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.

HK welcomes 181K+ visitors from Chinese mainland on first day of May Day holidays

More than 181,000 visitors from the Chinese mainland entered Hong Kong on Wednesday, the first day of the five-day May Day holidays, surpassing numbers for  the same period in 2023, data from the Immigration Department of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government revealed.

About 468,000 people entered the city on Wednesday. Among them, visitors from the Chinese mainland numbered over 181,000, it said.

Departures from Hong Kong totaled around 340,000 people, with nearly 60 percent being residents of the city. Despite the single-day holiday, many residents in Hong Kong opted to travel out of the city for leisure.

The Immigration Department previously estimated that passenger arrivals and departures will total 5.9 million from Tuesday to Sunday, among which more than 800,000 trips will be made by tourists from the Chinese mainland. 

Timothy Chui, executive director of the Hong Kong Tourism Association, said that the number of visitors from the Chines mainland on Wednesday was satisfactory, similar to last year's figures, with hotel occupancy rates being at strong levels, reported the Chinese News Service.

He said that the numbers could have been higher if not for weather conditions. Chu noted that he learned some visitors came to Hong Kong to witness fireworks displays, which he believed was influenced by the promotional efforts of the government on social media platforms.

Starting at 8 pm on Wednesday, the 10-minute display blended in with the night view of the Victoria Harbor and is accompanied by a light and music show. The gold-toned fireworks were set off from a boat 130 meters offshore.

Many tourists and Hong Kong residents had arrived three hours early for the show to find the perfect viewing spot despite the drizzles throughout the day, according to the Xinhua News Agency. 

"I anticipate the fireworks the most for my four-day Hong Kong tour this Labor Day holiday,"said a tourist surnamed Lu from South China's Guangdong Province.

In addition, in preparation for the May Day holidays, which last from Wednesday to Sunday in the Chinese mainland this year, the Hong Kong Tourism Board announced that 16,000 travel vouchers would be distributed free of charge to individual travelers from Xi'an and Qingdao, which could be used at more than 100 premium Hong Kong brands and 2,000 shopping outlets. 

Citizens in Xi'an and Qingdao have been eligible to visit the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions on an individual basis starting from March 6.

The Tourism Industry Council of Hong Kong estimated a 50% increase in visitors from these two cities following the opening of individual travel arrangements, the China News Service reported.

On April 23, Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu stated that Hong Kong government had made comprehensive preparations for the May Day holidays, estimating that there would be at least 800,000 mainland visitors and around 5.9 million people passing through various immigration control points.

Lee noted that many operators in the service industry have developed promotional plans and experiential activities, aiming to provide a positive experience for travelers in dining, shopping and other aspects, with the hope of promoting Hong Kong even after their return home, media outlet ifeng reported .

According to CCTV, citing words from the Ministry of Transport, it's expected that there will be a total inter-regional population movement of 280 million people, a 15.9 percent increase compared with the same period in 2019 on Wednesday. 

Railway passenger volume is expected to reach 20.4 million, while inter-regional road traffic is projected to hit 257 million. Waterway passenger traffic is estimated at 900,000, with civil aviation passenger volume forecasted at 2.11 million. 

As in previous years, during this year's May Day holidays, small passenger cars with seven seats or fewer will continue to enjoy toll-free passage on highways. 

Additionally, many tourist attractions in various cities will implement policies of free or reduced admission during the May Day period. Viral videos online showed that across China, people are packed in railways stations, tourist attractions and even less-popular traveling cities.

China-Russia Expo offers dynamic platform for boosting trade, economic cooperation: MOFCOM

The China-Russia Expo, the highest-level and most extensive exhibition hosted by the two countries, has become a major platform for fostering industrial partnerships, and a pivotal avenue for local collaborative initiatives, said an official from the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) during a press conference on Monday, while also pledging to facilitate and intensify bilateral trade ties and regional cooperation in the future.

The remarks were made in anticipation of the upcoming 8th China-Russia Expo. As part of the 75th-anniversary celebrations of China-Russia diplomatic relations, the six-day event will be held in Harbin, the capital of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province from May 16 to 21, coinciding with the 33rd China Harbin International Economic and Trade Fair. 

With a theme of "cooperation, trust, and opportunities," the expo will focus on various sectors such as cultural tourism, high-tech equipment, traditional and alternative energy, finance, and education among others, aiming to foster comprehensive, multi-faceted, and profound exchanges and collaborations between the two countries, said a local official from Heilongjiang.

This year's expo is expected to achieve records in both scale and influence. Russian exhibitors will comprise 137 companies, occupying a record-breaking 3,267 square meters of exhibition space. Additionally, 1,246 companies from 21 provinces, regions, and municipalities across China will participate, showcasing the tangible implementation of the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era, according to local media reports.

Since it was inaugurated in 2014, the expo has attracted over 7,200 Chinese-Russian companies and 10.05 million attendees, resulting in deals worth 446.8 billion yuan ($61.99 billion) across various sectors. Over the past decade, the expo's features have gradually shifted from traditional sectors such as energy, minerals, and mechanical electronics to emerging sectors including medical devices, the digital economy and new energy, said Liu Xuesong, director of the Department of Eurasia Affairs at MOFCOM.

Under the new paradigm of China-Russia relations, economic and trade cooperation between the two sides has made significant strides in recent years. In the first quarter of 2024, the bilateral trade volume was $56.68 billion, up by 5.2 percent year-on-year, maintaining an upward trajectory. Moreover, the trade structure continues to improve, with increasing ties in emerging areas such as services trade and cross-border e-commerce, according to official data.

Looking ahead, Liu pledged at the press conference to further enhance China-Russia trade and investment cooperation, bolster the resilience of industrial supply chains, and elevate the facilitation and liberalization of bilateral and regional ties, in a bid to foster a favorable policy environment for expanding bilateral trade.

The China-Russia Expo is jointly hosted by China's MOFCOM, the Heilongjiang provincial government, Russia's Ministry of Economic Development, and its Ministry of Industry and Trade. The 7th expo was held from July 10 to 13 last year in Yekaterinburg, Russia. 

Mastercard JV in China kicks off bank card clearing operations

US payment company Mastercard's Chinese joint venture (JV) opened for business on Thursday, after the People's Bank of China approved the arrangement for the bank card clearing operations in November 2023.

The opening marks Mastercard as the second overseas bank card clearing institution to enter the Chinese market, after American Express in 2020, which industry analysts said demonstrates the country's determination to open wider to the outside world in the financial sector.

The move is conducive to promoting a more open and internationalized development of China's payment and clearing services, providing diversified and differentiated services for all parties in finance, as well as deepening the supply-side structural reform of the payment industry, analysts noted.

In2023, China's central bank and the National Financial Regulatory Administration approved an application by Mastercard NetsUnion Information Technology (Beijing) Co, a JV between Mastercard and NetsUnion Clearing Corp, to conduct bank card clearing operations in the country. 

According to the official Mastercard website, its Chinese JV has begun processing payments made in China with Mastercard cards issued by the country's banks. In addition, the JV confirmed that Mastercard-branded cards will now be accepted for both domestic and international purchases.

"This is another significant milestone for Mastercard... Our goal is to simplify the payments experience for China's Mastercard cardholders both at home and overseas," Michael Miebach, CEO of Mastercard, was quoted in a statement sent to the Global Times on Thursday. 

"To offer more choices and deliver greater value for Chinese consumers and businesses of all sizes, we will expand the availability of Mastercard-branded products, facilitate the addition of millions of new acceptance locations across the country, and deliver seamless and safe payments experiences every day," said Ling Hai, chairman of the board of Mastercard NetsUnion and president of Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East & Africa for Mastercard.

The JV reinforced its commitment to continue providing comprehensive support for Mastercard NetsUnion's operations, under the guidance and support of Chinese regulators. 

To facilitate seamless, secure payments for Chinese cardholders at home and overseas, Mastercard NetsUnion will collaborate with local acquirers to expand its acceptance network in China, bolstering its extensive network of more than 130 million acceptance locations worldwide, according to the statement.

Clearing agencies want to operate in China because of the huge demand for cross-border payments with the externally oriented character of its economy. High-quality opening-up is creating the conditions for these clearing agencies to conduct business in the country, economist Pan Helin told the Global Times on Thursday.

"The establishment of JV clearing agencies is a notable sign of the opening-up of the financial market. It has not only allowed the entry of foreign capital, but also facilitated exchanges of technology and knowledge, all of which are direct results of the opening-up policy," said Wang Peng, an associate research fellow at the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences.

In addition to providing consumers and businesses with a wider choice of financial services and products, Wang told the Global Times that the move is also an important step in the internationalization of China's financial market, as cooperation with internationally recognized financial institutions helps the country's banking industry introduce advanced technology and management practices.

"China's banking industry needs to cooperate with foreign clearing organizations to develop overseas business, in order to expand its incremental banking business," Pan noted.

Mastercard's move to boost its presence in the Chinese market has debunked Western claims of foreign capital leaving China, analysts said.

"The active participation of foreign organizations in China demonstrates their long-term optimism in the world's second-largest economy's development. This confidence stems from the huge potential of the Chinese market, including a large consumer base and growing economic strength," Wang said.

Guo Tingting, a vice commerce minister, said that the number of newly established foreign-invested enterprises in the first quarter of this year came at 12,000, an increase of 20.7 percent year-on-year, maintaining the rapid growth trend of last year.

In terms of investment scale, the actual use of foreign capital reached 301.67 billion yuan ($41.67 billion), a record high, the vice minister said.

With its continued financial market opening-up, China, which has the world's largest banking system and the second-largest insurance, stock and bond markets, is creating broad opportunities for global financial institutions, Wang noted.

China has implemented more than 50 financial opening-up measures in recent years, including eliminating foreign ownership limitations in the banking and insurance sectors and lowering access criteria for foreign investors.

HK tourism board welcomes more mainland visitors, calling it ‘gift’ to boost local economy

The Chinese central government announced on Saturday a new policy that allows travelers from eight more cities in the Chinese mainland to visit the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) as individuals. 

The move was strongly welcomed by both officials in the HKSAR and visitors from the mainland cities.

Pang Yiu-Kai, chairman of the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB), welcomed the move, saying that the latest expansion is a "gift" for the sector, and Beijing's decision to update the program twice in three months reflected its "full support and confidence" in Hong Kong's development, according to the South China Morning Post.

The HKTB will roll out some "large-scale events" and step up promotions in the mainland cities and invite tourism representatives to come to Hong Kong, Pang said. 

With the addition of the eight cities, the number of applicable mainland cities under the "Individual Travel" plan will increase from 51 to 59. The added cities are Taiyuan, Hohhot, Harbin, Lanzhou, Yinchuan, Lhasa and Xining.

Experts said that with more and more mainland cities opening up for individual travel, Hong Kong will attract more tourists from the broader mainland market. Closer exchanges between Hong Kong and the mainland will inject new vitality into the local tourism industry.

HKSAR Chief Executive John Lee expressed his gratitude with regard to the central government's care for Hong Kong and its support for Hong Kong's advance from stability to prosperity, according to the website of the HKSAR government.

Lee noted that various measures have been rolled out this year to support and benefit Hong Kong. The latest move will boost tourism and the economic development of Hong Kong, and facilitate people-to-people bonds between the mainland and Hong Kong.

Hong Kong's Mass Transit Railway welcomed the addition of the new cities and said it was dedicated to providing high-quality, convenient cross-boundary services.

This new arrangement will attract more mainland tourists to Hong Kong, and Hong Kong's overall economic development will benefit from the tourism boom, Yang Yong, deputy director of the College of Economics and Management at East China Normal University, told the Global Times on Sunday.

The surge in Hong Kong's inbound tourism was a key factor driving the city's economic growth, Yang noted.

About 766,000 visitors from the mainland visited the city during the just-concluded May Day holidays, which ran from May 1 to 5. 

The city recorded an increase of 22 percent in passenger trips compared with the same period last year, a spokesperson for the HKSAR said on May 6.

Exclusive: Hungary poised to play a positive role in China-EU relations under its upcoming EU presidency

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Budapest on Wednesday for a state visit to Hungary. In an exclusive interview with the Global Times, Levente Horvath, director of the Eurasia Center at John von Neumann University, said that this visit is an important opportunity as the two countries celebrate the 75th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations. He noted that Hungary is expected to play a positive role in China-EU relations during its upcoming EU presidency.

Horvath highlighted that in the past 14 years, since the Hungarian government announced the "Open to the East" policy, trade and economic cooperation between Hungary and China have developed at an accelerating pace. He noted that the two countries now enjoy strong and positive economic cooperation.

The Hungarian scholar pointed out that in the emerging multipolar world order, not only Western countries, but also nations like China, Russia, and India will be significant players. Hungary aims to diversify its international relations and seeks greater economic cooperation. He summarized Hungary-China relations with five points, particularly in terms of connectivity under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

"First of all, there is political connectivity," Horvath said, noting that political cooperation between the two countries has grown stronger in recent years, marked by frequent high-level interactions. "Almost every month, there is a ministerial-level meeting between the two sides," he added.

The second aspect is trade. In the past 14 years, especially since the "Open to the East" policy began, Hungary's exports to China have doubled, while imports from China have tripled, Horvath stated.

Additionally, Hungary is an important partner in the BRI, and the Budapest-Belgrade railway has become a major infrastructure project. "We hope that during these meetings, there will be other announcements about cooperation in infrastructure, like railway stations or railroads," Horvath said.

Financial and people-to-people connectivity have also strengthened. "We already have five Confucius Institutes in Hungary, and this year, China plans to open the China Cultural Center," he said.

Elaborating on the emerging world order, Horvath, Hungary's former Consul General in Shanghai, told the Global Times that previously world order was dominated by Western countries, but these nations are losing their leading positions and are therefore demonizing China and Asian countries. "In the EU, they also frequently criticize China," he said.
"But if we look at EU members, we can see very strong economic cooperation," he said, citing examples like German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's visit to China with numerous CEOs, and French President Emmanuel Macron welcoming Xi in France in recent days.

Leaders from other countries, including Spain, the Netherlands, and Belgium, also visited China to discuss economic cooperation, and "the president and prime minister of Italy are planning to go to China," he said.

"We can see that despite their criticism of China, EU members are seeking stronger economic cooperation with the country," Horvath said, emphasizing that Hungary has a different way of thinking by not interfering with the internal policies of China and other countries.

As Hungary is set to take over the rotating EU presidency in July, Horvath believes the country could change the bloc's mindset about "de-risking" with China. History shows that "de-risking" or "decoupling" is never the best approach for the future.

"Cooperation is the best way, according to history," he said, emphasizing the importance of learning from the past.

"About 40 or 50 years ago, when Japan became the second-largest economic and technological power, some Western countries were afraid of Japan. Now some are afraid of China, which is rooted in ideological and political intentions," Horvath said. "Eventually, they agreed on cooperation, and now we see that Japanese and South Korean cars don't destroy our markets. So, we don't need to be afraid of Chinese cars."

Top executives at BMW and Volkswagen warned against EU imposing import duties on Chinese electric vehicles (EVs), saying it could jeopardize the bloc's Green Deal plan and harm automakers importing cars from China, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

The Hungarian scholar argued that EVs represent the future and that Chinese automakers have strong cooperation with German car companies. Some EU politicians and experts demonize Chinese companies out of fear of losing their advantageous position. However, when Chinese EVs enter the EU and Hungarian markets, they will bring many benefits, Horvath said.

"As I travel frequently to China, almost every month, I see many high-quality Chinese EVs with advanced technology and innovations," he said, noting that investments by Chinese companies in Hungary will lead to healthy competition.

Horvath also emphasized that China and Europe share a common interest in cooperation. The Hungarian government has a similar perspective on international relations, akin to China's.

"We also share the Eurasia connectivity concept, so Europe and Asia should connect. We also promote mutual respect and peace, and oppose war. In the EU, many support the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, but we oppose the war," he said.

"We hope Russia and Ukraine can sit down and discuss their issues peacefully. China also seeks mutual respect, peace, and opposes war," Horvath said.

During its EU presidency, Hungary hopes to influence the bloc's thinking about China, as the country aims to ensure that the EU remains an essential pillar of the multipolar world, the Hungarian scholar concluded.

Long March-6C rocket makes maiden flight, carrying four satellites into space

China successfully launched the first Long March-6C carrier rocket at the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in North China's Shanxi Province on Tuesday, carrying four satellites into planned orbit.

The rocket sent the Neptune-01 and Smart-1C, as well as a wide-band optical satellite and a high-resolution video satellite into space, according to China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). The mission marks the addition of new members to the Long March rocket family, further improving China's new generation of Long March series of launch vehicles, and promoting the accelerated modernization of China's active launch vehicles.

The rocket is a new generation of liquid launch vehicle developed by the CASC for the future commercial launch market, and it has a single-core and two-stage design, powered by liquid oxygen and kerosene engines.

The total length of the rocket is about 43 meters and its lift-off mass is about 215 tons. The rocket can be adapted with multi-specification satellite payload fairings according to different tasks.

The control system of this rocket adopts technology of Adaptive Augmentation Control (AAC), which is the first application of the technology on a domestic launch vehicle. The AAC can be simply understood as intelligent driving, which automatically adjusts the steering wheel and throttle by judging the road status, Hu Cunming, a rocket expert from the eighth Academy of CASC, told the Xinhua News Agency.

The technology can further enhance the adaptability and intelligence of the rocket's flight by adjusting the rocket's flight control strategy in real time online.

The development team developed a new lightweight storage box to realize the reduction of the rocket's weight by reducing the excess space between two boxes under the condition of carrying as much fuel as possible, which can further improve the structural efficiency of the rocket, Xinhua reported.

The team also used a method of "de-tasking" to maximize the unification of the product, by firstly creating a standard rocket that can adapt to multi-task requirements and can be put into production in rolling batches, and revising the standard rocket in accordance with the satellite supporting requirements, according to Xinhua. 

The launch of the four satellites was a "carpool" mission carried out through commercialized bidding, and it was the first time that the launch services of the Long March series were put up for public bidding.

It was the 520th flight mission of the Long March series rockets. 

100 plus Chinese universities celebrate May 4th with self-made AI songs

Students and alumni of more than 100 Chinese universities celebrated this year’s May 4th, known as Youth Day in China, by composing original songs using AI (artificial intelligence) technology.

Titled “The 1st China AIMV ‘May 4th Youth Music Festival’ Co-creation,” a non-profit music event was held online on Saturday night. The two-hour event mainly consisted of edited versions of some 120 songs about campus life and the spirit of youth.

Notably, the songs broadcast at the event were all made with AIGC (AI-generated content) tools such as the text-to-song generator Suno and the text-to-video model Sora, according to the event’s co-organizer China AIGC Industry Alliance (AIGCxChina), a nationwide civil group of industry insiders.

The youth-themed AI music co-creation event collected songs from universities across the country from April 14 to 30, said Chen Duo, a AIGCxChina member who initiated and directed the event.

The song collection period was short as it only takes a little time to make a song and a corresponding MV (music video) for the song with the help of AI technology, Chen said.

“Therefore, the event enabled young students to get closer to today’s AI tech, and provided them with a good opportunity to learn and make something themselves using AIGC tools - in a very short period of time,” Chen told the Global Times on Sunday.

Chen added that more than 60 percent of the participants were new to AIGC technology. To help them get started quickly, the event organizers shared a package of AIGC tools that every one could download for free, and Chen personally did six free online lectures in late April to teach people to use the tools.

Producing a song with AI tech is much easier than most people think, Chen said. He recalled that at the beginning of the song collection period, many participants experienced some anxiety and uncertainty.

“They thought of AIGC as a complex cutting-edge technology and assumed it would be difficult to learn, so they participated in the event out of pure curiosity,” Chen said. “They were not sure whether they could handle the tools and complete a song by themselves in just a few days.”

Echoing Chen’s words, Yang Ruxu, a Xiamen University (XMU) student majoring in piano performance, said that she had always cosidered AIGC tools to be very “high-end” and removed from ordinary people. During this music event however, she quickly got familiar with the tools and eventually contributed to three of the 10 songs that her university submitted.

“This event made me get closer to AI,” Yang told the Global Times.

Over 100 universities from the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, Including XMU, submitted some 200 songs to the event organizers. The Saturday event broadcast 120 of them, attracting an audience of nearly 200,000 from home and abroad.

“I feel like the quality is high enough that it’s not distracting by the fact that it’s AI,so high that the audience is not at all distracted by the fact it’s AI-generated” commented Valentine, a Russian AI industry insider who lives in the US. “All the videos that we’ve seen really show the amount of work that went into them, and I think we can really congratulate all the students for their hard work, playing the game without holding anything back,” praised French music enthusiast Etienne.

Chen hopes the event will inspire more young Chinese to explore AIGC creation. “The original intention that we initiated this event is to promote the popularity of AIGC applications in China,” he told the Global Times. “I hope that young people, when faced with new concepts and technologies, will have the courage to face handle them.”

Althogh it is a novelty at present, AIGC tools are spreading rapidly and may become as common as Word and Excel in the near future, Chen predicted.

Plummeting Japanese yen turns country into 'shopping paradise,' drawing Chinese tourists

The Japanese yen hit a 34-year low against the dollar on Monday, but the weak currency has turned Japan into a shopping paradise, with a large number of international tourists flocking to the country to take advantage.

Among the tourists, wealthy Chinese shoppers have been splashing out on luxury items in Japan.

According to the Xinhua News Agency, the Japanese yen briefly dropped to a new 34-year low of 160 yen to the US dollar on foreign exchange markets on Monday morning. This marked the first time since April 1990 that the US dollar has topped the 160-yen line.

With the continuous depreciation of the yen, the prices of some high-end products in Japan have become much lower than in China, attracting a large number of tourists looking to score some great deals.

Data that Chinese travel platform Qunar sent to the Global Times on Monday shows that as of Sunday, Tokyo and Osaka ranked second and third respectively in terms of searches on the platform, following Bangkok. The search index for Tokyo increased by 207 percent year-on-year, while for Osaka it increased by 172 percent. Hotel bookings in Japan for the upcoming May Day holidays have increased by 3.5 times compared to 2023 on the platform.

A Chinese tourist surnamed Chen who just came back from Japan on Sunday told the Global Times that the major shopping malls were filled with Chinese people.

"If you didn't know any better, you would think you were in a mall in China. Especially at the LV counter, there were long lines outside," Chen said.

For example, an Onthego small handbag from LV costs 25,600 yuan ($3,533.8) in China, but only 47,520 yen in Japan, which is about 21,753 yuan. Therefore, Chinese customers can save nearly 4,000 yuan.

The depreciation of the yen has also led to a surge in demand for the surrogate shopping business, known as daigou, with some shopping agents estimating they can earn up to 10,000 yuan on a trip to Japan.

daigou shopper surnamed Sun said this has been her busiest time in many years. Sun said she had received 50 orders during the last few weeks. "They asked me to buy them products including luxury handbags, game consoles, cameras, and cosmetics," Sun added.

According to Sun, buying items in Japan is very cost-effective given the high markups in China for goods such as handbags and cameras. She charges a 10 percent shopping fee, so a 20,000-yuan bag can earn her 2,000 yuan.

Although there are risks involved with daigou, such as people only being able to bring back one bag per person and having to remove the tags to avoid customs taxes, the business is still popular.

According to multiple posts on Chinese social media platform Xiaohongshu, which compares prices between luxury handbags in Japan and China, Louis Vuitton's Carryall takes the top spot for the biggest price differential.

The South China Morning Post reported on Monday about the first-quarter results for LVMH, the world's largest luxury group. Overall revenue in Asia, which is dominated by the Chinese market, has declined by 6 percent, but in Japan sales have surged 32 percent.

The report said that global sales of fashion and leather goods - LVMH's biggest business - to Chinese customers in their home market and abroad rose 10 percent, indicating that spending by Chinese tourists overseas helped offset weak sales at home. A large portion of their spending abroad was in Japan.

The Global Times found on Xiaohongshu that there have been many posts searching for or offering personal daigou services in Japan during the upcoming May Day holidays.

The plunge in the yen has also increased the appeal of Japanese commercial property.

The Global Times learnt that many Chinese investors are eyeing residential properties, including those in the Tokyo Olympic Village.

However, the depreciation of the yen also creates some problems. It may exacerbate the deflation issue in Japan, and excessive dependence on overseas tourists' consumption may expose the Japanese economy to external risks, according to insiders.