Creating a way for ‘Jasmine’ to bloom along the‘Moon River’

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Tender yet powerful, culture opens up windows for Chinese and Americans to understand each other and builds bridges between hearts.

I sat enraptured as students from Brigham Young University sang the Chinese song “Jasmine Flower,” while students from China’s Shaanxi Province performed the song “Moon River.” The former has been a cultural symbol of China because of Puccini’s opera Turandot, while the latter is familiar to Chinese people due to the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  

The two groups met at the opening of 14th China-US Tourism Leadership Summit in Xi’an, Shaanxi Province, a vivid example of people-to-people exchanges between China and the US.

“I could not tell you how good it is to be back,” Todd Davidson, board chair of Brand USA, a marketing organization in the US, said in his speech at the event. He noted that even though some things had changed in the six years since his last trip to China, “what has not changed is the warm, welcoming hospitality of the Chinese people.”

“The summit is especially full of hope and optimism for me,” he said in his speech, noting that he looks forward to “walking this new Silk Road together with each and every one of you in the future.”

Chris Clark, chairman of Visa Asia Pacific, shared his story of being a teacher at the Xi’an Foreign Languages Institute in 1986 and the good time he had back then. 

“One of the areas that we have the greatest opportunity to really capitalize on cultural exchanges and people-to-people exchanges is in working with student groups,” Davidson said.

“There is power in that. What more we can do is to grow those exchanges – educational exchanges, cultural exchanges – which are going to be a powerful motivator for growing the relationship between the two countries,” he added.

This year marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the US. The foundation of China-US relations is laid by people, the door of China-US relations is opened by people, the stories of China-US relations are written by people, and the future of China-US relations will be jointly created by the people of the two countries.

In September 1973, the Philadelphia Orchestra toured China, the first US orchestra to do so since 1949. Musicians from both countries played the Chinese orchestral piece The Moon’s Reflection on the Second Spring, which became a cherished memory for many. Fifty years later in 2023, the familiar melody again resonated across a music hall with the performance of musicians from both sides, a new chapter in the five-decade-long friendship.  

Same as music, tourism is an important bridge for exchanges and mutual understanding between the people of China and the US. US tourists are welcome to travel in China, meet Chinese friends, experience Chinese culture, visit beautiful landscapes and experience the real China.

Brian Linden, who has lived in China for years and is operating a unique hotel in Southwest China’s Yunnan Province, told me at the welcoming gala that he was glad to see so many representatives from both the Chinese and US tourism industries. 

“It is very a good start,” he said.

After the summit, he shared on social media, “Although it has been five years since the last summit, all of our discussions have been related to China-US tourism and people-to-people exchanges. We all hope that the number of tourists from China and the United States can return to pre-pandemic levels, and this summit is an important step in the right direction. I am inspired by the spirit behind this summit.”

When standing on the ancient city wall of Xi’an, also known as Chang’an, Rowena E Minott was “impressed about the city and its rich culture like the Tang Dynasty and the world-known Terracotta Warriors.”

Seeing is believing. I still remember that when I got off the high speed train from Beijing to Xi’an, in front of me was a family of four including two kids from Europe. One of them said, “Mummy, is here Xi’an yet? I want to see the Terracotta Warriors now.” 

See, culture always finds a way. 

The author is a reporter with the Global Times. [email protected]

Suning’s tenure with Inter Milan a tale of reckless ambition in soccer investment

Zhang Kangyang. Photo: China News Service

Former Inter Milan president Zhang Kangyang Photo: China News Service/Inter Milan

 

The upheaval within Italian soccer champions Inter Milan marks another chapter of mismanaged sporting ambition. US investment fund Oaktree Capital Management has said it took ownership of Inter after a missed 395 million euro ($428 million) payment from the club’s Chinese majority shareholder Suning.

This dramatic turn of events comes eight years after Suning’s acquisition of Inter, during which the company poured over 1 billion euros into the club. Despite winning seven trophies and restoring Inter’s prominence by reaching the European Champions League final and boosting stadium attendance, Suning’s tenure is now marred by financial mismanagement and strategic missteps.

Suning’s exit from Inter echoes the fate of Chinese businessman Li Yonghong’s ill-fated ownership of Inter’s cross-city rivals AC Milan. Both stories are underpinned by a common thread: a fundamental misunderstanding of soccer economics. These Chinese investors approached club ownership with a gambler’s mindset, mistakenly believing that winning championships would automatically translate into financial stability and commercial success. This misconception is emblematic of the broader pitfalls of high-rolling soccer investment, where money is indiscriminately spent in pursuit of glory without a sustainable financial plan.

Suning’s lavish spending indeed brought immediate success, as the achievement of Inter under Suning is unparalleled among Chinese investors in European soccer. But it also saddled Inter with unsustainable debt and ongoing financial losses. The reckless expenditure destabilized the club’s financial foundation, leading to a series of desperate measures, including the forced sales of key players like Achraf Hakimi and Romelu Lukaku. When potential investors were scared away by the mounting debt and financial instability, Suning’s broader sports management also began to crumble, as seen with the dissolution of Jiangsu Suning FC three months after winning the Chinese Super League in 2020.

The downfall of Suning with Inter and Li with Milan serves as a stark warning to future investors in soccer. Their shared narrative underscores the dangers of speculative investment and the flawed belief that titles alone can secure a club’s financial future. Success in modern soccer demands a delicate balance between competitive performance, commercial viability and sound financial management. Clubs that achieve this balance are not only successful on the pitch but also attractive assets in the marketplace.

Sustainable soccer clubs are built on robust financial health, a capacity for generating revenue, and a clear path to profitability. In contrast, clubs that rely on continuous financial bailouts become bottomless pits for capital, devouring investments without ever stabilizing. Such clubs turn into liabilities, their once-coveted status transforming into a burden too heavy to bear.

Chinese investors in soccer, and by extension other sports, need to move beyond the simplistic notion that winning championships can magically resolve all financial woes. While winning titles can elevate a club’s profile and attract sponsors, it does not guarantee a sound business model. The true essence of sports investment lies in understanding and navigating the complex interplay of sporting success, commercial operations, and financial prudence.

Suning’s misadventures at Inter highlight a critical lesson: glory on the field must be matched by diligence off it. The age of extravagant spending without regard for financial sustainability is over. Modern soccer demands a strategic approach, where long-term planning and financial discipline are as crucial as assembling a winning squad.

The fall of Suning at Inter serves as a wake-up call for all current and prospective soccer investors. The allure of instant success and glory must be tempered with a realistic and sustainable business strategy. Only by fostering a well-balanced approach can soccer clubs thrive in the long term, ensuring their legacy both on and off the pitch.

The author is a reporter with the

Chinese Foreign Ministry urges EU to abide by commitment to support free trade, oppose protectionism

China EU Photo: VCG

China EU Photo: VCG

It is hoped that Europe will abide by its commitment to support free trade and oppose protectionism, and work with China to safeguard overall China-EU economic and trade cooperation, Wang Wenbin, spokesperson from China’s Foreign Ministry, told a press conference on Wednesday.

Wang’s remarks came after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen recently hinted that the EU could impose formal tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles (EVs), but would take a different approach to the US.

In response, Wang said that China’s development and opening up bring opportunities, not risks, to Europe and the world. Protectionism cannot solve the EU’s problems; what is protected is backwardness and what is lost is the future, Wang noted.

“China and Europe are each other’s second largest trading partners, and both are important forces in building an open global economy, so they should resolve specific economic and trade issues through dialogue and consultation,” the spokesperson said.

The EU has launched anti-subsidy investigation into Chinese EVs and the US has raised tariffs on a variety of imports from China, including EVs, in addition to existing tariffs under Section 301.

China could consider raising the temporary tariff rates on imported cars with large-displacement engines, in order to reduce imports as part of the country’s broader efforts to cut carbon emissions and promote green development of the auto industry, a Chinese auto industry insider told the Global Times.

The suggestion for increased temporary tariff rate on imports of vehicles with engines larger than 2.5 liters was put forward by Liu Bin, chief expert of China Automotive Technology & Research Center and deputy director of China Automotive Strategy and Policy Research Center, who has participated in drafting policies for China’s auto industry and has been conducting research on green and low-carbon development of the auto industry for the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

Noting protectionist actions taken by certain countries and regions against Chinese EVs, Liu said that the suggested plan for China to raise temporary tariff rates on imported cars with large-displacement engines is fundamentally different and is in line with WTO rules, market-directed economy principles and green development goals.

Global Times

China-Tanzania Tourism and Culture Year kicks off as Tanzania tries to attract more visitors

Tanzanian Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Angellah Kairuki (second from left) attends an event in Beijing on May 16, 2024. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Tanzanian Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Angellah Kairuki (second from left) attends an event in Beijing on May 16, 2024. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Tanzania, a jewel in East Africa known for its stunning natural landscapes and rich biodiversity, has recently kicked off the China-Tanzania Tourism and Culture Year in collaboration with Chinese authorities. 

The Tanzanian tourism authority is aiming for an increase in tourist numbers from China, recognizing it as a major source market for tourists. 

“We are launching targeted ­marketing campaigns in China to raise awareness about our rich natural landscapes, wildlife, cultural heritage, and adventure activities,” Tanzanian Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Angellah Kairuki told the Global Times in a recent interview. 

“These campaigns will utilize various platforms, including social media platforms, travel websites, and traditional advertising channels.”

Partnerships and collaborations with Chinese travel agencies, tour operators, airlines, and media outlets are key components of these promotional efforts. “We aim to forge strong partnerships to promote Tanzania as a preferred tourist destination,” Kairuki said. 

Cultural exchange events, festivals, and exhibitions in both countries will also play a significant role in fostering mutual understanding and appreciation, she noted. 

Out of the tourism attractions in Tanzania, today’s Tanzania-Zambia railway is also well-known in China as the project was completed with Chinese support in the 1970s.

A popular Chinese TV drama
Welcome to Milele in 2023, which depicts the decades-old China-Africa medical aid cooperation, has also shed light on the landscape of Tanzania.

Rich heritage

Tanzania boasts seven UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Serengeti National Park, Kilimanjaro National Park and Stone Town of Zanzibar. 

According to the Bank of Tanzania’s economic review, the number of tourists who visited the country in 2023 exceeded 1.8 million, while the forex earnings reported record growth of $3.4 billion, an increase of 36 percent compared to the same period in 2022.

The China-Tanzania Tourism and Culture Year is expected to significantly boost Chinese people’s interest in and understanding of Tanzania’s tourism landscape, Kairuki stated. 

“Our dedicated focus on promoting tourism and cultural exchange will raise awareness among Chinese tourists about Tanzania’s diverse attractions,” Kairuki said. 

“Through targeted marketing campaigns and promotional events, Chinese travelers will learn about our wildlife safaris, pristine beaches, cultural heritage, and adventure activities.”

Participating in cultural exchange activities will allow Chinese tourists to immerse themselves in Tanzania’s rich cultural heritage, the minister highlights. 

“Through cultural performances, art exhibitions, traditional ceremonies, and culinary experiences, Chinese travelers will gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of Tanzanian culture,” she said. 

“Special events and festivals will provide unique opportunities for engagement, while collaborative partnerships will result in tailored travel packages and customized experiences.”

A view of Stone Town of Zanzibar, Tanzania Photo: VCG

A view of Stone Town of Zanzibar, Tanzania Photo: VCG

Climate change threat

The two countries, which are also celebrating the 60th anniversary of establishing diplomatic ties, both recognize that climate change poses a significant threat to natural ­environments and wildlife. 

To combat these challenges, Tanzania has ­devised ­comprehensive climate adaptation and mitigation plans. 

“We are committed to investing in renewable energy sources to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Kairuki said. 

“Our policies focus on protecting and restoring ecosystems, establishing conservation areas to safeguard biodiversity, and educating the public about climate change impacts and adaptation strategies.”

These efforts are not solitary endeavors of the government, but involve a collaborative approach with various stakeholders, including scientists and local communities, the minister noted.

“By working together, we can develop effective strategies to protect our natural environments and wildlife,” Kairuki noted, highlighting the importance of inclusive participation in addressing climate change.

Safety and convenience for tourists are paramount for the sustained success of the tourism industry. The Tanzanian government has in place plans to strengthen service guarantees for tourists. 

“We have established dedicated tourist police units in major destinations to ensure the safety and security of visitors,” Kairuki said. “These specially trained officers are available to address any concerns or emergencies that tourists may encounter.”

Sustainability matters

Sustainable tourism is a crucial focus for Tanzania. The rich natural landscapes in Tanzania require vigilant protection and management. The Tanzanian government has implemented several measures to safeguard these treasures. 

“We have established 21 national parks managed by the Tanzania National Parks Authority,” Kairuki said. “These parks are governed by strict policies and regulations to ensure wildlife conservation and responsible tourism activities.”

In addition to national parks, Tanzania has designated reserves and controlled areas where wildlife conservation is prioritized. These areas are managed by government agencies and conservation organizations. 

Community-based conservation initiatives also play a crucial role, actively involving local communities in managing and conserving natural resources. 

“This approach not only helps in wildlife protection but also ensures sustainable livelihoods for local communities,” said the minister.

Anti-poaching efforts are another critical aspect of Tanzania’s conservation strategy. 

“We have implemented severe measures to combat illegal hunting and trafficking of wildlife,” Kairuki asserts. 

“This includes deploying anti-poaching patrols, using technology like drones and GPS tracking, and collaborating with international conservation organizations.”

Beach tourism is another area of focus, with investments in infrastructure development, hospitality services, and marketing campaigns to attract water sports enthusiasts and leisure travelers to Tanzania’s pristine beaches. 

Ecotourism and sustainable lodging options, such as eco-lodges and community-based accommodation are being promoted to minimize environmental impact and support local communities.

Community-based tourism initiatives empower local communities to participate in and benefit from tourism activities, promoting sustainable development and poverty alleviation. 

“These initiatives involve local ownership, employment opportunities, cultural exchanges, and revenue-sharing mechanisms,” Kairuki said.

The sustainable development of the tourism economy is crucial for Tanzania, and the government is keen on promoting diversification in the tourism sector to reduce reliance on wildlife tourism. 

“We are focusing on cultural tourism development, highlighting traditional practices, arts, festivals, and historical landmarks,” Kairuki said. “By showcasing our cultural diversity, we attract tourists interested in immersive cultural experiences.”

One-China principle reaffirmed widely across Pacific Island Countries

A bridge built by China Railway 14th Bureau Group Co in Fiji. Photo: Courtesy of the 14th Bureau of China Railway Construction Co

A bridge built by China Railway 14th Bureau Group Co in Fiji. Photo: Courtesy of the 14th Bureau of China Railway Construction Co

In recent weeks, several Pacific Island Countries (PICs) have strongly reaffirmed their commitment to the one-China principle through various diplomatic engagements and public declarations.

From Saturday to Tuesday, Fiji’s largest newspaper, the Fiji Sun, published a series of special editions to introduce and reaffirm the one-China principle. These included an article by Chinese Ambassador to Fiji Zhou Jian, titled “One China is Undeniable Truth,” emphasizing that the one-China principle is the foundation for healthy and stable China-Fiji relations.

The special edition also included commentaries from the Chinese media, highlighting that the island of Taiwan has always been an inseparable part of China, and reaffirming the international consensus established by United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2758.

On Tuesday, the Chinese Embassy in Papua New Guinea (PNG) noted that mainstream PNG media reports have also published special sections on the one-China principle. Chinese Ambassador to PNG Zeng Fanhua contributed an article titled “Strengthen Foundation of One-China Principle, Create Brighter Future for China-PNG Relations Together.”

The sections also featured statements from PNG Foreign Ministry Secretary Elias Wohengu and other figures reaffirming their support for the one-China principle. Wohengu stated that PNG firmly adheres to the one-China policy, recognizing the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as the sole legal government representing all of China and opposing “Taiwan independence,” according to the embassy.

On the same day that Taiwan’s regional leader delivered a speech on Monday, the Republic of Nauru issued a statement reiterating its adherence to the one-China principle.

“The resumption of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Nauru and the People’s Republic of China asserts the one-China principle and reunification of China. Nauru reiterates its firm support and adherence to the one-China principle, recognizing that there is but one China in the world, with the government of the PRC as the sole government representing the whole of China,” read the statement.

On Saturday, Chinese Ambassador to the Solomon Islands Cai Weiming met with recently elected Malaita Province Premier Elijah Asilaua, congratulating him on his victory and expressing China’s willingness to deepen cooperation with Malaita based on the one-China principle. Asilaua thanked China for its contributions to Malaita and the Solomon Islands’ economic and social development, reaffirming Malaita’s support for the central government’s one-China policy and the intention to enhance cooperation in infrastructure and agriculture, according to the embassy.

Newly elected Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands Jeremiah Manele noted in a recent interview with the Chinese media that the decision to establish diplomatic relations with China in September 2019 is considered the most significant choice made by the country since gaining independence over 45 years ago. Manele also reaffirmed the country’s commitment to the one-China principle, according to CGTN.

On Saturday, the Chinese Embassy in Tonga published an article titled “United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2758 Brooks No Challenge and Misinterpretation.”

“For quite some time, the separatist forces of China’s Taiwan region and certain major countries have been deliberately distorting and challenging the one-China principle and United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2758, trumpeting the notion that Taiwan’s status is undetermined, and advocating support for Taiwan’s participation in the United Nations conferences and activities,” the article said.

These moves attempt to invent a whole set of false narratives to mislead international public opinion and trample on international law and basic norms governing international relations. “In view of this, it is more than necessary to comprehensively and systematically explain the origin and facts of Resolution 2758 to our Tongan friends, so as to set the record straight,” the article added.

On May 15, after the opening ceremony of Vanuatu’s mid-year parliamentary session, governmental leaders and officials accepted an invitation from Chinese Ambassador Li Minggang to visit the embassy.

Ambassador Li expressed appreciation for Vanuatu’s consistent adherence to the one-China principle since establishing diplomatic relations, and its support for China’s efforts toward peaceful reunification. “Currently, cross-Straits relations are complicated, with tensions in the Taiwan Straits rooted in the separatist agenda of Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party authorities and external interference. Let us remain vigilant and committed to peace in the Taiwan Straits,” Li said.

Seoule Simeon, speaker of the Vanuatu parliament, urged all members of parliament to remember the reality that there is only one China in the world, Taiwan is an inseparable part of China, and the government of the PRC is the only legal government representing the whole of China.

Prime Minister Charlot Salwai called on government ministers to maintain unity in adhering to the one-China principle and advancing the comprehensive strategic partnership between Vanuatu and China, according to the embassy’s report on WeChat.

China has sufficient tools to deal with EU’s incessant anti-subsidy probes: social media influencer

Workers complete assembling an electric vehicle (EV) at China's EV start-up Leapmotor in Jinhua, East China's Zhejiang Province on April 1, 2024. The smart EV factory delivered 14,567 new vehicles in March, a yearly increase of 136 percent. Photo: VCG

Workers complete assembling an electric vehicle (EV) at China’s EV start-up Leapmotor in Jinhua, East China’s Zhejiang Province on April 1, 2024. The smart EV factory delivered 14,567 new vehicles in March, a yearly increase of 136 percent. Photo: VCG

Facing incessant anti-subsidy probes against Chinese companies, China actually has sufficient countermeasures, and, if Europe stubbornly continues to take action, China may have to take a series of measures to hit back, Yuyuan Tantian, a social media influencer affiliated with state broadcaster CCTV said in a penned article on Saturday.

The remarks came after two Chinese companies were forced to withdraw from a public procurement bid in a Romanian photovoltaic park project due to the EU’s anti-subsidy investigations. The complexity of the evidence collection required, and the insufficient time provided by the EU led to their withdrawal.

This has been the third investigation under EU’s Foreign Subsidies Regulation (FSR) since its launch last July, all targeting Chinese companies. It comes as certain politicians within the bloc raised so-called concerns regarding “overcapacity” in Chinese emerging industry including electric vehicles (EV).

The EU’s actions and hypes do not align with the interests of EU members, Yuyuan Tantian wrote. 

Some European countries, such as Germany, have expressed opposition to high tariffs on Chinese EVs, stating that EVs from China would drive the innovation of German automobile industry.

Moreover, the EU itself has been providing substantial subsidies in various sectors, including new-energy industries and the agricultural sector.

In response to EU politicians’ efforts to suppress Chinese companies, China has prepared sufficient countermeasures, Yuyuan Tantian wrote in the article.

Shen Qian, a lawyer familiar with trade and commerce issues, told Tanyuan Tantian said that the EU is highly dependent on the Chinese market for exports including wine and dairy, and the EU offered huge subsidy to its agriculture industry. 

Shen said that the EU’s subsidy as well as dumping practices has caused substantial harm to related industries in China, so it is necessary for China to demonstrate its determination to protect the interests of Chinese companies too.

Last September, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce announced an anti-subsidy ruling on imported potato starch from the EU and decided to keep in place the anti-subsidy tariffs. 

In addition to agricultural products, the EU also relies on the Chinese market in many other sectors such as aviation. Airbus recently released a report predicting that China is expected to surpass the US and Europe to become the world’s largest aviation market.

“Some EU politicians’ attempts to suppress China are undoubtedly shooting themselves in the foot,” Yuyuan Tantian wrote.

First female referee in Chinese Super League aims at men’s World Cup

Chinese referee Xi Lijun officiates in the Chinese Super League match between Shanghai Port and Shandong Taishan in Shanghai on April 14, 2024. Photo: IC

Chinese referee Xie Lijun officiates in the Chinese Super League match between Shanghai Port and Shandong Taishan in Shanghai on April 14, 2024. Photo: IC

In the 2024 season, women referees have written themselves into the history of Chinese soccer. 

At a game during the sixth round of the Chinese Super League (CSL) between Shanghai Port and Shandong Taishan, international assistant referee Xie Lijun served as the second assistant referee, becoming the first woman in the Chinese mainland to officiate in the country’s top-flight men’s soccer league.

On May 4, during a game in China’s third-division league, Tian Jin became the first female referee to officiate a professional men’s match as the head referee.

Currently working as a yoga, soccer, and volleyball teacher at the Sichuan University Jinjiang College in Southwest China’s Sichuan Province, Xie told the Global Times that her debut at the CSL opened a new chapter of her career and she looks forward to officiating the men’s World Cup in future. 

“Before the match started, I was a little nervous. But as soon as the whistle blew, my entire focus shifted to the game, and the nervousness dissolved. I believe I have reached a new milestone, with a clearer sense of direction for my future,” said the 34-year-old. 

Defending champions Shanghai came from behind to edge past Shandong 4-3 in a high-voltage game where Xie’s calm performance added a delicate touch to the intense competition. 

When questioned to assess her performance on a scale from 1 to 10, Xie rated it at 7.5. There’s a notable contrast in the physicality and intensity between men’s and women’s soccer games, she noted.

“I took the time to review the previous matches of both Shanghai and Shandong, focusing on analyzing their technical and tactical strategies. Having ample awareness and understanding of the fast-paced technical and tactical strategies in men’s soccer is crucial in preparing for the game. I have also improved my physique, especially enhancing my ability to initiate rapid movements,” Xie said. 

Nuanced understanding

Hailing from a village in Bazhong, Sichuan Province, Xie said she never imagined herself pursuing a career related to soccer when she was a child. 

Xie specialized in athletics when she was at school and it was not until college that she embarked on the path of soccer refereeing thanks to her exceptional physique and the guidance of her soccer coach.

Starting from scratch to learn soccer knowledge isn’t easy for Xie. She admitted that it’s not the rules of the game that are difficult, but rather the understanding of the sport itself.

Becoming an outstanding referee requires abundant physical fitness, proficiency in English, a deep understanding of soccer, robust psychological resilience, and keen insight, she said. 

Tian echoed Xie’s sentiments, saying that she needs to improve stamina to keep up with the pace of men’s game.

“The men players moved 1.5 to 2 times faster than I had imagined. The pace of their actions, the frequency of fouls, as well as their passing and shooting all require intense concentration. I need to have abundant physical stamina and speed to keep up with their game,” Tian told the Xinhua News Agency. 

“I covered a distance of 1.3 kilometers during the game, according to the post-match statistics. It is rare in women’s matches. However, I think it’s still not enough for men’s games, and I need to work harder,” Tian noted. 

However, compared to male referees, Xie said women tend to have a more nuanced understanding of the game, with a heightened “intuition” on the field, particularly for assisting referees. 

As an elite assistant referee under the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), Xie has officiated in previous FIFA events. After ascending to the ranks of accredited international referees, she took charge of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup in 2022 and was the only Chinese referee at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup held in France.

Motivation, confidence

These milestone moments in the Chinese league are sure to get more women interested in soccer and sports officiating while setting a powerful example for fellow female referees, encouraging them to aspire to greater heights in their soccer careers. 

The recent publicity about female referees could give young people who strive to pursue this career more motivation and confidence to persevere, said Tian, who works at Zhejiang Yuexiu University as a physical education teacher.

“Many sports major students have sought my advice on how to become a soccer referee since my debut at the CSL in April,” Xie said. 

In this season of the CSL, Xie and another female referee Dong Fangyu have respectively officiated in four matches as assistant referees and video assistant referees. Selecting outstanding women referees to officiate men’s professional matches is one of the fresh initiatives of the Chinese Football Association (CFA) this year, that is dedicated to providing more opportunities to eligible female referees to showcase and enhance their abilities.

The initiative is also in line with the international tendency. In recent years, FIFA and the AFC have mandated that elite referees must officiate men’s matches in their own countries because women’s soccer has increasingly adopted a style similar to men’s, particularly in Europe and the Americas, with the players’ physical conditions, the intensity of attacking, and defending comparable to youth men’s matches. 

Therefore, if female referees only officiate in domestic women’s leagues, it’s challenging for them to meet the requirements of matches at the World Cup level, according to the CFA.

“Modern women’s soccer has tended toward the men’s game, and female referees officiating men’s matches is very common in Europe. Therefore, I have also been working hard in this direction,” Xie said. 

Talking of her goal, Xie has already set her sights on the 2027 Women’s World Cup. 

“I hope more Chinese women referees will take part in the women’s World Cup and Asia’s elite men’s competitions. In future, I wish to step onto the stage of men’s World Cup,” she said.

China-Serbia friendship, shared aspirations

Illustration: Liu Xiangya/GT

Illustration: Liu Xiangya/GT

Upon arriving in Belgrade amid the warm breezes of early May, I was greeted by the cordiality of Serbians and given a glimpse into the “ironclad” friendship of China and Serbia.

The shuttle van driver, after learning that myself and two other reporters were from China, proudly introduced the beautiful landscape and landmark buildings we drove pass. 

Located at the confluence of the Danube and Sava rivers, Serbia has a European city view with baroque, classicism buildings and grand Orthodox churches, while the socialist period left some commune mansions. Some ruins from war time have not been demolished, yet brand new, glass-wall skyscrapers have been built.

The driver also offered to show us some important places marking the friendship between the two countries such as the Pupin bridge on the Danube, which was built with China’s support and nicknamed the “China bridge,” and the memorial for the Chinese Embassy to Yugoslavia that was bombed by NATO in 1999. When showing us the city, he pointed at billboards of Chinese brands and institutions like Huawei, Xiaomi, the Bank of China, and so forth.

Though I had a general concept of the sound relationship between the two countries, such hospitality was beyond my expectations. 

On the way from Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport to the city center, Chinese and Serbian national flags fluttered in the sunny weather, yet I thought they were part of some diplomatic proprieties. However, after I found that the entire capital was ornamented by Five-Star Red Flags and welcome banners of different sizes at every corner, I was convinced of Serbia’s warmhearted embrace for friends from afar. 

This strong sentiment of brotherhood was repeatedly reinforced in the days to follow. 

The newly opened China Cultural Center was the first stop of all my interview locations. Knowing it was Orthodox Easter, I was concerned that students might hesitate to come to the center in the middle of a six-day holiday, May Day and Easter combined. 

I was totally wrong. 

They were more than willing to help. Police officer Danijela Radanovic came off a 12-hour night shift and gave us two hours of her precious rest time, even though she had another 12-hour shift that night. The cultural center stands beside the memorial for the old embassy. Noting that the bilateral friendship was forged with blood at that time, Radanovic said the bombing 25 years ago was a major part of her childhood memories. 

Another student, Vladimir Roglic, who had quite some knowledge of Chinese history, said Chinese people suffered in the 19th to early 20th centuries, and Serbians had also suffered a lot as a result of frequent external conquest due to their nation’s strategic position. 

“But our peoples are tough and can always stand up again from ruin. We have many similarities and we understand each other,” Roglic said.

Yet one does not have to dig into history to understand the friendship between the two countries, as contemporary examples are vivid and abundant. 

When doing street interviews with passersby about how they felt about being called ”
sai tie” in Chinese, which can be translated to “Serbian ironclad friend,” China’s medical aid to Serbia in the early days of COVID pandemic was frequently mentioned. 

Some shared their experiences with Chinese business partners or friends, or visiting China themselves. Big smiles and bursts of laughter fully spoke of the joy and delight China has brought them. 

Roglic, a Tai Chi practitioner for more than 10 years, said he has dreamed of living on the Wudang Mountain and following real masters to improve his techniques. His classmate Jana had visited China, where she felt really supported and safe. 

When a young woman on the street said ”
ganbei” (cheers) when she was asked to say something in Chinese, I realized another similarity between our two countries could be an interest in liquor. 

A young man who did not give his name said China’s help in upgrading Serbia’s roads, highways, high-speed rail links to Hungary and other infrastructure. 

I took a ride on the Belgrade-Novi Sad section of the railroad, which has handled 7 million trips over its two years of operation. With a design speed of 200 kilometers per hour, the train is stable, comfortable and cuts the original travel time from one and a half hours down to 36 minutes.  

A one-way ticket costs about six euros ($6.50) while a round trip is eight euros, an “inexpensive fare” one can conveniently pay by app, with a transport card or at the station’s ticket office. 

A high school student on the train told me he studies in Belgrade and was taking the train to visit his parents in Novi Sad. Commuters also take the trains for work, while the low platforms built by the Chinese contractors allow cyclists to easily bring their bikes on the train. 

During the Easter holiday, many locals and tourists take the train to Novi Sad, the second largest city in Serbia and which is renowned for art, music and the idyllic stretch of the Danube.  

The high-speed train has brought in more tourists, made two-city life possible for locals and, when the whole 352 kilometers to Budapest are completed in 2026, is sure to further enhance Serbia’s connectivity and boost its economy. 

Aleksandra Milosavljevic, a Serbian engineer, told me that working on the project, she has not only learned engineering and management skills, but also made real friends with her Chinese colleagues. 

It is through the interactions of ordinary people and tangible fruits of cooperation that the China-Serbia friendship has been forged and prospers. 

Exclusive: Latin America open for cooperation with Chinese technology, products in new-energy sector: former Ecuadorian transport minister

China Ecuador Photo: VCG

China Ecuador Photo: VCG

There is huge opportunity for cooperation with China in the new-energy sector in Latin America, and the region is open for corresponding Chinese technology and products, Héctor Villagrán-Cepeda, former minister of transport and public works of Ecuador, told the Global Times in an exclusive interview on Sunday.

The remarks came amid rising protectionism by the US-led West against China’s new-energy products, with the new-energy vehicle (NEV) sector being a main target, over so-called overcapacity claims.

Despite challenges from third parties, Villagrán-Cepeda said that the relationship and cooperation between China and Latin America “will not be affected due to the strong will and determination of our common regions.”

Héctor Villagrán-Cepeda, former minister of transport and public works of Ecuador Photo: Courtesy of Héctor Villagrán-Cepeda

Héctor Villagrán-Cepeda, former minister of transport and public works of Ecuador Photo: Courtesy of Héctor Villagrán-Cepeda

Villagrán-Cepeda praised the cost-effectiveness of Chinese new-energy sector and called for greater cooperation between China and Latin American countries in the field.

The possibility of cooperation between China and Latin America is a great step toward world peace and understanding, he said.

“Our region for the past 500 years has been on a constant quest to find a scientific path for development. Chinese development policies are a hope for industrial development and a way to start knowledge-based economies in the region,” he said.

“The time is now to deepen the relationship with mutual benefit for both China, with its high-technology development, and Latin America, with its abundant natural resources, in the important task of environmental protection,” Villagrán-Cepeda further noted.

Moreover, as Villagrán-Cepeda noted, Latin America is an important source of the natural resources that are needed for the development of new-energy products with Chinese technology.

He spoke highly of China’s NEV sector for its cost-effectiveness, industrial transformation and contribution to carbon reductions in the region.

The [industrial and green] transformation for Latin America was to adopt Chinese methods of low-energy consumption many years ago, and that transformation has benefited the transportation of passengers and cargo with low unit costs and low pollution, in addition to savings on fuel, Villagrán-Cepeda said.

Villagrán-Cepeda said that cooperation with China in the region’s green transformation is needed for future development because of various factors, including less pollution, lower costs and industrial upgrades.

He noted the need for technology cooperation. “Demand is huge in Latin America, because people trust Chinese technologies,” he said.

The green transformation has additional value since it boosts the industrial transformation that Latin America has been trying to accomplish, according to Villagrán-Cepeda.

Chinese companies have built many factories in Latin America, not only in Ecuador, and this process creates jobs, develops industrial capacity and transfers technology, he said.

Besides of NEVs, there are many other green products that provide opportunities for cooperation between China and Latin American countries, such as solar power, wind power and hydropower, which have proved very successful in the region, according to Villagrán-Cepeda.

In recent years, NEVs, lithium batteries and photovoltaic products have become a fresh calling card for showcasing China’s manufacturing shift toward high-end, intelligent and green development.

This transformation has not just contributed to China’s green transformation but has had an effect worldwide, including in Latin American countries, which have become an increasingly important market for China’s NEV exports.

There is a big, big opportunity for Latin America in the green field, and Latin America is open for Chinese technology and products, Villagrán-Cepeda said.

As the China-Ecuador Free Trade Agreement just took effect on May 1, Ecuador has gained momentum in its green transformation, while helping Chinese companies go global.

French reinsurer to boost investment in China

SCOR will “massively” boost investments in the Chinese market to capture the country’s long-term growth prospects, said Thierry Leger, chief executive officer of SCOR SE, a global reinsurer based in Paris, France, adding that he “disagrees strongly” with the arguments that China’s economic development has peaked because there remains potential in terms of consumer spending and digital transformation.

China is expected to become the world’s second-largest market for reinsurance in the coming decade, attracting global reinsurers like SCOR to ramp up investment in the country, said Leger.

Thanks to robust economic growth potential and a still large protection gap, the Chinese market offers incredible growth potential, whose contribution to SCOR’s overall business is expected to surge to at least 10 to 15 percent in the coming 10 to 20 years, Leger said in an exclusive interview with China Daily.

“So that shows the importance (of the Chinese market) and the need for us to continue to invest in our people, expertise, tools and data in the Chinese market.”

Liu Zhihua contributed to this story.