China resolutely opposes US' deployment of mid-range missile system in Asia-Pacific region in bid to seek unilateral military advantage: Chinese FM

China strongly opposes the US deploying medium-range ballistic missiles in the Asia-Pacific and strengthening forward deployment at China's doorstep to seek unilateral military advantage, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in response to US Army Pacific's announcement of its successful deployment of a new capability for the first time, a move believed by some to help bolster deterrence against China.

The US Army Pacific announced on Monday local time on its website that it has deployed its new Mid-Range Capability missile system, also known as the Typhon Weapons System, to Northern Luzon, the Philippines, as part of the annual bilateral exercises between the Philippine Army and the US Army Pacific, dubbed Salaknib, which began on April 8. 

Such a move would be the first US deployment of a ground-based launcher since it withdrew in 2019 from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) between the US and then-Soviet Union that banned all land-based missiles, conventional and nuclear, that could travel between 500 kilometers and 5,500 kilometers, according to media report. 

Some commentators have said that the move could help bolster deterrence against China. 

In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lin Jian said during a Thursday briefing that China noted the announcement and expresses grave concern over the move.

China strongly opposes the US deploying medium-range ballistic missiles in the Asia-Pacific and strengthening forward deployment at China's doorstep to seek unilateral military advantage, Lin said, noting the US' move exacerbates tensions in the region and increases the risk of misjudgment and miscalculation. 

We urge the US to earnestly respect other countries' security concerns, stop stoking military confrontation, stop undermining peace and stability in the region, and take concrete actions to reduce strategic risks, Lin said. 

The Philippines needs to see and be mindful of what the US is truly after and the consequence of going along with the US on deploying medium-range ballistic missiles. The Philippines needs to think twice about being a cat's paw for the US at the expense of its own security interests, and stop sliding down the wrong path, Lin added. 

According to the Naval News, the new capability is being deployed for the first time in the First Island Chain for joint military exercises in the northern Philippines. Typhon's missiles can cover not only the entire Luzon Strait but also reach the Chinese coast and various People's Liberation Army bases in the South China Sea. 

The US Army said last year that it had conducted a number of successful tests of the system, which has four trailer-based launchers and other supporting equipment, along with Tomahawk and SM-6 missiles.

Some observers said that the US' deployment of the Typhon system in the Philippines will severely disrupt freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, since this missile system is an offensive military platform. They added that the provocative intent of the US, as an external power, is very clear, and obviously aimed at China. It is an attempt to disrupt the peace and stability of the South China Sea by exacerbating tensions in the region, and seeks to give the US a greater military presence in the region.

Other observers said that this missile system is more about the US exerting more military influence on the Philippines by turning the country into a veritable military base and further hijacking it, and the move will also inevitably trigger an arms race in the region. 

However, it is worth noting that such outdated missile system will only pose a limited threat to China, and its political significance outweighs its military value. 

Senior Colonel Wu Qian, a spokesperson for China's Ministry of National Defense, also said on April 12 that the US push to deploy mid-range missiles in the Asia-Pacific region is a dangerous move that will seriously threaten the security of regional countries and disrupt regional peace and stability. China firmly opposes it and will resolutely take countermeasures, he added. 

"We urge the US to earnestly respect the security concerns of other countries and to stop undermining regional peace and stability," Wu said. 

Number of entries and exits in China exceeds 141 million in Q1, a year-on-year increase of 117.8%: NIA

The National Immigration Administration (NIA) announced at a press conference on Thursday that in the first quarter, immigration management agencies nationwide processed over 141 million traveler trips, a year-on-year increase of 117.8 percent.

Among them, trips by residents from the Chinese mainland reached 69.5 million, while trips by residents of the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions and the island of Taiwan reached 59.1 million, year-on-year increases of 114.9 percent and 100.4 percent, respectively. Those by foreign nationals reached 13.1 million, a year-on-year increase of 305.2 percent.

In the first quarter, the NIA introduced a series of immigration and entry-exit management policy measures, including continuously optimizing regional visa-free entry, visa-free transit, and port visa policies, implementing five measures to facilitate foreigners visiting China. This expanded the options for visa-free entry for nationals of certain countries to South China's Hainan Province, supporting East China's Fujian Province in building a cross-Straits integration development demonstration zone. It also issued individual tourist endorsements for travel to and from Hong Kong and Macao for eligible individuals in Xi'an in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province and Qingdao in East China's Shandong Province.

According to an immigration administration spokesperson, the number of foreigners arriving in China in the first quarter increased more than threefold compared to the same period in 2023.

The countries with the most residents coming to China included US, Australia, Canada, Germany and the UK. Other visitors included residents from neighboring countries such as Russia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Mongolia, Laos, as well as East Asian and Southeast Asian countries such as South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

Foreigners were mainly visiting for tourism, accounting for over 30 percent of arrivals, followed by business, visiting relatives and friends, work, and study.

After gradually relaxing entry restrictions in the country, the number of foreign groups inquiring about inbound tourism has been steadily increasing, according to the manager of Love Fan International Travel Agency based in Wuhan, Central China's Hubei Province, on Thursday. "Now, we can receive inquiries from more than thirty groups in a day. The main countries of these groups include Thailand, Singapore, the UK and some European countries."

According to the manager, the most popular cities and provinces for inbound tourism include Zibo, Chengdu, Yunnan, Xinjiang, and Tianshui which has recently become a popular tourist destination, with its many travel videos online receiving a high volume of comments about the city.

"The changes in entry policies and the convenience of visas have given us more confidence and opportunities in the international tourism sector. From what we understand, a big boom will come in the second half of this year," she noted.

On July 26, 2023, China resumed the 15-day visa-free policy for ordinary passport holders from Singapore and Brunei for business, tourism, visiting relatives, and transit. Later, on December 1, 2023, and March 14, 2024, China successively implemented unilateral visa-free policies for ordinary passport holders from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Malaysia, Switzerland, Ireland, Hungary, Austria, Belgium and Luxembourg. The China-Thailand visa exemption agreement officially took effect on March 1, 2024.

To date, a total of 989,000 foreign nationals from the above-mentioned 15 countries have entered China visa-free, showing an overall upward trend.

A netizen from Thailand traveled to Beijing, and shared his story with the Global Times on Thursday. He said he was very excited after watching some YouTubers queuing for spicy hot pot in Tianshui, so he joined a tour group to come to China.

His first stop was Chengdu, where he visited the must-see giant pandas. Then he followed the group to Tianshui, although he didn't get to try the most popular restaurant as seen online, the taste of the food there was memorable enough for him.

For the last stop, he arrived in Beijing and saw the bustling capital of China. He plans to bring his family back for another trip in the second half of the year. "China has a huge variety of delicious dishes and breathtaking scenery. I hope my family will love it here too," he said.

On January 11, the NIA introduced five measures to facilitate foreign nationals coming to China, further relaxing the conditions for foreign nationals applying for port visas in China. The NIA also implemented 24-hour transit without border inspection procedures, providing foreign nationals with convenient visa extension, replacement, reissuance, and re-entry visa application services, simplifying the application materials for foreign nationals applying for visas in China, and strengthening the promotion and implementation of policy measures.

Since the implementation of the policy, a total of 211,000 foreign nationals have entered China through port visa applications; a total of 253,000 foreign nationals in China have applied for visa extension, replacement, reissuance, and residence permits, making it more convenient for foreign nationals to come to and stay in China, and the immigration management agencies have provided more efficient management and services for foreign nationals in China.

"During my trip, I was truly impressed by the warmth and efficiency of China's policies aimed at making travel easier for foreigners," said David, a Serbian traveler who just wrapped up his trip in Beijing in late March. "From transportation to payment methods, everything was designed to make our experience seamless," he told the Global Times on Thursday.

He highlighted the convenience of using apps to book taxis and make payments on his phone, which eliminated the need to constantly withdraw cash from the bank and also alleviated concerns about losing money. "The shopping payment system in China is incredibly convenient, something I never would have imagined before my trip," he said.

The People's Bank of China, Ministry of Commerce, and State Administration of Foreign Exchange have introduced new policy measures aimed at facilitating easier payment for foreign visitors.

The notice, issued on Wednesday, comes in response to the growing demand for diverse payment services in the commercial sector, aligning with the country's ongoing efforts to enhance high-quality engagement with the global community.

With a focus on improving payment convenience for various groups, mainly foreign visitors and the elderly, the notice targets key areas such as bank card acceptance, cash payments, mobile payments, account services and publicity efforts.

Additionally, in the first quarter of this year, national immigration management agencies investigated over 10,000 cases of crimes that obstructed immigration management, apprehended over 14,000 criminal suspects, of which over 12,000 were subjected to criminal coercive measures, with 1,785 handled through administrative measures. A total of 213 criminal gangs were investigated, 53 transit points were dismantled, and 377 vessels involved in criminal cases were seized.

Officials reported that 200 drug cases involving 256 individuals were investigated, including 38 cases involving over 10,000 grams of illicit substances, with a total seizure of 2.5 tons of various drugs and 135.6 tons of drug-making materials. 265 firearms were seized, and the value of smuggled goods intercepted amounted to 1.1 billion yuan ($150 million), the administration announced.

Fallacies spread by US Southern Command Commander on China-Argentina deep space exploration cooperation 'absurd, lack basic respect': embassy

The Chinese Embassy in Argentina on Saturday expressed its strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition to the recent remarks made by the commander of the US Southern Command, slamming the remarks as "contrary to the facts, absurd, and lacking even the most basic respect for China and Argentina," for which the Chinese side is deeply shocked and angered.

Regarding the Deep Space Station in Neuquén , Argentina and China-Argentina economic and trade cooperation, on April 2, Laura Richardson, the commander of US Southern Command, visited Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, to meet Argentine President Javier Milei and raised concerns about the deep space station, intended for radio astronomy, radar observations, and spacecraft missions of China, according to the media outlet Newsendip on Wednesday.

The media outlet noted that Richardson claimed the station provides the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) with "global tracking and surveillance capabilities" which "could translate into global military capabilities."

In response, the Chinese Embassy in Argentina stated on Saturday, regarding the Neuquén Deep Space Station, China and Argentina have clarified the intended use of the facility on multiple occasions. 

As a space technology cooperation project between China and Argentina, it does not have any special purposes other than civilian use, and its operation is open and transparent, the embassy said in the statement.

The statement stressed that space is the common home of humanity, not an arena for power struggles, noting some in the US are still stuck in the old era of Cold War thinking and zero-sum games. 

The embassy revealed, in fact, the US has around 800 military bases overseas and has stationed 173,000 troops in 159 countries and regions. The international community is deeply concerned about US activities at military bases overseas, and people in various countries have the right to know what military activities the US is openly conducting on the territory of other countries. Is it seriously undermining the sovereignty and security of other countries? The US needs to provide a clear explanation to the international community.

Instead of reflecting on itself, the US is blatantly applying double standards, deliberately slandering, smearing, and attacking China-Argentina deep space exploration, essentially politicizing, instrumentalizing, and weaponizing technological issues, maliciously depriving China and Argentina of their rights to use science and technology for their own development and to maintain their own space hegemony.

China-Argentina economic and trade cooperation is based on mutual respect and win-win cooperation, which is in the common interests of both sides. The Belt and Road Initiative is an open and inclusive international cooperation initiative. China has always adhered to the principles of voluntary participation, equality and mutual benefit, openness and transparency in carrying out relevant cooperation with relevant countries, and no partner has accepted the so-called "debt trap" theory. 

Since the proposal of the Belt and Road Initiative 10 years ago, it has driven nearly a trillion dollars in investment, formed more than 3,000 cooperation projects, created 420,000 jobs for partner countries, and lifted nearly 40 million people out of poverty in partner countries. Under the framework of jointly building the Belt and Road Initiative, China and Argentina have implemented a series of practical cooperation projects in energy, electricity, infrastructure, communications, and other fields, playing an important role in upgrading Argentina's industries, social development, job creation, and improving people's livelihoods, according to the embassy.

The embassy pointed out that Latin American and Caribbean countries, including Argentina, are independent sovereign states, not the backyard of the US. The Argentine government and people have the wisdom and ability to choose cooperation partners that are in their own interests.

China will continue to uphold the principles of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, win-win cooperation, and openness and inclusiveness. Based on respecting each other's needs and interests, China will carry out practical cooperation in various fields with Argentina to better promote the development and revitalization of both countries and improve social welfare, continuously adding resilience and vitality to the global economy.

Guangdong remains only province to record over 1 million births for four consecutive years: official data

South China's Guangdong Province has maintained its position as the only province with the number of births surpassing 1 million for four consecutive years, and the province has also been the top performer in terms of births for six consecutive years, official data showed.

Analysts noted that the combination of traditional fertility attitudes and the influx of a young population structure has contributed to Guangdong's continued success in maintaining a leading position in fertility growth. Meanwhile, China still needs long-term policy support, such as developing childcare services to ease the fertility burden on young parents, as most provinces are facing a decline in birth rate. 

According to statistics that have been published by local authorities, a total of 1.03 million births were recorded in 2023 in Guangdong, resulting in a birth rate of 8.12 per thousand. Central China's Henan Province followed behind with 695,000 births, while East China's Shandong Province trailed with 610,000 births, claiming the third spot in the rankings.

In terms of birth rate, among the provinces which have published their population-related data, there are five with a population birth rate exceeding 8 per thousand, namely Guizhou, Hainan, Qinghai, Yunnan, Guangdong, and also the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, mainly located in the country's western and southern regions.

In general, places with higher birth rates tend to have lower urbanization rates. However, there are exceptions, such as Guangdong, which has an urbanization rate of 75.42 percent, ranking fourth in the country, but with a high birth rate of 8.12 per thousand in 2023.

Peng Peng, executive chairman of the Guangdong Society of Reform, said this is because Guangdong has the highest permanent resident population in the country, with a high influx of people from outside the province. The population inflow structure is relatively young, with a high proportion of individuals in the age range for marriage and childbearing, said Peng, who was quoted on Wednesday by Yicai, a business and financial media outlet.

Traditional beliefs about childbirth in Guangdong are also a contributing factor, Mu Guangzong, a professor at Peking University's Institute of Population Research, told the Global Times on Thursday, noting that this cultural factor leads to a higher willingness to have children among people in Guangdong.

South China's Hainan Province also shows a rebound in birth population. The data released by the provincial authority reveals that in 2023, the total number of births in the province was 96,000, an increase of 7,900 from the previous year, and the birth rate was 9.28 per thousand, an increase of 0.68 per thousand points year-on-year.

However, as the birth rate in many Chinese provinces are declining, population experts emphasized the importance of long-term policy support. Liu Zhijun, a professor of sociology at Zhejiang University, told the Global Times on Thursday that it's essential to promote childcare services and enhance public support for child rearing and education. This will alleviate the burden of raising children on young couples, and, as a result, more couples will decide to have children.

In addition to birth-related data, the statistics released by various regions also reveal the trends of growth in the resident population as well as population migration.

Out of the 28 provinces which have published the data, nine have a positive growth in their permanent population. Among them, Zhejiang has a population increase of 500,000 and Guangdong, 490,000, Yicai reported.

Population migration trends indicate that the Yangtze River Delta and the Pearl River Delta have emerged as the primary destinations for population influx. While within each province, there is a consistent flow of population from small and medium-sized cities and rural areas to central cities. Despite a decrease in total population in some provinces, the population in the provincial capital cities continues to rise.

Liu noted that since the provincial capital city is the center of a province's economy, politics, culture, medical care, as well as education, which also means higher incomes and more job positions, it will attract an influx of people from other cities within the province itself.

Renowned brand survey reveals China's soft power ranks in world’s top 3 for first time

Editor's Note:

Brand Finance, the internationally renowned brand valuation agency based in London, recently released the "Global Soft Power Index 2024," which shows that the US and the UK have maintained their positions as the top two most influential countries in global soft power. It is noteworthy that China is the fastest-growing nation brand this year, surpassing Japan and Germany, and for the first time, ranking third in the soft power index, with the country's progress exceeding that of any other country.

Brand Finance has been tracking the performance of global soft power in multiple countries for five consecutive years, and this year's report is based on surveys of over 170,000 respondents from more than 100 countries, ranking all 193 member states of the United Nations for the first time.

What is behind the world's fastest-growing soft power? The Global Times recently interviewed Brand Finance's officials, as well as scholars and observers from various countries, to discuss how China's soft power is steadily improving and bringing benefits to the world.

Two pillars

According to Scott Chen, Managing Director China of Brand Finance, the agency defines soft power as "a nation's ability to influence the preferences and behaviors of various actors in the international arena - states, corporations, communities, public, and etc. - through attraction or persuasion rather than coercion."

Chen told the Global Times that the Global Soft Power Index is a research study, commissioned by Brand Finance, covering 193 countries around the world. With responses from more than 170,000 people in over 100 markets, the survey is also the most comprehensive and extensive field survey of its kind.

To conduct the fieldwork, in more developed markets, Brand Finance's established online research panels were used, Chen noted. "Each respondent was shown a random sub-set of nation brands - drawn from the 193 [countries] included in the Index - and asked about their familiarity. For countries about which the respondent had some knowledge, we obtained a detailed assessment of reputation, influence, and performance on 35 characteristics representing the core 8 Soft Power Pillars," he said.

In the 2024 Brand Finance Global Soft Power Index, China made the most significant advancement among all nations, rising from fifth to third place, and its overall score increased by 6.2 points from 65.0 to 71.2 over the previous year.

Chen explained that this growth is due to China's significant improvement in the two pillars of "Business and Trade," and "Education and Science."

"Our latest research finds that the Business and Trade pillars are crucial indicators of a nation's global influence. This directly reflects a nation's economic strength, innovation, and integration into the global market," Chen said.

Chen pointed out that in terms of soft power, Brand Finance found that a nation's ability to engage in trade effectively, maintain economic stability, and provide attractive investment opportunities is pivotal in shaping global perceptions.

In terms of specific indicators, China's performance is equally impressive. Since the first release of the Global Impact Index report in 2020, China has been ranked first in the world for being "easy to do business with" under the Business and Trade pillar, and has been No.1 for "future growth potential." In the education and science pillar, China ranks second in the world in indicators such as being a "leader in technology and innovation" and "invests in space exploration."

Chen noted that soft power holds immense significance for a nation as it enables it to exert influence, shape perceptions, and achieve goals.

"A nation's soft power, encompassing its culture and heritage, people and values, and international relations, enhances its reputation and fosters goodwill with other nations. By promoting such attributes, a nation can effectively engage with the global community and enhance its interests on the global stage. Soft power ultimately serves as a crucial tool, not just for diplomacy, but also for economic development, by attracting investment, trade, talent, and tourism to a nation," he said.

Multiple drive

Several years ago, back when BlackBerry phones were popular in the US, some of my friends wanted to keep up with the trend, yet couldn't afford them, so they bought Chinese knock-offs instead. During dates with their girlfriends, they were often too embarrassed to bring out their "fake BlackBerries." However, things are completely different now. "Made in China" is no longer synonymous with "inferior" or "counterfeit." Many Indonesians are using Chinese-made smartphones like Oppo, Vivo, or Xiaomi, and TikTok, whose user base has surpassed that of YouTube, Novi Basuki, a prominent Indonesian sinologist, told the Global Times.

The shift in Indonesians' perception of "Made in China" reflects China's enhanced soft power. Observers have pointed out that such enhancement is driven by multiple factors.

For example, in terms of electronics, China currently offers high-quality products at highly competitive prices, which continues to contribute to an enhanced perception of having "products and brands the world loves," for which the nation ranks 6th overall, Chen noted.

At the same time, Chen pointed out that while being ranked third overall in the index, China performs strongly in attributes such as "easy to do business with" and "future growth potential," with a prime example being the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

"As key objectives of the initiative, China's focus on promoting economic development, both domestically and among participating nations, especially in areas lacking infrastructure, has been key. Additionally, the BRI has played a role in facilitating international trade," he said.

In terms of the index of Education and Science, Chen noted that Brand Finance's latest research found that China has made significant strides in recent years. Underscored by various breakthroughs in areas like Artificial Intelligence, renewable energy, and space exploration, China has been able to cultivate an international reputation for its innovation capabilities and technological prowess.

The answer to this conclusion can be found in the cooperation between China and many countries in the world.

For example, in Brazil, people's views on China's soft power regarding are undergoing positive changes. Surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center show that about 70 percent of respondents from Latin American countries approve of China's technological development. Chinese cars, especially new energy vehicles (NEVs), are favored by Latin Americans for their excellent performance, cost-effectiveness, and technological advantages.

"In recent years, more and more Chinese companies have invested in Brazil, bringing not only capital but also advanced management techniques, creating a large number of job opportunities for the locals," Letícia, a Brazilian student majoring in international relations, told the Global Times.

According to statistics released by Chinese Customs, in 2023, China's exports of electromechanical products reached 13.92 trillion yuan ($1.92 trillion) with an increase of 2.9 percent, accounting for 58.6 percent of total exports. Among these products, the combined export of the New Trio, which includes electric vehicles, lithium-ion batteries, and solar cells, increased by 29.9 percent and reached 1.06 trillion yuan, breaking the trillion-yuan mark for the first time.

The Financial Times recently reported that thanks to excellent performance and affordability, the market sales of Chinese NEVs continue to grow, with obvious advantages over their counterparts from other countries. Mathias Miedreich, CEO of Umicore headquartered in Belgium, which is part of the NEV supply chain, stated that Chinese electric vehicles are good enough and provide what the market and consumers truly need.
Significant trend

In the 2024 Index, Brand Finance highlights a significant trend: hard power undermines soft power. "Going back to Brand Finance's definition of soft power, in that it revolves around influence through persuasion or attraction, rather than coercion, hard power - which is often associated with military strength - tends to undermine this approach by its very nature of coercion," Chen explained.

In my view, China's rise in the global soft power index reflects the world's appreciation for a country with great civilization and culture. It's also a positive response to the achievements that the country has made in technological innovation and development, Enrique Cornejo, a Peruvian political and economic analyst, told the Global Times.

Li Long, Executive Vice President of the Institute of Public Opinion and Social Governance at the South China Normal University, analyzed the three reasons why China's soft power has left a deep impression on the international community.

First, China embraces openness and inclusiveness. It has implemented a series of new policies and measures to strengthen its connections with the world. Activities such as trade, tourism, and cultural exchanges are becoming more frequent, and China continues to provide internationally shared public goods and services, promoting the construction of an open world economy.

Second, it values technological innovation, a core element of developing new productive forces. The country is enhancing its technology and capacity for independent research and development.

Third, China calls for cooperation and mutual benefit. As a responsible major country, China has always adhered to the principles of peaceful development and mutual benefit, actively promoting peace and development in the international community.

"Peruvians believe that China's soft power manifests a friendly value system, which distinguishes it from other influential countries, whether in North America or Europe," Juan Carlos Capuay Chávez, former Peruvian Ambassador to China, told the Global Times.

Julien Segbo, Director of the Confucius Institute at Benin's University of Abomey-Calavi, said that more and more African students are choosing to study in China. "It's not only because China offers a variety of scholarship programs, but also because the quality of higher education in China is gaining wide recognition. Like many classmates, I came to China for education. I have gained professional knowledge here, broadened my horizons and experienced the charm of different cultures."

According to Al Gomhuria, a state-owned Egyptian Arabic language daily newspaper, China's economic and trade cooperation with Africa has driven the development of local African companies and increased job opportunities.

China's educational aid projects have improved education in Africa, providing the younger generation with broader room for development. The friendly cooperation between China and Africa has not only promoted the economic development of both sides, but also deepened the emotional bond between the two peoples.

Analysts pointed out that although some Western media often report on China-related news from the perspective of Western values and political positions, leading to a higher proportion of critical reports on certain Chinese policies and actions.

However, currently, many countries, especially in developing countries, recognize China's soft power and influence. With the deepening of globalization and the diversification of information channels, more and more people are beginning to understand China through various means, including direct visits to China, participating in cultural exchange activities, and social media. More and more people are looking forward to China's soft power accelerating further.

At least 10 dead, 934 injured after strongest earthquake in decades hits Taiwan island

At least 10 people were confirmed dead, 934 were injured, and 56 people trapped awaiting rescue after a 7.3-magnitude quake struck the east coast of Taiwan island on Wednesday, local media reported on Wednesday, with the rescue being underway in the worst-hit region of Hualien. 

A 7.3-magnitude earthquake jolted an area of sea near Hualien in China's Taiwan at 7:58 am Wednesday (Beijing Time), followed by two aftershocks which measured 6.0-magnitude and 5.9-magnitude at 8:11 am and 8:35 am respectively, according to the China Earthquake Network Center (CENC).

According to the statistics of local meteorological department in Taiwan, as of 19:30 on Wednesday, 190 aftershocks had occurred, including 97 aftershocks of magnitude 4 or above, Taiwan-based media reported. 

According to local Taiwan media reports, a landslide occurred in Hualien, a county closest to the epicenter, after the earthquake, causing vehicles to be hit by falling rocks.

With a population of abut 100,000, Hualien county is known for its mountainous terrain.

Among the dead persons, three were hikers who were hit by falling rocks, one was a bus driver, killed by falling rocks as well. 

Videos on social media revealed some buildings in Hualien were seriously damaged and partially collapsed. Local authorities said there are still people waiting for rescue in these buildings.  

Taiwan's local weather authorities said the earthquake is the largest one since a 7.3-magnitude quake in 1999. Aftershocks of magnitude 6.5+ to 7.0 may occur over the coming three to four days.

The Hualien county government announced the suspension of classes and work in response to the aftershocks.

Soon after the fatal earthquake, Zhu Fenglian, spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, said that Chinese mainland is willing to provide disaster relief assistance.

The mainland is concerned about the situation and extends sincere sympathy to the Taiwan compatriots affected by the disaster, Zhu noted. 

The Chinese on the other side of the Taiwan Straits are also closely following the earthquake disaster in Taiwan island. The “Taiwan earthquake” became a top 10 hashtag in Sina Weibo, with about 1.48 billion reads and 551,000 comments as of 22:00 on Wednesday. 

Most mainland net users expressed their wishes and kindness that Taiwan compatriots could stay peace and safety. Some said they are standing with Taiwan compatriots, and hope them to overcome difficulties as soon as possible.   

Fourteen years ago, when a massive 8.0-magnitude earthquake struck Wenchuan, Southwest China’s Sichuan Province in 2008, the Taiwan region donated NT$7.05 billion ($2.2 billion) in aid to the mainland, NT$5.05 billion of which was from the private sector and people from all walks of life, according to media reports. 

Ma Ying-jeou, the then Taiwan regional leader at the time of the Wenchuan earthquake, was visiting Guangzhou on the mainland on Wednesday. After visiting a Chinese revolutionary martyrs' cemetery, he sent a brief condolence to Taiwan people in his speech, "A massive earthquake happened off Hualien waters, I hope everyone’s safe."

The Philippines' repeated reneging on its promises and making provocations the real cause of the current maritime tensions: Chinese FM

The Philippines' repeated baseless accusations against China are merely attempts to cover up their own breaches of commitments and provocations in the South China Sea issue, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said on Monday, refuting the country's accusations against China of "intimidating smaller countries."

On Friday and Saturday, the Philippine Department of National Defense (DND) and the Philippine National Security Council (NSC) assistant director general Jonathan Malaya, accused China of "patronizing" and "intimidating smaller countries," saying that China is "in for a rude surprise" if it thinks it can intimidate Filipinos.

In response to the statements, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said during a press briefing on Monday that Nansha Qundao, including Ren'ai Jiao, has always been China's territory. The scope of Philippine territory is defined by several international treaties. China's Nansha Qundao lies beyond the limits of the Philippine territory.

The Philippines tries to hide the fact that it has broken its promise to China, violated China's sovereignty and kept provoking China. This is the only viable explanation for the Philippines' string of false accusations against China, Wang said.

Wang pointed out that the truth on the Ren'ai Jiao issue is that the Philippines went back on its words. It made a serious promise to tow away its illegally grounded warship, but 25 years on, the Philippine vessel is still there.

What's more, the Philippines breached the understanding between the two sides on properly handling the situation on Ren'ai Jiao, Wang said.

According to Wang, the Philippines promised it will not reinforce the grounded warship and will inform China in advance of resupply plans. Out of humanitarian considerations, China made special provisional arrangements for Philippine vessels sending living necessities to the warship quite a few times. However, the Philippines refuses to honor its promise and made attempts to send construction materials for large-scale repair and reinforcement of the warship in order to permanently occupy Ren'ai Jiao.

The Philippines violated the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) jointly signed by China and ASEAN countries, Wang said.

According to Wang, the Article 5 of the DOC stipulates that the parties undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability including, among others, refraining from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features.

Wang also pointed out that Ren'ai Jiao is uninhabited, and parties should maintain its state of hosting zero personnel and facilities. However, not long ago, the Philippine military spokesperson openly vowed to build permanent structures on Ren'ai Jiao. The Philippines has also repeatedly sent people to step on China's Tiexian Jiao and other uninhabited islands and reefs that belong to China in the South China Sea, which seriously contravenes the principles of the DOC.

The Philippines, backed by external forces, has been going back on its words and making provocations. This is the real cause of the current tensions at sea. Nothing will hide the truth, and no one should turn black into white. The Philippines needs to immediately stop violating China's sovereignty and its provocations, and return to observing the spirit of the DOC. China will not waver in its resolve to safeguard its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, Wang said.

Chongqing woman hangs onto 21 gallstones as souvenirs after surgery

A woman in in Southwest China's Chongqing has kept 21 gallstones as souvenirs after a surgery and played with the gallstones as a means of reliving stress, attracting the attention of netizens.

According to Chinese media report on Wednesday, in a recent medical procedure in Chongqing, a 29-year-old woman surnamed Wang underwent surgery to treat her cholecystolithiasis, commonly known as gallstones.

During the operation, doctors successfully removed 24 gallstones, with one sent for examination and two crushed stones discarded, leaving Wang with the remaining 21 gallstones. 

Following the surgery, Wang played with the gallstones like a stress relief device in her hand, attracting the attention of those around her. 

Her behavior has sparked widespread discussion online, with many netizens expressing a strong interest in the gallstones. 

Some suggested that Wang make them into a bracelet, and there have been reports of individuals attempting to sell images of the gallstones without permission.

Wang stated that since these gallstones are all unique "one-of-a-kind" items, she has no intention of either processing or selling them.

According to public data, the formation of gallstones is mainly related to an imbalance of cholesterol, bilirubin, and bile salts in the bile. When cholesterol and bilirubin exceed the concentration that bile can dissolve, they crystallize and gradually deposit in the gallbladder, eventually forming stones.

Cholecystolithiasis can cause a range of symptoms and complications, including upper abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, and indigestion. When stones block the gallbladder or bile ducts, it can lead to serious complications such as acute cholecystitis, cholangitis, and even gallbladder perforation in extreme cases.

Chinese netizens question Japanese medicine quality following deaths linked to drugmaker's health supplements

Following reports of people dying after consuming health supplements from a Japanese pharmaceutical giant, Chinese netizens have questioned the quality of Japanese medicine, with some saying that it has "fallen off a pedestal." Observers say that this incident will change prevailing "myths" about Japanese products and instead cause people to look at them in a more practical way.

According to the Japanese health ministry on Tuesday, two people died and 106 were hospitalized after consuming red yeast rice dietary supplements from the Japanese drugmaker Kobayashi Pharmaceutical Co, the Kyodo News reported on Wednesday.

The drugmaker said that a person who first began buying the supplement in April 2021 died of kidney disease in February, and the company is investigating the link between the consumption of the supplement and the deaths, the Japan Times reported.

Kobayashi Pharmaceutical has requested all companies supplying its red yeast rice to voluntarily recall products that use the ingredient. The recall affects a wide range of products including sake, confectionery, bread and miso.

According to media reports, the products involved have been removed from domestic e-commerce platforms in China.

Earlier on Friday, the Osaka-based pharmaceutical giant suspected that the cause was an unknown ingredient derived from mold after cases of kidney damage and other health problems following intake of the yeast-fermented rice products were reported, raising fears of health risks linked to the consumption of these products.

The incident has sparked heated discussion among Chinese netizens. On China's X-like platform Sina Weibo, the hashtag "Kobayashi Pharmaceutical's health supplements have caused two deaths and 106 hospitalizations" has earned more than 250 million views as of press time.

Many netizens expressed surprise and anger at the deaths and other health problems caused by the health supplements, while others expressed the impression that Japan's medicine had "fallen off a pedestal."

"I used to believe that Japanese products were extremely trustworthy, and my family often purchased medicine from Kobayashi Pharmaceutical because we thought they were safer. However, this recent incident is truly frightening," one netizen wrote.

Similar comments are flooding Chinese social networking platforms. "So many people are using this Japanese company's medicine, it's really unbelievable that something like this happened." "I used to quite like Kobayashi Pharmaceutical, but I will never dare to use it again in the future."

Analysts have pointed out that Japanese products have long been quite popular among Chinese consumers, with a stereotype of high quality and reliability being associated with them. However, this recent incident may have a negative impact on this perception.

"The event will cause many Chinese people to question the quality of pharmaceutical products from major Japanese companies, such as Kobayashi Pharmaceutical. This may lead Chinese consumers to adopt a more cautious and realistic attitude toward Japanese products," Chen Hong, executive director of Asia Pacific Studies Centre at East China Normal University, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Chen also noted that the incident has shattered the "myth" that Chinese consumers have about Japanese products, as there is often a belief that imported products, including medicine, are more trustworthy. "The reality has shown otherwise, raising doubts about how imported Japanese products should be viewed," he said.

Some netizens also commented that their feelings about this Japanese pharmaceutical company remind them of their concerns about purchasing Japanese seafood and cosmetics after Japan began dumping nuclear contaminated wastewater into the sea in August 2023.

Due to Japan's dumping plan, Chinese consumers have been growing more resistant to Japanese products, including cosmetics, leading many consumers to draw up "a blacklist" comprising more than 30 Japanese cosmetic products and opting for alternative brands.