China repatriates 680 gambling, fraud suspects from Cambodia

The most recent group of 135 suspects involved in illegal cross-border gambling and fraud were escorted back to China from Cambodia by two chartered planes on Sunday, marking the last group of 680 suspects apprehended by Cambodian police. 

The planes arrived in Tianhe International Airport in Wuhan, Central China's Hubei Province. 

The Chinese and Cambodian police organized a joint operation to crack down on crimes related to gambling and fraud, apprehending a group of suspects, and starting from April 12, Hubei public security officials organized multiple charter flights to repatriate the individuals in groups. 

Currently, the Ministry of Public Security has deployed the Hubei police to carry out the investigation and handling of the suspects.

In response to prominent illegal activities such as cross-border gambling and telecommunications fraud that have been of serious public concern, public security organs in China have continued to deepen international law enforcement cooperation, dismantled a large number of cross-border criminal gangs, and arrested a large number of criminals. 

Since the beginning of 2024, related authorities have repatriated tens of thousands of suspects involved in illegal cross-border gambling and fraud crimes from countries such as Myanmar, the Philippines and the United Arab Emirates. 

Wang Xiaowei, an associate professor at the People's Public Security University of China, told media that such crime gangs usually hide overseas, making it difficult for the police to investigate, collect evidence and make arrests. An effective crackdown on such crimes requires international law enforcement cooperation with relevant countries. 

The criminal chain of cross-border tele-fraud is long and often covers multiple countries, making international cooperation and coordination more complicated, said Wang, adding that challenges are greater for tackling international tele-fraud cases because it is hard to probe, collect evidence and present legal proof.  

Public security authorities will maintain a high-pressure crackdown on such illegal crimes to safeguard the lives and property of the people. They also remind the general public to enhance awareness, resist going abroad for gambling or participate in online gambling, be highly vigilant of the new methods and cross-border gambling and tele-fraud crimes, and effectively safeguard their own legitimate rights and interests. 

Wuhan to host 9th Space Day of China as main venue

The China National Space Administration (CNSA) on Wednesday unveiled detailed plans for the upcoming Ninth Space Day of China. The event will fall on April 24 and Wuhan, capital of Central China's Hubei Province will be the main venue. 

Jointly organized by the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the CNSA, the Hubei Provincial Government, the Wuhan Municipal Government, and Wuhan University, the main events of this year's Space Day in Wuhan would display to the world the impressive achievements China has accomplished in the last year, while offering clues about exciting future plans in the country's ambitious quest to explore the universe, according to CNSA officials at a press conference in Beijing on Wednesday. 

In 2023, China carried out 67 successful orbital launches, setting a new historic record, Lü Bo, a CNSA official said at the press conference. 

Reviewing the remarkable year of 2023, Lü highlighted China's space industry achievements by listing how the largest thrust 700-ton liquid rocket engine in Asia had successfully undergone testing and is now in operation; the Shenzhou-16 and Shenzhou-17 manned spaceflight missions were great successes; and the Remote Sensing-40 satellite was successfully launched, which will provide a more comprehensive and precise scientific basis for China's geological exploration, meteorological research, environmental protection, and advancement in other fields. 

The application for lunar research samples from the Chang'e-5 mission has been opened to the world, sharing the achievements with the international community; the international version of the National Remote Sensing Data and Application Service Platform has also been released, aiding the construction of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the promotion of building a global community with a shared future in outer space, he said.

China's space development is set for an even busier 2024, with Chang'e-6 - the first of China's Phase-4 lunar probe missions - being expected to be launched. The mission would be a moon sample retrieval mission targeting the far side of the Earth's natural satellite. Moreover, China Manned Space will see the launches of Shenzhou-18 and -19 crewed spaceflight missions, according to the CNSA official. 

China will announce the plans for the Chang'e-7 lunar probe mission and the international payload onboard the spacecraft during this year's Space Day of China activities in Wuhan on April 24, witnessed by relevant officials from Chinese government agencies, scholars, and researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, universities, space firms, as well as guests from more than 50 countries, regions, and international organizations, Lü revealed. 

China designated April 24 as the Space Day of China in 2016 to mark the launch of its first satellite "Dongfanghong-1" into space on April 24, 1970. According to statistics obtained by the Global Times from the organizers, a series of nearly 500 space-themed activities will be held by relevant departments, universities, and associations on April 24. 

Aerospace academicians, experts and astronauts will visit schools to give science lectures. Relevant aerospace exhibitions and facilities will be opened to the public and students of all levels. Aerospace-themed films and TV programs, as well as science TV programs and series will also be broadcast during the aerospace event period this year.

The Space Day of China has increasingly become a platform for the country to reach out to the world with openness and sincerity, to boost international cooperation in the space domain. 

This year's Space Day of China will include the first-ever China-Latin American and Caribbean States Space Cooperation Forum and release the Wuhan Declaration, the Global Times has learned from organizers on Wednesday. 

Some 100 delegates from 26 countries in the Latin American and Caribbean region, and eight international organizations are expected to attend the forum hosted by the CNSA, the Hubei Provincial Government, as well as the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

The forum aims to implement the important consensus reached by leaders of China and Latin America, enrich cooperation within the framework of the China-Latin America Forum, and promote the construction of a China-Latin America community of shared future through high-quality aerospace cooperation, according to the CNSA. 

The meeting will invite government officials from China, Latin American, and Caribbean countries, as well as representatives from industries, research entities, and the private sector, to discuss building aerospace partnerships and sharing space technology for the benefit of humanity. Together, they will establish a high-end platform for international aerospace cooperation between China and Latin American and Caribbean countries.

The forum will consist of an opening ceremony on April 24 in Wuhan, a main forum, and four sub-forums, focusing on areas such as space infrastructure to support sustainable socio-economic development, deep space exploration, and space science, the innovative development of the aerospace industrial chain, global governance of outer space, and capacity building in outer space. 

Wuhan is known for being a crucial hub for China's commercial space industry, and in recent years, the city has become home to the country's first modern rocket industrial base, which possesses the capability of manufacturing, assembly, and testing 20 rockets annually. The city has also built the country's first small-scale satellite manufacturing line, capable of manufacturing more than 240 satellites a year.

Chinese FM expresses solemn position regarding US' actions to advance 'Indo-Pacific Strategy' targeting China, urging the US to stop bloc confrontation

The Chinese Foreign Ministry blasted the US' recent actions to advance the "Indo-Pacific Strategy" targeting China, as well as the country's wrongful statements and actions in China's surrounding areas, especially its attempts to form a small clique with Japan and the Philippines and disrupt the situation in the South China Sea. China again urged the US not to engage in bloc confrontation or disrupt peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu on Monday met US Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns, US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink, and Sarah Beran, White House National Security Council's senior director for China affairs, in Beijing. Yang Tao, director-general of the Department of North American and Oceanian Affairs of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, held talks with the US diplomats, according to a report from CGTN.

In accordance with the important consensus reached by the leaders of both countries during their previous meeting in San Francisco and their recent phone call, both sides engaged in candid, in-depth, and constructive communication on promoting dialogue and cooperation in various fields between China and the US, as well as on properly managing differences.

The two sides exchanged views on international and regional hotspot issues such as the Middle East, Ukraine, the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, and unanimously agreed to continue implementing the San Francisco vision, maintaining exchanges at all levels, and further stabilizing China-US relations.

During the meeting, the Chinese side expressed its solemn position regarding the US' recent actions to advance the "Indo-Pacific Strategy" targeting China, and US' wrongful statements and activities in China's surrounding areas, especially its attempts to form a small clique with Japan and the Philippines, and disrupt the situation in the South China Sea. China urged the US not to engage in bloc confrontation or disrupt peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

China also clarified its stance on the Taiwan question, as well as issues including economic, trade, technology, and cultural exchanges. China urged the US to stop interfering in China's internal affairs and obstructing China's development, halt unjustified sanctions against Chinese companies, and cease suppression of China's economic, trade, and technological sectors.

Scholz to visit China in spite of ‘de-risk’ voices

Despite calls to decouple from China, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is set to embark on a three-day visit to China with the aim of shoring up ties with the country, fostering areas of practical cooperation, Chinese observers noted as the leader prepares to arrive on Sunday.

Experts stated that China's bilateral practical cooperation with the economic powerhouse Germany has the potential to cut through "de-risking" voices and further enhance China-EU relations. During Scholz's visit, China and Germany are expected to sign a series of agreements, enhancing collaboration in sectors such as renewable and clean energy.

At the invitation of Premier Li Qiang of the State Council, German Chancellor Scholz will embark on an official visit to China from April 14 to 16, Mao Ning, a spokesperson from the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced on Friday. 

Scholz will meet with President Xi Jinping during his visit. Premier Li Qiang will also hold talks with the German leader to exchange views on bilateral relations and issues of common concern.

The chancellor is also expected to travel to Southwest China's Chongqing and deliver a speech at a university in Shanghai. In addition to trade matters, discussions will also address the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, according to Steffen Hebestreit, spokesperson for the German government.

"Currently, Germany is facing serious internal and external challenges. Scholz's visit to China holds significant political significance," Zhao Junjie, a research fellow from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of European Studies, told the Global Times on Friday.

Domestically, its GDP growth rate is relatively low at the moment, combined with high inflation and other factors, such as industrial relocation following the Russia-Ukraine conflict. This has led to negative sentiment as Germany also insisted on following the actions of the US. Additionally, many manufacturing industries in Germany are currently reluctant to invest domestically, including companies like Siemens and Volkswagen, Zhao noted. 

Scholz is reportedly travelling with CEOs from leading German companies during his trip, including top executives like Roland Busch from Siemens, Ola Kaellenius from Mercedes-Benz, and Belen Garijo from Merck KGaA.

"The most important outcome of Scholz's visit will be to establish a solid basis for cooperation and exchange. We hope that by personal exchanges across a range of different topics, a mutual understanding of key issues can be achieved," Maximilian Butek, chief representative of the delegation of German Industry and Commerce in Shanghai, told the Global Times.

Speaking from the perspective of German companies, those would include topics related to trade and implementing a level playing field for foreign companies in China, Butek said. 

Since last year, the EU has put forward a so-called "de-risk" and "cooperation, competition and partnership" position in regard to China. Meanwhile, the US continues to hype the challenges that China's economy poses to the US and Europe, with some voices claiming that the EU might cooperate with a US review into China-related supply chains launched in December and investigate EU companies' purchases of Chinese-made chips.

"Rather than being politically kidnapped by certain factions calling for decoupling from China or catering to media unfriendly to China, the pragmatic Scholz has realized that embarking on a diplomatic track that balances bilateral interests with China is the way out for him to address both internal and external challenges," Zhao told the Global Times. 

In 2023, Germany's foreign direct investment in China reached a peak. The latest annual Business Confidence Survey by German Chamber of Commerce in China showed many companies expressed confidence in China regaining robust growth within the next five years.

"Scholz values pragmatism. I believe that the Chinese and German governments will definitely sign a series of bilateral agreements, in sectors such as renewable energy and clean energy, as well as finances and technology. This agreement may bring greater benefits to Germany," Zhao said. 

China always views Germany as its important partner of mutually beneficial cooperation and supports Germany in playing a more important role in Europe and the wider world. China and Germany have benefited from each other's development which has contributed to the welfare of both peoples. The two countries have steered China-EU relations on a steady and sustained course and injected more stability to the world, Mao said.

Observers project that Germany's pragmatism will overcome containment, ideological conflicts and have a halo effect, contributing to the healthy development of China-EU relations, Zhao noted. 

"The relationship between China and Europe mainly depends on the twin engines of Germany and France. If Germany can cooperate pragmatically with China and achieve results, then next, France will follow," Zhao noted. 

As Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated on April 1, since the beginning of this year, China and the EU have restarted exchanges at all levels and carried out all-round cooperation in various fields. Europe has a more rational understanding of China and a stronger willingness to cooperate with China.

"Amidst the prevailing uncertainty, the resilience of bilateral economic and trade cooperation will remain unchanged. Whether it is at a steady or slow pace, progress will continue. Eventually, it will be understood that pragmatic cooperation will be the mainstream position between China and Germany, and containment or ideological conflicts are fleeting," Zhao said.

Radioactive incident in Russian city bordering China has no impact on Heilongjiang: Chinese authority

China's National Nuclear Safety Administration announced on Wednesday that radioactive sources in Khabarovsk in Russia's Far East near the border with China have not affected neighboring areas in our country. The 24-hour monitoring in Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province has shown results within normal levels, and no abnormalities have been observed.

The topic of "radioactive sources found in the Russian city just about 60 kilometers from the border areas of Heilongjiang" has been trending in recent days on Chinese social media, and some netizens raised concerns about the potential impact on the livelihoods in the Chinese province. 

Authorities in Russia's far eastern city of Khabarovsk have declared a state of emergency in an area where a "radiation source" was found, Reuters reported on Friday, citing TASS news agency.

It said elevated radiation levels were detected near a power pylon about 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) from residential buildings. No one had been injured or exposed to radiation and "there is no threat to the health of citizens," according to the media report. 

The department of ecology and environment of Heilongjiang is closely monitoring the situation, the Chinese administration said. In recent days, the atmospheric radiation environment automatic monitoring stations in the province have been continuously monitoring the gamma radiation dose rate and collecting aerosol samples 24 hours a day. And the monitoring results are within normal levels, and no abnormalities have been observed, it noted. 

In Heilongjiang, there are a total of 27 automatic monitoring stations for atmospheric radiation. Among them, in the Fuyuan and Tongjiang areas of Jiamusi city, there are two automatic monitoring stations which are closest to the Khabarovsk region, approximately 60 kilometers and 210 kilometers away, according to a post published by department of ecology and environment of Heilongjiang on Wednesday. 

On Tuesday, the mayor of Khabarovsk signed an order declaring the lifting of the local state of emergency, which was imposed due to the discovery of a source of radioactive contamination (a cesium-137 capsule on an industrial flaw detector, which has since been transferred to specialized regulatory authorities), the Chinese Consulate-General in Khabarovsk said in a post published on Tuesday. 

According to an announcement from a local emergency authority, the radiation levels in Khabarovsk city on Tuesday ranged between 0.09 and 0.13 microsieverts per hour, within normal standards (within 0.26 microsieverts per hour), the consulate-general said.

This incident did not have any adverse effects on residents' health or the surrounding environment. Currently, production and daily life in Khabarovsk city are back to normal, it noted. 

An unnamed expert from the Heilongjiang provincial institute of atomic energy was quoted in the post of the department of ecology and environment of Heilongjiang that if the detected radiation source is confirmed to be a "radiation source," and its stainless steel outer casing is intact with no damage, its contents are not dispersed or lost, and it does not contain other nuclear materials or substances, and Russia has safely placed the radiation source in a container and sent it to a temporary storage facility for radioactive waste, then the radiation levels at the site of the incident will return to normal levels, posing no ongoing radioactive impact on the local area and no harm to human health.

"A great deal of attention to this incident on Chinese social media mainly stems from the recent Moscow terrorist attack, which makes people nervous and worried about the potential use of 'dirty bombs'," Zhang Hong, a senior research fellow at the Institute of Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Anything happening in the neighboring regions between China and Russia would affect China, so we take it very seriously, the expert said, noting that previously there have been similar incidents such as pollution in the Songhua River, and China promptly notified Russia about it.

There used to be a mechanism for joint notification between China and Russia after similar events, including environmental disasters. However, this time, the response from Heilongjiang Province mainly came from our own side rather than through formal notification, and when Russia discovered it, they included it as part of their media reports, Zhang noted. 

"This indicates that there is still room for improvement in terms of environmental safety cooperation between China and Russia," he said.

Chinese scientists develop new chipless fiber for human-machine interaction

A research group from Donghua University in Shanghai has developed a new type of smart fiber that can achieve human-machine interaction functions such as luminous display and touch control without relying on chips and batteries.

The research was published in the Science journal on Friday, and is regarded as offering new possibilities for changing the interaction mode between humans and the environment.

The magazine noted that working electronic components into fabrics is challenging because they usually require rigid batteries or chips, but the author of the research showed the potential for wireless digital interactions with a number of simple examples.

The research proposes using the human body as a conduit for energy interaction. This principle promotes a new energy interaction mechanism known as "human body coupling." With specific functional materials added, the fiber achieves functions like touch control, luminous display on fabric, and wireless command transmission.

The group has been focusing on the field of light-emitting fiber materials for about five years. "In one experiment, we accidentally discovered that fibers emit light in a radio field. Based on this, we proposed a new type of smart fiber with a 'non-von Neumann architecture,' integrating functions such as energy harvesting, information sensing, and transmission into a single fiber," said Hou Chengyi, a researcher from the Advanced Functional Materials Research Group at Donghua University.

The new type of fiber also offers comfort and stability. "Through testing, we found it skin-friendly. We've tested its stability and practicality for two years, and the results have been relatively stable," Hou told the Global Times.

In the future, the group aims to produce clothes with the smart fiber that are as comfortable to wear and as intelligent as smartphones. However, there are still obstacles to overcome before the products can be sold, such as signal interference and the durability and stability of the fiber.

Videos of PLA's live-fire drills along China-Myanmar border released; troop's rapid mobility, precise targeting honed

China has released videos of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Southern Theater Command's live-fire drills on the Chinese side of the China-Myanmar border. The drill aims to test the rapid mobility, precise targeting, comprehensive blockade, and joint strike capabilities of Chinese forces.

According to a video released by China Central Television, as the exercise officially began, the Air Force aviation, Army aviation, armored infantry, artillery, air defense forces and others rapidly mobilized to the designated exercise area to conduct joint live-fire exercises in different zones and at different times.

Under unified command, the participating forces are organized according to combat formations, launching systematic and coordinated operations, meticulously planning and organizing joint armed patrols, joint reconnaissance and early warning, joint air defense control, and joint firepower strikes in a realistic exercise.

At the same time, multiple firepower strike groups quickly entered predetermined positions to conduct precise joint strikes on targets indicated in real time and from multiple directions.

A ground firepower strike group composed of remote multiple rocket launchers, vehicle-mounted self-propelled howitzers, and mortars quickly occupied launch positions. Various types of weapons alternate to unleash firepower in rounds from multiple directions, carrying out precise fire coverage on firepower points hidden in mountainous jungles.

After multiple rounds of sustained fire, a vehicle-mounted self-propelled howitzer team immediately moved to a new designated area, quickly organized the layout of the position, completed ammunition loading, and carried out intense firepower suppression on the target indicated by the on-site instructions. Many shells whistled toward the target location, and after multiple rounds of heavy firepower, the target was fully destroyed.

This drill is designed to be practical, with multiple scenarios coordinated in advance, real troops and equipment mobilized, long-distance rapid maneuvering, and continuous implementation over multiple days. The key focus is to test the force operations and rapid maneuvering, precise targeting, three-dimensional control, and joint strikes of theater forces, demonstrating the determination, will, and ability of the PLA to resolutely defend national sovereignty, border stability, and the safety of people's lives and property.

The PLA Southern Theater Command deployed army and air forces to conduct live-fire drills on the Chinese side of the China-Myanmar border starting from Tuesday, Tian Junli, a spokesperson at the PLA Southern Theater Command, said in a statement on Tuesday, stressing that the command has been prepared at all times to respond to various emergencies and is committed to safeguarding national sovereignty and border stability.

In an article published on the PLA Daily on Thursday, it said that this drill aims to test the combat capabilities of the troop in rapid maneuver, precise destruction, three-dimensional blockade, joint strikes and other abilities, in order to be prepared to respond to various unexpected situations at any time.

In recent times, conflicts in northern Myanmar have resurfaced, intensifying the tense situation due to various reasons. China and Myanmar are connected. The conflict in northern Myanmar threatens the security and stability of the border areas between the two countries, as well as the lives and property of both sides' border residents. As a friendly neighbor of Myanmar, China pays close attention to the current situation in northern Myanmar and urges all parties involved to immediately cease fire and strive to achieve a de-escalation of the situation as soon as possible.

This exercise is part of an annual training plan, indicating that frontline troops have been maintaining normalized combat readiness training for a range of missions. The exercise involves coordinated participation of army and air forces, focusing on testing the troops' maneuverability, precision and strike capabilities, which is in line with operational requirements for responding to current security situations, Zhuo Hua, an international affairs expert at the School of International Relations and Diplomacy of Beijing Foreign Studies University, told the Global Times.

Zhuo said that China and Myanmar share a long border, and their cooperation is comprehensive and wide-ranging, especially in steadily advancing cooperation projects of the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor. Therefore, the security and stability of Myanmar directly affects the interests of the two peoples.

Remains of five Chinese nationals killed in terrorist attack in Dasu brought back to China by Pakistani aircraft: FM

The remains of the five Chinese victims who were killed in the terrorist attack on the Dasu hydropower project in Pakistan were brought back to China on a Pakistani military plane, escorted by Pakistani high-level officials and a working group from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a press conference on Monday.

The five Chinese nationals and their Pakistani driver were killed in a suicide terrorist attack on March 26 at the China-invested Dasu hydropower project in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

On March 29, China's inter-agency working group to Pakistan and diplomats from the Embassy in Pakistan visited relevant hospital in Rawalpindi city, Punjab province in eastern Pakistan to mourn the five Chinese victims and convey sympathies and support from the Party and the Government to the staff of the Chinese companies present there, Wang said.

Wang emphasized that China firmly supports Pakistan in looking into what happened with utmost resolve and effort, bring the perpetrators and whoever's behind the attack to justice and do everything possible to protect the safety and security of Chinese personnel, projects and institutions in Pakistan.

On Sunday evening, the Pakistani government held a farewell ceremony for the five Chinese citizens who died in the terrorist attack at the Nur Khan airbase in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Jiang Zaidong, Pakistani officials, diplomats from the Chinese Embassy and representatives of Chinese enterprises in Pakistan attended the ceremony, according to a release from the Chinese Embassy to Pakistan.

Jiang said in a speech at the ceremony that the Chinese compatriots who were in the flower of their youth, came all the way to Pakistan from afar and have made important contributions to promoting Pakistan's development and advancing China-Pakistan friendship and cooperation.

He said that the Chinese side hopes and believes the Pakistani side will speed up the investigation, strengthen its counterterrorism efforts and take all measures to ensure the security of Chinese personnel, institutions and projects in Pakistan.

"We stand ready to work with the Pakistani side to unwaveringly promote our all-weather strategic cooperation to accelerate the building of an even closer China-Pakistan community with a shared future," said the Chinese ambassador.

Chaudhry Salik Hussain, federal minister for overseas Pakistanis and human resource development, expressed deep condolences to the victims at the ceremony. He strongly condemned the terrorist attack and said that Pakistan has always stood with the Chinese government and people.

Pakistan will thoroughly investigate the incident and find out the truth as soon as possible and bring the perpetrators to justice, he said, adding that any attempt to undermine the friendship between Pakistan and China will be doomed to failure.

Bringing back deceased beloved ones through AI technology becomes a new, controversial business in China as ‘era of digital humans’ approaches

Editor's Note:

Big models, robots, intelligent manufacturing, autonomous driving… In recent years, AI (artificial intelligence) has frequently made headlines around the world, becoming a hot topic of discussion. The emergence of generative AI programs has also caused unemployment anxiety.

The development of technology has indeed brought challenges in various aspects such as ethics and law. But at the same time, many experts advocate that human should see technology as a tool, with the ultimate purpose of serving humanity, making human life and work more efficient and comfortable.

In real life, AI has already permeated all aspects of human society, helping with scientific research in laboratories, assisting in the restoration of mysterious ancient scrolls at archaeological sites, and helping to find abducted children in the vast sea of people.

In light of this, the Global Times has launched the "AI empowers industry, improves people's livelihoods" series, showcasing the tremendous energy and broad prospects that AI brings to various industries.

This is the first installment in this series. In this story, we explore how AI helps people reconnect with their loved ones from beyond the grave, make up for lost time, and continue family ties in the virtual world.

"Mom, I want to eat Moo Shu Pork."

"Okay, let me prepare the meat. I'm going to tell you when I'm done."

Zhu Rui's mother replies with a smile. Wearing a rosy pajama with a big Mickey Mouse caricature on it, the lady in her 60s sits in a chair with her hands naturally folded. She looks at her son with tender eyes - from the computer screen.

This is a small conversation between Zhu and his "digital mom," an interactive virtual role that Zhu recently made with AI technology. The virtual mother looks so lifelike that it looks as if Zhu is having a video call with his real mother, instead of a program built based on numerous AI algorithms.

After suffering from cancer for five years, Zhu's mother's diagnosis sadly took a turn for the worse this year. His deep love for his ailing mother pushed Zhu to make a digital doppelganger of her, which can help carry his memory of his mother in the near future.

Zhu is among a growing number of Chinese people who try to make digital doppelgangers of their deceased or elderly family members. With the rapid development of AI technology, the"digital resurrection" of deceased loved ones is practically becoming an industry in the country, with controversies following close by, of course.

'Digital mom'
The so-called "digital resurrection" is based on historical data such as photos and videos, using AI technology to reproduce the voice, image, and behavior of deceased individuals, generating similar outputs.

The first time Zhu heard of "digital resurrection" was in the spring of 2023. He watched various "digitally resurrected relatives" online, thinking about making a digital doppelganger of his mother, who, in his words, probably doesn't have much time left.

"While taking care of my mom, I hoped that I could make a digital version of her, as a special memory that she can leave for her loved ones," Zhu told the Global Times. "I'm in a race against time. I want to get the thing done while she is still here."

Zhu said he was perhaps the first-ever person in China to make a digital doppelganger of a family member who is still alive. Unlike creating a digital doppelganger of the departed loved one based on limited materials, Zhu could take as many photos and videos of his mother as possible to make his "digital mom" more realistic.

It, nonetheless, took Zhu some time to convince his mother. "The older generation knows very little about AI technology. My mom had no idea what a 'digital doppelganger' was; she felt it a bit strange [about the concept], but anyway, she trusted me unconditionally," Zhu said. "We are closest to each other in this world."

As the co-founder of a tech company, however, Zhu was not as familiar with AI himself at the very beginning. Step by step, he taught himself a series of AI models and tools that helped create his "digital mother," from Kimi and GPT-4 to popular applications including Midjourney and Heygen. Within some 20 days, this fast learner successfully created a preliminary version of his "digital mother" with the help of his AI industry friends.

Zhu clearly remembers the first time his "digital mother" eventually appeared on screen and smiled at him. It was around 5 am, after he had stayed up all night making some final adjustments. He was impressed but actually "not very excited." "This version was not yet perfect due to my limited time and skill," said Zhu. "I thought I could do better."

In February, a video telling Zhu's story about making a "digital mother" went viral online, drawing people's attention to this new way of cherishing the memory of their loved ones. Zhu said that he is thinking about making a miniseries based on the ordinary Chinese people who try to create their "digital families." It will be a nonprofit project aiming to discuss topics like life, death, family, and love under the context of AI technology, he added.

For those who would like to be a part of the project, Zhu said he may help them create a "digital family" for free. "I hope that a digital doppelganger can help relieve the pain of those who lost their loved ones," he told the Global Times. "This is the meaning of AI technology."

Emerging business

As early as 2016, HereAfter founder James Vlahos built a chatbot that responds like his dead father, or Dadbot, based on data left by his father. People quickly got in touch with Vlahos after the creation of Dadbot, asking if he could make them bots of their own.

In China, "digital resurrection" caught the public's attention during the Qingming Festival in 2023 when an influencer on Bilibili uploaded a clip of his AI-revived grandma.

The business was cast in the spotlight again recently after Chinese renowned musician Tino Bao (Bao Xiaobo) unveiled to the public his "revived" daughter with AI technology.

Zhang Zewei, founder of AI company Super Brain in Nanjing, East China's Jiangsu Province, told the Shanghai Observer that his team has completed more than 1,000 "resurrection" orders. With the Qingming Festival approaching, they receive four to five dozen related inquiries every day, the Shangguan Observer reported on Wednesday.

Most of Zhang's users have a similar starting point to Zhu. They all have a strong desire to "see their loved ones again"; some families have lost their only child in middle age, and the parents are unable to overcome the pain of losing their child; and some people have lost their partners of many years, and are hoping to see the person they miss day and night again, even if it's just a brief glimpse on the screen.

However, the innovation also comes along with controversies.

Recently, a video blogger "resurrected" late stars through AI without obtaining permission from the stars' families. The father of late Chinese singer-actor Qiao Renliang has required the video blogger to remove the video and said that the move reopened his old emotional wounds.

Many netizens and law experts also characterized the move as offensive to family members of the deceased and violated portrait rights and privacy, calling for more complete and detailed regulations and management to catch up with the impact of the market of the rapid development of AI technology.

A search on Taobao with the keywords "AI, digital life, resurrection" on Wednesday yielded hundreds of results. According to these results, customers can get an audio clip of their late relatives by paying 99 yuan ($13.6), get a video clip of late relatives talking by paying 198 yuan, and interact with "resurrected relatives" via a certain app if they pay 498 yuan.

One of the stores also claimed to provide a service that teaches customers to create a digital life. Customer service representatives at the store told the Global Times that the app was developed by themselves and "it was very easy to learn." Tuition and the app jointly cost only 1,000 yuan, according to the customer service representative.

A more important problem may be the overly realistic interaction of the digital doppelganger, as Zhu said. "It is a double-edged sword that offers users a very good immersive experience, but may also bring huge hidden troubles."

Smooth, natural conversations are supported by the strong computing power of the AI models, which is very expensive. What if one day, the customers cannot afford the money and have to turn "the digital relative off?" Zhu questioned.

Moreover, overly realistic and natural interaction may make people addicted to the virtual world. Especially for those who lose their loved ones,"they may feel it is harder to move on," Zhu said.

Era of 'digital humans'

But Zhang still expresses full optimism about the business. He believes that with technological progress, the concept of "AI resurrection" will continue to evolve. In the future, there will be more AI digital human products such as digital immortality and digital companionship, in addition to a short video or a chatbot.

Some other observers echoed Zhang's sentiment. They pointed out that "digital resurrection" is an emerging subdivision of digital humans while the industry is moving toward a new stage of AI-driven, tool-based, and low-cost with the empowerment of large models.

At present, digital humans mainly appear as intelligent customer service representatives on e-commerce platforms and public service portals, and they are also showing huge application potential in the consumer market, such as in the field of education. But as technology advances and demand evolves, the application market for digital humans will further broaden. It is a trend for more middle and small teams flooding into the industry to provide human solutions for small merchants and individuals, according to industry insiders and observers.

In the future, virtual digital humans will become more intelligent. They will gradually possess the ability to see, understand, and express themselves, allowing AI-generated and driven virtual digital humans to more comprehensively and deeply integrate into various fields such as film and television, finance, and cultural tourism.

Zhang Rui, founder and executive director of the Art Robot company in Beijing, told the Global Times that an AI product may be able to understand and express human feelings in 5 to 10 years.

According to data from iMedia Research, in 2022, the market size of this industry reached 12.08 billion yuan, while also driving the surrounding market size to reach 186.61 billion yuan. It is estimated that by 2025, the core market size of virtual digital humans will reach 48.06 billion yuan, and the surrounding market size driven by such growth may be close to 640.27 billion yuan.

Regulations are also on the way. In 2019, China issued principles of next-generation AI governance. In 2021, the country published the "Ethical Norms for the New Generation Artificial Intelligence," aiming to guide activities in the entire lifecycle. In 2023, China further released its regulations on deep synthesis Internet information services and Interim Measures for the Management of Generative Artificial Intelligence Services to boost AI development while safeguarding cybersecurity.

Chinese social media platforms have also enacted specific measures for users in terms of producing AI-generated content, vowing strict punishment for those who violate the rules by using AI to generate virtual characters to publish content that goes against scientific knowledge, fabricates information and spreads rumors.

The era of one "digital human" per person is coming, industry insiders said.

GT investigates: How the Philippines colludes with US government, think tank and media in 'sadfishing' itself, demonizing China on South China Sea issue

The Philippines has been making a show of the South China Sea issue for a long time. It has repeatedly provoked China and created tension in the South China Sea region while turning a blind eye to historical facts. Seemingly suffering from a sort of histrionic personality disorder, the Philippines has not only staged many farces on the issue, but also colluded with anti-China forces in the US-led West to play the thief crying "stop thief."

Last week, during his visit in the Philippines, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reportedly "criticized China's provocative actions" in the South China Sea. Portraying the Philippines as a victim and China as a "perpetrator" has become a common intrigue to win attention and sympathy in the international community.

Supplying to its vessels illegally grounded on China's sovereign islands in the South China Sea is a trick of showmanship that the Philippines has employed in recent months. On Saturday, it sent a supply vessel and two coast guard vessels to intrude into the adjacent waters of China's Ren'ai Jiao (also known as Ren'ai Reef) in disregard of China's strong opposition.

"China's Coast Guard took necessary measures at sea in accordance with the law to safeguard China's rights, firmly obstructed the Philippine vessels, and foiled the Philippines' attempt," Chinese Foreign Ministry stated that same day.

Days earlier, Philippine civil group the Atin Ito coalition said it was planning another mission to the South China Sea with the aim of "delivering aid to fishermen" around China's Huangyan Dao (also known as Huangyan Island). According to Philippine media, the group openly claimed to mobilize "a delegation of international observers" to join their mission. It didn't seem to mind making the involvement of Western forces public.

"What it's like on board an outnumbered Philippine ship facing down China's push to dominate the South China Sea (CNN, March 26)," "China coast guard flexes its might against the Philippines in disputed waters as journalists look on (The Economic Times, March 27)"… It's not exaggeration to say that most media stories that smear China on the South China Sea issue, whether by Philippine or Western media, are products of the collusion between the anti-China forces of the Philippines and the US-led West.

The Global Times has looked into some of the various collusion forms, trying to reveal what's behind the current numerous untrue and misleading "media reports" that one-sidedly support the Philippines and attack China.
Closely linked Philippine coast guard, 'civil groups,' and US scholars

The Atin Ito coalition disclosed its new "supply mission" plan at an event it held in Manila on March 14. The event gathered senior officers from the Philippine military and government, and representatives from the British, Australian, Dutch, Swedish, and European Union embassies, local media Palawan News reported the following day.

The guest list implied that Atin Ito has never been an ordinary "civil group." Close sources told the Global Times that the group was led by Risa Hontiveros, an anti-China senator who once asserted raising the notorious 2016 South China Sea "arbitration" to the United Nations General Assembly. Last winter, Hontiveros planned a "Christmas supply" mission for Atin Ito, asking the group members to send food and goods to a military vessel "stationed" at Ren'ai Jiao with the help of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

Atin Ito had tried to land on Huangyan Dao and plant the Philippines flag on the island in June 2016. According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, a US scholar Anders Corr was among the group's activists aboard the fishing boat that intruded into the adjacent waters of the island.

All the information has reflected that the so-called "civil groups" resupplying Huangyan Dao and Ren'ai Jiao are "nothing but a farce jointly planned by a few Philippine politicians and military, as well as the anti-China forces in the US-led West," Yang Xiao, deputy director of the Institute of Maritime Strategy Studies, China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times.

In an article published on March 6, The Associated Press (AP) introduced a PCG strategy of publicizing "aggressive actions" by China in the South China Sea, which aims to "spark international condemnation that has put Beijing under the spotlight." This strategy is known as "offensive transparency."

"We will continue [with the strategy]," PCG spokesperson Commodore Jay Tarriela said in February.

Joining the PCG in 2005, Tarriela allegedly has numerous links with the US. In 2021, he was largely involved in bilateral US-Philippine collaboration, including in the Pacific Forum's US-Philippines' Next Generation Leaders Initiative, a project sponsored by the US Department of State, through the US Embassy in Manila.

According to an article by The Philippine Star in December 2023, Tarriela was considered a representative of the "pro-American faction," and even faced "CIA agent" accusations on social media.

Raymond Powell is another name frequently mentioned in the Philippines' "offensive transparency" strategy.

A retired US colonel, Powell is the founder of the security think tank Project Sealight, and leads the "Project Myoushu" at Stanford University in cooperation with the PCG and some Philippine Foreign Ministry officials.

The main purpose of the project is to support the "offensive transparency" strategy and help create a "victim" image for the Philippines on the South China Sea issue.
US journalists invited on board

On March 5, two supply vessels and two coast guard vessels from the Philippines, illegally intruded into the adjacent waters of Ren'ai Jiao of China's Nansha Qundao, in an attempt to send materials, including construction materials, to the vessel illegally grounded at Ren'ai Jiao. The China Coast Guard took strict regulatory action to curtail the Philippine vessels' intrusion.

It is worth noting that the Philippines' mission included journalists from CNN, who said they witnessed a "high-stakes confrontation" that day, and wrote features that described their experiences on board in detail.

The CNN reporters wrote it was "the first time foreign journalists have been allowed to embed with the fleet in decades." But in fact, more than 10 years ago, US media reporters had boarded Philippine official vessels, including supply vessels, and wrote distorted media reports based on their first-hand experiences.

Early in 2013, The New York Times reporter Jeff Himmelman had been to the "Sierra Madre" vessel illegally grounded at Ren'ai Jiao for an interview, and later described the confrontation between China and the Philippines at South China Sea as "a game of shark and minnow" in a feature story.

Himmelman revealed that before they arrived they had "already hooked things up" with the local officials and the Filipino Navy.

In recent years, US journalists have been frequently invited on Philippine ships to participate in the PCG's "missions." In 2023 alone, two AP reporters and several other media staffers were invited aboard three PCG vessels that protect supply ships in November. In April 2023 the PCG reportedly invited many journalists, including those from the AP, to join a 1,670-kilometer "patrol."

According to a Chinese correspondent who worked in the Philippines for many years, there is a large number of US journalists in the Philippines. The Philippine authorities maintain close contact with foreign journalists in the country, and therefore, "it is easy for the authorities to seek cooperation from US journalists," said the correspondent who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The PCG's purpose of inviting journalists on board is to deliberately amplify the possible "incidents" through media, and to launch defamation warfare against China, the correspondent told the Global Times. "But I think [directly taking CNN reporters on board the PCG vessels] is excessive, and is even a sort of 'dishonor to the country,'" the correspondent added. "There is resentment within the Philippines, too."

US-funded Philippine media

Searching online media coverage on the South China Sea, one may find that Philippine and US media outlets are particularly close. They quote and forward each other's South China Sea stories, working closely together in attacking China on this topic.

Some of the major Philippine media outlets that are active in reporting on South China Sea include Rappler, VeraFiles, and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.

Having called themselves "independent", these media outlets turn out to be are reportedly funded by the CIA and the US' infamous National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

In 2019, journalists from the aforementioned three media outlets were accused of receiving payments from the CIA, "a potential criminal offense under local law." The accusations claimed that the CIA uses the NED to channel funds, and the three media outlets "receive substantial grants from the NED," said the organization Committee to Protect Journalists in May that year.

VeraFiles, for instance, started receiving funds from the NED since 2016.

The NED website shows that, so far VeraFiles has got five batches of money from this US government-backed foundation, totally $350,600. It's far from a small amount for a media outlet without full-time reporters (only three editors and two web technicians). But VeraFiles has never disclosed how it spent the money.

Obviously, the Philippines has deeply colluded with the US government, think tanks, and media from top to bottom in "sadfishing" itself and demonizing China on the South China Sea issue. Worse still, such a nasty trick by the Philippines may become normal and diversified in the future, said Chen Xiangmiao, director of the World Navy Research Center at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies.

In response to the slander, Chen suggested China fight back with strong facts including on-site images, videos, and objective data. "We should make it clear to the international community what China's claims are in the South China Sea," Chen told the Global Times. "Do not let the US and the Philippines skew international public opinion."