China strives for development, intl cooperation of nuclear fusion to seek ultimate solution to power shortage

In March, the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) announced it would open 10 of its nuclear technology research facilities and testing platforms, including China's new-generation "artificial sun" Huanliu-3 (HL-3) tokamak, to the world for the first time.

The move is expected to not only further enhance China's influence in nuclear science and technology globally, but also boost international cooperation in dealing with the energy crisis as the issue seemingly grows more and more urgent along with the rapid development of artificial intelligent (AI) in consideration of the technology's staggering energy consumption. Current AI technology could be on track to annually consume as much electricity as the entire country of Ireland (29.3 terawatt-hours per year), according to a report published in October 2023 in Joule magazine.

"Magnetic confinement nuclear fusion is a cutting-edge disruptive technology with outstanding advantages such as abundant resources, environmental friendliness, and inherent safety. It is currently recognized as one of the most important ways to ultimately solve global energy and environmental problems and promote the sustainable development of human society," Liu Zhonghua, deputy director of the Southwestern Institute of Physics (SWIP) under CNNC told the media during a group visit to the institute in late March.

The visit is part of CNNC's series of events to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the success of China's atomic bomb test in 1964 as well as the upcoming 70th anniversary of the establishment of the CNNC in January 2025.

China has set a "three-step" technological roadmap of "thermal neutron reactor, fast reactor, and controllable nuclear fusion reactor" for nuclear energy development. With the existing nuclear science and technology industrial system, it is believed that human beings can use controllable nuclear fusion energy in about 30 years, that is, by the middle of this century, the Global Times learned from CNNC.

The core temperature of the sun is approximately 15 million to 20 million degrees, while the metal materials on Earth will melt at around 1,000 degrees. The goal of China's construction of "artificial sun" is to build a device on Earth that can withstand temperatures of more than one million degrees.

Scientists at the SWIP are sparing no effort to realize the goal step by step. In the 1980s, the first-generation fusion platform HL-1 was built and it was the first national large-scale scientific engineering facility in the field of nuclear fusion in China; in the early 21st century, HL-2 was completed, laying a solid scientific and engineering foundation for the leap from principle exploration to large-scale device experiments in China's nuclear fusion research.

In 2020, the new-generation "artificial sun" HL-3 was successfully designed and built independently, becoming the largest and highest parameter advanced tokamak device in China with a total height of 8.39 meters and a diameter of 8 meters. The plasma ion temperature can reach 150 million C, which is 10 times the temperature of the core of the sun.

In August 2023, HL-3 realized high-confinement mode operation with a plasma current of one million amperes for the first time. The breakthrough puts the operational level of China's magnetic confinement nuclear fusion device at the forefront of the world. It also marks an important step forward in the research of high-performance nuclear fusion plasma operation.

In December 2023, CNNC announced the global opening of HL-3 to invite scientists worldwide to come to China and collaborate toward the shared goal of pursuing "artificial sun energy" after SWIP signed an agreement with the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) and the development of future fusion reactors. HL-3 since then has become an important supporter to the construction and operation of ITER, the world's largest "artificial sun" project.

The next step of the "artificial sun" project is to gradually transit from the deuterium-tritium combustion experiment stage to the fusion reactor engineering and physical experiment stage, and finally realize the aim of building fusion power stations of demonstration and then the construction of commercial fusion power stations, according to CNNC.

According to Li Bo, a senior engineer at the SWIP, the energy released from the nuclear fusion reaction of one liter of deuterium extracted from seawater is equivalent to that released by 300 liters of gasoline. "To put it simply, if we were to burn coal to fuel a 1-million-kilowatt power plant for a year, it would require around 2 million tons, nearly 33,000 train cars of coal. However, if we use nuclear fusion, only 0.6 tons of materials, equivalent to a small pickup truck, would be sufficient," Li said.

Nuclear fusion energy can also be converted into power through more various methods, Xiao Guoliang, a researcher at the SWIP, told the Global Times. "Besides the traditional steam turbine power generation, the energy carried by the charged particles in the nuclear fusion reactor may also be directly extracted and converted into electricity through specific techniques such as magnetic fluids and plasma waves. With the advancement of technology, the utilization of nuclear fusion energy in the future can be more diverse and efficient," Xiao said.

As a technician at the SWIP, Wang Jin has personally debugged and installed tens of thousands of components on different generations of confinement nuclear fusion devices since 1996.

One of the most memorable things for him was in 2022, when he and other dozens of people fought on site to achieve the first 1 megampere discharge in China as soon as possible against the heat and power limit in summer. After more than a month of arduous preparation, this discharge parameter was successfully achieved.

Wang recalled that, once, he followed an experienced master to conduct a safety inspection of the device. The master walked to a piece of equipment and asked him, "Do you see anything different here?" He looked at that area but did not find anything different.

The master said, "Do you notice the crack in the paint under that screw?" Wang suddenly saw it. Through this incident, he said he felt that doing nuclear fusion work requires great care and patience.

When entering the installation of HL-3, Wang also had his own team of apprentices to lead them to accomplish greater achievements. Wang said, "I need to pass on our spirit. Only in this way can we constantly strive for excellence and do our job well and strong."

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.

China opens ten nuclear technology research facilities to the world to enhance international cooperation

China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) has opened ten of its nuclear technology research facilities and testing platforms, including China's new-generation "artificial sun" Huanliu-3 (HL-3) tokamak, to the world for the first time. The move will further enhance China's influence in nuclear science and technology globally, injecting strong "nuclear power" into promoting win-win cooperation worldwide, the Global Times learned from CNNC at a press conference on March 19 in Beijing during the 17th China International Nuclear Industry Exhibition.

This batch of facilities also include the world's highest-energy compact proton cyclotron accelerator the Beijing Radioactive Ion-beam Facility (BRIF), one of the "world's six major neutron sources" China Advanced Research Reactor, the Beishan Underground Research Laboratory (Beishan URL) located 560 meters underground, and the Minjiang Test Reactor for medical isotope research, among others. Many of these facilities have reached world-class level and even lead the industry globally, showcasing the hard work of Chinese researchers and demonstrating the "hardcore strength" of China's nuclear industry innovation.

The HL-3 tokamak, China's largest and most advanced tokamak, is designed to support the operation of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) and the development of future fusion reactors.

The Beishan URL in Northwest China's Gansu Province, China, is the country's first large underground research facility used for the safe disposal of high-level radioactive waste. It is an important research facility for the International Atomic Energy Agency and the China Atomic Energy Authority, playing a crucial role in China's nuclear fuel closed-loop technology innovation system.

The BRIF, the only operational online isotope separation radioactive ion beam facility in Asia, can produce over 60 stable nuclear beams and 55 radioactive nuclear beams. It fills the technological gap in China's medium-energy high-current proton cyclotron accelerator and high-resolution isotope separator, reaching an advanced level internationally.

The BRIF conducts research in nuclear physics basics, nuclear physics applications, and nuclear data, promoting basic research and application transformation, achieving a number of high-level scientific achievements. Researchers from the facility have cooperated with teams from more than ten countries including Russia, the US, Germany, Japan, and Poland, attracting many top international scientists to come to China to conduct cutting-edge research.

The opening of these research facilities and testing platforms by China to the world is expected to promote the development of nuclear technology worldwide. Sumair N. Khan, Science and Technology Counselor at the Pakistani Embassy in China, told the Global Times that these open research facilities are crucial for developing countries, especially for countries like Pakistan. He highlighted the importance of facilities like China's advanced research reactor, micro-neutron source reactor, and nuclear environmental simulation facilities for Pakistan.

"Developing countries may not have the research conditions similar to China but are eager to utilize Chinese research facilities to train researchers and receive support for their research work," Zhang Libo, vice president of the China Institute of Atomic Energy, under CNNC, told the Global Times. He emphasized the importance of international cooperation in nuclear science and technology for mutual benefit and scientific progress.

Zhang also believes that CNNC's opening of nuclear technology-related research facilities and test platforms to the world will promote high-level international openness. He stated that by attracting international peers to utilize these facilities, China can understand the direction of international research, grasp the dynamics of global economic development, and integrate into the global research environment.

Romantic Lantern Festival brightens people’s lives, start of splendid new year

The Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the first lunar month marks the final stop of the Spring Festival and is also the first night when a full moon is visible during the lunar new year. 

Since ancient times, lantern viewing has long been a folk custom in celebrating the Lantern Festival. On the day of the festival, streets and alleys are decorated with lights, and families gather together to immerse themselves in the festive atmosphere of the Spring Festival. A series of classic delicacies and celebrations also appear in turn, extending the joy and beautiful wishes for the future that the new year brings. 

In Linghu town, Huzhou city in East China's Zhejiang Province, a Lantern Folk Culture Festival is held around the Lantern Festival. The event features traditional handicraft lantern exhibitions, riddle guessing and firework setting activities, creating a rich festive atmosphere. 

The local area excels in making lanterns, which are often combined with riddle guessing. During the festival, shopkeepers hang riddles on their storefronts for people to guess and distribute prizes, which have become a unique local folk culture, according to the Xinhua News Agency. 

Zhengzhou in Central China's Henan Province will hold drone shows for three consecutive days to celebrate the Lantern Festival, presenting various themes to show the splendid culture of China and the Year of the Dragon.

In Beijing, before the Lantern Festival, traditional stores experienced long queues as people followed tradition to buy tangyuan, also called yuanxiao, which are glutinous rice balls stuffed with filling and representing families getting together.

Beijing's famous dim-sum chain Daoxiangcun introduced a dozen of flavors of this snack this year, including black sesame, osmanthus hawthorn, traditional mixed nuts, cream cocoa, and custard, satisfying the popular tastes favored by different people. Moreover, there were two types of tangyuan specially prepared for customers who prefer low-sugar flavors, according to the Beijing News. 

The main store of Huguosi Snacks launched durian-filled Lantern Festival tangyuan

"They basically sold out as soon as they were restocked, with many customers queuing specifically to wait for this durian flavor," said a supervisor of the company. This year, chocolate-flavored tangyuan were also reintroduced. According to one internet sales platform, sugar-free, durian , chocolate, fruit , black sesame, peanut , calcium milk, meat, and matcha varieties of tangyuan have become products of increased interest. Matcha tangyuan has seen the highest surge in attention, with a search volume increase of 253 percent year-on-year. 

After Spring Festival celebrations around the world, the Lantern Festival has also gained ground overseas. New Zealand held Lantern Festival activities on Thursday at the Manukau Sports Bowl in Auckland, with 44 stalls and over 500 lanterns making a splendid appearance. At this year's celebration, a handmade dragon lantern was particularly noteworthy - about 30 meters long (the length of two buses), it was displayed next to the main stage, according to the China News Service.

Insights from anti-graft frontline personnel reveal China’s tough battle against ‘disguised’ corruption

China is intensifying its efforts to crack down on hidden corruption, as it risks undermining already realized national anti-corruption achievements and creating greater systemic financial risks at a larger scope as experts have warned.

"New-type and disguised corruption" was recently included in the list of the top 10 anti-corruption keywords for 2023 released by the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), a move that reflects the importance attached by the discipline watchdog to anti-graft efforts in revealing disguised practices.

Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, Chinese president and chairman of the Central Military Commission, urged for the strengthened handling of new and disguised forms of corruption at the third plenary session of the 20th CPC CCDI on January 8, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

"It is imperative to further combat corruption in the sectors of finance, state-owned enterprises, energy, medicine, and infrastructure construction where power is concentrated, capital is intensive, and resources are abundant, and preempt potential risks," Xi said.

Combating corruption in the form of collusion between officials and businesspeople should be the priority, Xi said, urging efforts to crack down resolutely on the profit-driven abuse of power and prevent various interest and power groups from infiltrating the political arena.

China's anti-corruption watchdog detained a record 54 high-ranking officials in 2023, which tops the number in a year since the 18th National Congress of the CPC in 2012, with a large number of them being from the financial sector.

The Global Times interviewed a disciplinary inspection frontline personnel at a state-owned enterprise, Chinese anti-graft experts to understand the typical tricks of covert corruption and how the watchdog responds by utilizing big data analysis to track and investigate cases. This reveals how disciplinary inspectors tear off the masks of corruption in a battle between justice and impunity.
Sly, covert tricks

An official documentary on January 9 featuring China's anti-corruption efforts revealed how Fan Yifei, former vice governor of the People's Bank of China, illegally profited by using his brother's investment company as a cover and accepting bribes in the form of shares from companies.

The financial sector is a highly specialized field that can easily turn into a hotbed of surreptitious forms of corruption, said law professor Zhang Lei from Beijing Normal University, noting that financial corruption could bring financial risks, which would further threaten national financial security.

The recent downfall of several high-ranking officials in the financial sector sent a strong signal of China's resolute efforts to eliminate "moles" within the financial sector and continuously deepen anti-corruption work in this field, the expert noted.

Li Xiang (pseudonym), the frontline worker at a provincial disciplinary inspection department, who is stationed in a state-owned enterprise, told the Global Times that corrupt practices of "profiting from stocks" easily occur among high-level financial officials.

Specifically, some exploited the disposal of non-performing assets to exchange shares for personal gain; while some asked others to hold shares by proxy, then transferred the covert shares to relatives, and received dividends. The corrupt process is disguised and appears "clean" on the books, making it difficult to detect.

The CCDI has previously disclosed a corruption case involving Wang Zongcheng, former director of the accounting department at the China Securities Regulatory Commission, who used his power in the IPO review process to take advantage of stock premiums.

He entrusted someone else to purchase the original shares of a company to be listed before its IPO and became a "shadow shareholder." After the company went public, he shared the huge profits from the returns from the "shadow shares" and took back the profits after retirement. He used his power to support the company to go public, evading punishment through various covert and complex operations, and appeared not to have had any visible contact with the company throughout the whole process.

According to the cases revealed by the CCDI, among the senior officials investigated and dealt with since the 20th National Congress of the CPC, suspects who have been found to have "illegally owned shares in non-listed companies," or "engaged in collusion between politics and business, secretly accumulating wealth behind the scenes," or "engaged in power-money transactions under the guise of 'investment' for a long time" are not a minority.

"Many of the cases currently being investigated involve hidden corruption, and direct power-money transactions are becoming less common. This also requires frontline disciplinary inspection personnel to be highly professional, knowledgeable, and capable," Li told the Global Times.

"In non-financial fields, some officials from different regions usually do not explicitly exchange power with money, but instead with the promotion of their relatives or people with close connections to higher positions. Such power swap is also an implicit form of corruption," Li revealed.

State-owned enterprises, with their abundant funds and resources, have always been a key battlefield in anti-corruption efforts. Some corrupt individuals in state-owned enterprises attempt to disguise their illegal exchanges of interests by engaging in market transactions, such as using loan sharks transfer to bribes, to conceal the nature of power-money transactions, he further explained.

Furthermore, as some state-owned enterprises have industrial monopolies and are major tax contributors to local governments, they are always an accessible "honey pot" for local political figures and business sector players. These factors have created potential risks for corruption among the leaders of state-owned enterprises, according to Li.

He noted that one difficulty in combating hidden corruption is that existing measures often lag behind such innovative corruptive practices. Moreover, smart tools and technologies such as big data or AI are also widely used to cover up crimes.

The CCDI has reported a case of an official from the legal system who used technological means to create a fake identity for himself, and repeatedly used the fake identity to open stock and bank accounts for bribery transactions.

Unveiled cases also show some officials engaged in corruption using "digital currency," exploiting regulatory loopholes and accepting illegal card coupons, bitcoin, and digital cash to receive bribes.

"This requires us to carefully study the flow of funds, the interests and other abnormal behaviors of suspected ones, and to employ modern tech to trace the source of funds," said Li.
Systematic, powerful punch

To eliminate the chance of officials becoming corrupt, strict discipline inspection and supervision have expanded to those who offer bribes. In July 2023, the CCDI and the National Commission of Supervision (NCS) first mentioned the number of bribers who had cases filed against them in the first half of the year.

The second plenary session of the 20th CPC CCDI held in December 2023 also emphasized the resolute investigation and punishment of new and hidden forms of corruption, encouraging discipline inspection and supervision organs at all levels to continuously innovate their anti-corruption strategies through systematic and collaborative mechanisms, and the use of modern technology.

Regional governments have also carried out special campaigns against hidden corruption. For example, in East China's Jiangsu Province, special efforts have been made to combat hidden corruption such as "shadow shareholders," by identifying loopholes in the system and supervisory weaknesses, and the urging of reforms in the relevant departments.

Apart from incumbents, investigations have also been launched into retired or resigned officials, including those who attempted to evade investigation by resigning, who exercised the influence they gained from their former posts to benefit others and took bribes in return, and who sought profits for others while in office and have taken bribes since retirement. No corrupt official is to be left out, according to Xinhua.

Meanwhile, big data, AI, and other smart means are increasingly used in exposing disguised corruption problems.

A case at the end of 2022 shows that Zheng, a former assistant to the general manager of a provincial state-owned enterprise in East China's Fujian Province, used his position to profit and transfer embezzled funds during his tenure in multiple important positions.

After the watchdog obtained and analyzed data information such as his bank account transaction details, communication records, and real estate registration, Zheng's acceptance of huge bribes through "white gloves" was finally unveiled.

The term "white gloves" refers to people who run businesses created to cover up corruption by officials. The white glove tactic is a favorite among dirty officials because their direct involvement in commercial activity is illegal.

The investigation found that although Zheng's mother had passed away, her bank account was still active, with dozens of transactions involving funds exceeding 500,000 yuan each. Based on this, the investigators determined that Zheng had accepted bribes of more than 120 million yuan, according to Chinese media Outlook Weekly.

North China's Shanxi Province, as another example, has tried to build professional algorithm AI models based on a large number of case studies to screen out suspected "shadow companies."

Experts believe that the fight against new forms of corruption should continue to gain momentum.

"Cases of invisible corruption and new forms of corruption normally involve large amounts of funds and have spillover effects. Moreover, many of the individuals involved are highly educated and intelligent, making their methods more sophisticated, known as intelligent corruption. We must constantly update our means of tracking and identification, otherwise the achievements we have made in anti-corruption efforts will be challenged," Tang Renwu, dean of the School of Governance at Beijing Normal University, told the Global Times.

"We must maintain current intense anti-corruption efforts to deter these new types of crimes. This is why the Chinese leader has repeatedly emphasized a zero-tolerance attitude toward corruption on various occasions," said Tang.

He called for the use of more intelligent means to combat crime, and keep law and Party discipline protocols updated to include more behaviors that hover on the edge of illegality in the legal framework.