China and the US have much more in common: historian Arne Westad

Editor's Note:

The world in 2024 is not peaceful. From great power competition to regional conflicts, to numerous global challenges, the global landscape seems to be changing every day. Will the confrontation between Russia and the West lead to a "Cold War 2.0" and the return of the "Iron Curtain" ? Is the temporary stabilization of China-US relations a true departure from the downward spiral trend, or just a short and fragile period of stability?

Recently, Global Times reporters Xie Wenting and Bai Yunyi (GT) interviewed Odd Arne Westad (Westad), Professor of History and Global Affairs at Yale University and a leading expert in Cold War history, to analyze the evolution of the international landscape from a historian's perspective. He believes that the "post-Cold War era" that has lasted for a generation is coming to an end, although it is still unclear what kind of new international order will replace it.

GT: As a historian, how do you view current relations between China and the US? Do you think the two big powers are experiencing temporary stability under the context of prolonged tensions? Or how would you describe the current state of the bilateral relations? Could it be compared to any other historical period?

Westad: When making comparisons with earlier periods, we have to be cautious and acknowledge that there is no complete match. I am very skeptical of comparing the current situation with the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union, as there are significant differences between the two. The US and the Soviet Union were not part of the same global economic system, and the ideological differences were much greater between the two sides. Upon reviewing the book written by my colleague Paul Kennedy about the antagonism between Germany and Britain in the late 19th century and early 20th century, I found more similarities with the current situation.

Unfortunately, this historical conflict eventually led to conflict and war. While I am not suggesting that the current situation will necessarily end in the same way, structurally, it shares more traits with that period than with the Cold War. I think in many ways, it is true that enormous changes are taking place now, but they don't necessarily have to end in conflict.

In reality, China and the US have much more in common. The economies may function differently on some levels, but in most terms, the economies are not that different from each other. They are market-driven in both places, oriented by rules, technology, and advances in economic terms. The two countries also have much in common in how they understand the world. Both of them want stability as a precondition for their own economic development, but they don't really know how to go about achieving it, and suspicion between the two is increasing.

I think at the moment, it's clear that the US and China are going through a very difficult period in their relationship. But I can also see ways in which the relationship could be improved incrementally. It doesn't have to be a downward spiral, but both countries will have to recognize the risks of continued tensions between them and figure out ways to address them. While the US and China will likely always have areas where they won't see eye to eye, leading to rivalry between the two, it's important to prevent this rivalry from escalating into a dangerous spiral. This is a danger that we must consider.

It is very frightening to me that the US and China do not have any kind of arms control discussions between the two sides. It's not good because it leads to misunderstandings and a lack of communication on important issues.

GT: Under what circumstances do you think China and the US will enter a new period of more balanced stability?

Westad: To me, the key issues are the security issues. For example, the situation in the Taiwan Straits is important. I have proposed, while I have been here in Beijing, something I call the Shanghai Plus, which is based on the Shanghai Communiqué in 1972 and the additions for the Chinese statement that came on and so on.

So what Shanghai Plus would actually mean is that you understand that it could under no circumstance support Taiwan independence. I think some people in the US could be interested in this.

If you can deal with this and in some other issues in which China and the US play a positive role, it will help bilateral relations get to a relatively stable stage. For instance, if you look at the Ukraine crisis, it is a significant factor in the relationship between the US and China. It is necessary to achieve at least a temporary ceasefire in Ukraine. I believe China can play a significant role. I believe that, to a certain extent, the US and China actually have a common interest in seeing a reduction in the conflict.

While the US and China may not become awesome friends over the next generation, it is important for both countries to work together on security issues to prevent escalation, and it's also possible for both sides to work together.
GT: What's your stance on if there will be or if we are already in the new Cold War between Russia and the West?

Westad: One of the many reasons why war should be avoided is that the outcomes are always unpredictable. I think at the moment, the risk of a bigger war breaking out in Ukraine is quite limited.

I don't think the current situation has anything to do with the Cold War. It is a conflict between countries. Russia is no longer a global superpower as the Soviet Union. It has become more limited in terms of its global influence. Conomically, Russia is struggling, and it is unlikely to see significant improvement in the near future.

I spent quite a bit of time thinking about what kind of relationship Russia will have with the US once the war is over. I think that even if there is a ceasefire, the sanctions are likely to remain in place. For Russia, this means that it will not be able to get closer to Europe, even in a regional or economic sense.

GT: From a historical perspective, what do you think are the long-term changes to the international order brought about by the Russia-Ukraine conflict?

Westad: I think it is a defining conflict in many ways. The consequences of it will be long-lasting, and it marks the end of the post-Cold War era. That period has lasted a generation, but we don't quite know what's going to replace it.

One of the most significant structural changes is the increasing military and strategic integration between Europe and the US. The neutral countries in Europe are not giving up their neutrality, but they may become more aligned with the West.
GT: In your last interview with the Global Times four years ago, you mentioned that the global pandemic would strengthen the political and social process that were already underway, such as the shift of power and influence from the West to the East. Do you still believe the process of power shifting from the West to the East is ongoing?

Westad: I still believe it, although I never thought that this was just about China. I think China is a part of it. It's a difficult task for the Chinese government to move to higher growth in an economy that is already so big. So, in that sense, if they're not going to stay at 5 percent, even 4 percent, or maybe even 3.5 percent economic growth, that's pretty good.

China, in many ways, was a pioneer of this, just like Japan was a pioneer in an earlier generation. And then it is spreading elsewhere, this is quite natural. It may be in Southeast Asia in the future. This is how development progresses.

I think the European economy is probably on a platform roughly where it is now. I don't see it as very energetic, but it doesn't have to be because Europe is already rich. They can sustain themselves, and even if they experience a smaller percentage of economic growth, it is still sustainable. I think the US, among the developed countries, is probably the place that has the best chance of reasonable economic growth. But that also depends on their policies; if they choose to involve themselves in a trade war with China, much of the economic basis for American growth will also disappear.

It is striking that last year is the first year in human history in which there is no natural population growth outside of Africa. Every single country outside of African countries has falling birth rates, sometimes at a fairly high level. The population increase is going down. Only in Africa is it actually expanding at a high rate. This has enormous demographic consequences when we move to a generation cohort, where most young people in the world will be in Africa.

Some time ago, we saw that as a massive problem, but now it's a massive opportunity. Young people have the potential to staff the factories and industries and drive productive growth in the future. Some of my American friends are saying all these countries are so backward and they have to get their policies in order. My response to this is always that, because with these points of opportunities, people will make use of it, just like in China. Why did China succeed? It had sensible economic policies and a young, hungry population who wanted to make better lives for themselves.

GT: Do you think peace and development are still the theme of our era and world?

Westad: Development, for sure. Peace is a little bit harder, but I don't think the rules that we have in place are impossible to settle. They're not the kind of rules that I would expect to lead to greater competition. Maybe it's possible to be a bit more optimistic.

I think, at least for now, stabilizing the crisis in Ukraine would be a significant step. I also think that because it would show the great powers may be able to cooperate on some of these issues.

GT Investigates: As Solomon Islands votes, allegations of US interference highlight struggle of developing countries to forge independent foreign policy

Editor's Note:

"Cognitive Warfare" has become a new form of confrontation between states, and a new security threat. With new technological means, it sets agendas and spreads disinformation, to change people's perceptions and thus alter their self-identity. Launching cognitive warfare against China is an important means for Western anti-China forces to attack and discredit the country.

Some politicians and media outlets have publicly smeared China's image by propagating false narratives in an attempt to incite and provoke dissatisfaction with China among people in certain countries. These means all serve the seemingly peaceful evolution of the US strategy to contain China's rise and maintain its hegemony.

The Global Times is publishing a series of articles to reveal the intrigues of the US-led West's China-targeted cognitive warfare, and expose its lies and vicious intentions.

This is the 13th installment in the series. As the Solomon Islands' general elections unfold, allegations of US interference surfaced before the voting began. Experts have highlighted the US' habitual practice of interfering in the domestic affairs of other countries and attempting to exert its pressure on developing nations like the Solomon Islands that seek to forge friendships and pursue development opportunities with China.
The ongoing election in the Solomon Islands has garnered significant global attention, particularly amid the geopolitical dynamics of the Pacific. This electoral event has especially piqued the interest of the US, accompanied by various allegations and concerns regarding potential US intervention.

The voting of general elections in the Solomon Islands was hosted on April 17. Currently, no party has won a majority of seats in the Solomon Islands' parliament election, CGTN reported Monday, quoting local media, citing 90 percent of counted votes.

Preliminary results from Saturday indicate that Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has successfully retained his seat in Parliament. However, it will take several more days of vote tallying to determine if his party, Our Party, will form the next government.

During this period, there has been continuous news and extensive reporting by media outlets, suggesting that the US may be trying to intervene in the Solomon Islands' elections.

Analysts point out that the US and its allies appear to be using "color revolution" tactics to infiltrate the political landscape of the Solomon Islands, emphasizing that the island country should have the sovereign right to choose its own developmental path.

Meanwhile, as China enhances its cooperation with Pacific Island countries, the US continues to assert its supposed superiority, an approach that appears not to resonate with the island populations, they said.

How has the US been attempting to exert its influence?

A recent investigative article by Russia's Sputnik news agency criticized the US' role and intentions in the upcoming elections in the Solomon Islands. The report suggested that the US Agency for International Development (USAID) might be attempting to influence the election outcome through "democracy promotion" activities, in order to counter China's influence in the region.

The report highlighted concerns over the security agreement between the Solomon Islands and China, which has alarmed the US and its allies who fear it could compromise the US' "island chain strategy" in the Pacific.

The article detailed USAID activities in the Solomon Islands, including engaging with local community political leaders, civil society organizations, and influential individuals, as well as funding surveys and training programs to bolster anti-government sentiment.

An anonymous source disclosed to the Sputnik news agency that they fear the US might incite another riot during the upcoming election to achieve its geopolitical goals.

Meanwhile, according to a report from the Covert Action Magazine earlier this month, the USAID actively intervenes in the electoral processes of other countries through its Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening (CEPPS), aiming to promote regimes that align with American interests.

The CEPPS collaborates with organizations such as the International Republican Institute (IRI), the National Democratic Institute (NDI), and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), all of which have close ties with USAID, with the NDI and IRI having been created by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which is considered a branch of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

According to Yu Lei, chief research fellow at the Research Center for Pacific Island Countries of Liaocheng University, the effective cooperation between China and the Solomon Islands has become a role model and a driving force for the cooperation between China and Pacific Island countries, which has encouraged other Pacific Island countries such as Papua New Guinea to deepen their cooperation with China. This has caused significant dissatisfaction in Australia and the US.

The Covert Action Magazine noted that the USAID's Solomon Islands Election and Political Processes Program (SIEPP), funded through the CEPPS, has conducted voter awareness campaigns in the Solomon Islands, aiming to sway voters toward pro-American candidates.

In 2021, NDI's surveys in opposition constituencies revealed pessimism about governance and corruption, influencing public opinion. Civil society groups, funded by USAID, spread these findings to foment dissatisfaction and potential unrest. By doing so, the USAID transformed minority views into "mainstream" public opinion, according to the Covert Action Magazine.

Notably, opposition leaders Matthew Wale and Daniel Suidani, supported by USAID, led protests in Honiara, leveraging youth groups to challenge the government, reflecting USAID's strategy of using local partnerships to promote US interests under the guise of "democratic" principles, the magazine said.
According to the Sputnik report, which cited documents provided by an anonymous source, after the Solomon Islands' 2019 election and Sogavare's shift away from the US, SIEPP was launched. Funded by the USAID and partners like the IFES, IRI, and NDI under the "Strengthening Democratic Governance in the Pacific Islands" initiative, SIEPP had an initial budget of nearly $10 million from September 2020 to September 2023. The program, expected to conclude in fall 2023, was extended to April 2024 with an additional $1.5 million after the election postponement by Sogavare.

"The US cannot tolerate the South Pacific nations developing an equal and reciprocal relationship with China. Instead, it intervenes under the guise of democracy, ultimately aiming to turn these nations into dependencies," Li Haidong, a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times.

He pointed out the consequences of such policies. "The US mentality is unhealthy, even pathological. It cannot bear the autonomous development of the South Pacific nations, nor can it stand the idea of these countries choosing their own economic development models."

Is US' denial convincible?

In a statement released on April 16, one day before the elections began, the US Embassy in Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands labeled recent accusations of its alleged interference in the Solomon Islands' electoral process as "questionable" and "disinformation."

"It is a traditional and deeply rooted practice that when the US claims non-interference, it's either hard to believe or astonishing," Li noted.

According to the Covert Action Magazine, CEPPS has extended its influence to over 140 countries, supporting like-minded candidates to aid the US government in manipulating global electoral activities.

According to New York-based Huff Post, the US has interfered in foreign elections far more frequently than it has been subject to such interference itself. A Latin American joke cited highlights this point: "Why has there never been a coup in the United States? Because there's no US Embassy in Washington."

For over a century, the US has intervened in elections globally, from Honduras to Vietnam to Iran. A series of "color revolutions" occurred in Eurasia starting in 2003, such as the Rose Revolution in Georgia, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, and the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan, all characterized by electoral protests escalating into major political crises. The US State Department has acknowledged playing a role in these regime changes, according to the report.

"The US uses NGOs to interfere in other countries' domestic politics and orchestrate color revolutions, a tactic that is no secret to the world," Li noted, adding that such actions, often branded as promoting democracy, are perceived as attempts to sow discord and crises, drawing scrutiny and raising alarms among policymakers and citizens globally.

These so-called democracy promotion efforts, which are essentially color revolutions, are unlikely to achieve their intended outcomes due to the instability of US policies. Critics argue that the US, while chaotic in its own democratic practices, presumes to set an example for others, Li said.
This lack of calm, objective, and realistic reflections on its own democratic processes disqualifies US decision-makers from legitimately influencing the internal affairs of other nations. Consequently, these actions are met with resistance and resentment, as the results of such democracy promotion activities are often subpar and unwelcome, he noted.

Yu said the US has a variety of conventional methods to tighten control in Pacific Island countries. For instance, the US directly deploys military forces in Pacific Island countries to intervene, or mobilizes local mobs and thugs to carry out subversion against some authoritarian regimes and governments perceived as disobedient to the US. The third method is to use the Pacific Islands Forum to besiege so-called disobedient countries, using economic sanctions as a way to exert pressure.

"In the short term, the effects may seem significant, such as through military occupation, which of course yields immediate results. However, in the medium to long term, the effects of the US' activities turn out to be just the opposite. But cooperation with China turns out to be fruitful," Yu said.

Will the established understandings be affected?

In recent years, China's outreach and engagement have deepened across the Solomon Islands. Even regions that were once opposed to establishing diplomatic ties with China have accepted China's olive branch.

However, the gradually establishing mutual connections and trust is not without its challenges.

According to a report by the SIBC on Saturday, former opposition leader of the Democratic Party of the Solomon Islands, Wale, retained his seat in Malaita Province's Auki. Meanwhile, notorious opposition politician Suidani was re-elected to the Malaita Provincial Assembly.

The former premier of Malaita Province, Suidani, attracted attention for his opposition to the Solomon Islands' relations with China. His stance led to conflicts with the central government, culminating in his removal from office in February 2023, following a no-confidence motion passed by the provincial assembly.

However, a Memorandum of Understanding to establish friendly exchange relations was signed last week between Malaita Province and East China's Jiangsu Province. This new chapter follows years of skepticism, indicating a pivot toward cooperation and mutual growth, analysts noted.

"The China-Solomon Islands relationship, forged under very trying conditions, is now maturing," Dr Luke Mani, director of the Solomon Islands Foreign Policy Advisory Secretariat, told the Global Times. "Evidence abounds that Solomon Islanders [have now] firmly and openly embraced China."

Various infrastructure projects funded by traditional multilateral development partners such as the Munda Airport and terminal upgrades, Henderson Airport runway extensions, and East-West Honiara highway have benefited from the expertise and quality of Chinese engineering firms such as China Civil Engineering Construction Company and China Railway, Mani said.

These tangible benefits have gradually warmed the Malaitians to China, with a recent poll showing 61 percent of respondents favor maintaining the relationship after this year's elections.

The public opinion storm over interference in the election reflects Pacific Island nations' dissatisfaction with the US' use of aid to exert political influence and as leverage in exchange for national geopolitical interests, noted Qin Sheng, an executive research fellow at the Center for Australia, New Zealand, and South Pacific Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

"The aid competition promoted by the US in the South Pacific region with a zero-sum game mindset is forcing Pacific Island nations to take sides, as evidenced by the ongoing troubles in domestic and diplomatic affairs since the Solomon Islands established diplomatic relations with China," Qin said.

In stark contrast to the US, China emphasizes equality and mutual benefit, non-interference in internal affairs, and aid process without strings attached, respecting the political system, development stage, and development characteristics of Pacific Island nations. As a major power, China never looks down on them, and it is precisely these various advantages of Chinese aid that make China the most trustworthy South-South cooperation partner for Pacific Island nations, the expert noted.

China's new-energy industries contribute to global green transformation, 'overcapacity' hype unfounded: MOFCOM

China's Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) on Tuesday said that hype about "overcapacity" in China goes against common sense and facts, shows double standards and is a form of trade protectionism.

The rise of China's new-energy industries is built on open competition rather than subsidies. It represents advanced production capacity and makes a huge contribution to easing global inflation, as well as the green transformation, MOFCOM said.

MOFCOM said the accusation that China has "overcapacity" is unfounded. The issue of production capacity should be viewed objectively and it should match global production and demand.

In 2023, Germany sold 80 percent of its auto production internationally. Japan exported approximately 50 percent of its cars, while China's overseas sales of new-energy vehicles (NEVs) accounted for only 12.7 percent of its production. Criticizing China for "overcapacity" is therefore unfounded.

Chinese new-energy products are popular in the international market due to their competitive prices and the urgent global need for green transformation. The NEVs exported from China to Europe are priced lower than European-made models, but still higher than in China so there is no dumping involved, MOFCOM said.

Furthermore, with the global demand for new-energy products continuing to expand, advanced production capacity is not only not excessive but actually insufficient, it added.

MOFCOM also noted that China's advantages in the new-energy industry have been achieved through open competition and continuous technological innovation, with Chinese companies investing in research and development in the new-energy sector for over 20 years.

The industry also benefits from an efficient supply chain, while China's large and competitive market drives rapid application and development of technologies as well as a collaborative approach to foreign investment and automakers.

MOFCOM said the accusation that Chinese industrial subsidies have led to "overcapacity" is unfounded. Industrial subsidies are a common practice worldwide. China's industrial subsidy policy is compliant with WTO rules while those of the US and Europe are even larger in scale.

MOFCOM said that the hype about "overcapacity" is actually a reflection of anxiety from other countries about their own competitiveness. However, trade protectionism will not achieve the desired results and will only hinder global economic recovery and the green transformation.

MOFCOM said that China is willing to deepen cooperation in the new-energy supply chain, and promote technological innovation and industrial development with countries around the world. It will continue to promote opening-up, improve the business environment and share the opportunities from Chinese modernization.

‘Overcapacity’ and ‘weak currency’ are latest US excuses to suppress Chinese exports

In addition to the groundless hype about "overcapacity" regarding exports of China's new-energy products, some Westerners are turning their attention back to China's currency and its depreciation pressure, trying to combine these two things as an excuse for US protectionism to suppress China's exports.

The Wall Street Journal published an article on Saturday, attributing China's export boom to not only "bulging industrial capacity" but also the "lower exchange rate" of China's currency. This ridiculous logic reflects how some American elites have become increasingly hysterical and unscrupulous in their campaign to suppress Chinese enterprises and embrace trade protectionism.

The yuan exchange rate has long been a sensitive issue in China-US relations. Elites in Washington were once enthusiastic about persuading the US government to declare China "a currency manipulator." Currently, although there is no evidence to suggest that discussion of currency manipulation is emerging, media hype about the depreciation of the yuan hasn't stopped, reflecting the strong inertia of a narrow-minded and outdated mentality. 

The central parity rate of the yuan strengthened 69 pips to 7.0994 against the US dollar on Monday, according to the China Foreign Exchange Trade System. The yuan has depreciated since the beginning of this year, when the rate stood at 7.0770 on January 2, but a slight depreciation is normal and won't have much effect on the economy.

Many Asian currencies have been hit this year by the strength of the US dollar. The yen last week weakened to 160 against the US dollar, marking its lowest point since 1990. As multiple Asian currencies continue to depreciate against the US dollar, the yuan has maintained its resilience in the foreign exchange market.

The main reason for the depreciation of Asian currencies is the strength of the US dollar. Asia's central bankers are bracing for more turbulence as the receding prospect of US interest rate cuts in the near future sends shockwaves through regional currencies.

It's ironic that some American elites claim China's "weak currency" is turbocharging China's overseas sales at the expense of other exporting nations, but the fact is that it is the irresponsible US monetary policy that has resulted in Asian currencies' depreciation.

Amid economic uncertainty caused by sluggish global demand, an abnormal fall of a currency is one of the financial risks that will result in capital flight and erode social faith. Few analysts believe that Asian countries want to manipulate their currencies into a steep depreciation. 

A weak currency contributes to higher exports, but if some Americans believe the depreciation of Asian currencies damages the interests of the US economy, then it is not Asia's exports that should be blamed, but the irresponsible US monetary policy.

The yuan's depreciation is mild compared with other major currencies in Asia. The yuan is likely to face renewed depreciation pressure if the US Federal Reserve continues with its irresponsible monetary policy, but China is fully capable of stabilizing the market and keeping the yuan steady at a reasonable and balanced level. 

The resilience of China's currency is underpinned by the country's steady progress in economic development and expanded economic scale in the past several decades.

The US has been unreasonably hyping the false narrative of "overcapacity," and its real purpose is to attack the Chinese economy, especially its export sectors. Some observers believe the "overcapacity" rhetoric has replaced the "currency manipulation" hype as the latest excuse for US protectionism, but we probably face a more complex situation, as some American elites try to combine these two arguments to suppress China's exports.

It is easy to see through their tricks. We hope that the US can restrain the internal rise of trade protectionism and return to the track of free trade.

More than 50 cities in China ease home purchase curbs to boost real estate recovery

More than 50 Chinese cities have adjusted their home purchase policies by adopting measures such as easing purchase restrictions and encouraging trade-ins of urban residential housing to promote home sales and the healthy development of the real estate market.

Only six provinces and municipalities in the country, including Hainan and Tianjin, have not completely lifted previously imposed restrictions. 

Analysts said that the house purchase restriction policy is gradually passing into history. Purchase limits were introduced in the past when housing prices rose too fast. Now that the market is no longer full of speculative demand, the eased purchase restrictions are in line with the law and expectations.

Among the latest moves, Hangzhou, the capital of East China's Zhejiang Province and Xi'an, the capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, announced on Thursday the full removal of all previous restrictions on home purchases. 

Potential buyers in Hangzhou and Xi'an no longer need to meet conditions such as having a local hukou (residence permit) or local social security account, and there is no longer a limit to the number of apartments each person is allowed to buy, local housing administrations announced.

Many real estate brokerages in Hangzhou said that their phones "blew up" with questions about home purchases, after the restriction was lifted.

"Hangzhou's policy will contribute to the overall relaxation of policies in other cities across the country. It is a landmark event for local housing policies, after major changes in the supply and demand relationship of the real estate market," Yan Yuejin, research director at Shanghai-based E-house China R&D Institute, told the Global Times on Sunday.

On Friday, many shares of developers rose by the 10 percent daily ceiling, something that hadn't happened for a long time, showing the continued recovery of market confidence.

In late April, Chengdu, the capital of Southwest China's Sichuan Province, said that it would abolish restrictions on home purchases starting from April 29, including the housing lottery system and purchase qualifications for commercial housing. 

Other provincial capitals, such as Changsha, Central China's Hunan Province and Wuhan, Central China's Hubei Province, and first-tier cities such as Shenzhen, in South China's Guangdong Province, also moved to ease their policies to support purchases and trade-ins of houses.

Beijing, for example, adjusted its home purchase restriction policy on April 30, the first adjustment in 13 years, which greatly stimulated the city's property market during the May Day holidays.

"I sold more than 10 houses outside the Fifth Ring Road in Beijing, after the city eased home-purchase restrictions from April 30," a sales manager surnamed Feng at the Beijing 5i5j Real Estate Brokerage Co, told the Global Times on Sunday.

Many sales managers canceled their May Day holidays (May 1-5) travel plans to deal with customers, Feng said.

According to a notice released by the Municipal Commission of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, local families with a Beijing hukou can buy one additional house outside the Fifth Ring Road, even if they already own two apartments in Beijing.

"Every sales manager took more than 10 groups of prospective buyers each day to see homes during the May Day holidays. There would have been more customers if the eased policy wasn't released on the evening of April 30, as many Beijing residents had made travel plans outside the city or were already on the road," said Feng.

A Beijing resident, who declined to be identified, bought an apartment outside the west Fifth Ring Road in Beijing's suburban Shijingshan District right after the new purchase policy was announced.

"I started renovating the house during the May Day holidays. Our whole family helped buy building materials during the holidays," the Beijing resident told the Global Times on Sunday.

It is expected that the national property market will gradually pick up momentum in the coming weeks, which will accelerate the recovery of the real estate sector, Yan said.

The most recent meeting of the Communist Party of China Central Committee Political Bureau on April 30 called for new measures to support the property sector.

The meeting called for research on policies to reduce housing inventories and improve the quality of newly added housing, noting that efforts should be pursued to establish a new model of the real estate development, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

What's China like through the lens of global vloggers pouring in?

"Welcome to the future!"

These are the first words Ansh Mishra says to the camera, in a vlog of his trip to China that he shared on YouTube in late April. With lively electronic background music, the vlog shows attractive scenes including a metro station dome with a futuristic design, the interactive screen of a service robot, and a metro train equipped with high-tech facilities.

Mishra, also known as "Indigo Trekker," is an Indian travel vlogger with some 118,000 YouTube subscribers. He is also among the recent visitors to China amid a surge in inbound tourists, including many travel vloggers who are inspired and passionate about exploring this somewhat "mysterious" country, and then share their travel experiences and observations with the world.

Data showed that China saw 1.78 million inbound trips in this past May Day holidays from May 1 to 5. Inbound travel bookings during the holidays increased by 130 percent year-on-year.

China's relaxed entry policies have resulted in an inbound tourism boom, and its continues high-level opening-up has impressed global visitors with all-time conveniences, openness, and friendliness.

The Global Times spoke to several travel vloggers, whose videos of their recent trips to China have all had numerous views on social media platforms. Their vivid experiences showed overseas audience a China that is different from what is depicted by Western narratives and stereotypes.

'Shockingly modern'
Having long planned to visit China, Mishra finally made the trip in February, amid the Chinese New Year this year.

One of the main reasons for his visit to China was to "experience its technological advancement." "It's the biggest country in Asia by its size and population, and of course, one of the hi-tech countries in the world. Hence, I really wanted to visit it," Mishra told the Global Times.

In the vlog he uploaded in late April titled "The world won't believe China's new infrastructure," Mishra explores the Gangxia North metro station in Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province, which he describes as "the craziest metro system design in China."

To the camera, Mishra charges his phone on a wireless charging facility on the metro train, and has his face scanned when getting out of the station. "You saw in the video that the transportation system is so modern and high-tech," he exclaimed at the end of the 24-minute vlog. "It is safe, convenient, cost-effective, efficient, fast, rapid, and environmentally friendly."

Modernization is one of the biggest impressions many travel vloggers have about China. In the vlogs they have shared online, they recommend a high-speed train ride as a must-have experience in China, pose in front of the screen showing real-time speeds of up to 350 kilometers per hour on the train, and learn to adapt themselves to the cashless society.

Travel vloggers Dan and Lyn, a couple "born in Paris with Asian origins" as described on their websites, joked that a shock they encountered during their trip in Shanghai was that cash is almost entirely a thing of the past there. "What shocked us the most is the general advancement of the country," they told the Global Times.
Similar to Dan and Lyn, "Ken Abroad," the screen name of a German travel content creator with 320,000 YouTube subscribers, said he didn't encounter any real cultural shocks in his recent trip to China, but was surprised by the fact that almost everything in the country is cashless. "I spent, in total, over one month in China, and I did not see a single person paying cash," he said.

Having been to many major Chinese cities including Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, Ken Abroad found that China is overall more modern than he had expected, as many things are digital, and that often makes life more convenient. "I even took a driverless bus in Guangzhou. That was a cool experience!" he recalled. "I also got food delivered to my hotel room by a robot, which I had never seen before."

In addition to the modern technology itself, foreign tourists can also enjoy more considerate conveniences specifically provided to them, as China continues to pursue high-level opening-up with sincerity and hospitality.

Within months, points of sale (POS) machines across several major tourist cities have been updated to accept foreign bank cards. The People's Bank of China, China's central bank, has also unveiled multilingual payment service guides to facilitate foreign payment services.

And cities like Beijing and Shanghai are making further efforts to better serve both tourists and expats living there. In Beijing, local government officials said at a press release in March that foreigners can now do a lot of things with their passports online, such as booking scenic spot tickets and hospital registration.

'Lesser-known treasures'
To many overseas tourists, China is the very first station of their trip to Asia. With the increasing convenience of entering China, many visitors are no longer content to just walk around a few iconic metropolises like Shanghai or Beijing. Instead, they prefer to explore farther and lesser-known places, so as to take a closer look at a diverse China.

Travel content creators Flora and Note are a Canadian couple. After flying from Bangkok to Shanghai earlier this year, they started their beautiful journey across China. They took high-speed trains to Zhejiang, Jiangxi provinces and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, and then spent about 10 days exploring some fairyland-like destinations in Yunnan, such as Shangri-La.

The time in Yunnan left a lasting impression on them. "We immersed ourselves in ancient towns, learned about ethnic minorities and their food culture, and were marveled by the incredible nature," they told the Global Times.

Note mentioned a destination probably even unknown to many Chinese people: Wangxian Valley in East China's Jiangxi Province. He said the valley was a big highlight of their trip to China.

"Seeing the village's fairyland-like appearance, with houses clinging to cliffs, was breathtaking, especially when illuminated at night," he recalled. "Learning about the village's role in driving economic development in Jiangxi added depth to our visit, motivating us to raise awareness of this beautiful place among foreign visitors."

Alina Mcleod, a Canadian travel vlogger born in Ukraine, has recently been to the central and southwest parts of China. She tried on Hanfu (traditional clothing of Han ethnic group) in Chengdu, and the costume of people of the Miao ethnic group in Guilin, making her look like a beautiful local woman.

She told the Global Times that the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in Central China's Hunan Province, also known as "The Avatar Mountains," was one of her favorite destinations in China. "It was a landscape that I had never seen before!"

Mishra also went to more places during his one-month trip in China. "Miao culture in Kaili, Lijiang River in Yangshuo, Tianmen Mountain in Zhangjiajie, Muslin's street food culture in Xi'an, and of course, ultra-modern high technology in almost every single city in China, made me speechless," said Mishra.

"I have shown [this] in all my vlogs, which the global world has to know in the right ways," he said.
Travel vloggers like Mishra are a window for overseas audiences to know about a real China.

Before traveling to China, international tourists might have some concerns about this seemingly remote Eastern country, usually portrayed negatively by the West. However, when they visit China and have in-person experiences, they find that the vast majority of their previous concerns about China are entirely unfounded.

Flora and Note said that initially they worried about filming in China, as they thought they would face some resistance from local people. But later they found that filming and taking photos is a common practice, and, "as long as we weren't disrupting others, there were no issues," said the couple.

In February, Ken Abroad uploaded a video on YouTube, which showed his trip to Urumqi, the capital of Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, a name constantly spotlighted by some Western media outlets and politicians.

"This region is all over Western media for not so good reasons. But as usual, I am curious to see things with my own eyes. So, I booked a flight to Urumqi," Ken Abroad wrote in the introduction page of the video. "According to some comments on my channel, I would not be allowed to enter, as the region is apparently closed to foreigners. Well, I was able to enter without any problems and soon after I found myself exploring the city center of Urumqi."

In this vlog, Ken Abroad walks on the snowy streets of Urumqi. He sees many mosques across the city, and asks local residents the opening time of the mosques, receiving friendly responses.

"[An] interesting fact about the mosques here, as I read before, is that Xinjiang, this region of China, has more mosques than the US or any Western countries in Europe do," he says to the camera while walking alone on the street.

"And, …do you have the impression so far that the majority of people that we spoke to today, we interacted with, we saw, were Muslims?" he asks. "Yet the Western media are trying to tell us that the Muslims are being oppressed here by the Chinese government; that they don't live a normal life. I don't want to judge now, but just asking you, what is your impression of the people that we have seen so far?"

"I am happy to see that so many people watched my China videos, and the responses I got were overall mostly positive," Ken Abroad said.

China, on Tuesday, announced the extension of the visa exemption entry for citizens from 12 countries, including France and Germany, on short-term visits to China until the end of 2025. That will offer many foreign tourists like Ken Abroad greater ease when visiting or revisiting this country.

"It's a huge country and there are so many more places that I would like to see," Ken Abroad said. "I will probably return at the end of this year."

Obviously, there will be more travel vlogs flooding social media in the near future, as we have seen visitors from different countries excitedly declaring into the camera, "China, we are coming!"

Guangdong sets up team to investigate deadly May Day expressway collapse

South China's Guangdong Province has set up a disaster investigation and assessment team, headed by the provincial governor, to look into the deadly expressway collapse that took place on Wednesday in the province's Meizhou city, according to media reports on Sunday. 

The cause of the disaster is still under investigation, according to local authorities.

As of press time, the death toll has risen to 48, after part of the Meizhou-Dabu Expressway collapsed around 2:10 am Wednesday, the Xinhua News Agency reported. The remains of three people have yet to be identified. Thirty others were injured, but none are in life-threatening condition.

On Sunday, a 15-year-old boy who was injured in the accident was discharged from Meizhou People's Hospital. He is the first injured person to be discharged, China Central Television (CCTV) reported Sunday. 

The accident took place after heavy rainfall hit several parts of Guangdong for a few days, which eventually led to a landslide in the area. Aerial photos show one side of the expressway had caved in, causing vehicles to roll down the slope below.

Since April, Meizhou has experienced multiple heavy rain storms, with the city's average cumulative rainfall reaching 621.7 millimeters, 2.49 times more than the same period in a typical year, local authorities said during a news conference on Thursday. This surpasses the historical record for April rainfall since meteorological records began in 1980.

A local resident surnamed Mi told the Global Times on Sunday that this was the first time he had seen such intense rainfall during the May Day holidays in Meizhou. "Usually, similar heavy rainfalls do not occur until the end of May," he said, noting he thinks this may be the main cause behind the accident.

In this tragic accident, some spontaneous rescues at the scene also touched many people. One of those involved was Wang Xiangnan, a 33-year-old cold chain freight driver. When he discovered the accident ahead, he parked his 12.5-meter-long vehicle across the highway to prevent more cars from tumbling down the slope. Because of his brave actions, he was awarded 10,000 yuan ($1,413) from his company and another 10,000 yuan from a charity organization. During an interview, he said he would donate this reward to the families of the victims in the collapse, as they are in greater need of the money.

The rain in Meizhou has not ended yet. Strong convective weather is forecast to remain in Meizhou throughout the week, and traffic control will be implemented at potential danger points, local newspaper Meizhou Daily reported Sunday. The local authorities have activated a Level-IV flood control emergency response, the highest level.

The Department of Natural Resources of Guangdong Province said that in recent days, Guangdong has experienced historically rare and persistent heavy rainfall, severe convective weather, and high soil moisture content, which can easily lead to geological disasters such as landslides and road collapses. The geological disaster prevention situation is very severe.

The provincial department has conducted a "dragnet-style" investigation of geological disaster risks, focusing on areas near mountains, water, and villages, as well as areas prone to disasters such as mountainsides, cliffs, and slopes. 

According to the China Meteorological Administration, starting from Sunday, the rainfall in South China will significantly weaken. However, Guangdong will still see cloudy and rainy weather on Monday and Tuesday. At the same time, the administration warns that although the rainfall is generally weakening, there is still great potential for secondary disasters like landslides, especially where the soil moisture content is high. Residents should try to avoid activities in geological disaster-prone areas such as mountains and river valleys.

China sees surge in outbound tourism for May Day holidays as international flight bookings reach record high

China is set to witness explosive growth in outbound tourism during the May Day holidays from May 1 to May 5 as data from major online travel agencies showed a strong surge in overseas tour bookings by Chinese travelers.

International flight bookings for the first day of the May Day holidays reached a record high, increasing by 20 percent compared with 2019 levels. Nearly 100 outbound destinations saw a rise in flight ticket bookings, according to data Chinese travel platform Qunar shared with the Global Times on Wednesday. Hotel booking numbers showed that Chinese tourists are expected to visit 1,035 cities worldwide during the May Day holidays.

The number of air ticket bookings for several visa-free destinations during the May Day holidays surpassed the figures recorded during the same period in 2019. Specifically, flight bookings for Thailand and Malaysia saw an increase of more than 30 percent, while bookings for Singapore and Georgia more than doubled.

Chinese tourists also appear more willing to opt for longer-distance travel during the five-day holiday period. The Middle East and Europe emerged as popular choices for holiday destinations, with Saudi Arabia and Egypt experiencing a more than threefold increase in flight bookings. Similarly, countries like the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Qatar saw a surge of over 50 percent in flight bookings. In Europe, popular destinations such as the UK, Hungary, Ireland, Spain, and Croatia witnessed a doubling of air ticket bookings, according to Qunar data.

Meanwhile, with the Japanese yen hitting a 34-year low against the dollar on Monday, Japan has attracted large numbers of overseas tourists including Chinese visitors. According to Ctrip, Japan will be the top destination for outbound travel during the May Day holidays, with Thailand and South Korea following closely behind. Airbnb data also indicates that Japan is the most searched destination. According to Qunar, the top 10 destinations for the May Day holidays are Thailand, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, the US, the Philippines, and Australia. Bookings for flights to Japan saw a significant increase of over 60 percent compared with the same period in 2019, making it the destination with the largest growth among the top 10.

The rise in outbound travel has been facilitated by a surge in international flights. China Southern Airlines announced plans to add over 900 flights from April 30 to May 6, with total planned operation of nearly 19,000 flights. China Eastern Airlines has also expanded its international and regional routes, including flights from various Chinese cities to destinations such as Thailand, Singapore, Japan, and Russia, among others.

Xi's visit to France can build friendship, instill confidence: Chinese envoy

The upcoming visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to France holds profound historical significance. It will be a journey to showcase friendship, instill confidence and lead cooperation, Chinese Ambassador to France Lu Shaye told a press briefing on Monday.

At the invitation of President Emmanuel Macron of France, President Aleksandar Vučić of the Republic of Serbia and President Tamás Sulyok and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of Hungary, President Xi will pay state visits to France, Serbia and Hungary from May 5 to 10, the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced on Monday.

This marks President Xi's return to France and Europe after a gap of five years. It is also Xi's first state visit of the year and the highlight of celebrations for the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries, Lu said.

The visit holds significant importance for advancing the development of China-France and China-EU relations in the new era and influencing the evolution of the international landscape, the Chinese envoy noted.

Lu pointed out that China-France relations were nurtured by previous leaders such as Chairman Mao Zedong and General Charles de Gaulle.

Over the past 60 years, guided by the spirit of independence, mutual understanding, foresight, and mutually beneficial cooperation, China-France relations have weathered the changing international landscape, he noted.

They have consistently remained at the forefront of China's relations with Western countries, demonstrating increasing strategic maturity and stability, and exerting profound influence on great power relations and global dynamics, Lu said.

"Xi's visit, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries, will provide an opportunity to revisit the spirit of China-France cooperation and chart the future of bilateral relations from a historical and strategic perspective," the Chinese diplomat said.

France is a core member of the EU, and China-France relations are an important component and strong engine of China-Europe relations. China has always viewed China-Europe relations from a strategic height and a long-term perspective, considering Europe as a comprehensive strategic partner and an important force in a multipolar world, Lu said.

During Xi's visit, there will be comprehensive and in-depth strategic communication with Macron on China-France and China-Europe relations.

This will encourage France to uphold strategic autonomy and openness in cooperation, and drive Europe to form a more independent, objective, and friendly understanding of China.

It will also resist negative trends such as "de-risking" and "reduced dependence" on China, ensuring that China-France relations continue to lead China-Europe relations toward stability and progress, Lu said.

China and France should accelerate cooperation in emerging fields such as artificial intelligence, the digital economy, green manufacturing, and sustainable development, the ambassador said.

Furthermore, they should further promote agricultural cooperation, represented by "from French farms to Chinese tables," and build closer ties in terms of industry chains, capital flows, and personnel exchanges.

It is believed that President Xi's visit will inject new impetus into cooperation in various fields between China and France, guiding both sides to explore new areas and avenues of cooperation, he said.

In response to questions about the common ground where China and France could work together in addressing hotspot issues such as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the Ukraine crisis, Lu noted that on the issue of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, China and France have consistently held similar positions, both advocating for a negotiated resolution through the "two-state solution," supporting an immediate ceasefire, protecting civilians, and alleviating humanitarian situations.

As two major powers from the East and the West and responsible great powers, China and France will continue to maintain close communication and coordination on international and regional hotspot issues.

They will actively uphold the international system centered around the UN and the international order based on international law, jointly promote negotiations and dialogue to resolve regional conflicts and turbulence, and work together to build a peaceful, stable, and secure world, Lu said.

On the Ukraine crisis, the Chinese government has maintained an objective, neutral, and balanced stance since the beginning of the crisis, without favoring any party. It is because of this stance that China can engage in dialogue with various parties involved in the crisis, including Russia, Ukraine, Europe, and the US, Lu noted.

"We have consistently advocated for peace talks and dialogue, and opposed any country adding fuel to the fire of this crisis. The conflicts and wars that have arisen in today's world are detrimental to the progress and prosperity of human society," he said.

The endpoint of any war is the negotiating table, and it is better to return to the negotiating table early rather than engage in a conflict where both sides end up losing before resuming talks, Lu stressed.

Shortly after the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis, Xi clarified China's position at a video summit with Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, outlining the "four principles." President Xi later called for joint efforts in four areas and shared three observations.

In February 2023, the Chinese government released a position paper on the political resolution of the Ukraine issue, presenting a 12-point proposal. The proposal includes not only general principles such as respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries and adhering to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter but also a roadmap, including ceasefire, initiation of talks, protection of civilians and prisoners of war, guaranteeing food shipments, and the safety of nuclear power plants.

It also includes ideas for the post-war European security architecture. If Europe and France carefully read the Chinese document and truly understand China's position, they will find that China's proposals are in line with the current situation and provide a feasible path for the peaceful resolution of the Ukraine crisis, Lu said.