Scholz's visit aims to strike a balance in China policy: experts

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is scheduled to travel to China in mid-April, accompanied by three federal ministers and a business delegation, media reported. Chinese analysts said Scholz aims to strike a balance in Germany's China policy, ensuring it is not swayed by the hard-line rhetoric of politicians advocating "de-risking."

The German Chancellor's visit is part of a broader series of high-level engagements between China and the EU, and may help foster positive momentum toward consensus-building, the analysts noted.

Scholz reportedly will travel to China for a two-day trip from April 15 to 16. German newspaper Handelsblatt said in a report on April 4 that Scholz will be accompanied by Environment Minister Steffi Lemke, Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir and Transport Minister Volker Wissing. It noted that "it is unusual" for a Chancellor to be accompanied by several federal ministers on a trip to China and would "otherwise only [take] place as part of government consultations."

Reuters reported on the same day that Germany's top corporate brass, including Roland Busch, chief executive of Siemens, Mercedes-Benz CEO Ola Kaellenius and lab equipment and semiconductor chemicals maker Merck KGaA's CEO Belen Garijo will join Scholz when he visits China. Busch also serves as chair and president of the Asia-Pacific Committee of German Business.

The Chinese side hasn't yet released information on Scholz's visit as of press time on Sunday.

Scholz's upcoming visit to China signifies Germany's willingness to maintain pragmatic cooperation with China. The visit is part of a series of exchanges and communications between China and Germany that have been ongoing since 2022, He Zhigao, a research fellow with the Institute of European Studies from Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Sunday.

Scholz was last in China in November 2022. Chinese President Xi Jinping met Scholz in Beijing and the two leaders agreed on enhancing cooperation, maintaining dialogue, and rejecting decoupling and bloc confrontation.

In June 2023, Chinese Premier Li Qiang visited Germany and co-chaired the seventh China-Germany inter-governmental consultation with Scholz.

Sustaining these high-level engagements is crucial in preventing strategic misunderstandings between China and Germany, especially in light of the unveiling of a new strategy by Scholz's three-party coalition in July 2023 that claimed to de-risk Germany's economic relations with China. This strategy, borne out of complex negotiations and compromise among the coalition partners, has sent mixed signals regarding Germany's policy towards China, He said.

Despite calls from some people to decouple from China, Scholz and the majority of the business community remain committed to rejecting "decoupling" rhetoric and instead seek to deepen cooperation, some experts said. Senior German officials' visits to China typically involve high-level business delegations. Scholz's visit, which includes top corporate figures from Germany, underscores the close economic ties between the two countries, analysts said.

On Saturday, China's Ministry of Commerce convened an "invest in China"-themed roundtable meeting in Munich. Representatives of German companies and business groups, including the Chamber of Commerce and Industry for Munich and Upper Bavaria, as well as executives from six large enterprises including BMW and Siemens attended the meeting.

Scholz's visit to China underscores Germany's commitment to preserving the mutual benefits derived from bilateral cooperation. Beyond the automotive industry, there is significant untapped potential for collaboration in sectors such as new energy and biopharmaceuticals, Cui Hongjian, a professor with the Academy of Regional and Global Governance with Beijing Foreign Studies University, told the Global Times on Sunday.

According to Handelsblatt, During Scholz's visit to China, the German government seeks room for cooperation, particularly in the areas of climate and the environment, and in transport policy.

Scholz will also endeavor to seek a political balance in Germany's China policy, preventing it from being kidnapped entirely by negative voices or policies emanating from its foreign ministry and economic ministry, Cui said.

For instance, Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock of Green party, who advocates a tough stance on China, has drawn criticism from some Chinese observers for potentially undermining bilateral relations. Similarly, Economy Minister Robert Habeck, also from the Greens, has warned against over-reliance on China.

Concerns raised by some politicians regarding China's alleged overcapacity, unfair competition practices and perceived risks are causing apprehension among small- and medium-sized companies in Germany. If such rhetoric persists, it could potentially harm bilateral relations between China and Germany, said the expert.

While analysts call more efforts within Germany as well as in the EU to push forward pragmatic cooperation despite disputes and negative influences from other countries, they admit that these relations are undergoing a transition to a "new normal" with both sides making adjustments.

The dynamics of China-EU relations have shifted due to evolving geopolitical realities, prompting a restructuring phase. While the EU perceives China as an uncertain factor in terms of security and economic matters, it remains committed to pursuing cooperation and dialogue with China in its own interests, Cui said.

While both positive and negative factors for the China-EU relationship co-exist, Scholz's visit, together with a series of high-level engagements between China and the EU, will play a positive role in pushing the two sides to seek consensus, he said.

China, Thailand to cooperate in peaceful use of outer space, lunar exploration missions

The China National Space Administration (CNSA) and Thai Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation on Friday jointly signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on cooperation in the exploration and peaceful use of outer space and an MoU on cooperation in the international lunar scientific research station.

Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of the Kingdom of Thailand attended and witnessed the signing. Zhang Kejian, director of the China National Space Administration, delivered a welcome speech at the ceremony.

According to the MoU, China and Thailand will set up joint committees and working groups to strengthen cooperation in the fields of space exploration, space application and space capacity building by planning and implementing joint space projects, scientific exchange programs and personnel training programs, exchanging data and information, and jointly organizing symposiums and scientific workshops.

The two sides will focus on the demonstration, engineering implementation, operation and application of the international lunar scientific research station, organize expert teams to conduct research from the three aspects of science, engineering and international cooperation, and form a cooperation plan. At the same time, other countries, international organizations, research institutes, universities, industrial entities and scientists are welcome to join the international lunar scientific research station program, and to benefit from joint space exploration activities.

Previously, China and Thailand signed a MoU on space cooperation in 2018 to jointly build the Lancang-Mekong river spatial information exchange and cooperation center and the Lancang-Mekong river remote sensing data center. In 2023, a space weather monitor developed by Thailand has been selected to be a part of the Chang’e-7 spacecraft’s payload. China and Thailand will cooperate on lunar exploration missions in the future.

The Chang’e-7 is a planned robotic Chinese lunar exploration mission expected to be launched in 2026 to target the lunar south pole. Like its predecessors, the spacecraft is named after the Chinese moon goddess Chang'e. The mission will include an orbiter, a lander, a mini-hopping probe, and a rover.

Spouses of 140 officials in Central China's Hunan receive anti-corruption education

As part of a recent nationwide anti-corruption campaign, the provincial discipline inspection commission and supervisory commission of Central China's Hunan Province invited the spouses of 140 senior officials from provincial government agencies, state-owned enterprises and universities to an anti-corruption themed event. 

Attendees were introduced to corruption cases from recent years. Some of them  engaged in "nepotism" and "family corruption," encouraging their sons to seek favors from other officials' children; some opened family businesses through corruption; some focused solely on money, helping their relatives to make money illegally; some were pushed into corruption by family ties, leading the whole family into an abyss. These examples of corrupt family traditions serve as a warning.

In March, the website of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and the National Supervisory Commission authorized the release of a report stating that 72 people were under investigation, and 28 people received disciplinary punishment. In March, a total of 6,715 cases of violations of the eight-point decision on improving Party and government conduct were investigated nationwide, with 9,065 individuals receiving criticism and education, including 6,591 individuals receiving disciplinary punishment.

"I wrote a letter to my child on his birthday, in which I said, the deepest pain for a mother is failing to uphold principles and lacking self-discipline." In the exhibition hall, a video showing Tang Jun, former secretary of the Party committee of Xintian county, tearfully confessing her mistakes served as a profound lesson.

"Some of the 'protagonists' in these cases are familiar to us, some were even former colleagues of our husbands. It is a lack of strict parenting and proper family traditions that led them astray into corruption," noted one attendee. Everyone at the event expressed that upright family tradition is the cornerstone of family happiness, and as family members, they must establish a strong ethical red line, constantly remind their spouses  to respect, fear, and abide by the rules, and educate and manage their children and relatives well.

Anti-corruption experts say that including officials' family members in anti-corruption education can prevent corruption loopholes from being opened and also serve a supervisory role. 

Many cases of corruption among officials were initially due to their family members being bribed, while the officials themselves may be unaware. Furthermore, if the spouses of officials can strengthen supervision and management of officials' abnormal behaviors in daily life, it can also enhance the warning effect for restraining officials' behavior, Zhuang Deshui, deputy director of the Research Center for Government Integrity-Building at Peking University, told the Global Times on Monday.

"Family tradition is like a 'firewall.' It is a line of defense for Party members, officials, and their families to resist temptation. If there is even a small hole in this wall, the 'small flames' that come through could potentially engulf the whole family," said Zhu Fan, a representative of family members, noting that this wall must be fortified, and a "clean and honest line of defense" must be upheld in order for a family to thrive.

"Family tradition is an important manifestation of the work style of leading officials, it is an important cornerstone for the prosperity of family inheritance, and it is a good remedy for the fight against corruption," Wang Shuangquan, a member of the Hunan provincial Party committee, secretary of the provincial discipline inspection commission, and director of the provincial supervision commission, vividly narrated the significance and profound connotation of establishing upright family traditions. 

According to local officials, Hunan Province attaches great importance to the construction of family traditions for leading cadres, taking it as a fundamental project to deepen the comprehensive and strict governance of the Party, and as an important aspect included in the assessment of building a clean Hunan and constructing a clean culture. 

In practice, Hunan regards the construction of family traditions for officials as a key focus in heart-to-heart talks, supervision and inspection, paying attention to digging deep into typical cases of poor family education and traditions. 

The curtailing of corruption by discipline inspection and other procuratorial organs as well as the media is limited, as experts put it. Family members are directly related to integrity efforts. The key to integrity education is to enhance the officials' own integrity awareness, and to encourage family members to remind these officials at the appropriate time and reduce the occurrence of corruption problems, Zhuang said.

China, India hold 'candid, in-depth' talks on boundary issues but Jaishankar says 'won't compromise'

As China and India agreed to continue talks through diplomatic and military channels to resolve border issues at the latest border consultation in Beijing, India's External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said he will "never compromise on securing borders," a move analysts viewed as a trick to pass the buck to China over the dispute and try to gain more leverage to bargain with Beijing.

According to a release from the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Thursday, China and India held the 29th meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC) on Wednesday in Beijing. 

The two sides made positive comments on the progress made in bringing the border situation under control, had a "candid and in-depth" exchange of views on the next stage of work, agreeing to reach a mutually acceptable plan at an early date and push the border situation into a phase of regular control.

They agreed to continue to maintain communication through diplomatic and military channels, improve the negotiation and consultation mechanism, and agreed to strictly abide by the existing agreements and protocols, continue to consolidate the achievements of the previous efforts, and maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas.

Also on Wednesday, during his meeting with the Indian community in Malaysia, Jaishankar said, "My first duty to Indians is to secure the border. I can never compromise on that," according to India's NDTV.

Jaishankar claimed that "normalcy in bilateral ties with China will only be achieved based on the traditional deployment of troops and will be the prerequisite for the relationship with Beijing in the future."

Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Thursday that Jaishankar's "tough words" were made with an eye on the upcoming election.

More importantly, the words and acts from the Indian diplomat were also likely aimed at passing the buck to China over the border standoff and worsening bilateral ties, Hu said, noting that China needs to be wary of India's tricks to "internationalize the border disputes."

False remarks over the Chinese territory of Zangnan by Indian politicians, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, were slammed by the Chinese Foreign Ministry as "absurd." Senior Colonel Wu Qian from China's Ministry of Defense on Thursday stressed that "It is an undeniable fact that Zangnan has been Chinese territory since ancient times, and there's no so-called Arunachal Pradesh."

Jaishankar expressed support for Manila over its South China Sea disputes with China during his recent meeting with his Philippine counterpart.

It's India that keeps provoking China and making trouble on the border issue in order to gain more leverage to bargain with China, Hu said. 

"There is more about China-India bilateral relations than the border issue," Hu said, "But Indian politicians have tried to use the border issue to kidnap the bilateral relationship." 

Earlier this month, data from the China General Administration of Customs showed that China's trade with India in the first two months of 2024 surged by 15.8 percent year-on-year, making it one of the fastest growth rates among China's trading partners.

Analysts believe that the current border situation is still generally under control, adding that China and India should further manage their differences in a practical manner and prevent a small case developing into a major one or even a military conflict.

"Both the Indian government and media should be careful in their words and actions, and respect basic historical facts on the territorial issue. Only in this way can China-India relations move forward in a healthy way and return to the normal track," Hu said. 

China, which always seeks cooperation, does not want to make India an enemy, and India should not treat China as a "threat" and rival, said Hu. 

Mainland closely monitors movement of Taiwan island's military authority around Kinmen

The Chinese mainland is closely monitoring movement of Taiwan island's military authority around Kinmen. If they provoke or cause trouble, daring to act rashly, they will surely face failure, Chen Binhua, a spokesperson for the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, said on Wednesday in response to reports that Taiwan island will conduct live-fire drills in April in locations including Kinmen and Lieyu.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authorities recently announced that live-fire drills will be conducted in April in locations including Kinmen and Lieyu, sparking concern across the local community. The island's military authority claimed that these actions are part of routine and regular training exercises, without any specific targets.

Whether it's "routine training" or "targeted provocation," DPP authorities know better than anyone. The people in Kinmen, having personally experienced the transitions between peace and war, value peace and oppose war even more, Chen said.

They have already made the right choice between "opening fire" and "building bridges." We are closely monitoring the movement of Taiwan island's military authority in Kinmen. Should they provoke or cause trouble, daring to act rashly, they will surely face failure, the spokesperson noted.

On February 14, a fishing boat from Fujian was violently chased by Taiwan authorities in waters near Kinmen, causing all four people on board to fall into the water. Two of them died. The DPP authorities on the island of Taiwan have been condemned for improperly handling the incident and for illegally harassing mainland fishermen.

The mainland coast guard has been boosting its law enforcement patrols in the waters near Kinmen after the fatal February 14 boat incident.

The State Council Taiwan Affairs Office also said earlier that the mainland firmly supports the law enforcement patrols implemented by the mainland coast guard authorities in waters near Kinmen, as they are legitimate actions to maintain order in the relevant maritime areas.

Also, on March 18, the Fujian coast guard reportedly found a distressed fishing boat in the waters of Weitou bay and rescued two people, both from Kinmen. One of two men surnamed Wu has been sent back to Kinmen on March 22.

The spokesperson said the relevant departments are further verifying the situation. Once the situation is verified, appropriate action will be taken regarding another individual.

Moderate or severe geomagnetic storm expected to take place on Mon with possible beautiful auroras

Geomagnetic storms are expected to occur from Sunday to Tuesday, with a moderate or even severe storm being likely to occur on Monday, according to the National Space Weather Monitoring and Early Warning Center of China Meteorological Administration (CMA) on Sunday. It is predicted to cause positioning errors of satellite navigation equipment and bring beautiful auroras, China Central Television reported.

The storm may cause space stations to decrease the orbital altitude due to atmospheric drag and the positioning error of satellite navigation equipment will increase. Commercial flights will also face the risks of a communication disruption and radiation across the polar region, according the CMA.

Aurora enthusiasts may have the opportunity to enjoy beautiful aurora sightings at this perfect time. While for pigeon players, CMA suggested reducing activities of breeding or racing pigeons in response to the storm in the coming days.

Although geomagnetic storms are not infrequent, China has been able to forecast and warn impacted parties in advance. China has formed a standardized and quantitative space weather monitoring, forecasting and early warning operation, and the accuracy of space weather forecasting is at the international advanced level, according to a release published by the CMA last December during the last geomagnetic storm in China.

The coronal mass ejection (CME), a typical solar eruption activity, is driven by the strong magnetic field of sunspots, ejecting hundreds of millions or even trillions of tons of coronal material at speeds of hundreds to thousands of kilometers per second, forming explosive shockwaves that rapidly propagate throughout the solar system. After being hit by these shockwaves, the Earth's magnetic field undergoes significant changes in direction and intensity, resulting in geomagnetic storms.

According to the report, CME process this time took place almost directly facing the Earth, so the ejecta formed a circular surface when we view it from the Earth. This type of eruption ejecting solar material at high speeds and with high coverage relative to the Earth can cause a strong geomagnetic activity.

This storm occurred after CMA forecasted a geomagnetic storm activity in November 2023 with the auroras appearing in many high-latitude areas of China, including Northeast China's Heilongjiang and North China's Inner Mongolia. It was also surprisingly observed in Beijing, as it is hard to witness auroras in lower latitude areas.