Shaolin Games kicks off in Shaolin Temple, gathering kung fu stars from six continents

A Shaolin kung fu festival opened in the Shaolin Temple in Central China’s Henan Province on Saturday, gathering over a hundred of participants to compete for the global kung fu star title, while exchanging cultures and making friends.

Over this weekend, 144 martial art masters from 47 countries and regions will compete in the finals of the 2024 Shaolin Games, contending for the title of “2024 World Shaolin Kung Fu Star.”

The games in the following days will include ranking matches, advancement matches, and the final round, with competition events including Shaolin boxing techniques and Shaolin weaponry, the Global Times learned from the temple.

“The Shaolin Games finals are not about competition of winning or losing, nor a contest of victory or defeat, but moments of life awakening, team development, and the inheritance and enrichment of the Shaolin spirit,” said the abbot of the Shaolin Temple, Shi Yongxin, in a statement, expressing his hope that the event will “foster cross-cultural exchanges, enhance mutual appreciation of civilizations, and contribute to the well-being, health, and peace of humanity.”

Selay Marius Kouassi, a participant from Côte d’Ivoire who is also leading the Team Africa over this year’s Games, told the Global Times that, “I’m very happy to be part of the global community – not just a local, regional, or national community, but a global one. Shaolin has united us as one big family all over the world. I especially love the Chinese wisdom that says ‘Tian Xia Yi Jia’ – the concept that the whole world is one family. This is truly who we are, and it is because of Shaolin kung fu.”

In 2023, the Shaolin Temple completed the continental kung fu competitions across six continents in one year. Tens of thousands of Shaolin kung fu practitioners of different races, colors, and ages participated, with competitors from 101 countries gathering in Zambia, Singapore, Argentina, the US, Italy, and Australia to compete.

During the Shaolin Games finals, various events will also be held at the Shaolin Temple, including overseas Shaolin kung fu performances and a conference on the transmission and innovation of Shaolin kung fu’s intangible cultural heritage, providing visitors with opportunities to experience and study Shaolin culture.

The Shaolin Temple, located on Songshan Mountain of Dengfeng city, Henan, is one of the world’s most famous Buddhist temples. It was first established in 495 AD by Emperor Xiaowen of the Northern Wei Dynasty (386–534) to accommodate the Indian monk Batuo.

The Shaolin Temple is now renowned for its long history, profound cultural heritage, unique Buddhist culture, and martial art traditions. It is not only a treasure of Chinese Buddhist culture but also an important part of the world’s cultural heritage.

According to incomplete statistics, there are about 100 million different Shaolin disciples, Shaolin culture enthusiasts, and practitioners of Shaolin kung fu worldwide, and among which approximately 60 million are located overseas, as reported by the China News Service.

China rebuts NATO declaration as 'defamatory, provocative, belligerent'

China voiced strong opposition and lodged stern representations on Thursday with NATO after the Cold War mentality-driven bloc issued a direct warning to China for the first time regarding the so-called support to Russia in the Ukraine crisis, which, some experts said, is essentially another attempt to shift the blame and smear China.

The NATO Washington Summit Declaration exaggerates tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, which is filled with Cold War mentality and belligerent rhetoric, containing prejudiced, defamatory, and provocative content regarding China, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lin Jian said during a press conference on Thursday.

NATO's so-called security comes at the expense of others' security, and much of the security anxiety NATO peddles is of its own making. The so-called success and strength NATO boasts of pose a significant threat to the world, the spokesperson said.

Establishing imaginary enemies to maintain existence and expand power is NATO's usual tactic. Its persistence in the erroneous positioning of China as a systemic challenge and smearing of China's domestic and foreign policies are exactly that, the spokesperson added.

The Chinese Mission to the EU also refuted NATO's claims on Thursday, emphasizing that China's position on Ukraine is open and above board, and it is known to all that China is not the architect of the Ukraine crisis. China aims to promote peace talks and seek political settlement, and this position is endorsed and commended by the broader global community.

After decades of viewing China as a distant threat, NATO on Wednesday accused Beijing of becoming "a decisive enabler of Russia's war against Ukraine," and demanded that it halt shipments of "weapons components" and other technology critical to the rebuilding of the Russian military, the New York Times reported.

The US media also called the statement "a major departure for NATO," which until 2019 never officially mentioned China as a concern, and then only in the blandest of language.

"I think the message sent from NATO from this summit is very strong and very clear, and we are clearly defining China's responsibility when it comes to enabling Russia's war," NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg was quoted as saying in a report by The Guardian. Stoltenberg also called the statement an important message.

"NATO's shift in rhetoric toward China is partly driven by the US and partly due to NATO's own difficulties as it is struggling with the Ukraine issue, and the more they struggle, the more they look for excuses," Lü Xiang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Thursday.

From the beginning, the US and NATO's narrative was that Russia would fail quickly, and they have been talking about launching a counteroffensive, whose effects we have not seen, Lü said, noting that as the conflict drags on, "they need to find an excuse, and the ready-made excuse now is that China is supporting Russia, backing it from behind."

Baseless accusation

Besides NATO's accusation against China on the Ukraine crisis, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken claimed at a public forum at the NATO summit that China is being "the major contributor to Russia's defense industrial base." The Chinese Foreign Ministry also voiced strong opposition, saying that the US has been spreading false information.

"Most countries have not participated in sanctions against Russia or cut off trade with it, so the US cannot blame China for its own actions. The US has passed large-scale aid bills for Ukraine while baselessly accusing China and Russia of normal economic and trade exchanges. This is blatant hypocrisy and double standards," Lin said.

The China-Russia cooperation is important as it acts as a balance force against the reckless actions of the US and the West, ensuring the world operates fairly and orderly, Cui Heng, a scholar from the Shanghai-based China National Institute for SCO International Exchange and Judicial Cooperation, told the Global Times on Thursday.

"The China-Russia cooperation is mainly in energy production chains and agricultural sectors, which is normal cooperation. The US-led West severed its cooperation with Russia while forcing others to do the same, which only demonstrates its arrogance, narrow-minded and self-centered mindset," the expert added.

Some experts also pointed out that NATO is essentially a military alliance that maintains its functionality and reinforces its existence through crises, conflicts, and even wars. The recent escalation in NATO's rhetoric toward China indicates that NATO is eager to achieve a globalized functional and institutional framework with global influence.

They are attempting to achieve NATO's globalization by hyping the so-called "China threat" and inciting challenges against China, Li Haidong, a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Thursday.

The more they talk about China and the more aggressive their rhetoric, the more it indicates that NATO is using the China issue to showcase its role in the Asia-Pacific region and globally, Li noted.

"The hype and intensification of the China issue serve as a catalyst for NATO to accelerate and strengthen its presence, influence, and actions globally, especially in the Asia-Pacific region," the expert said.

Washington's strategic tool

Although the US President Joe Biden did not name China in his address at the NATO Summit, experts believe that the escalated rhetoric of the bloc toward China was pushed by Washington as NATO has been serving as a strategic tool for the US.

Such a NATO will inevitably be pushed by the US onto the track of the US-planned global strategic competition with China, therefore, the increase in NATO's current rhetoric and foreseeable actions against China is being orchestrated under the US' direction, Li noted.

"Also, by pulling NATO into the Asia-Pacific region to engage in geopolitical competition against China, the US is likely to adopt a strategy of 'gathering allies to confront opponents' or forcing parties to take side," the expert said.

NATO forges closer ties with Asia partners to counter China, some US media reports said, and White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan was quoted as saying in a Fox News report that NATO allies and the Indo-Pacific partners will launch four new joint projects, which will be on Ukraine, artificial intelligence, disinformation and cybersecurity.

However, some experts said the likelihood of European military forces being projected into the Pacific remains quite low.

"Many European countries within NATO do not share the same view as the US. While NATO may issue strongly worded statements against China, truly pivoting to contain China is something NATO is neither capable of nor likely to achieve," a Beijing-based military expert who preferred not to be named told the Global Times on Thursday.

Non-Chinese permanent residents in Hong Kong hail new travel permit to mainland

"Finally, we can apply for permit like other Hong Kong residents," Will Bedoucha, a business consultant, told the Global Times on Wednesday on the first day non-Chinese residents in Hong Kong could apply for a new travel permit to go to the Chinese mainland.

Starting from July 10, 2024, non-Chinese permanent residents of Hong Kong and Macao are eligible for a card-type mainland travel permit, to enhance convenience of clearance at entry points of the mainland, facilitating their visit to the mainland for business, traveling and visiting relatives.

Holders of the permit can travel to the mainland multiple times within the five-year validity period of the permit, with each stay not exceeding 90 days, China's National Immigration Administration announced on July 1.

The South China Morning Post reported that slots at a Hong Kong Island center offering registration for the new travel permit are booked out for the first three weeks after the policy was launched.

Foreigners living in Hong Kong hailed the new policy when talking with the Global Times on Wednesday. Bedoucha, a French passport holder who was born and raised in Hong Kong, said he applied for the document "the very day the news was launched."

"I travel once every two weeks to Shenzhen just for shopping and dining. It's so easy to go there as it's a good little break from the city and I live 15 minutes away from Shenzhen," he said.

"I carry a French passport and so I was not eligible for the Home Return Permit as I was not born Chinese. Unlike those with Chinese backgrounds, we previously couldn't apply for permits," he said, noting that crossing the border with a passport can take more than 40 minutes to an hour.

A Canadian living in Hong Kong since 2000 said he is going to apply for the permit. "My wife is Chinese, and I have many friends in the mainland and I go there almost every month," he told the Global Times. He said he also believes the integration of the Greater Bay Area is accelerating.

He noted that the application process should be smooth. "I suspect that there might be too many people applying at this moment so I will wait a bit for it to calm down."

Some business tycoons also showed up on Wednesday at the China Travel Service center for applying the permit, Ming Pao reported.

Sino Group chairman Robert Ng Chee Siong, who has Singaporean nationality, along with his children, applied for the permit this morning. He was quoted as saying in the media report after applying that the measure would bring great benefits to Hong Kong, demonstrating the country's strong support for the city under One Country, Two Systems.

The new policies facilitate non-Chinese permanent residents of both SARs to explore opportunities in the mainland, especially Beijing, Shanghai and South China's Guangdong Province. They may devote themselves to engaging in business, innovation, entrepreneurship, partnerships and pursuing studies, Chu Kar-kin, a veteran current affairs commentator and deputy secretary-general of the Hong Kong Association for Promotion of Peaceful Reunification of China, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

They may also consider China as their second home and input capital, patents, talent, workmanship, technology and overseas networks to the country, Chu said.

Government figures show that in the first half of 2024, China received 14.635 million foreign travelers, up 152.7 percent year-on-year, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lin Jian told at a press conference on Tuesday.

Among them, 8.542 million entered China visa-free, up 190.1 percent year-on-year. As more and more countries benefit from the visa-free policy and as China adopts more measures to ease cross-border travel, "on-a-whim travel" to China is becoming a reality, Lin said.

Competent government agency expects more foreigners to travel to China in the second half of this year. The "China travel" boom stems from China's unique charm, and more importantly, an open and inclusive Chinese society, and the warm and hospitable Chinese people. It is also the result of China's high-standard opening up, the spokesperson said.

Exclusive: Latest images show severe rust on Philippines’ illegally grounded warship at Ren'ai Jiao; ship may 'cause irreversible damage to marine life'

The hull and interior facilities of the illegally grounded Philippines' warship at Ren'ai Jiao (also known as Ren'ai Reef) are severely corroded, showed a set of images exclusively obtained by the Global Times from the China Coast Guard (CCG) recently.

Experts warned that the illegally grounded warship may cause irreversible and continuous damages to the marine life in the South China Sea.

Since 2023, the Philippines has acted in bad faith, and secretly supplied construction materials to the grounded warship through various means. The Philippines' repeated supplements fully exposed its intention to blatantly violate its promise to tow away the warship, and its attempt to illegally occupy China's Ren'ai Jiao with malicious intent.
The exclusive images obtained by the Global Times from the CCG show that the hull of the illegally grounded warship has damage and leaks, with a large amount of paint peeling off the hull, and many corroded rusts water directly flowing into the sea. The entire ship has almost become a pile of rusty scrap iron, with various personal items and garbage casually placed on the uncovered deck.

Filipino military personnel are fishing on the shallow reef of Ren'ai Jiao. One of the images shows a Filipino military personnel is standing on the grounded warship and is suspected of urinating into the lagoon of Ren'ai Jiao.

The illegally grounded warship looks actually to be no longer suitable for human habitation and living.
Several video clips captured earlier this year show that Filipino military personnel on the grounded warship not only dumped waste water directly into the sea, they also gathered on the foredeck to burn garbage. The actions of the Filipino military personnel have starkly contrasted with the pristine blue skies and clean waters near Ren'ai Jiao, showing their destruction of the marine environment.

Facing such a dilapidated warship, the Philippine authorities have repeatedly violated their promises. Instead of towing away the illegally grounded military vessel, they have attempted to carry out large-scale repairs and reinforcements on it. The transportation has been reinforced since last year.
An anonymous professional told the Global Times that since 2023, the Philippines has repeatedly illegally intruded into China's Ren'ai Jiao, and carried out illegal resupply activities for the warship. In addition to the malicious provocations, the reason behind this is that the warship is severely damaged, and the Philippines needs to resupply building materials to repair and reinforce it in order to maintain their illegal presence in China's Ren'ai Jiao.

"But every time, the intention to secretly resupply building materials is exposed by the CCG, who resolutely stops it," the professional said.

Yang Xiao, deputy director of the Institute of Maritime Strategy Studies at China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times that due to the fact that the warship has been grounded for nearly 25 years, the spread of ship hull paint, the dissolution of hull metal rust, the discharge of fossil fuel combustion, and domestic waste onboard the ship have been discharged for a long time on the reefs and waters around the Ren 'ai Jiao.
These toxins continue to spread around the illegally grounded ship's grounding points, causing irreversible and continuous damage to the surrounding marine life. This not only causes the death of marine animals such as fish and shrimps, but also makes cumulative damages to marine aquatic plants. Furthermore, through the food chain, it poses significant adverse effects on the marine ecosystem of the South China Sea and humanity by extension, Yang said.

For ships constantly moving at sea, the paint and pollution of the ship could be continuously diluted by seawater. However, if it's moored or grounded at fixed points for a long time, pollution is difficult to be diluted by seawater due to a lack of water movement, resulting in a gradient of toxins centered on the warship, Yang noted.

"Among them, prominent pollutants include mercury oxide, organotin [TBT], and copper compounds. There is enough scientific research to show that these toxins can cause irreversible pathogenic pollution to marine life. More importantly, with the enrichment of the food chain, these pollutants may enter the human living circle," Yang said.

Yang further stated that the Philippine government, for the sinister purpose of stealing territory from other countries, deliberately ran a dilapidated military ship aground on the beautiful reefs of the South China Sea, and failed to fulfill its promise to remove it for 25 years.

Moreover, the Philippines is unable and unwilling to carry out environmental protection and pollution control on the warship, leading to a large amount of natural and man-made pollutants being directly discharged into the surrounding reefs and waters, which is extremely irresponsible and uncivilized, Yang said.

China's success in EV development lies in innovation, not 'overcapacity'

Recently, US officials have accused Chinese industry of overcapacity, particularly in sectors like electric vehicles (EVs), solar panels, and semiconductors. They argue that China's low-priced products threaten industries in the US.

However, a closer examination from the perspective of technological cycles, industrial organizational structure evolution, and the role of industrial policies reveals a reality that contradicts the US officials' ridiculous claim.

Critics often attribute China's competitive edge in new-energy products to overcapacity, pointing to the low prices of Chinese manufactured goods. Yet, this oversimplification ignores the complexities of technological progress and industrial dynamics. Historically, constant tech advancements have led to cost reductions and improved affordability for ordinary consumers.

China's edge in new-energy technology and Chinese EVs' relatively low market share overseas suggest that the price advantage is driven by homegrown innovation while not overcapacity.

Moreover, China's leading position in patents for key technologies like solid-state batteries underscores its technological prowess. While some argue that "China is flooding international markets with cheap products," the reality is different.

For instance, Chinese new-energy vehicles (NEVs) are often priced higher overseas than domestically, for example, the BYD Seal is priced at 180,000 yuan ($24,880) in China, approximately 370,000 yuan in the Netherlands, and 411,800 yuan in the UK, indicating that pricing strategies are not solely dictated by oversupply but also by market dynamics and production efficiency.

Hence, the competitive pricing of China's new-energy products stems not merely from sufficient supply, but rather from overcoming technological barriers through diligent research and development, constant enhancement of product performance to lower costs, and optimizing production efficiency across the entire industrial chain.

Another criticism leveled against China is the prevalence of loss-making manufacturers, which some attribute to government support and a refusal to allow companies to exit the market. However, this isn't telling the truth. Losses in high-tech industries during the early stages of development are not uncommon, as companies often require significant investment in research and development.

For example, Amazon was founded in 1995, but it did not become profitable until 2015, according to media reports. Tesla was established in 2003, but it did not make a profit until 2020. In particular, Tesla was once on the verge of bankruptcy because of its inability to mass produce. The survival of these companies depends on their ability to attract capital and their competitiveness in the market.

While some NEV ventures in China have indeed experienced losses, market forces determine their fate. Companies with competitive products can attract funding and continue to operate, while others may exit the market due to lack of competitiveness. In the past four years, 12 NEV companies in China have closed down, including WM Motor and AIWAYS. Rather than being solely attributed to overcapacity, the ability of loss-making companies to survive and eventually thrive is a testament to the investors' belief in the industry's potential and the companies' ability to deliver on that promise.

Critics also point to China's industrial policies as a factor contributing to "overcapacity." However, a comparison with industrial policies in developed countries tells a different story. Moderate policy support is not indicative of overcapacity but rather reflects a strategic approach to nurturing emerging industries. Industrial policy has played a crucial role in driving innovation and fostering economic transformation in developed countries.

For instance, the US government's support for the domestic semiconductor industry in the 1950s and South Korea's protection of its local semiconductor chip industry in the 1990s demonstrate the positive impact of government policy interventions.

In recent years, the US has implemented subsidy policies aimed at promoting the adoption of NEVs. However, the outcomes of these initiatives have been less than satisfactory.

For instance, under the US Inflation Reduction Act, EVs assembled exclusively in North America were eligible for a maximum subsidy of $7,500 in tax deductions. Despite this incentive, major companies such as Apple and Ford have shelved their plans for all-electric vehicles. Even with government subsidies in place, many American firms struggle to keep pace in the competitive landscape of the NEV industry.

Overall, the industrial policies of China's new-energy development have been very successful. The Chinese government has not only proactively and effectively laid out the new-energy industry, but also gradually reduced policy support after nurturing a large number of enterprises, accelerating the survival of the fittest for new-energy enterprises.

The accusations of "overcapacity" in China's new-energy industries are misguided and oversimplified. China's success in the industries is not the result of overcapacity but rather of strategic investment in technology, innovation, and market-driven policies. Rather than blaming China for its competitiveness, a more constructive approach would involve understanding and leveraging global market dynamics to foster cooperation and innovation in the new-energy sector.

Exploring China's rural transformation along Xi's footsteps - Guangxi's grape village Maozhushan

Editor's Note:

China Rural Revitalization magazine has published a series of articles on the rapid development of rural areas in China with new transformations. The articles reflect the arduous efforts of rural revitalization across China, which is an important and genuine solution to China's rural economic development. In the future, articles selected from this series will be published.
Maozhushan village, located in Nanyi village, Caiwan town of Guilin in South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, is a natural village with only 46 households and 156 residents. The village, although named for the mountains and hills of moso bamboo, is known far and wide for the development of its local grape industry for over 20 years.

In 2002, grapes were first grown in Maozhushan, a once-impoverished village covering an area of 60 hectares. Many young villagers who moved to big cities as migrant workers gradually returned to their home village and were employed in the grape industry.

In April 2021, when Chinese President Xi Jinping paid a formal visit to Guangxi, he stopped at Maozhushan village.

Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, inspected the local grape-growing industry and called for greater efforts to pursue rural vitalization based on local specialty industries to make better use of science and technology in promoting the agricultural sector.

He also stressed measures that can ensure farmers to benefit more from the development of rural industries.

Xi walked through the village, dropping by the home of villager Wang Deli and chatting with the family.

He said that as the CPC is about to celebrate its centennial in 2021, China has scored a complete victory in its fight against poverty. However, he said promoting rural vitalization on all fronts will be no easier than the battle to fight poverty, allowing no letup or sluggishness.

Tech empowerment

"We planted a total of more than 320 mu (21.3 hectares) of grapes, with 192 mu of grape varieties improved. After the improvement, the retail price of grapes per jin (0.5 kilogram) increased by 3-5 yuan ($0.69)," said Wang Hairong, head of the local grape planting association.

In discussing new varieties and technologies used by the village's grape industry in the past few years, Wang has strong opinions.

"We also standardized the grape planting base, converting the old simple sheds into greenhouses with steel frame structure. In addition, we have promoted the application of organic cultivation, drip irrigation and water-fertilizer integration and other technologies, which has not only saved water and fertilizer, but also reduced costs," Wang noted.

Wang stressed that the village set up a 5G intelligent agricultural system - the Maozhushan grape industry digital platform. The platform not only aimed at the scientific management and care of grapes to provide timely and effective data support, but also has significantly reduced the incidence of grape pests and diseases as well as improved the quality of grapes.

"The average yield increase reached nearly 500 jin per mu," Wang said.

In addition to the "hard technology," Maozhushan village also pays special attention to the "soft power" of enhancing the scientific planting of grapes. Over recent years, the village has worked with several Guangxi agricultural research institutions to better promote the development of local grape growing.

The majority of agricultural experts and technicians not only go into the field to guide the adoption of key technologies of grape planting, but also give their opinions and suggestions from the introduction of products, equipment supply to orders for the acquisition.

Pristine water & hills

Noting the changes that have occurred to the environment of Maozhushan village, Wang Junrong, Party chief of Nanyi village, said that over the recent years, local authorities have earnestly practiced the concept of "lucid waters and lush mountains are as invaluable as silver and gold," vigorously implementing a number of infrastructure renewal projects.

In addressing the Maozhushan village environment, Wu Yecheng, an official from the Caiwan town government, was involved in the entire infrastructure upgrading and renovation projects.

According to Wu, Maozhushan village has built a cultural center, a basketball court, a theater, and completed 3.5 kilometers of road widening project as well as 2,200 square meters of parking lot construction and rainwater and sewage separation project.

In addition, the local township government carried out a comprehensive soil and water conservation management project in small watersheds, successfully transforming two weirs and one waterwheel, and comprehensively managed an area of 37.14 square kilometers to protect against soil erosion.

The projects have greatly improved the local environment, with water diversion and irrigation as well as flood discharge and flood relief capacity comprehensively upgraded, said Wu.

In addition, Maozhushan village has also completed the intelligent transformation of a high-standard power grid, providing electric power support for the wider use of drip irrigation technologies for the grape planting bases, so that the local grape industry has withstood the test of the summer and autumn drought in northern Guilin in 2022, with the grape yield increased that year.

The local government has also coordinated with the local telecom company to realize the full coverage of the mobile signal across the village, in a bid to strengthen the timely, fast and accurate communication between the village and the outside world.

In 2022, the theatrical movie My Hometown Maozhushan was filmed in the village, greatly enhancing its popularity and influence.

HK economy sustains growth as tourism, stocks rebound

The Hong Kong economy has seen five consecutive quarters of growth, primarily driven by a revival of inbound tourism alongside the continued recovery of the stock market, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po said on Sunday, stressing that the good performance demonstrates the sustained growth momentum of Hong Kong.

The surge in Hong Kong's inbound tourism was a key factor driving the city's first-quarter economic growth. With an increasing number of visitors to the city, services output is steadily rising, as highlighted by the financial chief in his weekly blog.

Around 670,000 visitors from the Chinese mainland had visited the city between Wednesday and Saturday, the first four days of the May Day holidays, which ran from May 1 to 5, Secretary for Culture, Sports and Tourism Kevin Yeung Yun-hung told a radio show on Sunday.

The tourism chief noted that spending by Chinese mainland visitors in Hong Kong is estimated to have exceeded HK$2 billion ($256 million) during the holidays, as arrival numbers aligned with original estimates despite the recent stormy weather.

Hong Kong's economy has maintained a favorable growth trajectory this year, with an accelerating trend overall. This can be attributed to a substantial adjustment of the economic structure following the COVID-19 pandemic, Cong Yi, a professor at the Tianjin University of Finance and Economics, told the Global Times on Sunday.

More notably, the sustained recovery of the mainland's economy has bolstered Hong Kong's growth and reinstated market confidence in its economic performance, Cong said.

As a front-runner in China's opening-up, Hong Kong is actively driving economic integration with the Greater Bay Area, which offers significant momentum and opportunities for its economic development.

Hong Kong's real GDP grew 2.7 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2024, the fifth consecutive quarter of growth. After seasonal adjustment, the quarterly growth rate stood at 2.3 percent, according to data from the Census and Statistics Department.

As another indication of the stable recovery of the city's economy, Hong Kong stocks have climbed for nine straight trading sessions, with the Hang Seng Index surging by nearly 14 percent overall. The average daily trading volume exceeds HK$128 billion, signaling improved sentiment in the financial markets, Chan pointed out.

The recent rebound in the Hong Kong stock market is expected to have a positive impact on the economy in the second quarter. The central government's support for Hong Kong's economic development and financial market liquidity reflects its commitment to maintaining the city's status as an international financial center, Liang Haiming, chairman of the China Silk Road iValley Research Institute, a Hong Kong-based research institute, told the Global Times on Sunday.

This support has led to a steady rise in financial markets, creating a positive "wealth effect" on the economy and consumption in Hong Kong, sparking optimism in its growth for the following quarters, Liang said.

Hong Kong is stepping up efforts to accelerate economic development by "continuing to build on its traditional strengths while exploring new sources of growth," as the financial chief put it on April 28. 

The Financial Secretary announced at the end of February the withdrawal of all property cooling measures in Hong Kong's 2024-25 budget, eliminating the requirement for additional stamp duties in residential property transactions. With the easing of property market restrictions, related transactions have picked up momentum, and prices show signs of stabilization, according to Chan.

In line with global digitalization and green economic transformation, the budget also proposes various measures to assist small and medium-sized enterprises, including those in the catering and retail sectors, in their digital transformation to adapt to evolving tourist spending patterns, Chan added.

Hungary-Serbia railway could inspire divided world as protectionism rises

The construction of the Hungary-Serbia railway, a flagship project of the China-proposed Belt and Road initiative (BRI), will help inject new impetus into the economies of the two countries. The railway, plus the China-Serbia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) signed in 2023, may provide people with a new perspective on the increasingly fragmented global trade situation.

As reported by the Xinhua News Agency on Sunday, Serbia's Minister of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure Goran Vesic said that Serbia's participation in the BRI has boosted the overall development of the country and its neighbors. He cited the construction of the Hungary-Serbia railway as an example of successful BRI cooperation.

The Hungary-Serbia railway is a double-track electrified railway with a total length of 341.7 kilometers, including 183.1 kilometers in Serbia. Sitting at the crossroads of Central and Southern Europe - and often seen as a geographical region that straddles both Eastern and Western Europe - Serbia has unique geographical advantages. The construction of the railway is expected to improve connectivity between Hungary and Serbia and help clear barriers from Serbia to Greece's Piraeus Port, a transit hub connecting Europe, Asia and Africa.

The Hungary-Serbia railway is considered an important project to improve physical connectivity, as part of multifaceted cooperation aimed at deepening economic exchanges. 

Connectivity includes not only physical infrastructure like roads and railways but also institutional arrangements to make it easier to strengthen exchanges among different regions.

China and Serbia signed an FTA in October 2023. The signing of the FTA and subsequent tariff cuts have enhanced trade relations, boosted Serbia's exports and - more importantly - served as a bridge to open up new trade routes and ramp up trade and investment between China and Europe. 

Trade between China and Europe reached $1.215 trillion in 2023. Both sides have strong trade complementarity, and unleashing this potential can generate more positive influences on Europe's economy, helping solve problems it faces, such as stubborn inflation. 

The lingering question is how to unleash this huge potential. There are two critical factors. On the one hand, we should continue to promote infrastructure interconnectivity; on the other hand, we should take concrete actions to reject all forms of protectionism and unequivocally advocate for and support free trade.

Facing a complex and volatile international situation, China and Serbia, acting as each other's "ironclad friends," have continuously enhanced cooperation in multiple fields such as railway infrastructure construction and free trade. These factors interact with one another, forming a joint force to boost economic cooperation.

The nature of cooperation is mutually beneficial, and that's why the Serbian side holds a positive attitude toward cooperation with China. Vesic said Serbia is proud of its participation in the BRI, under which Chinese companies have undertaken many infrastructure projects in the country.

The construction of the Hungary-Serbia railway reached a milestone on April 25, when the track-laying work for a 108-kilometer section between Novi Sad and Subotica in Serbia was completed. It's not always easy to undertake large-scale infrastructure projects, and the construction of the Hungary-Serbia railway faces some challenges, but the project has been steadily advancing. That's because this is good for the Serbian economy, which could benefit greatly from infrastructure projects.

Amid global economic uncertainty, various countries, including those in Europe, are trying to gain new growth momentum as traditional drivers weaken. What is needed today is to improve economic connectivity and further promote free trade. As long as cooperation can bring tangible economic benefits to local economies, it will eventually overcome temporary challenges and difficulties.

The US-advocated "decoupling" and Washington's geopolitical games have brought enormous challenges to global trade, but globalization and free trade are the only ways to promote mutually beneficial cooperation. Politicians with a sober mind will not politicize economic issues and not fall into the "decoupling from China" trap.

China, France agree to elevate economic, trade cooperation: MOFCOM

China and France have inked a number of cooperation agreements during the recent state visit by China's top leader to Paris. Moving ahead, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) will work with its French counterpart to elevate bilateral economic and trade cooperation to a new stage, a spokesperson from the ministry said on Thursday.

During the visit, MOFCOM and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on promoting cooperation among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), aiming to enhance the business environment for SME cooperation between the two countries, according to He Yadong, the spokesperson for MOFCOM.

Additionally, the sixth meeting of the China-France Entrepreneur Committee convened successfully in Paris, with over 200 entrepreneurs from both nations attending. Discussions centered on topics like industrial innovation for mutual trust and win-win cooperation, green economy and low-carbon transformation, and fostering new productivity for sustainable development.

Following the meeting, companies from both countries signed 15 cooperation agreements in such areas as finance, nuclear energy development, aviation, manufacturing, and new renewable energies, according to the MOFCOM spokesperson.

"Moving ahead, the Ministry of Commerce will work with relevant French departments to conscientiously implement the important consensus reached by the two heads of state, and elevate bilateral economic and trade cooperation to a new stage," He Yadong told a press briefing in Beijing on Thursday, noting rapid development in bilateral economic cooperation during the recent years.

In the 60 years since the two countries formally established diplomatic ties, bilateral trade has skyrocketed nearly 800-fold, hitting $78.9 billion in 2023.

China has become France's primary trading partner outside the EU, while France retains its crucial role as an important trading partner for China within the EU. Total two-way investment has exceeded $26 billion, placing China and France at the forefront of cooperation among EU nations, with over 2,000 French companies now operating in China.

In the context of intensified global economic uncertainty, the importance of strengthening China-France relations in trade, strategic cooperation, and cultural exchange is ever more pronounced, guided by principles of independence, mutual understanding, and mutual gain.