China opens ten nuclear technology research facilities to the world to enhance international cooperation

China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) has opened ten of its nuclear technology research facilities and testing platforms, including China's new-generation "artificial sun" Huanliu-3 (HL-3) tokamak, to the world for the first time. The move will further enhance China's influence in nuclear science and technology globally, injecting strong "nuclear power" into promoting win-win cooperation worldwide, the Global Times learned from CNNC at a press conference on March 19 in Beijing during the 17th China International Nuclear Industry Exhibition.

This batch of facilities also include the world's highest-energy compact proton cyclotron accelerator the Beijing Radioactive Ion-beam Facility (BRIF), one of the "world's six major neutron sources" China Advanced Research Reactor, the Beishan Underground Research Laboratory (Beishan URL) located 560 meters underground, and the Minjiang Test Reactor for medical isotope research, among others. Many of these facilities have reached world-class level and even lead the industry globally, showcasing the hard work of Chinese researchers and demonstrating the "hardcore strength" of China's nuclear industry innovation.

The HL-3 tokamak, China's largest and most advanced tokamak, is designed to support the operation of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) and the development of future fusion reactors.

The Beishan URL in Northwest China's Gansu Province, China, is the country's first large underground research facility used for the safe disposal of high-level radioactive waste. It is an important research facility for the International Atomic Energy Agency and the China Atomic Energy Authority, playing a crucial role in China's nuclear fuel closed-loop technology innovation system.

The BRIF, the only operational online isotope separation radioactive ion beam facility in Asia, can produce over 60 stable nuclear beams and 55 radioactive nuclear beams. It fills the technological gap in China's medium-energy high-current proton cyclotron accelerator and high-resolution isotope separator, reaching an advanced level internationally. 

The BRIF conducts research in nuclear physics basics, nuclear physics applications, and nuclear data, promoting basic research and application transformation, achieving a number of high-level scientific achievements. Researchers from the facility have cooperated with teams from more than ten countries including Russia, the US, Germany, Japan, and Poland, attracting many top international scientists to come to China to conduct cutting-edge research.

The opening of these research facilities and testing platforms by China to the world is expected to promote the development of nuclear technology worldwide. Sumair N. Khan, Science and Technology Counselor at the Pakistani Embassy in China, told the Global Times that these open research facilities are crucial for developing countries, especially for countries like Pakistan. He highlighted the importance of facilities like China's advanced research reactor, micro-neutron source reactor, and nuclear environmental simulation facilities for Pakistan.

"Developing countries may not have the research conditions similar to China but are eager to utilize Chinese research facilities to train researchers and receive support for their research work," Zhang Libo, vice president of the China Institute of Atomic Energy, under CNNC, told the Global Times. He emphasized the importance of international cooperation in nuclear science and technology for mutual benefit and scientific progress.

Zhang also believes that CNNC's opening of nuclear technology-related research facilities and test platforms to the world will promote high-level international openness. He stated that by attracting international peers to utilize these facilities, China can understand the direction of international research, grasp the dynamics of global economic development, and integrate into the global research environment.

New US tariffs on China seriously hurt global environmental protection: Global Times editorial

The recent increase in tariffs imposed by the US on imports from China, particularly on electric vehicles (EVs), lithium batteries, and semiconductors, has sparked criticism globally. Not only did the International Monetary Fund (IMF) spokesperson criticize the move, saying it "can distort trade and investment, and fragment supply chains," several US media, including The Washington Post, also slammed that the new tariffs raise costs for companies using green energy devices and make electric vehicles less affordable for US consumers. 

"Forcing consumers, via tariffs, to subsidize domestic clean energy companies that are far from the cutting edge of technology is an economic and environmental loser," The Washington Post article said. Colorado Governor Jared Polis also stated that the new tariffs are "a major setback for clean energy."

The concerns are far-sighted and realistic. The new tariffs represent another escalation of the US' policy to contain China in recent years, forcing its companies to restructure supply and industrial chains, and disrupting the normal global trade order. This restructuring will have a profound negative impact on the global industrial system centered around emission reduction goals, leading to serious environmental issues worldwide. 

It should be pointed out that the timing of the new US tariffs coincides with a critical moment in the global transition from traditional to new energy and the construction of a global green economy. On April 17, Dubai, a country located in a desert region, experienced a sudden downpour, with one day's rainfall equivalent to half the average annual rainfall. 

This most severe rainstorm in 75 years caused Dubai International Airport to close for three days. Extreme heat waves, severe cold, torrential rains, hurricanes, droughts and floods... the increasingly frequent extreme weather events highlight the urgency of global efforts to address climate change to a degree felt by everyone.

At the beginning of this year, the World Meteorological Organization released a report officially confirming 2023 as the warmest year on record. The report indicates that new record-high levels were set in 2023 for all three of the main greenhouse gases. Carbon dioxide levels are 50 percent higher than in the pre-industrial era.

According to a report released by the United Nations Environment Programme at the end of last year, predicted 2030 greenhouse gas emissions still must fall by 28 percent for the Paris Agreement 2 C pathway and 42 percent for the 1.5 C pathway.

Against this backdrop, it has become a widespread consensus in the international community to achieve effective emission reduction and build a new form of sustainable economic development for humanity by significantly adjusting the energy structure, especially by promoting the widespread use of new energy products to achieve low-carbon emissions. It is precisely for this reason that China's "new three" products have been widely welcomed in markets around the world. 

Data shows that in 2023, China contributed more than half of the global renewable energy installed capacity of 510 million kilowatts. In 2022, China's renewable energy generation contributed to a reduction of approximately 2.26 billion tons in domestic CO2 emissions, while exports of wind power and solar products aided other nations in decreasing CO2 emissions by an additional 573 million tons. 

The two figures add up to 2.83 billion tonnes of emissions reduction, or about 41 percent of the global total of carbon emissions reduction due to renewable energy. 

At the World Energy Congress held in April, Amin Nasser, CEO of Saudi Aramco, one of the world's largest oil companies, said that "China has made these green products so affordable, and they will help the West achieve its target of cutting carbon emissions to a net zero level by 2050." Imagine what the global energy transition would look like without China's green production capacity, and how it would impact humanity's ability to address climate change.

Especially for developing countries, it is China's progress in the field of new energy that allows them to purchase more cost-effective EVs, lithium batteries, and photovoltaic products. The report from the International Renewable Energy Agency pointed out that in the past 10 years, the average cost of wind and photovoltaic power generation projects globally has cumulatively decreased by over 60 percent and 80 percent, respectively, with a large part of it attributed to Chinese innovation, manufacturing, and engineering. In this sense, the development and progress of China's new energy industry are not only accelerators of the global energy transition, but also the vanguard of humanity's response to climate change. This represents not only high-quality and advanced production capacity, but also widespread development justice.

There is only one Earth, and all countries share the same planet. Responding to global climate change and promoting energy transition in various countries is a task filled with both difficulties and hope. It requires a true spirit of "working together for the world" from all countries, as well as the joint maintenance of an open and fair international economic system. Nowadays, some people in the US, out of short-sighted and narrow political motives and fragile anxiety, are waving a big stick in the field of tariffs, undoubtedly weakening the cohesion of countries and their ability to respond to climate change, damaging the positive prospects of global green transformation. 

This will also be a "protectionist disaster" for humanity. It is hoped that they will wake up soon!

Potential US curbs on AI model exports 'hegemonic' action, experts say

Chinese experts said on Thursday that potential export restrictions by the US on artificial intelligence (AI) models mainly target China, and the reported move is essentially a case of self-isolation and a hegemonic action, which will hinder the swift evolution of the global AI industry and dampen previous strides in globalization.

The so-called security concerns on the use of advanced AI models are completely political rhetoric meant to stoke fears over China's development, amid the intensifying US crackdown on Chinese products, observers said.

Reuters has reported that the US government is considering a new regulatory push to restrict exports of proprietary or closed-source AI models, whose software, and the data they train on, are kept under wraps.

The action was due to concerns that "US adversaries could use the models… to wage aggressive cyber-attacks or even create potent biological weapons."

The move adds to restrictions Washington has put in place to block exports of sophisticated AI technologies to China.

As China's AI sector booms, the US government has been acutely aware of the competitive pressure exerted by its biggest rival. With AI models emerging as a new focal point of competition, the US has continuously used the "national security threat" rhetoric to stoke fears over Chinese products, in a bid to hinder China's industrial upgrading, Ma Jihua, a veteran telecom industry observer, told the Global Times on Thursday.

The US announced in April it was adding four Chinese firms to an export blacklist for allegedly aiding Chinese entities in acquiring AI chips in violation of US regulations, according to media reports. Analysts noted that the action was part of the intensifying US crackdown on China's high-tech sector in recent years.

China's Foreign Ministry said in April that "we strongly oppose the illegal US unilateral sanctions" and vowed to do "what is necessary to firmly safeguard the lawful rights and interests of Chinese companies while urging the US to stop politicizing trade and tech issues and turning them into weapons."

Regardless of the measures the US may ultimately enact, the impact on China's AI sector is expected to be minimal, analysts said. Instead, the likely move would drive Chinese users toward home-grown large language models (LLMs), which are gaining robust momentum, Pan Helin, a member of the Expert Committee for Information and Communication Economy under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, told the Global Times on Thursday.

China's LLM sector is highly competitive, with a wide array of options available for its huge market. Given the disparities between Chinese and English contexts, homegrown AI products are better suited to Chinese consumers than their US counterparts, Pan said, highlighting the vast potential of the country's high-tech sector.

The Chinese Embassy in the US responded to inquiries by denouncing the reported action as a "typical act of economic coercion and unilateral bullying, which China firmly opposes," adding that it would take "necessary measures" to protect its interests, Reuters reported.

China is stepping up efforts to boost AI development and has witnessed fruitful outcomes. As of April, 117 LLMs had been registered in China for generative AI services, according to the Cyberspace Administration of China, reflecting the fierce competition in this burgeoning sector.

This year's Government Work Report noted AI's crucial role in accelerating new quality productive forces, highlighting the country's continuous push for the high-quality development of the digital economy by stepping up R&D and application of big data and AI, and planning to launch an AI Plus Initiative.

China, Japan, S.Korea to hold trilateral leaders' meeting; cooperation beneficial for E.Asia's economy, stability: expert

With final arrangements underway to hold a long-stalled trilateral leaders' meeting among China, Japan, and South Korea, experts noted that the cooperation among the three countries is of great importance to the economy and stability in East Asia and the countries should seize the opportunity to alleviate tensions and foster collaboration.

South Korea is in final consultations with China and Japan to hold a trilateral meeting of their leaders on May 26 and 27, according to South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Saturday. An official at the ministry said that the three countries agreed to hold the meeting "at the earliest date convenient for all sides."

According to South Korea's Yonhap News Agency, Chinese Premier Li Qiang and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida are expected to visit Seoul to meet with President Yoon Suk Yeol, as South Korea is the current rotating chair.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said during a regular press conference on April 11 that China attaches importance to the cooperation among China, Japan, and South Korea, and hopes that the three sides will jointly create conditions for the leaders' meeting. "We are ready to maintain communication with South Korea and Japan for the meeting's preparation," Mao said at that time.

Japan's Fumio Kishida also expressed support for the upcoming three-way talks, telling a press conference on Saturday that coordination will continue for preparations for the meeting.

In another development, the foreign ministries of China and South Korea are in the final stages of coordinating the specific schedule for South Korean Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yul's visit to China, ahead of the trilateral leaders' talks, media reported.

"The cooperation among China, Japan, and South Korea holds immense benefits not only for East Asia, but also for the international community," Lü Chao, a research fellow at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Monday.

Lü said that improving collaboration is in the interests of all parties involved, a common understanding among the three countries, especially in the economy. "It's also a gateway for building stronger consensus in other areas among the three countries," he said.

According to Japan Times, the three-way discussions are seen as covering six areas including people-to-people exchanges, economy and trade, public health, and peace and security, with outcome documents likely to be released. Bilateral talks may also take place.

The trilateral talks were last held in Chengdu, Southwest China's Sichuan Province in December 2019. The prolonged suspension is a result of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as some political and diplomatic conflicts among the countries, such as the blockade of China in the high-tech field by South Korea and Japan, Lü noted.

If the trilateral meeting proceeds as planned, it will bring positive developments for East Asian countries and contribute to peace and stability in the region, experts said. However, they also warned that there are lingering political and diplomatic challenges to overcome, particularly as Japan and South Korea are actively joining the small circles led by the US to counter China.

Japan and South Korea should seize the opportunity presented by this meeting to alleviate the current diplomatic tensions among the three countries, Lü said, noting that economic cooperation could serve as a starting point for enhancing trust and fostering stronger relations.

"The three parties should work together to identify shared interests and reach consensus on important issues in order to promote productive discussions and foster increased cooperation across different sectors in the future," Lü noted.

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.

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.

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’s foreign trade off to robust start in first two months, expanding 8.7%

China's merchandise trade in the first two months of 2024 hit a record high of 6.61 trillion yuan ($918.3 billion), up 8.7 percent year-on-year, the General Administration of Customs (GAC) announced on Thursday, beating forecasts and signaling a good start to the new year. 

Experts said that exports had gained growth momentum, thanks to expanding demand and rising product competitiveness. In the longer term, China's foreign trade will show stable and positive expansion, supporting the GDP growth target of about 5 percent.

Exports in the first two months rose 10.3 percent to 3.75 trillion yuan, and imports were up 6.7 percent to 2.86 trillion yuan.

"Foreign trade saw a better-than-expected performance in the January-February period, mirroring the resilience of the country's economy with expanding domestic and external demand," Tian Yun, an economist based in Beijing, told the Global Times on Thursday.

ASEAN remained China's largest trading partner, with bilateral trade totaling 993.24 billion yuan, up 8.1 percent year-on-year and accounting for 15 percent of China's total trade.

The EU was China's second-largest trading partner, with bilateral trade of 832.39 billion yuan, down by 1.3 percent. The US was No.3, with trade up 3.7 percent to 707.7 billion yuan.

In the first two months, trade with Belt and Road Initiative partner countries reached 3.13 trillion yuan, up 9 percent. 

Zhou Maohua, an economist from China Everbright Bank, said on Thursday that the record trade figures reflected the recovery of overseas demand, the optimization of the export structure and a boom in new export drivers. 

Electromechanical products accounted for nearly 60 percent of Chinese exports, with automatic data processing equipment, integrated circuits and automobiles showing significant growth, the GAC said.

Exports of automatic data processing equipment reached 195.45 billion yuan, up 7.3 percent, while exports of integrated circuits soared 28.6 percent and those of vehicles increased 15.8 percent.

"The figures mirrored China's continuous industrial upgrading and showed that the competitiveness of its high-tech products and equipment manufacturing industry in the world was increasing," Tian noted.

Conditions were also favorable for trade by private enterprises. Their total trade stood at  3.61 trillion yuan, up 17.7 percent, accounting for 54.6 percent of the total - an increase of 4.2 percentage points from the same period last year.

"Growth in exports led to an increase in domestic production, while the increase in imports reflected strong domestic demand, both of which will help drive the country's GDP growth in the first quarter this year," Wang Peng, an associate research fellow at the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

The Government Work Report, delivered by Chinese Premier Li Qiang on Tuesday at the opening meeting of the second session of the 14th National People's Congress, set a GDP growth target of about 5 percent for 2024.

The government vowed to work to steadily increase the volume and raise the quality of foreign trade, with efforts including supporting businesses in diversifying their overseas markets and increasing new growth drivers for foreign trade, including trade in intermediate goods and green trade.

Tian noted that boosted by support policies, foreign trade will maintain moderately positive growth throughout the whole year with an expansion of 3-5 percent. 

"China's foreign trade is expected to hit a record high this year, contributing more to the realization of the country's GDP growth target," Tian said.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson’s remarks on the election in Taiwan

Q: What’s your comment on the result of the election in the Taiwan region?

A: The spokesperson of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council has commented on the result of the election in China’s Taiwan region.

The Taiwan question is China’s internal affair. Whatever changes take place in Taiwan, the basic fact that there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is part of China will not change; the Chinese government’s position of upholding the one-China principle and opposing “Taiwan independence” separatism, “two Chinas” and “one China, one Taiwan” will not change; and the international community’s prevailing consensus on upholding the one-China principle and long-standing and overwhelming adherence to this principle will not change. The one-China principle is the solid anchor for peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. We believe that the international community will continue to adhere to the one-China principle, and understand and support the Chinese people’s just cause of opposing “Taiwan independence” separatist activities and striving to achieve national reunification.