A panorama of the future of Chinese society mirrored in proposals, motions in two sessions

Editor's Note:

The second session of the 14th National People's Congress (NPC) and the second session of the 14th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) will conclude on March 11 and 10, respectively. The two sessions are a crucial window into China's whole-process people's democracy and will offer the world a window through which to observe the country's development and understand its policy direction for the following year.

The Global Times has initiated a series of articles under the theme "understanding China through motions and proposals." This article, the second installment of the series, glimpses into what kind of new social trends China is striving to create through the proposals and motions heatedly discussed in the two sessions.
A society that lightens burden for the young

During the two sessions, the well-known Chinese media personality Bai Yansong called for a more youth friendly society to help reduce their burdens, rather than blindly blaming younger generations for "ken lao" (or solely relying on parents). Bai's comments quickly won applause on the internet.

"Ken lao" has been a popular internet term in recent decades, describing a phenomenon of young people choosing to retreat to their homes and receive financial support from their families due to the competitive work environment.

China's 2024 Government Work Report pointed out to strengthen social security by reducing the burden of family planning, child-rearing, and education. Bai fully backs it, while calling for more reflection on how society could ramp up efforts to provide practical measures to reduce the burden on the younger generation.

From Bai's remarks, to motions calling for more affordable housing for young people; from proposals to including childcare in public services to empower young parents, from voices of lawmakers and political advisors to calls for more workplace off time for young employees … At this year's two sessions, issues that concern young people around employment, marriage and childbirth, housing, and healthcare have received attention from the public.

"China will improve the population development strategy, establish a policy system to boost birth rates, and bring down the costs of pregnancy and childbirth, child rearing and schooling," noted a Report to the 20th National Congress of the CPC. In 2024, many local governments have proposed that they will introduce more policies to boost birth rates.

According to the 2024 Report on Child-Rearing Costs released by YuWa Population Research think tank, raising a child to the age of 18 costs 6.3 times the per capita GDP. Financial pressure has also become a major killer for many young Chinese couples who are afraid to have children.

During the two sessions, many CPPCC National Committee members and NPC deputies have suggested integrating childcare services into the public service system.

Wu Ruijun, a member of CPPCC National Committee, pointed out that the childcare service institutions in China set a relatively high price, as they're often faced with high operational costs such as rent and labor expenses. NPC deputy Zhong Can further suggested that relevant policies should be established, providing free or low-cost venues for universal childcare services and thus reducing their operational costs to the minimum.

More policies that promote work-life balance have become a new highlight of this year's two sessions.

NPC deputy Huo Qigang suggested increasing the number of days off for young people, implementing a mandatory paid annual leave policy, and improving regulations on illegal practices by companies, because he believes that young Chinese people today have obviously short annual leave.

Similarly, political advisor Lü Guoquan from Hong Kong delegation proposed to enshrine the right to rest after work in law, and to increase the cost of illegal overtime work by companies to rectify the prevalent culture of overtime work.

Lü stated in a media interview that in the age of the internet, digital information technology has blurred the "boundaries" between work and life, with some employers still assigning work to employees remotely through platforms like WeChat after work hours, requiring them to respond to work-related messages and sacrificing their personal rest time.

Therefore, Lü suggested introducing relevant offline rest rights in labor laws and increasing the cost of illegal overtime work imposed by companies.

CPPCC National Committee member Jiang Shengnan called for reducing the burden on grass-roots workers in her proposal, reducing the cumbersome formalities in the workplace and avoiding wasting a large amount of time and energy on report filling and material writing. She suggested the effective use of big data platforms to coordinate and improve the efficiency of grass-roots work.

"We can tell from the two sessions that China places high hopes on the youth and intends to ease their burden. One keyword for this year's two sessions is the new quality productive forces, with young people being the mainstay. There are proposals and motions aiming to enhance the productivity of young people by reducing their burdens. For example, there is a proposal that technological workers should be free from tedious administrative work. The relevant measures and policies fully demonstrate the effectiveness of our socialist market economy system and reflect that the Party and the government do care for our young people," Su Wei, a professor from the Party School of the CPC Chongqing Municipal Committee, told the Global Times.

A society driven by scientific, tech innovation

The 2024 Government Work Report says that innovative development of the digital economy will be promoted, an Artificial Intelligence Plus initiative will be launched, and the country will consolidate and enhance its leading position in industries such as intelligent connected new-energy vehicles.

This not only demonstrates China's ambition in the field of emerging technologies, but also reflects that artificial intelligence has become a new driving force for economic and social development. Artificial intelligence has also become one of the hottest topics during the two sessions.

NPC deputies and CPPCC National Committee members at the two sessions discussed the future development of the artificial intelligence industry from different perspectives, providing ideas for the future development of China's artificial intelligence industry.

Lei Jun, NPC deputy, also the founder of Chinese smartphone brand Xiaomi, proposed four motions, focusing on areas such as green and low-carbon, artificial intelligence, intelligent driving, and intelligent manufacturing.

In terms of artificial intelligence, Lei suggested to absorb artificial intelligence courses into the compulsory education stage, promoting artificial intelligence majors in universities, and encouraging large enterprises and training institutions to cultivate application-oriented talents in artificial intelligence.

Suggestions for the development of robots and intelligent manufacturing industry were also heatedly discussed in the two sessions. This year's key point "new quality productive forces" is also reflected on core element of technological innovation.

For example, China's robot industry is developing rapidly and is the world's largest consumer and producer of robots. High-end manufacturing plays an important role in China's economy. However, currently, more than 90 percent of robots used in high-end manufacturing are monopolized by foreign brands from developed Western countries.

In response to this, CPPCC National Committee member Sun Zhiqiang suggested that a national robot association should be established to create an innovative ecosystem for the robot industry that integrates technology, talent, platforms, finance, policies, and international cooperation, to promoting cross-sectoral coordination and achieve new quality productive forces.

Regional governments are also prioritizing innovation and emerging industries in their government reports this year. For instances, Central China's Anhui plans to become an innovation hub for quantum information, fusion energy and deep space exploration; while the city of Changsha in Central China is comprehensively building a global research and development center.

"Since the beginning of the reform and opening-up, the strategy for invigorating China through science and education has always been our focus. Today, only champions survive in the fierce global technological competition. That's why we are mobilizing the entire society to catch up with the new technological revolution," said Su.

A society that keeps high-level opening-up

In recent months, a series of measures have been implemented, sending a clear signal that China is steadfastly committed to expanding high-level opening-up to the outside world.

China introduced new immigration measures to encourage international travel to China; removed all restrictions on foreign investment in the manufacturing sector; issued "24 measures" to further optimize the foreign investment environment and has intensified efforts to attract foreign investment.

"One of the most core features of high-level opening-up to the outside world is institutional openness," Gu Xueming, president of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, told the media. He said that at this year's two sessions, how to steadily expand institutional openness in terms of rules, regulations, management and standards have attracted attention from the public.

Keywords such as new driving forces for foreign trade, cross-border e-commerce, supply chain, foreign investment, and institutional opening have frequently appeared in local government work reports and motions and proposals of delegates.

In last year's economic "report card," China's new energy vehicle production and sales accounted for over 60 percent of the global market share; exports of electric vehicles, lithium batteries, and photovoltaic products - the "new three items" - increased by nearly 30 percent.

In the eyes of NPC deputy Lin Zhiying, China has a massive consumer market that drives the global economy. China is cultivating new foreign trade momentum, strengthening global supply chain management, expanding overseas markets and investing overseas.

Su Wei believes that the motions and proposals delivered by NPC deputies and CPPCC National Committee members demonstrate the concerted efforts of the Party and the government to create a more friendly society, which can achieve the greatest possible convergence of interests.

"It's normal to encounter problems on the path of development. What matters is that we have the courage to face these problems and the methods to solve them. The motions and proposals are pooling people's wisdom, and bringing Chinese people together to forge ahead," said Su.

‘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.

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.

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.

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.

Back to home sea: 23 rescued spotted seals released into waters as China makes progress in wildlife protection

A total of 23 rescued spotted seals were released into the waters off the coast of Dalian in Northeast China’s Liaoning Province on Tuesday as part of China's continuous efforts to protect the endangered species.

The seals were previously poached and sold, but have now been rehabilitated and marked for future protection, according to the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

The Global Times reporters visited the releasing spot and witnessed the process. A fishery law enforcement vessel arrived at a designated sea area near Dalian on Tuesday morning, carrying the spotted seals. The seals were released one by one into the sea through a special slide set up on the ship's side. They swam freely in the waves, returning to their natural habitat.

The spotted seal is a nationally protected animal in China and is classified as an endangered species. It is the only pinniped species that can reproduce in Chinese waters and is often referred to as the "panda of the sea."

The months of November and December are the migration and breeding period for wild spotted seals, and Liaodong Bay is an important habitat for them.

Thanks to enhanced protection measures the authorities have taken in recent years, the population of spotted seals in Chinese waters has reached approximately 2,000, while the global population is estimated to be between 400,000 and 600,000.

Genetic and ecological studies have shown that these 2,000 spotted seals have unique genetic genes and belong to a separate branch of independent evolution within the global population. This makes them of significant importance for the study and research on spotted seals.

To protect this rare animal, the Liaoning Dalian Spotted Seal Wetlands were established in 1992. Covering an area of 560,000 hectares with a coastline of approximately 370 kilometers, the wetlands focus on the protection of spotted seals and their ecological environment.

In January 2002, the Liaoning Dalian Spotted Seal Wetlands were included in the List of Wetlands of International Importance. The list was indentified according to the Convention on Wetlands, an intergovernmental treaty adopted on February 2, 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar (thus commonly named Ramsar Convention). China joined the convention in 1992.

Now the wetlands have become a harmonious ecological haven with abundant biological resources, including various species of phytoplankton, zooplankton, and swimming animals. It is home to nationally protected species such as the spotted seal, finless porpoise, killer whales, false killer whales, common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, and East Asian river dolphins.

Since 1992, researchers in Dalian have successfully rescued 388 spotted seals and released 299 of them back into the wild, according to media reports.

Global Times

Modernization of China’s border region with Myanmar brings mutual growth, aids in preservation of Wa ethnic culture

Walking through the border villages along the China-Myanmar border in Lincang, Southwest China's Yunnan Province, one is greeted by traditional wooden houses, their intricate carvings and colorful decorations reflecting the rich cultural heritage of the local ethnic groups. 

The last decade has witnessed the local government's great efforts in the governance of border trade, tourism, river and lake management, and ecosystem conservation, to create a prosperous rural model, while emphasizing ethnic unity.

In June 2019, Lincang took the lead in initiating the construction of modernized border villages. Today, 241 villages glitter like a string of beautiful pearls along the more than 290 kilometers of border in Lincang, lighting the southwestern border of China. The area has also received particular attention from Chinese President Xi Jinping.

In August, 2021, Xi encouraged veteran Party chiefs from border villages of Southwest China's Yunnan Province to play an exemplary role in leading villagers in building a beautiful homeland, maintaining ethnic unity, and safeguarding territorial integrity, the Xinhua News Agency reported.  

Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, made the remarks in his letter replying to 10 veteran Party chiefs from nine border villages of Cangyuan Wa Autonomous County. 

Xi said he was very glad to hear the country's poverty-relief drive has brought about profound changes for locals, and said he could feel the Wa people's faith and trust in the Party and the country.

In his letter, Xi said that eliminating poverty is a vital step toward better lives for the people, and he called for continued efforts to vitalize rural areas, boost development in border regions to benefit the people living there, pursue the common prosperity of all ethnic groups, and promote prosperity and stability in border areas.

Cangyuan, the county with the largest ethnic Wa population, has made remarkable progress in improving people's well-being since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012. Locals now have better access to safe housing, drinking water, medical services and schooling.

By the end of 2019, all 40,000-plus impoverished people from the county's 67 poverty-stricken villages had shaken off poverty.

The Global Times found a group of Wa women sitting together and skillfully weaving bamboo baskets and other handicrafts at the central square of the village. The women work against a backdrop of beautifully adorned doorsteps, further showcasing their creativity and their diligent, harmonious, and joyful life as inheritors of traditional culture.

Villagers told the Global Times that local people have a common awareness that "ecological areas should be protected like our eyes."

The Nanlun River National Nature Reserve located in the middle section of the China-Myanmar border, for example, has a forest coverage rate of up to 93.8 percent. 

Thanks to great efforts in habitat restoration and wildlife conservation in the reserve in recent years, previously endangered species such as the binturong and the Chinese serow can be found there. The calves of three Asian elephants have been monitored for four consecutive years, and multiple new plant species have been discovered, demonstrating significant achievements in biodiversity conservation.

A better environment

Guomen New Village in Cangyuan, which was built in October 2019, is a village on the mountainside with strong ethnic Wa characteristics. The refreshing and exquisite farmhouse courtyards attract many tourists who wish to experience the unique charm of ethnic culture and border village living.

In the village's Wa cultural square, the slogan "Observing Two Countries in One Village" is eye-catching.

Guomen New Village's chief, Bao Aibao, told the Global Times that the ethnic Wa people in China and Myanmar share the same ancestry, language, and customs, and maintain friendly relations. In recent years, many favorable measures in the village have driven the economic development of neighboring towns in northern Myanmar.

Cangyuan Wa Autonomous County, for instance, has made great efforts in recent years to plan and construct urban and rural water supply systems and consolidate the construction of water conservancy infrastructure in border areas in order to provide stable and clean water sources for both Chinese and Myanmar residents through cross-basin infrastructure, benefiting downstream residents in Myanmar.

"The new village has also planned to build a commercial and logistics special area and a border trade market. A centralized market can lower transportation costs and make business more convenient," he said. Bao used to do business on the China-Myanmar border, trading agricultural products such as konjac, coix seed, black fungus, and soybeans.

With the joint efforts from both China and Myanmar to combat rampant cross-border telecommunications fraud, more tourists now have confidence in visiting the villages along the China-Myanmar border, Bao said.
During the fieldtrip of the second Lancang-Mekong Water Resources Cooperation Joint Media Tour, foreign media reporters along the Mekong River countries highly praised the wisdom of China's border village water management and ecological conservation, and were eager to see such successes replicated in their own countries.

Bao also said that despite of the recent armed conflict in northern Myanmar, border villages on the Chinese side have not been affected. The villagers have not heard any gunshots or sounds of fighting, partly because the Wa State across the border is not a focal point in the conflict.

Liu Yun, a research fellow at the Chinese think tank Taihe Institute, told the Global Times that the outbreak of conflict in northern Myanmar has limited impact on border villages in China. The response from the Chinese side mainly involved implementing preventive measures and increasing border patrols to ensure the safety and security of border areas.

Liu also noted that, in recent years, there have been positive developments in the governance of China's border villages. This includes the implementation of improved industrial policies and other measures. These improvements have had a ripple effect. As a result, there has been an increase in the number of people participating in cross-border trade and production activities.

Is France gearing up for restrictions on China’s textile industry?

France's lower house of parliament approved a bill seeking penalties on fast fashion products on March 14. The bill calls for gradually increasing penalties up to 10 euros ($11) per individual item of clothing by 2030, as well as a ban on advertising for these products. The bill must head to the Senate before it becomes law.

According to their view, "The popularity of fashion retailers Shein and Temu has disrupted the retail sector while established players like Zara and H&M continue to largely rely on predicting shoppers' preferences."

The proposer of the bill, Anne-Cécile Violland, emphasized that it targets not only fast fashion brands like Primark, Shein, and Zara, but also e-commerce platforms such as Temu, AliExpress, Amazon and Zalando that sell fast fashion products.

Although the standards and thresholds for the companies covered by this bill have not been clearly defined, it is generally believed that it targets fast-rising and widely watched companies like Shein and Temu.

Their common feature is the clothing and textile supply chain in China, which reacts more quickly and agilely. 

Once this bill is passed, fast fashion brands like Primark, Shein, and Zara and their Chinese clothing supply chains, as well as platforms with a large number of clothing and fashion product merchants and sellers from China such as Temu, AliExpress, Zalando and Amazon will be affected. 

In recent years, with a strong industrial base and flexible supply chain model, Chinese-made fashion products are more diverse, updated faster, and have higher cost performance, attracting more purchases from French consumers and having an impact on the local retail industry in France. 

Agence France-Presse stated that a series of measures taken by the French National Assembly are particularly aimed at "large-scale manufacturers from China." 

An article published by French media, Les Echo, points out that the bill hides some potentially regrettable side-effects, unreasonable and naïve thinking, and less than legitimate motives. One side-effect is that the people who are ultimately impacted by this bill are not the "fashion victims" who are easily influenced by internet celebrities, but those from lower-income groups. 

It is also unreasonable and naïve because it is based on the assumption that a product that is 10 times more expensive must be at least 10 times more durable, but this is not always true in many cases. And finally, a clearly less than legitimate motivation is that this bill appears to be tailor-made to impact companies with connections to China's textile manufacturing supply chain. 

Zhao Yongsheng, a researcher at the Academy of China Open Economy Studies at the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE), said on March 15 that this bill clearly violates the "free trade" principles that Europeans have been advocating for many years and is a blatant step toward an "anti-globalization" approach, especially when it comes to France's trade policy toward China. 

Zhao further said that this bill, which lawmakers claim is aimed at curbing so-called "fast fashion," not only defies logic, but is also untenable from a legal standpoint. Replying on "closing doors" to foreign companies is an outdated approach in today's world and market. Instead, France should look inwards and evaluate the situation to effectively improve the competitiveness of their products.

In 2022, France was the second-largest importer of Chinese clothing.

Unlike the "new three" export products represented by electric passenger cars, lithium-ion batteries, and solar batteries, clothing is a traditional featured product among China's exports. 

In the field of clothing and fashion, well-known brands represented by Shein have emerged. Currently, Shein, Zara, Uniqlo, and H&M are among the top four global fashion brands. 

With the continuous upgrading of China's clothing and fashion industry, enterprises that leverage the Chinese supply chain, such as Shein, have become the rule makers and trend leaders of the entire industry, leading the entire domestic industry from the bottom of the global industry chain's "smile curve" to the brands and technology research and development that make up the other end of the chain.

This is also an important manifestation of the increasing influence of China's fashion industry globally. Additionally, a large number of Zara, H&M and even French retailer Decathlon's industrial chain suppliers are also located in China.

E-commerce platform companies represented by Temu, AliExpress, and TikTok Shop are also rapidly developing in markets such as Europe and the US, and products from the Chinese supply chain are quickly going global.

According to the 2024 State of Mobile report released by data.ai, a market analysis agency, Shein, Temu, and AliExpress ranked first, second, and ninth respectively in the global shopping app download rankings in 2023, while Amazon ranked third.

The lawmakers say the reason they are accelerating the introduction of restrictions on fast fashion companies is to "help offset their environmental impact." Shein stated that it produces clothes based on existing demand, which allows its rate of unsold garments to remain consistently in the low single digits, whereas traditional players can waste up to 40 percent.

Shein added that the only impact of the bill would be to "worsen the purchasing power of French consumers, at a time when they are already feeling the impact of the cost-of-living crisis."

The Chinese clothing and textile industry chain behind brands and e-commerce platforms such as Shein, Primark, Zara, and Temu has had a serious impact on French companies, which may be an important reason for the introduction of the bill by French lawmakers. This is not the first time that France has targeted China's advantageous industries.

In February, the French government announced the suspension of a plan to lease electric cars at affordable prices to low-income households. The program had only been implemented for six weeks. The plan is expected to be relaunched in 2025. 

French officials said the subsidy program was limited by the shortage of French electric cars and urged French automakers to speed up production. "There is huge market demand, but we don't have enough French products yet."

It is understood that electric cars eligible for this subsidy program must meet the latest "carbon footprint" and other relevant requirements set by the French government, which is believed to be aimed at excluding cheap Chinese electric cars. 

French National Radio reported earlier that many European and US electric cars would also be affected by the new regulations since they include parts made in China, which means there may be "very few" electric cars left to meet the new standards.

China subsequently launched an investigation into the price of brandy imported from the European Union, which was seen as a counterattack against the EU's investigation into the influx of cheap Chinese electric cars into Europe. France was the hardest hit, considering it accounts for 99.8 percent of all EU brandy exports.

While products from the Chinese clothing and fashion industry chain have rapidly grown in European markets such as France, especially luxury goods, perfumes, and cosmetics, other fashion brands products from France have seen a steady increase in sales in China. 

According to Bertrand Lortholary, the French ambassador to China, "France's exports of luxury goods to China have doubled in the past three years, including perfumes, cosmetics, fashion accessories, leather goods, jewelry, and wines and spirits." 

"Since 2021, China has become the main market for French cosmetics exports worldwide," he added.

China sets eyes on fostering new quality productive forces to accelerate growth

At the ongoing two sessions, the development of new quality productive forces and digital economy are the hot topics. 

Seven years ago, the Government work report first proposed "speeding up the development of the digital economy." Since then, the digital economy has become an important engine for China's green transformation and a new driver of economic growth. In September last year, new quality productive forces theory was initiated to promote China's high-quality development.

For a long time, the definition of productivity has been the ability of humans to conquer and transform nature. The massive gains in productivity caused by Industrial Revolution led to huge resource consumption and waste emissions, resulting in multiple global problems. Therefore, it is necessary to redefine the connotation of productivity to ensure human sustainability and the coexistence of humanity and the nature.

New quality productive forces are the ability of humans to adapt to and utilize nature, a capacity that follows the principles of symbiosis and harmony between humans and nature, continuously advancing civilization and enhancing public welfare. New quality productive forces emphasize the reliance on scientific breakthroughs and technological innovations to achieve resource recycling and conservation, optimize resource management, and effectively promote the development of productivity in the process of transitioning to the ecological civilization.

From a theoretical perspective in viewing productivity, the development of new quality productive forces must involve cultivating new quality laborers and developing new quality ecological, digital, and industrial productivity to imbue labor materials with new quality connotations. In the current green transformation, through the application of technological innovations, transforming and upgrading traditional industries, and promoting the integration of the digital economy and the real economy to create digital industrial clusters.

The world is experiencing a wave of technological revolution and a new industrial revolution, with emerging information technology and digital transformation reshaping the economic landscape. It has become a consensus to promote the development of new quality productive forces through technological innovation. Undoubtedly, the digital economy has become the "fulcrum" for developing new quality productive forces, and it is also the core content of the development of new quality productive forces.

The digital economy uses data as means of production, modern information networks and intelligent algorithm as labor tools, digital industrialization as the foundation for development, and industrial digitalization as application scenarios to promote a new economic form that facilitates long-term sustainable development. The rise of the digital economy can lead to the restructuring of production factors, the reshaping of the geopolitical economic structure, and the reconstruction of the global geopolitical landscape, profoundly changing the way humans live and develop.

A report from the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology revealed that the scale of China's digital economy is likely to reach 70.8 trillion yuan ($9.8 trillion) in 2025. With the rapid advancement of digital technology, the continuous expansion of the integration of digital reality, and the acceleration of the integration of digital intelligence, the digital economy will become a new driving force for economic growth and a core element in the cultivation of new quality productive forces.

Innovation, green development and intelligence are the most significant characteristics of the digital economy. 

The digital economy is an innovative economy. The resources allocated by the digital economy are more concentrated on knowledge and technological innovation. The scope of innovation subjects has diversified. The digital economy is a green economy. Scientific development and the specific application of technology are increasingly shifting toward ecologicalization. The digital economy is an intelligent economy, where algorithm proves to be the key. Through algorithms and AI, the digital economy allocates resources and driving the development of an intelligent economy.

The digital economy provides us with a fulcrum and entry point for developing new quality productive forces. As the contemporary primary productive force and green productive force, new quality productive forces are indispensable to usher in robust future development. By promoting the development of the digital economy, we can drive climate governance, ecological protection, economic development, cultural prosperity, technological innovation, and social harmony.

For the government, it is essential to develop efficient and collaborative digital governance, formulate policies to support the high-quality development of the digital economy, and establish a fair and standardized digital governance ecosystem. The government should help build smart cities and digital villages, nurturing new business models, and injecting great vitality into the economy.