Chinese, US researchers jointly develop new type of stable semiconductor graphene with 10 times higher performance than silicon

Researchers from China and the US have jointly created a new type of stable semiconductor graphene, which displays performance 10 times higher than silicon and 20 times larger than that of the other two-dimensional semiconductors. The achievement marks "a leap from silicon chips to carbon chips," Ma Lei, leader of the research from the Tianjin International Center for Nanoparticles and Nanosystems (TICNN) at Tianjin University, who led the research, told the Global Times.

The achievement, jointly made by Ma's team and researchers from School of Physics, Georgia Institute of Technology in the US, was published online on the website of the journal "Nature" on January 3, 2024.

With silicon-based chips gradually approaching the physical limit of two nanometers, there is a surge in global demand for chips based on high-quality semiconductor materials. Two-dimensional materials, due to their excellent electronic transport properties and potential for high integration, have become a new frontier that scientists and semiconductor companies around the world are eager to invest in. 

Graphene, as the first discovered two-dimensional material that can exist stably at room temperature, has been the focus of scientists' efforts since its discovery in 2004 to design a new type of chip that consumes less energy and operates faster than existing semiconductors. However, the unique Dirac Cones of graphene leads to its "zero bandgap" characteristic, which has been the biggest obstacle to its application in the semiconductor field. 

By precisely controlling the epitaxial growth process of graphene, Ma's team introduced a bandgap into graphene, creating a new type of stable semiconductor graphene, which exhibits electron mobility far exceeding that of silicon materials. It displays performance 10 times higher than silicon and 20 times larger than that of the other two-dimensional semiconductors.

"We mainly applied a special growth environment and growth conditions to modulate graphene itself using SiC crystals, achieving the opening of a bandgap in graphene. This transforms the originally gapless graphene into a material with a bandgap," Ma said. He noted that what the team created "is a true single-crystal graphene semiconductor."

The development of this semiconductor not only paves the way for high-performance electronic devices surpassing traditional silicon-based technologies but also injects new impetus into the entire semiconductor industry. As the limits predicted by Moore's Law draw closer, the emergence of semiconductor graphene heralds a fundamental shift in the field of electronics. Its breakthrough properties meet the growing demand for higher computing speeds and miniaturized integrated electronic devices, read a report on the Tianjin University's website.  

Once delivered into large scale production, the single-crystal semiconductor graphene will lay an important foundation for the transition from the silicon era to the carbon era. However, whether graphene semiconductors can lead to a breakthrough in the chip industry still needs time to test, Ma noted.

When asked how far the achievement is from industrialization, Ma said he currently cannot predict. "When it can be put into large-scale industrial applications depends on the process from millimeter-scale single crystals to inch-scale single crystals." 

In a related report on January 4 by yicai.com, Ma was quoted as saying that "I estimate that it will take another 10 to 15 years before graphene semiconductors can truly be fully implemented." 

Ma said that now he and his team are working hard to grow larger-sized graphene semiconductor single crystals.

In order to continue to promote the development of semiconductors, countries and regions all over the world are actively seeking new materials and paradigms in addition to two-dimensional materials. In November 2023, Huawei and Harbin Institute of Technology jointly applied for a "hybrid bonding method for three-dimensional integrated chips based on silicon and diamond." In September 2023, Japanese news outlet Nikkei reported that the Japanese startup company OOKUMA plans to commercialize diamond semiconductors, and will start production as early as the fiscal year 2026. 

With the intensification of competition, the US has been increasing its export control measures on chips to China, unreasonably suppressing Chinese semiconductor companies, and attempting to "strangle" China in the semiconductor chip field. 

In this context, the achievement by Chinese and American teams has attracted special attention. According to Ma, the intensification of China-US semiconductor competition has indeed had an impact on the cooperation between the scientific teams of the two countries, such as information exchange and sample exchange. However, overall, the cooperation between the two teams has been fruitful. 

"Healthy competition is an important factor in promoting development, while malicious competition hinders the development of technology. I hope that cooperation is the mainstream and competition is a stimulant. With cooperation as the mainstream, appropriate competition will make scientific development better and better," Ma noted.

Chinese shipbuilders draw growing orders, with deliveries as far-flung as 2028

Chinese shipbuilding enterprises have obtained the most orders from global clients, with their scheduled ship delivering time stretching as far-flung as 2028, China Media Group (CMG) reported on Saturday.

The delivery time for ships to be built by the Guangzhou Shipyard International Co has already been scheduled into 2027 and 2028, as ship owners worldwide are drawn to the company by its strengths in green production and environment protection, said Li Hao, an official from the company, the CMG reported.

More than 60 percent of the company's on-hand orders are methanol powered dual-fuel ships or liquefied natural gas fired dual-fuel models. Comparing with the conventional container ships, ultra-large container ships powered by dual-fuel can reduce 20 percent of carbon emissions, in addition to curbing 85 percent of nitrogen oxide and 99 percent of sulfur emissions.

China's shipbuilding industry has been ramping up efforts to advance the industry's high-quality development through intelligence and green technology, and the nation's shipbuilding completions, new orders and orders on-hand have achieved a marked growth in 2023.

From January to November in 2023, China completed shipbuilding of 38.09 million deadweight tons (dwt), a year-on-year increase of 12.3 percent, according to data from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. New orders recorded an annual growth of 63.8 percent to 68.45 million dwt, and the orders on-hand totaled 134.09 million dwt as of the end of November.

For instance, a mega vessel - with a loading capacity of up to 16,616 standard containers constructed by the company - is one of the largest container ships in tonnage under construction in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, Li said.

The intelligent transformation has also boosted shipbuilding efficiency, which is traditionally a labor-intensive process. Through intelligent transformation, the entire workshop for building a ro-ro passenger ship with over 20,000 square meters can be reduced from 200 people to 50 people by integrating more automation and robotics technology.

China's first domestically-built large cruise ship, the Adora Magic City, welcomed its first group of more than 3,000 Chinese and foreign passengers at the Shanghai Wusongkou International Cruise Terminal on the first day of 2024, embarking on its maiden commercial voyage.

China's top court releases typical cases of disputes over betrothal gifts

A series of typical cases related to bride price and dowry were issued by China’s top court and other departments on Monday as reference and supplement to the stipulations in the Civil Code in dealing with disputes over bride price when couples break up. 

According to China’s Supreme People’s Court, as a traditional Chinese custom, bride price and dowry have a deep social and cultural foundation in the Chinese society. However, the rising amount of bride price and dowry in recent years has led to an increasing number of bride price-related disputes and even serious criminal cases, China Central Television reported on Monday. 

A recent murder case of two victims related to the disputes over bride price happened in Liangshan, Southwest China’s Sichuan Province, on November 11. The incident sparked heated discussions online. 

A woman and her relative were killed by the woman’s ex-boyfriend and his father at a local mahjong parlor after the woman refused to return the bride price despite that she decided to break up with the man. The woman received 300,000 yuan ($41,741) in bride price but returned 150,000 yuan to the man after they broke up, according to media reports. 

On Monday, the Supreme People’s Court, together with China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs and All-China Women’s Federation held a press conference to release four cases involving disputes over bride price and dowry, which balanced the interests of the involved parties. The ruling took local economic and social development into account, and gave consideration to factors such as the duration of cohabitation, whether they have registered for marriage legally, and whether they have children. 

According to the Civil Code, there are three situations the bride price should be returned: the couple have not registered legally, they registered but don’t live together, or the payment of betrothal gifts causes financial difficulties for the payer. 

However, in practice, there are many cases in which the couples have not registered legally but have held weddings according to local customs and have lived together. Sometimes the couples have registered their marriage but only live for a short period of time. The Civil Code does not apply to these cases. 

According to the Supreme People’s Court, this batch of representative cases clarifies three principles for handling betrothal disputes: prohibiting soliciting property through marriage; the reasonable betrothal gifts amount based on local practice and customs; and the balance of rights and interests of both parties by considering their duration of cohabitation, marriage registration status and whether they have children.

Two common situations where disputes of betrothal gifts often occur is “flash divorce” and living together without legal registration of marriage. 

The court clarified that in addition to marriage registration, the bride price is usually meant for living together for a long time. Thus, the time of cohabitation should be considered an important factor in determining whether and how much the bride price should be returned. 

Meanwhile, considering that the termination of pregnancy causes harm to a woman’s health, it is appropriate to return only part of the bride price to better balance the interests of both parties.

In one case where the couple did not register their marriage but held a wedding ceremony according to local customs, lived together for three years and had conceived a child, the court did not support the return of the bride price to protect the woman’s legitimate rights and interests. 

Besides, the top court also noted that bride price and dowry are both traditional Chinese marriage customs which share a common purpose and should be subject to the same rules based on local customs. 

China's elderly population aged 60 and over reaches 280m, 19.8% of total

China's elderly population aged 60 and above reached 280.04 million by the end of 2022, accounting for 19.8 percent of the total population, according to the latest report released by the Ministry of Civil Affairs. Demographers say China has paid great attention to addressing challenges brought by the aging population but more can be improved, such as further optimizing China's social security system.

The country's elderly population aged 65 and over reached 209.78 million in 2022, accounting for 14.9 percent of the total population, while the national dependency ratio of the elderly population aged 65 and above hit 21.8 percent, the report titled Communique on the Development of the National Cause for Aging said. 

Since China became an aging society at the end of the 20th century, the number and proportion of the elderly population have continued to grow. From 2000 to 2018, the elderly population aged 60 and above increased from 126 million to 249 million, and in 2022, the number reached 280 million. The proportion of elderly population also increased from 10.2 percent in 2000 to 17.9 percent in 2018, and further to 19.8 percent in 2022. 

After the founding of the People's Republic of China, there have been three birth peaks. It is expected that the size of the elderly population will reach the peak of 520 million in 2054, Yuan Xin, a professor from the Institute of Population and Development at Nankai University's School of Economics, told the Global Times.

"China's aging rate is faster than that of 15 countries with more than 100 million people in the world. One of the reasons is the drop in the fertility rate," Yuan noted. China's fertility rate is estimated to have dropped to a record low of 1.09 in 2022, data from China Population and Development Research Center showed. 

China's pressure in dealing with such a large elderly population is unprecedented, not only in terms of size but also in terms of the rapid increase in growth, Yuan noted. 

Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, more than 300 documents and plans for the elderly population have been issued at or above the provincial or ministerial level. 

Wang Jianjun, former executive deputy director of the Office of the National Working Commission on Aging, has said that prioritizing the health of the elderly, China has seen improvements in providing basic insurance care and has built a complete welfare system to support the aging society.

When it comes to the supply of elderly care services, the report is optimistic, saying in this area it is being "continuously enhanced."

In 2022, the compliance rate of supporting elderly care service facilities in newly built residential areas in cities across the country reached 83.2 percent. Improvement of quality and efficiency among special care hospitals and hospitals for the family of martyrs has been seen after the central budget delineated support for them, the report said. 

Data shows that by the end of 2022, there were 387,000 elderly care institutions and facilities of various types across the country, with a total of 8.294 million elderly care beds.

Among them, 41,000 were registered elderly care institutions, an increase of 1.6 percent over the previous year, with 5.183 million beds, an increase of 2.9 percent over the previous year. There are, by the end of 2022, 347,000 community elderly care service institutions and facilities with 3.111 million beds, according to the report.

Additionally, China continues to optimize the establishment of majors related to elderly care services at secondary vocational schools, higher vocational colleges, and higher vocational undergraduate schools.

Also, the National Development and Reform Commission and other departments have introduced several policies and measures to provide relief and support to the elderly care and childcare service industry. 

The Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development has guided qualified regions to explore providing vacant public rental housing free of charge to social institutions, so that they can provide meal assistance, day care, rehabilitation care, elderly education and other services for the elderly in the community, according to the report. 

Yuan told the Global Times that if society offers more social participation opportunities for the elderly by raising the retirement age, the income status and consumption willingness of the elderly population would be a huge potential market and new economic growth point. 

The demographer said supporting facilities and systems would have to be established to support the raising of the retirement age, for example, letting the elderly choose whether to extend their retirement flexibly and if they are okay to do part-time work.

Hong Kong's top fencer shines at Chengdu Games

Hong Kong, China's Olympic fencing gold medalist Cheung Ka-long shone at the Chengdu FISU Games on Friday. Putting on a wonderful and steady performance, Cheung triumphed over France's Loisel Pierre with a score of 15-12, winning the gold medal in the men's foil individual bout. 

At the beginning of the match, Cheung was trailing 2-4, but he quickly adjusted and went on to win five consecutive points, gradually taking control of the match. 

In this individual men's foil competition, there were a total of 68 participants divided into 10 groups, with 50 players advancing to the knockout stage. Cheung was well-prepared and successfully advanced from the group stage with a perfect record of six wins. In the knockout stage, he defeated competitors from Chinese Taipei, Hungary, France, and his teammate to advance to the final and ultimately claim the championship.

The 26-year-old stated that this is his first and final participation in the Universiade, and it is also his first time participating in a major multi-sport event since the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. 

Cheung told the Global Times that he felt a great atmosphere at the scene as the audience erupted with enthusiastic cheers.

Cheung became Hong Kong, China's first Olympic fencing gold medalist, beating the pre-match favorite and defending champion Daniele Garozzo 15-10 in the men's individual foil final on July 26, 2021.

China's Hong Kong SAR has sent its largest delegation in history, with a total of 142 athletes, to the Chengdu Games.

In the fencing event, the Hong Kong team has performed exceptionally well. 

On Wednesday, Hong Kong fencer Hsieh Kaylin Sin-yan impressed everyone by winning the gold medal in the women's sabre individual competition, the first gold medal to be won in the fencing event at the Chengdu Games. 

Cheung's teammate, Lu Jian-ming, also achieved success by winning the bronze medal in the individual foil event. 

Cheung said he is proud of his teammate's outstanding performance. Next, Cheung will participate in the men's foil team event representing the Hong Kong, China team.

On July 30, Cheung led the Hong Kong Fencing Team to a bronze medal in the men's foil team event at the 2023 World Fencing Championships.

He told the Global Times that they will continue to work hard and strive for better results, building on their current momentum.

Culture Beat: ‘Gravity’ exhibition displayed in CAFA

Gravity, the inaugural exhibition of the second phase of a youth experimental project, recently opened at the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) Art Museum. 

The exhibition showcases the personal works of Chen ­Mingqiang, a faculty member of the Experimental Art and Science and Technology Art College at CAFA. The exhibition features 14 of Chen's recent works, aiming to present the artist's creative thinking and new artistic imagery.

The inspiration for the exhibition came from a serendipitous event during the artist's creation: A bird flying over a courtyard "left a mark" on a work placed in the courtyard due to the force of gravity, which sparked Chen's creative impulse. 

Gravity is a force that humans experience at all times, and all objects are endowed with mutual gravitational influence. 

The artist's creative orientation and inspiration are no different. Everything perceivable in life guides the artist in his self-creation. 

The "Wide Angle Youth Experimental Project Space" is an experimental field for displaying the curatorial and creative work of young teachers at the Central Academy of Fine Arts. It aims to assist and promote young teachers and students to make positive responses to interdisciplinary linkage, regional cultural research, and traditional Chinese culture through diverse exhibition projects. 

China-Pakistan partnership: Bridging nations, building communities

Editor's Note:

China and Pakistan share a long-standing friendship that dates back to the early 1950s. Over the years, this relationship has evolved into a robust strategic partnership, with the two countries often being referred to as "iron brothers." In an exclusive piece penned ahead of the Third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar, highlights the deep-rooted brotherhood and ironclad relations between China and Pakistan. He not only emphasizes the strength of bilateral ties between both countries, but also commends China's significant contributions to the global community.

By Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar 

The tale of China-Pakistan relations is not an ordinary one. It is an account of brotherhood, friendship, and trust, the foundations of which were laid more than 70 years ago. The vision of the leadership of our two countries at the time laid a solid basis for a relationship, which has subsequently been carefully nurtured into a robust, vibrant, time-tested, all-weather strategic cooperative partnership. Pakistan and its people, with absolute confidence, value the relationship greatly, and proudly call China our "best friend." It is heart-warming that in China, the term "Ba Tie" (Iron Brother) is reserved only for Pakistan. 

The timeless Pakistan-China partnership and deep-rooted friendship serves the interests of both countries, being the historic choice of our people. Pakistan-China relations remain the cornerstone of our foreign policy. The close time-tested friendship with China enjoys the abiding support of the people of Pakistan.

With a time-honored history of brotherhood, our two countries have stood together, rain or shine, building an exemplary iron-clad friendship. Despite the vicissitudes of times and changes in the international landscape, the all-weather strategic cooperative partnership has grown into a towering tree with its deep roots of love in the hearts of the two peoples. The bond of love and affection that the peoples of the two countries have for each other indeed remains higher than the mountains, deeper than the sea, and sweeter than honey. 

Zhou Enlai, China's first premier, once said that "the friendly interactions between the peoples of China and Pakistan date back to the dawn of history." Certainly, Pakistan-China relations are the continuation of ancient civilizational bonds that have existed between our two nations since ancient times. The flow of trade through the ancient Silk Road and geographical proximity brought the two great Asian civilizations together. Monks and thinkers from China made their historical journeys to Taxila and other Buddhist places in Pakistan, painting a beautiful picture of the Gandhara civilization and bringing Buddhist wisdom to China, thus binding the two nations together in an everlasting bond.

The historical evolution of the Pakistan-China relationship, and its growing importance in the wake of evolving regional and global developments, is an exemplary model of inter-state relationship. The unique relationship of more than seven decades, underpinned by the rationale of strong political support, mutual trust, and all-round practical cooperation, has matured into a strong strategic partnership.

I will soon be traveling to Beijing on my first visit after assuming office, to participate in the Third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation - an event which will mark the completion of a decade of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the iconic and visionary project proposed by President Xi Jinping.

We pay tribute to the vision and statesmanship of President Xi who, 10 years ago, propounded the vision of building a global community of shared future, introducing a novel concept for international development partnership, a new idea for global governance and cooperation, and a fresh approach toward international exchanges, thus drawing up a new blueprint for a better interconnected world.

The core of the visionary concept is built on socio-economic development; with a focus on the elements of inclusivity, common prosperity, and win-win cooperation. It embodies the ideals of an open, interconnected, clean, and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace and sustainable security. As we delve more into this concept, it becomes clear that it draws upon ancient Chinese philosophy and wisdom. 

The concept of "tianxia datong," translated as "harmony under heaven," refers to the whole world and promotes diversity, while emphasizing harmonious and mutual interdependence as the means to enduring peace. 

As noted by the recent BRI white paper released by the China's State Council, the BRI is a key pillar of the global community of shared future. The subsequent unveiling of the concepts - including the Global Development Initiative (GDI), the Global Security Initiative (GSI), and the Global Civilization Initiative (GCI) - have further refined the concept of a global community of shared future.

Pakistan was among the first countries to join the BRI. As the flagship project of the BRI, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) marks a milestone in Pakistan-China relations, by placing economic cooperation and connectivity at the very center of the bilateral agenda, making the two countries more interconnected than ever before. The CPEC remains a shining example of the BRI's promise of economic prosperity and connectivity. It has transformed the socio-economic landscape of Pakistan, upgrading modern infrastructure, enhancing regional connectivity, ensuring energy security, and creating jobs.

This year Pakistan hosted a series of events and activities marking the successful first decade of the CPEC. We were also pleased to welcome Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng, the special representative of President Xi, in Pakistan to attend the Decade of CPEC celebration event.

Pakistan remains committed to jointly building the CPEC. We fully endorse China's proposal of developing the CPEC as a corridor of growth, livelihood, innovation, greenness and openness - representing our two countries' preference for a human-centric approach, inclusivity, and green development. 

Pakistan is also a pioneering member of the Group of Friends of the Global Development Initiative (GDI) and has played an active role in giving it a more concrete shape. As the first priority partner under the GDI, and the first one to ink an MoU on the GDI, Pakistan stands ready to benefit from this cooperation in areas of education, healthcare, climate change, and poverty reduction, thus making meaningful contributions to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in a timely manner. 

Pakistan has also supported the Global Security Initiative and its adherence to the UN Charter and principles of multilateralism and non-interference in other countries' internal affairs. Having long suffered due to unresolved disputes, conflicts, and terrorism, we also advocate for dialogue and constructive engagement based on mutual respect, to ensure regional peace in South Asia.

The Global Civilization Initiative is yet another landmark and timely initiative proposed by President Xi, promoting respect for diversity, peaceful co-existence, mutual learning, and inclusiveness. In a world marred with discord and divisiveness, dialogue between civilizations can be a means to peace and reconciliation. 

Pakistan's foreign policy objectives have always been those of "peace within and peace without," as outlined by our founding father Muhammad Ali Jinnah. It was, therefore, all but natural for Pakistan to endorse these key initiatives put forth by President Xi.

In a world marred by multiple challenges like conflicts, economic recessions, food insecurity, social inequalities, and climate change, the salience of the Pakistan-China all-weather strategic cooperative partnership assumes great importance. 

It is a source of pride and comfort for our two peoples and a factor of peace and stability in the region and beyond. Ours is a relationship of the past, present, and future, and nothing can alter this reality. 

As per our long-standing tradition, we support each other on our core issues. We are grateful to China for its support for Pakistan's sovereignty, territorial integrity, and economic security, and its principled support on the issue of Kashmir. We reaffirm our commitment to the one-China principle and our support to China on its core issues related to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xizang (Tibet), Xinjiang, and the South China Sea.

As close friends, strategic partners, and iron brothers, Pakistan and China are moving forward toward a destiny of shared future. I remain confident and convinced that our friendship will further strengthen in the coming days and attain even greater heights in the years to come.

Long live the Pakistan-China friendship!

The author is Prime Minister of Pakistan

Tajik guards rooted in Pamir Plateau safeguard the border, promote borderland development

Editor's Note:

August 1 marks the 96th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA). Recently, the Global Times participated in the "Big Country Borderland" project launched by prestigious Renmin University of China, conducting social research along the Kashi line. Together with the teachers and students from university, the Global Times journeyed to Taxkorgan Tajik autonomous county in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in Northwest China. It is the homeland of the hero Laqini Bayika, a Tajik herdsman who devoted his life to patrolling China's northwestern border and sacrificed his lives while trying to rescue a child who had fallen into an ice hole. While there, the Global Times witnessed magnificent sentiments of the border guards rooted in the borderland, safeguarding and promoting its development.
The 314 National Highway is busiest during the summer, and it is a route favored by adventure enthusiasts. Only during this time does the Pamir Plateau temporarily shed its aloof demeanor and welcomes visitors from all directions with its majestic scenery.

Tourists may not be aware that there is a group of people who witness this aloofness all year round, silently guarding the stability of the borderland - they are the Tajik border guards.

Today, they still appreciate and practice their duties of safeguarding and developing the borderland despite the remoteness and harshness present there, as Laqini Bayika once did.

A day with four seasons

Leaving the rich and magnificent night life of Kashi is leaving the civilized world.

But what stands in the way of exploring the strength supporting this prosperity is a long journey ahead toward the west.

The Taxkorgan Tajik autonomous county is located at the eastern foot of the Pamir Plateau, at the junction of the Karakoram Mountains, the Hindu Kush Mountains, and the Alay Mountains, with an average altitude of over 3,600 meters.

It is connected to Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan in the northwest, southwest, and south, respectively. The Taxkorgan Tajik autonomous county belongs to the Kashi prefecture, where the prosperity of the city and the glaciers of the plateau converge constitute the vastness and richness of Xinjiang region.

Driving 300 kilometers southwest along the 314 National Highway from Kashi city for nearly a 6-hour-long journey, people will experience a peculiar transition from "summer to winter." As the Baisha Lake and the Muztagh Ata Peak appear one after another, the snack packs bulge like balloons, and people wrap their jackets tight - the research team has entered a high-altitude area.
Rain is not common in the Taxkorgan Tajik autonomous county, but when it greeted the guests from the capital city of China, the temperature suddenly dropped to below 10 C, seemingly to allow the research team to deeply experience the harsh climate faced by the border guards who patrol the area.

Things were not as simple as imagined, when the research team arrived at the Khunjerab Pass at an altitude of 5,100 meters, the rain suddenly turned into swirling snowflakes accompanied by cold winds.

However, this unexpected ice and snow ignited a passion to see and experience more, and in front of the towering national gate, the teachers and students that comprised the research team shouted in unison, "Long live the motherland!"

"It feels like being drunk, but I'm not sure whether it was due to excitement or hypoxia," a student with the research team told the Global Times.

A special family ritual

"Forever following the Communist Party of China (CPC), guarding the country for a lifetime!" On July 28, Longjike Kadeer, a retired soldier, led Afuzi Jiaerman, his newlywed nephew, and other family members to the "Family Motto Stone" located in the border area between China and Tajikistan to make a solemnly oath.

In 1979, at the age of 17, Longjike enlisted in the military encouraged by his father. In 2008, Longjike retired with honors from the position of deputy director of Southern Xinjiang headquarters under the Xinjiang border defense corps of the People's Armed Police.

His selfless dedication earned him the titles of "The Most Beautiful Retired Soldier" and "National Model Retired Soldier." He also served as a torchbearer for the 2022 Beijing Winter Paralympics.

On that morning when Longjike and his family made their way to the sacred spot, it was raining in the Paiyike River area on the Pamir Plateau. Despite the bad weather and the mountain roads often being washed away by rainwater, Longjike insisted on taking the newlyweds to perform a solemn family tradition: Taking an oath to guard the country by the "Family Motto Stone" located at an altitude of 4,200 meters in the border area between China and Tajikistan.
It is a traditional ritual for Longjike's family, who have been guarding the border for four generations.

The family is famous for border defense on the Pamir Plateau. From Longjike's grandfather to his son, the family has been serving the country at the border for more than 70 years. Media sources reported that this border defense family has cultivated 53 Party members, 22 soldiers and police officers, and 84 border guards.

In 2008, after retiring, Longjike gave up the opportunity to live in Urumqi and chose to stay on the plateau to assist in border defense, becoming a volunteer border guard in the Kashi Border Management Detachment.

He told the Global Times that his father was the prototype of the soldier Amir in the classic movie "Visitors on the Ice Mountain."

Afuzi Jiaerman is the fourth generation of soldiers in this border defense family. He served in the army in Xizang (Tibet) Autonomous Region and became a special police officer in the town police station's special operations team in the Taxkorgan Tajik autonomous county after retiring in 2020. Just a week ago, he and his fiancee tied the knot.

Longjike's family "Family Motto Stone" is oval-shaped, with the emblem of the PLA and a paragraph etched in ethnic script which reads: "Guarding the border and loving the country is the most glorious. I hope my descendants will guard the border and love the country for a lifetime…"

According to Longjike, this "Family Motto Stone" was set up according to the wishes of his grandfather, Abulikemu, a Tajik militia border guard, and was established by himself and his father Kadeer.

"Grandfather, please rest assured that I have inherited your aspirations. After graduating from university, I will proudly join the PLA and, after retiring, I will proudly join the People's Police," Afuzi vowed, "I have some good news for you - I am married now, and your grandson will continue to inherit the red gene. Please rest assured!"

Afuzi told the Global Times that before joining the army, he also came to the "Family Motto Stone" to take an oath. Whenever there are important events in the family, they always come here to report to their ancestors and take oaths. This has become a traditional ritual for this four-generation Tajik border defense family.

The vow of fearlessly sacrificing

It was already 3 pm in the afternoon when the research team returned to Paiyikegoukou guard station located at the foot of the mountain. Longjike asked his family members to serve hot yak meat to warm everyone. The house was simply decorated, with iron bunk beds arranged in a circle around a central stove.

"This is a house built by the government for the border guards. We have access to electricity and water and new roads were also built here. The border guards also receive a monthly subsidy of 2,600 yuan ($363)," Longjike told the Global Times.

He often takes other border guards on rounds. For him, the most important tradition for the border guards is patriotism which he wants to pass down to the younger guards. Moreover, during the mountain patrols, which are often in remote areas, they frequently encounter sudden dangerous situations. "So hands-on teaching is necessary," he said.
According to him, in the border areas, the main force of the border defense consists of the PLA officers and soldiers, and the border police. The border guards are responsible for assisting in the work. Border guards at the patrol points are rotated every 15 days, and those who are replaced return home to take care of farming and herding. In this way, one patrol point can cover an area of at least 40 to 50 kilometers in the mountains.

The next day, Longjike invited the research team to visit his home. He told the students and teachers in the research group that "in my opinion, whether the motherland is strong in defense on Xinjiang region and whether Xinjiang is strong in defense on the Taxkorgan Tajik autonomous county, the county needs intellectuals like you, and I hope you can visit often and work together to build our beautiful Xinjiang!"

Zhou Xiaohui, a teacher from the Renmin University of China, said "Border guards demonstrate year after year what patriotism means. Today, as we have gotten closer to them, we have a deeper understanding that individual pursuits should align with the country's needs, and individual ideals should merge with the country's destiny."

Longjike was in high spirits that day and performed a traditional Tajik eagle dance in his "blue house" (a Tajik traditional civil structure house) to entertain everyone. The atmosphere was warm and contagious, and everyone joined in.

In the small county, there are, in fact, many people like Longjike who protect the country. The Global Times noticed that every household displays the honors they have received prominently.

After leaving Longjike's home, the Global Times went to Bandier village near the Taxkorgan Khunjerab Airport. Kezilikeli Daximaimaiti, who won the title of "The Most Beautiful Family in the Country" in 2019, is a female border guard who lives in the village with her three daughters.

Similar to Longjike's home, Kezilikeli's house is clean and spacious. The gratitude wall at the entrance is adorned with various posters, such as the "one household, one policy for poverty alleviation." The poster details the time of house construction, housing level, insurance status, and water usage in Kezilikeli's home. Under the "employment" section, it is noted "Maintaining stable employment for three people, with an annual wage income of 72,300 yuan." Additionally, there are agricultural income and policy forms of income, which brought Kezilikeli's family's a per capita net income of 35,473 yuan in 2022.

He Jinming, the first secretary of Bandier village, told the Global Times that there are 118 households in the village with a total of 428 people, of which 110 are border guards, and female border guards like Kezilikeli account for approximately 30 percent of the total.

Mula Abifu, deputy director of the education bureau of the Taxkorgan Tajik autonomous county, told the Global Times that "the Tajik border guards are very loyal to the country. Back then, when they were carrying out construction in the border area at an altitude of 5,200 meters, the ground was covered with permafrost. First, they had to use a blowtorch to soften the ground. People from other parts of the country would not come here even if they were offered 5,000 yuan, but our border guards volunteered to participate in the construction, and the women would make nang (a toasted wheat flatbread) at home and send it up."
"Patriotic border protection is what our ancestors have been doing for generations. Our elders have personally experienced the development and changes here, and witnessed the country's fast development from scratch," Mula Abifu said.

"Now many people in other countries are envious of us. Some people here do business with neighboring countries, and the people from neighboring countries often tell them 'Your country is really a great country.' After the reopening of the port, they came in large numbers. Even the most common rock sugar is precious to them. This is why our confidence in guarding the border is stronger, and why we can sacrifice a small family for the greater good," he stressed.

The Global Times learned that in order to ensure a new crop of border guard recruits, all parts of the Taxkorgan Tajik autonomous county have their own methods. Taking Bositebandier village as an example, where the village party branch implemented the "training border guards into party members," a system by which border guards who are Party members are trained to become village-level reserve forces.

Grassroots party organizations lead the border guards to make continuous progress, and the border guards drive the masses to develop together.

Through these measures, the border guards not only become loyal defenders of guarding the border, but also grow into practitioners and promoters of grassroots Party organizations in the new era to connect with and serve the people.

Ten years on, BRI’s birthplace Kazakhstan serves as benchmark for the initiative’s win-win cooperation

Editor's Note:

Kazakhstan marks the lynchpin for the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), not only because geographically it acts as a key point along the BRI, and has fostered deep connections and conducted meaningful cooperation with China covering almost all sectors under the BRI framework, but also because Kazakhstan was where the initiative was first proposed 10 years ago.

As the BRI is set to celebrate its 10th birthday this month, China-Kazakhstan cooperation can offer a paragon of how the initiative has deepened both countries' connectivity, boosted trade, as well as benefited both peoples and brought the two countries closer. Moreover, it also offers examples of how the BRI's win-win cooperation has stood against unilateralism; how the initiative has broken geographic isolation and brought countries closer; in addition to enabling people from different countries to better understand each other.

As the 10th anniversary of BRI approaches, Global Times reporters have visited a number of countries and regions across Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, as well as the South Pacific, where they witnessed first-hand the success of the BRI and how it has improved life in those countries and regions. This is the third installment, which focuses on how the BRI has been helping to usher in a new era of development in Eurasia over the past decade.

Revisiting the starting point

In mid-August, Nazarbayev University in Astana, capital of Kazakhstan, has already begun to welcome new faces. When Global Times reporters visited the campus on a cool and clear summer afternoon, a number of student societies and interest clubs attached to the university were recruiting new members, attracting hundreds of freshmen to participate. Everywhere, sounds of music and laughter could be heard, signs in English, Kazakh and Russian could be seen, and an energetic and youthful atmosphere could be felt.

Vibrant and highly internationalized - no other words could possibly be more accurate in describing Nazarbayev University. And they are also true for the BRI first proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping at this very location 10 years ago.

The young Nazarbayev University, founded only in 2010, is now widely considered to be the starting point for the revitalization of the millennia-old Silk Road under the BRI. The concept "Silk Road Economic Belt," part of the BRI, was officially proposed during President Xi's visit to Kazakhstan in 2013. In a speech in Nazarbayev University's Senate Hall on September 7, 2013, Xi recalled the 2,000-plus-year history of exchanges between China and Central Asia along the ancient Silk Road and proposed joining hands to build a Silk Road Economic Belt with an innovative cooperation model and making it a grand cause benefiting people in countries along the route. 

Ten years later, the Senate Hall, filled with dark wood furniture that are mostly the same as in 2013, remains in good condition. This is because the room is now mostly used only for events like ceremonies and officials' visits, according to a staff member from the university. 

Usually, there are more than 200 seats in this conference hall. Around 100 more seats were added before President Xi's epoch-making speech in 2013 due to the high demand from students and faculty members to participate in the event. A live broadcast was even arranged for those who couldn't enter the scene. Xi's remarks were greeted with warm applause from the audience, recalled the staff member.

Gulnar Shaimergenova, Director of China Studies Center, Kazakhstan was working at the Nazarbayev University at the time and directly participated in the event when President Xi first proposed the Silk Road Economic Belt there. "I am sure that the Belt and Road Initiative, which represents the reconstruction of the Great Silk Road of the 21st century, became the most remarkable event of this century. It reflects the rise and grandeur of modern Asia," Shaimergenova told the Global Times.

Shaimergenova said that the implementation of BRI is strategically beneficial for Kazakhstan. "The transformation of China into a key trade partner of the EU has been made possible to some extent thanks to the stable operation of China-Europe rail routes - up to 80 percent of which pass through Kazakhstan. Further development of China-Europe trade relations implemented through land corridors is economically beneficial for Kazakhstan."

The smooth promotion of BRI cooperation between China and Kazakhstan was also advanced by the strategic guidance of the leaders from both countries. 

President Xi has visited Kazakhstan four times in September 2013, May 2015, June 2017; and September 2022, the last of which marked his first trip abroad since emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev paid a state visit to China in September 2019, attended the Beijing Winter Olympics in February 2022, and also attended the China-Central Asia Summit in May 2023.

Over recent years, China's relationship with Kazakhstan has continued to strengthen. In 2019, China and Kazakhstan decided to develop a permanent comprehensive strategic partnership. 

I am very pleased that Kazakhstan became the first country to support the idea of the BRI, and actively participates in its development, Aidar Amrebayev, Director of the Political Studies Center in Almaty, Kazakhstan told the Global Times. 

After 10 years since the announcement of the initiative, many projects have been implemented in Kazakhstan, benefiting our country and the entire Central Asian region. These projects involve expanding transport and logistics capabilities, modernizing industrial and agricultural infrastructure, enhancing mutual understanding among our peoples, and fostering active inter-country interactions at the political level, Amrebayev opined. 

"I am happy to say that 10 years later, all my expectations [about the BRI] have materialized," former Secretary-General of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and Chairman of the Board of the Foreign Policy Research Institute under Kazakhstan Foreign Affairs Ministry Bolat Nurgaliyev told the Global Times. The development of the BRI, going through stages, has gone hand in hand with the concept of a community with a shared future for mankind, he added.

The decade-old BRI cooperation proves that we have to show inclusiveness by involving countries in constructive cooperation instead of confrontation, division, and ideological divergence in the immediate political considerations, Nurgaliyev added.

Robust economic cooperation, warm people-to-people exchanges

Astana is one of the youngest capitals in the world. Yet, it is also one of the most modernized and fast-growing cities in Central Asia. From the Chinese businesspeople coming out from the striking Chinese-style building known as the Beijing Palace in the city center to the city's first light rail system under construction with the help of a Chinese company, they mark the changes that China and the BRI have brought to Kazakhstan's capital.

In Almaty, the former capital and largest city in Kazakhstan, advertisements for Chinese electronic devices, vehicles and even sportswear are easy to find. Locals told the Global Times that from China-made smartphones to electric vehicles, Chinese products are popular among Kazaks. At the same time, Kazakhstan was the second country to open a national pavilion on the Alibaba e-commerce platform and more than 200 Kazakh enterprises are running business on the Chinese platform.

According to the General Administration of Customs of China, the total volume of trade in goods between China and Kazakhstan stood at $31.17 billion in 2022, up 23.6 percent from the previous year. In 2022, the trade volume between China and Central Asian countries registered a record of over $70 billion.

The story of Yuan Zhaohui, a Chinese businessman is a vivid example of the robust economic cooperation between two countries. Yuan has been operating cross-border trade with his partners from Kazakhstan for eight years. He started his business from scratch as the first company in the Xi'an International Trade and Logistics Park to use the Chang'an train to ship cross-border e-commerce goods.

At present, about 80 percent of his company's business is linked with Kazakhstan, other Central Asian countries and Russia through the train service. The stable operation of China Railway Express has greatly reduced freight costs for his business.

Taking the road from Xi'an to Almaty as an example, the cost of freight for a container transported by the Chang'an train is about 50,000 to 60,000 yuan ($7,130 to $8,560), which is half the price of traditional land cross-border transport, according to Yuan. The simplified and easier custom declaration for cross-border e-commerce companies has also served to accelerate the growth of his business.

Agriculture is another key area of China-Kazakhstan cooperation that is vigorously developing under the BRI framework. Located in the North Kazakhstan Region, more than 300 kilometers north of Astana, is the Kazakhstan processing park of the Aiju Grain and Oil Industrial Group headquartered in Xi'an, Northwest China's Shaanxi Province. The company is one of the first Chinese enterprises that engage in agricultural investment and cooperation in Kazakhstan under the auspices of the BRI.

Kazakhstani local Yerkenbek Sidick has been working in Aiju's agro-processing and logistics park since 2017. He has witnessed how his company has transformed from a few Soviet-era grain silos into a comprehensive base with large-scale grain storage and distribution capacity.

The Aiju processing park has built a modern oil processing plant with a maximum annual output of 300,000 tons of processed oil crops and a depot that can store 50,000 tons of grains. It has dispatched more than 200 freight trains to deliver 350,000 tons of high-quality raw materials, such as wheat and rapeseed, from the North Kazakhstan Region to China through the Alashankou port.

More than 10 years ago, very few Chinese companies were active in Kazakhstan, and even fewer showed interest in taking roots in the country and making long-term investments, Sidick told the Global Times. With the implementation of the BRI, more and more Chinese companies have begun to pay attention to Kazakhstan, boosting the cooperation and development of the two countries in various fields, including agriculture.

From trade and investment to capacity cooperation, from connectivity to emerging industries, from joint efforts in fighting against the pandemic to cultural exchanges, the all-round mutually beneficial cooperation between China and Kazakhstan has demonstrated strong vitality and resilience, and the foundation of people-to-people friendship is becoming increasingly concrete, Chinese Ambassador to Kazakhstan Zhang Xiao told the Global Times in an exclusive interview. 

Specifically, he gave an example of a large number of exemplary projects built by both sides, such as the Shymkent Oil Refinery, the photovoltaic power plant in Almaty, the Orda glass plant in Kazakhstan's Kyzylorda Region, saying that those projects greatly improved Kazakhstan's industrialization level and benefited local residents.

Aside from economic cooperation, China and Kazakhstan are also embracing close people-to-people exchanges. Those two countries are cooperating in areas such as publishing books, jointly making films, doing archaeological research together and establishing universities… Such interaction between the two countries has laid the foundation for friendly exchange between two peoples. 

Famous Kazakh director and producer Akan Satayev is planning to co-produce a film with China. He told the Global Times that China and Kazakhstan are both countries along the Silk Road, which renders them to share a common history and culture. Satayev said he is very interested in Chinese culture, and he hopes to find more common points in the history and culture of China and Kazakhstan and make films and television works based on such findings. "This will definitely bring us closer together," said Satayev.

"The BRI has helped China 'go global' and broaden the Chinese people's horizon, while enhancing Central Asia's understanding of China," said He Cheng, Chief Representative of the Kazakhstan International Integration Foundation. As the understanding of people in Central Asia and China on each other deepens, people now become more open-minded and see the opportunity and potential of bilateral and multilateral cooperation under the BRI framework, he noted.

In He's opinion, the BRI is no longer a link of communication, but a model of cooperation between countries in a honeycomb structure. "With the deepening and widening of cooperation, we are ultimately moving toward the establishment of a community," he told the Global Times.

Brighter future

In 2014, a $9 billion infrastructure project known as "Nurly Zhol," translated as "Bright Path," was announced by Kazakhstan's government. Since then, the integration between the BRI and Nurly Zhol has been constantly discussed in Kazakhstan's strategic and political circles.

"The two programs should be interconnected. They should be coordinated so that what has already been started as projects within the Nurly Zhol should be somewhat supplemented. This will be a better use of the capital of the investment," former SCO Secretary-General Nurgaliyev commented.

In many senses, the development road the BRI has provided can also be described as "bright." Ten years on, this ambitious initiative has benefited Central Asia through close cooperation, including improving infrastructure, providing jobs and boosting bilateral trade. It is now a path that is even brighter than a decade ago and has the ability to lead the region and the world to a brighter future.

Nurgaliyev believes that the BRI will continue to develop. "The circle of participation in the BRI is already so wide. We have now 193 states in the United Nations system, and 152 are BRI participants," he said. "So what better argument can prove that the BRI is beneficial for everybody who participates in the implementation?" the diplomat noted.

On September 7, 2023, the 10-year anniversary day of the proposal of BRI, a seminar was held by think tanks from China and Kazakhstan at Nazarbayev University. 

As a participator of the seminar, Shaimergenova said "I am sure that the Belt and Road Initiative, which represents the reconstruction of the Great Silk Road of the 21st century, became the most remarkable event of this century. It reflects the rise and grandeur of modern Asia."

With the support of China, Central Asia now is beginning to realize economic revival as the region becomes a contributor to its own development. By embedding in the East-West transport communications, the problem of continental isolation is being eliminated, and strong prerequisites for intra-regional cooperation are being created, said Shaimergenova.

Cooperation along the BRI has a strong impact on the prosperity and progressive development of several billion people around the world. I am sure that the Initiative will be a good basis for building the Community of the common destiny of mankind, she noted.

The further flourishing of the BRI is a general wish from not only scholars and diplomats from Kazakhstan, but also ordinary people like Sidick from Aiju's processing park in the Central Asian country.

"After our company's seven-year journey in Kazakhstan, now we are expecting a harvest," Sidick told the Global Times. 

"I hope that the road of BRI will become wider and wider to attract more Chinese companies to develop and invest in Kazakhstan and drive the two countries' economic development and people-to-people exchanges. I am looking forward to finding my own position and creating more value for my company and the BRI," said the Kazakh young man with a big smile on his face.

IMEC faces barriers of internal infrastructural issues, Western economic hegemony

At the recent G20 summit, the India-Middle East-Europe Corridor (IMEC) backed by the US, Europe and India under the Partnership for Global Infrastructure Investment was announced. This corridor aims to connect Europe, the Middle East and India with rail and shipping routes.

With Biden calling it a "really big deal" and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan describing the project as "transformative," the project has already been described as one that counters China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which has been signed up to by the majority of the world.

However, the working group tasked with drawing up a fuller plan, over the next sixty days, will have to confront some harsh economic realities relating to funding, material capabilities and the ideological outlook of the main countries involved.

When it comes to funding, let's not forget that the Build Back Better Plan undertaken by the G7 in 2021 to counter the BRI was consigned to the dustbin of history the same year it was announced.

The $1.7 trillion package (less than two years of US defense spending) was considered too costly.

Railway linking India, the Middle East and Europe would be the center piece of the IMEC. When it comes to infrastructure, the US and India do not set good examples for others to follow, yet they expect to compete with China which has first-rate infrastructure. Rather than build something abroad, based on hegemonic competition against China, it would be better for the US and India to demonstrate they can solve the basic democratic infrastructural needs of their citizens first.

Even if internal infrastructural issues and financing can somehow be overcome, the ideological attitude of maintaining economic hegemony that the West holds toward the Global South acts as a barrier to the IMEC. Only with gunship diplomacy could the US force states to buy exclusively from expensive Western companies. Even then, many components will be sourced from China.

At any rate, we are in a multi-polar world now. The Saudi-Iran rapprochement, the enlargement of BRICS, and the good relations in the region toward Russia and China show that the Middle East refuses to take sides and will trade with all. Another Iraqi-style invasion in the region to maintain US-led economic predominance would be foolhardy, as such, the West must be competitive in the market.

Currently, Saudi Arabia is choosing China when it comes to rail construction - though this too is an international effort that pulls in Western companies. The China Railway 18th Bureau Group has already completed the 450km-long Mecca-Medina High-speed Railway and is working on the Medina Tunnel Project along with the Saudi Rua Al Madinah Holding Company, Canada's WSP and US-based Parsons. The linking of Saudi's eastern and western seaboard, while led by China, is also a joint international project. This further highlights the lunacy and impracticality of fencing off the world economy.

One of the major forces driving US hegemonic attempts is its capitalist system which seeks immediate profits. This motivation has led to the decay of US infrastructure and a lack of long-term railway investment; a similar "democratic" system sees India's infrastructure in shambles too. Furthermore, much of the Global South remains in tatters after being harvested by the US military-industrial complex, which seeks quick profits from war and sees development as a threat to its economic hegemony.

In contrast, The BRI is premised on long-term social economic planning. Some projects will not be profitable for decades - many will provide immense social-economic benefits but no profit extraction for private capital. China's socialist system subordinates capital for the democratic good of society and it's because of this that it has the world's largest high-speed rail network, which it can then sell abroad at competitive prices.

In an attempt to conceal China's governing advantages and foresight, the corporate press labels Chinese-involved projects that don't reap immediate profits as "white elephants." Indeed, the debt trap narrative has been constructed to conceal the BRI's long-term planning and misdirect attention from private capital lending, which is far more severe than Chinese loans and the source of much suffering in the Global South.

Certainly, should the IMEC get off the ground without Chinese involvement and sell expensive Western infrastructure, then it will be interesting to observe the Western ideological apparatus scramble to justify how their venture is superior to the BRI, the initiative that the majority of the world has already voluntarily signed up to. There is still an open invitation for Europe, the US and India to join!

The author is an independent international relations analyst who focuses on China's socialist development and global inequality.