'Concerns' for China's influence in Solomon Islands 'biased,' reflecting US strategic suppression: experts

Responding to "concerns" from a pro-US political figure in the Solomon Islands over China's growing influence ahead of the nation's elections, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said on Monday that China adheres to non-interference principle in other countries' internal affairs, and advocates prioritizing development while respecting the Pacific nation's autonomy.

Experts noted that the "concerns" appear more like a slogan for the US with the aim of suppressing China's interests in the South Pacific region. Since establishing diplomatic relations, China's cooperation with and assistance to the Solomon Islands have been conducted under the principle of mutual respect without any political conditions, they stressed.

Daniel Suidani, a major rival of the incumbent Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and the former premier of the most populous island Malaita, said in a recent interview that China's presence in his nation is "alarming," noting that the upcoming elections could further "entrench Beijing's foothold."

One of the few provincial leaders in the country to refuse cooperation with China, Suidani claimed that he fears the assistance could one day "come with strings attached," while accusing China of meddling in the Solomon Islands' elections without providing evidence.

In response to the allegations, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lin Jian said at Monday's press briefing that China has always adhered to the principle of non-interference in other countries' internal affairs and supports the people of the Solomon Islands in choosing a development path that suits their national conditions.

China advocates that all countries, in developing relations with Pacific island countries, should respect their autonomy, prioritize development, and promote inclusiveness, Lin noted.

"In fact, Suidani's province of Malaita and he himself has long had a close bond with the separatist authorities of Taiwan island. In addition, he is heavily influenced by the US, which has led to a bias against China," Chen Hong, executive director at the Asia Pacific Studies Centre of East China Normal University, told the Global Times on Monday.

According to media reports, Suidani has previously signaled willingness to re-establish ties with traditional security partners including Australia and the US.

Washington has been trying to manipulate the politics of the Solomon Islands since Sogavare took office, Chen noted, by pressuring the current government through various means such as media and public opinion, while at the same time cultivating individuals within opposition parties to influence the country's domestic and foreign affairs.

Another of Suidani's aims is to differentiate himself from the current government by emphasizing his stance on China, so as to enhance his political profile and gain support ahead of the election, observers said.

Voters from among 700,000 people spread over the more than 900 islands in the country will go to the polls on Wednesday to elect 50 lawmakers from 334 candidates. The 50 newly elected lawmakers then decide which of them will become prime minister.

Sogavare is seeking a second consecutive term, AP reported on Monday.

Western media, in line with US strategy, has spared no efforts to exploit this election as a chance to disrupt the relations between China and the Solomon Islands, claiming that the election could impact China's cooperation with the Pacific nation.

Shrugging off this hype, Chinese experts said that the tangible benefits China has brought to local people are clear, whether it's in infrastructure development or in comprehensive economic cooperation.

"Attempts by certain politicians to reject China's partnership ultimately goes against the interests and needs of its people, and are doomed to fail," Chen said.

Several previous cases have also proven that while some politicians may exploit anti-China rhetoric during their countries' elections, once in power, they quickly came to realize the benefits of cooperating with China and soon switch to a prudent and pragmatic approach in dealing with China, Chen noted.

Since severing ties with the island of Taiwan and establishing diplomatic relations with Beijing in 2019, the Solomon Islands has signed a security pact with China in 2022, and inked a comprehensive strategic partnership featuring mutual respect and common development for a new era in 2023 during Sogavare's visit to Beijing.

China's humanoid robot market to hit 10 billion yuan, eyes 119 billion yuan by 2030: report

Research unveiled during the inaugural China Humanoid Robot Industry Conference in Beijing from April 9 to 10 indicates that the global humanoid robot industry is entering a golden era, poised for sustained growth. The report predicted that the Chinese humanoid robot market will surpass 10 billion yuan, reaching 10.47 billion yuan ($1.45 billion) by 2026, and is anticipated to soar to 119 billion yuan by 2030.

The booming market is seemingly telling people that intelligent humanoid robots that can simulate human thinking and consciousness, as depicted in films like Ex Machina and A.I. Artificial Intelligence, are really getting closer to reality.

The rapid development of AI technology has played a crucial role in the advancement of humanoid robots. As NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang said at the 2024 GPU Technology Conference (GTC) in March, "Building foundation models for general humanoid robots is one of the most exciting problems to solve in AI today."

In return, the advancement of humanoid robots is viewed as a major milestone in the AI era, pushing the boundaries of AI research. Numerous Chinese experts and industry observers consider humanoid robots a breakthrough for the "AI Plus" initiative aimed at fostering innovative development in the digital economy, as promoted during the two sessions in March.

Golden age along with AI

Humanoid robots are dubbed "humanoid" because they are designed to emulate and potentially surpass human capabilities in form, function, behavior, and even cognitive processes, Zhang Rui, founder and executive director of the Beijing Ironman Technology in Beijing, told the Global Times.

"Without the need for massive changes to the existing environment, humanoid robots can seamlessly integrate into various scenarios, using their flexible and dynamic execution capabilities to meet complex and changing task requirements. Furthermore, their human-like characteristics enable them to easily manipulate human tools, further expanding their application areas," Zhang said.

Therefore, humanoid robots are not only a symbol of technological progress but also a significant force driving future social development, he noted.

Humanoid robots have been widely applied in various industries, with the aerospace sector being one of the most prominent, according to Zhang. Several countries including the US, Russia and China, have been deeply researching the application of humanoid robots in the aerospace field. These robots are mainly used to replace humans in performing dangerous and complex operations, ensuring the safety of astronauts and improving the efficiency and success rate of space missions.

Other major application areas of humanoid robots is in border defense and lights-out factories, or smart factories.

"The continuous innovation and breakthroughs in AI technology in recent years have indeed provided humanoid robots with more powerful perception, decision-making, and execution capabilities. This allows humanoid robots to more accurately understand human language, recognize environmental information, and make more reasonable decisions and actions," Zhang said.

In the future, Zhang expects humanoid robots to have enormous potential in areas such as general hardware execution, dynamic adaptation and environmental integration.

How far is AGI?

The thriving progress of humanoid robots is drawing increasing attention from international tech giants. On March 18, nine humanoid robots were unveiled at NVIDIA's 2024 GTC. Tesla is also actively working on a humanoid robot named Optimus, and OpenAI, Microsoft, and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos have made substantial investments in humanoid robot startup Figure AI. Additionally, Agility Robotics, backed by Amazon, has established the world's first large-scale humanoid robot production factory in Oregon, the US, capable of producing 10,000 two-legged robots annually.

A group of innovative and competitive Chinese companies have also emerged in the field of humanoid robots with the increasing emphasis and investment in robot technology in China, leading to significant progress in the Chinese humanoid robot industry.

In March, the Beijing humanoid robot innovation center announced that it would soon release the first generation of a universal open humanoid robot body.

Among the nine robots showcased at the NVIDIA 2024 GTC, two were developed by Chinese companies, namely H1 from Hangzhou Unitree Robotics and PX5 from Xiaopeng Pengxing.

The Global Times learned from Unitree Robotics that H1 is a full-size humanoid robot capable of running, equipped with 360 panoramic depth perception. Currently, it can reach a speed of 3.3 meters per second, setting a world record for full-size electric humanoid robots, with a potential speed of up to 5 meters per second.

This robot boasts highly advanced full-body dynamic coordination capabilities, enabling it to dance in groups and execute backflips. As a result, NVIDIA opted to partner with Yushu to collectively propel the global advancement of AI robots. According to the company's response to the Global Times, NVIDIA, a frontrunner in GPU and AI chip technology, furnishes Yushu's robots with robust computing capabilities and comprehensive support in deep learning technology.

However, overall, the deep integration of AI and humanoid robots still faces significant challenges.

Zhang believes hardware challenges are a crucial obstacle. While we can achieve various complex functions and performance at the algorithm level, it is often difficult to achieve the desired output power and efficiency in actual robot hardware, he said.

This is mainly due to the numerous technical details and engineering challenges involved in hardware design and manufacturing, requiring continuous optimization and improvement, Zhang explained.

On the other hand, the current progress of AI technology is mainly limited to deepening and innovating at the logical level, with insufficient breakthroughs in thinking and emotional aspects. While the form of robots is malleable, the "spirit" of their internal thinking and emotions is still an unexplored frontier. Zhang believes it will take another 5-10 years to achieve a 70 percent similarity with human emotions.

At an economic forum held at Stanford University in March, Jensen Huang predicted that a general artificial intelligence that can pass human tests, or "human-like" artificial general intelligence (AGI, capable of performing all human intelligent behaviors), is likely to appear within five years. However, Huang also pointed out that achieving this goal is not without difficulties, as scientists still lack a unified definition of how the human mind operates, making it challenging for engineers to achieve the goal.

On April 8, Elon Musk said during a livestreamed interview on X that AI that is smarter than any one human will probably come around by the end of next year. Last year, he predicted that humans would "fully" achieve general artificial intelligence by 2029.

Some experts believe that with the continuous advancement of chips and algorithms, AI may eventually surpass human intelligence. However, Liu Wei, director of the human-machine interaction and cognitive engineering laboratory of the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, pointed out that AGI may be a false proposition. This is not because current AI systems have not reached the level of general intelligence, but because AI fundamentally perform and learn like humans.

The development of AGI faces three major bottlenecks: technical, biological, and social. The technical bottleneck lies in the need for AI systems to have higher computing power, more advanced algorithms, and more efficient data processing methods to achieve more complex and intelligent functions. The biological bottleneck mainly stems from our limited understanding of the cognitive capabilities and operation mechanisms of the human brain, requiring deeper research in neuroscience and cognition to achieve similar levels of intelligence. The social bottleneck includes the integration of AI systems with human society, such as cultural differences, ethical issues, privacy protection, etc., all of which are crucial factors affecting the development of AI, according to Liu.

"To overcome these bottlenecks, interdisciplinary cooperation and continuous innovation efforts are needed. Only by making breakthroughs in technology, biology and society can AGI move towards more mature and comprehensive development, but it remains extremely difficult, perhaps impossible after all," Liu said.

Safety and ethics concerns

In November 2023, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of China issued the guiding opinions on the innovation and development of humanoid robots, proposing to establish a preliminary innovation system for humanoid robots by 2025.

The document predicted that, by 2025, key technologies such as those related to robots' "brain, cerebellum, limbs" will achieve breakthroughs, ensuring safe and effective supply of core components. The whole machine products will reach international advanced levels, achieve mass production, and be demonstrated in special, manufacturing, and civil service scenarios, exploring effective governance mechanisms and means. By 2027, China's comprehensive strength in humanoid robots will reach world-class levels, becoming an important new engine for economic growth.

The development of the humanoid robot industry, driven by both technology and policy, has entered the fast lane of development, but it also faces challenges in safety, social ethics, and legal norms. Some experts point out that in scenarios requiring close contact, such as in elderly care or assistance, where physical contact is needed, the safety and risk issues of humanoid robots cannot be underestimated. More research is needed by the industry and relevant regulatory authorities on the technical and application scenarios.

Zhang believes that when unexpected situations occur with humanoid robots in a home environment, the lack of clear legal definitions makes it difficult to determine responsibility and protect rights. Additionally, there is currently no mandatory system for certifying the eligibility of humanoid robot products, making it challenging to distribute products in large quantities and limiting the widespread application of humanoid robots. Therefore, it is essential to address and resolve these legal gaps as soon as possible to ensure the healthy and orderly advancement of humanoid robots in the future.

However, he firmly believes that with the continuous progress of technology and the gradual improvement of regulations, humanoid robots will demonstrate their unique charm in more fields, contributing more to the development of human society.

In 2023, the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology, together with the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and 10 other departments, issued the trial ethical review measures for science and technology.

According to the measures, carrying out scientific and technological activities should adhere to the unity of promoting innovation and preventing risks. It involves objectively evaluating and prudently handling uncertainties and risks of technological applications, following the principles of enhancing human well-being, respecting the rights of life, upholding fairness and justice, reasonably controlling risks, and maintaining openness and transparency in science and technology ethics. It is essential to comply with the Constitution, laws, and regulations of China, relevant provisions, and ethical norms of science and technology.

No 'goodwill' seen as DPP authorities consistently obstruct cross-Straits exchanges: spokesperson

The Chinese mainland continues to support cross-Straits exchanges and cooperation in various fields despite the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authorities consistently obstructing exchanges. Their so-called “goodwill” to enhance exchanges has not been seen, Zhu Fenglian, spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council told a press conference on Wednesday. 

Zhu’s remarks came after reports that Taiwan's transportation officials recently claimed that due to the decrease in mainland tourists, the target number of tourist trips to Taiwan this year would decrease from 12 million to 10 million. And there is public outcry within the Taiwan island urging the DPP authorities to seek solutions and not allow Taiwan's tourism industry to become a political sacrifice. 

“The DPP claim that they have been showing goodwill since last year, but what we see is that there has still been no formal opening for mainland residents to visit the Taiwan island, nor has the ban on Taiwan residents participating in group tours to the mainland been lifted. Where is the so-called goodwill? We haven't seen it,” said Zhu. 

During the Wednesday press conference, Zhu also criticized the DPP authorities for obstructing exchanges between young people.  

Former chairman of the Chinese Kuomintang party (KMT) Ma Ying-jeou is leading a Taiwan youth delegation to visit the mainland this week, including Guangdong, Shaanxi, Beijing and other places to trace their roots and exchange experiences.

Zhu said that the foundation of cross-Strait relations lies in the people, and the driving force comes from the people. She hopes that young people on both sides of the Taiwan Straits can bravely shoulder responsibilities, unite in friendship, and work together. 

The mainland has consistently advocated and actively promoted cross-Straits youth exchanges, and will continue to create favorable conditions for mutual learning and exchange between young people, and provide more conveniences for Taiwan youth in studying, working, starting businesses, and living on the mainland, Zhu said. 

Mr Ma has led young people from the Taiwan island to visit and conduct exchanges on the mainland twice, and invited faculty and students from five mainland universities to visit the island, making significant contributions to promoting cross-Straits youth exchanges. “We fully acknowledge and appreciate this,” said Zhu. 

The main obstacle to cross-Straits youth exchanges at present lies in the obstruction and restrictions imposed by the DPP authorities, Zhu said, noting that they will work with people of both sides of the Taiwan Strait to actively carry out various activities to promote youth exchanges, allowing more young people from both sides to get to know each other, work together, and inject youthful vitality into the continuous development of cross-Straits relations.

While visiting the former residence of Sun Yat-sen, a great national hero, great patriot and great forerunner of China's democratic revolution, in Guangdong, Ma called on the two sides of the Taiwan Straits to work together and “avoid war.”

Zhu said that the peaceful development of cross-Straits relations is the correct path for safeguarding peace, promoting common development, and benefiting compatriots on both sides. People on both sides of the Straits should work together to fulfill the Chinese dream together, and shoulder the responsibility of national rejuvenation. 

The DPP authorities persist stubbornly in their separatist "Taiwan independence" stance and collude with external forces to continuously provoke separatism, which is the root cause of tension and instability in the Taiwan Straits.

We firmly oppose "Taiwan independence" and will not leave any room for separatist activities. The DPP authorities collude with external forces to provoke "independence" and undermine peace in the Taiwan Straits, damaging the interests and well-being of Taiwan compatriots, which is truly detested by the people of Taiwan, Zhu said. 

ISO establishes new secretariat in China for cultural heritage conservation

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has established a new technical committee for cultural heritage conservation (ISO/TC 349), according to a recent announcement made by China's State Administration for Market Regulation.

The new agenda's secretariat will be based in Beijing, China.

Cultural policy expert Song Weiping told the Global Times that the decision will have a positive impact on "China's rich cultural heritage resources, its growing and perfecting management mechanism, and also the country's technological growth."

The new ISO committee aims to further forge a global consensus on the conservation of cultural heritage. It aims to form standardized international terms that can be applied in cultural heritage management, such as the protection and restoration of cultural relics as well as the applied materials and equipment using for heritage conservation.

Li Hasi, a cultural industry researcher in Shanghai, explained to the Global Times that the new agenda will serve as a "sharing platform," bringing together specialties from various countries and regions to collectively safeguard cultural legacies.

"Taking Italy as an example, the country, much like China, possesses rich historical heritages. However, its management practices and conservation standards differ from those in China. Thus, the new committee can facilitate the exchange of resources between the two nations," Li told the Global Times.

Including China and Italy, ISO/TC 349 comprises a total of 29 global participants such as Germany, France, the UK and Finland in Europe, as well as Kenya and Benin in Africa.

Those countries, especially members such as Egypt, are living proof of human being's ancient civilizations.

Xue Ruiming, an archaeologist specializing in Western Han Dynasty (206BC-AD25) Ancient Silk Road research, told the Global Times that he hopes the new Beijing secretariat can be a "resource hub for providing researchers with opportunities for international cooperation."

Xue also emphasized that learning internationally reckoned standards on cultural heritage conservation can help Chinese experts to "communicate better with international academia."

"I hope it is informative and open to researchers, so we can find how other peer researchers conduct their work in their own cultural context. Our work is hugely based on experience, so we need to learn and have exchanges," Xue told the Global Times.

Another 13 countries, including Denmark, Singapore and the US, have joined the initiative as observers. These countries will come together to share their experiences in cultural heritage conservation. Such a global cultural community is also dedicated to coping with challenges that emerge during legacy conservation such as natural disasters.

Founded in 1947 in London, the UK, the ISO is a non-governmental organization that develops worldwide standards. It is also a coordinating body of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The ISO covers numerous niche aspects such as environmental management standards, energy management standards, food safety standards and IT security standards. All members of ISO are representatives from member countries' national standards organizations.

China, being a member to this international community, has made its own contributions.

Under the category ISO/TR 37112 that focuses on sustainable cities and communities, the planning mechanism of China-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City was highlighted as a case study by ISO to exemplify how smart city operating models support public-health emergency response.

The China-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City boasts a "Smart Management Map." It integrates data information with resource planning spatial information to form data on sectors such as vehicles, enterprises and constructions sites.

These sectors have corresponding management functions. The map combines with another big data information facility called the "City Brain," which can provide efficient analysis of emergencies and strategies and provide solutions for them.

"This is why we say China's technological advancement is valuable for the world's sustainable and smart growth. The country's technology has permeated through various sectors, and this is our development strategy to share with the world," Song told the Global Times.

China, US militaries hold a new round of maritime military safety consultation in Hawaii, engage in candid and constructive exchange

The Chinese and American militaries held two-day working-level talks in Hawaii, which China's Ministry of National Defense (MOD) described on Saturday as candid and constructive. This marks the first time in two years that China and the US have held a meeting under the military maritime consultative mechanism, signaling the restart of the China-US military maritime security dialogue.

From Wednesday to Thursday, the militaries of the two sides held the China-US Military Maritime Consultative Agreement (MMCA) Working Group meeting in Hawaii, aiming to promote the healthy, stable, and sustainable development of military relations between the two nations, according to a readout released by the MOD.

On the basis of equality and respect, the two sides had a candid and constructive exchange on the current maritime and air safety situation between China and the US, the ministry said.

The meeting also assessed the implementation of the China-US Rules of Behavior for the Safety of Air and Maritime Encounters since the MMCA meeting in 2021 and discussed measures to improve maritime military security between the two countries, it noted.

Some US media reported that the meeting included personnel from the Indo-Pacific Command, the US Pacific Fleet, and the US Pacific Air Forces, which is the first time since 2019 that the meeting was held in person. The meeting included about 18 senior military and civilian officials from each side, according to media reports.

The most recent China-US MMCA meeting took place from December 15 to 17, 2021, in the form of a video conference.

In August 2022, in response to then US house speaker Nancy Pelosi's provocative visit to China's Taiwan region despite strong opposition and solemn representations from Beijing, China announced eight countermeasures, including the cancellation of the China-US MMCA meeting among three military-related measures.

In November 2023, during a summit meeting between the leaders of China and the US in San Francisco, both sides agreed to resume high-level military communications, working meetings between the defense departments of China and the US, the MMCA meetings, and dialogues between military leaders of both nations, based on equality and respect.

Zhang Junshe, a Chinese military expert, told the Global Times on Saturday that holding this meeting is an important action for the Chinese and American militaries to implement the important consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries, and to promote the healthy, stable, and sustainable development of military relations between the two countries.

The resumption of the MMCA meeting marks the gradual and comprehensive restoration of communication at the mechanism level between the Chinese and American militaries, another military expert who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told the Global Times on Saturday.

Previously, from January 8 to 9, 2024, China and the US held the 17th China-US Defense Policy Coordination Talks in Washington DC.

During the latest MMCA meeting, the Chinese side pointed out that the safety of ships and aircraft is inseparable from national security, and China firmly opposes any actions that endanger China's sovereignty and security under the pretext of freedom of navigation and overflight, according to the MOD readout.

The Chinese military will continue to respond to all dangerous provocations in accordance with the law and regulations, resolutely safeguard its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, and maintain regional peace, stability, and prosperity, it said.

The US military said in a statement that officials from both countries "reviewed safety-related events over the last few years, and discussed sustaining maritime and aviation operational safety and professionalism," according to Reuters.

Army Colonel Ian Francis, the head of the US delegation, was quoted as saying in US media reports that "open, direct, and clear communications with the PLA [Chinese People's Liberation Army] - and with all other military forces in the region - is of utmost importance to avoid accidents and miscommunication."

The above-quoted anonymous Chinese military expert said that from the messages released by both sides, it is clear that both China and the US realize the importance of managing crises in the air and at sea and both have a strong willingness to control them.

"In the Chinese press release, which mentions 'candid and constructive exchanges,' this especially shows that China has fully stated its position, drawn its bottom line, and set its red lines," he said. "The best way for the US to manage crises is not to cross these lines."

Based on the statements of the US participants in the meeting, military relations are moving from a high level of uncertainty toward a manageable direction, experts said.

Previous tensions between the Chinese and American militaries were unilaterally caused by the US side, which exacerbated the tensions in the Taiwan Straits and led to the interruption of institutionalized military communication and exchanges, the anonymous military expert said, who also said he hopes the US will do more to facilitate mutual advancement between the two militaries.

From the Chinese press release, it is evident that China has expressed its concerns to the US regarding the "freedom of navigation operations" and close reconnaissance activities conducted by US ships and aircraft near China under the pretext of "freedom of navigation and overflight" in recent years, and China has requested that the US stop such actions in the future, some experts said.

"For a long time, the so-called freedom of navigation operations carried out by the US near the islands and reefs in the South China Sea and in the Taiwan Straits, as well as the extensive and frequent close reconnaissance activities along China's coast, have severely endangered China's national security," Zhang said.

The Chinese military's ships and aircraft must take necessary measures such as tracking, monitoring, and expulsion. The dangerous provocations by the US could lead to close encounters between the two sides' ships and aircraft, which are highly likely to result in maritime and aerial safety incidents, he said.

The expert also emphasized that the root cause of the safety issues between Chinese and American ships and aircraft lies with the US, and this has been a recurring topic in the China-US military security consultation mechanism meetings.

China places high importance on the safety of Chinese and American ships and aircraft. As long as US ships and aircraft stop carrying out dangerous provocations that endanger China's national security, close encounters between the two sides' ships and aircraft can be avoided, thereby preventing maritime and aerial safety incidents, Zhang said.

If US imposes visa restrictions on HK officials, China will resolutely launch countermeasure: FM

China deplores and opposes the so-called 2024 Hong Kong Policy Act Report issued by the US Department of State, and has made strong démarches with the US side, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Monday, who also noted that if the US imposes visa restrictions on officials of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China will resolutely launch countermeasure.

The US has once again issued a so-called report, attacking and smearing the National Security Law (NSL) for Hong Kong, the electoral system of the HKSAR, and the Safeguarding National Security Ordinance. The US discredited Hong Kong's democracy, rule of law, human rights and exercise of freedoms and announced that it is taking steps to impose new visa restrictions on Hong Kong officials which is simply unjustified. None of the accusations are based on truth. The report and the statement constitute serious interference in Hong Kong affairs and China's domestic affairs, and a grave violation of the principles of international law and the basic norms governing international relations. China deplores and opposes this, and has made strong démarches to the US, the spokesperson said. 

The US State Department released its 2024 Hong Kong Policy Act Report on Friday and announced that it is taking steps to impose new visa restrictions on multiple Hong Kong officials over the "crackdown on rights and freedoms," toward which the HKSAR government, local officials and experts in Hong Kong voiced the strong opposition. 

The spokesperson also emphasized that Hong Kong is China's Hong Kong, and Hong Kong affairs are purely China's internal affairs. The Chinese government has unwavering resolve in safeguarding its national sovereignty, security and development interests, in implementing One Country, Two Systems and in opposing any external interference in Hong Kong's affairs. 

We urge the US to abide by the principles of international law and the basic norms governing international relations and accurately understand One Country, Two Systems in its entirety. The US needs to respect China's sovereignty and the rule of law in the HKSAR, and stop interfering in Hong Kong's affairs by any means, Wang said. 

"If the US does impose visa restrictions on officials of the HKSAR, China will take firm countermeasures," he said. 

Since the return of Hong Kong, the central government has fully, faithfully and firmly implemented the principles of One Country, Two Systems, Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong and a high degree of autonomy, said Wang.

The constitutional order in Hong Kong based on China's Constitution and the Basic Law of the HKSAR has been stable and functioned well, the spokesperson said.  

The central government has exercised overall jurisdiction over Hong Kong. The high degree of autonomy has been practiced as it should.

The formulation and implementation of the NSL for Hong Kong and the ordinance, along with the amendments and improvements to Hong Kong's electoral system, have built a solid defense to safeguard national security, which ensures that the principle of "patriots administering Hong Kong" is implemented. 

It also effectively guarantees the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong, and genuinely upholds the various rights and freedoms legally entitled to Hong Kong residents. Hong Kong has achieved a significant transition from chaos to governance and from governance to prosperity. The cause of One Country, Two Systems will continue in the correct direction with stability and longevity, the spokesperson added. 

HKSAR government slams US planned 'visa restrictions'; US interference won't shake HK resolution in safeguarding natl security, say experts

The US State Department released its 2024 Hong Kong Policy Act Report on Friday and announced that it is taking steps to impose new visa restrictions on multiple Hong Kong officials over the “crackdown on rights and freedoms,” which experts believed that will not have a significant impact on Hong Kong society or its development, but only reveal that the US is using this as an excuse to distort facts and mislead the international community.

A statement from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday that in the past year, Beijing had continued to take actions against Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’s (HKSAR) promised “high degree of autonomy, democratic institutions, and rights and freedoms, including with the recent enactment of a new national security law known as Article 23,” the Reuters reported.

“In response, the Department of State is announcing that it is taking steps to impose new visa restrictions on multiple Hong Kong officials responsible for the intensifying crackdown on rights and freedoms,” Blinken said.

The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in a press release on Saturday strongly disapproved of and rejected the untruthful remarks, slanders and smears against various aspects of the HKSAR in the US’ so-called 2024 Hong Kong Policy Act Report and the relevant statement of Blinken. “It was apparent that the so-called report and the relevant statement were compiled to serve the political purpose of maintaining the US hegemony. By piling up false stories and narratives, they were clearly crafted to serve the political interest of the US in order to suppress the development rights and security interests of others,” the release wrote.

The so-called sanctions arbitrarily imposed by the US as mentioned in the so-called report, and the so-called visa restrictions claimed to be imposed in the relevant statement, smack of despicable political manipulation to intimidate the HKSAR officials safeguarding national security. These grossly interfere in China's internal affairs and Hong Kong affairs, and violate the international law and the basic norms governing international relations, the release said. The HKSAR despises such so-called sanctions and visa restrictions by the US and is not intimidated by such a despicable behavior. The HKSAR will resolutely continue to discharge the duty of safeguarding national security, it noted.

According to the Reuters, the US did not mention the officials who would be targeted. The US Hong Kong Policy Act Report requires the State Department to report each year to Congress on conditions in the Hong Kong SAR.

Experts stressed that the so-called new visa restrictions claimed to be imposed by the US will not have any substantial impact on Hong Kong society or its development. Instead, they only reveal that the US is attempting to influence public opinion and sentiment in Hong Kong through such despicable sensationalism, Li Xiaobing, an expert on Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan affairs from Nankai University, told the Global Times on Saturday.

“We have long been determined on major issues such as the practice of ‘One Country, Two Systems.’ And the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for safeguarding national security have evolved from institutional to practical stages over the years,” Li said.

In its press release, the HKSAR government emphasized its commitments to “steadfastly safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests, and fully and faithfully live up to the highest principle of 'One Country, Two Systems.'” The government will resolutely, fully and faithfully implement the Hong Kong National Security Law (NSL), the Safeguarding National Security Ordinance and other relevant laws safeguarding national security in the HKSAR, to , in accordance with the law, effectively prevent, suppress and impose punishment for acts and activities endangering national security, whilst upholding the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong people, so as to ensure the steadfast and successful implementation of the principle of “One Country, Two Systems,” it said.  

The HKSAR Government strongly demands the US to immediately stop acting against the international law and basic norms of international relations and interfering in China's internal affairs and Hong Kong affairs.

The so-called US Hong Kong Policy Act report is aimed at distorting and misleading the international community, stigmatizing the vast majority of kind-hearted citizens in Hong Kong SAR, experts warned. After decades of development, Hong Kong SAR has deeply integrated with the Chinese mainland and it has entered a new stage in which it has restored order and is set to thrive. The US’ planned new restrictions and sanctions will not shake the country’s determination to safeguard national security, Li noted. 

The understanding of national security issues in Hong Kong society and the city’s development are no longer something that anti-China forces in the West can meddle with, the expert stressed.

China condemns terrorist attack in Pakistan, asking for thorough investigation

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson on Wednesday made remarks on the Dasu bomb attack in Pakistan, saying that China strongly condemns this terrorist attack, and asks Pakistan to thoroughly investigate the incident as soon as possible.

The spokesperson said that at around 1 p.m. local time on March 26, five Chinese and one Pakistani national were killed in a terrorist attack on the convoy of the Dasu Hydropower Project undertaken by a Chinese company in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

China strongly condemns this terrorist attack. We express deep condolences to the deceased and extend sincere sympathies to the bereaved families. China asks Pakistan to thoroughly investigate the incident as soon as possible, hunt down the perpetrators, and bring them to justice, said the spokesperson.

"Meanwhile, we ask Pakistan to take effective measures to ensure the safety and security of Chinese nationals, projects, and institutions in Pakistan. China is working with Pakistan on the follow-up operation with an all-out effort," said the spokesperson.

The spokesperson noted that the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan has reminded Chinese citizens and businesses in Pakistan to closely follow the local security situation, strengthen security measures, and do their best to take extra safety precautions against terrorist attacks.

On the afternoon of March 26, Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif visited the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan to convey condolences and sympathize with the deceased families and the Chinese government. He strongly condemned the terrorist attack and said that terrorists' despicable efforts to harm Pakistan-China friendship will never succeed. On the same day, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, foreign minister, interior minister, and several other political figures strongly condemned the attack and offered condolences to the deceased.

China and Pakistan are all-weather strategic cooperative partners and iron-clad friends, and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) greatly contributes to the socioeconomic development of Pakistan. Any attempt to undermine China-Pakistan cooperation will never succeed. China opposes all forms of terrorism and firmly supports Pakistan in fighting terrorism. China will work with Pakistan even more firmly to fully ensure the safety and security of Chinese nationals, projects, and institutions in Pakistan, said the spokesperson.

GT investigates: US State Department's support for Manila full of contradictions, serves to further militarize South China Sea

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to head to the Philippines on Tuesday to reinforce the American-Philippine alliance through cooperation and security matters, following a recent trade mission there by US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. This is seen as the latest move in US intervention in the South China Sea issue.

But is the US support for the Philippines really as well-meaning and valuable as it appears? The answer may disappoint many Filipino politicians.

The US' cliché statements act more as a "betrayal of its ally," as it hyperbolizes the Philippines' illegally grounded military vessel at Ren'ai Jiao (also known as the Ren'ai Reef) in South China Sea as a "longstanding outpost," leading to further militarization of the South China Sea and adding fuel to the already tense situation in the region.

Nevertheless, many Filipino officials still see the US' empty promises as a lifeline, exposing their political naivety, analysts said.

This investigative piece will expose the logical flaws, contradictions, danger signals, and perfunctory attitudes replete in the US' statements. Some have even been described by Chinese analysts as "stupid and counterproductive" in relation to Philippine interests and will be an indelible and ugly historical record in US maritime legal practice.
Unprecedentedly malevolence

In its recent statements issued in October and December 2023, and March this year, the US State Department employed a surprising characterization - a "longstanding outpost" - to describe a military vessel that the Philippines illegally "grounded" at Ren'ai Jiao 25 years ago.

"Such a description is extremely symbolic because this is equivalent to making a dangerous characterization of the nature of this territory," said Yang Xiao, deputy director of the Institute of Maritime Strategy Studies at China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations. "It has explicitly exposed the US' malevolence in its attempt to undermine peace in the South China Sea region."

The first time that the term "longstanding outpost" appeared was in an October 2023 statement, which said: "Obstructing supply lines to this longstanding outpost and interfering with lawful Philippine maritime operations undermines regional stability." The whole sentence reappeared in another statement in December 2023. The latest statement in March reads: "We condemn the PRC's repeated obstruction of [the] Philippine vessels' exercise of high seas freedom of navigation and its disruption of supply lines to this longstanding outpost."

"Outpost" is a military term that typically refers to a small military base or settlement located in a remote or strategic location. ChatGPT gave some examples of how US media sources have used the word in their news stories, such as "US Military Outpost in Syria Attacked by Pro-Assad Forces (The New York Times)," "US Troops Evacuate Outpost in Iraq amid Rising Tensions (Washington Post)," and "Al Qaeda Fighters Launch Attack on US Outpost in Yemen (Fox News)."

The US has used the word "outpost" only in "anti-terrorism wars" in recent years. "Obviously, building an 'outpost' at Ren'ai Jiao, viewing from the country's state department statement, implies a military action," Yang said.

Therefore, calling the Philippine vessel at Ren'ai Jiao a "longstanding outpost" in defiance of historical facts implies that the US has made clear its support for the Philippines' actions to promote militarization of the South China Sea, Yang told the Global Times.

"I don't know if the US government is aware of the significant implications of their words, or if it was released without careful review. We are truly concerned about the professionalism of US government officials and the standards of their work processes," Yang noted.

The extreme and irresponsible attitude of the US will undermine the current situation of the South China Sea as a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation. It presents a clear opposition to China and ASEAN members' efforts to promote the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, betrays the principles and positions of navigation safety as well as the demilitarization in the South China Sea. It completely exposes who is the true troublemaker in the South China Sea region, according to the expert.
Embarrassingly self-contradictory

Ironically, the description of "longstanding outpost" appears to have put the Philippines in an awkward position.

In the statements, the US has repeatedly claimed its support for "the 2016 arbitration" and called Ren'ai Jiao a "low-tide elevation."

According to the so-called arbitration, some islands and reefs in the South China Sea, including Ren'ai Jiao (known as the Second Thomas Shoal in the West), are low-tide elevations or high tide features that "cannot be appropriated or subjected to sovereignty claims."

Not to mention that the Philippine government has not officially claimed Ren'ai Jiao as its sovereign territory. In a recent story by the Philippine News Agency, Raphael Hermoso, deputy assistant secretary of the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, called Ren'ai Jiao (Ayungin in the Philippines) "a low-tide elevation within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone and continental shelf." That to some extent reflected the country's "official definition" of Ren'ai Jiao.

Therefore, we can see that US State Department's statements are contradictory in the country's stance over Ren'ai Jiao's sovereignty, Yang said, noting that building military installations out of one's sovereignty is an obvious act of war, which has clearly exposed the Philippines' evil attempts to militarize the South China Sea region.

Observers said that the US statements are apparently putting the Philippines in an embarrassing situation. This also makes the international community see more clearly the US' conspiracy to incite and escalate tensions in the region.

Perfunctory lip service

The US' stance on the Philippines is also extremely perfunctory.

Since the new government of the Philippines took office in May 2022, the US State Department spokesperson has issued nine statements on South China Sea disputes. Eight of them conspicuously bear the same title that reads "US support for the Philippines in the South China Sea."

These statements are repetitive and obsolete, basically focusing on three ungrounded points: Accusing China of not accepting the illegal international arbitration decision issued in July 2016, accusing China of "infringing on the Philippines' freedoms of navigation," and mentioning the 1951 US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.

Experts say that these statements are very limited in scope. "The US State Department has almost no substantive power in the security cooperation mechanisms with other countries which involves military actions, information assistance, material support, and many other aspects. In the long-term operation of US politics, the actual role of the State Department in foreign affairs is very limited," Yang told the Global Times.

The recently deceased Henry Kissinger, while serving as Nixon's national security advisor, skillfully bypassed the State Department and completed the most shocking diplomatic action since the Cold War - the normalization of US-China relations.

The more crucial support for foreign entities is generally provided by the US National Security Council and the US Department of Defense, including the US Department of Homeland Security. All substantive measures taken by the US must also come from the White House, explained Yang.

"Take the recent example of the statement from US President Joe Biden on Coalition Strikes in Houthi-Controlled Areas in Yemen issued on January 11 as an example. Such actions require long-term international coordination and preparation, multiple rounds of shuttle diplomacy by the Secretary of State, the use of the president's special powers, and subsequent approval from Congress. What's more, even for non-governmental organizations like the Houthi armed forces in Yemen, the US has rallied together with the UK, Australia, Bahrain, Canada, and the Netherlands, and went through a complicated process, not to mention in the South China Sea," Yang said.

In light of this, it is truly ridiculous for a few Filipino politicians to be jubilant, grateful, and verbose to rely on perfunctory verbal support from the US State Department, Yang said.

The contradictory, rough, and provocative statements from the US obviously stand in stark contrast to China's rational and restrained attitude in the South China Sea.

On March 7, 2024, Member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and Foreign Minister Wang Yi once again elaborated on China's position on the issue of the South China Sea when he met the press during the just concluded two sessions.

Wang said that on maritime disputes, China has been exercising a high degree of restraint. China maintains that parties should find solutions that are acceptable to one and all by working in the spirit of good neighborliness and friendship, and on the basis of respecting historical and legal facts. But abusing such good faith should not be allowed. Distorting maritime laws cannot be accepted.

In the face of deliberate infringements, China will take justified actions to defend its rights in accordance with the law. In the face of unwarranted provocation, China will respond with prompt and legitimate countermeasures, said Wang.

China also urges certain countries outside this region not to make provocations, take sides, or stir up trouble in the South China Sea, Wang stressed.