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.

AIM Congress 2024 kicks off in Abu Dhabi

AIM Congress 2024, a premier global investment platform, kicked off today in Abu Dhabi under the theme “Adapting to a Shifting Investment Landscape: Harnessing New Potential for Global Economic Development”.

Set to take place until 9th May, AIM Congress 2024 boasts an impressive lineup of participants, including over 100 ministers, city mayors and central bank governors; 900 speakers; 11 global stock markets; 50 unicorn companies; and more than 12,000 delegates representing 175 countries worldwide. They will participate in 27 joint events organised in cooperation with more than 330 local, regional, and international partners.

AIM Congress is an initiative of the AIM Global Foundation and is organised with the support of the Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology and the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development.

The current edition of the summit, held at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC), offers numerous opportunities for investors, businessmen, and investment companies from around the world to network and explore specialised investment projects across various sectors, featuring 450 dialogue sessions and seven high-level roundtable meetings.

800,000 copies of pirated film, TV works seized in crackdown

Promotional materials for Chinese movie YOLO Photo: Courtesy of Douban

Promotional materials for Chinese movie YOLO Photo: Courtesy of Douban

China’s Ministry of Public Security has recently revealed that more than 40,000 cases of copyright infringement and counterfeiting were handled nationwide in 2023, involving the seizure of products like bootleg films and forged food brand packaging. 

Investigations targeting these fraud cases were carried out under a nationwide special operation called “Kunlun 2023.” The operation continues in 2024 with the unchanged goal of fighting “intellectual property infringement.” 

The operation hit a new milestone in February. A total of 800,000 films, predominately bootlegs of movies like YOLO and Article 20, were seized by police departments in the provinces of Zhejiang, Anhui and Jiangsu. 

The bootleg films were  those that debuted during the 2024 Chinese Spring Festival holiday. They were mainly shared illegally online. Besides bootleg video recordings and pirated disk versions of these movies, 230 online shops illegally distributing such contents were included in the crackdown. 

Cultural policy expert Song Weiping told the Global Times that such unlawful bootleg films sustain a “lucrative yet unethical market.” Taking bootleg films as an example, he noted their prices online are usually “much less than half” of the price for a cinema ticket, the expert emphasized. 

“Some of those films were even circulated for free. Also, story-based films are more easily to be devalued in the pirate market since they do not boast the same visual effects that are exclusive to cinematic blockbusters,” Song remarked. 

The unlawful reproduction of films is a topic that can always spark a wide spectrum of public debate in China. Xue Zhiqian, a popular Chinese singer was slammed by netizens in February on the internet after he snapped photos of the film Pegasus 2 in a cinema and then posted them on China’s X-like Sina Weibo. 

Although law expert Xu Xinmin told the Global Times that a few individual photos can hardly constitute copyright infringement, netizens’ criticism of Xue is still trending, especially posts accusing him of being “ignorant of copyright’s importance” and “misleading the public.”

“Copyright infringement is extremely harmful to creative works, including art, films and so forth. To protect a work’s copyright is not the author’s own responsibility, but also that of the creative industry,” Xu told the Global Times. 

Other than taking care of the film sector, the special operation also included crack down  on intellectual property infringement related to sectors such as software, makeup, food and household appliances. 

A total of 1,168 counterfeit hair dryers imitating a popular English brand were seized by police. The profit of sales of such counterfeits reached more than 40 million yuan ($5.5 million). In Central China’s Henan Province, four food processing spots were discovered that specialized in making counterfeit seasoning products of a popular Chinese food brand. 

Those results were achieved through a close collaboration between China’s Ministry of Public Security and its deployed sub-provincial organs throughout the country. 

“Such a deployment enlarges the scope of discovering potential crimes, and also reveals China’s nationwide efforts in cracking down on piracy,” Xu told the Global Times. The expert also added that these cases were chosen to be revealed around World Intellectual Property Day (WIPO) to show China’s dedication to protecting intellectual property rights. WIPO falls annually on April 26. 

Global car producers in launch fever for NEV models at Beijing auto show

 

 

Photo: Li Hao/GT

Photo: Li Hao/GT

After a four-year absence of its offline show, China’s largest auto show, or 2024 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition, which kicked off in Beijing on Thursday, has regained global attention. Global players such as Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz are signaling their entry into NEVs on a large scale, highlighting their confidence in the Chinese market. 

Such moves are in contrast with the so-called “overcapacity” cited by some US officials, which primarily pertains to industries such as electric vehicles (EVs). Chinese market observers said that it’s groundless to hype the overcapacity narrative, because the production capacity of NEVs to meet consumers’ upgrading demand remains insufficient. 

A total of 44 models from the Volkswagen Group’s brands are on display at the ongoing show, 11 of which are making their debuts, according to information that Volkswagen Group shared with the Global Times. Among the total, there are 18 NEV models.

The group said it is accelerating the process of electrification. Starting from 2026, at least eight pure electric models specially developed for the Chinese local market will be launched. By 2030, the group will provide at least 30 pure electric models in the Chinese market. 

Such moves are shared by other global players. BMW and MINI, the two brands under the BMW Group, brought their new models on Thursday, including BMW’s BEV model- the new BMW i4 had its world premiere, and MINI’s first all-electric crossover – the all new, all electric MINI Aceman, also made its world debut in Beijing.

Electrification, digitalization and sustainable development are the current major trends in the automobile industry. The BMW Group’s goal is to achieve more than 50 percent of sales from electric vehicles by 2030, said Oliver Zipse, chairman of the board of BMW AG, in Beijing on Wednesday night. 

Mercedes-Benz brought 21 new models to the show, including the world’s first pure electric G-Class off-road vehicle. Maybach’s first mass-produced pure electric model, the Maybach EQS pure electric sport utility vehicle, hit the Chinese market at the show. 

 

Photo: Li Hao/GT

Photo: Li Hao/GT

 

 

China is the world’s second-largest market for G-class off-road vehicles. We will increase our input in the Chinese market and build our electric era with Chinese speed, said Hubertus Troska, member of the board of Mercedes-Benz Group AG.

Automakers from China and abroad are set to unveil 117 new models versus 93 at last year’s show in Shanghai, while a total of 278 NEVs will go on display, seven more than last year, according to the organizers.

The timing of the show comes as China’s NEV market shows fast development. Data from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers showed that NEVs accounted for 30 percent of cars sold in China in the first two months of this year.

“Four years ago, when I came here, the NEV models of Chinese brands accounted for a large part of the show, but this time, many foreign companies are actively promoting their NEV products,” a visitor surnamed Li told the Global Times on Thursday. 

The fever of foreign car producers for NEVs in China is in contrast with the so-called overcapacity hype by some Western countries, in which they focus on the growth of Chinese manufacturing in new industries represented by EVs, lithium-ion batteries and solar panels.

There is no such thing as “overcapacity” in China’s NEV sector. As a matter of fact, the production capacity of NEVs to meet consumers’ upgrading demand remains insufficient, Wu Shuocheng, a veteran automobile analyst, told the Global Times on Thursday.

“I do not think that China has excess capacity. It’s better to look at the China’s NEV market from a dynamic and developmental perspective. Through market competition, there will be elimination of outdated production capacity in the sector,” Wu said.

The Ministry of Commerce also slammed so-called overcapacity on Thursday. He Yadong, spokesperson of the ministry, said that the issue of production capacity must be based on the background of economic globalization, and fully consider the reality of the global division of labor and international markets.

From a global perspective, there is no overcapacity, but rather a shortage in the new-energy sector. Currently, the development of green, low-carbon and environmentally friendly new energy is an important global response to climate change, He said. 

Global players all emphasize the importance of the Chinese market, and they bolster their competitive positions through local partnerships and innovation.

Volkswagen Group said that it is focusing on its local development capacities and its partnerships with local tech companies and manufacturers such as Horizon Robotics, Thundersoft and XPENG.

“We are accelerating our electric offensive with additional products for new segments. In this way, we are taking advantage of opportunities in the rapidly growing e-market,” Ralf Brandstätter, board member for the China region and CEO of Volkswagen Group China, told the Global Times.

Photo: Li Hao/GT

Photo: Li Hao/GT

 

Global guests share ideas about Sora and AI onslaught at 14th BJIFF

Artists on stage at the opening ceremony of the 14th Beijing International Film Festival in Beijing's Huairou district on April 18 Photo: Li Hao/GT

Artists on stage at the opening ceremony of the 14th Beijing International Film Festival in Beijing’s Huairou district on April 18 Photo: Li Hao/GT

The 14th Beijing International Film Festival (BJIFF) is underway. Buzzing with excitement and filled with diverse discussions, the festival has attracted a large cross-section of international filmmakers. Chinese moviegoers are flocking to the festival, eager to catch the screenings of their favorite films. 

Qianqian (pseudonym), a movie enthusiast, told the Global Times that she has grabbed about 10 film tickets for various screenings. However, she lamented missing out on the 4K-restored version of
Peony Pavilion and US independent crime film
Pulp Fiction.

The top three fastest-selling films at the BJIFF, according to the committee, were Chinese films
May, the 4K-restored version of
Peony Pavilion, and
Like Winds, Like Weeds.

Tickets for foreign language films such as Japanese animated film
Perfect Blue,
Pulp Fiction, and dark comedy film
Dr. Strangelove were also snatched within seconds.

With over 200 activities planned, the BJIFF offers a colorful array of cultural activities, providing film enthusiasts with an enriching and entertaining experience.

Going global and IP innovative 


BJIFF this year initially launched events such as the BJIFF International Lounge and Film Season for Diplomats, providing a platform for Chinese and foreign guests to discuss the paths for Chinese films to further go global. Participants emphasized the need for strategic support and meticulous planning to unlock the full potential of Chinese films on the international stage.

William Feng, Vice President of Asia Pacific, Motion Picture Association in the US, highlighted the interest of North American audiences in Chinese culture, citing the success of films like
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,
Hero, and
House of Flying Daggers. However, he noted a slight decline in interest, possibly due to viewer fatigue in certain kung fu genre. 

He also suggested that Chinese films collaborate with streaming platforms for distribution. “Chinese film distribution should not be limited to theatrical distribution, as the user base of online platforms such as Netflix and Disney+ is very large. These online platform channels are excellent opportunities.”

Quentin Bohanna, International Sales Executive at Mk2 Films, emphasized the importance of international promotion for Chinese art films, particularly targeting markets like the US. He suggested strategies such as limited screenings followed by expansion based on audience response.

China has produced a lot of blockbusters in recent years, and related cultural products, as was the case with
The Wandering Earth II which also achieved remarkable success.

At a forum on international movie IP authority and franchise development, experts stated that in the category of derivative products, the key category segmentation model is adopted to accurately match the audience portraits of different popular IPs with market demand, accurately creating derivative products that meet audience needs, which can achieve both high-level collection and practical utilitarianism.

Ni Yuehong, former vice president of the Beijing Film Academy, told the Global Times that we also need to strengthen industrial cooperation, integrate advantageous resources, jointly promote the deep integration of the film derivative industry with the cultural and tourism industries, and create more influential cultural IPs.

Technological elements


The impact of AI on the global film and television industry has always been a hot topic. 

Oscar-winning Australian sound editor David White told the Global Times that he holds an open and inclusive attitude and believes that current technology cannot threaten high-level Hollywood film production. 

However, copyright issues involved in training models have always been controversial, and he hopes that regulations will be proposed by government bodies rather than private institutions in the future.

Hong Kong director Derek Tsang told the Global Times that AI would be a great help for filmmakers with low budgets and limited resources. However, he has also observed some new screenwriters using AI to write, which he considers to be a negative phenomenon as he firmly believes that human emotions and stories should come from humans, and emotions are something that AI cannot replace. 

He stated that he would use AI as a tool for basic work but would invest his true emotions and feelings in the creation of scripts.

To incorporate technological elements into this year’s BJIFF, the 14th BJIFF also opened a panorama in the screen and technology section at the China Science and Technology Museum.  

According to the committee, a total of 33 special effects films from 14 countries, including China, Russia, the US, and the UK were screened, along with 14 public welfare screenings of popular science documentaries, films highlighting the spirit of scientists, and short science fiction films, including popular Chinese science film
Seek Out Natural Mysteries. Director Wang Jie, who directed the film, told the Global Times that he hopes such events would inspire more people to engage with science and technology through cinema.

Cross-Straits exchange

During the 14th BJIFF ReelFocus Fresh Blood Short Film Program, Peggy Chiao, Jury President of the program and a film producer and professor from the island of Taiwan, expressed that she saw many young filmmakers with potential in this event.

She emphasized the shared cultural heritage between the Chinese mainland and the island of Taiwan, and called for increased collaboration to promote mutual understanding and unity.

Chiao told the Global Times that coming to the mainland is like coming home because her parents moved from the Chinese mainland to the island of Taiwan. She added that this emotional connection is very special to her. As a filmmaker, she uses films to know the story of her father’s generation. 

Chiao expressed that the cultural roots of both sides of the Straits are the same, and cultural exchanges truly help deepen mutual recognition among people and foster a sense of true kinship. 

Guests on stage at the opening ceremony of the 14th Beijing International Film Festival in Beijing's Huairou district on April 18 Photo: Li Hao/GT

Guests on stage at the opening ceremony of the 14th Beijing International Film Festival in Beijing’s Huairou district on April 18 Photo: Li Hao/GT

 

 

The world is young domestic firms’ oyster

A view of the booth of Huawei at the 2024 Mobile World Congress Barcelona in Spain earlier this year. GAO JING/XINHUA

In 2014, a group of experts in smart manufacturing, each of them boasting around 15 years of work experience, gathered in a three-bedroom apartment in Beijing and decided to start up with Beijing Roborock Technology Co Ltd. What was extraordinary was their clear and simple ambition: to develop the world’s best robotic vacuum cleaner.

Ten years on, their dream has come true. Roborock is a leading player in its sector and, in terms of global sales in 2023, the top-selling brand among smart vacuum cleaners worldwide, according to Euromonitor International, a market research firm.

Its products are available in more than 170 countries and regions, with nearly half of its revenue coming from overseas markets.

Quan Gang, president of Roborock, summed up the success story.”From day one, our eyes were set on the global market. From the very beginning, we have sought to meet the demands of global users. Our product design, production and marketing efforts have been tailored to meet their demands from the outset.”

That helped the startup to remain flexible and nimble while preserving its unique technology. Corporate executives and experts said Roborock is the epitome of new-age Chinese enterprises that see the world as their oyster right from day one.

Such companies are quick to recognize that growing globally competitive brands in their respective segments is critical to success these days. They rely on both China’s manufacturing prowess and their own strengths in research and development.

What distinguishes them from the previous generation of globally known Chinese enterprises is their global vision and clarity on goals. While the previous lot went global only when they had grown big enough in the domestic market, the new bunch target the global market from the very beginning, experts said.

Huang Chenhong, president of German software and cloud giant SAP Greater China, who has witnessed the transformation of Chinese companies in their global expansion over the past three decades, said, “Despite challenges such as lackluster global demand and geopolitical uncertainties, Chinese companies have not slowed down their pace of going global.”

Data from China’s Ministry of Commerce prove his point. Chinese enterprises’ outbound direct investment grew 5.7 percent year-on-year last year to exceed 1.04 trillion yuan ($143.7 billion), highlighting their continued expansion overseas.

“I think globalization is now entering a new stage. Globalization today involves more Chinese companies expanding their business overseas,” Huang said. “We can see many enterprises, whether State-owned, private or even small and medium-sized enterprises, have 30 to 50 percent of their business overseas. Some companies are even born to serve overseas markets and have never considered doing business domestically.”

Chinese companies have attained a stage of technological innovation where they are starting to embody the spirit of multinational corporations.

“In the past, when we talked about MNCs, we thought of German or American companies. Today, Chinese companies come to mind naturally,” Huang said, adding that SAP has helped many Chinese companies such as Lenovo, BYD and Mindray navigate the international waters over the past three decades.

US Section 301 investigation targeting China’s maritime, logistics and shipbuilding industries ‘groundless’

China-US Photo: GT

China-US Photo: GT

The China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) on Sunday blasted the US Section 301 investigation into China’s maritime, logistics and shipbuilding industries, calling it groundless, and said it will organize industry companies to mount a legal defense to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies. 

Observers on Sunday slammed the Section 301 investigation, saying it is illegal and invalid, and China will take countermeasures. They stressed that the US trying to control every segment of the industrial chain is not beneficial to the country itself. 

The Section 301 investigation is illegal, unilateral and invalid as it is not included in the WTO framework, He Weiwen, a senior fellow at the Center for China and Globalization, told the Global Times on Sunday. 

He noted that WTO members have no right to determine if any other member violates regulations, and only the organization can make the ruling.

China’s maritime, logistics and shipbuilding sectors have actively conducted technological innovation and participated in free market competition based on market development needs, which significantly contributed to the development of global trade as well as the smooth and stable operation of global supply chains, a CCPIT spokesperson said in a statement posted on its official WeChat account. 

Related US research showed that the predicament of the US maritime, logistics and shipbuilding sectors was mainly caused by a lack of market competitiveness, and it had nothing to do with China’s laws, policies and practices. 

The CCPIT and the China Chamber of International Commerce, on behalf of China’s business community, urged the US to respect market rules and the principle of fair competition, immediately stop making the wrong moves, and return to the multilateral trade system based on market rules and principles. 

The spokesperson said that CCPIT will organize industry companies to make a legal defense and attend the US hearings with upstream and downstream companies, so as to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies.

The remarks came after the office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) announced on Wednesday that it is initiating an investigation of acts, policies and practices of China’s targeting the maritime, logistics and shipbuilding sectors for dominance after a petition filed with the USTR’s office by five US national labor unions. 

The USTR alleged that China is using “unfair, non-market policies and practices” to dominate those sectors, according to a USTR press release. 

The US Section 301 investigation is contrary to the normal laws of market competition, while negatively affecting global enterprises’ operations, Gao Lingyun, an expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Sunday.

Gao said that no country can have competitive advantages in all aspects of the industry chain. He said that the US making efforts to keep all links in the industrial and supply chains firmly in its own hands is not conducive for the country itself or for the global division of industry.

In addition to the CCPIT, Chinese authorities have already urged Washington to correct its wrongdoings while stopping the manipulation of issues related to China in the US presidential election year. 

“According to the WTO ruling, the former US administration was wrong to impose additional steel and aluminum tariffs on certain WTO members and launch a Section 301 investigation and raise tariffs on China.

“Instead of correcting its mistake, the US chose to double down on it by threatening new tariff hikes and announcing a new Section 301 investigation,” Lin Jian, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said on Friday, urging the US to be prudent in its words and deeds, and stop manipulating issues related to China in the election year. 

The Biden administration is reportedly pushing for tariffs to “triple” on Chinese steel and aluminum, as Washington is targeting Chinese industries under the guise of the “overcapacity” fallacy.

Regardless of what tags the US uses for its excuses, the so-called Section 301 investigation and other tools are just malicious attempts by the US to suppress China while dismissing WTO rules. 

He Weiwen said that “overcapacity” is also a problem related to US competitiveness, and he stressed the importance for the two sides to conduct dialogue including the “overcapacity” issue, based on evidence.

Protectionism not the solution to addressing erosion of US competitiveness

Illustration: Chen Xia/Global Times

Illustration: Xia Qing/Global Times

The Office of the US Trade Representative recently initiated a probe into China’s maritime, logistics and shipbuilding sectors, alleging China used “unfair, non-market policies and practices” to dominate those industries. This, coupled with the Biden administration’s new threat to impose high tariffs on Chinese-made aluminum and steel, is again escalating trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies. 

The probe and threat bear the US’ often-used hallmark of leveraging protectionism to resist free trade in Washington’s hope to protect its own industries and jobs. However, the competitive edge held by Chinese industries is due to the hard work and effort of the Chinese people, the persistent technological innovation of Chinese companies and their proactive participation in free market competition.

China’s world-leading telecom equipment, high-speed trains, solar panels, and electric vehicle manufacturing, as well as its maritime, logistics and shipbuilding sectors, have gradually built up their strength through many years’ expertise and Chinese enterprises’ willingness to incorporate new tech breakthroughs and domestically developed software solutions. 

Now, high-quality and less costly goods manufactured by Chinese companies are becoming increasingly popular across the world. Chinese technologies, such as 5G and green renewable energies, are helping the Global South develop their economies. Therefore, the American politicians’ old playbook of using unilateral economic coercion to suppress and stymie the advance of Chinese economy will ultimately fail. Their desire to prolong or perpetuate American industrial dominance in the world will not come true, either. 

As known to the world, protectionism and unilateralism won’t bring back the lost manufacturing jobs to US shores. America’s high labor costs and the Federal Reserve’s insistence on an elevated interest rate of over 5 percent mean that American manufacturers can hardly compete with their Chinese counterparts. The cost-effectiveness of Chinese companies is nearly unparalleled in the world. For example, the cost of making an electric vehicle in China is approximately two times lower than in the US. 

The Biden administration remains obstinate in playing the zero-sum game by implementing a policy the administration calls “small courtyard with high walls” to demarcate itself or decouple from China. It is odd to many in the world why the US stubbornly refuses to choose the road of win-win cooperation with China. Is it just to prolong America’s dominance and hegemony in the world? 

America’s “decoupling from China” debate started about six years ago, and reached its climax in 2020. Over the past three years, the Biden administration has not tempered the decoupling or “de-risking” rhetoric, even though it knows that this decoupling will disrupt global supply chains and fragment global economy, leading to undesirable efficiency losses among American companies as well. 

To slow China’s economic growth, the US government, since 2018, has imposed high tariffs on up to $360 billion worth of Chinese goods, roped in its allies and “like-minded” countries to form exclusive trading blocs in key industrial sectors, pushed its businesses to relocate manufacturing operations away from China and blacklisted over 1,000 Chinese companies and research institutions. These trade barriers will hinder advancements in the world’s sustainability agenda, which relies on unrestricted and seamless exchanges of both existing and emerging technologies.

In public, senior US officials, including Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, professed disinterest in decoupling, but the Biden administration has pushed ahead with it in an attempt to isolate China and contain its rise. The US government has curbed Chinese investment in the US, banned imports of Chinese technology products such as solar panel components and 5G gear, and prohibited high-tech exports to China, including cutting-edge semiconductor chips and the tools to make them. 

However, the two giant economies are so tightly intertwined that it is almost impossible for Washington to harm China without hurting itself, sometimes seriously. The US’ decoupling strategy will only stand in the way of improving its corporate efficiency. As global supply chains are threatened by the decoupling policy, companies are complaining about a less elastic, less efficient and increasingly costly supply of components needed for manufacturing. Ordinary consumers in the US and the West are angered by expensive goods combined with high inflation. 

The economic consequences of decoupling, raising trade barriers, or the push for de-globalization by the US are becoming a growing concern for global policymakers. Economists have started to estimate the economic costs for the world economy. Recently, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) listed rising economic fragmentation and an increase in trade restrictive measures as trends that could harm the medium-term outlook for the global economy. 

Facing the relentless restrictions imposed by the US in recent years, China didn’t choose to sit idle or throw in the towel. Thinkers and policymakers started to realize the risks of relying on foreign technology and instead focused on a strategic shift of great historic importance to decrease reliance on US technology and prioritize domestic research and innovation in order to safeguard China’s economic security. Additionally, China decided to further open its economy to businesses from all countries and expand sectors available to foreign investors. 

In contrast to the US, which has retreated from global economic integration, China has emerged as a leading advocate for globalization, free trade and inclusive development. History shows that shutting out foreign competition will never lead to success in the long run. The US’ decision to build “high walls” to block Chinese goods and technology will not solve the underlying issues of inefficiency in its enterprises, leading to higher consumer prices and prolonged inflation for American citizens. Protectionism is not the solution to addressing the erosion of US competitiveness.

The author is an editor with the Global Times. [email protected]

Businesses embrace opportunities for innovation at Canton Fair as China pursues new quality productive forces despite Western protectionism

A visitor takes photos of an automated production line on display at the 135th session of the Canton Fair in Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong Province, on April 16, 2024. Photo: Chi Jingyi/GT

A visitor takes photos of an automated production line on display at the 135th session of the Canton Fair in Guangzhou, South China’s Guangdong Province, on April 16, 2024. Photo: Chi Jingyi/GT

Companies from both the domestic and overseas markets are flocking to the China Import and Export Fair, commonly known as the Canton Fair, held in Guangzhou, South China’s Guangdong Province, with their latest fashions on display to tap into the new opportunities for innovation as the world’s second-largest economy pursues industry upgrading for high-quality development in the new era.

While the US-led West pushes for protectionism by building a “small yard, high fence” around technologies and industry and supply chains, China’s open and cooperative stance in its development, as reflected at the Canton Fair, aligns with the world trend of globalization, experts and industry insiders said.

The Canton Fair should play a bigger role in expanding China’s high-level opening-up and promoting the building of an open world economy, Premier Li Qiang said on Thursday. He made the remarks when visiting an exhibition on the history of the Canton Fair, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Thursday.

Li Qiang also toured the booths of multiple enterprises at the venue of the 135th session of the Canton Fair, which kicked off on Monday. The Chinese premier encouraged enterprises to continuously improve their research and development capabilities, and strive for digital, intelligent and green transformation, according to Xinhua. 

 

On Wednesday, Premier Li held a symposium with overseas buyers attending the 135th session of the Canton Fair, during which overseas buyer representatives spoke about their experience in strengthening cooperation with China through the Canton Fair, noting that the fair has long played an important role in promoting trade exchanges and friendly relations between China and other countries, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Wednesday.

Chinese experts said that the presence of Premier Li at the event sent a very important message to the world that China is always and will continue to stay open for global cooperation as the country is pursuing industrial transformation and upgrading.

The nation’s efforts on striving for industrial upgrades reflect on the proliferation of high-tech products showcased at the Canton Fair as the country is shifting from a labor-intensive manufacturer to a significant technology-driven industrial powerhouse, Li Youhuan, a research fellow at the Guangdong University of Finance and Economics, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

“This transition signifies China’s capacity to offer a greater array of high-quality products with robust competitiveness and reliable supply chains to the global market,” the expert said.

Businesses have also captured the opportunities under this industry transformation.

“The Canton Fair was originally a place to source finished products and key components. But now it has become a dynamic platform for product development and innovation,” Talip Murat Kolbaşi, chairman of Arzum, Turkey’s leading electrical home appliances brand, said on Sunday during an opening reception for the 135th session of the Canton Fair.

“Most of our company’s most innovative products and best-selling goods are derived from the Canton Fair. We hope to further explore the international market through the Canton Fair platform,” said Murat Kolbaşi.

Intelligent and green products are playing leading roles at the Canton Fair. There are more than 8,700 exhibition booths set up by about 3,600 exhibitors related to electronics and home appliances, new energy, new-energy vehicles, smart mobility, industrial automation and intelligent manufacturing, the Global Times learned.

Behind the appearance of more and more intelligent sci-tech innovation products at the Canton Fair is that Chinese enterprises have gradually established the foundation and advantages to support the development of new quality productive forces.

Embracing global markets and establishing a more stable industrial chain and supply chain have become the direction of Chinese manufacturing enterprises doing foreign trade, industry insiders said.

“It’s important to come to the Canton Fair to get deals done, but it’s more important to look at industry trends. Chinese products and technologies are being updated and iterated very fast and are now leading the world,” Zhu Qiucheng, CEO of Ningbo New Oriental Electric Industrial Development, an exporter of pet furniture and home furnishing products, told the Global Times on Thursday.

Innovative pet products have always seen an increase in exports, said Zhu, adding that the company releases new products every two months to meet market needs.

“Productivity upgrading promotes the transformation and upgrading of China’s foreign trade, and the more difficult the external environment is, the more high-tech products can seize the foreign trade market,” said Zhu.

In recent years, the proportion of intermediate and capital goods on display has increased significantly. In the machinery exhibition area where capital goods are concentrated, the number of booths has increased by more than 50 percent in the past five years, the Global Times reporter learned.

China’s open stance on sharing opportunities arising from its industrial transformation sharply contrasts with the intensified actions taken by some Western countries, led by the US, which have implemented regressive and even negative measures in international trade, said Li Youhuan.

“As China continues to pursue opening up to the outside world, the role of the Canton Fair as a platform for global cooperation will only be strengthened. This will enable both domestic and overseas businesses to share greater benefits of joint development,” the expert added.

More Americans embrace prepping lifestyle, reflecting deeper anxieties linked to political polarization, social divide

Editor’s Note:

Preppers are a group of people who believe a catastrophe or emergency might happen in the future and take steps to prepare in advance. They often hoard water and food, build shelters, and even stockpile ammunition and construct underground bunkers. 

In recent years, the American doomsday prepper community has grown larger and more diverse, with increasingly extreme preparatory measures. 

The old stereotype of doomsday preppers being “conspiracy theorists and paranoid uncles” living on the fringes of society is gradually changing. 

According to Fox News, more Americans are beginning to plan for future disasters. Survival-themed reality shows are frequently featured on streaming platforms. On social media, disaster preparation bloggers have amassed millions of followers across various platforms.

Analysts from both the US and Europe suggest that the rising number of preppers and the extreme nature of their preparations reflect widespread anxiety in American society, closely related to political polarization, racial issues, and class divisions.

The entrance of American billionaire Larry Hall's underground mansion to survive the apocalypse, pictured on April 20, 2022. Photos: VCG

The entrance of American billionaire Larry Hall’s underground mansion to survive the apocalypse, pictured on April 20, 2022. Photos: VCG


Enlarging community

Helena, a student from China studying in Atlanta, initially thought the “doomsday prep kits” she saw at her local Costco were incredibly novel. However, as she adapted to life in the US over the years, she came to understand the necessity and ubiquity of these products.

“Doomsday kits are very practical in the US, especially during emergencies like the 2021 Texas power outage,” she told the Global Times. “A small generator is also essential. I personally own a small solar panel, though it can only power a fan.”

On Costco’s website, a large tub of instant noodles that serves 150 people is available for $100, providing about 25,000 calories and a shelf life of 25 years. Additionally, affordable doomsday tool kits are also available on Temu, and they are currently on sale. 

“This is a totally new market,” said a survival skills instructor with 20 years of experience, quoted by The Wall Street Journal. Initially, the instructor’s outdoor survival courses attracted only hardcore outdoor enthusiasts, but since the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he has received more calls from clients.

According to The Wall Street Journal, many companies selling survival toolkits and other doomsday preparation products have emerged in recent years. 

A report released by Zion Market Research in March this year shows that the global survival tools market is expected to reach $2.46 billion by 2030, with a compound annual growth rate of over 7 percent from 2023 to 2030. 

The report indicates that sales of survival toolkits have risen, showing that Americans are more inclined to have emergency supplies on hand than in previous years. 

For instance, Preppi Emergency Kits, which resemble classic doctor’s medical kits, saw a 29 percent increase in sales in 2023 compared to 2022. The Ready Set Judy kits, which are bright orange, doubled in sales in June 2023 when wildfires occurred in the Northeast US. Both brands’ kits include a hand-crank radio, masks, non-perishable food, first aid supplies, and other equipment.

Food stocked in the luxury underground bunker of Larry Hall

Food stocked in the luxury underground bunker of Larry Hall

Moreover, NBC reported that what was once a fringe idea among doomsday preppers is now becoming popular among celebrities and the wealthy. 

In December 2023, reports emerged that Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg was constructing a 4,000-square-foot underground shelter at his Hawaiian home. Kim Kardashian, Tom Cruise, and Shaquille O’Neal have also built bunkers or safe rooms. Open AI founder and CEO Samuel Harris Altman is also among the doomsday preppers. 

Data released in April 2023 by the US research website Finder showed that the percentage of people in the US spending on emergency preparedness increased from 20 percent in 2020 to 29 percent in 2023, with a total expenditure of about $11 billion over the last 12 months.

Political and radical

However, as the prepper community expands, its internal atmosphere is also changing. 

A YouTuber, who focuses on doomsday preparation, told the Global Times that she has left the prepper community and now discusses saving money and investing instead. In her view, the prepper community has become increasingly “radical and political,” even to the extent that her personal safety has been threatened. 

In a video clip, she stated that she has observed an emerging mentality of comparison and competition within the community, with many boasting about their equipment and resources, claiming to be better and more prepared than others. 

“But you don’t need 20 different guns and 50,000 bullets; you don’t need special tactics and combat training to survive,” she said, advocating for a more practical and simple preparation method focused on satisfying quality of life and emotional needs, opposing the view of preparation as an extreme or luxurious activity.

According to the Business Insider website, there is a community called “Riverbed Ranch” in the western Utah desert, which is actually a land cooperative consisting of 135 shareholders, living a “self-sufficient” life. According to the community, many residents are doomsday preppers, some are conspiracy theorists, while others just want to retire. Most residents at “Riverbed Ranch” believe that their community is distinctly different from the stereotype of “armed doomsday preppers.”

A bed room in Larry Hall's underground mansion

A bed room in Larry Hall’s underground mansion

A resident named Priscilla Hart mentioned that many people, like them, moved there because they hoped to reduce their dependence on political, economic, and social structures, with the main reason being “the instability and ambiguity of society.” “The more you can learn to take care of yourself and not rely on the government, the better,” she said. 

A 2023 survey by the Pew Research Center showed that only 16 percent of respondents believe the government will do the right thing, marking a historic low. Meanwhile, 79 percent of people said that Americans have “too little” or “very little” trust in each other.

USA Today reported that more and more Americans are preparing for “impending disasters” before major elections. Overall, doomsday preparation activities seem to reflect the deep uncertainties many Americans feel. 

A poll conducted by USA Today and Suffolk University at the end of 2023 found that 67 percent of Americans believe the country is facing bigger problems than usual or is in the worst state they have ever seen.

A world of political polarization

US political commentator and journalist Caleb Maupin told the Global Times that the rise of the “doomsday preparation” movement reflects not only widespread anxiety in US society but also exposes a declining trust in the government and public institutions. From urban to rural areas, from left to right, a general sense of social pessimism is spreading across all strata. 

Maupin explained that since the 1950s, the US has had the subculture of “preparation actions” associated with doomsday scenarios, often linked to far-right militias and more fanatical Christian sects. 

In recent years, this culture has seen a noticeable uptrend due to national political polarization and economic downturns. Pessimistic media coverage has intensified people’s unease and fear, causing survivalist ideas to gradually permeate mainstream society. The sense of national identity that Americans once held is fading, replaced by a widespread pessimism about the country’s future and fears of civil war and economic disasters, Maupin noted.

According to Maupin, race and class issues in the US have a profound impact on doomsday preparation culture. While some media content on survival culture features wealthy individuals building luxurious “panic rooms” and installing complex security systems, a broader range of survivalist media targets the working class in economically depressed areas who distrust national institutions. 

A living room in Larry Hall's 15-story underground mansion

A living room in Larry Hall’s 15-story underground mansion

He specifically mentioned that in low-income Black communities, there has long been a perception that the government is attempting racial cleansing, a sentiment that has also led to a high rate of vaccine refusal. Meanwhile, more and more people in rural and suburban white areas feel that the country is heading toward collapse.

US political commentator and journalist Bradley Blankenship recently wrote in the Global Times, analyzing that the doomsday preparation subculture, originally present among far-right groups, has gradually infiltrated mainstream US culture. 

The occurrences of recent years, including the surge of civil unrest sparked by movements such as Black Lives Matter, have laid bare the deep-seated fault lines running through American society. This polarization transcends mere ideological and policy disagreements, encompassing fundamental questions regarding the role of government, the essence of democracy and the legitimacy of societal institutions, according to Blankenship.

This political polarization is also affecting Europe, where people have become more enthusiastic about stockpiling food in recent years.

Christian Wagner, a European issues expert from Germany currently based in Beijing, told the Global Times that although Europe does not have as strong a doomsday prepper culture as the US, concerns and unease about the future are also growing in society. Wagner believes that this anxiety primarily stems from concerns about climate change and recent political polarization in Europe. 

Wagner said that in Europe, the Green Party has consistently tried to influence public sentiment on the issue of climate change, describing the climate crisis as a looming doomsday disaster and using this emotional narrative to attract support. Wagner observed that since around 2015, this fear of impending disaster has taken a place in public consciousness, leading to a general feeling that the world is on the brink of collapse.

Although not digging fortresses in their backyards like Americans, Europeans are also stockpiling supplies in their apartments like “hamsters,” Wagner told the Global Times. 

However, this phenomenon is occurring alongside significant price increases and energy shortages. “Everything in Germany is becoming more expensive. Even though people want to be prepared and purchase a heat pump for heating or stock up on more food, they can’t, because they can’t afford it,” Wagner lamented.

Wagner reflected that history seems to be repeating itself, with Europe experiencing a period similar to the 1920s and 1930s, which followed a “golden age” with an economic crisis and social instability, eventually leading to the rise of fascism and World War II.

Wagner said ordinary people increasingly adopt a defensive mindset, focusing more on self-protection and preparing for potentially extreme situations such as war or a global apocalypse.