‘Chinese people are hospitable; so are we,’American Gen Zers recall journey in China, appeal for common ground and enduring friendship

Editor's Note:

The youth are the vanguards of our time, showcasing boundless energy and vibrant personalities.

Gen-Zers not only represent the makers of the future but also serve as agents of change in the present. With an open mindset and an international outlook, they actively integrate into the currents of globalization, engaging in deep exchanges, and collaborating with youth from around the world to explore pathways and strategies to address global challenges.

The Global Times has launched the "Voice from Gen Z" series, which focuses on the proactive actions and innovative achievements of young people in areas such as global governance, cultural exchange, environmental protection, and technological innovation. Through this column, we aim to showcase the unique charm and future leadership of global Gen-Zers.

"The youth of China and the US should continue to build strong friendships, improving their understanding of each other, and their countries. This will help lead citizens around the world to interact and communicate with each other." This sentiment was solemnly shared by 17-year-old Colin Millage from Muscatine High School from the US state of Iowa, as he returned to the country after an 8-day study tour in China in late April.

The study tour delegation is called "Inheritance of Friendship," which is part of a China-initiated program that invites 50,000 US youth to China within five years for exchanges and study. The delegation is the second batch from the school.

With all 32 members of Generation Z who came to China for the first time, they embarked on the journey with curiosity about China and a desire to fully embrace the country and its people. Touched by the sincere interactions between the people of China and the US, they are committed to carrying forward friendship in their own way.

Millage believes that their trip can serve as an example to young people, showing that friendships between countries can lead the world in the right direction toward peace and stability.

"We are the future. It's important for the youth all over the world to connect for a better future. I expect there will be many more exchanges between the two countries," Millage's fellow Skye Foster, a 10th-grade student, also shared with the Global Times.

'Beautiful first impression'

With the dazzling light effects, innovative stage design and imaginative program arrangement, the welcome performance titled "Chinese Impressions" by students from Shijiazhuang Foreign Language School on the evening of April 19 in Shijiazhuang, North China's Hebei Province, left a lasting impression on Millage.

"It gave me a beautiful first impression," Millage said, referring to the exquisite performance of his Chinese peers and the profound Chinese culture embedded in the program.

American Gen Zers are always eager to experience different cultures. For example, Foster noted she chose to participate in the school trip to China because she loved learning Chinese.

During the journey, the delegation visited Beijing, Hebei, and Shanghai. They wore traditional Hanfu, climbed the Great Wall, visited the Forbidden City, and explored the Xiong'an New Area. They tasted traditional local cuisine, learned to pay for services using mobile phone QR codes, experiencing a real, comprehensive China that blends the classical and the modern.

In Millage's opinion, China is a country filled with deep culture and history. From the intricate architecture to the meaningful cultural practices, the country beautifully presents itself with an influential cultural identity.

"China is a very big country. There is so much to learn about China. There's so much to see and I had a great experience there," Foster said.

"Sending the second study tour delegation to China in such a short period of time shows how successful the first group's trip to China was," Ryan Scott Castle, principal of Muscatine High School, told the Global Times. He mentioned that many students who had previously visited China signed up again for the second research group and he had to use his authority as principal to "keep them in the US" because more and more students from Muscatine are eager to explore China.

"Before departure, I told the kids: As soon as the plane lands, put away your phones, absorb like a sponge, breathe in the air of China, enjoy the food of China, seize every opportunity to communicate with the people around you… Since you are in China, embrace it with your whole heart," said Luca Berrone, Chairman of the Muscatine-China Initiatives Committee, who accompanied the delegation to China.

To Berrone's relief, the teenagers did just that. Millage said he would tell all his family and friends that China should be their next vacation.

Millage noted that some media sources in the US made China out to be restrictive on some level, but he thought that mainly stems from the US' superiority complex about being "the most free country" when most other countries are also free.

"After being in China, I completely disagree with any portrayal of the country being restrictive… While some Americans may be cautious when visiting the country due to negatively preconceived notions, they should look past that and appreciate the beauty the country can offer," he stressed.

Exemplary tales of exchanges
Hebei Province and the Iowa State signed their sister-state relationship in 1983. For over 40 years, Hebei and Iowa have written many exemplary tales of friendly exchanges.

In the spring of 1985, Chinese President Xi Jinping, at that time a county leader in Zhengding, Hebei Province, took his initial steps on US soil. From then on, Xi never forgot his American friends and believes that people hold the key to state-to-state relations.

Now, this friendship is being further strengthened with new initiatives.

For Foster, her most memorable experience in China was going to her Chinese partner's home and spending more time with her.

As the host school for the US students, the Shijiazhuang Foreign Language School requested students from China and the US to form one-on-one friendly partnerships. They studied Chinese poetry, played table tennis, and each US student also visited the home of his or her Chinese partner and had dinner together.

"The teachers were very kind and caring. The students were so welcoming and nice," Foster said.

More importantly, these young people from China and the US have the opportunity to sit together and listen to their elders tell stories of the sincere interactions between the two countries throughout history.

Berrone, who was involved in Xi's first visit to the US, still remembered the first dinner that the Hebei delegation led by Xi had in Iowa, which was a traditional American "potluck dinner," at which each family brought a dish to share.

The delegation immediately blended in with the local residents, Berrone recalled. "Meeting for the first time, local residents were also very excited and attracted to them, wanting to know more about Hebei and China," he said.

American Gen Zers also value the ties of friendship; they were encouraged by the stories of the elderly generation. "They taught me to cherish these bonds, especially cherish those with Chinese partners that span thousands of miles," Millage said. "American and Chinese people speak different languages and have different cultures, however, Chinese people are hospitable, and so are we."

During his trip to China, Millage and his friends exchanged their ideals and looked forward to becoming closer friends, growing together to become better individuals.

"Ultimately, both countries should look toward to these similarities to find common ground and build a stronger relationship," he said.

IMF urges US to maintain open trade system; experts say comment is criticism of its crackdowns on Chinese products

The US would be better served by maintaining its open trade system, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Thursday, in response to media inquiries on the US' latest move to aggressively hike tariffs on Chinese goods, warning such trade restrictions can fragment the global economy and supply chains and trigger retaliatory actions.

These restrictions can lead to distortion of global trade and investment, and fragmentation caused by such moves can be "very costly for the global economy," IMF spokesperson Julie Kozack said during a regular press briefing on Thursday.

Experts saw these comments as an official criticism and rebuttal of the US escalating crackdowns on numerous Chinese products and industries that hold global competitive advantages, calling the US moves "hostile economic bullying" motivated by political excuses.

The IMF's remarks came after the US government launched new tariffs on Tuesday, targeting a range of Chinese imports, including electric vehicles (EVs), lithium batteries, photovoltaic cells, critical minerals, semiconductors, steel, and aluminum. These tariffs were imposed on top of existing tariffs under Section 301, which a WTO panel ruled in September 2020 violated WTO rules.

Further intensifying its crackdown measures, the US announced on Thursday its plan to block imports from 26 Chinese textile companies due to their alleged ties to the so-called "forced labor." This move adds to existing bans under a relevant entity list.

The US' unilateralism and trade protectionism, driven by its short-term political interests, will have highly detrimental impacts on global trade, Gao Lingyun, an expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Friday.

Gao cautioned that these actions will reduce efficiency in global supply chains and increase risks, ultimately undermining the health of not only the US economy but also the entire global trade and economy.

In a similar vein, the US on Wednesday passed the Biosecure Act that would prohibit US federal agencies from contracting Chinese biotech companies under the excuse of "national security," following a slew of groundless sanctions against multiple Chinese advanced industries.

On Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi rebuked the US for frequently imposing unilateral sanctions, calling it "a most typical case of hegemonism and bullying," revealing that it has lost confidence and direction.

Wang urged the US to earnestly observe WTO rules and immediately cancel the sanctions, and vowed to take all necessary measures to defend China's rights and interests.

The recent intensive crackdown measures suggest that the US has become irrational in its handling of economic and trade relations with China, Li Yong, a senior research fellow at the China Association of International Trade, told the Global Times on Friday, noting the moves are part of the Biden administration's political maneuvering in an election year.

In response to the latest bans on Chinese textile companies, Li said that "China has been actively boosting economic development in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and has achieved fruitful outcomes in recent years. The US actions will not have a lasting substantive impact on the relevant enterprises due to China's vast consumer market, which can offer robust support and drive for the industry's development."

During the IMF's press briefing, Kozack expressed the hope that China and the US would make joint efforts to address the underlying concerns that have exacerbated trade tensions between the two countries.

The IMF spokesperson also emphasized the noticeable increase in trade restrictions worldwide in recent years. In 2019, there were 1,000 trade restrictions documented, which increased to 3,000 in 2023, resulting in escalating costs for the global economy, according to IMF.

Earlier this month, China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lin Jian urged the US to act on its commitment of not seeking to hold back China's economic growth and create an enabling environment for China-US relations and cooperation in various fields, in response to IMF Deputy Managing Director Gita Gopinath's call on May 7 for pragmatic steps toward rebuilding trust between China and the US.

US order for Chinese-linked company to sell property 'discrimination'

A decision by the US government to force a company that is reportedly Chinese-linked to sell a property near a US Air Force base in the state of Wyoming is one more dramatic act in the "China threat" play, a Chinese observer said on Tuesday.

The White House on Monday (US time) issued an order prohibiting the purchase and requiring the divestment of real estate operated as a cryptocurrency mining facility in close proximity to a US Air Force base in Wyoming, which is a strategic missile base that's home to the US Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The owner of the facility, MineOne Partners, has been reported to be majority-owned by entities in China.

The order by US President Joe Biden was reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a panel led by the Treasury Department.

The CFIUS cited the presence of specialized and foreign-sourced equipment potentially capable of facilitating surveillance and espionage activities as a reason for its decision, without providing further evidence.

The move came amid increasingly intense anti-China sentiment in the US and the spinning of a "land grabbing" narrative, and Chinese analysts noted that the event may be nothing more than a new episode of the "China threat" during a US election year.

Zhou Mi, a senior research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, told the Global Times on Tuesday that the event may prove the US government is overly concerned with the issue of national security.

"Military bases all had security precautions in place and the sudden revoking of the property deal may prove unnecessary," Zhou said, noting that limiting the prohibition to specific groups is a politicized operation and blatant discrimination and serves only to dent the confidence of global investors in the US.

Investors would prefer transparency and predictability, instead of being told that they have to divest their investment in a retroactive fashion, Zhou said.

The incident came amid media hype in the US over the "China threat."

US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo last week warned that the US may take "extreme action" and seek to ban Chinese connected vehicles on national security grounds.

The US has also launched a probe into the Chinese maritime, logistics and shipbuilding industries.

Some Chinese economists and international relations experts said that although it is unsurprising to see some US politicians play the anti-China card as much as they can in an election year, the claim that China is grabbing US land is fairly absurd, as China legally holds less than 1 percent of all the foreign-owned land in the US.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry last week urged the US not to overstretch the concept of national security, or weaken or sever one's economic ties with other countries, which will lead nowhere.

It will only destabilize global industrial and supply chains, disrupt the international trade order and end up harming one's own interests, the Ministry said.

US limits on tax credits for EVs targeting China and ‘overcapacity’ hype reflect protectionism, unease with China's new-energy advantage

The US released a final rule on Friday stating that electric vehicles (EVs) using materials from China will not be eligible for tax credits, amid its attacks on China's EV industry with so-called "overcapacity" rhetoric. 

Chinese experts said the limited access to tax credits targeting China, as well as the hype about China's "overcapacity," showed stepped-up trade protectionism and revealed US uneasiness about China's growing advantage in the global EV market.

The US Treasury Department announced final regulations for the credits under the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act. Americans buying EVs will no longer be able to claim federal tax credits of up to $7,500 if their cars contain Chinese materials, The Washington Post reported.

China's Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) said in December that China's EVs and auto parts are welcome in the global market, and excluding Chinese firms from these tax credits is a typical non-market-oriented policy.

The discriminatory subsidy policy violates the basic principles of the WTO, seriously disrupts international trade and investment, and undermines the stability of global industry and supply chains, the MOFCOM said.

Unlike the draft version in December, the final regulations allow carmakers to continue purchasing Chinese graphite until 2027 and still qualify for subsidies. According to US media reports, major manufacturers warned that without this extension, every EV on the market would be ineligible for the credit. 

It indicates that the US has reached a deadlock in accelerating the energy transition and facing the consequences of forcing out the Chinese supply chains, experts said.

The Washington Post said that if the Biden administration moves too quickly to choke off Chinese supplies, it could miss its target for half of new cars to be zero-emission by 2030.

The Biden administration has been aggressively smearing Chinese EVs, hyping "overcapacity" in China's new-energy industry.

Chinese experts argued that the US claims are merely a guise for trade protectionism, reflecting its growing worry about China's advantage in the global market for new-energy products.

The difficulties and challenges that US car companies face are evident. In the first quarter, EV sales only grew by 3.3 percent to nearly 270,000, accounting for only 7.15 percent of total vehicle sales. 

The so-called overcapacity rhetoric is a desperate attempt to suppress Chinese EVs in the global market, where the US cannot compete with China's high-quality and low-cost products, Qiu Wenxu, a research fellow with the Silk Road Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Saturday. 

"The US can only try to hinder China's EV development through its usual trade suppression tactics. However, history tells us that trade protectionism has never been able to stop the globalization of goods, and will only increase the cost for consumers," Qiu said.

China's advantage in the new-energy sector has been built through continuous technological research and innovation, a complete industrial chain and mature manufacturing capabilities, Liu Chunsheng, a professor at the Central University of Finance and Economics, told the Global Times on Saturday. 

According to the International Energy Agency, global demand for EVs will significantly increase and China, as the world's largest EV market, is expanding its production capacity based on reasonable expectations, Liu added.

In contrast to US' protectionist moves, China has taken steps to remove restrictions on foreign investment in the manufacturing sector. 

A Chinese industry association recently released a list of 76 models of intelligent connected vehicles that meet the country's auto data security requirements, including those from Tesla. This development is seen as a positive step for Tesla's self-driving technology in the Chinese market.

Despite the "overcapacity" hype by some US officials, the recent visit of Tesla CEO Elon Musk to China and Tesla's development in China have offered successful examples of China-US economic and trade cooperation.

Experts said that it is crucial for the US government to rectify its discriminatory industrial policies to safeguard the stability of the global EV industry chain and uphold global climate change efforts.

After a solid start in Q1, China eyes strengthened economic recovery

After China's economy mounted an impressive start to the year, global attention has now shifted to what China plans to do to sustain the great momentum in the recovery of the world's second-largest economy for the rest of the year.

During a meeting at the Xi Jinping Thought on Economy Study Center, which is affiliated with the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the top economic planning agency, experts painted a bright picture for the economic recovery heading into the rest of the year, citing emerging positive trends across a wide range of areas such as consumer spending, industry, and regional development.

Above all, experts said China's continuously strengthening policy measures are acting as a source of confidence in the continued recovery of the Chinese economy, which they said will help achieve annual development goals, even though the economy still faces challenges and risks.

"Currently, positive factors are continuously increasing in the economic operation, but the economic recovery still faces several challenges," Li Hui, deputy director of the Department of National Economy of the NDRC, told reporters at the meeting on Monday. "At the same time, we must also see the favorable conditions for economic development, correctly understand that a good start and a solid recovery are the basic characteristics and trends of the current economic operation."

Going forward, Li said that solid efforts must be taken to sustain the positive trend and maintain policy continuity to avoid relaxation, so as to effectively consolidate and enhance the positive trend of the economic recovery.

Despite challenges and risks, China's economy rebounded strongly in the first quarter of the year. In the first three months of 2024, China's GDP grew by 5.3 percent year-on-year, beating market expectations and laying a solid foundation for the economy to achieve the pre-set goal of growing by around 5 percent for the whole year.

Beyond headline GDP data, China also saw strong recovery momentum across a range of sectors, including consumption and industrial profits. Retail sales, a main gauge of consumption, surged by 4.7 percent year-on-year in the first quarter, providing a main boost for the overall economic recovery, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

"We believe that consumption has played a fundamental driving force for the good start of the economy and solid progress of high-quality development," Gu Yan, head of the Research Department I at the Xi Jinping Thought on Economy Study Center, said on Monday, noting that consumption contributed 73.7 percent of economic growth in the first quarter of the year.

Another major boost for the economic recovery came from the industrial sector during the first quarter. Profits of China's major industrial firms increased 4.3 percent year-on-year over the three-month period, reversing a 2.3-percent decline registered in 2023, according to the NBS. Value-added industrial output, an important indicator, went up 6.1 percent year-on-year in the first quarter, NBS data showed.

Mao Kejun, head of the Research Department III at the Xi Jinping Thought on Economy Study Center, said that in the first quarter, the industrial sector has not only seen continuous expansion in scale, but also accelerated transition and upgrade.

"The resilience of industrial and supply chains has further strengthened, with integrated circuit output surging 40 percent year-on-year," Mao told reporters on Monday, noting China's complete, large-scale industrial system is a source of confidence in the country's long-term economic development.

Looking ahead

While Chinese experts have highlighted the impressive economic recovery in the first quarter of the year, the main focus has been shifted to keeping up efforts to further consolidate the recovery momentum for the rest of the year.

A meeting of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee in April noted that the economy had secured a good start this year, while cautioning against challenges, such as insufficient demand, high operational pressure facing enterprises, and an external environment that is more complicated, grimmer and more uncertain.

Among others, the meeting stressed the need to assess the consistency of macro policy orientation, advance large-scale equipment renewals and trade-ins of consumer goods, introduce more consumption scenarios, promote people-centered new urbanization, and implement a new mechanism for cooperation between the government and private capital, while fully stimulating private investment.

Effectively implementing various macro policies to further consolidate economic growth has become a top priority for the rest of the year, according to experts.

"We will make continuous efforts in effectively implementing macro policies, developing new quality productive forces in accordance with local conditions, unswervingly deepening reform and opening-up, continuing to prevent and resolve risks in key areas, solidly promoting green and low-carbon development, and effectively ensuring and improving people's livelihood, and promote high-quality completion of the overall economic and social development goals and tasks for the year," Li said.

China has set a GDP growth target of around 5 percent for 2024, and many institutions and experts are increasingly confident that such a target will be achieved despite challenges, thanks to China's solid economic recovery and sufficient policy tools.

John Ross, a senior fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, said in an article published by the Global Times, that based on observations and research over the past 30 years related to China's economy, the country will be able to achieve its GDP growth target of around 5 percent, and will undoubtedly remain the main driver of global economic growth.

Among the major economic drivers, consumer spending will remain the biggest source of growth and will likely further rebound throughout the rest of the year, experts said.

"Looking at the full year, consumption is expected to continue to show a positive trend of recovery," Gu said, pointing to strong policy support and solid fundamentals.

Deepening China-EU cooperation significant for world in navigating uncertainties

China, the second-largest economy, and the EU, the largest trading bloc, have formed a strong foundation for economic and trade cooperation thanks to the intrinsic complementarity of the two economies. 

The practical and mutually beneficial cooperation between China and Europe can help both leverage their economic strengths and fully unleash their economic growth potential, which will generate positive momentum for the global economy.

China and Europe have great complementarity in a wide range of industrial categories. Due to China's strong production capacity and lower labor cost, it exports a significant amount of essential and intermediate goods to Europe each year, with bilateral trade between China and the EU hitting $783 billion in 2023.

China and Europe are becoming more intertwined in nurturing important industrial chains, especially in sectors including automobile manufacturing and new-energy production. The synergy between the two economies is evident in these fields.

The complementarity could also be seen in traditional industries, with each economy having unique advantages. China is increasing imports of European agricultural products due to rising Chinese demand, resulting from increased spending power across the country.

Many China-Europe joint ventures are manufacturing products that not only cater to the demands of Chinese and European markets, but they are also exported to third-party markets. This synergy is evident throughout their shared industrial chains. 

To further enhance economic and trade cooperation between China and Europe, it is essential to focus on practical cooperation. Politicizing economic issues disrupts economic and trade cooperation, while imposing trade restrictions will hurt normal production activities.

Cooperation between China and Europe should start from the needs of both sides and take into account the construction of the entire industrial chain. The integration of the industrial chains of China and Europe is conducive to sustained development of both economies. 

China and Europe also need to actively promote third-party cooperation, which will further complement the advantages of both sides, and integrate their respective strengths to explore a broader market.

Cooperation in the traditional fields needs to be continuously upgraded to adapt to the changing technological landscape and market demands. Opportunities between China and France in the fields of nuclear energy and aviation are good examples of this. In areas that meet the development needs of both economies, such as green technology, the alignment of policies between the two sides should be better coordinated and implemented. 

Increased cooperation between China and Europe has the potential to enhance economic and trade prospects for both. This collaboration could encompass various sectors such as artificial intelligence, biotechnology, digital economy, big data, quantum computing and other fields.

The combined share of China and Europe in the world economy comes in at more than 40 percent. If both sides can avoid the trap of politicizing economic issues and continue to cooperate and open up in a mutually beneficial way, it will have a positive impact on maintaining the current trend of globalization.

China and Europe, in terms of industrial cooperation and free trade, can deepen their cooperation to provide a good example for the world. Currently, certain countries are putting their own interests before others, by taking protectionist approaches in global trade. 

Whether it is anti-globalization or protectionism, it should not be allowed to develop into a trend, because once it becomes a trend, it will force different economies to take similar approaches. Therefore, for China and Europe, it is necessary to uphold free trade and open economy, because only by sticking to this direction can the two sides better respond to the impact of anti-globalization and protectionism.

And, through enhancing third party cooperation between China and Europe, the two sides can help improve economies and market conditions outside of China and Europe. This collaboration can help in better achieving the United Nations' sustainable development goals, such as poverty alleviation and creating new jobs.

Xi's Footsteps: Xi's Europe trip carries forward friendship, charts the course for the future

Five days and six nights, three countries and four cities, over 30 bilateral or multilateral activities… these figures encapsulate Chinese President Xi Jinping's recent visit to Europe, the first of its kind in five years.

Chinese national flags adorned the cities, with crowds eagerly welcoming President Xi. The Global Times reporters observed these details during the visit, highlighting the anticipation in the continent to strengthen friendship and cooperation between China and the three countries of France, Serbia, and Hungary. People across the continent hoped that the visit would pave the way for stronger ties between China and the three countries, as well as with Europe as a whole.

During a press conference, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated that President Xi's recent state visits have solidified China's relations with the three European countries and relaunched China-EU cooperation.

Wang, also a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, described Xi's Europe trip as a journey to carry forward friendship, enhance mutual trust, boost confidence and chart the course for the future.
Personal touch

French President Emmanuel Macron invited Xi to meet at the Pyrenees Mountains, a mountainous area in southern France which is close to the home of Macron's maternal grandmother.

It seems that it has become a routine that the two heads of state treat each other with something beyond the courtesy of a normal state visit. In March 2019, in the French city of Nice, Macron received Xi at Villa Kerylos, a century-old house overlooking the Mediterranean. Later that year, President Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan met with Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron in the Yuyuan Garden in Shanghai.

In April 2023 when the Chinese and French top leaders met for informal talks in Guangzhou, the capital of South China's Guangdong Province, they listened to the guqin (Chinese zither) melody "High Mountain and Flowing Water" at Baiyun Hall.

This year, on a cold snowy spring day, the two leaders continued to write the story of "High Mountain and Flowing Water," showing the world that despite China and France being an Eastern power and a Western power respectively, they can still cooperate on bilateral, regional and world affairs.

A local resident from a town near the Pyrenees is no stranger to China. He told the Global Times that his niece used to study in Shanghai and now works at a multinational company that has many businesses in China. A cyclist at the Pyrenees Mountains, who cannot speak English very well, said "friendship" when asked about the meeting between Xi and Macron at the mountain.

Xi's visit coincided with the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and France. Thanks to former French president general Charles de Gaulle's grand vision and his advocacy for French autonomy, he made this bold decision 60 years ago, making France the first Western country to establish official ties with China.

In 2014, when Xi visited France, he went to the Charles de Gaulle Foundation. This time, the Global Times paid a visit there and had director of the foundation to recall Xi's visit 10 years ago and what prompted general de Gaulle to make the decision.

"President Xi laid a wreath in honor of General de Gaulle in the office where he worked from 1947 to 1958. Gifts were exchanged," Antoine Broussy, director of the foundation, told the Global Times, and showed a guest book on which President Xi wrote: "Paying Tribute to the Great Man and Composing a New Chapter in Chinese and French History."

In a showroom on the ground floor of the Charles de Gaulle Foundation, a bronze half-body statue of de Gaulle stands. He looks contemplative, apparently observing the historical trajectory of China-France relations.
Steel-clad friends

During his stay in Serbia, a country Xi visited eight years ago, the Chinese president presented a special gift to Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic - steel models in the shape of the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, and the Church of Saint Sava in Belgrade.

The models were made from steel produced by the HBIS Smederevo steel plant, or Hesteel Serbia, a century-old factory which was invigorated through close cooperation between China and Serbia.

Xi visited the plant in June 2016, months after China's Hesteel Group purchased this venture on the verge of closure and the future of its more than 5,000 employees was unsettled.

Xi interacted with the workers and encouraged them to work hard to bring benefits to local residents. Factory workers presented a round plate with the silhouette of the steel plant to Xi as a gift.

The visit significantly boosted the morale of all the workers, and encouraged the Chinese executive team to optimize production and management. Smiles returned to the faces of Serbian workers as they felt secure and began to "plan for the future."

Hesteel Serbia now has become a major exporter in the Balkan country and a crucial taxpayer. Its success is an embodiment of the "ironclad" friendship between China and Serbia.

Before his state visit this time, Xi replied to a letter written by Serbian steelworkers who shared the progress the steel plant had achieved and expressed their appreciation for Xi's care and support.

When presenting the steel models to Vucic on Wednesday, Xi said we are now "steel-clad friends with even stronger ties than iron-clad friends."

In a signed article by Xi published on Serbian local media outlet Politika before his arrival, he wrote "the China-Serbia friendship, forged with the blood of our compatriots," citing NATO's flagrant bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Yugoslavia on May 7, 1999.

In his first public event during the 2016 visit, Xi and Serbian leaders paid homage to three Chinese martyrs in the bombing at a memorial erected on the site where the embassy once stood.

Now standing on the site is the China Cultural Center, for which Xi laid the foundation stone in 2016. This site has now gained a new life while retaining the sentiment of friendship.

Carefully decorated with Chinese elements, the center offers courses on Chinese, calligraphy, Tai Chi, and guzheng, a traditional musical instrument. The center also holds a library which has a collection ranging from language learning materials and dictionaries, to popular novels and classics.

Various cultural events are held here, and the center issues commemorative stamps with Serbian Post biannually, the Global Times learned from the center.

Many locals also come to the center for classes out of interest, gain better knowledge of China and Chinese culture.

Milica Milovic, the first Serbian employee at the center, told the Global Times that working at the center is really a pride as she is now part of the strong China-Serbia friendship.

This ironclad friendship has become deeper and deeper through efforts of every ordinary Chinese and Serbian who are contributing to bilateral exchanges and friendliness.

A East-West model

Upon President Xi's arrival in Budapest, the final stop on his five-day European visit, Chinese national flags were placed next to Hungarian flags on the Elisabeth Bridge in this beautiful capital.

Xi previously visited Hungary in 2009. Some things have changed, while some have not. The Danube River still flows silently and gently, witnessing the development of relations between China and Hungary. During Xi's visit this time, the two countries elevated bilateral relations to an all-weather comprehensive strategic partnership for the new era.

What deeply impressed President Xi during his state visit to Hungary, he said, was a Hungarian girl who presented flowers to him when he landed in Budapest. She was the same girl who presented flowers to Xi 15 years ago. The president recollected that encounter: "You've grown up. You were only this tall back then," he said, making a gesture with his hand.

The girl can speak fluent Chinese. So can many young Hungarians, who have cultivated a strong interest in China and the Chinese language as exchanges between China and Hungary have flourished over the last couple of years. In Buda Castle, the historical castle and palace complex of the Hungarian Kings, nearly half of the tourists come from China, and they have a tourist guide who can speak Chinese very well.

Many Hungarians who speak fluent Chinese learned the language at the Hungarian-Chinese bilingual school in Budapest. Established in 2004, the Hungarian-Chinese bilingual school is a 12-year all-through public school that teaches in both Chinese and Hungarian.

In October 2009, Xi, then Chinese vice president, visited the school during his visit to Hungary. Today, a group photo of Xi and the school's students and teachers, as well as Xi's reply letter to the students in early 2023, hangs on the wall in the school's hallway.

Xin Hua, director and chair professor of the Center for European Union Studies, Shanghai International Studies University, told the Global Times that an important reason that China and Hungary can develop friendly ties is that the two countries have similar historical and cultural traditions.

"Welcome home!" Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban greeted Xi at the airport. The next day, Xi was received with a military ceremony in the Lion Courtyard of Buda Castle.

In an interview with Chinese media, Hungarian Prime Minister Orban explained what "home" means.

"We are settled here in the West, but the origin is very important. So, we know that relatives are somewhere, they are far away. So, when somebody from the East is coming to Hungary, especially with the high civilization for several thousands of years as China, it always has a special emotional element of that meeting," Orban said.

China, France release joint declaration on AI governance, agreeing to work closer

China and France on Monday released a joint declaration on artificial intelligence (AI) and global governance during Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to France, with the two heads of state agreeing to take measures to work closer on addressing AI risks, strengthening cooperation and global governance of AI to promote "secure, reliable, and trustworthy AI."

The declaration, consisting of 10 sub-agreements, said that President Xi and French President Emmanuel Macron firmly believe the importance of continued dialogue between the two countries in providing lasting solutions to global challenges and have decided to strengthen China-France relations as a driving force for international governance in addressing global challenges.

It is an add-on agreement following the consensus reached in the China-France Joint Declaration on April 7, 2023. 

The declaration noted that China and France both fully acknowledge the crucial role of AI in development and innovation, the profound impact of its rapid development, as well as the potential and existing risks associated with this technology. 

Thus, the two sides unanimously believe that promoting the development and security of AI and pushing for appropriate international governance is crucial, and are committed to taking effective measures to address these risks associated with this technology. 

Both are on the same page over the basic rules for AI governance. They agreed to take into account the flexibility required for the rapid development of technology, while providing necessary protection for personal data, the rights of users, and the rights of users whose works are used by AI.

They also commit to promoting secure, reliable, and trustworthy artificial intelligence systems, adhering to the principle of "AI for good." 

Another keyword mentioned in the declaration is "cooperation." The declaration said that international cooperation in AI governance will rely on work conducted at the United Nations level and China and France will help strengthen the network capabilities of all countries, especially developing countries, to address various network threats related to AI development, and bridge the digital divide among developing countries.

China is willing to participate in the AI summit that France will host in 2025 and related preparatory work. China also invites France to participate in a high-level meeting on global governance of AI for World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC). 

The WAIC is China's top-level AI event held in Shanghai each year. This year's event will take place from July 4 to 6.

Last year, on the field of AI governance, China, together with more than 20 countries, signed the "Bletchley Declaration" on November 1.