A special journey to memorable sites that bond China to France, Serbia, Hungary

Chinese President Xi Jinping and French President Emmanuel Macron had an in-depth engagement during a restricted meeting at Col du Tourmalet in the Pyrenees mountains in southwestern France, an area dear to Macron for being the birthplace of his maternal grandmother. The special arrangement allowed the two leaders to establish a more direct dialogue in a personal and friendly atmosphere.

Holding a meeting in the tranquil southern French mountains is also viewed a continuation of the pleasant memory when Xi and Macron held an informal talk in April 2023 in Guangzhou, the capital of South China's Guangdong Province. At that time, the two leaders listened to a live performance of the ancient Chinese music piece "High Mountains and Flowing Water" in the Pine Garden, which represents cherished friendship in Chinese culture.

Besides France, there are also many representative buildings and sites in Serbia and Hungary that have witnessed and serve as testimonies to their friendship with China.

After Xi embarked on a state visit to France, Serbia, and Hungary on May 5 - his first overseas trip of the year - these significant locations have once again captured people's attention.

The former site of the Lyon Sino-French Institute is located on a hill in Fourvière in the city of Lyon, France. After 100 years of wind and rain, the towering stone gate at the old site still bears a clear inscription of the institute's name in both Chinese and French.

The only overseas university that China founded in modern times, the Lyon Sino-French Institute was established in July 1921. It trained many Chinese who later became crucial leaders in the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC), including Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping. Since its resumption in the 1980s, the institute has continued to educate various talents for China's reform and opening-up.

During his first visit to France in March 2014, President Xi visited the Charles de Gaulle Foundation in Paris. He visited the office of General Charles de Gaulle, laid a wreath at his bronze statue and wrote "Paying Tribute to the Great Man and Composing a New Chapter in Chinese and French History" in the guest book.

In Serbia's capital Belgrade, people are easily captivated by a unique modern building - the China Cultural Center - that looks like a beautiful ancient Chinese landscape painting drawn along the banks of the Danube River.

What you cannot tell from the design is that the edifice was built on the site of the former Chinese embassy that was destroyed by a NATO bomb in May 1999 in what was then the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. This special history makes the center not only an important bridge and bond for cultural exchanges between the two countries, but also a seal of approval for the ironclad friendship between China and Serbia amid the development of the times.

At the hot mill at HBIS Smederevo steel plant, or Hesteel Serbia, Nenad Cvetanovic and his colleagues were thrilled to get a reply letter from Xi at the end of April, a few days before the Chinese president's second state visit to Serbia after eight years.

Established in 1913, the steel plant used to be a pillar of former Yugoslavia's metal industry, but was on the verge of closure in the 1990s. It struggled for about two decades until China's Hesteel Group purchased it in 2016. President Xi made a trip to the steel plant in June 2016 and interacted with workers in the dining room, encouraging them to work hard to bring benefits to local residents.

In Budapest, the capital of Hungary that is dubbed the "Pearl of the Danube," nine unique bridges connect Buda and Pest across the river, enhancing the accessibility and charm of the city.

With a total length of 341.7 kilometers, the Hungary-Serbia railway, a flagship project of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, is now bridging Budapest and Belgrade closer together, injecting new impetus into the economies of the two countries.

The special significance of bridges was also noted by President Xi during his first visit to Europe. "A bridge not only makes life more convenient, it can also be a symbol of communication, understanding and friendship," Xi said.

With President Xi's visit, the friendship between China and Europe is also warming up again. People on both sides hope that this visit will build more bridges of friendship and cooperation between China and France, Serbia and Hungary, and even the whole of Europe.

‘Overcapacity’ claim violates economic principles, denies division of labor

Recently, the West has been unreasonably hyping up the false narrative of "overcapacity" in China. Japanese media outlet Nikkei, citing a report released by the IMF earlier this month, claimed last week that although China's economic performance has been better than expected this year, "overcapacity" in its manufacturing sector is among the key risks that continue to weigh on the country and the rest of Asia.

Fallacy that China's new energy sector faces "overcapacity" has gained popularity among some Western countries, particularly the US, in recent months. Yet, whether or not China has excess capacity should be determined by economic rules and facts, not political agenda led by the US.

The current global distribution of production capacity is a result of the combined effects of industrialization and market-based economic activities over the past few decades. Cooperation based on comparative advantages is crucial for optimizing the resource allocation of global factors, also an important approach for improving productivity and well-being among countries.

From the perspective of economic principles, equating fluctuations in supply and demand with excess capacity goes against the normal rules of the market economy and actually works counter to the rationality of international division of labor and economic globalization. If a country with supply exceeding demand is recklessly considered to have excess capacity, then all export economies in the world, not only China but also the US, have overcapacity issues in terms of their exported products.

In this sense, the narrative of "overcapacity" and criticisms of industrial subsidies are merely rhetoric fabricated by the US to hinder China's competitiveness.

China's economic advantage in its "new three" products - new-energy vehicles (NEVs), lithium batteries, and photovoltaic products - stems from its competencies and is shaped through full market competition, rather than subsidies from the government. While the US accuses China's industrial policy of violating international regulations and worsening overcapacity, the scale of American subsidies to new energy industries is far greater than in other countries, as the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act have shown. For example, the detailed rules of the Inflation Reduction Act stipulate that only electric vehicles assembled in North America are eligible for a maximum subsidy of $7,500 through federal tax deductions, which is a blatantly discriminatory subsidy law.

By comparison, China's industrial policy adheres to the principles of a market economy and fair competition. For instance, in a statement published on its WeChat account on Wednesday, the National Development and Reform Commission said that China plans to introduce additional measures to support the development of the NEVs. These measures include fostering industrial innovation through scientific and technological advancements, encouraging enterprises to increase investment in research and development, and facilitating the optimization and restructuring of the new energy vehicle industry. Moreover, China will remove all restrictions on foreign investment in manufacturing, inviting global auto companies to participate in the Chinese market and industrial chain to benefit from the advancements in new energy vehicle technology.

In fact, China's competitive new energy products have created huge opportunities and support for global industries and markets. Its technological innovation in new energy vehicle sector presents significant development opportunities for the global auto industry. Also, China is the only country in the world that has all the industrial categories listed in the United Nations industrial classification system, including 41 industrial categories, 191 medium categories and 525 subcategories. Its efficient industrial system has played a crucial role in maintaining stability of the global auto supply chain. 

Furthermore, China is a major driving force behind the world's rapid expansion of renewable power generation capacity. China's installed capacity of renewable energy exceeded 1.45 billion kilowatts in 2023, accounting for more than 50 percent of the country's total installed power generation capacity, according to data released by the National Energy Administration. Power generated from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power now accounts for more than 15 percent of China's total electricity consumption.

China has always been committed to promoting high-level opening-up and offering opportunities for market access to other countries, with the aim of achieving mutually beneficial results. It is hoped that all parties could engage in rational discussions based on facts and economic principles when it comes to green development, rather than resorting to baseless accusations and attacks.

China’s foreign trade in first four months hits 13.81 trillion yuan, rising 5.7% year-on-year: GAC data

China's trade in goods in the first fourth months of 2024 recorded an increase of 5.7 percent year-on-year to reach 13.81 trillion yuan ($1.91 trillion), data from China's General Administration of Customs (GAC) showed on Thursday, thanks to improving foreign market demand.  

Total goods exports recorded year-on-year growth of 4.9 percent to hit 7.81 trillion yuan from January to April, while imports increased by 6.8 percent to reach 6 trillion yuan, the administration said.

Notably, in April alone, China's imports and exports reached 3.64 trillion yuan, rising 8 percent year-on-year. In breakdown, exports stood at 2.08 trillion yuan with a year-on-year growth of 5.1 percent, while imports surged by 12.2 percent year-on-year to reach 1.56 trillion yuan.

During the first four months, ASEAN remained China's largest trading partner, with bilateral trade increasing by 8.5 percent year-on-year to hit 2.18 trillion yuan, accounting 15.85 percent of China's total foreign trade. 

The EU and the US were China's second and third largest trading partners. China's imports and exports with the EU decreased 1.8 percent to 1.75 trillion yuan, while trade with the US increased by 1.1 percent to reach 1.47 trillion yuan. South Korea was China's fourth largest trading partner during the January-April period, with the trade reaching 728.7 billion yuan, up 5.5 percent year-on-year.

China's total trade with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) partner countries amounted to 6.54 trillion yuan with a yearly increase of 6.4 percent, of which, exports increased by 6.7 percent year-on-year to reach 3.64 trillion yuan, while the imports grew by 6 percent to 2.9 trillion yuan. 

Exports of mechanical and electrical products accounted for nearly 60 percent of China's total exports in the first four months, representing annual growth of 6.9 percent to 4.62 trillion yuan. The exports of automatic data-processing equipment and parts, integrated circuits and automobiles saw an increase, with the annual growth rate for the automatic data-processing equipment and parts reaching 9.7 percent, 23.5 percent for integrated circuits, and 24.9 percent for automobiles. 

Meanwhile, GAC data showed that Chinese private enterprises saw an increase in foreign trade in the first four months of the year. The trade of private firms totaled 7.54 trillion yuan, up 10.7 percent year-on-year, accounting 54.6 percent of China's total foreign trade and increased by 2.5 percentage points compared with the same time last year.

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.

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.

Chinese political advisor calls for greater AI integration in manufacturing sector

A Chinese scientist and national political advisor has proposed further integration of artificial intelligence (AI) in the manufacturing industry, with the aim of boosting its high-quality development and dealing with the challenges ahead.

"AI is an important driving force in the new round of technological revolution and industrial change. It has emerged as a useful tool for significantly facilitating the upgrading process of the basic manufacturing industry as well," said Zhao Xiaoguang, associate professor of the Institute of Automation at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Zhao is also a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).

In a proposal shared with the Global Times, Zhao called for accelerating the application of AI technology in industry, so as to tackle the challenges raised by a new round of technological revolution and transform scientific and technological achievements into practical results.

China has been expanding the applications of AI technology in its real economy, according to Zhao, especially in areas such as advanced manufacturing, the new material and new energy sectors, and medicine. Also, new quality productive forces empowered by AI technology are in the pipeline.

Having been committed to research projects in the field of robotics, intelligent control systems, and wireless sensor networks for years, Zhao believes that by embracing AI, China's basic manufacturing sector will ratchet up its capability to meet various demands on the supply side and raise its competitiveness in the global market.

China has already made significant progress in AI advancement and high-quality development of its robotic industry. For instance, Shenzhen-based UBTECH Robotics has successfully developed humanoid robots that can be used at a new energy vehicle (NEV) factory. This was the world's first case of a humanoid robot being used to collaborate with humans in assembly and quality inspection operations in an automobile factory.

With the rapid development of AI and its expanding industrial applications, China has large room for development in the manufacturing industry, and will continue to make contributions to the world's economic growth, Zhao said, noting that Chinese domestically made products have gained competitiveness in terms of scale and quality.

China will strive to modernize the industrial system and develop new quality productive forces at a faster pace, according to the Government Work Report submitted to the second session of the 14th National People's Congress on Tuesday.

The report listed several tasks, including industry and supply chain improvement and upgrading, and the cultivation of emerging sectors and future-oriented industries such as hydrogen power and new materials. Innovative development of the digital economy will be promoted, with an AI-Plus initiative to be launched, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

The AI Plus initiative is set to become a significant factor in bolstering the high-quality development of the manufacturing industry as well. To realize this goal, Zhao told the Global Times that efforts should be made to establish a diversified evaluation and reward system in order to encourage research teams and academic institutions with scientific and innovation advantages to give strong technical support in development of the sector.

Zhao also suggested diversified resources including private capital, industrial funds, and multi-channel financing could help to develop more professional large-scale AI models in specialized and new enterprises in the manufacturing industry.

Meanwhile, the authorities should help to release a number of open-source projects in the manufacturing industry so that they can empower enterprises to embrace digital and intelligent transformation, Zhao said.

China’s issuing ultra-long special treasury bonds to fund major projects of development and security infrastructure: NDRC head

China’s issuance of ultra-long special treasury bonds in the coming years to come is a major policy to boost consumption and support long-term high-quality development, Zheng Shanjie, head of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the country's top economic planner, said on Wednesday.

The proceeds from the bonds will be used to support technological innovation, urban-rural integrated development, coordinated regional development, food and energy security, and high-quality development, the areas of long investment cycles but currently facing insufficient existing funding channels, Zheng said.

The government will issue ultra-long special treasury bonds over each of the next several years for the purpose of implementing major national strategies and building up security capacity in key areas, starting with 1 trillion yuan of such bonds this year, according to the Government Work Report submitted Tuesday to the National People’s Congress for deliberation.

It is necessary to issue the ultra-long bonds in response to profound changes at home and abroad and it will help China to balance development and security, and firmly promote high-quality development and Chinese modernization, he said.

Zheng said that the NDRC is making concrete plans to oversee key projects and regulate funding to ensure that the policy is effectively implemented, adding efforts will be made to expand effective investment, including government investment and the expansion of private investment.

Aside from the ultra-long treasury bonds, this year's investments from the central government budget and issuance of new local government special bonds have substantially risen year-on-year. Also, the bulk of the additional 1-trillion-yuan government bonds issued late last year will be used this year.

Zheng also said that the NDRC will make maximum efforts to encourage and support private enterprises to participate in major national projects and to address the weak links across the economy.

Blinken's fifth Israel visit since Gaza war for diplomatic posture, rather than real mediation: experts

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, after touring multiple Arab countries, is meeting Israeli leaders on Tuesday amid the enduring Gaza humanitarian disaster, Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping and the escalation in hostilities at the Israel-Lebanon borders.

Speaking alongside Israeli President Isaac Herzog ahead of their meeting on Tuesday, Blinken said he would share what he had heard from regional countries during a day of meetings with Israel's government, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Reuters reported.

Blinken's agenda for his fifth Israel visit in three months includes discussing the next phase of Israel's military campaign and pressing on the protection of civilians, according to the US Department of State. 

But Chinese observers have low expectations that Blinken's trip can help alleviate the tension, as Israel shows no signs of softening its military assertiveness while the US eyes a diplomatic posture rather than real mediation. 

Since Friday, Blinken has visited countries including Turkey, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. During the trip, he repeated multiple times the urgency of de-escalating the tension and discussed plans for the future governance of Gaza. 

On Monday, Blinken said Palestinians "must not be pressed to leave Gaza" and he criticized "irresponsible" comments by some Israel ministers calling for people's resettlement outside the enclave, media reported.

Yet US calls may only get symbolic resonation from Israel as the two close allies are diverging wider and wider on Gaza and Middle East issues, Zhu Yongbiao, executive director of the Research Center for the Belt and Road at Lanzhou University, told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

Israeli officials said the strikes in Gaza have entered a new phase of more targeted warfare, but there was no respite in the fighting on Monday, Reuters reported. "The fighting will continue through 2024," said Daniel Hagari, an Israeli military spokesperson, Reuters reported. 

Sun Degang, director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Fudan University, told the Global Times that Israel aims to use its recent victories as leverage to address security concerns in the north and potentially extend its military achievements. 

The US has to deal with the presidential election this year and does not want the Middle East to take up too much of its attention from its competition with China and Russia, Sun said. 

Zhu pointed out that under the US' guideline of withdrawing from the Middle East, Blinken's trip aims to display the US' diplomatic presence and fulfillment of responsibilities as Israel's ally rather than play a constructive role in mediation. 

Therefore the US and Israel could showcase they have reached some consensus on non-significant topics, but that consensus can hardly have meaningful impact on the overall conflicts raging in the region, Zhu said. 

In the latest sign that the war may be spreading, Israel killed a top commander of Hamas' ally Hezbollah in south Lebanon on Monday. It came after an attack in Beirut last week which killed Hamas leader Saleh al-Arouri, for which Israel did not claim responsibility, according to CNN. 

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant warned on Monday that if Hezbollah is not deterred, Israel can "copy-paste" the Gaza war to Beirut. Gallant told media that his country was determined to end Hamas' rule of Gaza and deter other Iran-backed adversaries, Reuters reported. 

Hezbollah has vowed revenge, and analysts believe there will be more rocket launches, but a "large-scale retaliatory assault" is unlikely as it is beyond regional forces' capacity and will.

However, the possibility cannot be ruled out that there might be actions internationalizing the consequences of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, such as Houthi attacks on vessels in the Red Sea, Zhu said. 

Caixin services PMI reaches 52.9 in December, demonstrating strong rebound across China's sevice sector

The Caixin services purchasing managers' index (PMI), a private gauge of the country's service sector, rose to 52.9 in December, increasing 1.4 percentage points over the previous month and hitting the highest level in the past five months, according to a private survey released on Thursday.

The index for service activity remains above the expansion-contraction line for consecutive 12 months in 2023, indicating the continuous rebound of the country's service sector, according to the Caixin report.

"It signaled the country's service sector has strong and improved growth momentum at the end of 2023, as the PMI readings have kept going up over time ," read the report, noting that both services supply and demand expanded, as the market continued to recover. The gauges for business activity and total new orders have seen a considerable growth in the past six months.

Meanwhile, companies and entrepreneurs expressed greater optimism over the year-ahead outlook. Employment has also ticked up, the first recorded improvement in past three months, though some firms have maintained cautious approach to hiring.