The Philippines: Friendship bamboo event held in Beijing

The International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) together with the Philippine Embassy in China jointly organized a bamboo planting event in Beijing. INBAR director general Ali Mchumo, and Philippine Ambassador to China Jaime FlorCruz attended the event. 

Speaking at the bamboo planting ceremony, Mchumo said that bamboo is a fast-growing, vigorous, and very desirable renewable resource for environmental protection and climate change combating. The Philippines is one of the nine founding members of INBAR, which has supported the Philippines in bamboo projects involving awareness raising, basic research, and skill training over 25 years of cooperation.

The ambassador gave a welcome speech at the bamboo planting ceremony. He said that the Philippines is one of the many countries most vulnerable to climate change. Climate change seriously affects the environment, economy, and human life, and is an environmental issue that has been a key concern for many countries. The Philippines is committed to addressing climate change and supports the goals and objectives of INBAR in the hope of creating a climate-stable and nature-friendly environment. He said that with the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of World Environment Day, it is significant to hold a bamboo planting event at the embassy.

After the speeches, Mchumo and FlorCruz planted bamboo together.

Exclusive: Nepal to maintain non-aligned policy in friendly relations with neighbors, hopes China’s strengths will help bolster economy: Nepalese PM

Editor's Note:

At the invitation of Chinese Premier Li Qiang, Nepalese Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda commenced his five-day state visit to China from September 23 to 30, his first visit to China since the start of his third term as the Prime Minister of Nepal. The 69-year-old is a legendary figure in Nepal. Born in a poor Brahmin farming family in Pokhara in 1954, he witnessed abject poverty in his youth. Determined to change his country's corruption and a ruling exploitative class, Prachanda embarked on a revolutionary path to transform Nepal's destiny. In 2008, he became the first prime minister of Nepal after the abolition of the monarchy. In 2016, he assumed the office of prime minister for a second term, and in November 2022, this veteran of Nepalese politics made a comeback for a third term. As a staunch socialist and a long-time member of the Communist Party, Prachanda has deep ties to China. After assuming office as the first term as prime minister of Nepal, the first country he visited was China. In 2008, he also came to Beijing to attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

Global Times reporters Hu Yuwei and Bai Yunyi (GT) recently interviewed Prachanda while on his official visit to China. He told the reporters that part of his dream when he first embarked on the revolutionary path has been realized. During this third term, he hopes to promote long-term unity, stability, and economic prosperity in Nepal, and for this, he will seek to strengthen cooperation with China within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). He believes that China's experience in development has provided valuable insights for his government in improving the socio-economic conditions of vulnerable groups within Nepal.

GT: This is your third term as the Prime Minister of Nepal. Your premiership has great expectations attached to it. Can you please elaborate on the key priorities your administration has to lead Nepal into a new era of prosperity?

I am committed to the task of guiding the country toward the path of prosperity. Our foremost concerns are peace and prosperity. The current government has been focused on accelerating the truth and reconciliation process. Our objective is to achieve both domestic and international peace, and we are committed to expediting the peace-building initiatives through which we can successfully lead the country out of the transitional phase. Ensuring comprehensive peace, effective governance, upholding the rule of law, fostering national unity, and achieving political consensus are necessary for long-term stability of the nation and fostering a robust economic environment.

GT: Will relations with China become one of your administration's diplomatic priorities? What are your expectations for China-Nepal relations during your tenure?

 China-Nepal relations consistently serve as a remarkable example of good neighbourliness. China occupies an important place in Nepal's diplomatic priorities. Nepal-China relations are based on millennia-old cultural, economic, and people-to-people ties, and are guided by the principles of peaceful coexistence, harmony, goodwill, and mutual trust. Nepal has unwavering support for the one-China principle, which is committed to not allowing any kind of anti-China activities on our soil. We also highly value China's unconditional support for Nepal's socio-economic development and territorial integrity, which have been the hallmarks of our cordial and neighbourly relations. 

I am confident and optimistic that China-Nepal relations will be further consolidated, which will reach a new height during my tenure. We have accorded priority to develop cross-border connectivity networks, including roads, railways, transmission lines, airways, and telecommunications. Our top priorities include establishing cross-border economic zones, expanding trade and investment-related infrastructures at border points, and early implementation of previously agreed bilateral agreements and understandings. 

We are fully committed to accelerating the construction of cross-border railways and electricity transmission lines as early as possible. Nepal attaches greater importance to all cross-border connectivity projects; we anticipate a similar commitment from the Chinese side as well. 

Enhanced air connectivity between China and Nepal is another important sector that would strengthen China-Nepal relations and cooperation. If we operate flights from Lumbini and Pokhara airports to different Chinese cities and the vice versa, it would significantly help in revitalizing Nepal's tourism sector and creating job opportunities in Nepal.

Enhanced air connectivity between China and Nepal is another important sector that would strengthen China-Nepal relations and cooperation. If we operate flights from Lumbini and Pokhara airports to different Chinese cities and the vice versa, it would significantly help in revitalizing Nepal's tourism sector and creating job opportunities in Nepal.

Nepal has a huge trade imbalance with China. Nepal possesses immense potential in organic staple foods, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products, while China possesses significant technological, production, and marketing prowess. We hope that China will assist Nepal in supplying advanced agricultural and food processing technology with fresh investment to Nepal, which would enhance our agricultural exports and reduce the trade deficit. We are optimistic that China will open its huge market to Nepali agro-vet products, medicinal and aromatic plant-based goods, cosmetics, and handicrafts. We also seek Chinese investments in the development of hydrogen energy which would benefit both of our countries in producing clean energy and reduce carbon emissions.

We are keen to explore greater business opportunities for Nepali art forms, such as thangka paintings, carpets, and other woollen products in the Chinese market. 

Chinese support for the development of technical and vocational education is immensely important. China and Nepal have enjoyed friendly people-to-people relations and cultural cooperation for centuries. Mutual trust and cooperation have been the fundamental pillars of China-Nepal relations, which will continue in the future as well.

China and Nepal must make common efforts to address the issues related to the impact of climate change in the Himalayan region and enhance all-round trans-border cooperation to address the issues that have impacted both countries. Nepali government is eager to collaborate with China to promote regional peace, prosperity, and development.

GT: When you first took office as the prime minister of Nepal, the first country you visited was China. Now on your third term in office, what agenda will your current visit to China entail? 

 I have consistently prioritized fostering friendly relations and cooperation with China. Our two countries are actively collaborating on various issues and extending cooperation through diplomatic channels. 

Our key priorities with China include early and time-bound implementation of previously agreed upon agendas and understandings. At the same time, we want to further boost economic cooperation. Our particular emphasis is to attract more Chinese direct investments in Nepal, promote trans-Himalayan connectivity networks, increase Nepali exports to China, and address Nepal's trade deficit.

GT: The current economic situation in Nepal is challenging with inflation at a near six-year high. Foreign exchange reserves continue to drain away, and basic commodities are becoming increasingly dependent on imports. What are your next steps for economic revitalization? Will it involve the strengthening of economic cooperation with China through such initiatives as BRI projects?

 Nepal urgently requires to create more jobs in order to address the unemployment problem, enhance productivity, expand the output of exportable goods and services, explore new markets for export, control inflation, and maintain trade balance. These objectives stand as my foremost priorities. For this, we are collaborating with planners, economists, industrialists, business leaders, and various stakeholders to identify suitable solutions to these challenges. 

Emphasis has been placed on prioritizing policies and initiatives that foster a favorable investment climate, thereby drawing increased foreign investment to sectors that lack adequate domestic capital and technology. This approach is aimed at generating an environment conducive to growth and development.

China has ascended to become the world's second-largest economy, showcasing remarkable achievements in the socio-economic transformation of its society. Notably, China serves as a significant pillar of economic support for Nepal. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Nepal and China in 1955, China has played an important role in assisting Nepal's infrastructure and development endeavors. Many of these projects hold immense importance for our nation's progress. 

As China continues to advance, its support and investment in Nepal are continuously growing. Nepal views China's development trajectory as an opportunity, with the BRI serving as a suitable platform for enhancing trans-Himalayan multidimensional connectivity. This connectivity has great potential for realizing Nepal's economic goals while acting as a vibrant bridge between the two largest economies in Asia and also between China and South Asia. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been signed between China and Nepal, solidifying mutual commitment to the BRI. We are fully prepared to take the maximum benefits from this cooperative framework.

The present government attaches paramount importance to investments from China. We are equally prepared to engage in discussions and resolve any obstacles that Chinese investors might encounter.

GT:  We are closely following the developments of the China-Nepal railway project. Do you have the will to push this project forward during your tenure?

 The Nepali people have high expectations for the China-Nepal railway, and they are eager for the railway project to commence as soon as possible. Once completed, the railway will provide Nepal with an alternative means of bulk transportation and will hold immense significance for Nepal's trade diversification efforts and transit options.

The primary concern associated with this project is how quickly we can bring it to fruition. You must be aware that the construction of this project requires a substantial amount of resources that Nepal alone cannot afford. In such a situation, we have no choice but to rely on external funding. However, we also share concerns that the size of the loan for this project and terms and conditions should be manageable for the Nepali economy. Feasibility studies are currently underway, and we hope that the report will be available soon. Following that, we will need to explore appropriate funding modalities for the project. Under my leadership, this government is prioritizing the early completion of the study, and I hope to initiate the construction of this visionary project during my tenure.

The China-Nepal railway is a monumental project, and the people of Nepal are eager to see it realized. It is not critical for this project to commence during my term; what truly matters is that we have a collective dream of connecting Nepal and China through a railway system.

GT: Many people are concerned about how Nepal will handle its relations with China and India in the future. How will you guide Nepal's relations with these two neighbors?

 Nepal's relations with both China and India are guided by principles of good neighborliness, peaceful coexistence, and a non-aligned foreign policy. Nepal deals with China and India independently. Our relationship with one neighbor will not be influenced by our relationship with the other, nor will we seek to play one against the other. Both neighbors are close friends and important development partners. We will continue to develop our relationships with both the neighbors on a bilateral basis. If any differences arise with either of them, such issues will be resolved through friendly bilateral negotiations. 

Our relations with both our two immediate neighbors are consistent and clear. We want friendly relations with them and at the same time we want to see friendly and cooperative relations between our two neighbors as well.  Their amicable and cooperative relations will also help Nepal. Personally, I am committed to promoting and am willing to assist in fostering close and harmonious neighborly relations between both our two important neighbors. 

Nepal respects the interests of both China and India. We emphasize the development of a win-win cooperative model that benefits all three countries.

GT: As we all know, you are a socialist. Do you believe that socialism is still relevant in Nepal in the third decade of the 21st century? If so, why?

 Nepal's Constitution defines Nepal as a socialism-oriented state. In my view, socialism and Chairman Mao's ideas and teachings remain relevant to transform Nepal into a socialist country.

Under the socialism and the leadership of Mao, the Communist Party of China (CPC) established the People's Republic of China. The CPC developed its unique path to socialism with Chinese characteristics. 

Similarly, Nepal will determine its own path as a socialism-oriented country that suits its historical political development and current geopolitical realities. It's not about Nepal imitating China's socialism and Chairman Mao Zedong. China's socialism and Mao's ideas offer us valuable insights to improve the socio-economic status of the oppressed and economically disadvantaged class of people.

GT: You are a veteran politician who has been active in Nepali politics for decades. Now looking back, do you believe you have realized your dreams and goals when you first fought in the revolution?

 I should say our dreams have been partially realized. Politically, the country has overthrown a centuries-old monarchy and has been transformed into a republic. This would not have been possible without our "People's War." Now, in the eyes of the constitution and laws, all citizens are equal. The country has adopted inclusive policies protecting the basic rights of people from all walks of life. From the highest level such as parliament and other constitutional bodies to the lowest level of political representations such as ward committees, from government institutions to cooperatives, from recruitments in government jobs to student admissions in colleges, certain reservations have been ensured for people from marginalized groups like women, the economically poor, and the underprivileged classes. This remarkable achievement was institutionalized through the constitution promulgated in 2015. 

Despite achievements made in several areas, I must admit that much remains to be done in the economic sector. Economic, technical, and educational advancements take a longer time to show visible results. To achieve progress in these sectors, we need consistent, long-term efforts, and most importantly national consensus. We are trying to develop our strategy and policy to achieve long-term development goals in close consultation and collaboration with all Nepali stakeholders, including the opposition parties and even others who have disagreement with the present political system. 

China and Vietnam have ability to promote ties amid US courtship with Hanoi

After attending the G20 Summit in New Delhi, US President Joe Biden made a short visit to Vietnam. In Hanoi, the US and Vietnam elevated their relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership, mirroring the comprehensive strategic partnership of cooperation between China and Vietnam in the new era. According to some foreign media outlets, the upgrade allows US-Vietnam ties to reach the same tier as Vietnam's relations with China, Russia. It appears that the US' strategy of encircling China from the south has made new progress.

Given the South China Sea dispute between China and Vietnam, the US-Vietnam relationship has undergone a smooth progression in recent years. In 2016, former US president Barack Obama visited Vietnam, becoming the third US president to visit the country after the Vietnam War. Then both Donald Trump and Biden made their visits there. While the US hopes to turn Vietnam into a "second Philippines," it is aware of the challenges in achieving this goal and is willing to settle for less.

With substantial progress in US-Vietnam relations, the US hopes that Vietnam can absorb some industries transferred from China and become a new center for low-cost manufacturing. Biden's visit aligns with the US' desire to increase chip manufacturing and rare earth production in Vietnam. 

Vietnam is smart, benefiting from the long-term governance of the Communist Party of Vietnam, it has fostered stable strategic thinking compared to the Philippines. Hanoi is committed to developing strong relations with the US and Western countries as a bargaining chip in its competition with China over the South China Sea affairs. Simultaneously, Hanoi seeks to expand Vietnam's economic opportunities and gain access to advanced technology. The Communist Party of Vietnam has set a goal of building Vietnam into a strong and prosperous country which is able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with powers around the world in 2045.

However, Vietnam will not form a strategic alliance with the US, nor will it align with the US on the Taiwan question or the issue of "isolating China." As long as China and Vietnam do not have intense conflicts in the South China Sea issue, Hanoi will continue to maintain friendly cooperation with China while pursuing friendly cooperation with Russia and the US. Vietnam aims to avoid offending any party and achieve a balance of interests from all three sides

Striking a balance among major powers serves Vietnam's interests best. China remains Vietnam's largest trading partner. Vietnam and China are neighbors, and any confrontation with China would have adverse consequences for Vietnam, leaving it with the only option of siding with the US and succumbing to Washington. 

Furthermore, Vietnam, being a socialist country, faces similar long-term political challenges as China. While the US is actively developing its relationship with Vietnam, there is also frequent criticism toward Vietnam's "human rights issues" from the US. The Vietnam Reform Revolutionary Party, primarily composed of descendants of Vietnamese refugees in the US, always aims at realizing a color revolution in Vietnam. 

Vietnam's national political stability always faces risks from the US and the West. China, on the other hand, serves as its biggest external support for political stability. The relationship between the Communist Parties of China and Vietnam serves as a solid bond.

Maritime disputes have long been an obstacle between China and Vietnam. Vietnam not only claims sovereignty over the Nansha Islands but also has ambitions for the Xisha Islands. These disputes cannot be resolved in the short term. However, siding with the US in the strategic competition between China and the US does not serve Vietnam's long-term political and economic interests, nor does it provide true strategic security. Therefore, Vietnam is likely to pursue a "Vietnamese-style neutral route" between China and the US, which will be more cautious and serious than the neutrality of the Philippines and India.

Chinese people need not worry about Vietnam's warm relationship with the US. Vietnam, with a population of about 98 million, belongs to the Confucian civilization circle. In Hanoi, one can find temples with Chinese characters and historical examination halls where imperial examinations were held. While Vietnam's economy is currently growing rapidly, at a speed that has surpassed that of China, its per capita GDP is just below $4,000, lower than that of Yunnan Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in China, and there is a significant gap compared to the Pearl River Delta. Vietnam has never surpassed China in terms of economic development.

Let us engage patiently with this southern neighbor as it seeks to maximize its interests in the strategic competition between China and the US. I believe that China and Vietnam have the ability to continuously promote their bilateral relationship in a positive and stable direction, benefiting both countries.

China, Greece have vast rooms for cooperation in improving economy, social welfare and mitigating climate change

Editor's note:
China and Greece share a solid foundation of political trust and enjoy robust trade and economic cooperation. This partnership holds substantial potential within the context of the China-CEEC cooperation mechanism and China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which marks its10th anniversary this year. Piraeus Port's transformation led by China COSCO Shipping has been nothing short of extraordinary. In a recent exclusive interview, the Chinese Ambassador to Greece Xiao Junzheng (Xiao) told the Global Times reporter (GT) Yin Yeping how bilateral relations can further deepen and flourish in the coming years.

GT: This year marks the beginning of the second decade of cooperation between China and the Central and Eastern European countries (CEEC). In this context, how could China, Greece, and CEE countries engage in deeper and broader cooperation?

Xiao: Since the initiation of the cooperation mechanism between China and the CEEC, a comprehensive cooperation framework covering more than 20 areas has been established. Many cooperation projects have yielded fruitful results, with bilateral trade doubling over the past decade, and Chinese investment in CEEC increasing sixfold. The China-CEEC cooperation mechanism has become an important platform for the continuous deepening of friendly relations and the ongoing expansion of cooperation between China and the region.
This year marks the beginning of the second decade of cooperation between China and the CEEC. In China's journey toward modernization, Greece can become a significant partner. Likewise, in Greece's efforts to enhance its national competitiveness, China could be a crucial partner, providing assistance and support.
China and Greece enjoy a high level of political mutual trust, a strong foundation for cooperation, and significant potential for the future within the framework of the China-CEEC mechanism. In the future, cooperation can focus on the following aspects:
Firstly, promote mutually beneficial and practical cooperation. The Greek government has prioritized digital transformation and the development of a green economy. Both China and Greece can further align their growth strategies, while expand cooperation in green economy, digital economy, technology innovation, and the service industry.
Secondly, enhance connectivity. China COSCO Shipping's investment project at Piraeus Port and the China-Europe Land-Sea Express Line originating from Piraeus Port have evolved into crucial links between land and sea, effectively connecting Europe and Asia.
In the future, China and Greece can strengthen their commitment to the comprehensive development plan for Piraeus Port, enhance cooperation in trade, make new contributions to stability of the China-Europe industrial and supply chains, promoting economic integration in the Balkans, and advancing the EU integration.
Thirdly, accelerate cultural and tourism cooperation. China supports Greece in hosting the 6th China-CEEC High-level Conference on Tourism Cooperation. China is willing to work with Greece to do a good job in cooperation regarding China-Greece Year of Culture and Tourism, continue to implement the Joint Action Program 2022-2024, build tourism brands, and initiate a broader spectrum of diverse cultural and tourism cooperation.

GT: How do you view the significance of Chinese companies' achievements in Piraeus Port for promoting economic recovery of Greece and the development of China's international maritime industry? What insights can the success in Piraeus offer for future cooperation?

Xiao: Since China COSCO Shipping Group took over the operations of Piraeus Port, they have managed it actively and prudently, making efforts to expand its market presence. This century-old port has experienced a remarkable revival and achieved significant growth, propelling the rapid advancement of local logistics and industrial chains.
Currently, the Piraeus subsidiary of COSCO Shipping has invested over 1 billion euros in port construction. The Piraeus Port has seen a significant rise in container throughput ranking, climbing from 93rd place in 2010 to 29th place in 2021, establishing itself as a leading Mediterranean port. This development has directly created over 3,000 jobs for local community. In total, the efforts have contributed over 1.4 billion euros to local community.
Piraeus Port is the closest European port to the Suez Canal, making it a crucial gateway for Asian goods, including those from China, to enter Europe. Piraeus' development has attracted cargo from multiple countries as a transshipment hub to Europe, significantly enhancing international trade efficiency and reducing shipping costs.
The success of the Piraeus project serves as a vivid example of the BRI and stands as a significant achievement in the cooperation between China and Greece. As long as both China and Greece remain committed to their shared goals, uphold the principles of consultation, joint construction, and shared benefits, and continue to foster a spirit of cooperation and mutual prosperity, by aligning their national development strategies, it is believed that practical cooperation between China and Greece will continue to yield even more fruitful results in the future.
GT: There are voices trying to undermine the mutually beneficial cooperation between China and Greece, the narratives like "China's investment in global ports is a threat." How do you view these voices?

Xiao: China's promotion of the joint construction of the BRI is not driven by geopolitical maneuvering, nor does it pursue self-interest for hegemonic purposes. And, China does not seek to create disruptive alliances. Over the past decade since China introduced the initiative, it has consistently adhered to the principles of mutual consultation, cooperation, and shared benefits. As a result, the Belt and Road has evolved into a widely embraced international public good and a platform for international cooperation. There are some voices alleging that China's investment in Piraeus Port has "non-commercial purposes," which are entirely baseless.
The facts demonstrate that China's cooperation with relevant countries, including Greece, in port development is aimed at promoting economic and trade cooperation between nations. This cooperation contributes to local economic development, infrastructure improvement, and job creation. It is based on mutual benefit and results in win-win outcomes for all parties involved.
In my previous introduction, I highlighted the outstanding achievements that COSCO Shipping Group has secured in operating Piraeus Port. It has transformed Piraeus into a port of win-win cooperation, green development, economic growth and more. The international community has widely recognized these accomplishments, and high-ranking Greek officials, including the President and Prime Minister, have praised the mutually beneficial nature of this project.
In 2022, Piraeus Port also received awards such as the "Outstanding Contribution to Tourism Industry" award from the Greek Ministry of Tourism and the "Diamonds of the Greek Economy" award from Hellenic Shipping News. These accolades further illustrate the widespread recognition and approval of the Piraeus Port project by Greek society.
China's practical cooperation with countries around the world in infrastructure development, including port construction, strictly adheres to the principles of consultation, joint construction, and shared benefits. It aims to create more opportunities for mutual development. This cooperation is conducted transparently and openly, without posing any security threats to any country.

GT: With the optimization of anti-pandemic policies, Greece is expected to see more Chinese tourists. What do you think are the opportunities for cooperation between China and Greece in tourism and cultural exchanges?

Xiao: China and Greece are both ancient civilizations and significant global tourist destinations. People to people exchanges are essential components of practical cooperation. The tourism industry is one of the pillars of the Greek economy, contributing some 20 percent to Greece's GDP. China, with the world's largest middle-income population, has seen rapid development in the tourism market.
In the post-pandemic era, both China and Greece will continue to actively implement the 2022-2024 Joint Action Program, focusing on enhancing cooperation in tourism.
Both sides will make full use of existing tourism cooperation platforms and utilize platforms like the China International Travel Mart to promote bilateral tourism cooperation. Efforts will also be made to enhance visa processing efficiency, and increase direct flights.
I believe that the orderly recovery of China's outbound tourism will enhance the friendship between Chinese and Greek people, strengthen the ties of cultural exchange between China and Greece, and better leverage the tourism industry's significant role in promoting economic development and deepening the friendship between the two countries.

GT: The New Democracy party, led by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, recently won a second four-year term. What are your expectations for bilateral cooperation in the coming months?

Xiao: The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle once said, friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies. China and Greece are comprehensive strategic partners with a history of friendly exchanges dating back thousands of years. In the 51 years since establishing diplomatic relations, both countries have navigated the changing international landscape. Both sides have demonstrated mutual understanding and support on issues of core interests and major concerns. The two countries have become an exemplary model of peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation between nations of different scales, systems, national conditions, and civilizations.

Following the re-election of the New Democracy Party government, they have continued to support the co-development of the BRI and cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European countries. They are willing to work hand in hand with China to deepen mutually beneficial cooperation.

I believe that in the future, under the guidance of the high-quality construction of the BRI, both sides will promote the realization of China's modernization model and Greece's enhancement of its national competitiveness. Together, both sides will nurture new areas of cooperation such as green development and the digital economy, bringing greater prosperity to the people of both countries.

GT: How do you evaluate the cooperation achievements between the two countries under BRI? And, in which areas could the two countries ramp up their cooperation?

Xiao: China and Greece, despite being geographically distant, have a history of communication dating back over 2,000 years through the ancient Silk Road that spanned east and west. Today, in the midst of deepening globalization, the cooperation in building the BRI is once again connecting the two great civilizations.
With the joint efforts of China and Greece, their mutually beneficial cooperation has yielded fruitful results. This has not only enriched the content of the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and Greece but also has brought tangible benefits to the people of both countries.
Since China COSCO Shipping took over the management of the Piraeus Port, the port has experienced a remarkable transformation. The container throughput has grown from 880,000 TEUs in 2010 to over 5 million TEUs today, making it a leading port in the Mediterranean.
The China-Europe Land-Sea Express Line, from its inception, has become the third trade corridor between China and Europe, in addition to traditional maritime routes and China-Europe freight trains.
China's State Grid Corporation's investment in the Greek national electricity grid project, and State Power Investment Corporation's acquisition of the Kafireas wind power project have alsoy generated significant economic and social benefits.
In the journey to develop green and digital economies and to build new national competitiveness in Greece, both China and Greece can strengthen their partnership through high-quality cooperation in the BRI. We can consolidate and deepen existing cooperation projects, advance connectivity cooperation represented by Piraeus Port and the China-Europe Land-Sea Express Line.

GT: In your opinion, what areas of deep cooperation could China and Greece engage to address climate change and promote green, low-carbon transformation?

Xiao: This summer, Greece experienced extreme high temperatures and wildfires, while many regions in China faced high temperatures and extreme rainfall. Both China and Greece are victims of global climate change and share common aspirations and motivations in addressing climate change.
China adheres to the concept of new development and actively promotes green and low-carbon development, fulfilling international commitments in addressing climate change. In recent years, Greece has also been proactive in addressing climate change issues, enacting clear emission reduction legislation, advancing energy structural adjustments, and vigorously developing a green economy.
The concept of green development is increasingly being reflected in the cooperation projects between the two sides.
Chinese new-energy vehicles have entered the Greek market this year. China and Greece have strengthened their strategic alignment in technology development under the framework of the China-Greece Joint Committee on Science and Technology Cooperation and the Belt and Road Science, Technology and Innovation Cooperation Action Plan.
In the Memorandum of Understanding on China-Greece Scientific and Technological Cooperation signed by the two countries' science and technology departments last year, addressing climate change emerged as a key area of collaboration, with a focus on forest management, challenges related to water resource biodiversity, and climate adaptation policies. Both countries have already established a solid cooperation foundation in green and low-carbon transformation fields such as biomanufacturing and solar energy.
China and Greece have vast rooms for cooperation related to mitigating global climate change by promoting green growth.

China's surged consumption on first day of Golden Week holidays

The vast potential of China's domestic consumer market was on full display on Friday, the first day of Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day holidays, as catering and the box office embraced significant increase in business activity. 

Starting from starting from September 29 to October 6, the 8-day-holiday is the longest public holiday of the year. Analysts expect to see a surge in domestic consumption. 

Multiple entertainment and consumption areas in Beijing welcomed crowds of visitors on Friday as 60 major business districts across the capital city saw a total of 6.89 million people visit, an increase of 11.9 percent year-on-year, according to the Beijing Municipal Commerce Bureau on Saturday. 

The bureau also reported total daily sales of nearly 100 shopping malls, supermarket, online and offline stores, restaurants reached 1.39 billion yuan ($190.54 billion), up 40.4 percent year-on-year. 

According to data from Chinese food delivery platform Meituan and Dazhongdianping, a Chinese version of Yelp, as of Friday noon, the volume of dine-in order increased by 110 percent over the first day of 2022 National Day holidays.

China’s total box office (pre-sale included) of new films during the 2023 Golden Week holidays crossed 1 billion yuan as of 21:18 on Saturday, according to ticketing platform Dengta. The top three are all domestic films - Under the LightEx-files 4: Marriage Plan and Korean War-themed epic The Volunteers: To the War. 

Chinese researchers find way to manufacture highly flexible, paper-thin solar cells

Chinese researchers have developed a special technology to tailor the edges of textured crystalline silicon (c-Si) solar cells, based on which the solar cells can be bent and folded like thin paper, allowing for broader application and use.

The breakthrough was achieved by Chinese researchers at the Shanghai Institute of Microsystem and Information Technology (SIMIT) under the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The results have been featured on the cover of the May 24 edition of Nature journal.

The c-Si solar cells fabricated with the new technology can be 60 millimeters thin with a bending radius of about 8 millimeters.
According to the Technology Daily, c-Si solar cells are type of solar cell seeing fast development at the moment. They have advantages including long service life and high conversion efficiency, making them a leading product in the photovoltaic market.

Such c-Si solar cells have a market share of more than 95 percent, according to Di Zengfeng, deputy head of the SIMIT, who is one of the authors of the research paper.

Although c-Si solar cells were developed nearly 70 years ago, their use is still limited, the paper explained. Currently, the c-Si solar cells are mainly used in distributed photovoltaic power stations and ground photovoltaic power stations. Hopefully, such solar cells can be used in construction, backpacks, tents, automobiles, sailing boats and even planes.

They can also be used to generate clean energy for houses and a variety of portable electronic and communication devices as well as for transportation, according to the researchers.
Liu Zhengxin, a research fellow with the SIMIT, and another author of the paper, said that the study verified the feasibility of mass production, providing a technical route for the development of lightweight and flexible c-Si solar cells.

At the same time, the large-area flexible photovoltaic modules developed by the research team have been successfully applied in the fields of near-space vehicles, building photovoltaic integration and vehicle-mounted photovoltaic systems, Liu said.

Foxconn founder Terry Gou announces to run for Taiwan regional leader, ‘making anti-DPP camp more divided’

Taiwan billionaire and Foxconn founder Terry Gou Tai-ming announced on Monday that he will run in the 2024 elections for Taiwan's regional leader, making next year's vote a complicated four-way race. Analysts said that this is likely to further divide the island's opposition camp in favor of secessionist ruling party candidate Lai Ching-te. 

According to the latest polls conducted in mid August by Taiwan media outlets and institutions, without Gou's participation, ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Lai, who is currently the deputy leader of the island, is now the front-runner with 37 to 42 percent, while Taiwan People's Party candidate Ko Wen-je ranks second with 25 to 28 percent, and Hou Yu-ih of the major opposition party Chinese Kuomintang (KMT) getting 20-22 percent. 

According to Taiwan polls that include Gou,  with Gou's participation, Lai's front-runner position is virtually unaffected while the opposition candidates are impacted significantly, as Ko gets only about 16-17 percent, KMT's Hou gets 15-16 percent, and Gou has only 12 percent. 

Analysts said this doesn't mean the DPP is popular, as most polls show that Taiwan residents who want to end the DPP rule are in the majority, as the combined support of opposition candidates is more than Lai's, but the problem is that the opposition camp is becoming divided due to the power struggle between the two opposition parties, and now the independent candidate Gou is dividing the field further. 

The three opposition candidates are yet to reach a consensus on forming an alliance to run in the elections. Even if they do reach agreement on running together, which is very unlikely as they all refuse to give in and serve as deputy candidate, Lai is very likely to win, and unfortunately, the will of the majority on the island to end the DPP rule might not be realized, Li Fei, a professor at the Taiwan Research Center at Xiamen University, told the Global Times on Monday.

"If Lai gets elected, cross-Taiwan Straits relations will be in danger, so the mainland is preparing for any possible scenario, including the worst one," Li noted. "But there are still a few months to go, and it would still be too early to say who can win eventually." 

In an apparent response to Gou's announcement to run, the KMT said in a post on its Facebook account Monday, after his announcement without mentioning him, that "if we share similar values, then we can work together," but vowed that mainstream public opinion will not accept any act that "hurts comrades and favors adversaries." 

Gou has been labeled by Taiwan media as a pro-mainland figure who has deep business relations in the mainland, and in order to preserve and resume cross-Straits cooperation that significantly benefit Taiwan, he also supports peace and opposes secessionism. However, experts said that his decision driven by political ambition is in fact helping the DPP authorities.

However, many Chinese mainland netizens and pro-reunification Taiwan residents have an interesting theory: If the DPP's Lai wins next year, this could speed up the reunification process, as the mainland will find it easy to completely abandon "the illusion of peaceful reunification" and make tough decisions to solve the Taiwan question immediately. Therefore, these people welcome Gou's act to run for the election, as they believe this will consolidate Lai's advantage.

Zheng Bo-yu, manager of the Vstartup Station of Taiwan, a company serving Taiwan youth seeking to study, work and launch startups on the mainland, said, "Many friends of mine in Taiwan who support cross-Straits cooperation and exchanges made a joke about the current election: Why don't we just vote for Lai and let the DPP win, so that the mainland will have an easier time making the decision to solve the Taiwan question once and for all, so that we don't need to be worried about the uncertain cross-Straits tension and US intervention anymore."

Li said the Chinese mainland has enough measures available to deter and counter secessionists and foreign interference forces, but the mainland is still making great efforts and showing great patience to seek peaceful reunification. 

"But it's possible that, if Lai eventually wins, deeper and more reckless collusion between the DPP and the US will wipe out the possibility of peaceful reunification, and the mainland will be forced to take action," Li warned.

Environment still tied to MS risk

Multiple sclerosis clue significant — A possible link between environment and multiple sclerosis (MS) could be a valuable tool in searching for the cause and cure of the disease…. Cases of MS seem to appear in clusters, and there is apparently some as yet unknown environmental factor that is distributed in the same way, reported Dr. John F. Kurtzke.… The highest frequency of MS is found in northern United States, southern Canada and northern Europe, where there are 30 to 60 cases per 100,000 population. — Science News, April 16, 1966

Researchers still aren’t sure what causes MS, a debilitating disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the insulation around nerve cell fibers. But research suggests that people who grow up farther from the equator, with reduced sun exposure, may have increased disease risk. The human body produces vitamin D in response to sunlight, and studies show that lower levels of vitamin D lead to higher MS risk (SN Online: 9/10/15). But other factors, including genetics and infections, may also play a role in disease development. Today, an estimated 90 MS cases occur for every 100,000 people in the United States.

Reptile scales share evolutionary origin with hair, feathers

Hair, scales and feathers arose from one ancestral structure, a new study finds.

Studies in fetal Nile crocodiles, bearded dragon lizards and corn snakes appear to have settled a long-standing debate on the rise of skin coverings. Special skin bumps long known to direct the development of hair in mammals and feathers in birds also turn out to signal scale growth in reptiles, implying all three structures evolved from a shared ancestor, scientists report online June 24 in Science Advances.
In embryonic birds and mammals, some areas of the skin thicken into raised bumps. Since birds evolved from ancient reptiles, scientists expected that modern snakes, lizards and crocodiles would have the same structures. A study at Yale University last year found that one protein already known to be important in hair and feather development is also active in the skin of developing alligators. But the team did not find the telltale skin thickening. Without that evidence from modern reptiles, scientists weren’t sure if the bumps had been lost in reptiles, or if birds and mammals had evolved them independently, using the same set of genes.
The new results are “a relief,” says Michel Milinkovitch, whose lab led the new study at the University of Geneva. Scientists had come up with a variety of complicated ideas to explain how birds and mammals could share a structure that reptiles lack. But, he says, “the reality is much simpler.”

Clues from a mutant lizard inspired Milinkovitch’s team to probe the mystery. Nicolas Di-Poï, a coauthor of the new study who is now at the University of Helsinki, found that a hair-development gene called EDA was present, but disrupted, in scaleless, or “silky,” bearded dragons. Di-Poï and Milinkovitch searched for similar molecular signals in normal reptile embryos and found genes and proteins associated with hair and feather growth studding the skin. Cell staining revealed characteristic skin thickening at those signal centers.

Reptilian skin bumps eluded previous researchers because they are tiny, appear briefly and don’t all come in at once as they do in mammals, Milinkovitch speculates. “You have to look in the right place at the right time to see them,” he says. “Then boom, you see them, and you’re like, ‘Whoa, they are exactly the same.’”

This study “addresses a fundamental question about identity for skin structures,” says paleontologist Marcelo Sánchez of the University of Zurich, who was not involved in the new research. It’s especially important that the team used crocodiles, lizards and snakes, which are far from typical lab animals, he says. Using nonmodel organisms “gives new insight into evolution we wouldn’t get otherwise.”

The next step is to understand how hairs, feathers and scales diversified from the same ancestral structure. That primordial body covering wasn’t necessarily a scale, says evolutionary biologist Günter Wagner, an author of the 2015 Yale study. “Even though intuitively you would think reptilian-like skin is ancestral, compared to mammals,” he says “it’s entirely unclear what kind of structure the scales and feathers on the one side and hair on the other has evolved from.”