GT investigates: How do some US politicians play ‘national security’ card, defame Chinese investment with ‘land grabbing’ fallacy?

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.

In the 10th installment in the series, the Global Times looks into how some US politicians attempt to demonize and drive away Chinese investment from the country, with the recent "land grabbing" fallacy.
A few conspiracy theorists and "persecution mania sufferers" in the US have always imagined that China has launched "battles" against the US in various forms. And now they've created a new narrative: China grabs US land.

In January, Iowa's Governor Kim Reynolds claimed that "China continues to grow more aggressive, and buying American land has been one of the many ways they have waged this new battle." She said she intends to introduce a new law that would strengthen farmland ownership reporting rules in this state.

"…as China's threat adapts, our laws should too," said Reynolds, who was reportedly once very welcoming of Chinese investment. "Let's make sure that American soil remains in American hands," she said.

More states across the US have actively joined in the chorus to support this "land grabbing" fallacy. Data shows that at least 24 states specifically forbid or limit foreign ownership of private farmland. Many of the bans, which target certain countries including China, were introduced in the last two years in the name of "national security," the Global Times found.

Although it is unsurprising to see some US politicians play the anti-China card however they can in an election year, the remark that China, which legally holds only less than 1 percent of all the foreign-owned land in the US, "grabs US land," is still fairly absurd, said some Chinese economists and international relations experts.

How did the states use legislation and public pressure to vilify Chinese investors, and even drive them away from US farmlands? How did the fallacy of "China grabbing US land" come into being? What underhanded tactics have been employed by some US politicians to propel this fallacy? The Global Times tries to uncover what's behind this new round of cognitive war against China.

Virulent laws and actions

Chinese entities held 349,442 acres of agricultural and non-agricultural land in the US, slightly less than 1 percent of its foreign-held acres, or 0.03 percent of the total, according to a report released by the US Department of Agriculture in December 2022. The percentage fell far behind Canada (12.8 million acres), the Cayman Islands (672,000 acres), said a Forbes article in March 2023, listed under "surprising fact."

This negligible percentage nonetheless can't stop politicians in some states from hyping the "China grabbing land" panic and turning it into vitriolic laws and actions.

Arkansas, for instance, in October 2023, ordered agriculture company Syngenta to sell its 160 acres of farmland in this state, only "because the company is Chinese-owned," CNN reported on October 18.

Arkansas passed a state law earlier that year to prohibit certain foreign parties from acquiring or holding land. China is among the prohibited "parties," because it is subject to US arms export controls known as the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), said Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin.

Regardless of the little connection between arms export control and farmland, Arkansas' order to Syngenta was its first enforcement under the new law. Before this weird logic was finally turned into a legal order, the company "had owned the site for 35 years," according to Syngenta's spokesperson Saswato Das.

Disappointed Syngenta called the order "a shortsighted action" that will hurt Arkansas farmers. "Our people in Arkansas are Americans led by Americans who care deeply about serving Arkansas farmers," CNN quoted Das as saying.

Another infamous example was Texas, which had even tried to ban its citizens of Chinese ancestry from buying a house in the state.

In January 2023, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said he would sign a proposed bill banning citizens and foreign entities from four countries, including China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia, from purchasing Texas land.

The ridiculous "Senate Bill 147" soon sparked months of outcry across the state. In a Senate committee hearing in March that year, more than 100 people, including Asian American business owners, immigrants, and advocacy groups, heavily criticized the bill, according to local media.

Faced with widespread condemnation, the state lawmakers later revised the bill, softening the language to still allow dual citizenship holders and lawful permanent residents of the US to buy property in Texas.

In the last decade, the number of US states that have codified restrictions on foreign ownership of land has risen from 14 to 24, and new restrictions are being proposed in each legislative session, according to Tory Consulting. "As of January 2024, at least five states have active bills in session to restrict foreign ownership of land," said an article published online in February.

China is a main target of this restriction wave, although as a recent opinion piece in The Economist noted: "Chinese landholdings are both tiny and shrinking."

Then how did the "China grabbing US land" fallacy come about?

According to the US National Agricultural Law Center (NALC), a federally funded source of agricultural and food law research and information, many of the states' laws that restrict foreign ownership of land developed at several "political flashpoints," such as the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and the US' westward expansion in the late 1880s.

The latest ongoing "political flashpoint" starts from 2021, partly due to some incidents involving Chinese entities that raised "national security" concerns, said NALC.

One of the incidents was a Chinese company's "purchase of 300 acres near an Air Force base in North Dakota." It was about a Chinese firm planning to build a corn mill in the state. The plan was put on hold in 2023, as the US Air Force said the proposed mill was close to a local air force base and "presents a significant threat to national security."

The state's governor once celebrated the landing of the project in Grand Forks in late 2021, which would have been the city's largest economic development project in recent history, reported the New York Times (NYT) in February 2023. The corn mill was the sort of job-creating opportunity that cities have long fought over, it said.

When examining the timelines of when many US states introduced land ownership restrictions, the Global Times found an obvious "peak" after the "spy balloon" incident in February 2023. On the pretext of "national security," some federal and state politicians frequently attacked the Chinese owners of US farmland at that time, defaming those who owned land near military bases or facilities as spies or potential spies without any proof.

"National security" is a common trope that the Biden administration employs in suppressing China, said Yu Xiang, a non-resident senior fellow at the Center for International Security and Strategy, Tsinghua University. It has hyped a lot of smears against China in the name of national security, such as the "spy balloon," the "chip risk," and the so-called "Chinese citizens conceal secrets" fallacies, Yu explained.

"National security has been a 'black box' area in competitions between countries," Yu told the Global Times. Unlike the previous dumping and subsidy allegations against Chinese products, which China can clarify with tangible proof, the national security-related attacks are usually difficult to disprove, he said.

Moreover, the self-created suspicions may force the Chinese enterprises involved to try to prove their innocence with great effort, said Gao Lingyun, a research fellow at the Institute of World Economics and Politics, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "Even if one eventually dispelled the rumors, its reputation, time, and energy would have been damaged," Gao said.

Snaky calculation of US politicians

Chinese ownership of US land has become "a crime to be desired" by some people in the US under the pretext of national security. As the presidential election approaches, "taking back" land from Chinese purchasers is turning into a theatrical performance by local authorities to make political capital.

"This is about where your loyalties lie," Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at a news conference, responding to a query about the state ordering Syngenta to sell its farmland, even at the expense of local farmers and employees.

In some US states with fewer people and more land, the leaving of Chinese companies would bring obvious losses, such as revenue and employment, said Gao. "To drive away Chinese entities from their farmland is tantamount to giving up their strengths," he told the Global Times.

But the economic and job losses seem insignificant to some selfish politicians. In US electoral politics, there is usually a personal calculation behind what politicians do or say, said Yu. Authorities in some states want to drive out Chinese entities from farmland, because they believe it can bring them more personal political gains, such as votes, he explained.

Therefore, in order to still get votes even when there have been (or will be) economic damages, the politicians try hard to demonize China, magnifying the security threat of Chinese ownership of farmland to justify their poor political actions, noted some experts in US studies.

They pointed out that the anti-China trope is a well-tested trump card for some politicians to win attention and support, and their "China grabbing land" allegation is no more than a cliché smear that previously targeted Chinese investment in Africa and other Belt and Road Initiative participating nations.

And now this fallacy has spread back to the US, with a few politicians brainwashing US voters with ridiculous conspiracy theories, such as "the corn mill at your doorstep could be spying on you, or it could harm national security."

No wonder other politicians in the US are frustrated with the endless, irrational focus on land. According to a The Economist article published in January, US Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi complained that some laws intended to stop any Chinese-origin individuals from buying any land at all drift into "outright racism and xenophobia."

Krishnamoorthi wishes politicians would focus more on improving American competitiveness in general, said the article. "Sadly that is harder than blustering about farmland."

Hometown witnesss: Jiangsu sets records in GDP, explores emerging industries with the strongest engine being people's industriousness, tenacity

Editor's Note:

The world recently celebrated a splendid Chinese New Year, welcoming the Year of the Dragon.

During the holidays, Global Times reporters returned to their hometowns where they were reacquainted with old traditions and introduced to new post-pandemic experiences. To share their experience, we have launched the "Hometown Diary" series. Spanning from north to south, east to west, six articles will focus on different provinces, exploring the development and evolution from traditional to modern, and from economic to cultural dimensions.

This series is not only a comprehensive review of China's vast territory and diverse regional cultures but also a profound reflection of how different areas across the country maintain their identity and embrace changes.

Through the lens of hometown observations, we hope to touch the hearts of our readers, allowing everyone to find resonance in these stories and feel the warmth and vitality that hometowns provide, regardless of changes brought about by time.

This is the second installment in the series, in which we gain the perspectives of our reporters to understand how East China's Jiangsu Province keeps vigorous development with a strong engine based on local people's industriousness and tenacity, and how East China's Anhui Province explores emerging areas of high tech and new energy.
When I asked ChatGPT what characteristics Jiangsu people have, it gave me the following sentences:

▪ Jiangsu people are very hard-working; they care greatly about effort and pursue success;

▪ They are talented in business and have high commercial aptitude;

▪ They pay great attention to education and emphasize learning capacity cultivation and the knowledge development of their children;

▪ They are tough in the face of difficulties and challenges.

Hard-working people

The answer is pretty close to my own understanding of people from the province. In my 33 years, my parents constantly reiterated the surmountable nature of every challenge.

My 60-year-old father-in-law considers anyone getting up later than 7 am "lazy."

The eyes of my grandfather, 78, only light up when he is doing or talking about business. Otherwise, he has nothing to do but sits languidly on his chair, looking forlorn.

For a long time, I barely saw the good in this kind of characteristic, and rather saw it as constraining and boring. It gave me the impression that people in my hometown were robotic. Generation after generation, they follow the same routine, work in the same place, and employ the same form of hard work. If you were to ask them, "Why do you not find another way to live," they would probably say "This is how life works after all."

However, after 16 years away, and after experiencing and witnessing so many personal and global ups and downs, especially in recent years, I started to reflect on the consistent, hard-working, and resilient characteristics of Jiangsu people and suddenly began to understand the steadiness and power hidden in these qualities.

This strength is not only the province's vigorous development's vital source even in difficult times, but also, maybe, is the simplest kind of life force I lacked and have always been looking for.
Vigorous development, continuous exploration

As a national economic powerhouse, East China's Jiangsu Province saw its regional gross domestic product (GDP) increase by 5.8 percent year-on-year to 12.82 trillion yuan ($1.8 trillion) in 2023, according to the annual session of the provincial people's congress in January. This figure means the province contributed the second-highest GDP in China in 2023 only following South China's Guangdong Province with 13.57 trillion yuan.

Apart from the impressive figures, Jiangsu people's undeniable business acumen plays a vital role in continuously pushing the province to explore new areas aligned with the demand of national strategies and the market.

In 2023, the output value of new energy vehicles (NEVs) and new energy industries in Jiangsu increased by 19 percent and 14.5 percent respectively. The production of lithium-ion batteries for automobiles increased by 18.7 percent. Monocrystalline silicon production increased by 31.6 percent, photovoltaic cell production increased by 45.6 percent, NEV production increased by 46.3 percent, wind power generator production increased by 66.4 percent, and charging pile production increased by 1.3 times, according to Xinhua.

The province discovered new growth points for foreign trade by expanding the trade of new types of home products and new energy products with countries associated with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). According to statistics from Nanjing Customs, in 2023, Jiangsu's imports and exports to these countries reached 2.25 trillion yuan, an increase of 0.9 percent, accounting for 42.9 percent of the country's total trade with these countries, Xinhua reported.

People in my hometown have also changed a lot during my absence, and in ways I had failed to notice.

My younger cousin Peter Zhou told me he probably would go overseas to work for a period as his company would start to open branches in many countries and regions around the world to achieve localization operations.

The young boy who once battled me for a bottle of orange soda had transformed into a company CEO.

The company he works for is Sunnix Energy, founded in 2010, a comprehensive company specializing in lithium-ion battery products, energy storage systems and photovoltaic solar systems.

In 2023, the company achieved sales of more than 240 million yuan, more than double the figure in 2022.

More than 90 percent of our company's sales come from overseas, with the Philippines, South Africa and the Middle East being the main markets, Zhou told me.

Unite to be 'Su Daqiang'

Jiangsu has two nicknames on Chinese social media: Sanzhuang Jiangsu (loosely organized Jiangsu) and Su Daqiang (Su is a Chinese surname, Da means great and Qiang means strong in Chinese).

The second nickname is because of its strong economy. The first is because, while other provinces and regions in China usually act as a whole on a national level, the 13 cities in Jiangsu act separately. A typical example is they all sent their own medical support teams to Wuhan, Hubei Province in early 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, while most other places only sent a provincial team.

Chinese netizens always make the joke that Jiangsu is loosely organized. But they also wonder how such a province holds so much energy for development.

My recent reflections may provide an answer: Jiangsu is loosely organized not because its 13 cities do not like each other or do not obey the orders of big brother Nanjing, the capital, but because they are blood brothers who are all hard-working and strong respectively so that they always compete and do not want to be the one "holding back the family" on the way of development.

An example before the Spring Festival made more people come to know the unity of Jiangsu hidden in its loose organization. Heavy snow hit central and northern Jiangsu between February 1 and 6, sparking concerns among those wishing to drive through Jiangsu's highways.

However, as they set off on their return journeys, more and more people took to social media platforms to express their amazement as they found Jingsu's highways cleared overnight.

As of February 5 morning, 57,000 personnel had been dispatched to remove snow on highways across the province with snow-removal machines working 6,759 times and snow-melting materials being dispersed, covering 41,000 kilometers of roadworks, the Jiangsu Provincial Government announced.

"This efficiency explains why it is called Su Daqiang," a netizen commented.

"We are loose in ordinary times, but we set to unite and get serious in the face of major matters," a Jiangsu netizen said, and I could not agree more.

Witness to history: Victims, survivors disclose untold details of 2012 terror attack in Xinjiang

Editor's Note:

On February 28, 2012, Tursun Talip, a resident in Yecheng county, Kashi Prefecture, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, lost his son Turghunjan, an auxiliary police officer who was hacked to death by nine terrorists, alongside another 12 killed and 16 injured. Tursun rushed to the scene and collapsed on the weeping bitterly in front of his son's pool of blood. "All I had in my mind was my son being hacked to death. I could even hear him crying out for me."

What happened to Turghunjan and other victims on that day and how the lives of the survivors and those who lost their beloved ones changed have all been recorded in the report titled "Victims and Survivors of Terrorism in China: An Oral History," which was published by the Institute for Communication and Borderland Governance (ICBG) at Jinan University. The Global Times selected two stories from the report that truly encapsulate the severity of the terror attack that happened in Xinjiang, and also interviewed Zhang Liang, director of the ICBG, who initiated the report project, to understand its significance.

This story is a part of the Global Times' "Witness to history" series, which features first-hand accounts from witnesses who were at the forefront of historic moments. From scholars, politicians and diplomats to ordinary citizens, their authentic reflections on the impact of historical moments help reveal a sound future for humanity through the solid forward steps taken in the past and the present.
'I hate those terrorists to the bones!'

When the terror attack happened on February 28, 2012, Tursun was working at a school, and at around 7 pm, he received a call asking him to inform the faculty to stay inside and close the school gate as soon as possible as something had happened at the Xingfu Road pedestrian street.

"My heart stopped as I soon realized that my son was on duty there, and I thought, 'God, please keep my son safe from harm.' I was so worried. Then I immediately called the head of the traffic brigade and told him that my son was there, and I had to go over. Then I got on my motorbike and prayed for my son on the way," said Tursun.

The attack was over by the time Tursun arrived at the scene. Crowds had been evacuated, and the police had begun to clean up the scene. At the scene was a police officer from the county public security bureau, who stopped Tursun from approaching.

After informing the police officer that he was, in fact, Turghunjan's father, Tursun was later escorted to the hospital by a female officer. They did not find Turghunjan in the treatment room. Early in the morning the next day, Tursun learned that his son had died.

"Outside the room, I immediately saw the wounds on my son's neck, and here (shoulder and neck), and there (right arm) … When we left the hospital, my daughter-in-law, wife of Turghunjan, immediately broke down. Later, the county chiefs said my son honorably sacrificed his life for the people, and escorted my son's body back to my house," Tursun said.

Tursun later learned that while his son was on duty that day, some of the terrorists - all youngsters aged about 25 - had gathered at a market at around 6 pm. Turghunjan thrice went over to ask them not to gather at the pedestrian street exit, but they walked a few steps away and still gathered. When Turghunjan went to check their IDs, he saw that one of the terrorists was carrying an ax with him.

"My son was going to take that man to the police station nearby. My son should have called the police station first, but he wanted to take those people to the police station by himself… At that moment, one of the terrorists took out an ax, sent a secret signal to his accomplices, and then hacked my son and finally killed him," said Tursun.

The original targets of those terrorists were primary school students. The terror group divided itself into three teams, one stationed at the pedestrian street gate, another at the pedestrian street market, and the third next to the primary school. Each of them was planning to kill 500 people. However, Turghunjan disrupted their plan.

Hearing details of what had happened to his son was a source of great pain for Tursun. He went to the spot where his son was brutally killed the next afternoon. "There remained some blood on the ground, and I was sitting there, looking at the blood and crying. All I had in my mind was the scene where my son was hacked to death. I could even hear him cry, "Dad, Dad!'"

"I couldn't stop thinking afterward that if someone had known about the terrorists' conspiracy in advance, they might not have caused so many deaths, and my son might still be alive. If my son hadn't gone over to question them repeatedly, he probably wouldn't have been killed. My son is now recognized as a martyr; he sacrificed his life for the safety of many civilians, and I am proud of that, but with my son gone, everything is gone," said Tursun.

"I hate these terrorists and separatists, as they have ruined my family. I can't even control myself if anyone mentions the terrorist attack in front of me. I hate those terrorists to the bones!" said Tursun.
'We must not fear terrorism'

Grain and cooking oil store owner Wang Tiancheng, 59, on Xingfu Road in Yecheng, also recalled the details of the tragic day. On February 28, 2012, while standing in front of his store at around 5.50 pm, Wang noticed the eruption of chaos as he saw market operators running and screaming.

"At that moment, I was standing with my back to the back door while facing the entrance (of the market). Then I felt like someone had cut me. I felt it, but I still had no idea what was happening. After the first blow, two people (the terrorists) faced me," said Wang.

"They (terrorists) were holding an ax in one hand and a machete in the other, and their axes were so big, and the machetes were so long. So, they hacked me with the machete right on my head and shoulder. Later, when I got my wounds examined, the doctor told me that this bone on my shoulder would have been broken if the machete had gone half a centimeter deeper," he noted.

Wang said that they did expect a terror attack, but they came prepared. He and the terrorist were close to each other. When Wang saw what the terrorist was holding, his first thought was, "Oh no, he's going to kill me."

"At the same time, I realized that I, at least, needed to grab something to fend off the attack as I was unarmed, so I grabbed the chair, and his ax was coming at me at the same time. I smashed the chair on him immediately. I was wounded here when he was hacking at me haphazardly, but luckily the rest of my body wasn't injured. If I had not blocked that blow or reacted any slower, the consequences would have been much severer," said Wang.

Wang could still remember the look on the terrorists' faces and said that a glance at the terrorist's eyes would have undoubtedly terrified someone with a weak constitution as he just wanted to kill people by directly aiming at people's necks or heads.

After hacking at Wang, these attackers went on to hack other people in the middle of Xingfu Road market, before turning back to attack people in the opposite direction.

Wang left his shop and headed toward a seed company to the right of his store where he found the next-door shop owner hacked to death with a gash to the temple, along with two of the store's workers dead at the door. An old couple along with their grandson present at the store were also brutally attacked, with the elderly man dying on the spot, and his wife sustaining a head injury while trying to protect her grandson.

Wang also recalled that one of the terrorists captured alive had made a habit of regularly visiting a naan bread maker in the market in the months leading up to the attack. When Wang looked into the terrorist's eyes, he always felt slightly uncomfortable.

"His eyes seemed especially fierce, and I thought he was not a good guy. In the end, this attack was led by him, as he had visited the market several times and was familiar with the place," said Wang.

Wang was treated at the hospital and was admitted for 46 days, later being diagnosed as having a 10-degree disability - the lowest disability level compared with other victims of the attack. He still exhibits certain sequelae now and then, and when the weather changes dramatically, his shoulders hurt.

"It's been 10 years since the terror attack, but I can still feel the horror whenever I recall it. To be honest, we were scared. But after the attack happened, the first thing we had to do was to stay calm, be brave, and try to fight back. It is the mentality I always uphold. We must not fear terrorism," Wang said.
'China's anti-terrorism efforts legitimate'

"While working on this project, I have personally experienced a strong sense of trauma. When the survivors and relatives of victims recalled and retold their experiences, I was brought into that situation, especially when they showed me some wounds or talked about unforgettable experiences from that time; I have a strong sense of empathy," Zheng Liang, director of the ICBG, who initiated the project, told the Global Times.

Zheng and his team started the research project titled "Victims and Survivors of Terrorism in China: An Oral History" in 2021, and searched for victims of terror attacks.

So far, they have conducted interviews with over 60 witnesses of violent terror incidents that have happened in various places in Xinjiang region, including Hotan, Kashi, Turpan, and Urumqi, collecting over one million words worth of written records and over 90 hours of audio and video materials.

The first installment of the report on the project was released on January 18 at a seminar, which included the stories of Tursun and Wang, and four other victims of the terror attack that happened in Yecheng county on February 28, 2012.

Researchers who attended the project seminar said that, for most of the interviewees, recalling the horrific experiences they had years ago was difficult and the interview always began after hours or days of psychological struggle.

The afterword of the report also cited a survivor as saying that the Yecheng terror attack caused significant impacts not only on one family but also on the whole county, and even the entire region. The case is a lingering shadow and pain in the hearts of many in Yecheng.

He noted that the trauma suffered by ordinary people in these terror incidents is also insufficiently addressed. The absence of this group's voices sometimes leads to attacks on China, with some overseas organizations claiming that terrorism does not exist in China and that terror attacks are the result of oppression against ethnic minorities.

While talking about the reasons why he initiated the project, Zheng, who was born and raised in Xinjiang, mentioned the previous reports on terror attacks mainly focused on the causes of terrorism and violent incidents, while lacing in-depth interviews and reports on the victims.

Zheng told the Global Times that some foreign individuals and media outlets often fabricate politically motivated narratives, portraying the perpetrators of these terrorist acts as so-called "victims."

"But the perpetrators are perpetrators. They cannot be glorified as victims," said Zheng.

The expert also noted that through the project, they wish to provide factual materials for individuals who pay attention to Xinjiang region, and China's counterterrorism and de-radicalization efforts as this project would allow the international community to gain a better understanding that China, like other countries, has also suffered from terrorism and its counterterrorism work is absolutely legitimate.

Chinese scientists strive to be the first to observe the sun’s north, south poles: academician

"The sun is an eternal challenge in the journey of human exploration," Wang Jingxiu, academician at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and researcher at the National Astronomical Observatories of the CAS (NAOC), told the audience at a New Year's Eve event hosted by the Beijing Association for Science and Technology. 

Having devoted 45 years to sun-related research, Wang has a deep understanding of the vital importance of the sun. 

"The sun is the governor of the entire solar system. It created the Earth, which is the cradle of humanity. It also created the solar system, which is the habitat for humans. Studying the sun is studying the home of humanity," Wang told the Global Times.

In terms of scientific study, the sun, the closest star to Earth, is the only celestial body that allows for high temporal resolution, high spatial resolution, high spectral resolution, and high polarization measurement accuracy. Therefore, the knowledge accumulated from studying the sun has guided the entire human exploration of the universe.

After decades of development, solar physics research in China is at a leading juncture internationally. China's advantage lies in the study of solar activity and solar magnetic fields, but there is still a certain gap in solar internal structure research. 

In fact, China's solar research has developed rapidly. In the 1960s, China created the world's best solar magnetograph, the Huairou Solar Magnetic Field Telescope, which marked a new beginning for solar research in China. In the field of ground-based solar magnetic field and velocity field imaging observations, especially in the research of vector magnetic field observations, China is a world leader.

Wang recalled that in 1999, using this telescope, Deng Yuanyong, currently director of the NAOC Huairou Solar Observing Station, Chinese academician Ai Guoxiang, and himself became the first in the world to measure the vector magnetic field in the solar polar region.

China ushered in a new era of solar exploration in 2021 with the successful launch of China's first solar exploration scientific experimental satellite, the Xihe. The satellite allows Chinese people to conduct detailed research on the rotation of the sun and the dynamics of solar eruption source regions. About a year later, China launched its first comprehensive solar exploration satellite, Kuafu, furthering the country's scientific endeavor to unravel the secrets of the sun.

Xihe is the name of the sun goddess in ancient Chinese mythology and Kuafu is a giant in Chinese mythology, who indefatigably chased the sun. With Xihe and Kuafu joining forces, "China has spread the romance of Chinese astronomy to space in its own way," Wang said.

Looking forward to the long-term study of the sun, Wang hopes that Chinese scientists will become the first to observe the north and south poles of the sun to measure the magnetic field and activities there.

"In solar observations, what has not been directly observed so far are the north and south poles of the sun. The importance of these poles goes beyond our imagination. Therefore, Chinese scholars want to do something that other countries have not done yet and assume a leading role in the study of the sun in the world," he said. 

He also stressed the necessity of developing the scientific payload of China's probes to obtain more accurate data, which is crucial for solar exploration.

Chinese path to modernization: Wuzhen's transformation from tourist attraction to livable town embodies essence of common prosperity

From many perspectives, Wuzhen, in East China's Zhejiang Province, a town with thousands of years of history, is not a name that automatically comes to mind when poverty and backwardness are mentioned. Even without considering its rich cultural history and connections to many famous figures, in the last few decades, it has become a well-planned tourist attraction known to most Chinese people.

As a typical ancient water town in the Jiangnan region, Wuzhen has a history spanning over 7,000 years and has been an established center for over 1,300 years. In the 1990s, the local government started to renovate the ancient town. The 21st century marked Wuzhen's transformation into one of the most popular tourist attractions in the region.

However, beyond the bustling tourist area, Wuzhen was rarely associated with "modernization" in any comprehensive way for a period of time. Outside the scope of the tourism industry, many people still lived in old villages in their old lifestyles.

This situation, however, began to change in June 2003 with the implementation of Zhejiang's Green Rural Revival Program, which plans to renovate about 10,000 incorporated villages and transform about 1,000 central villages among them into examples of moderate prosperity in all respects.

Xi Jinping, then secretary of the CPC Zhejiang Provincial Committee, promoted and deployed this modernization project to address the problem of imbalanced urban-rural development, creating a new development path for beautiful villages.

From duck farming to bamboo weaving

Chenzhuang village, like many other ordinary Chinese villages, had a long-term reliance on the animal husbandry and breeding as its main industry. "Chenzhuang used to be a specialized duck farming village, and every household would raise ducks on a fairly large scale," said Shen Siyuan, a member of the Chenzhuang village committee, to visiting Global Times reporters. "But the odor and waste generated by duck farming had a significant impact on the village's environment."

Transitioning from the backward poultry breeding ground to a traditional bamboo weaving craft was a long-term consideration by the village committee.

After closing down the environmentally damaging duck farms, many villagers joined the handicraft workshops of several bamboo weaving families in the village. In the workshops, the Global Times saw many villagers chatting and skillfully weaving bamboo items. Technical discussions or sharing sessions about bamboo weaving are routinely organized or spontaneously held among the villagers. When showing their bamboo weaving works to the Global Times, many of the former farmers turned bamboo artisans had proud smiles on their faces.

The village's leader in bamboo weaving, who is an inheritor of the craft, Qian Jihuai quit his job working for a company and followed his father, Qian Xinming, to engage in bamboo weaving full time in 2007, in the era of the decline of bamboo weaving in Wuzhen.
He came up with the idea of linking bamboo weaving with Wuzhen's tourism industry, and applied for a store at a tourist attraction and then tried to weave some Chinese characters out of bamboo as tourist souvenirs. It turned out that tourists loved these novel souvenirs.

Qian and his father therefore saw this as a new path to promote bamboo weaving and began developing related products. They traveled to other towns in China with a tradition of bamboo weaving and studied and researched extensively on the development of bamboo weaving in other countries.

"We gradually discovered that there was a lot of room for the expansion of bamboo weaving as an art," Qian said. He set up his own bamboo weaving studio with his father and brother, brought systematic bamboo weaving classes to schools, and introduced bamboo weaving skills to more people through online livestreams. In his studio, the Zhuyun Workshop, 15,000 visitors study bamboo weaving and take part in learning experiences every year. The workshop features many works of his fellow villagers, many of whom work there for a living.

According to Qian, the sense of happiness generated by social recognition is a new thing for many villagers who have been engaged in the poultry breeding industry for generations, but it has become an important part of achieving common prosperity in modern rural areas.

Such workshops are parts of an innovative project in Zhejiang that helps low-income groups increase their income. Currently, more than 7,000 such workshops have been established in the province, employing more than 340,000 people, with an average monthly income increase of about 2,600 yuan ($368) per person.

After the leveling of the land and the greening transformation, Chenzhuang has also built a leisure park in the village and a free library for villagers to read and check out books in the center of the village. When villagers recall their previous lives of duck farming to the Global Times, they find it hard to believe the changes.

From small towns into high-tech parks

Thanks to the Green Rural Revival Program, the image of the countryside has been comprehensively lifted in Zhejiang. A total of 2,170 featured villages and over 3 million beautiful rural courtyards have been built, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

In 2011, the program entered the stage of creating high-quality and beautiful villages. The integration of "lucid waters and lush mountains" into the new lives of the people of Zhejiang, as well as the significant changes in the environment, and the government's tremendous support for external talents, have attracted many investors and high-tech entrepreneurs.

In a high-tech park in Wuzhen, Global Times reporters met Jiang Jianguo, who used to work in display technology research in Silicon Valley, and has chosen to start a business in Wuzhen in 2019.

"When we planned to build a factory, we had high requirements and needed a very high-end purification workshop, and the local government helped us solve these problems with great seriousness," Jiang said. "This made us determined to establish our company in Wuzhen."

The high-end manufacturing industry in the field of electronic flexible screens created by Jiang has created new job opportunities and demonstrated the vitality of cutting-edge innovation and technology in this small town of Wuzhen, inducing the return of many young people who had migrated for work.

"In the past, if you wanted to find a good job, you had to go to first- or second-tier cities," said Shen Guyu, a young company employee, to the Global Times. "Now, you can work in high-tech enterprises in your hometown, and commuting is also very convenient."
Some employees also expressed their expectations for more high-tech enterprises in small towns. "After having a second child, my partner and I hope to leave the big city and return to our hometown for the sake of our children," said another employee, Wang Hua. The landing of these high-tech enterprises in Wuzhen makes it possible for them to engage in cutting-edge industries in their hometowns.

By the end of 2022, Zhejiang had registered 9.43 million operating entities, to which the private economy contributed 67 percent of the province's GDP, 71.7 percent of tax revenue, and 87.5 percent of employment. The booming private sector has provided unprecedented opportunities for young people in villages and towns to increase their income, find employment, and to produce new ideas.

In 2021, Zhejiang's Green Rural Revival Program entered the "creating future and achieving common prosperity" stage. The boundaries between urban and rural areas have gradually disappeared, and the foundation for sustainable development has become more solid.

In Shufeng village, Wuzhen, one can feel the gradual birth of a future village.

When Global Times reporters arrived at Shufeng village, villager Yu Liqin was preparing to build a new house, and village official Jiang Chao had agreed to measure the homestead with her in a very unconventional way.

Jiang demonstrated the various conditions of his homestead through the intelligent management system to Yu. With the help of aerial footage and the demonstration system, they quickly determined the required data. "In the past, it might have taken us half a day to measure on-site, but now, with this system, we can complete it in just a minute," Jiang said.

In 2022, Shufeng village was selected as one of the first provincial-level pilot "future villages" in Zhejiang. They began using digital technology to create a sustainable rural area, and the fully automated intelligent system started assisting villagers in their daily lives and work. Subsequently, a high-tech seedling base was established in Shufeng village. Villagers could either lease their land to the base or work as employees there.

Inside the 30,000-square-meter intelligent greenhouse in the village, the Global Times encountered Li Jingquan, a villager come employee who was testing a 5G inspection robot. This intelligent greenhouse integrates various new technologies such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, cloud computing, and big data. On a large display screen, the growth status of all plants and intelligent suggestions are shown. Additionally, an intelligent seedling planter is available to quickly and accurately transplant seedlings.

"With the help of this technology, the seedlings we cultivate are stronger and have a higher survival rate than before, allowing villagers who are engaged in planting to continuously increase their income and production," Li said.

By 2025, Zhejiang plans to build over a thousand "future villages" and narrow the gap between the highest and lowest per capita disposable income within the province to within 1.55, truly reducing the gap between rural and urban areas.

In Wuzhen, the villages and high-tech enterprises the Global Times reporters see are a reflection of the transformation of Zhejiang's villages under the guidance of the Green Rural Revival Program over the last 20 years.

During this period, the urban and rural areas of Wuzhen have developed in tandem, and each village has seized upon its own characteristics and embarked on its own path.

Twenty years later, when people think of Wuzhen again, they will think not only of the tourist attraction, but also of the annual World Internet Conference, theater festival, unique rural life, and attractive investment and employment prospects, which provide a vivid model for the modernization and development of more small towns.

Belgium: Antwerp and Beijing art exhibitions promote mutual exchanges

As one of the oldest art schools in the world, the Royal Academy of Fine Arts (RAFA) in Antwerp has constantly reinvented itself since it was founded in 1663. To promote the exchange of ideas and strive for greater creativity, RAFA established an exchange program with the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in Beijing. This year marks RAFA's 360th anniversary. To celebrate this momentous occasion, RAFA and CAFA organized a unique project.

On November 2, the first collaboration between students from both schools materialized. For this project, students from the two schools exchanged artworks and, as a result, works by students of the RAFA were shown at the CAFA Art Museum until November 12. The works by CAFA students will be displayed at RAFA from November 30 to December 8. What makes this exchange even more profound is that all these magnificent works will be preserved in the archives of both schools, creating a lasting connection between the two institutions. 

To support this great initiative, the Public Diplomacy Counsellor, Johan Van hove, attended the RAFA exhibition opening ceremony at CAFA and met its new president Lin Mao, several well-known professors from CAFA, the director of RAFA Johan Pas, and curators Peter Bosteels from Antwerp and Qiu Zhijie from Beijing. They discussed the development of cultural exchanges between both institutions and countries. 

Art knows no borders; art does not have a nationality. It is a bridge that connects two countries. Through this incredible exchange between Antwerp and Beijing, it celebrates the diversity of human creativity and the countless possibilities of even more exceptional collaborations between China and Belgium in the years to come.

Brain-computer interfaces technology renews hope for diseases treatment, has a long way to go before mass application

In the Chinese science-fiction novel "The Three-Body Problem," Wallfacer Bill Hines and his wife develop the Mental Seal as part of his Wallfacer Project plan. The Mental Seal can directly imprint thoughts and beliefs on people's brains based on the theory of "brain quantum layer activity." 

The fictional plot is increasingly becoming a real-life possibility as the research and application of brain-computer interfaces (BCI) technology improves rapidly around the world, which not only leads to renewed hope for the treatment of many diseases, but also offers the first possibility of increased longevity of a healthy person's consciousness, and even immorality.

The rapid development of BCI technology and concerns over how it might change relationships and interactions between humans and machines has also prompted increased vigilance and caution among global authorities regarding opening the free market door to the technology as there has not yet been an approved invasive BCI product on the market globally. 

Aside from practical concerns over the various complex fields involved, potential damage to the human brain, the risk of personal information leakage, as well as ethical controversies, questions haunting the development of BCIs also expand further to metaphysical considerations like: What do BCIs mean for humanity? Would BCIs take control of human beings' brains? Would immortality become possible with BCIs and would we be still human if our bodies are merged with computers?

Rapid advancement

The BCI system refers to the creation of a new information exchange pathway between the brain and external devices. On one hand, it converts brain signals into machine-readable signals to achieve effective mechanical control. On the other hand, it converts external device signals into brain-readable signals to directly interface with the brain. From a technical perspective, the implementation of a BCI device can be invasive or non-invasive.

Wuhan-based Nuracom, in an interview with the Global Times, stated that the company's micro-needle has high reliability and stability in both mechanical and electrical characteristics, making it suitable for neural signal recording and neuron stimulation. 

On August 25, Nuracom's ultra-high-density implantable BCI system was recognized by a panel of 11 top experts in China in science and technology, including Chinese Academy of Sciences academician Zhao Jizong and Member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering Li Peigen. The expert group believes that the system is innovative, technologically advanced, has broad application prospects, is comparatively advanced in the on an international scale, and will promote the technological progress of China's brain-computer interfaces industry. 

Nearly a month later, Neuralink, a BCI technology company founded by Elon Musk, announced that it had obtained approval from the reviewing independent institutional review board and their first hospital site was ready to begin recruitment for the first-in-human clinical trial for the company's fully-implantable, wireless BCI device. 

Nuracom also said the company is conducting extensive preclinical research, including verification of product performance, safety and reliability tests, as well as extensive animal trials. 

"We are collaborating with medical institutions to conduct in-depth research on relevant diseases, improve our products through these studies, and ultimately develop a comprehensive diagnosis and treatment plan to benefit patients. We have also conducted extensive preclinical research and actively laid out clinical trials and registration of medical devices, which will lead to the introduction of clinical diagnostic and treatment products to the market," the company said in a statement to the Global Times.

Neuralink's product implants electrodes one by one through a robotic insertion method and assembles them by soldering to an external device. The product also needs to transmit neural signals out to an external circuit board for A/D conversion before sending out digital signals. 

By contrast, Nuracom's innovative on-site neural signal processing technology optimizes signal quality, improves signal decoding accuracy, and has stimulation precision. It can achieve a one-time implantation of 65,536-channel microneedles, solving the problems of the current single electrode implantation method, which is time-consuming and inefficient.

Nuracom said its BCI system not only has precise brainwave signal acquisition capabilities, but also enables reverse stimulation, providing researchers with more complex paradigms.

As leading companies enter the clinical stage, the BCI market is entering a critical period for market adoption. According to a report released by, a Chinese industry expert consulting service platform, the global BCI market was valued at $1.74 billion in 2022 and is expected to reach $3.3 billion by 2027.

The Chinese market for BCI devices is expected to have a significant amplification effect when combined with specific use cases. It is estimated that by 2040, the market size of BCI devices in China will reach 56 billion yuan ($7.66 billion), with a compound annual growth rate of 21 percent.

Among them, the research-grade device market is estimated to be 1.5 billion yuan, and the consumer-grade device market is estimated to be 54.5 billion yuan. The report predicts that the market for BCI devices in China could be valued at hundreds of billions in the future.

Broad potentials

The development of BCI technology has a history of nearly a century since the invention of the electroencephalogram (EEG) in 1924. Before Neuralink's technology debuted in the arena of public discourse in August 2020, multiple international teams had already conducted research on the application of BCIs, most of it in clinical medicine.

In 1978, American biomedical scientist William Dobelle implanted an array of 68 electrodes into the visual cortex of a blind patient, allowing the patient to perceive grayscale modulated dot matrix images within a limited field of view by connecting a camera.

In the 21st century, with the overall scientific and technological advancement, BCI technology has seen rapid growth. In 1998, American scientists implanted a BCI device into the brain of a patient who suffered a brainstem stroke, enabling the patient to control a computer cursor. In 2014, Juliano Pinto, a 28-year-old quadriplegic man, controlled an exoskeleton through a brain-computer interface and kicked the first ball of the World Cup opening ceremony in Brazil, marking a milestone in the development of brain-computer interface technology.

On August 23 this year, a new study was published in Nature demonstrating that BCIs can help restore speech for people who have lost the ability due to paralysis. The clinical trial participant - who can no longer use the muscles of her lips, tongue, larynx, and jaws to enunciate units of sound clearly - was able to generate 62 words per minute on a computer screen simply by attempting to speak. This is more than three times as fast as the previous record for assisted communication using implanted BCI devices and an approach toward the roughly 160-word-per-minute rate of natural conversation among English speakers.

BCIs technology is also used in research for the treatment of various psychological and neurological disorders. In 1997, the US Food and Drug Administration approved the first deep brain stimulation (DBS) device for the treatment of essential tremor. In 2002, the device was approved for the treatment of Parkinson's disease, the treatment of dystonia in 2003, and the treatment of epilepsy in 2018.

A switch between heaven and hell

The DBS technology is also the research foundation for the clinical research project on the use of BCI technology for treatment-resistant depression at the Ruijin Hospital, affiliated with the Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine.

The principle of DBS involves implanting electrodes into specific neural circuits in the brain to regulate corresponding neural clusters through electrical stimulation for therapeutic purposes. However, in previous experiments in the use of DBS for the treatment of depression, once the surgery was completed and the electrodes were implanted in the patient's brain, the parameters of electrical stimulation could only be adjusted externally, and the signals of brain activity could not be transmitted outwards.

In other words, the communication between the brain and the machine was one-way, explained Sun Bomin, director of the Functional Neurosurgery Center at Ruijin Hospital and initiator of the clinical study of the use of BCI treatment for treatment-resistant depression, to the Global Times.

Research conducted at the Ruijin Hospital integrates BCI devices into DBS technology, which not only allows for external parameter adjustment but also enables continuous collection and export of deep brain activity data from patients, achieving true bidirectional information exchange. These data will help doctors to study the pathogenesis of depression and improve the effectiveness of precise stimulation for patients, Sun said.
According to Sun, he and his team have made unprecedented discoveries in this clinical trial: The energy of a slow-wave frequency band in the gamma wave range in the brain is positively correlated with the symptoms of depressed patients, known as "biomarkers." This means that the patient's "good state" and "bad state" can be quantified into different waveforms. In future research, based on the performance of these "biomarkers," researchers can provide corresponding stimulation to patients to maintain a "good state", thereby achieving the desired therapeutic effect.

Data shows that using BCI technology to regulate the brain can lead to an average improvement of over 60 percent in postoperative depression symptoms, according to a report the hospital released in April.

For Wu Xiaotian, one of the volunteers in Sun's team's project, the device researchers put in his right chest is like a switch that can transport him from a "hell of depression" to a "heaven of happiness."

The device is connected to two electrodes, extending from the device to behind the ears, and then from the back of the brain to the front of the brain, passing through the nerve nuclei at the front of the brain. When the device sends electric currents and stimulates the nerves, the symptoms of depression are eased or made to disappear.

Every morning when I turn on the device, I feel like I am freed from the prison of depression, Wu said.

Some people have expressed concern that BCIs might become something akin to "spiritual opium" for these patients as they rely on the device for emotional regulation and quotidian function.

Sun dispelled such worry, explaining that "we implant BCIs in these patients to control their brains in order to cure their diseases. These recipients are patients who need such treatment. We would not implant these devices in healthy people, so there is no reason to worry."

Beyond controversies

Although Sun is seemingly clear on the aim of his research, concerns over how BCI technology might change relationships and interactions between humans and machines has prompted increased vigilance among global authorities.

It may still be too early for human beings to be able to answer questions above as it very likely would take years, even decades, before a mature implantable BCI product is available on the market, and an understanding of and discussions around the issue are also improving accordingly.

But human beings still have to seize the current opportunity to get current decisions right, experts have warned. Only as people deal with these concerns step by step, will we be able to approach a controllable future.

The impact caused by [technology] depends on its application scenarios. Therefore, it is necessary to determine the priority application areas of brain-machine interface technology that can have a beneficial impact on humans and focus on in-depth research and application, said scientists from Nuracom when asked about how to address ethical controversies surrounding brain-machine interface technology.

We believe that within the framework of law and ethics, brain-machine interfaces technology, in its application process, can reduce negative impacts and ultimately benefit humanity and society, the scientists stressed.

Some experts have urged that it is necessary to establish a sound ethical framework and moral guidelines for the behavior of brain-machine interfaces developers and users in practice, ensuring the legality and morality of the technology.

Some countries have been making such moves. In 2021, Chile became the first country to have enumerated specific brain-related rights in its constitution, establishing the rights to personal identity, free will, and mental privacy.

The 2021 yearly global cybersecurity report released by the Chinese public security authority also highlighted legal regulation of some rapidly advancing technologies such as quantum computing and BCIs.

Henan Energy Big Data Center achieves provincial and prefecture-level-city integrated operation

Recently, our reporter learned from the State Grid Henan Electric Power Company that the Henan Energy Big Data Center "1+18" (an operation system incorporating one provincial-level company and 18 prefecture-level city companies) has been fully established. The center's 11 standard functions and 50 optional functions are all open to provincial and municipal units. Based on this, the data service scenarios and products will support the scientific, precise and efficient development of power supply, energy transformation, and economic development in the province.

In 2020, according to the entrustment construction agreement signed with Henan Provincial Development and Reform Commission, State Grid Henan Electric Power Company took the lead in building and operating the provincial-level energy big data center in the State Grid Corporation of China, and also actively promoted the cooperation of city-power supply companies with the local government. Over the past two years, all 18 city-power supply companies have obtained authorization from local government departments for the construction of energy big data centers.

To continuously release the value of data and meet the needs of data application services for users of all levels, the State Grid Henan Electric Power Company actively promoted the construction and operation of the "prefecture-level standard application" of the Henan Energy Big Data Center. Adopting a unified technical route, it has successively completed the launch of core functions such as "electric power overview, new energy monitoring and analysis, carbon emission monitoring and analysis, economic analysis, rural revitalization" and other core functions in 18 prefecture-level city-energy big data centers. This was also standardized and unified at the provincial and municipal levels, meeting the daily development, construction and application needs of power big data in various cities.

"This low-cost input and high-efficiency output energy big data center construction, operation and promotion model has reduced the input of local platform construction by more than 90%," said a relevant person in charge of the Digital Department of the State Grid Henan Electric Power Company.

With the goal of further improving the efficiency and quality of the integrated construction and operation of the Henan Energy Big Data Center, the State Grid Henan Electric Power Company has reconstructed the "prefecture-level standard application". This provides a more powerful foundation platform for the development and construction of customized functions and applications for prefecture-level city power supply companies, that better utilizes power data products to serve social scientific governance,promote energy supply security and low-carbon development. (Chenhao Songdawei)

GT Voice: German cooperation with SE Asia won’t replace China’s role

Germany has shown a growing interest in strengthening economic ties with Southeast Asia. It is crucial that this cooperation is based on mutual benefits and win-win outcomes, rather than being driven by political agendas that could lead to a split of supply and industrial chains connected to China.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz met with leaders of Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand last week, a development that some German media outlets claimed represents the German government's aim to diversify trade relations in Asia and become less dependent on China.

For instance, the Chinese website of German publication Deutsche Welle published an article on Friday headlined "Scholz's speed dates: Looking for Southeast Asian partners to replace China?"

While topics like Southeast Asia replacing China may be attention-grabbing, given some Western politicians' pursuit of so-called de-risking, it is irresponsible to play up such a topic when it lacks much practical basis.

Anyone who is familiar with China-Germany trade data will understand how far-fetched the topic is. Despite various geopolitical headwinds in recent years, China remains Germany's most important trading partner, and bilateral trade far exceeds Germany's trade with the three Southeast Asian countries. 

In 2023, Germany's trade in goods with the three Southeast Asian countries totaled a mere 38 billion euros ($41.4 billion), while bilateral trade between China and Germany reached 299 billion euros in 2022 and 253 billion in 2023.

The Asian industrial chain is a complete one, with all countries in the region depending on each other and promoting each other's development. China and Southeast Asia have long shared a mutually beneficial relationship, and both sides are willing to push economic and trade cooperation to a higher level. With the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, industrial chains in China and ASEAN are expected to be further integrated.

It is true that in recent years, with rising labor costs in China, some labor-intensive manufacturing industries have shifted to some Southeast Asian countries, but many of those shifts are the results of China's industrial chains being extended due to various factors. 

The rise of Chinese exports of intermediate products and machinery equipment to ASEAN demonstrates the extension of industrial chains. The shift is in line with the general direction of accelerating industrial upgrading and transformation in China, and it also contributes to the prosperous development of Southeast Asia. It helps Chinese companies by reducing the pressure of rising domestic labor costs and growing trade protectionism against China. 

The China-Association of Southeast Asian Nations Free Trade Area (CAFTA) took effect many years ago and contributed greatly to the liberalization and facilitation of trade among the 11 countries that signed it. 

China still aims to upgrade the liberalization of trade and investment with ASEAN and is trying to work with ASEAN to conclude negotiations for version 3.0 of the CAFTA as soon as possible, according to the Xinhua News Agency. 

Apparently, ASEAN is in the process of trade integration and mutual development with various countries and regions. ASEAN's deepening trade cooperation with any country will only bring more cooperation potential for China, instead of substituting for it. 

For instance, Germany - which has not signed a free trade agreement with China - could enjoy market dividends in China through some Southeast Asian countries, while China could make use of its partnership with ASEAN countries when it comes to entering the EU market.

During the rise of Asian economies, the emphasis should always be on how to expand the space for cooperation and promote integration, instead of pursuing narrow-minded replacement, which will only lead to vicious competition and more conflict. No country can completely replace another in the global industrial chain.

It is a positive development if Germany is genuinely committed to enhancing cooperation with Southeast Asian countries. This collaboration can act as a stepping stone, rather than a replacement, for Germany's partnership with China, potentially opening up more opportunities and prospects for the prosperity and development of Asia. It would be self-defeating if one aims at driving a wedge between China and ASEAN.

China ramps up efforts to stabilize real estate market amid adjustments

China is actively taking measures to stabilize its real estate market, the National Financial Regulatory Administration (NFRA) said on Wednesday, as it emphasized the need to promote a virtuous cycle between the financial sector and the housing market.

With nationwide property industry meetings, China is pushing to promote the country's challenged housing market.

During the NFRA's meeting on Wednesday, the administration stressed the need to implement city-level real estate financing coordination mechanisms and enhance the efficiency of the new white list mechanism, to meet the financing needs of real estate enterprises.

It is part of the administration's latest effort to support the housing market. Li Yunze, head of the NFRA, told reporters on Monday that the administration will continue to aid the economy's recovery and improvement, which will include reducing the interest rates on existing first-home loans to reduce buyers' interest expenses.

In another move, the Shanghai Real Estate Trade Association held a meeting attended by major property developers.

The meeting, held on March 7, saw participation by 11 companies, including China Poly Group, China Resources, China Railway Construction Corp and Shanghai Baohua Group. According to the association's WeChat account, attending companies reached a consensus that Shanghai's real estate market is still undergoing adjustments and participants called for more policy adjustments.

The real estate market often sees a surge in March and April. However, such trends are not evident this year, indicating ongoing adjustments in the market, Hui Jianqiang, a veteran industry analyst, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Despite an increase in inquiries after the Spring Festival holidays, Shanghai's real estate companies reported low transactions.

Companies have put forth several policy suggestions, calling for improvements in purchase restrictions, land auctions and refining the supervision of pre-sale funds.

In a bid to revitalize the real estate sector, discussions similar to those in Shanghai have taken place across various regions, including Heze in East China's Shandong Province, Hefei in East China's Anhui Province and Wuhan in Central China's Hubei Province.

Recent measures in first-tier cities - Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen - have relaxed purchase restrictions, but these are seen more as a loosening of earlier constraints rather than incentives to boost the market, resulting in limited effects, Hui explained.

Despite downward pressure, there are signs of stabilization in China's real estate market. Data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed a 0.3 percent month-on-month decrease in new home prices in first-tier cities in January, narrowing 0.1 percentage point from December.

The future of real estate sales in first-tier cities heavily relies on policy easing to stimulate the market, Hui stated. He believes that further relaxation of policies could attract external capital to Shanghai's real estate market, potentially outperforming last year's performance.

Local homebuyers in Shanghai are adopting a wait-and-see approach, a resident surnamed Zhang told the Global Times that the market has stabilized but there's no sign of a rapid upturn anytime soon.

Prices for secondhand homes have returned to levels seen in 2019 and 2020, while new home prices are influenced by purchase policies.

"My colleagues from outside Shanghai who have yet to buy a home remain on the sidelines… and do not feel rushed to make a purchase," Zhang added.