GAC to promote foreign trade, expand global cooperation

China will deepen its cooperation with all parties concerned to promote the role of Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) agreements in facilitating both domestic and global companies’ efforts to boost their foreign trade activities, said a customs official.

The AEO program is advocated by the World Customs Organization to strengthen international supply chain security and facilitate the movement of goods, said Lin Jiantian, director of the General Administration of Customs’ Department of Enterprise Management and Audit-based Control.

Under its terms, Customs authorities from various regions will establish partnerships with industries to collaboratively cut barriers to Customs procedures and enhance international trade efficiency.

By the end of March of this year, China’s GAC had signed AEO mutual recognition agreements with 26 economies, such as the European Union and South Africa, covering 52 countries and regions.

‘She-economy’ unleashes market potential at consumer expo

Visitors experience makeup products at the China International Consumer Products Expo in Haikou, capital of South China’s Hainan province, on April 15, 2024. [Photo/Xinhua]

As previous consumer expos, “She-economy” has always been one of the hottest topics and a driving force to unleash consumption potential.

The “She economy” elements include a dazzling array of jewelry, different kinds of beauty care products and fashion week shows at this year’s China International Consumer Products Expo or CICPE, in South China’s Hainan province. Let’s take a look together.

Bookshop in Seoul, a hub for South Koreans who wonder about China

The China Book bookstore in Seoul, South Korea Photo: Courtesy of Han Geon-hee

The China Book bookstore in Seoul, South Korea Photo: Courtesy of Han Geon-hee

The “China Book” in Seoul is not the grandest, but is arguably one of the most comprehensive bookstores in South Korea, stocking publications about China since it was established in 1996. 

It covers a wide range of the “China book” genre, with offerings such as Chinese literature and Chinese economy. When describing how committed the shop is to numerous elements of Chinese culture, its owner Han Geon-hee joked that rumor had it he was a Chinese spy stationed in South Korea.  

Having taken over “China Book” from his father in 2004, Han, who was a musician in a band at the time, found himself too busy to be “a spy.” Running the store also allowed him to see how books can give rise to a cultural consensus among the people of China and South Korea. 

‘A consolation’ 

From Chinese cartoon books to literary classics, the literary diversity at “China Book” caters to a variety of readers aged 18 to 80 years old. 

Han told the Global Times that much of his clientele includes teachers, foreigners curious about China, as well as Chinese language learners who are predominately local students. Since 2017, the number of Chinese language learners in South Korea has surged to more than 10.6 million people; the demographic accounts for around one-fifth of the country’s total population of more than 51 million people. 

“I’ve often heard South Korean customers conversing in store in Chinese, and discussing the difficulties of learning the language and sharing reference books,” Han told the Global Times.

Han’s sales-oriented bookshop has gradually been reshaped by people with similar interests gathering together to become a cultural salon. He has also discovered a niche of “Chinese contemporary literature” enthusiasts, keen on Chinese authors like Yu Hua. 

He told the Global Times that books like Yu’s To Live are top sellers. With China’s fertility history as a background, Nobel-winning novelist Mo Yan’s Red Sorghum has been popular among South Korean readers for more than a decade. 

Although Yu’s To Live is about the past, its realistic meaning remains current in South Korea. In 2023, a South Korean judge in Busan gifted a copy of the book to a homeless man. The move was seen by many netizens as a show of literature’s humanistic virtue come to life. 

“The reason why Yu’s book can cater to both Chinese and South Korean readers is due to the two East Asian countries’ similarities and dis­tinctions in their cultural-social developments,” cultural sociologist Chu Xin, told the Global Times. 

Taking South Korean novelist and film director Lee Chang-dong as an example, Chu told the Global Times that the artistic tradition of borrowing ordinary people’s stories to reflect social phenomena has been widely celebrated by both Chinese and South Korean artists. 

“I hope China Book will continue to bring consolations to South Korean readers who truly love Chinese culture and vice versa,” Han remarked. 

South Koreans read books in an outdoor reading event in Seoul. Photo: VCG

South Koreans read books in an outdoor reading event in Seoul. Photo: VCG

Seek for collaboration

Han’s passion for the Chinese publishing industry has grown along with his bourgeoning business. In 2019, he attended the Beijing Book Fair with his brother. The fair is a large-scale annual book event that provides collaboration opportunities for domestic and overseas publishers.

Han said that he was fascinated by many good-quality Chinese books at the event, and the experience was entirely different from his previous visits to China’s bookshops. 

“The fair is a good opportunity for me to meet publishers in China. And I have to say that the fair’s book landscape is just like China’s territory that is quite vast,” he told the Global Times.

Including the publishing industry, cultural exchanges between China and South Korea have blossomed, especially since 2022, when the two countries celebrated the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. 

Including the Jiangxi Education Publishing House, a total of five Chinese publishers participated in a mutual translating project on China and South Korea’s literature classics. In the same year, at least 200 kinds of Chinese books across different genres were also displayed at the Seoul International Book Fair. 

“In history, China and South Korea share many ethical and philosophical consensus, and then developed down different paths. Reading each other’s stories again can help us to build mutual trust and understanding,” Han said.

Stone carvings, including a Buddha head, found inside cave of Central China’s Longmen Grottoes for first time

The Buddha head found inside the west wall of the south cave of Leigutai caves in Longmen Grottoes in Luoyang, Central China's Henan Province. Photo: Longmen Grottoes research institute/Handout via Xinhua

The Buddha head found inside the west wall of the south cave of Leigutai caves in Longmen Grottoes in Luoyang, Central China’s Henan Province. Photo: Longmen Grottoes research institute/Handout via Xinhua

More than 80 stone carvings, including a Buddha head, and building components have been discovered inside a cave of the Longmen Grottoes, a 1,500-year-old UNESCO World Heritage site, in Luoyang, Central China’s Henan Province.

The relics were found inside the west wall of the south cave of Leigutai during maintenance work, according to the Longmen Grottoes research institute.

This is the first time that archaeologists have found stone carvings inside the cave’s wall of Longmen Grottoes, according to Lu Wei, director of the history and humanities research center of the institute.

“The unearthed relics mainly consist of stone carvings, including a Buddha head, the remains of a Bodhisattva statue, fragments of rosettes and patterns, and statue bases,” said Lu.

“Upon initial inspection, most of the statue fragments can be pieced together for restoration. Currently, indoor sorting of the unearthed artifacts is underway, with plans for cleaning, assembling, and splicing,” added Lu.

Notably, a relatively well-preserved Buddha head was found, which is 38 centimeters in height, 22 centimeters in width, and 19 centimeters in thickness, according to Lu.

Based on the analysis of the archaeological excavation results of the Leigutai caves and historical documents, the relics are thought to have been stacked up and embedded in the walls in the mid- to late Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and used as materials to repair and reinforce the cave walls.

Located at the south end of the grottoes’ Dongshan area, Leigutai boasts three caves respectively located in the north, middle and south, and several small niches on the cliff outside the grottoes.

‘The findings are of great value for the study of the stone carving art in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the history and culture of Leigutai caves, and the maintenance and reinforcement works done in ancient times,” said Lu.

Boasting a history of more than 1,500 years, the Longmen Grottoes were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999, which was described by UNESCO as “representing the high point of Chinese stone carving.”

The historical site includes more than 2,300 grottoes with a total of 110,000 Buddhist figures and images, more than 80 dagobas and 2,800 inscribed tablets created between the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-557) and Song Dynasty (960-1279).

Global Times

Manila violating commitments, denying previous agreement and abandoning understandings escalate Ren’ai Jiao tensions: Chinese FM

This photo taken on November 10, 2023 shows Philippine coast guard personnel and journalists sailing onboard a rigid inflatable boat (left) as they head back after filming the BRP Sierra Madre grounded at Renai Jiao in South China Sea. Photo: AFP

This photo taken on November 10, 2023 shows Philippine coast guard personnel and journalists sailing onboard a rigid inflatable boat (left) as they head back after filming the BRP Sierra Madre grounded at Renai Jiao in South China Sea. Photo: AFP

If the Philippines truly wants to ease tensions at Ren’ai Jiao through dialogue and communication, it needs to honor the commitments and understandings and stop provocations, spokesperson of Chinese Foreign Ministry Mao Ning said at a press conference on Thursday. 

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Monday called on China to talk to prevent more incidents like ramming vessels and the use of water cannons in the South China Sea, Voice of America reported.

The Philippines continues to talk with China, and is exhausting all options to speak to Chinese leadership so as not to heat up tensions in the waterway, Marcos claimed, according to media report. 

In response, Mao reiterated on Thursday China’s indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands, Ren’ai Jiao included, and their surrounding waters.

She stressed that China has always been committed to managing the on-site situation of Ren’ai Jiao through dialogue and consultation with the Philippines. 

Mao reiterated that on how to deal with the current situation at Ren’ai Jiao, China’s position is clear-cut. First, by keeping its warship grounded at Ren’ai Jiao for decades running, the Philippines has been violating China’s sovereignty and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), especially Article 5 which says refraining from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands and reefs. We demand that the Philippines tow away the warship at once and restore the Ren’ai Jiao’s state of hosting zero personnel and facilities.

Second, before the warship is towed away, if the Philippines needs to send living necessities, out of humanitarianism, China is willing to allow it if the Philippines informs China in advance and after on-site verification is conducted. China will monitor the whole process.

Third, if the Philippines sends large amount of construction materials to the warship and attempts to build fixed facilities and permanent outpost, China will not accept it and will resolutely stop it in accordance with law and regulations to uphold China’s sovereignty and the sanctity of the DOC.

The recent attempts by the Philippines to permanently occupy Ren’ai Jiao and Tiexian Jiao (Tiexian Reef) have seriously violated Article 5 of the DOC, said Lei Xiaolu, a professor of law with China Institute of Boundary and Ocean Studies, Wuhan University.   

In 1999, the Philippines illegally grounded the “BRP Sierra Madre” warship on Ren’ai Jiao under the pretext of “mechanical failure” and promised to tow it away. However, in recent years, the Philippines has acted in bad faith, claiming to build permanent facilities on Ren’ai Jiao. 

The Philippines believes the South China Sea arbitration case gives it a legal basis for the illegal occupation of Ren’ai Jiao, but in fact, the arbitral tribunal in the South China Sea arbitration case has no jurisdiction to handle sovereignty disputes over Ren’ai Jiao as part of the Nansha Islands. Tiexian Jiao is an uninhabited high-tide feature within 12 nautical miles of Zhubi Jiao (Zhubi Reef) and is part of the Nansha Islands, according to Lei. 

If the Philippines’ activities are tolerated, the dispute settlement mechanism established in Article 5 of the DOC will be weakened, potentially reopening the “Pandora’s Box” of new round of island occupation by some countries, which will have a negative impact on regional peace and stability, Lei noted. 

China and the Philippines established several channels of communication on the South China Sea issue, the most important one being the Bilateral Consultative Mechanism (BCM) established in 2016, noted Yan Yan, Direct of Research Center for Oceans Law and Policy, National Institute for South China Sea Studies. 

The hotline between China and the Philippines coast guards was established after then Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with China on cooperation between the two countries’ coast guard in 2016 and is the most direct means of communication between the maritime law enforcement agencies of the two countries. In August 2023, Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Jay Tarriela announced the abandonment of this hotline mechanism, saying they will no longer be communicating directly with their Chinese counterpart. 

In January of this year, the 8th meeting of the BCM was held in Shanghai. China and the Philippines agreed to “further improve the sea-related communication mechanism, continue to properly manage sea-related conflicts and differences through friendly consultations, and deal with maritime emergencies.” 

However, the Philippines’ actions on Huangyan Dao and Ren’ai Jiao have not been curtailed despite the consultation. It seems that the Philippines’ strategy is to use action instead of words and dialogue, to show its presence and attempt to change the status quo in the South China Sea, Yan stressed. 

China and ASEAN Foreign Ministers signed the DOC in November, 2002. 

For the past 22 years, the DOC has served as a crucial political consensus and cornerstone for maintaining peace in the region. China and ASEAN countries have successfully engaged in various constructive maritime cooperation, including marine environmental protection, scientific research, safety of navigation and communication at sea, search and rescue operations, and combating transnational crime, in accordance with Article 6 which allows for cooperative activities pending a comprehensive settlement of disputes, said Yang Xiao, Deputy director of Institute of Maritime Strategy Studies at China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations. 

Article 6 regulates cooperative activities among the parties concerned. These may include the following: marine environmental protection; marine scientific research; safety of navigation and communication at sea; search and rescue operation; and combating transnational crime, including but not limited to trafficking of illicit drugs, piracy and armed robbery at sea, and illegal traffic in arms. 

However, beyond the positive momentum of promoting cooperation between China and most ASEAN countries, there has been some sort of noise off and on for some time, especially the Philippines which has repeatedly violated its commitments and obligations, Yang pointed out. 

There is no doubt that “cooperation” is the most approved axiom paved by DOC for peace and development in the South China Sea … Any actions or intentions that undermine these commitments and cooperation should be firmly opposed by all parties to DOC and by nations dedicated to peace and prosperity, Yang noted. 

Global Times