US chip equipment makers still rely on China despite restrictions, data shows

Despite US government restrictions on exports of advanced products, the country's chip equipment makers are still increasingly dependent on the Chinese market, with exports to China accounting for more than 40 percent of total sales. 

The dependence underscores the highly globalized semiconductor sector, which cannot be stopped by US technology restrictions, experts said.

According to a report by Nikkei Asia, China accounted for 43 percent of sales at Applied Materials in the February-April period, up 22 points on the year. China's share of sales at Lam Research rose 20 points to 42 percent for the January-March period.

This trend seems to run counter to Washington's plans under export curbs targeting China.

In 2022, the US government imposed restrictions on the export of advanced chips and chip manufacturing equipment used in the production of semiconductors, in an effort to contain China's semiconductor development.

Despite the technology blockade, American chip equipment manufacturers are finding it increasingly difficult to decouple from the Chinese market due to China's continued strong equipment spending and significant investments in the industry, Xiang Ligang, a telecom industry expert based in Beijing, told the Global Times on Sunday.

"China's rapid growth in chip manufacturing has created a huge demand for various equipment. While the US is also building factories, their efficiency is lower and they do not have as much growth space. From this perspective, demand in the Chinese market is high, and American manufacturers are certainly eager to sell to China," Xiang said.

A report from Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International released on July 9 showed that global wafer fab equipment sales are projected to increase by 3.4 percent year-on-year in 2024, reaching a new record of $109 billion. 

China is stepping up investment in the chip sector. 

The Shanghai Stock Exchange announced Sunday that it will officially launch a chip design themed index and a chip materials and equipment themed index on its Nasdaq-style sci-tech innovation board starting from July 26 to provide more investment options in the semiconductor industry for the market.

As of June, 102 semiconductor-related companies were listed on the sci-tech innovation board, with a total market value of 1.5 trillion yuan ($207 billion), accounting for 31.7 percent of the total market value of the board, according to the China Securities Journal.

China's 144-hour visa-free transit policy extended to 37 entry ports

China added another three entry ports to its 144-hour visa-free transit policy on Monday, expanding the policy coverage to 37 ports in total, which will help boost local inbound tourism where the ports are located and promote local economic development through the lifting of services industries and consumption.

The expansion also marks China's ramped-up efforts to improve opening-up in the services sector, analysts said.

The National Immigration Administration (NIA) announced that China's 144-hour visa-free transit policy will be extended to three more entry ports, taking the number of ports covered by the policy to 37.

The three new ports are Zhengzhou Xinzheng International Airport in Central China's Henan Province, Lijiang Sanyi International Airport and the Mohan railway port in in Southwest China's Yunnan Province, the NIA said in a statement.

Starting from Monday, the 144-hour visa-free transit policy at the Zhengzhou airport allowed visitors to travel within the administrative region of Henan. Additionally, the specific area covered by the 144-hour visa-free policy in Yunnan Province will be expanded from the previous Kunming to include eight other cities and regions, such as Lijiang, Dali and Xishuangbanna.

The Mohan railway port will greatly facilitate the entry of foreign tourists entering China through the China-Laos Railway, as Mohan is an important station of the railway at China's border with Laos, Yang Yong, a professor and deputy director of the School of Economics and Management at East China Normal University, told the Global Times on Monday.

"The main sources of Chinese inbound tourism are still concentrated in East and Southeast Asian countries. Therefore, the two newly added transit ports in Yunnan can greatly facilitate the entry of Southeast Asian tourists and enhance the development of Yunnan's tourism," Yang said.

The effect of the visa-free policy has already begun to show results. Driven by policy and market factors, inbound tourism in Kunming ushered in a fast lane of development.

In the first half of the year, foreigners coming to China through Kunming Changshui International Airport, which is a 144-hour visa-free transit port opened in January 2019, continued to increase, with people entering for travel accounting for 77.62 percent. Among this group, the number of foreigners from Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Laos and Vietnam ranked in the top five, according to official data.

According to statistics from the NIA, in the first half of 2024, a total of 14.635 million foreign nationals visited China, up 152.7 percent year-on-year. Among them, 8.542 million foreigners entered China through visa-free policies, accounting for 52 percent, an increase of 190.1 percent year-on-year.

"As China continues to open up to the outside world, it is not only necessary to increase economic cooperation but also to increase cultural exchanges. Tourism is an important way to promote people-to-people exchanges," said Yang.

In the past, domestic tourism and outbound tourism developed at a fast pace and became the major growth engine of the tourism sector in China. However, with the introduction of more and more inbound tourism facilitation policies, it is believed that inbound tourism will also develop in an increasingly better way, Yang noted.

"Especially for tourists from Europe and the US, who had little understanding of China before, visa facilitation can greatly promote their travel interest in China," Yang said.

Foreign citizens from 54 countries including the US, Canada, the UK, Austria, Belgium, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar who enter China through the designated entry ports and hold valid international travel documents and connecting tickets to a third country or region within 72/144 hours, will be allowed to stay in designated areas for tourism, business, and visiting relatives visa-free, according to the NIA.

The visa-free policy has played an important role in promoting inbound tourism, Jiang Yiyi, a vice president of the School of Leisure Sports and Tourism at Beijing Sport University, told the Global Times on Monday.

The visa-free policies launched in January 2013 have played a crucial role in supporting China's high-level opening-up and facilitating international travel and exchanges, the NIA said in a statement.

"In recent years, China has accelerated the supply-side reform of tourism, having promoted the in-depth integration of culture and tourism, and created a wealth of high-quality tourism products. Cultural tourism experiences, such as watching Chinese dramas, wearing hanfu and visiting museums, allow inbound tourists to have a deep understanding of Chinese culture and experience local characteristics." Jiang said.
China's overall reception capacity and public service level of inbound tourism have been continuously improved, and the shortcomings such as payment facilities have been further solved, providing foreign tourists with international-level travel services, Jiang noted.

A pair of 5- to 8-year-old giant pandas to be sent to Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Chief Executive John Lee revealed on Tuesday that the National Forestry and Grassland Administration has selected a pair of male and female giant pandas, aged between 5 and 8 years, to make their new home in the city, emphasizing that efforts are being made to ensure the giant pandas to arrive in Hong Kong by October 1.

These two giant pandas are in their prime and adulthood, and are in robust health, Lee said, expressing the hope that they will thrive and reproduce in Hong Kong.

The male panda, weighing around 120 kilograms, agile, very energetic, is characterized as "intelligent and active," while the female panda weighs about 100 kilograms and is described as "gentle, elegant, and described as docile and cute," Lee told a group of reporters on Tuesday in Southwest China's Sichuan as he is currently visiting the province to work on the details for welcoming the pair of pandas to Hong Kong.

The pair of pandas are currently undergoing acclimatization at the Dujiangyan Base of the China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda, and will undergo a 30-day quarantine there, followed by another 30-day quarantine upon arrival in Hong Kong. They will need to adapt to their new environment before they can meet the public.

Lee announced on the occasion of the 27th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the motherland on July 1 that the city will welcome the new pair of pandas.

Lee said the most important task during his visit to Sichuan this week is to expedite the arrival of the giant pandas in Hong Kong, select the pandas, and finalize the agreement as soon as possible. The details of the agreement will be announced later.

Upon returning to Hong Kong, there will be a series of follow-up tasks, including the Cultural, Sports, and Tourism Bureau and Ocean Park designing promotional activities, the CE noted.

"We hope to make the great event of the giant pandas coming to Hong Kong as perfect as possible," he said, with the goal of having the next generation of giant pandas born in Hong Kong.

Experts will closely monitor the pandas once they enter their breeding period and will make appropriate arrangements.

If the pair of giant pandas gifted to Hong Kong could give birth to a panda, we hope it will not just be a single cub, as giant pandas have also given birth to twins. Therefore, it is essential to thoroughly understand the health and state of these giant pandas, as the breeding period is very short, Lee said.

The agreement between the two sides stipulates that if mainland experts are needed in Hong Kong for assistance, discussions will be held based on the specific situation. He described the birth of a new generation of giant pandas as very rare and symbolically significant under the One Country, Two Systems principle, adding that Hong Kong residents are eager to see the birth of the next generation of giant pandas.

Ocean Park is preparing for the arrival of the pair of giant pandas. This includes sending caretakers to Sichuan for training and understanding the habits of the pandas that will relocate to Hong Kong, to ensure proper care in the future, Secretary for Culture, Sports and Tourism Kevin Yeung was quoted as saying in the media reports on Tuesday.

The park will also improve the current facilities for the pandas, such as adding plants or climbing structures, and consider increasing photographic equipment to enable real-time sharing of the pandas' activities, the Hong Kong official said.

Also, before the pandas depart for Hong Kong, bamboo grown in South China's Guangdong Province or at Ocean Park will be sent to Sichuan to allow the pandas to become accustomed to it in advance.

Ocean Park will also support health check procedures for the pandas and cooperate with the Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department to ensure the quarantine process in Hong Kong is completed smoothly, Yeung said.

China to investigate scandal of mixed use of tankers for edible and chemical oil

The office of the food safety commission of the State Council established a joint investigation team on Tuesday as public concern continues to foment following a report by The Beijing News, which revealed a startling scandal of the mixed use of tankers for edible and chemical oil.

Companies such as Hopefull Grain and Oil Group and China Grain Reserves Oil and Fat (Tianjin) Co., Ltd. have been implicated in this scandal.

The office of the food safety commission of the State Council said it attaches great importance to the issue raised by the media outlet and has organized a special meeting with multiple relevant national departments.

They vowed to severely punish the illegal activities of the companies and individuals involved according to the law, with no tolerance. At the same time, measures will be taken to conduct a special inspection on hidden risks in the transportation of edible oil. The results of the investigation will be promptly announced, according to the announcement.

On Saturday, China Grain Reserves Oil and Fat (Tianjin), a subsidiary of the China Grain Reserves Management Group Sinograin, announced on social media that they have initiated a comprehensive investigation throughout their entire system.

While probes launched both by the authorities and Sinograin are underway, netizens were shocked to discover that similar accusations of the "contaminated transportation" of food and chemical oils in the same vehicles had been going on for a long time in the country, citing news reports separately released by in 2005 and a program on Hunan TV in 2015.

Legal experts reached by the Global Times on Tuesday highlighted the deficiencies in food safety supervision that require immediate attention and rectification. Also, they stressed that food safety problems should be nipped in the bud and called for more relevant companies to conduct self-examination and self-correction.

The public outcry began in early July when The Beijing News reported that tanker drivers were engaging in a common practice of transporting food and chemical liquids in the same vehicles without cleaning them in between loads. This revelation exposed a longstanding issue within the tanker industry that had previously gone unnoticed.

Many domestic cargo tanker trucks transport both edible liquids including syrup and soybean oil, as well as chemicals including coal oil, according to the news report.

In order to save on costs, some operators do not clean the transportation tanks, and edible oil producers do not check the tanks according to regulations, resulting in chemical residue and contamination of edible oil, The Beijing News reported.

In response, Sinograin has launched a large-scale special inspection.

According to a statement issued by Sinograin on its official Weibo account on Saturday, all affiliated companies are required to rigorously check whether the transportation tools entering and leaving their warehouses meet the requirements.

Additionally, they are required to examine whether the carriers' transportation tools are in compliance with food safety regulations, and whether the operation meets the relevant standards.

On Tuesday, a representative from the Hopefull Grain and Oil Group told the Global Times that the company is conducting a thorough self-inspection and more detailed updates are awaiting notification from the publicity department of the city of Sanhe in North China's Hebei Province, where the company is located.

According to Chinese media outlet, on Tuesday, China Grain Reserves clients have received notification from the company requesting verification of the sources of the last three loads on their transport vehicles, particularly focusing on the loading records of oil products. One individual described this incident as a "rare occurrence" that touches upon the "moral bottom line and basic conscience."

The scandal also prompted probes from local authorities.

An official from the Sanhe government told the Global Times on Tuesday, that the local authorities are paying great attention to the incident, with the relevant departments actively conducting an investigation.

Both the market supervision authority in Hebei's Langfang, which administers Sanhe, and that of Tianjian, responded to inquiries from Chinese media outlets on Tuesday, stating that an investigation into the incident is currently underway with the probe results to be made public.

The Global Times found Tuesday that some Sinograin's edible oil products have been taken down from Taobao, a popular Chinese e-commerce platform. Only one product from the Jinding brand, which is owned by Sinograin, was still available on Taobao. But Jinding products are still being sold on

The incident has sparked public concerns about food safety with many urging the recall of problematic edible oils and a demand for a thorough investigation and stiff punishments for the people responsible. Also, some netizens expressed their respect toward the journalists who followed up on food safety issues and exposed them in the investigative news reports.

Zhu Wei, a vice director of the Communication Law Research Center at the China University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times on Tuesday that the incident has shaken public confidence on the effective enforcement of food safety regulations, noting the mixed use of tankers for edible and chemical liquids without cleaning is a clear violation of regulations and laws.

"When it comes to food safety issues, we must take preventive measures rather than waiting until something happens and then make corrections," Zhu said, calling for more companies involved in food security to self-examine and self-correct.

Online rumors in June focus on flood control and disaster relief, college admission, job market: platform

Reviews and summaries of data monitoring and netizens’ reporting on online rumors by China Internet Joint Rumor Refutation Platform show that internet rumors circulating during June primarily focused on hot topics such as disasters, exam and recruitment policies and travel information.

According to the platform, rumor mongers used tactics such as fabrication, exaggeration and misrepresentation to create falsehoods, disrupt public perception, interfere with flood control and disaster relief, and disrupt the orders of exam and recruitment work, which have harmed the public interests and caused a negative impact.

In terms of fabricating and spreading disaster-related rumors that disturb flood control work, individual we-media accounts and netizens took the opportunity as many regions across the country have fully entered the flood season in June with natural disasters occurring frequently to fabricate or exaggerate disaster situations, disrupt the normal orders of disaster relief and causing public anxiety and panic.

Rumors such as “floodwater flowing into underground parking garages in Zhengzhou, Central China’s Henan Province” and “heavy rains triggering mudslides that destroyed numerous homes in Guilin, South China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region” either distorted facts and rehash old news, or fabricated stories maliciously, seriously misleading overall public perception of actual events.

In addition, rumors related to recruitment of colleges and senior high schools often involved risks of fraud and harmed the public’s interests. Some institutions impersonated official authorities to engage in events such as paid consultation activities for college entrance examinations and admissions to scam candidates and parents.

Some other institutions and individuals made use of social media to scam job applicants of “service fees” and “consultation fees” during the job-hunting process.

Furthermore, tourism-related rumors also have been increasing as the vacation peak season approaching, which disturbed the public’s opinions.

The rumor saying that “each person receives a subsidy of 3,169 yuan for traveling to Southwest China’s Yunnan Province” seriously misinterpreted Yunnan’s tourism policy which is entirely false publicity meant to deceive the public. The rumors of “Mount Qomolangma being closed indefinitely” and “merchants spreading nails on the Duku Highway in Usu city, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region to earn money for tire repairs” are either misunderstandings or distortions and sensationalism, causing public concerns over the troubles of the local culture and tourism industry.

In addition to these misleading rumors, some we-media and netizens fabricated social events, concoct false information, mislead public understanding, and disrupt social order. The rumor about “a livestock farm in Deyang, Southwest China’s Sichuan Province, falsely reported inventory to fraudulently obtain 200 million yuan in subsidies” fabricates facts and seriously damages the credibility of policies benefiting the farmers and agriculture. Other rumors such as “Yongfu Temple in Hangzhou, East China’s Zhejiang Province being sold for 70 million yuan” used sensational headlines to maliciously attract attention, causing negative social impacts.

As the peak of the summer vacation travel season and college admissions approaches in July, rumors and scams related to people’s livelihood such as travel, traffic safety, enrollment policies, and job markets may appear more frequently. China Internet Joint Rumor Refutation Platform reminded the public to maintain a calm, rational and objective attitude, effectively enhancing their abilities in identifying, distinguishing and preventing rumors.

Chinese women seek self, empowered to build a stronger society

March 8 marks International Women's Day. This year, the official theme of the United Nations observance of the day is "Invest in women: Accelerate progress."

In China, there is a saying, "Women hold up half the sky," which affirms women's pursuit of dreams and achievements in their careers. In modern terminology, this is called "the power of her."

There have been many outstanding women in Chinese history. In the new era, Chinese women in various industries are continuing to promote self-respect, self-confidence, self-reliance and self-improvement, resonating their personal dreams with national development.

Chinese women are increasingly playing an important part in building a stronger country.

They actively participate in the country's whole-process people's democracy, showing their talents in the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. According to the list published on the website of the National People's Congress (NPC) and the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), there are 790 female deputies to the 14th NPC, accounting for 26.54 percent of the total, and 487 female members of the National Committee CPPCC.

These female top legislators and political advisors play a major role in speaking up for Chinese women, especially those in remote and undeveloped areas. They also provide a female perspective in many livelihood issues like education, fertility and employment, in order to help Chinese governments solve relevant problems while taking gender equality into account.

Far out in space, the first Chinese female taikonaut Liu Yang arrived there in the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft in 2012. On November 7, 2021, Wang Yaping became China's first female astronaut to walk in space. In the history of human spacewalks, the beautiful figure of a Chinese female astronaut finally appeared for the first time.

On the field of sports, Chinese skier Xu Mengtao remained determined and stepped onto the Winter Olympics stage for the fourth time in 2022 despite being plagued by injuries. Finally, she scored 108.61 to win gold in the women's freestyle skiing aerials at the Beijing Winter Olympics, interpreting the power of dreams with her resilient will. Zhang Weili became China's as well as Asia's first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) champion in 2019, demonstrating the power of Chinese women to the world with her fists.

Not to mention that the spirit of perseverance, courage and unity of the Chinese women's volleyball team is widely recognized and admired in China, becoming a spiritual symbol and role model.

No matter if they are in the military, or in ordinary posts in factories… the power of women is never absent. They can be seen fighting in every position and every field during China's journey of development.

While applauding their shining moments, China is also providing stronger guarantees for the work and life of women. China has established a comprehensive legal system to protect women's rights, including more than 100 laws and regulations.

It has been listed by the World Health Organization as one of the top 10 countries with high performance in women and children's health, and has basically eliminated the gender gap in compulsory education.

The dividends brought by policies have effectively activated "the power of her" in the development of our society, allowing more women to be active on the stage of the new era.

The average life expectancy of women exceeds 80 years, the gender gap in compulsory education has been basically eliminated, the proportion of female students in various higher education institutions exceeds that of male students, and the proportion of women in the total employed population remains above 40 percent.

"The power of her" will continue to growing in the new era in China, continuing to write new stories about "half the sky."

Renowned brand survey reveals China's soft power ranks in world’s top 3 for first time

Editor's Note:

Brand Finance, the internationally renowned brand valuation agency based in London, recently released the "Global Soft Power Index 2024," which shows that the US and the UK have maintained their positions as the top two most influential countries in global soft power. It is noteworthy that China is the fastest-growing nation brand this year, surpassing Japan and Germany, and for the first time, ranking third in the soft power index, with the country's progress exceeding that of any other country.

Brand Finance has been tracking the performance of global soft power in multiple countries for five consecutive years, and this year's report is based on surveys of over 170,000 respondents from more than 100 countries, ranking all 193 member states of the United Nations for the first time.

What is behind the world's fastest-growing soft power? The Global Times recently interviewed Brand Finance's officials, as well as scholars and observers from various countries, to discuss how China's soft power is steadily improving and bringing benefits to the world.

Two pillars

According to Scott Chen, Managing Director China of Brand Finance, the agency defines soft power as "a nation's ability to influence the preferences and behaviors of various actors in the international arena - states, corporations, communities, public, and etc. - through attraction or persuasion rather than coercion."

Chen told the Global Times that the Global Soft Power Index is a research study, commissioned by Brand Finance, covering 193 countries around the world. With responses from more than 170,000 people in over 100 markets, the survey is also the most comprehensive and extensive field survey of its kind.

To conduct the fieldwork, in more developed markets, Brand Finance's established online research panels were used, Chen noted. "Each respondent was shown a random sub-set of nation brands - drawn from the 193 [countries] included in the Index - and asked about their familiarity. For countries about which the respondent had some knowledge, we obtained a detailed assessment of reputation, influence, and performance on 35 characteristics representing the core 8 Soft Power Pillars," he said.

In the 2024 Brand Finance Global Soft Power Index, China made the most significant advancement among all nations, rising from fifth to third place, and its overall score increased by 6.2 points from 65.0 to 71.2 over the previous year.

Chen explained that this growth is due to China's significant improvement in the two pillars of "Business and Trade," and "Education and Science."

"Our latest research finds that the Business and Trade pillars are crucial indicators of a nation's global influence. This directly reflects a nation's economic strength, innovation, and integration into the global market," Chen said.

Chen pointed out that in terms of soft power, Brand Finance found that a nation's ability to engage in trade effectively, maintain economic stability, and provide attractive investment opportunities is pivotal in shaping global perceptions.

In terms of specific indicators, China's performance is equally impressive. Since the first release of the Global Impact Index report in 2020, China has been ranked first in the world for being "easy to do business with" under the Business and Trade pillar, and has been No.1 for "future growth potential." In the education and science pillar, China ranks second in the world in indicators such as being a "leader in technology and innovation" and "invests in space exploration."

Chen noted that soft power holds immense significance for a nation as it enables it to exert influence, shape perceptions, and achieve goals.

"A nation's soft power, encompassing its culture and heritage, people and values, and international relations, enhances its reputation and fosters goodwill with other nations. By promoting such attributes, a nation can effectively engage with the global community and enhance its interests on the global stage. Soft power ultimately serves as a crucial tool, not just for diplomacy, but also for economic development, by attracting investment, trade, talent, and tourism to a nation," he said.

Multiple drive

Several years ago, back when BlackBerry phones were popular in the US, some of my friends wanted to keep up with the trend, yet couldn't afford them, so they bought Chinese knock-offs instead. During dates with their girlfriends, they were often too embarrassed to bring out their "fake BlackBerries." However, things are completely different now. "Made in China" is no longer synonymous with "inferior" or "counterfeit." Many Indonesians are using Chinese-made smartphones like Oppo, Vivo, or Xiaomi, and TikTok, whose user base has surpassed that of YouTube, Novi Basuki, a prominent Indonesian sinologist, told the Global Times.

The shift in Indonesians' perception of "Made in China" reflects China's enhanced soft power. Observers have pointed out that such enhancement is driven by multiple factors.

For example, in terms of electronics, China currently offers high-quality products at highly competitive prices, which continues to contribute to an enhanced perception of having "products and brands the world loves," for which the nation ranks 6th overall, Chen noted.

At the same time, Chen pointed out that while being ranked third overall in the index, China performs strongly in attributes such as "easy to do business with" and "future growth potential," with a prime example being the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

"As key objectives of the initiative, China's focus on promoting economic development, both domestically and among participating nations, especially in areas lacking infrastructure, has been key. Additionally, the BRI has played a role in facilitating international trade," he said.

In terms of the index of Education and Science, Chen noted that Brand Finance's latest research found that China has made significant strides in recent years. Underscored by various breakthroughs in areas like Artificial Intelligence, renewable energy, and space exploration, China has been able to cultivate an international reputation for its innovation capabilities and technological prowess.

The answer to this conclusion can be found in the cooperation between China and many countries in the world.

For example, in Brazil, people's views on China's soft power regarding are undergoing positive changes. Surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center show that about 70 percent of respondents from Latin American countries approve of China's technological development. Chinese cars, especially new energy vehicles (NEVs), are favored by Latin Americans for their excellent performance, cost-effectiveness, and technological advantages.

"In recent years, more and more Chinese companies have invested in Brazil, bringing not only capital but also advanced management techniques, creating a large number of job opportunities for the locals," Letícia, a Brazilian student majoring in international relations, told the Global Times.

According to statistics released by Chinese Customs, in 2023, China's exports of electromechanical products reached 13.92 trillion yuan ($1.92 trillion) with an increase of 2.9 percent, accounting for 58.6 percent of total exports. Among these products, the combined export of the New Trio, which includes electric vehicles, lithium-ion batteries, and solar cells, increased by 29.9 percent and reached 1.06 trillion yuan, breaking the trillion-yuan mark for the first time.

The Financial Times recently reported that thanks to excellent performance and affordability, the market sales of Chinese NEVs continue to grow, with obvious advantages over their counterparts from other countries. Mathias Miedreich, CEO of Umicore headquartered in Belgium, which is part of the NEV supply chain, stated that Chinese electric vehicles are good enough and provide what the market and consumers truly need.
Significant trend

In the 2024 Index, Brand Finance highlights a significant trend: hard power undermines soft power. "Going back to Brand Finance's definition of soft power, in that it revolves around influence through persuasion or attraction, rather than coercion, hard power - which is often associated with military strength - tends to undermine this approach by its very nature of coercion," Chen explained.

In my view, China's rise in the global soft power index reflects the world's appreciation for a country with great civilization and culture. It's also a positive response to the achievements that the country has made in technological innovation and development, Enrique Cornejo, a Peruvian political and economic analyst, told the Global Times.

Li Long, Executive Vice President of the Institute of Public Opinion and Social Governance at the South China Normal University, analyzed the three reasons why China's soft power has left a deep impression on the international community.

First, China embraces openness and inclusiveness. It has implemented a series of new policies and measures to strengthen its connections with the world. Activities such as trade, tourism, and cultural exchanges are becoming more frequent, and China continues to provide internationally shared public goods and services, promoting the construction of an open world economy.

Second, it values technological innovation, a core element of developing new productive forces. The country is enhancing its technology and capacity for independent research and development.

Third, China calls for cooperation and mutual benefit. As a responsible major country, China has always adhered to the principles of peaceful development and mutual benefit, actively promoting peace and development in the international community.

"Peruvians believe that China's soft power manifests a friendly value system, which distinguishes it from other influential countries, whether in North America or Europe," Juan Carlos Capuay Chávez, former Peruvian Ambassador to China, told the Global Times.

Julien Segbo, Director of the Confucius Institute at Benin's University of Abomey-Calavi, said that more and more African students are choosing to study in China. "It's not only because China offers a variety of scholarship programs, but also because the quality of higher education in China is gaining wide recognition. Like many classmates, I came to China for education. I have gained professional knowledge here, broadened my horizons and experienced the charm of different cultures."

According to Al Gomhuria, a state-owned Egyptian Arabic language daily newspaper, China's economic and trade cooperation with Africa has driven the development of local African companies and increased job opportunities.

China's educational aid projects have improved education in Africa, providing the younger generation with broader room for development. The friendly cooperation between China and Africa has not only promoted the economic development of both sides, but also deepened the emotional bond between the two peoples.

Analysts pointed out that although some Western media often report on China-related news from the perspective of Western values and political positions, leading to a higher proportion of critical reports on certain Chinese policies and actions.

However, currently, many countries, especially in developing countries, recognize China's soft power and influence. With the deepening of globalization and the diversification of information channels, more and more people are beginning to understand China through various means, including direct visits to China, participating in cultural exchange activities, and social media. More and more people are looking forward to China's soft power accelerating further.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A East-West model

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chinese agricultural experts see great potential for soybean imports from Russia, a win-win cooperation

China is promoting high-quality imports of soybeans alongside its growing domestic production. Chinese agricultural experts and industry insiders noted that the cooperation between China and Russia in the soybean industry serves as win-win cooperation which not only meets China's growing import demand, but also provides Russia with a huge export market and development opportunities.

Agricultural experts from China and Russia have conducted in-depth discussions on bilateral cooperation, food security, food processing, providing suggestions and support for the development of agriculture in both countries, reported.

The meeting was held amid the ongoing eighth China-Russia Expo from May 16 to 21 in Harbin, Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, which borders Russia's Far East region. Analysts said that Russia has huge potential in soybean cultivation and exports, which is also an important focus of cooperation between the two sides.

The cooperation between China and Russia in various fields such as energy, agriculture, finance, infrastructure is accelerating. Meanwhile, business representatives from the two countries remain enthusiastic about the future of bilateral trade ties.

Driven by the market need for diversifying sources of supplies for food security reasons while reducing reliance on singular suppliers, it is believed that China's soybean imports from Russia will increase in the near future, experts said.

Russia is also likely to become a major supplier of carbohydrate foods such as wheat, rice, and corn to China, reducing the country's reliance on protein (mainly referring to soybeans) imports from the US. This shift in trade dynamics will strengthen the cooperation between China and Russia in the agricultural sector, an industry insider told the Global Times on Thursday.

"Russia's extensive landmass and suitable climate in the east, which resembles that of China's key soybean producing regions including Heilongjiang, have led it to becoming an emerging soybean supplier for China," Xin Dawei, a professor at the Northeast Agricultural University told the Global Times on Thursday.

In fact, Russia has become one of the important importers of non-genetically modified soybeans for China. As Russia has started to develop its Far Eastern region, soybean trade between the two countries will see new impetus, Xin said.

China's soybean supply remains stable on the market as domestic output is steadily increasing, coupled with sufficient imports. China's soybean production reached 41.68 billion jin (20.84 million tons), an increase of 2.8 percent year-on-year, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed.

China is one of the largest markets for agricultural commodities and also the world's largest importer of soybeans. As the supply and demand of grains in China have long been in a tight balance, moderate imports are important to ensure China's food security, effectively compensating for the structural shortage of grain production, Chen Yijuan, a soybean analyst from Shanghai told the Global Times.

In 2023, China imported 99.4 million tons of soybeans in total, an increase of 11.4 percent year-on-year, with an import value of 419.9 billion yuan ($58.1 billion), according to statistics from the General Administration of Customs of China.

Currently, the US and Brazil both serve as primary sources of China's soybean imports, with the proportion of China's agricultural imports from Brazil steadily increasing. Among them, Brazil's share rose to 70 percent, while the US share decreased to 24 percent, according to public data.

Industry insiders said that the reason China now seeks to import substitutes from Brazil, Argentina and Russia is because their lower prices are still cheaper compared with domestically produced soybeans. They predicted that there will be more cooperation and development opportunities in the field of agriculture between China and Russia.

Chinese companies seek to stay ahead in AI competition

Chinese tech companies such as Tencent, Alibaba and ByteDance are working hard to upgrade powerful large language models (LLMs) that power chatbots, in an effort to stay ahead of the growing competition in the artificial intelligence (AI) arms race.

Tencent said it has fully upgraded and open-sourced its self-developed MixNet model, amid a battle by tech companies to develop ever-more advanced AI tools, according to Jiemian News on Tuesday.

The model will reportedly become the first Chinese native-language open-source model with so-called diffusion transformer architecture, a novel approach to generative modeling.

The release of Tencent's LLM coincides with OpenAI's new flagship model GPT-4o on Tuesday. GPT-4o is an LLM tool that can reason across audio, vision and text in real time.

According to the company's statement, this new application has significant improvement in text in non-English languages, and it's also much faster and 50 percent cheaper.

The new release comes one day ahead of Google's annual I/O developer conference, where it's expected to announce updates to its Gemini AI model, according to CNN. 

The roll-out of the latest version of the ChatGPT AI chatbot indicates that OpenAI is under great pressure to commercialize its models, and it is working hard to prove its commercial value, Tian Feng, dean of the SenseTime Intelligence Industry Research Institute, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

As Chinese companies have been racing to launch AI large models to narrow the gap with OpenAI, it will deliver a wave of "AIGA innovation," AI generates audio and sound perception, to China's domestic LLMs and Agents ecosystem, Tian noted.

Technological advances are the most powerful weapons in the journey toward AI, and they are key to keeping one step ahead of the growing competition in the AI arms race, experts said.

Leading Chinese AI models are mainly developed by tech giants - 360 Group, Baidu, Tencent and Alibaba, experts said.

Baidu, SenseTime and AI start-ups such as Baichuan Intelligent Technology and Zhipu AI have released AI chatbots to the public. Chinese unicorns such as Moonshot AI and Minimax have developed their own chatbots, and this has provoked discussions about the commercialization prospects of China's LLMs.

As of the end of 2023, there were more than 200 LLMs in China, more than 20 of which had been approved to provide services to the public, China Media Group reported.

More Chinese technology giants are fully embracing LLMs and training their own models. But aAdmitting that there is still a significant gap between domestic LLMs and those of their Western counterparts, Chinese experts said it's important for Chinese start-ups to follow the latest global developments in order for China's own GPTs to catch up.

Industry insiders said that Chinese companies need to make more technology breakthroughs and use the results of research and development, and apply all of these inputs to real-world scenarios.

The integration of AI into more widely used consumer products such as such as mobile assistants, car assistants, robots and Augmented Reality goggles, may make those companies' technologies more widely and easily accessible.