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.

Firework show, West Kowloon promo scheme, HK cultural tourism gears up for 5.9 million May Day holidays visitors

Sharing the joy with the Chinese mainland on celebrating the 2024 May Day holidays that start Wednesday, China’s Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has launched diverse range of cultural events to promote local tourism over the five-day holiday. 

At 8pm on Wednesday, a firework show celebrating the holidays will take place over in Hong Kong’s signature Victoria Harbour near Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade. The fireworks will be launched 100 meters above the water. It will reveal a special scene, which golden lights rendering the sky with interspersed patterns like “HK.” 

Cultural researcher Song Weiping, told the Global Times that large-scale public events  not only “add a sense of ceremony to the holiday season,” but also become a strategy that promotes the city on social media in a positive light. 

“Beautiful images of fireworks show the beauty of Hong Kong and its landmarks. They can draw more people to travel to the city,” Song added. According to  the local immigration department, it is estimated that a total of 5.9 million people will enter Hong Kong between April 30 to May 5.

The West Kowloon Cultural District, Hong Kong’s most well-known area for cultural activities and exhibitions, has also rolled out several tourist events including a campaign called “WestK Outdoor Vibes.” 

“WestK Outdoor Vibes” ties up the district’s different cultural facilities together like the Hong Kong Palace Museum (HKPM) and the museum M+ to offer coupons and other diverse activities to visitors. 

As the district’ most popular tourist destination, the HKPM has extended opening hours to 8pm throughout for five days. Prior to the current campaign, the museum had already organized a special exhibition with its Chinese mainland counterpart the Palace Museum displaying relics from China’s Yuanmingyuan. 

“The HKPM’s special exhibition is an effective way to promote traditional Chinese culture to the world. Other countries like Russia also share the holiday break, so there are also international visitors seeking to experience Chinese culture in Hong Kong,” Song said. 

As of January 2024, the museum has hosted around over two million visitors, to which cultural creative industry expert Yao Yu told the Global Times that Chinese mainland tourists contributed “massively” to this number especially during the three golden seasons of the Chinese Spring Festival, the May Day holidays and National Day holidays in October. 

To better engage Chinese mainland tourists, especially young people, several “offline and online” campaigns are also launched across the city. In the West Kowloon Cultural District, visitors will be able to receive cultural gifts when sharing their selfies on lifestyle platform Little Red Book, also known as Xiaohongshu. 

Catching up with the popularity of “city walk,” several locations including Yuen Po Street Garden in Mong Kok have been installed with visual displays encouraging visitors to take photographs and share them on social media. 

Ma Weiya, a mainland resident, told the Global Times that she has been waiting to visit Hong Kong especially due to the convenient travelling policy. She said that visiting Hong Kong nowadays is as easy as booking a ticket to her home in Chengdu in Sichuan province. 

“The joint effort has increased the exchanges between people in Hong Kong and Chinese mainland,” Song told the Global Times. During the May Day holidays in 2023, Hong Kong welcomed 723,000 visitors, of which 86 percent were from the Chinese mainland. 

“We are expected to see this total number to increase by more than 20 percent this year,” Yao told the Global Times. 

The mutual visa exemption agreement between China and Georgia will take effect on May 28

The mutual visa exemption agreement between China and Georgia will take effect on May 28, according to the Chinese Embassy in Georgia. Holders of valid ordinary passports from Georgia or China will be allowed visa-free entry, exit, or transit. They can stay for up to 30 days per visit and a total of 90 days within any 180-day period.

China will launch Chang'e-6 lunar probe in early May to collect samples from far side of the moon

The Chang'e-6 lunar probe and the Long March-5 Y8 carrier rocket combination has been vertically transported to the Wenchang Space Launch Site in South China's Hainan Province. The launch is scheduled to take place in early May, the Global Times learned from the China National Space Administration (CNSA) on Saturday.

After arriving at the launch site in January and March respectively, the Chang'e-6 lunar probe and the Long March-5 Y8 carrier rocket have successively completed assembly, testing, and other preparatory work, CNSA said in the statement.

Subsequently, various functional checks, joint tests, propellant loading, and other tasks will be carried out according to the plan.

The mission will be the world's first ever attempt to collect material from the dark side of the moon and return it to Earth for further study.

The scale of such samples retrieved from the moon would be around 2,000 grams, Wu Weiren, chief designer of China's lunar exploration program, previously revealed. The epic Chang'e-5 mission retrieved 1,731 grams.

The US has been desperate to get its hands on these precious samples. Sidestepping the Wolf Amendment, for the first time, NASA has greenlit space agency-funded researchers to apply for access to China's lunar samples returned to Earth via Chang'e-5. It said in a statement that the samples are "expected to provide valuable new scientific insight on the geological history of the moon, which could provide new understanding of the Earth-moon system and potentially inform NASA's future lunar exploration plans."

As part of the key constellation supporting the Chang'e series of lunar exploration tasks, China launched the Queqiao-2 relay communication satellite on March 20 for communications between the far side of the moon and the Earth. Some 20 days later, the CNSA announced the complete success of the Queqiao-2 mission after it completed a series of in-orbit communication tests.
The Chang'e-6 mission is part of China's Phase-4 lunar exploration program, which will carry out new planetary exploration missions and further upgrade the country's space launch capabilities in the next 15 years. Landing a Chinese national on the moon is expected to happen before 2030.

Wu disclosed on this year's China Space Day that the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), co-led by China and Russia, will be built in two phases, consisting of sections on the lunar surface, the lunar orbit and on Earth.

The first phase of the ILRS construction project will see a basic station built by 2035 in the lunar south pole region, equipped with comprehensive scientific facilities with complete basic functions and supporting elements to carry out regular scientific experiments.

The second phase will see expansion of the station, set for completion by 2045, with a moon-orbiting space station as the hub and facilities featuring complete functions.

Three new members - Nicaragua, the Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization, and the Arab Union for Astronomy and Space Sciences - signed up for the ILRS program, as announced by CNSA on Wednesday.

So far, nearly 20 countries and organizations have joined the ILRS, including US Hawaii-based International Lunar Observatory Association, Swiss company Nano-SPACE for Cooperation, and France's Thales Group.

China will welcome 50 countries, 500 international research institutions and 5,000 overseas researchers who will join the ILRS program, according to the CNSA.

Wu also disclosed China's ambitious Mars plan. "China plans to launch the Tianwen-2 mission around 2025 to conduct a flyby exploration and sample return from a small asteroid about 40 million kilometers from Earth. Around 2030, the Tianwen-3 mission is planned to be launched to carry out a Mars sample return mission," said Wu. " China is expected to become the first country to return samples from Mars."

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.