China’s top legislature vows to strengthen discipline for minors involved in bullying

China's top legislature on Friday vowed to strengthen discipline for minors engaged in bullying, and those with serious offenses will be sent to specialized educational institutions, or subjected to public security penalties or criminal charges.

The remarks were made by Yang Heqing, a spokesperson for the Legislative Affairs Commission of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, at a press conference on Friday, following a recent debate about prevention of juvenile crime in China after several cases involving underage offenders.

By noting that the laws on protection of minors as well as on prevention of juvenile delinquency, both revised in 2020, made clear provisions on student bullying, Yang stressed the role of parents, schools, and education authorities in preventing campus bullying.

According to Yang, parents or other guardians are not allowed to condone or incite minors to bully others, while schools should establish a system for preventing and controlling student bullying, and identify and handle student bullying behaviors according to law.

Schools should also provide necessary family education guidance to the parents of relevant minors, and strengthen discipline for minors who engage in bullying behavior. Serious cases of bullying should be promptly reported to the public security organs and education administrative departments, Yang said.

In terms of the responsibilities held by education authorities, Yang emphasized the importance of collaborating with relevant departments to develop a comprehensive bullying prevention and intervention system for students.

If student bullying is deemed as a serious offense, the appropriate authorities should handle the situation in accordance with the law, Yang said. This may involve sending the bully to a specialized school for education, imposing public security penalties, or pursuing criminal charges.

Yang emphasized the importance of parents, schools, and relevant departments, in understanding the detrimental effects of student bullying. He stressed the need to prioritize the prevention and intervention of bullying incidents, underscoring the importance of collaboration and adherence to legal protocols.

Looking ahead, efforts will be made to encourage all stakeholders to enhance awareness through education, ensure the proper enforcement of laws, so as to cultivate a supportive social atmosphere conducive to the well-being of minors.

The remarks of China's top legislature came following a series of efforts made by relevant departments to address juvenile delinquency. China's Supreme People's Court on Monday stressed child protection in divorces, which help prevent situations where the legitimate rights and interests of minors are disregarded, thereby effectively eliminating various negative factors that lead to juvenile delinquency. A number of provinces have also urged local authorities to focus on key groups of underage children, and strengthen the protection provided by family, school and community.

Chinese, US defense ministers hold talks; Taiwan question, South China Sea issue remain focus

Chinese Defense Minister Dong Jun spoke with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin via a video call on Tuesday at the latter's invitation. Dong said that China will never compromise on the Taiwan question and urged the US to recognize China's firm stance, respect China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights in the South China Sea, according to a handout published by Chinese Ministry of National Defense on Wednesday.

The Taiwan question is at the very core of China's core interests, and it will never be compromised. The PLA will not tolerate any Taiwan secessionists' activities or external support, Dong told Austin via the video call.

The current situation in the South China Sea is generally stable, and regional countries have the willingness, wisdom, and capability to resolve issues. The US should recognize China's firm stance, respect China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights in the South China Sea, and take practical actions to maintain regional peace and stability and the stability of China-US military relations, Dong said.

The two heads of state are committed to promoting stable and positive bilateral relations. The military field is crucial for implementing the consensus of the leaders, stabilizing the development of the two countries' relations, and preventing major crises, said Dong.

He noted that the Chinese and US militaries should seek ways to coexist, prioritize peace, stability, and trust in their interactions, and build a non-conflict, non-confrontational, open, practical, and gradually trust-building military relationship on the basis of equality and respect. They should truly serve as a stable foundation for the development of bilateral relations.

The two also exchanged views on other topics of mutual concern.

The last time Chinese and US defense ministers held direct communication was when the then Chinese State Councilor and Defense Minister Wei Fenghe and Austin met on the sidelines of the 19th Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore in 2022.

The conference between two defense ministers came after a joint statement issued by the leaders of US, Japan and the Philippines which voiced "serious concern" over China's actions in the South China Sea, slamming its behavior as "dangerous and aggressive." The statement also emphasized that peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits was vital and indispensable to global security and prosperity.

The US, Japan, Australia and the Philippines also held a joint maritime exercise in the South China Sea earlier this month.

Li Haidong, a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times that the conversation occurred at a crucial juncture when the US has been engaging in a series of actions to strengthen alliances with countries such as Japan and the Philippines. Their activities are all focused on creating turmoil and friction in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Straits, posing a threat to China's core interests. There is now a possibility of unexpected incidents arising in the handling of these issues, said Li.

This phone call carried great symbolic significance, as it marked the resumption of military communication channels between the two countries, said Li, noting that military relations are an important dimension of the China-US relationship, and there is indeed a need for both sides to strengthen communication and exchanges in military relations.

However, Chinese observers doubted whether the call would help de-escalate the regional tension as the US intends to create crisis in South China Sea and Taiwan Straits to strengthen its control and dominance over its allies.

By pretending to seek negotiation with China on military level, the US wants to create an illusion to the outside world that Washington is responsible for managing and controlling the conflicts with China, said Li, adding that the US move may pave way for greater levels of frictions in this region.

If the US is sincere, it should not hype up the Taiwan question and South China Sea issue during leaders' summit between US, Japan and Philippines in Washington. Therefore, although the US has a sense of responsibility in its words, its actions are without a bottom line and lack responsibility. This hypocrisy and duplicity indicate the complexity of future interactions between China and the US, Li noted.

China rebukes US and Canada for travel warnings to HK over national security law smears

The Commissioner's Office of the Chinese Foreign Ministry in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) has expressed firm opposition against smears toward the national security law in Hong Kong and its newly passed Safeguarding National Security Ordinance, after the US and Canada updated travel warnings to the city citing so-called "restrictions" on civil liberties.

US Consulate General in Hong Kong asked US nationals to "exercise increased caution" when traveling to the SAR due to "the arbitrary enforcement of local laws," the consulate general said on Friday. 

It noted that since the enactment of the Safeguarding National Security Ordinance on March 23, 2024, the SAR government is expected to "further restrict civil liberties," while warning US nationals there that they may even face arrest and detention if they criticize the Chinese central government or the SAR local authorities. 

Canada also issued similar warnings, saying that the new legislation in Hong Kong has broadened the range of national security offenses, which could include activities outside the region, even social media posts. "If you are suspected of endangering national security, you could be detained without charge for up to 16 days and denied access to a legal representative for up to 48 hours," the advisory said.

In a strong rebuttal against such slander, a spokesperson of the Commissioner's Office said Saturday the travel alerts, in complete disregard of the facts, have maliciously tarnished Hong Kong's international reputation in an attempt to obstruct normal business and personnel exchanges. 

The Office stressed that Hong Kong's law and ordinance on national security are in line with the rule of law and international practices. With a clear definition of crimes, they fully respect and protect human rights, and safeguard the normal activities of foreign institutions and personnel in the region.

"The law only targets a tiny minority who endanger national security, and ordinary foreign individuals and institutions do not need to worry," the spokesperson said. 

"The purpose of the US and Canada is to further suppress Hong Kong's international status by throwing mud at the Article 23 legislation, which was established with full reference to the development of common law and national security laws in other countries, including those in the US and Canada," Tian Feilong, a Hong Kong-Macao-Taiwan affairs expert at Beihang University in Beijing, told the Global Times on Sunday. "This reflects a typical discriminatory double-standards of the West," he said.

What's more, compared to the national security laws in the US and Canada, Hong Kong's legislation strives to be more concise in defining offenses and clear in sentencing. It has improved in terms of human rights protection and upholding the rule of law, setting a more predictable standard, Tian noted.

Observers believe that while the travel alerts may have a short-term impact on people-to-people exchanges, the concerns will gradually fade away as the specific implementation of the legislation unfolds, when foreign businesses in Hong Kong will be able to witness the stronger legal protection of society and the optimized business environment there.

Modi urges to urgently address 'prolonged situation' on borders with China

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has emphasized the need to address the "prolonged situation" along the border with China to improve bilateral relations between the two countries, as stated in a recent interview with US magazine Newsweek. Chinese analysts welcomed the relatively softened and rational remarks from the Indian leader, while also cautioning that China should remain vigilant and closely monitor whether the Indian side will follow through with concrete actions.

Modi underscored that stable and peaceful relations between India and China are important for the entire region and world. "It is my belief that we need to urgently address the prolonged situation on our borders so that the abnormality in our bilateral interactions can be put behind us," Modi remarked during a wide-ranging interview with the US magazine, according to the Newsweek article published on Wednesday.

"I hope and believe that through positive and constructive bilateral engagement at the diplomatic and military levels, we will be able to restore and sustain peace and tranquility in our borders," Modi told the Newsweek. 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning, commented during a regular press conference on Thursday that China has taken note of Prime Minister Modi's relevant remarks. 

"Sound and stable China-India relations serve the interests of both countries and are conducive to peace and development in the region and beyond. The boundary question does not represent the entirety of China-India relations, and it should be placed appropriately in bilateral relations and managed properly," Mao said.

"We hope that India will work with China, approach the bilateral relations from a strategic height and long-term perspective, keep building trust and engaging in dialogue and cooperation, and seek to handle differences appropriately to put the relationship on a sound and stable track," Mao said.

Regarding Modi's statements, China should remain calm and observe their actions, Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow with the Institute of International Relations at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

India is currently in the midst of a major election period, and Modi's remarks concerning China are aimed at gaining domestic votes. They are unlikely to fundamentally resolve the border issue. In reality, India intends to use the border issue as leverage against China, and through this dispute, distort historical facts to garner sympathy and support from foreign powers, Hu warned. 

Therefore, China should maintain a high level of vigilance, the expert noted, saying "on one hand, welcoming India's friendly remarks towards China, and on the other hand, making preparation for possible military struggle, and guarding against India's attempts to provoke disputes along the border. 

The Indian leader's soften-toned language came in stark contrast with recent tough words byIndian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar. 

China and India held the 29th meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC) on March 27, with two sides vowing to continue talks through diplomatic and military channels to resolve border issues at the latest border consultation in Beijing.

The two sides made positive comments on the progress made in bringing the border situation under control, holding a "candid and in-depth" exchange of views on the next stage of work, agreeing to reach a mutually acceptable plan at an early date and ensure the border situation reaches a phase of regular control.

However, on the same day during his meeting with the Indian community in Malaysia, Jaishankar said, "my first duty to Indians is to secure the border. I can never compromise on that," according to India's NDTV. 

And in response to a question after delivering a lecture at the Institute of South Asian Studies of National University in Singapore on March 23, Jaishankar called China's claims on the so-called Arunachal Pradesh "ludicrous" while asserting that the region is "a natural part of India," India's NDTV reported. 

Jaishankar's erroneous claims came after a US State Department spokesperson said on March 20 that the US recognizes Arunachal Pradesh (namely Zangnan of China) as Indian territory, which China strongly condemns and firmly opposes.

Qian Feng, director of the research department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times on Thursday that to some extent, Modi's remarks are aimed at adjusting the government's previous aggressive stance. 

However, it should also be noted that Modi's interview was conducted with US media, indicating the possibility of deliberate posture as a major power with strategic autonomy in front of the US, Qian said.  

The future direction of the border issue will continue to depend on the guidance of both countries' leadership, he said, pointing out that "China and India can and should be partners, not rivals or enemies. And the two Asian giants are development opportunities for each other."

Chinese Embassy lashes out at US over harassing Chinese citizens at border

The Chinese Embassy in the US lashed out at the US for overstretching the scope of normal law enforcement after a number of Chinese citizens have been subject to hours of interrogation in a "small black room" when entering or leaving the US.

Observers reached by the Global Times said that the duplicitous nature of Biden administration will stoke up distrust, further foster hostility among the people of the two countries and derail the commitment of the two leaders to advance bilateral relations. They urged the US to heed the "kind reminder" from China and alter their operational behavior to avoid irreversible harm to people-to-people exchanges.

Quoting data, a spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in the US said in a statement that nearly 300 Chinese citizens have been deported by the US since July 2021, including more than 70 Chinese students with legal and valid materials. Since November 2023, at Washington Dulles Airport alone, there have been 10 cases of Chinese students being harassed, interrogated and, after having their visas canceled, deported.

The spokesperson listed two cases of Chinese scholars with legal visas being harassed during their entry to the US border, each of them being interrogated for an exceptionally long 10 hours and being detained for 22 hours respectively. After these abnormal interrogations in the "small black room, both were deported after their visas were canceled.

The embassy spokesperson slammed acts by the US as far exceeding the scope of normal law enforcement and driven by strong ideological bias, saying they gravely infringe on the legitimate and lawful rights and interests of persons concerned and disturb normal cross-border travel between China and the US.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning on Monday also slammed the US for overstretching the concept of national security, arbitrarily revoking visas, restricting entry, and forcibly deporting Chinese students without concrete evidence, causing great harm to the individuals involved and creating obstacles for cultural and people-to-people exchanges between China and the US.

US border control personnel have continuously and unjustifiably harassed, interrogated and deported Chinese nationals entering the US, at a time when the two Presidents reiterated the need to take further steps to expand people-to-people exchanges between the two countries on April 2.

Lü Xiang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, pointed out that despite the agreement between the two heads of state to promote people-to-people exchanges at their meeting in San Francisco last November and the recent phone call reaffirming stable ties, there is still a lack of visible restraint from the US in the actions it is taking. "It indicates a duplicitous nature within the Biden administration," Lü noted.

In the statement, the spokesperson slammed that the US' actions run against the common understandings reached by the two Presidents on enhancing and facilitating China-US cultural and people-to-people exchanges.

China is gravely concerned and firmly opposes such moves, and has made solemn démarches to the US, the spokesperson said.

Dealing with duplicities in US policies may be an unavoidable, long-term reality for China, Lü further explained.

Observers view the statement issued by the Chinese Embassy in the US on Tuesday as a "kind reminder" to the US, and said that hopefully the US will alter its unjustifiable harassment and interrogation of Chinese citizens, and will not further undermine the environment of public support for China-US relations.

As a veteran Chinese scholar on American studies, Lü noted a decreasing willingness among Chinese researchers to visit the US due to concerns about potential interrogation and deportation. Many have the mindset of "It's better to save trouble."

Lü emphasized that cultural and people-to-people exchanges are the "fundamental logic" for enhancing relations between the two countries. If there is hostility among the people of both nations, how can the commitment of the two leaders to advance bilateral relations in a stable, sound and sustainable manner be achieved?

In recent years, a growing trend emerged as more and more Chinese students majoring in STEM subjects were taken to "small black room" during their entry to the US, the Global Times learnt.

A netizen who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Tuesday when she visited the US at the end of 2023 for vacation, she was questioned at customs. The questions were way much too detailed, from the source of her income during the work-leave to financial support for travel expenses.

A postdoc with a J1-visa also shared her experience, claiming that when she entered Washington DC customs in late March this year, she encountered unfair treatment.

She was assigned to a separate line and each person in the line was questioned for a long time. When it came to her turn, she was taken directly to "small black room" after being fingerprinted.

The postdoc advised students in STEM majors to avoid entering US at Washington, DC, if at all possible.

As earthquakes jolt New York, Taiwan within one week, seismologists cited active tectonic plate motions as cause

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - APRIL 05: Residents and police gather outside of homes that were structurally damaged and had to be evacuated after New York City and parts of New Jersey experienced a 4.8 magnitude earthquake on April 05, 2024 in Newark, New Jersey. There were no reported injuries in the late morning earthquake, but many people reported visible shaking in buildings and homes. Tremors were felt from Philadelphia to Boston. Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by SPENCER PLATT / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

A 4.8-magnitude earthquake jolted waters near Hualien in China's Taiwan region on Saturday, just three days after a 7.3-magnitude earthquake jolted the sea area near the same region. The previous earthquake has so far claimed 13 lives.

In less than one week, earthquakes of various magnitudes have rattled parts of China, including the island of Taiwan, Southwest China's Yunnan Province; as well as New York in the US. Seismologists attributed the frequent earthquakes to active tectonic plate movement but dismissed any connection between the tremors.

An earthquake jolted New York City on Friday morning, followed by more than 10 aftershocks which shook New Jersey, sending tremors as far as Philadelphia and Boston and jolting buildings in Manhattan and throughout its five boroughs, US media reported.

The preliminary quake, measuring 4.8 magnitude, was centered around Lebanon, New Jersey, approximately 60 kilometers from New York City, at a depth of about 5 kilometers.

Following the earthquake, New York City mayor Eric Adams stated at a press conference that no injuries had been reported.

The densely populated New York City was caught off guard by the unusual event. Broadcaster CBS reported that New York had not experienced an earthquake of this magnitude since 1884.

Shannon Graham, assistant physics professor at The College of New Jersey, told US media that the quake in New York was likely the result of stored-up stress in the Earth's crust along "ancient plate boundaries," which formed hundreds of millions of years ago when the African and North American land masses combined and then broke apart.

On Saturday, a 4.9-magnitude earthquake jolted Ludian county in Yunnan, and no casualties were reported as of press time.

On Wednesday (April 3), a 7.3-magnitude earthquake jolted the sea area near Hualien in China's Taiwan region. The earthquake has so far claimed 13 lives and injured 1,145 as of Saturday afternoon, according to the Taiwan authorities.

The mainland is paying close attention to the 7.3-magnitude earthquake in the Taiwan region and the development of the disaster, and is ready to provide disaster relief assistance, Zhu Fenglian, spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, said on Wednesday.

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

The Chinese mainland is highly concerned over the damage caused by the earthquake on the island of Taiwan. It has already expressed condolences to Taiwan compatriots who were affected, and is ready to provide assistance, Geng Shuang, China's deputy permanent representative to the United Nations said Wednesday. Geng also expressed gratitude to the international community for its concern and sympathy toward the island of Taiwan regarding the earthquake.

The frequent occurrence of earthquakes at the beginning of the year only indicates active tectonic plate motions, and the causes of those tremors in different parts of the world are not connected, Wang Tun, head of a key earthquake early warning laboratory in China's Sichuan Province, told the Global Times on Saturday.

However, experts argue that the frequent earthquakes should serve as a wake-up call for all countries to prioritize early warning systems for natural disasters.

In 2023, Chinese officials announced that China had established the world's largest earthquake early warning network, achieving a breakthrough development from minutes-level earthquake alerts to seconds-level earthquake warnings.

China's animal food scandal exposes industry malpractices, calling for stringent regulations

In China, an increasing number of people are enjoying the companionship of pets and treating them as part of the family.

Against the backdrop of rapid development in the pet economy, China's pet food market has experienced explosive growth. However, as the market expands, issues with product quality have emerged.

Recently, a series of news reports have uncovered that some pet food manufacturers, in pursuit of higher profits, resort to using low-quality ingredients for dog, and even falsely label nutritional content, misleading consumers.

In March, a scandal involving "toxic dog food" from Xingtai in North China's Hebei Province, the largest dog food production cluster in China, came to light, causing panic among pet owners across China.

This incident exposed the dark underbelly of the industry and the lack of effective regulation. Some unscrupulous companies have been found falsifying the nutritional content and ingredients of their products, such as overstating the chicken content while using cheaper chicken meal as a substitute.

Worse still, to mask the risks of inferior ingredients, some manufacturers excessively add montmorillonite to pet food, which could severely impact pet health over time.

Given the ineffective enforcement of industry standards, pet owners often find themselves in a battle of wits with unscrupulous manufacturers to ensure the dietary safety of their pets.

With the pet market continuing to grow, there is an urgent need to improve industry standards and strengthen regulation. The question of how to expose the chaos in the industry, attract attention from all sectors of society, and drive the pet food industry toward a healthier and more transparent direction is now a major concern, analysts pointed out.

'Toxic' pet food

In Xingtai's Nanhe district, recognized as the nation's largest pet food production base with an annual output of over 1.3 million tons, accounting for 60 percent of China's market share, the practice of "using the worst materials for the most expensive feed" was once an unwritten industry rule.

Investigations have revealed that some manufacturers produced pet food with inferior materials for higher profits, even mixing stone and feather meal into their products, as reported by the China National Radio (CNR).

Following the exposure, the Hebei Provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs responded by investigating the involved companies and taking samples for testing. An official from the Nanhe district agricultural department told the Global Times that the pet food industry is a key development focus for the region, and the scandal has had a significant impact.

A pet food manufacturer in Xingtai confirmed to the Global Times that recent inspections by relevant departments have been strict. He said that dog food purchases are now reliable.

On the sales page of a manufacturer selling pet food on 1688, Alibaba's B2B trading platform, the cheapest dog and cat food from Xingtai sells for less than 10 yuan ($1.43) per kilogram, with different products claiming to cater to puppies, small, medium, or large dogs, and containing various ingredients like beef, fruits and vegetables.

Despite many pet food companies claiming to offer high-quality customized dog and cat food, actual product quality remains poor, with nutritional values often misrepresented. An investigation published by the CNR into a company that outsources dog food production found significant discrepancies between claimed and actual protein content.

Additionally, the use of montmorillonite to absorb toxins has been excessive in "toxic" dog food, reaching about 5 percent when only 0.2 percent is necessary. Overuse of such substances and flavor enhancers to mask the taste of poor-quality feed can have detrimental effects on pet health, according to media reports.

Pet owners vs manufacturers
Xin Rui heard of "toxic dog food" for the first time when she adopted a dog from a stray dog shelter in Beijing.

She bought some dog food and dog snacks on the e-commerce platform Tmall the day the dog shelter owner sent the dog to her home.

"Toxic dog food," the stray dog shelter owner said disdainfully with a sideways glance at the bags of dog food casually lying in the living room.

"Honestly, I totally had no idea what she meant when she said the word 'toxic dog food.' I mean, I trust in Tmall supermarket and have bought many things, including food and snacks for myself on the platform. I carefully selected those products to welcome the dog. I did not understand why she said so. I felt so confused," Xin told the Global Times.

Xin bought another bag of dog food from the shelter owner as she recommended in consideration to help the dog get used to its new home sooner. It did not take a long time for Xin to tell the differences between these products. It took a few days for the dog to get used to the food recommended by the stray dog base owner. But the dog entirely refused to eat the food bought on Tmall, even when Xin mixed it with canned meat.

"Dogs are smart. They are helping owners to select safe food," Xin said.

She tried four brands of dog food in the nearly two years after adopting the dog. "I do not trust the base owner as she did not tell me where she got the food. Her price is much lower than that in official stores, making me suspicious about the quality and authenticity of the food," Xin said.

Now Xin buys food from a pet shop near her home. "The employees at the shop can provide official pet nutritionist certificates and they treat pets very nicely, so I choose to trust them. I hope they do not disappoint me," she said.

Actually, Xingtai's case is not unique, and Xin's worry is not unprovoked either.

Many pet owners have taken to social media platforms complaining that their dogs died or got seriously sick, for example by getting pancreatitis, after eating cheap food bought from online channels. Some of the cheap foods were revealed to have had dust and saw powder mixed in.

Even well-known pet food brands are not always trustworthy.

In April 2022, a pet owner in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province, reported that his cats were poisoned after consuming Singen cat food, with one of them dying. After seeking information online, he discovered that many other families had encountered similar issues. Statistics gathered from 90 individuals revealed similar issues happened with 239 cats, resulting death of 95 cats, reported the Jiemian News.

Singen, founded in the island of Taiwan, claims to have a 50-year history of production. The company's business scope includes the production of veterinary drugs, feed, and feed additives.

Besides the issue of manufacturers falsifying their own products, there have been instances of factories producing counterfeit pet food of major brands.

On March 21, Shanghai-based Observer News reported that the local police department, after thorough investigations, dismantled three dark factories in Central China's Hunan Province and South China's Guangdong Province involved in manufacturing and selling counterfeit cat food of a certain brand.

According to a report on pet market consumption released by e-commerce platform in late 2023, the number of pet-owning households in China exceeded 100 million in 2023, increasing from 98 million in 2022 to 105.65 million. Among them, the number of pet dogs in 2023 was 51.75 million, a 1.1 percent increase from 2022.

"For China, there is a great potential for the improvement and development of the pet industry. With the improvement of residents' income levels and quality of life, the concept of pet ownership is gradually shifting from guarding the home to emotional companionship. It is expected that in the next 10 years, China will become the world's largest pet market," said Qin Yuchang, president of the pet food branch of the China Feed Industry Association.

Regulating the industry

According to Qin, China's pet industry already reached over 490 billion yuan in 2020, becoming the third-largest service market after Europe and the US. The market size is estimated to reach 800 billion yuan by 2025.

In addition, there has been a significant increase in demand for imported pet feed, with over 600 pet feed import registration certificates issued by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs in 2021, a 7.3-fold increase from 2016.

However, compared with the rapidly growing industry, there is still a significant gap in the standards of pet feed in China, which seriously slows the industry's development needs, especially in the standards for pet food additives, with only over 100 of the more than 400 additives having been standardized.

"Some companies' pet food cannot meet the nutritional requirements for young animals, as reflected in the high failure rates of water-soluble chlorides, total calcium, and total phosphorus content. The quality control of animal-derived raw materials, such as meat meal, by companies is insufficient," said Fan Xia, executive deputy director of the National Feed Quality Inspection and Testing Center in Beijing.

In 2018, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of China issued the "Regulations on the Management of Pet Feed," establishing a standardized management system and placing the pet feed industry onto a path of standardized development.

The vast majority of pet feed products have already achieved production certification, but from the market response, there are still some cases of substandard production and production without certification in the production process. It is necessary to increase the publicity and implementation of regulations, and companies must carry out production and operation in accordance with the law and regulations, experts said.

Moreover, many pet feed operators, especially e-commerce and cross-border e-commerce platforms on the internet, have not strictly controlled the quality and safety of their products, leading to the influx of products of varying quality into the market. This requires the strengthening of the supervision of the pet feed industry, continuously improving inspection and testing technology, optimizing the regulatory system. Companies must strictly adhere to the bottom line of quality and safety, experts pointed out.

At the same time, enterprises and operators who violate relevant laws and regulations must be resolutely ordered to rectify, and those who cause serious injury will be held accountable, in order to effectively create a healthy dog food market, Qin stressed.

Japan to upgrade airports and seaports for defense use, reflecting 'militarism resurgence'

After Japan released its plan to upgrade 16 airports and ports for possible defense use, experts pointed out that this is in line with the US' regional strategy to contain China, and also a manifestation of Japan's "resurgence of militarism," which will have a destructive impact on regional peace and order.

According to a report from Japanese media outlet Kyodo News on Wednesday, Japan is planning to upgrade five airports and 11 ports, with the intention of them being utilized by the country's defense forces and coast guard in case of military emergencies.

Citing a government source, the report said that Japan has lingering concerns over China's maritime assertiveness and a potential conflict over Taiwan island.

Nearly half of the 16 commercial facilities are located either in Okinawa Prefecture, where US troops are concentrated, or the southwestern main island of Kyushu, which according to Kyodo News reflects "Japan's efforts to beef up defense around its far-flung southwest islands."

Experts reached by the Global Times pointed out that Japan's upgrading plan aims to coordinate with the US' latest military deployment in the Asia-Pacific region, and also demonstrates the country's "resurgence of militarism," indicating its ambition to extend its military reach and influence.

"The latest plan by Japan is undoubtedly in line with the US' 'Indo-Pacific Strategy,' achieving the effect of demonstrating US leadership in the Asia-Pacific region," Li Haidong, a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Friday, adding that the plan itself deliberately creates a tense atmosphere in the region, while also indicating that the US and Japan may continue to create crises in the area.

In addition to serving US strategic interests, Japan is also using this opportunity to realize its own political objectives, which is to expand its military influence, in a clear departure from its postwar pacifist principles, Chen Hong, executive director of Asia Pacific Studies Centre at East China Normal University, told the Global Times on Friday.

Chen emphasized that the US is actively supporting Japan in expanding its military capabilities and is creating conditions for Japan to relax its military restrictions. This is seen as a way to enable Japan to compete and confront China in the US' strategic planning, Chen noted.

According to Kyodo News, the plan is expected to commence in the next fiscal year starting April. On Thursday, Japan's parliament approved the budget for the fiscal year of 2024, including a record 7.95 trillion yen ($52.53 billion) in defense spending.

During a regular press conference on Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lin Jian said that in recent years, Japan has been drastically readjusting its security policy, increasing defense spending year after year, easing restrictions on arms exports and seeking military breakthroughs.

Lin noted that this has inevitably led neighboring countries in Asia and the international community to strongly question whether Japan is truly committed to a defensive posture and the path of peaceful development.

"We urge Japan to sincerely respect the security concerns of neighboring countries, deeply reflect on its aggressive history, and adhere to the path of peaceful development, so as to avoid further loss of trust from neighboring countries in Asia and the international community," the spokesperson said.

Analysts pointed out that Japan's recent military activities have sparked concerns among neighboring countries, as they could lead to regional instability and escalate the arms race in the region.

They also noted that such reckless behavior could have an impact on regional economic cooperation.

Earlier on Tuesday, Japan's cabinet greenlit the export of new fighter jets it is developing with the UK and Italy, which will allow Japan to export lethal weapons it co-manufactures to other countries for the first time. Experts noted that this new resolution opens the door for the direct export of advanced military equipment such as Japanese warships and submarines to third countries in the future.

Dutch PM begins working visit to China amid chip tensions in spotlight; expansion of cooperation expected

Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte is on a working visit to China from Tuesday to Wednesday, at a time when the Netherlands' chip export policy has been in the spotlight.

Chinese analysts pointed out that Rutte's visit is perfectly timed, as his country's largest company, the semiconductor equipment maker ASML, is seeking to expand outside the Netherlands after raising concerns about the country's business climate.

They believe that amid weak economic growth, insufficient impetus for technological innovation and spillover effects of the Russia-Ukraine conflict - which most EU state members are faced with - the Netherlands wants to expand cooperation with China in high-end manufacturing, and maintain pragmatic economic and trade cooperation in general.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lin Jian confirmed on Monday that Rutte's working visit comes at the invitation of Chinese Premier Li Qiang.

The Dutch media outlet NL Times reported on Friday, citing the caretaker Cabinet announcement, that Rutte will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Qiang during the trip.

The two heads of state last met on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Bali in November, 2022.

The leaders of the two countries will discuss "bilateral and economic relations, the war in Ukraine and the situation in the Middle East," the Netherlands' caretaker Cabinet announced on Friday. The two-day visit will also include talks between Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao and Dutch Foreign Trade Minister Geoffrey van Leeuwen, NL Times revealed.

Although the Dutch government did not specifically mention if ongoing restrictions on the export of high-tech machinery will be a specific discussion point, Reuters, citing sources, reported on Saturday that whether ASML can continue to service billions of euros worth of computer chip equipment it has sold to Chinese customers is expected to be discussed during the visit.

Under pressure from the US, the Dutch government introduced a licensing requirement for ASML's shipments of its most advanced deep ultraviolet lithography machines in 2023.

On January 2, ASML said that the Dutch government had partially revoked an export license for the shipment of some chipmaking equipment to China, according to a press release previously sent to the Global Times.

In January, the company's CEO, Peter Wennink, said it was poised to expand its operations, media reported.

In response, the Dutch government had launched a cross-ministry effort, dubbed "Operation Beethoven," to encourage ASML to continue to invest in the country, the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reported on Wednesday.

ASML has a long history of cooperation with China. However, due to pressure from the US, the Europe, including the Dutch government, eventually yielded to the super power, which damaged the bilateral economic and trade cooperation with China, specifically harming the credibility of ASML, Zhao Junjie, a research fellow at the Institute of European Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Chinese experts criticized the US for using long-arm jurisdiction to force its allies to be foot soldiers of its containment and decoupling strategies against China.

In January, ASML warned that US export controls would affect its sales in China by 10-15 percent in 2024 while announcing better-than-expected results for the fourth quarter and full year of 2023.

ASML wants to expand its operations overseas, which may help ease the mounting pressure both from the American and Dutch governments, Zhao said. In this case, the Dutch government is scrambling to stop the move.

Under such circumstances, Rutte, who is also a popular candidate for NATO Secretary General, is expected to clarify some of the Dutch government's ideas on the issue to the Chinese government, analysts believe.

While the chip tensions strain bilateral ties between China and the Netherlands, the two countries remain pragmatic cooperation partners in many fields.

European politicians, including those in the Netherlands, are currently facing governance challenges such as weak economic growth, insufficient impetus for technological innovation and spillover effects of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Zhao listed.

In the context, the Netherlands appear to be willing to expand cooperation with China in high-end manufacturing, including green and low-carbon economy, environmental protection technology, biopharmaceuticals and other areas of strength, according to analysts.

Rutte's visit needs to maintain pragmatic economic and trade cooperation with China, reap the benefits from it and appeal to voters, experts said.