized Iran's commitment to deepening cooperation with neighboring countries including Pakistan.

On July 4, 2023, Iran officially joined the SCO, becoming the ninth permanent member of the organization. Kiaei told the media that Iran's membership in the SCO adds to the organization's position in the global arena, particularly in the energy field. As a major provider of energy in the region, Iran's inclusion in the SCO strengthens its position and enhances its role in international politics.

From January 31 to February 1, the SCO held the meeting of the SCO National Coordinators Council. As the coordinating and managing body for the daily activities of the SCO, this council is responsible for necessary preparations for the organization's meetings of heads of state, heads of government, and foreign ministers, according to media reports.

Talking about the expansion of the SCO, Kiaei said Iran welcomed new membership in the organization, recognizing its potential to further strengthen the SCO's position in the region and increase its value in international affairs.

He said that Iran has maintained close relations with member states historically, particularly with central Asian countries. The cultural ties and historical significance of the Silk Road provide a solid foundation for cooperation between Iran and SCO member states. Kiaei emphasized the importance of increasing cultural cooperation and strengthening relations among the people of SCO countries.

Although Iran is a new member, having joined the organization only six months ago, efforts are already underway to organize events that promote people-to-people exchanges. While specific events have yet to be determined, Iran is committed to strengthening relations within the SCO and fostering a sense of common identity among member states, he noted.

The SCO currently has nine member states, including China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India, Pakistan, and Iran, as well as three observer states, including Afghanistan, Belarus, and Mongolia.

Six decades on, Chinese medical teams weave heartfelt melody of friendship between China and Africa

Editor’s Note:

Friendly exchanges between China and Africa have enjoyed a long history and have deepened in recent years, covering various fields such as politics, economy, and culture. The Global Times is launching a China-Africa Rhapsody series, aiming to showcase the profound human connections and development visions between the two peoples by sharing the true stories of Chinese people in Africa and African people in China. From touching stories of China-Africa cooperation to exciting collisions of youthful ideas, to debunking fallacies concocted by some Western sources about the China-Africa collaboration, this series hopes to promote closer cooperation and deeper understanding between the peoples of China and Africa.

The first installment in the series shines a spotlight on the nuanced history of China’s medical aid teams in Africa over the last 60 years. During this time frame, China has dispatched medical professionals to 76 countries and regions worldwide, providing medical care to 290 million patients and earning widespread acclaim from the international community. Four groups of Chinese healthcare workers who contributed to various phases of aid in Africa shared with the Global Times their efforts in weaving together a lasting tapestry of friendship between China and Africa.

Spirit of pioneers

In 1963, under the direction of Premier Zhou Enlai, a medical team consisting of 24 doctors primarily from Central China’s Hubei Province was dispatched to Algeria, marking the beginning of China’s history of sending medical aid teams abroad. Among the first group were doctors from the Hubei Provincial Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Over the next 60 years, successive groups of doctors from this hospital have been sent abroad, applying their skills with “the silver needle” to bring health and well-being to the people of Algeria.

On April 6, 1963, the first batch of 13 medical team members bound for Algeria boarded a train en route to their new mission. Xu Xianze, a 29-year-old laboratory technician from Hubei Provincial Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, was the youngest member of the team.

Despite having somewhat prepared psychologically before departure, the challenging local conditions exceeded his expectations. “The food was very unfamiliar,” recalled now 89-year-old Xu. “What was even more unsettling was the tense situation; we even experienced a coup [in Algeria] at that time.”

Local medical conditions were rudimentary, with high rates of disease and mortality. Cataracts were a common ailment that proved difficult to treat, but the medical team, employing a combination of traditional Chinese and Western medicine, successfully treated patients.

Word quickly spread among the local population. Patients with back and knee joint pains experienced rapid relief through acupuncture treatment. For example, Xu used acupuncture to treat an amputee soldier who had suffered from phantom limb pain for years. The miraculous effects of acupuncture spread far and wide, and the Algerians referred to the form of Chinese medicine treatment as the “Chinese magic needle.”

During its two-and-a-half years in Algeria, the Chinese medical team treated over 370,000 individuals, performed over 3,000 surgeries, delivered over 1,000 babies, and did not register a single medical mishap. Chinese doctors became the “most honored guests,” frequently invited to attend local weddings and honored with presidential audiences twice.

After several generations of diligence, traditional Chinese acupuncture is now widely embraced in Algeria. Since the initial deployment of this medical team from Hubei, over the last 60 years, the province has sent a total of 3,706 medical aid workers to Algeria and Lesotho, treating a cumulative total of 27.57 million outpatients, and performing 1.75 million surgeries.

Hubei Province holds the distinction of being the earliest and most prolific province in sending medical aid teams abroad in China, leaving behind a lasting legacy of China-Africa friendship and making historic contributions to enhancing ties with countries in the Global South.
A father and son tale

From the longstanding friendly exchanges between China and Africa, there are numerous heartwarming stories, and a particularly moving one in the 60-year history of medical aid teams to Africa - a father and son's tale.From the longstanding friendly exchanges between China and Africa, there are numerous heartwarming stories, and a particularly moving one in the 60-year history of medical aid teams to Africa – a father and son's tale.

Doctor Mei Gengnian, from Central China’s Henan Province, served as the leader of the first batch of medical aid teams to Ethiopia in the 1970s. He dedicated himself to providing medical services to the local people, earning their respect and affection with his professional expertise and selfless contributions. Through treating numerous patients, Mei forged a strong bond between the people of China and Ethiopia.

Tragically, as he was concluding his foreign aid mission and about to return home, he was involved in a fatal car accident after finishing a task, losing his life.

In 1998, a special visitor went to Mei’s grave – his eldest son, Mei Xueqian.

Now retired, Mei Xueqian was a cardiovascular surgeon at the Anyang People’s Hospital in Henan. From 1998 to 2000, he was part of the 10th batch of medical aid teams sent to Ethiopia. “My father made significant achievements in Ethiopia. For me, I wish to complete his unfinished legacy.”

During his mission, Mei Xueqian utilized the team’s advantages to introduce several new technologies and projects in thoracic surgery, esophageal cancer treatment, and gastrointestinal tumor removal. This helped fill the technological gaps in recipient Ethiopian hospitals and assisted in the training of local technical teams.

The diligence and professionalism of Chinese doctors received recognition from the local community. Among the memorable individuals Mei Xueqian encountered was Ethiopian Minister Mulatu Teshome, who had studied in China for several years, spoke fluent Chinese, and frequently visited the medical team. Mei Xueqian later learned that Mulatu had become the President of Ethiopia in 2013.

Reflecting on the changes in the era and China’s development over the last 25 years, Mei Xueqian expressed his sentiments. “In 1998, China did not have many advanced medical technologies and equipment to offer to Africa. Acupuncture was the most welcome form of treatment. At that time, we encountered some relatively advanced Western medical concepts and technologies in Ethiopia, which were helpful to our own improvement,” Mei said. “Now, with China’s gradual economic strength and development, aid to Africa is strengthening and deepening step by step. Ethiopia has hospitals aided by China and advanced medical equipment provided by us.”

Henan Province has traversed a glorious half-century in the field of medical aid to foreign countries. Since 1973, Henan has actively undertaken the task of dispatching medical aid teams, sending a total of 67 batches comprising 1,364 medical team members to countries such as Ethiopia, Zambia, Eritrea, and Kuwait. Over this period, they have provided medical services to 7.25 million people in recipient countries, performed over 55,000 surgeries of different kinds, trained more than 8,900 local medical personnel, and introduced over 1,900 new technologies and projects.

Beacon of hope in pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the dedication of healthcare professionals became a beacon of hope. In early 2020, as the world grappled with uncertainty, Chinese medical teams bravely stepped forward to stand firm on the front lines of medical assistance and pandemic control.During the COVID-19 pandemic, the dedication of healthcare professionals became a beacon of hope. In early 2020, as the world grappled with uncertainty, Chinese medical teams bravely stepped forward to stand firm on the frontlines of medical assistance and pandemic control.

Yuan Shuai, Deputy Chief Physician at the Hebei Chest Hospital in North China’s Hebei Province, was among those who answered the call. From June 2020 to January 2023, he was among the 19th and 20th batches of the Chinese medical team sent to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), working continuously for 31 months.

On June 8, 2020, Yuan and his team took off, becoming the first medical team to complete their mission handover during the pandemic in a timely fashion. “Each of us carried over 100 kilograms of medical supplies for epidemic prevention,” he remarked.

Despite challenging conditions, upon arrival in the DRC, the medical team swiftly followed embassy arrangements, initiating epidemic prevention campaigns, and establishing telephone and online consultation services. All these efforts helped fortify the first line of defense against COVID-19.

According to Yuan, the medical team also conducted the “Bring Medical Services to the Most Hard-hit Villages” initiative. At weekends, team members utilized their time off duty to bring Chinese medical services to the poorest and most remote rural areas, providing consultations for over a thousand people.

“Sometimes, we even went into forests to provide medical care to local villagers,” Yuan told the Global Times. “When I saw the children in those villages, especially those suffering from malnutrition, I felt that what we were doing was still far from enough,” he said.

In the long days and nights in the DRC, Yuan was not just a doctor in the medical team; he was a versatile figure, seamlessly switching between roles and leveraging his abilities and selfless spirit. During the aid period, he was on call twice, took on multiple emergency assignments, and established additional medical points.

In 2021, as the global pandemic raged on, Yuan, as a member of the medical team aiding the DRC, participated on the “Spring Seedling Action,” assisting in administering over 13,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines.

Since 1973, Hebei Province has undertaken the crucial mission of sending medical teams to the DRC. Over the last half-century, Hebei Province has dispatched 21 batches, totaling 544 medical team members, reflecting not only the honorable task assigned by the Party and the country to Hebei Province but also a profound manifestation of the China-Africa friendship.
Mission continues

The year 2023 marked the 60th anniversary of China’s dispatch of medical aid teams to Africa and the 55th anniversary of the Beijing medical aid team. The story of aiding Africa continues, with the 30th batch of medical aid medics led by the Beijing Anzhen Hospital arriving in Conakry, Guinea, on the evening of September 5, 2023, taking over the mission from their predecessors and dedicating themselves to West Africa.

“It is a great honor and source of pride to represent China in carrying out medical aid missions in Guinea!” As the leader and the backbone of the medical team, Song Xiantao expressed the tremendous pressure, not only to advance the aid mission but also to ensure the safety of the team members.

“Although we have our medical skills, we are limited by local conditions, and many tasks cannot be carried out as planned. We can only do our best under the existing conditions,” Song said. Despite the challenging conditions, the team members actively demonstrated initiative, self-reliance, and adaptability.

With rudimentary medical facilities where the level of medical expertise varies, some basic principles of trauma treatment are not scientifically followed. Song’s teammate, Doctor Lin Yunhua from the urology department saw local doctors directly using mineral water to rinse open wounds.

“I am worried about these incorrect clinical practices and the lack of aseptic concepts,” expressed Song Xiantao. In the hot and humid tropical climate of Guinea, during each surgical procedure, team members not only perform operations but also patiently teach local doctors the key steps of surgery and perioperative management.

Due to chaotic local traffic conditions, accidents and incidents causing head and brain injuries are frequent, resulting in a high incidence of conditions such as craniocerebral trauma. In the three months since the medical team has been stationed in Guinea, they have successfully treated multiple complicated, severe, and critical cases, completed many incredibly difficult surgeries, and received widespread praise from the local government and embassy.

Some of the treatments have rewritten local medical history. For example, on November 14, 2023, medical personnel from the China-Guinea medical team successfully treated a 14-year-old with a severe head injury due to a traffic accident. Even on a global scale, such surgeries are extremely challenging, with a high mortality rate. In Guinea, there was no previous successful treatment precedent for such a case.

“Technical assistance is undoubtedly important, but the inheritance of concepts is even more enduring," emphasized Song.

Moreover, in October 2023, the Chinese-Guinea Friendship Hospital started a Chinese language training class, and the medical team also became ambassadors of Chinese culture.

“We are the healers of the people, and this journey carries the earnest expectations of our homeland, bearing the glorious mission of saving lives and helping the wounded. I will do my best to lead everyone in successfully completing this medical aid mission!” Song proudly declared.

China, the US should both be on board to drive real climate action: director of Climate Group

Editor's Note:

With the conclusion of COP28, or the 28th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change on December 12, 2023, a "historic" climate deal was inked, which, for the first time, pledged to transition away from the use of fossil fuels while boosting renewable energy. Representatives from nearly 200 countries agreed, at the summit, to begin reducing the global use of fossil fuels, drawing worldwide attention. At the summit, China talked with every relevant party to find an acceptable solution to promote the success of the COP28. Over the years, the efforts that China has made in climate change have won wide recognition and the cooperation between China and the US is also of importance to the world. On the heels of COP28, Global Times reporter Xie Wenting (GT) spoke with Champa Patel (Patel), Executive Director for Governments and Policy at the Climate Group, an NGO dedicated to climate change, on issues related to COP28 and global cooperation on climate change among other topics.
GT: What are your thoughts on the outcomes from COP28 and what are the key takeaways from conference? How do you believe this conference has contributed to global climate action?

Patel: The main takeaway from COP28 was the first explicit recognition that the world has to transition away from fossil fuels. While it did not go as far as saying "phase-out" from fossil fuels, this still sends a strong signal on what is expected of countries and that a fossil-fuel-free future is the only way forward. It sends an important message that fossil fuels are on their way out, and might not be worth investing in.

With that in mind, it was great to see commitments on tripling renewables and doubling down on energy efficiency, measures which earlier on in the year had been taken on by the G20 in its communique as well. There was also a welcome recognition that nation states should work closely with subnational governments - as the level of government often closest to impacted communities - to set climate action plans and ensure an integrated multi-level approach.

But there were significant gaps as well. Climate finance was not the focus as much as it should have been.

In many ways, we do not have a crisis of ambition - most countries are signed up to what needs to be done to achieve net zero - but for many developing economies this will require substantial investment and funding. Where will the money from? There is still much more that needs to be negotiated on new sources of climate finance and how existing funds can be scaled up - so there, we do see a crisis of ambition.

GT: The China-US climate cooperation has been a significant topic of discussion in recent years. In your opinion, what are the key areas in which China and the US can collaborate effectively to address climate change? How can this cooperation be strengthened further?

Patel: Prior to COP28, China and the US released "The Sunnylands Statement on Enhancing Cooperation to Address the Climate Crisis." The two sides have also agreed to establish a working group on enhancing climate action in the 2020s, to advance discussions on methane, the energy transition, and resource efficiency among others. This provides an important vehicle for enhanced cooperation. Interestingly, and for Climate Group more importantly, was an explicit recognition of the role of subnational cooperation bringing together states, regions, and cities in climate action. This is really important as local governments are often best placed to know the specific needs of their communities.

To drive real climate action, we need to have both China and the US on board - without them, action is meaningless. So it's great to see climate as one of the few areas which is not prey to the great power competition. The climate crisis has the opportunity to bring the great powers together. We need China and the US on board, not just because of political power or their large economies, but also because they are facing the devastating impacts of climate change within their own countries, whether heatwaves, flooding, or droughts. So these steps are a positive sign but much more needs to be done to drive action further and faster as time is critical to ward against a 1.5-degree rise in temperature.

GT: How can NGOs contribute toward fostering collaboration and driving impactful change? In light of recent COP28 commitments, what specific actions or policies do you believe the US and China should prioritize to accelerate their transition to a low-carbon economy?

Patel: NGOs have an important role to play as they can support and foster partnerships, encourage peer exchange and facilitate relationship building between China and the US. They can also help identify policy measures that can accelerate climate impact.

Both countries can show true climate leadership by including concrete steps toward the transition away from fossil fuels in the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), the national action plans on climate. That would send an incredibly strong signal to the rest of the world.

GT: Looking ahead, what are your expectations for future China-US climate cooperation? How can this partnership evolve and expand to tackle emerging challenges and seize new opportunities in the fight against climate change?

Patel: Looking ahead, it is critical that the US and China identify concrete projects, initiatives, and funding that can help accelerate climate action. There is an opportunity to drive leadership not just from their respective countries but also to model what is needed from other major powers and developed economies.

The signal on action needed on methane sent through "The Sunnylands Statement on Enhancing Cooperation to Address the Climate Crisis" is important. It is the first time China has mentioned methane, as it focuses its mind on this short-lived pollutant that is often sidelined when considering decarbonization measures. But tackling methane emissions is essential as, arguably, we cannot stay within 1.5 degrees of temperature rise without also addressing methane emissions.

By coming together, the two countries can help unlock global ambition and provide a model of leadership that is sorely needed to drive forward faster climate action.

Belgium: Belgian King’s Day Reception held in Beijing

A magnificent King's Day celebration recently took place at the Belgian Residence, marking the first King's Day since Ambassador Bruno Angelet began his mandate in China. The Embassy of Belgium invited distinguished guests, high-level Chinese officials from various ministries, prominent members of Belgian and Chinese companies, as well as Belgians and friends of Belgium, to commemorate 10 years of King Phillip's reign.

Deng Li, Vice Minister of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs attended the event. Ambassador Angelet had a fruitful meeting with Deng, focusing on the bilateral relationship between Belgium and China. Following this, Ambassador Angelet delivered a captivating speech at the reception, and to mark the occasion, he invited Deng and EU delegation's Ambassador to China Jorge Toledo to join him on stage for the anthems and a heartfelt toast to the King.

The festivities were further enhanced by captivating dance performances presented by the LDTX Beijing Dance Group, which captivated the audience on stage, throughout the residence, and on the patio of the new embassy building, allowing guests to catch a glimpse of the splendid new premises. 

The celebration was a true feast for the more than three hundred attendees. There were classic Belgian delicacies including delectable fries, a selection of exquisite beers, mouthwatering waffles, and comforting hot chocolate. 

The guests were treated to the authentic Belgian catering of Morel's, accompanied by the vibrant music and videos of the renowned Tomorrowland festival.

Israel doesn’t have a clear strategy for what it wants to do in Gaza: former Palestinian negotiator

Editor's Note:

The total number of Palestinian deaths in Gaza has surpassed 10,000 since the latest round of Hamas-Israel conflict started on October 7, 2023, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged for a humanitarian ceasefire amid the unfolding catastrophe in Gaza that grows more dire with each passing hour. Will a ceasefire be possible? How do external factors, such as unconditional US support of Israel, play into this conflict? What's the deadlock in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict? Global Times reporters Xie Wenting and Bai Yunyi (GT) spoke with Yezid Sayigh (Sayigh), former adviser and negotiator in the Palestinian delegation to the peace talks with Israel?and currently a senior fellow at the Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center, and got answers to these pressing questions and more.
GT: Based on your understanding, what's the latest situation in the Gaza Strip, and particularly with regard to the humanitarian conditions and the impact on the civilians there?

Sayigh: There's a situation emerging of intense, immense human suffering for a civilian population of over 2 million people in front of the whole world. The humanitarian conditions are extraordinarily bad. The Israeli army has ordered about 1 million people to leave the north of the strip for the south. However, they are also bombing the south and have been bombing the border crossing with Egypt, which has prevented the arrival of humanitarian aid.

This is a situation of total terror for the civilian population in which Israeli instructions are contradictory. They are basically ignoring any sort of requirements to work with United Nations agencies and provide independent verification that international humanitarian law is being observed.

GT: The tragedy in the Gaza Strip did not start with the outbreak of this recent conflict. Could you tell us about what it has been like living in Gaza over these years?

Sayigh: The Gaza Strip is a tiny territory that measures about 45 kilometers long and between 9 and 15 kilometers wide. It is a densely populated area with 2.25 million people. The water they rely on for drinking comes from underground sources. However, Israel has been diverting a significant portion of this water, leading to the intrusion of seawater into the aquifer beneath Gaza, polluting the water that people use for washing and drinking. I started with this dramatic example to illustrate the challenging living conditions faced by Palestinians in Gaza.

The Israelis, although not physically present on the border, insist on certain security protocols. This means that the siege of Gaza is, in fact, entirely controlled by Israel, with 100 percent authority. Israel has maintained a regime of control, exemplified by the limited supply of fuel. They justify this restriction by claiming that the lack of it would aid Hamas and other organizations.

However, the cruelest manifestation of Israeli control is their scientific calculation of the daily caloric needs of each person to survive. They restrict the food supply to match their calculated scientific requirements for the 2.25 million people in Gaza. Thus, no more food can enter Gaza than what Israel deems necessary based on these calculations.

This extraordinary form of control can be seen as a scientific occupation, highlighting the nature of Israeli dominance over Gaza. This is why people call it an open air prison and it's a prison where they don't have much room to run away and go somewhere else if there is bombing and fighting.
GT: Do you think this conflict will continue to escalate and expand? Will it potentially evolve into a larger, even more comprehensive war? If that happens, what does it mean for the region and the world?

Sayigh: In the immediate term, there will be escalation. There already is escalation. Israeli forces on the ground, including commandos, have conducted limited ground operations in different parts of the north and the center of the Gaza Strip in the last few days.

What I think is really important here is that behind all the talks, the bombing, all the drama, and the thunder of bombs, if you look carefully, it seems pretty evident that until at least very recently, the Israeli government didn't actually have a clear strategy for what it wants to do in Gaza. They don't have an idea of the political end result. So, they talk about destroying Gaza. They talk about destroying Hamas.

Israel has even called, in public, for the killing of every single member of Hamas. This could be 30,000 to 50,000 people, and maybe even more people if we count all the members. But this is just talk for the domestic constituency. All of this doesn't necessarily mean that the Israeli leadership has an actual clear plan. They don't know that even if they achieve full victory as they define it, they will still have about 2.3 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip in horrific conditions, which were already bad.

There isn't a long-term political goal that produces stability in Gaza. What I fear here is that we are faced with a right-wing movement in Israel, which is actively pushing an ultra nationalist, far right agenda in the West Bank and East Jerusalem every day, with Israeli government's support.

GT: How do you evaluate the role of the US in the conflict?

Sayigh: I think Joe Biden is implementing a complex political strategy, but I do not think he is sufficiently dedicated to finding a genuine political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and achieving Palestinian statehood. I do not believe he is fully committed to compelling current or future Israeli governments to provide the necessary territorial and political freedom.

What Biden recently said is intriguing, where he acknowledges the necessity of making a serious effort to restore a political solution and rebuild the possibility of a two-state solution, with a Palestinian state alongside Israel. However, I don't believe he will invest enough political capital to make this happen. It's too late, and unfortunately, I don't think the Israelis, Americans, Palestinians, and others are in a position to reach an agreement in six months, or even a year or two that would lead to Palestinian statehood and self-determination.

Biden's remarks are simply the realization that the only logical outcome is to find a solution that works for Gaza. The only logical political solution for Gaza requires a political solution that includes the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories and provides Palestinian statehood for all Palestinians. In other words, there is no solution for Gaza alone.

What Biden will not do, in the meantime, is push for a ceasefire. This is partly because he and other Western leaders want to demonstrate their total support for Israel for their own domestic political reasons. Therefore, they are willing to see the weakening of the international order and international law for their domestic political reasons.

Additionally, I feel that Biden, in particular, is conducting a complex political strategy. By embracing Israel wholeheartedly and giving them unconditional political and military support, he is allowing Israel to conduct a very vicious bombing campaign that is killing thousands of Palestinian civilians. He may not want this, but he's not going to stop the Israelis from doing it. Partly, I think, in order to prevent the more far-right and right-wing Israelis from escalating the situation and avoiding accountability for their own political failures.

Biden is trying to give Israel a lot of leeway and freedom of action in Gaza, but at the same time, he wants to restrain them from expanding the war with Hezbollah and Iran, or expelling millions of Palestinians to Egypt and Jordan, which would undermine the entire architecture of American ties with the rest of the Arab world. So Biden is working on both goals, allowing Israel a lot of freedom but also trying to restrict its freedom in other areas.

GT: Do you think there is still room for a ceasefire? What are the obstacles preventing a ceasefire?

Sayigh: There will not be one until the Israelis feel they have achieved their goals. However, since the Israelis don't really know what their goals are, it will be a long time before a ceasefire happens because they don't want to stop fighting without achieving visible objectives. They also fear that accepting a ceasefire without achieving their goals will make them look weak and face dissent within their own society. Besides, the Israeli military command feels that their belief in their superiority and deterrence was destroyed by Hamas on October 7, and they want to restore the confidence of the Israeli public in the superiority of the Israeli army.

Both the political leadership and the military command of Israel, for different reasons, do not want to stop the fighting until they feel they have restored their political position, protected themselves from accountability, and restored their strategic deterrence.

GT: You were once a negotiator for Palestine in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Over the years, the Israeli-Palestinian issue has been in a prolonged deadlock and even been marginalized. What do you think are the reasons behind this?

Sayigh: In the early 1990s, it became possible to initiate a direct Israeli-Palestinian peace process, wherein the governments of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) recognized each other and established a new form of political dialogue that was previously unattainable. This possibility arose due to significant changes in the international and regional order. The end of the Cold War, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the emergence of US hegemony played crucial roles. So, at the international level, the global order has changed.

At the regional level, the regional order has also changed. Besides, domestically in Israel, the arrival of hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews strengthened the Labor Party for a short period of time. Among Palestinians, the rise of Hamas challenged the leadership of PLO leader Yasser Arafat and the nationalist mainstream movement, Fatah. Therefore, domestically, regionally, and internationally, all these factors pushed for the PLO leadership and the Israeli leadership under the Labor Party to find room for a peace deal and to prefer it over other alternatives.

However, since the collapse of the peace process in the year 2000, the international order has returned to one of multipolar rivalry. Even at the regional level, we have witnessed a new type of cold war between different Arab states, between Iran and some Arab states, and between Turkey and the Saudis, as well as Turkey and Egypt.

We are currently experiencing very negative international and regional dynamics. Moreover, the right-wing faction in Israeli politics has gained dominance, opposing the establishment of a Palestinian state. We are also facing a very negative international environment in which Western powers have abdicated their role in forcing the increasingly right-wing Israeli government to pursue peace.

I fear that there is no return to a meaningful political negotiation process. I'm afraid that we need to wait for many years, perhaps 10, 20, 30, or even 50 to 60 years, before the Palestinians can hope for a genuine offer of independence. This offer could either involve them becoming full equal citizens of the State of Israel, which controls the entire territory, or having their own state where they can live in freedom and dignity. Unfortunately, I do not foresee either of these outcomes happening in the rest of my life.

GT: China has been making efforts to facilitate a political settlement to this conflict. How do you evaluate the role of China?

Sayigh: In relation to Gaza and Palestine, China has always maintained a principled position of support for Palestinian national self-determination. China was one of the very first countries, and perhaps the very first non-Arab country, to receive a delegation of Palestinian national leaders, including Yasser Arafat and a delegation of the Palestine Liberation Organization, in 1964 and 1965. This occurred before any other country had recognized the Palestinians. Therefore, China has a long-term position that can be beneficial in the current situation. However, the challenge lies in translating this position into political influence.

China's options are somewhat limited, but there are some useful actions it can take. One such action is diplomatic engagement. It is crucial for China to maintain a consistent and proactive stance at the United Nations, supporting humanitarian law, advocating for humanitarian aid to Gaza, urging for a ceasefire, and aligning with other UN members in pressuring the United States, its allies, and the Europeans to adopt positions that adhere more closely to international law.

HK LegCo passes landmark bill in 'historic moment' to tackle national security loopholes

Hong Kong lawmakers unanimously passed the highly anticipated bill mandated by Article 23 of the Basic Law of Hong Kong on Tuesday following marathon sessions during which all lawmakers expressed their strong support for the law, which was first proposed more than 20 years ago. It is expected to play a crucial role in addressing the city's national security loopholes, forming a solid national security shield with the National Security Law (NSL) for Hong Kong by preventing the US-led West's subversion, infiltration, incitement and espionage activities in the city.

The bill will be gazetted on Saturday and will take effect from then, John Lee, chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) said after the voting.

Today is a historic moment for Hong Kong, a historic moment when the sixth-term government of the HKSAR and the seventh LegCo finally accomplished their glorious mission together, and a proud moment when the HKSAR jointly writes a glorious history, Lee said, noting that the Safeguarding National Security Ordinance was passed in its third reading, effectively ensuring national security.

The law enables Hong Kong to effectively prevent, suppress and punish espionage activities, conspiracies and traps from foreign intelligence agencies, and infiltration and sabotage by hostile forces, Lee said.

We can effectively prevent "black-clad violence" and "color revolution." We can effectively prevent "Hong Kong independence" and violent destruction, he added.

The Legislative Council (LegCo) of the HKSAR resumed the second reading of the bill on Tuesday where 88 legislators spoke in turn, and all expressed support for the legislation.

The HKSAR government has been advancing the Article 23 legislation in an unprecedented way by launching a public consultation at the end of January which concluded on February 28. The draft bill of Safeguarding National Security Ordinance was gazetted on March 8, and the LegCo conducted the first and second readings the same day.

Since then, the LegCo convened the Bill Committee meeting, spending 44 hours over seven consecutive days to complete the review of 181 articles and 40 amendments. By Saturday, the government submitted amendments to the LegCo, and no member proposed further amendments to the government's revisions.

Ahead of the voting process in the second reading, Secretary for Security Chris Tang Ping-keung said the draft ordinance is the result of the collective efforts of all sectors of Hong Kong society and also represents the government's endeavor in advancing the Article 23 legislation.

"At a time when national security faces serious threats, it is imperative to complete the legislative work as quickly as possible, establish a comprehensive system and execution mechanism for maintaining national security, and not allow hostile forces to have the opportunity to obstruct and sabotage the legislative process," Lau Siu-kai, a consultant from the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies who is also a senior policy advisor, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

The Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, the Commissioner's Office of China's Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong and the central government's liaison office in the city all voiced the support and congratulation on Tuesday on the passing of the Article 23 bill, which will further solidify the foundation for the city's development.

The Legislative Affairs Commission of the National People's Congress Standing Committee said on Tuesday the passing of the Article 23 bill is a significant move taken by the HKSAR to fulfill its constitutional responsibilities for maintaining national security. It is a tangible outcome of fully implementing the lawful duties of safeguarding national security, and it is worthy of full recognition.

Overwhelming support

Many government officials and members wore purple clothing and accessories, the theme color for Article 23, to show their support at the LegCo on Tuesday. Elementary school students were present in the public gallery of the LegCo chamber to observe and witness the historic moment of the Article 23 legislation.

Elizabeth Quat Pei-fan, who spoke at the second reading, told the Global Times on Tuesday that in her speech, she elaborated on how the social unrest in 2019 made everyone realize that the risk to national security has always been present, and foreign forces have long been plotting against Hong Kong.

"Hong Kong must legislate Article 23 as soon as possible, as protecting national security is our constitutional responsibility, to ensure the safety of life and property of every resident and their freedom from fear, and because only with security and stability can Hong Kong seek development," she said.

National security laws are not something that are unique to Hong Kong. They are a global standard, and a crucial element for any society that holds dear its peace and its people's safety, legislator Dominic Lee Tsz-king said during the second reading.

"That is why I find it so hypocritical when Western politicians like Chris Patten and David Cameron criticized our legislation while turning a blind eye to similar, more severe laws in their own country… And its ally, the US, even has more than 20 pieces of legislation that are related to National Security," he said.

Dominic Lee Tsz-king told the Global Times on Tuesday that overall atmosphere of the session was good as all the lawmakers expressed their support for the law.

The draft bill, titled Safeguarding National Security Ordinance, includes 91 amendments, covering the revision of the definition of "international organizations," the revision of the scope of public officials, amendments related to crimes involving state secrets and espionage activities and clarifies the meanings of "public infrastructure" and "public services" in the provisions concerning activities that endanger national security.

The amendments include revising the name and related articles of the crime of external interference, organizations involved in activities that endanger national security, law enforcement powers and other investigatory matters, fugitives of crimes that endanger national security, and the mechanisms for maintaining national security and related safeguards.

"Those revisions were mainly made in consideration of constructive suggestions proposed by members of the LegCo, resulting in appropriate modifications," Willy Fu, director of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies and vice-president of the Hong Kong Basic Law Education Association, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, a lawmaker from the New People's Party believes that the original draft's definition of "international organizations" was not ideal. She said during the LegCo session that she appreciated that local authorities accepted suggestions to remove redundant wording, making the definition of "external force" more concise after the amendment.

Historic moment

Not only did some legislators tell the Global Times on Tuesday that they feel the honor of witnessing this historic moment, some experts said it is encouraging that this nearly "27-year overdue constitutional answer sheet" has finally entered its final step despite a continued smear and criticism campaign from the US-led West.

Hong Kong's Deputy Secretary for Justice Cheung Kwok-kwan is scheduled to attend the 55th regular session of the United Nations Human Rights Council this week, which, some experts said, will also be a major platform to clarify some misunderstandings about the legislation.

Those amendments aim to clarify certain concepts, such as the definitions of state secrets, external forces and incitement, and to allow, in some aspects, public interest to serve as a defense argument, alleviating some concerns of the media, academic and business communities, Lau noted.

"The main purpose of the law is to prevent the US and Western forces from engaging in subversion, infiltration, incitement and espionage activities in Hong Kong, building a shield for national security together with the NSL for Hong Kong," the expert said.

China's seed breeding industry thrives, as nation seeks to bolster food security

Seed breeding at the Nanfan breeding base, which has been dubbed the "Silicon Valley" of China's seed industry, continues to thrive, with an output value exceeding 10 billion yuan ($1.39 billion) in 2023, a senior provincial official said on Sunday. The base, in South China's Hainan Province, plays a significant role in China's efforts to bolster food security. 

"Seeds are the 'chips' of agriculture, and to build Nanfan into the country's largest experimental zone for agricultural science and technology is essential for seed production and food security," Liu Xiaoming, governor of Hainan Province, said at the opening ceremony of the 2024 China Seed Congress in Sanya, Hainan. 

At the conference, Liu detailed some remarkable achievements during the past few years, including the construction of major research platforms, the integration of resources for seed enterprises, and further development of the national seed breeding base. 

Experts said the conference showcased China's achievements and innovations in the seed industry. It also comes amid the central government's increasing efforts to ensure food security, which have highlighted the importance of support for sci-tech innovation in the agricultural sector, as well as revitalization of the seed industry.

China is the world's second-largest seed market, with a market value of 120 billion yuan ($16.3 billion), according to a 2021 report published by the agricultural ministry. 

The seed industry is a national resource that has been deemed strategic. Without an independent seed industry, which is key to increasing food production and ensuring food security, there is no strong agriculture, Chinese agricultural experts said.  

However, the foundation of seed industry development is still not solid enough, Li Guoxiang, a research fellow at the Rural Development Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Monday.

"The most fundamental way to nurture the indigenous seed industry is to create a market environment that respects innovation and protects the intellectual property rights of the seed enterprises," Li noted. It would also be good to encourage companies to invest more in the research and development of breeding technology, so as to cultivate new quality productive forces in the seed industry.

This would form a virtuous cycle allowing the sustainable development of seed enterprises, Li said. 

At the conference, Tao Kaiyuan, vice president of the Supreme People's Court, said China has continued to strengthen the protection of intellectual property rights involving seeds, with stricter penalties for violators.

According to Tao, the court has dealt with a total of 619 cases involving infringement of new plant variety rights in 2023, up nearly 40 percent compared to 2022. 

China has attached great importance to agriculture and the seed industry. In this year's Government Work Report the central government said it would redouble efforts to invigorate the seed industry and make breakthroughs in key agricultural technologies. 

Li pointed out the urgent need to enhance the competitiveness of China's soybean industry and advance the self-reliance of the seed industry in science and technology. "China has advantages in breeding technology for rice, wheat, and some unique varieties, but the yield level of soybean varieties still needs to be further improved," Li said, noting that more efforts are still needed to boost innovation in cutting-edge breeding technologies. 

To realize an upswing in the development of the seed industry, Liu said Hainan will ramp up efforts in seed breeding, focusing on such aspects as seed sources, the seed industry, and germplasm resources.

Electricity enables high-quality tea

Jufeng town, Lanshan district, Rizhao city, stands as one of the main tea-producing areas in north China. Surrounded by mountains on three sides and bordered by the sea on the fourth, the area is higher in the north and lower in the south, featuring soil with a slightly acidic nature. Such unique geographical conditions and microclimate nurture Jufeng green tea with strong fragrance and flavor, earning the area the title of "hometown of green tea in the north of the Yangtze River." Over the years, the traditional tea planting and processing methods in Rizhao city have given rise to poor yields, low prices, and subpar taste. In light of this, Rizhao Power Supply Company has been guiding tea factories and farmers in adopting electric processing and irrigation for tea, providing high-quality and reliable services throughout. These efforts have enabled Jufeng, a remote and secluded town, to keep pace with the modern advanced approaches to tea production. The transition from fuel-powered and wood-fired methods to electrified planting, irrigation, and processing marks a successful evolution in Rizhao green tea since its introduction from the south to the north half a century ago.

The power supply company always cares about tea yields and farmers' income

On March 11, like the beginning of spring each year, before the tea stir-drying machines hum and the tea irrigation reaches its peak, employees from the Jufeng Power Supply Station of Rizhao Power Supply Company visited the tea gardens in Houshanwang village and the Baiman Tea Factory in Houyaxia village. They offered on-site and value-added services to local tea farmers and factories, such as overhauling the irrigation and electric equipment, so as to secure a safe and uninterrupted power supply for irrigation and tea production.

"You couldn't have come at a better time. The favorable soil moisture conditions last winter and this spring went fast as the temperatures rose rapidly with an increasing evaporation rate since March. We were concerned about whether our irrigation equipment, which had been idle for almost half a year, would function properly. Fortunately, thanks to your proactive overhaul, we can ensure smooth irrigation of the tea gardens to improve soil moisture," said Zhang Chenghong, Party Branch Secretary of Houshanwang village, who was busy preparing for irrigation in the tea garden. "As the saying goes, tea picked early is as valuable as treasure, while tea picked late is as worthless as grass. The power station staff's assistance enabled timely irrigation for over 400 mu of tea and early picking in our village." A nearby tea farmer said humorously, "The old saying always emphasizes 'effort and luck,' but I believe it should now be 'effort and electricity.' With the help of the power supply station, our tea won't go thirsty. When our spring tea hits the market first, it will surely fetch a good price." His words elicited laughter from those present.

"This year's spring tea is expected to enter the picking season soon. From mid to late April is the golden period for harvesting, during which the dryer, roller, and tea strip-tidying machines will operate at full throttle all day, consuming several times more electricity than usual," said Song Baiman, Director of Baiman Tea Factory and Leading Science Popularizer in Shandong Province, addressing the power station staff. "In the past, as laymen, we repair equipment ourselves, simply by dusting the body or tightening the screws. Consequently, various issues inevitably arose during the peak production of spring tea. Now, with your professional on-site services, such as checking and repairing all power-driven equipment and addressing overheating joints in the circuits, as well as the power line upgrade last year, we don't have to worry about the production and profitability this year."

Clean electric irrigation has significantly increased tea planting area and quality

Tea planting is the foundation for producing high-quality tea. Due to the low temperatures and precipitation levels, tea grown in the north of the Yangtze River develops a strong and enduring flavor but yields poorly. The key to achieving high yields lies in water.

"In the past, we relied on water conservancy facilities built in the 1960s and 1970s for irrigation, most of which had fallen into disrepair. Subsequently, diesel engines were employed, resulting in high costs, heavy pollution, and limited irrigated areas. However, the power supply station took the initiative by extending 10-kilovolt high-voltage lines directly to the fields and installing a transformer for irrigation purposes near the reservoir. This enables us to benefit from national electricity subsidies for agricultural irrigation. As we collectively invested in improving the sprinkler irrigation facilities in our village, with just a twist of the switch, over 500 mu of tea garden can be irritated," said Zhang Shouzan, Party Branch Secretary of Qianshan Beitou village, Jufeng town, on March 15.

Rows of sprinklers stand amid the tea gardens, yet not a single telegraph pole or transmission line is in sight. Li Zhaochun, director of the Jufeng Power Supply Station, said all power lines within the tea gardens are buried underground, saving space and minimizing the impact on tea planting and picking.

Zhang Shouzan elaborated on the advantages of sprinkler irrigation. For example, tea shoots have become fleshier, leading to an increase in the proportion of high-quality shoots, and in the production of fresh tea leaves by 15-25%. Additionally, there has been a notable rise in the content of key biochemical components such as amino nitrogen and catechin. Moreover, sprinkler irrigation can significantly save water consumption while reducing soil compaction rates, raising the average tea revenue to 20,000 yuan ($2,779) per mu.

With the scale and yield of tea planting on the rise, a common concern among people is whether tea farmers will resort to heavy pesticide usage during pest control.

"As tea leaves are directly brewed and drunk by people, the method for repelling or killing insects has evolved to an electric approach in our tea gardens. There is no need to worry about pesticide residues," said Zhang Shouzan.

Electric tea stir-drying secures Rizhao's leading role in green tea in north China

Those well-versed in tea understand that high-quality fresh tea leaves do not necessarily guarantee the production of excellent tea. Electrified tea stir-drying plays a crucial role in winning market share and acclaim.

Bojiakou village is famous for its specialized tea stir-drying in Rizhao city. Yuyuanchun Tea Factory, with over 30 years of history, is nestled in this village. Factory Director Yuan Congbo led workers in installing a newly purchased microwave tea fixation machine. According to him, before 2012, tea processing in Rizhao primarily adhered to craft production, involving manual tea tedding, fixation, and packaging, and heating and drying mostly relied on fuel and firewood. This labor-intensive method led to higher distortion in taste and color, lower tea quality, limited production capacity, and uncompetitive price. With the improvement in the power grid's capacity, an increasing number of tea farmers have purchased electric equipment for tea fixation, rolling, and drying. Yuan has successively acquired the tedder, fixation machine, electric stove, pressing machine, and packaging machine to electrify tea production, significantly enhancing both capacity and efficiency.

Yuan explained that electrified stir-drying makes it easier to control the duration and degree of heating, thereby preserving tea's natural color and flavor. Additionally, tea leaves have a strong ability to absorb odors, and the colorless and odorless electricity doesn't produce the smoke and pollution caused by coal, fuel, and firewood. The hygienic and clean electricity, paired with stainless steel equipment casings, maximizes the retention of the tea's original flavor.

Maintaining tea freshness is crucial, as tea leaves are vulnerable to oxidation which changes their taste. Thanks to a robust power grid, many tea stir-drying farmers have built cold storage warehouses to preserve the tea leaves before they are sold.

Today, Rizhao's tea enterprises have emerged as pioneers of the tea industry in north China, establishing the benchmark for tea production and processing in the region.

Electricity has changed the lifestyle of villagers

In the past, due to poverty, farmers in Jufeng town sought jobs in other places. However, with the improvements in electricity and transportation infrastructure in rural areas, an increasing number of villagers are choosing to operate tea gardens, and more tea factories are settling in the village from other regions. A medium-sized tea factory typically requires 20 to 30 workers during regular times, and 50 to 60 workers during harvest seasons. As a result, farmers in Jufeng have stopped migrating, and many farmers from surrounding towns have come to seek jobs in Jufeng. During the tea harvesting season, some tea gardens even experience labor shortages.

"Electricity has enabled the industrialization of tea planting and stir-drying, and large-scale tea production to meet market demand. Currently, apart from vegetable gardens, tea gardens occupy most of our village's land. Although the income from tea planting is not significantly higher compared to working elsewhere, it allows villagers to stay at home and avoid the hardships of being away," said Liu Weiming, a villager from Liujia village in Jufeng town.

The development of the tea industry has attracted nearby villagers to earn money through picking tea. "I have an eight-mu tea garden. During busy times, in addition to my family of two, we also need to hire four to five people," added Liu.

Tea farmers are more motivated to plant and pick tea with more convenient tea planting methods, assured yields, quality, and prices, and improved services such as power supply. Villagers no longer need to migrate and can dedicate themselves to operating their tea gardens.

"Supporting the tea industry not only relates to the overall economic development of the town but also signifies a political commitment. With tea gardens in every household, we have essentially addressed issues like empty-nest elders and left-behind children in our town, thereby increasing the happiness of our villagers," remarked Wang Dongliang, Party Secretary of the CPC Jufeng Town Committee.

Electricity has changed the green tea planting and processing methods in Rizhao, as well as the lives and fortunes of tea farmers. Leveraging electricity, the variety, quality, and brand of Rizhao green tea have improved, leading to development, expansion, and extension of the tea industry.